Posts Tagged With: Germany

DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN

That famous quote from 1961 belongs to Yogi Berra, all-star catcher for the New York Yankees, and was made in the context of on-going baseball events. Yogi had a way of mangling the English language, (or in this case, the French) but in a humorous fashion that sports writers loved to quote. If you’re interested, you can Google for other Yogisms. The trouble is, however, when deja vu keeps occurring in the unfolding events of mankind, it no longer becomes funny, but instead takes on tragic proportions. And the funny part is how it keeps happening over and over and over again.  Today, we have history repeating itself, with devastating consequences, but with hardly anyone seeming to learn from the lessons of the past. Let us then try to understand how and why this is occurring.

I’ve written many times before about how Adolf Hitler and his Nazi thugs came to power in Germany in the the 1930s, and the ensuing consequences  for the rest of Europe; but the 1930s so closely parallel today’s world events, that it bears repeating. Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1932, largely through the democratic process. But upon taking office in 1933, Hitler swiftly abolished all semblances of freedom and democracy in Germany, as well as any future elections, and became dictator for life. If you opposed his regime, it was off to the concentration camps, or you were just simply executed. In contravention of the Treaty of Versailles which ended WWI, Hitler started to militarily re-arm Germany, soon after he took office. If the French had sent troops into Germany at that point, as they were legally obliged to do by the Treaty of Versailles, Hitler could have been quickly deposed, WWII could have been avoided, and 60 million deaths in Europe as a result of that war would have also been avoided. But the French did nothing but just stood by as the Nazi military grew in strength. After all, who wants to undergo the messiness of war when one could luxuriate in peaceful endeavors. So, seeing that both France and England were essentially paper tigers, Hitler made his next move in early 1938 by invading and swallowing up Austria. The pretext was that Austria was a German speaking nation, so they should have belonged to Germany all along. Never mind that Austria was a separate country with its own government; it now became part of the Third Reich. That event came to be known as the Anschluss, as the Allies (France, England, and now the U.S.) rationalized Hitler’s aggression as being no big deal. A policy of appeasement with Nazi Germany could forestall military engagement. Or so it was thought.

Hitler, now convinced that all of Europe was his for the taking, in 1938 moved his Nazi war machine into northern Czechoslovakia, again on the pretext that most of its inhabitants were also of German ethnicity. This time, the leadership of France and England started to become “concerned.” A conference was arranged in Munich, Germany between Hitler and Prime Ministers Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier, of England and France respectively. The Munich Conference, as it came to be known, would go down in history as the ultimate failure of a policy of appeasement when dealing with aggressor tyrants.  A pact was signed there in Munich on that day in 1938, that allowed Hitler to retain the spoils of his adventurism in Austria and northern Czechoslovakia as long as he committed no further acts of aggression. After the conference, Chamberlain came home to cheering crowds in London and proclaimed he had achieved “peace in our time.” The British were in ecstasy because they wanted so much to believe this was true. Daladier also returned to Paris and was similarly greeted by mobs of elated Frenchmen at Orly Airport. But Daladier didn’t delude himself. He knew that a long, bloody war was just around the corner. Looking haggard and sleep-deprived as he gazed upon the cheering mobs, he was heard to mutter-“the damn fools.”

The ink was no sooner dry on the Munich pact than Hitler moved his troops into the rest of Czechoslovakia and gobbled up the entire country. Might as well, since nobody was around to stop the Nazi war machine. France and England continued to look the other way. The U.S. Congress continued to follow a policy of strict isolationism, despite President Roosevelt’s desire to become militarily engaged. It wasn’t until 1939, when Hitler formally invaded Poland, that the Allies were forced to come to terms with the fact that WWII was officially underway, and they had better deal with it quickly. By that time, it was almost too late. In the East, the Nazi army drove to the very gates of Moscow. If Russia had fallen, all of Europe would have been under Nazi rule, except for Britain, and the British were hanging on by their fingernails. The German Luftwaffe was bombing London on a daily basis, until it was mostly a pile of rubble. It was only the long, bitter cold Russian winter that stalled the Nazi onslaught in the East, and allowed the Red Army to regroup and begin to push back against German troops. In England, Neville Chamberlain was quickly thrown out of office and replaced by Winston Churchill who rallied the British to engage in a stout-hearted defense of their homeland. But it wasn’t until U.S. forces finally entered the war in late 1941, that the tide began to turn in favor of the Allies. At the height of WWII, the U.S. would have 10 million troops fighting in both Europe and the Pacific, at an horrendous cost of lives and treasure. So much for waiting until the last minute to do what has to be done.

Now comes the deja vu part as we fast forward to present day. In Europe today, there is another tyrant who is on the move against his neighboring countries. This time it’s, of course, Vladimir Putin, the Godfather, or Boss of Bosses who rules Russia with an iron fist. For over a year now, he has decided to slice and dice neighboring Ukraine, annexing chunks of it into what he hopes will be another Russian or Soviet empire. The first chunk he bit off was Crimea, a sizable portion of what was once the Ukraine. France, Germany, Britain and the U.S. pretty much stood by and proclaimed that well, that’s how the cookie crumbles. The Allies did put into effect some mild economic sanctions against some of Putin’s cronies, but none have had any significant results. Next, Putin began supplying Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine with heavy weapons as they battle government forces that are trying to prevent the eastern part of their country from falling under Russian domain, as the Crimea has. Russian troops, undercover, have also joined the battle with the separatists.  Thousands have already died as the war continues to rage. So last week, the PMs of both Germany and France, Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande, schlepped to Moscow to sign a peace accord with Putin that was supposed have put an immediate cease-fire into effect in the Ukraine. But once again, the ink was was barely dry on the accord when vicious fighting broke out and hundreds of government forces were slaughtered. Sounds a lot like Munich to me. Deja Vu. All over again.

All the while, the consummate evil of terrorism in our time continues to spread. Isis, Al-Qaeda, Boko Harem, Taliban or whatever you want to call these mass serial killers, are on the march and growing stronger. They’ve officially spread their wings in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Somalia, Nigeria, and to a some extent in Jordan and Egypt. If the U.S. and its European allies struck militarily against these barbarians now, i.e. by putting boots on the ground, instead of just engaging in token bombing raids, destruction of these terrorists is within reach at a relatively small cost. Every day that we hesitate, however, they grow stronger and the cost of confrontation becomes more expensive and deadlier. But, after all, who wants to become engaged in an all out war. It’s so much messier that the peaceful pursuits we’re all engaged in. Who needs that. As I said, it’s deja vu. All over again.

 

 

 

 

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A CENTURY OF VIOLENCE

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. It was called the war to end all wars; but, sadly, it turned out to be the war that heralded in a century of increasingly bloody armed conflicts that has resulted in tens of millions of casualties. It began in 1914 almost by accident; but in a certain sense it’s still on-going 100 years later. And it best illustrates the ultimate failure of the human condition.

WWI was fought between 1914-1919, and was incredibly bloody with huge losses of life, and precious little ground gained or lost. It came to be known for its trench warfare, as both sides become bogged down for years in filthy, disease-ridden trenches. At least 10 million military lives were lost and an estimated 20 million more were wounded. And in the end, Europe looked almost exactly the same as it did previous to 1914. The war was sparked by the assassination of Austria’s Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophie while they were visiting Sarajevo in what is now known as Bosnia. The assassination was carried out by a Serbian anarchist, who today, would probably be called a terrorist. Austria then demanded apologies and reparations from Serbia which in the end, never materialized.

It’s important to note that both Austria and Serbia were two-bit players at that time, in the European scheme of things. If the hard feelings resulting from the assassination had been confined to just Austria and Serbia, WWI would likely never have occurred. However, Austria, getting nowhere in the demands it placed on  Serbia, then called on its much more powerful ally, Germany, to come to its aid. After all, they were both German speaking nations. Serbia, realizing that the German Army could conquer them in days, called on its more powerful ally, Russia, to protect its borders. The trouble was, that Russia also had treaties with both France and England, who were also major players, so the festivities were on. It became a shooting war, essentially between Germany and the allies of Russia, France and England.

Germany realized it probably couldn’t win a 2 front war (Russia to the East, and France and Britain to the West) so its plan was to destroy France and drive the British off the continent in the 2 months or so it would take Russia to mobilize enough troops and armaments to engage in the fighting. It didn’t quite turn out that way, however. The French were able to stop the German invasion before it reached Paris, and both sides became mired down in deeply dug trenches, shooting at each other across a patch of ground known as no-mans land. Each side fired long-range artillery or lobbed grenades at one another, but any significant territorial advancement seemed impossible. The trenches were muddy and filthy beyond description, and soldiers on both sides contracted and died from disease by the tens of thousands. Never had the futility of war been so clearly demonstrated.

Finally the Allies were able to persuade the United States to come to their assistance. The U.S. up to that point had been highly isolationist, but President Woodrow Wilson finally agreed to aid the Allied cause, and the first U.S. troops entered WWI in 1917. At about the same time, Russia became swept up in its Communist revolution and decided to withdraw from the fighting arena. Germany then could concentrate its war efforts on only one front. The fighting then continued on for another year with millions of more casualties; but the infusion of fresh American troops made all the difference, and Germany was finally beaten in 1918. On a personal note, my father fought in WWI, and was wounded by mustard gas in the Argonne Forest in France. Both sides, at the time, started using chemical warfare, but the results were so horrific, that this type of weapon was rather quickly banned from use. It seemed so much more humane to kill people with bullets and bombs, rather than chemicals.

The war finally concluded with an armistice at the end of 1918, and then was followed by the infamous Treaty of Versailles in 1919. That treaty’s provisions were so harshly written against German interests that it allowed a little man with a funny mustache, but with powerful demagoguery instincts, named Adolph Hitler, to rise to power and set the stage for WWII. That war, again initiated by Germany as well as Japanese militarism in the Pacific, was estimated to account for the loss of a mere 60 million lives before it concluded in 1945. Once again the U.S. retreated to isolationism after peace was declared. Surely, after seeing the horrors of WWII, the concentration camps, the holocaust, the starvations, people would never again engage in such despicable adventurism, would they? Well, it didn’t take long thereafter for the U.S. to be engaged once again in a shooting war, this time on the Korean peninsula, which started around 1950, a mere 5 years after the end of WWII. President Harry Truman called it a police action at the time, instead of war. Like sweetening the cough syrup, it goes down much easier that way. In that fracas, the U.S. had to settle for half a loaf, as South Korea was freed to become a democracy, but North Korea, to this day, is dominated by a brutal despot.

And as we all know, it was a hardly a few years after the end of the Korean War that we once again became burdened with a shooting conflict, this time in the hellhole jungles of Viet-Nam. About 58,500 Americans lost their lives in that fiasco, to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of Viet-Namese deaths. And the beat went on. Hardly a decade later, the first Iraqi war was thrust upon us, although with far less casualties. Not too long after that came the Afghan war followed by the second Iraqi war from which we’ve finally disengaged. But it’s not just the U.S. Today war rages on in the Mid-East, in the Ukraine, and in Africa. It’s as if the human condition has degenerated to the point where the only way to settle our differences is by killing one another. The last man or woman standing gets to have their philosophy of life prevail on the planet. As it was in the dark ages, welcome to the new era of unbridled barbarism.

 

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THE SMARTLESS ONES

One of the cartoons in yesterday’s comic section of the paper, had the cartoon characters climbing up the peak to confer with the political correctness guru, who then informed them that calling people stupid was no longer acceptable. Instead the new politically correct terminology was “smartless.” People didn’t habitually act in incredibly stupid ways. They just fell victim to the state of smartlessness. So I thought I would illustrate how being “smartless” can often result in tragic an horrific events. Because being smartless is just another way for humans to avoid reality and dive head first into a state of delusion.

Lets go back to the 1930s when Hitler and the Nazis where gaining more and more power and control over the German population. Jews were already being persecuted, by either being hauled off to concentration camps or just outwardly murdered by Nazi thugs. (By the way, the same held true for homosexuals and political dissidents or opponents of the Nazi regime.) During this period, a new term was coined in German-“JudenFrei.” It meant that an organization, town or city had been ethnically cleansed of all Jews, and was now JudenFrei. For example, Berlin became JudenfFrei in May,1943. Being JudenFrei was cause for great celebration among the German populace. There was partying, beer drinking, fireworks, and dancing in the streets once a town or city achieved that goal. Because most Germans had already been hypnotized into a state of delusion by the skillful demagoguery of Adolph Hitler.

In actuality, the only real effect for a town to become JudenFrei, was the loss of income experienced by that town’s merchants and shopkeepers. Since Jews and others on the Nazi hit list no longer lived there, they could no longer spend their money on the goods and services available in that town. But who cared about reality in those days. After all, Germany was becoming more prosperous in the 1930s, due primarily to the huge increase in weapons production, as the Nazi war machine went into overdrive. Now there were good paying jobs for everyone. Hitler had told them that Germany was becoming more powerful and respected by the rest of the world. Especially, after the shame and disgrace Germany had been forced to suffer at the hands of the Allies after WWI, by having to sign the Treaty of Versailles which required Germany to disarm, and become a second rate country. Hitler used Germany’s supposed humiliation caused by having to sign the Treaty of Versailles as a demagogic sledgehammer on his way to achieving ultimate power.

One thing the Nazis were especially proficient at was filming Hitler and his entourage as they wended their way through an endless stream of parades. Even with cameras that would be considered obsolete by today’s technology. When those cameras spanned over the crowds, one can see hordes of young frauleins, maybe 12, 14, or 15 years old, waving and smiling in adoration, as Hitler’s motorcade slowly went by. After all what was there not to like. As long as you weren’t a Jew or homosexual or didn’t make waves. As long as you didn’t mind persecution of those that were, or a total lack of freedom of speech and press. In other words as long as you were in total denial and lived under the comfy blankets of delusion. But it wasn’t stupidity; it was just being smartless.

Such delusional stupor continued on in Germany into the early 1940s, as WWII commenced, and the Nazi war machine conquered virtually all of Europe. Only Britain and Russia were left standing, and they were hanging on by their fingernails. Then at long last, the U.S. entered the fray, the Allies regrouped, and the tide of war began to turn against Germany. Allied bombers, as they gained strength, began to bomb German cities around the clock, until they became heaps of rubble. Young frauleins were no longer gazing at Hitler in adoration, but instead, were keeping their heads down and trying to avoid being blown to bits. The average German was now being forced out of his comfy state of delusion and had to face reality whether he liked it or not. If he wanted to survive, he could no longer afford the luxury of being smartless. He was now experiencing first hand, the suffering, misery and death, that the Nazis had inflicted on the rest of Europe. That’s the thing about avoiding reality. Eventually it does catch up with you, and then the misery is usually twofold.

But we don’t have to go back decades ago to view how the human condition often leads one into a state of “smartlessness.” It’s currently going on right before our eyes in the Ukraine, as well as in other countries, including ours, of course. As I’ve recently written, the Crimea region of the Ukraine, by overwhelming majorities, has just voted to place themselves under Vladimir Putin’s boot. I’ve written previously about the dictatorial thug that is Vladimir Putin so I won’t rehash it again. Except to say he runs Russia Mafia-style where he is the Godfather; and that the Russian economy is so bad that, as a result,  the Russian birthrate is declining rapidly, to the extent that Putin himself is deeply worried. This is what the people of Crimea have so joyfully voted to become part of. Great celebrations over the Crimean vote, not just in Crimea, but in Russia too. Putin’s favorability ratings have skyrocketed due to Russia’s sudden acquisition of additional territory. Just as they celebrated Hitler’s early conquests, in Nazi Germany.

In a few months, when the situation in Crimea dies down, (assuming that it does) the average Russian and Crimean will be forced to come out of the comfy warmth of their delusions. They will be forced to face the rotten state of their lives, and how bad their economy and living conditions really are. They will have to face the fact that their only relief is to drown their sorrows in Russian-made vodka. But it’s not their fault. They were victimized by being in a state of smartlessness.

 

 

 

 

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