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Civil War Stories

Photo by Matthew Brady, National Archives

Photo by Matthew Brady, National Archives

Part of this year’s American Civil War exhibit, “Empire & Liberty: Civil War and the West”, at the Autry National Center of the American West includes an occasional academic affair and I recently attended such a panel discussion, titled “Invisible Injuries: Civil War Veterans and the Legacies of Violence.” The event was informative and sobering.

Two scholars, Dora Costa, a UCLA professor of economics and author of Heroes and Cowards: The Social Face of War and Roxane Cohen, a University of California, Irvine psychology and social behavior professor, and moderator William Deverell, director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, examined several aspects of recent studies about Civil War soldiers, including certain demographic and relational breakdowns, injuries and deaths.

They addressed their research into war-related trauma among Civil War veterans and their communities and the long-term psychological consequences of the war. Among their findings, which readers can explore here, are that 19 percent of enlisted soldiers in the study were between the ages of nine and 17 years old. I had known from my education and studies with John David Lewis that those who fought in the war were especially young. I had not known, however, that 95 percent of those enlisted were volunteers, more than any other war since the American Revolution. The presentation gave me a sense of life the United States at the time of the Civil War while demonstrating that the long-term effects of war on communities, states, countries and the culture are serious, devastating and transformative, if realized decades later.

Their resarch shows that unit cohesion, such as how many in the company were related by blood, similar age, community, ethnicity, etc. and/or how closely soldiers related to one another as friends and comrades, enhanced a soldier’s ability to heal and survive. Another positive impact apparently came from strong social network support, such as moral support through picnics and parades, which had measurable improvement on mens’ ability to survive and sustain injury after the war. Even celebrations around Christmastime and Thanksgiving correlate to mens’ higher survival rates and longer lives. Scholars also explained that companies were constructed differently; the Union companies were kept largely intact, while the Confederacy constantly replenished its company troops on the idea that new recruits would motivate the men to learn to fight.

Additionally, Costa attributes the rise of trench warfare to the huge proliferation following the Napoleonic Wars of small arms. When I asked her about survivability rates among abolitionists that enlisted—survivability rates were highest among deserters and free black men in the Union Army who were not assigned to fight in battle as often—Costa said they died in greater numbers because abolitionists were more motivated to fight to win and end the war to abolish slavery, which the Civil War did, in fact, accomplish. This was a fascinating program, part of the Autry’s “Empire & Liberty: Civil War and the West”, which I plan to review in a future post.

September 11 and Saudi Arabia

salargeLast night’s discussion at LA’s Hammer Museum, a Hammer Forum program titled “9/11: the Saudi Connection”, brought an invigorating exchange of ideas and projections and a powerful call to action.

The program, moderated by local public radio’s Ian Masters, who rightly pointed out in his introduction that Islam is not the exclusive source of religious fundamentalism, featured former CIA operative and CNN security analyst Robert Baer and former U.S. Senator and former Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham. Baer and Graham have written books about Islamic terrorism, the September 11, 2001 attack and Saudi Arabia’s sponsorship of acts of war against the West.

Baer, who has been to Saudi Arabia, called the dictatorship—which everyone kept calling a “kingdom”—”a country in peril.” As he does on cable news shows, Baer sees Saudi Arabia’s demise as imminent due to a “herd mentality” which has become embedded in the country, which, he added and emphasized, “cannot stand for long”. In a short speech, Baer made reference to the fact that, for all practical purposes, Syria and Iraq no longer exist as functional states run by governments (as I recognized about Iraq earlier this year). For the same reasons, he explained, Saudi Arabia’s origins as an artificial country formed in tribes in 1932 preclude its continued existence.

Baer contends that the Middle East is driven by tribalism, not ideology. He sees tribalism as the larger threat to the West. In the contest between Shiite and Sunni Moslems, Baer counts four Sunni-dominated Mideast capitals which have recently been lost to Shiite Moslems: Baghdad, Beirut, Sunna and Damascus, which he sees as fueling discord and war in the region, leading to the fall of Saudi Arabia and displacement of as many as 120 million Arabs fleeing into the West.

Baer’s assessment is sobering. But Baer adds that he thinks Islamic terrorists are neither evil—he thinks modern Middle East problems are caused by Western “imperialism”—nor moved by ideology, i.e., fundamentalist, radical or jihadist Islam, terms he declined to use throughout the evening. In fact, he kept insisting that he’s not an apologist for Islamic jihad but, by denying the role of ideas and rationalizing Islamic terrorism, he is.

Despite this moral error, Baer’s practical and historical observations, forecasts and accounts should be taken seriously. He argues that, because Saudi Arabia depends on subsidies and being the West’s sole, main supplier of oil, the dictatorship wants the oil industry’s fracking to stop. His comments on how fracking has hurt Saudi Arabia did not go over well with the left-wing, west Los Angeles audience, but he explained why fracking—and America’s decreased dependency on Saudi oil—is relevant to the region’s stability. Additionally, during Q & A, Baer added when asked that he regards Edward Snowden as an annoyance, though he admits that indiscriminate mass surveillance does not protect the United States. In short, Baer’s projection that Saudi Arabia’s days are numbered is cogent where his causal connection is not.

On the other hand, Florida’s former Sen. Bob Graham displayed full moral clarity.

Sen. Graham, acting in this capacity as an American statesman in the best sense, called upon his memory of the 9/11 Commission’s first witness, a woman named Kristen Breitweiser, who had lost her husband Bob in the attack. He reminded the audience that Americans have an obligation to answer why? And: Did the hijackers act alone? He told the Los Angeles audience that the first two hijackers entered the United States through Los Angeles International Airport and detailed specific meetings implicating Saudi Arabia (as does my own research, first posted here). He spoke about the San Diego connection and how $50,000 for the hijackers was dispatched from the Saudi embassy in Washington, DC to a woman. He mentioned the prominent Sarasota, Florida, family and their connection to three Florida-based 9/11 hijackers and explained how the family returned to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Graham spoke of discrepancies in the FBI investigation and, once again, urged the audience to press the U.S. government to declassify and release the 9/11 report’s 28 classified pages (which he has read) detailing the attack’s financing by Saudi Arabia.

Sen. Graham named President Lincoln as a great president for insisting upon transparency in government during the Civil War, knowing it would make U.S. allies look bad and he praised Lincoln for putting the enlightenment of the American people above sparing an ally’s embarrassment. The Democrat singled out the Obama administration for criticism. He denounced American “passivity” about this 14-year-old Islamic act of war. When asked to name the best presidential candidate in terms of disclosure about the attack on September 11, 2001, Graham answered succinctly and without pause: “Rand Paul”, who supports releasing the 28 classified pages.

In a moment of rare, bipartisan unity around an intelligent idea to advance national defense, Baer agreed with Rand Paul and Bob Graham about declassifying the 28 pages and said that he, too, thinks the pages should be released. Judging by audience response, by the program’s end, most in the audience seemed to agree. Finally, Baer, whatever his flaws, expressed the perfect afterthought to Sen. Graham’s crusade to illuminate the facts of the September 11, 2001 mass murder: “Rational people must [be free to] make up their minds.”

With Saudi Arabia proposing to build 200 mosques in Germany as a “response” to the exodus from Arab states to Western Europe (reported here during the presentation), let me add: rational people haven’t much time.

Colin Powell, Anti-American

ColinPowellThe ideals, life and career of Colin Powell came to a climax today on NBC’s Meet the Press. The former secretary of state under George W. Bush, a Harlem-born Republican who endorsed Barack Obama for president—twice—after serving as Ronald Reagan’s national security adviser, a four-star military general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced his support for Obama’s death pact known as the Iran deal.

This is the ultimate betrayal of the United States’ defense by one of its greatest pretenders. While Powell, whom I called upon to resign as secretary of state in a May, 2001 newspaper op-ed, has a reputation of being a competent, reasonable government official, the opposite is true. He has a long and undistinguished record in American government. In fact, his career is marked by blunder, failure and defeat.

This is because his philosophy is worse than his undeservedly decent reputation; Colin Powell is fundamentally anti-American.

The career military figure has always projected a measured, careful demeanor. In his early days as a military adviser in South Vietnam, where he was part of the unit involved in the My Lai massacre, Powell’s record is mixed and partly heroic; he was wounded and rescued comrades after he survived a helicopter crash. But from his service under President Nixon to Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton, advising or commanding short U.S. military interventions in Grenada (1983), Libya (1986), Panama (1989) and the Gulf War (1990), his record is defined by short missions that accomplish little or nothing at all. He tends by his own admission to favor diplomacy over the use of military force that advances the nation’s defense and interest.

Powell’s limited, get-in-and-get-out incursions have shaped and defined U.S. military policy for decades with disastrous results; in Grenada, the U.S. rescued the medical school students but failed to dissuade Communist Cuba from militarily opposing the U.S., including supporting states that sponsor terrorism. In Libya, the limited bombing failed to accomplish anything and actually bolstered the dictatorship, which was unshaken by the strike. In Panama, the country was invaded by the U.S. for the sake of protecting Americans, helping others and stopping illegal drug trafficking and the dictator was removed, all to little effect. The Gulf War infamously liberated Kuwait at the expense of leaving an anti-American dictator in power in Iraq and abetting the rise of Islamic terrorism, which spread and led to the worst attack on America in history in 2001.

Powell’s half-measures leave enemy combatants essentially unopposed to do real harm and inflict major, lasting damage.

This is because Colin Powell’s ethics embrace selflessness, as against selfishness, as a virtue. He consistently and emphatically holds that the highest morality is helping others. He is mixed, as evidenced in his opposition to Clinton’s policy to help others in Bosnia on the grounds that it did not also benefit the United States. What drives Colin Powell, however, is the antithesis of self-interest. Powell opposes any act which explicitly advances U.S. interest, such as advancing toward Baghdad during the Gulf War to take out Saddam Hussein or get oil or annihilate Islamic terrorist state sponsors—and he does so exactly because the proposed act advances U.S. interest.

Powell opposed any unilateral U.S. military action following the September 11, 2001 attack on America, for instance, insisting that the U.S. must plead for permission from the United Nations instead. When, as secretary of state, Powell got his way and pleaded to the U.N. for an invasion of Iraq, he did so not on the grounds that the U.S. retains the moral right to eradicate state sponsors of terrorism but on the argument that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction—which Powell was also wrong about—posed some vague, general threat to the world. The invasion proceeded, accomplished nothing, sacrificed thousands of innocent American servicemen and women and failed, all but delivering today’s Iraq into the control of America’s arch-enemy, Iran.

Now, Colin Powell supports Obama’s deal with Iran.

From castigating Israel for acting in its self-defense, offering praise and support for Communist dictator Fidel Castro and trying to schedule a meeting with Arab terrorist and Munich Olympics massacre chieftain Yasser Arafat while he was secretary of state, Powell’s anti-Americanism is fully, alarmingly steady and consistent. That he wants this death pact with Iran, too, is part of Powell’s doctrine of self-sacrifice.

I do not doubt that this is his sincerely held philosophy. Colin Powell, who opposed neoconservatives in the Bush White House and defends a woman’s right to an abortion, expresses sincerity in all of his convictions. But he is mixed and the mixture is bad for America with deadly implications for U.S. national defense. For this reason, he is the worst type of American leader: one who claims that America is good and ought to be defended but only because America helps others at the expense of American interest and strictly on the condition that America seeks and obtains the approval of the others whom it’s morally obliged to help.

From the beginning of his military career, when he served as an adviser in South Vietnam, to today’s deplorable sanction of a deal to engage nuclear advancement for America’s foremost enemy, Powell consistently acts against America. Powell’s selflessness goes back decades, to his earliest experiences when he says he “found himself” in what he sees as service to the state. It was never more explicit than when he asserted in 1997—spearheading the Bush-Clinton initiative to impose “national service” under the Orwellian term volunteerism—that each individual has a moral duty to serve others, the opposite of the founding American ideals of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of one’s own happiness for one’s own sake. This selfless statesman’s dogged anti-Americanism is never more wicked and dangerous than it is now in defense of those who seek death to America.

The Great American Hero

Courtesy Reuters

Courtesy Reuters

Fourteen years ago on September 11, before the United States entered its longest war, before George W. Bush squandered an opportunity to rally Americans around a moral defense of the nation based on individual rights and Americans instead elected and re-elected Barack Obama and chose to sacrifice liberty for faith in government control predicated on a false sense of national security, one of the passengers on a plane hijacked by Islamic terrorists on 9/11 called an end to plans for self-defense and said: “Let’s roll.”

What the phrase means, then and now, is an Americanism: it’s a combination of the moral commitment to a united act of self-defense imbued with “can-do” optimism. That the men on United Flight 93 who acted on this call to action were the only Americans to succeed in self-defense on that black Tuesday, and that they were civilians as against the government and military personnel whose proper role is to defend the nation, should have made an enormous impact on the American public in terms of discerning military defense as the highest and most proper role of government.

It didn’t. Instead, most Americans chose to have faith in the state and support the omnipotent state, though some, such as Edward Snowden, choose to question the role of government. There are others, including activists, intellectuals and freethinkers across the political spectrum, who fight to varying degrees for individual rights. Last week, the world witnessed in one brave act of self-defense against another Islamic terrorist attack, the return of the American hero.

His name is Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos (pictured here from left to right). There are others, including an American whose struggle against the Moslem terrorist alerted the three young American heroes, and a British businessman. But it was these three who took the religious barbarian, who came charging down an aisle on a train bound for Paris intent on mass murder, down. They hogtied the Islamic radical, who had watched a YouTube video calling for jihad before boarding the train, according to officials in France. What prompted the men—three friends from suburban California—to act was when one of them, upon hearing gunfire, said: “Let’s go.” They charged toward the jihadist and took him down.

The story of this great American act of heroism reminds me of the heroic passengers on United 93. Their call to roll, as historian John David Lewis said while evoking phrases such as “Remember the Alamo!” in my 2011 interview, should have but never caught on. Even more obscure is the fact that, according to reporter Jere Longman, after United 93’s passengers broke into the cockpit and stood facing the enemy, in what may be the last recorded words of the final flight used in the worst attack against America, one lone passenger called out: “Let’s get them!” Then, there was a union of self-defense against the siege and the plane went down.

Last Friday, thanks to an act of self-interest, it was the siege that went down. In the American history of men fighting for life against a barbaric siege, the Alamo’s Davy Crockett once advised: “Be sure you’re right, then go ahead.” These three Americans, Stone, Sadler and Skarlatos, heading for Paris, acted on the call to go by reason. Come this year’s 9/11, instead of the meaningless, usual displays of grief, weakness and submission to faith, despair and statism, Americans ought to think of the American hero—Davy Crockett, United 93’s passengers, and the Paris-bound train’s defenders—and pledge to go by reason, get the enemy before it’s too late and roll over any and every threat to our lives and freedom.

Lessons from Chattanooga

The night before an Islamic terrorist (pictured) gunned down five enlisted members of the U.S. Navy and Marines in Tennessee, he sent a religious message on “declaring war”, according to Reuters. Yet the government says that the murderer’s motives are still being investigated. This evasion of reality—that America is at war with radicals motivated by religion—is why America is losing the war.

MoslemTerroristatChattanooga

Chattanooga Police Department

While local, state and federal government police, and their co-conspirators in the press, continue to spend time and money denying what is obvious to most Americans, refusing even to utter the words Islamic or terrorism, Reuters and the New York Times report that they have seen a text message sent by the Islamic terrorist the night before to a friend linking to a passage from the Koran, containing the verse: “Whosoever shows enmity to a friend of Mine, I will indeed declare war against him.” The full text is:

Allah the Almighty has said: “Whosoever acts with enmity towards a friend [wali] of Mine, I will indeed declare war against him. Nothing endears My servant to Me than doing of what I have made obligatory upon him to do. And My servant continues to draw nearer to Me with supererogatory [nawafil] prayers so that I shall love him. When I love him, I shall be his hearing with which he shall hear, his sight with which he shall see, his hands with which he shall hold, and his feet with which he shall walk. And if he asks [something] of Me, I shall surely give it to him, and if he takes refuge in Me, I shall certainly grant him it.”

Reuters also reports that the terrorist, returning from a trip to Jordan last year, had purchased three guns online following the visit and used them for target practice. Navy logistics specialist Randall Smith became the latest victim when he died of his wounds in addition to the four Marines who were murdered at the scene of Thursday’s shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The 24-year-old Arab terrorist had posted on his blog urging readers to “submit to Allah”. Yet a spokesman for the FBI said: “It would be premature to speculate on exactly why the [Islamic terrorist] did what he did.” The shooter was heavily armed and wore an ammo vest, according to officials, when he rented a Ford Mustang convertible and drove to two U.S. military centers to carry out the assault. He had been a naturalized U.S. citizen, college student and an active, attendant and observant Moslem at the local Chattanooga mosque.

But the U.S. government failed, once again, despite its claims that indiscriminate mass spying on Americans increases national security, to protect Americans. As in Texas, Massachusetts, the U.S. consulate at Benghazi, New York City, Washington, DC and countless other American places going back decades, the American government failed in both security intelligence and military defense of the nation. This is not to mention every American attacked or murdered by Moslem terrorists from the Marines in Beirut in 1983, Americans in passenger jets, discos, bookstores, cruise ships and minivans or the thousands lost to appeasing rules of engagement that favor the enemy in Iraq, Afghanistan and anywhere the U.S. military engages the enemy. With the Obama administration pushing its death pact with Islamic enemy Iran, which vows to destroy the West and the U.S., the evidence that America is losing the war is impossible to ignore.

Many historians, scholars and analysts have argued for decades that the jihadist enemy seeks to conquer the U.S. and force Americans to change from a free society to a silent submission to Islam and there is already staggering evidence that this is becoming true, from the way 9/11 has become a day of national mourning with no mention of the cause of the attack to the media’s, government’s and intellectuals’ refusal to name Islam as the ideology that motivates the terrorists to attack. The state of government control being enacted with the NSA, ObamaCare and the TSA propels the inversion of government’s proper role; the more the state does what it shouldn’t do, the less it does what it should do—its highest function is to defend the nation—and the threat of Islamic terrorist attack grows worse and larger with every expansion of government control. The nation is in a downward spiral.

The attack on Chattanooga is a perfect example. More Americans choose to remain silent in the wake of instant vilification of anyone who expresses a viewpoint which diverges from the status quo or they’re afraid of targeted terrorist strikes against individuals who speak out. Among those who do denounce the attack, the proposed solution, especially by conservatives, is arming military members at recruitment centers and giving more military authority to the National Guard. This leads to a greater risk of America becoming a police state. Without the will to name Islam as the enemy’s ideology, all the armed soldiers and police in the United States won’t stop an enemy’s nuclear bomb, not with the nuclear treaty that all but grants Iran the right to make and use the weapons to attack. Increased arms and militarization of police, military recruitment of civilians and the National Guard will hurt, not help, America’s ability to pull out of the spiral.

What helps the United States of America is the pledge of each American to honor fallen, fellow Americans, from Leon Klinghoffer, Daniel Pearl and the passengers of United Flight 93—who said “Let’s roll”—to United States Marines Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Squire Wells and U.S. Navy logistics specialist Randall Smith (read about them here). Today’s spiral means that every time an Islamic terrorist attacks America, the government denies, dodges or evades that it’s an act of Islamic terrorism, the media equivocates, rationalizes and asks why the terrorist went bad and the loudest intellectuals blame America while politicians on both the left and the right enact new laws that violate individual rights while losing the war with those motivated by Islam.

Pulling out of today’s death spiral for good requires the effort of every decent American and those who cherish Western civilization to learn the lessons of the savage attack in the volunteer state. I say to each American: choose a different course of action, including activism. Defend your life. Shove off the incessant push to rationalize and evade what motivates barbaric attacks by religious soldiers. Never mind the noise about why the Moslem hates America. Concern yourself with what the individual ought to love about America. Reject the false narrative about what radicalizes others. Learn what you ought to know about speaking up to defend yourself and get to it: radicalize thyself.