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ACB
12-12-2002, 07:50 PM
I have just seen a very disturbing documentary on BBC TV. It concerns the allegations of atrocities made against the German Army by the Allies in WW1. These included an allegation that a Canadian sergeant was crucified with bayonets near Ypres in 1915, stories of babies being bayonetted, rape of women, and mass executions of civilians.

In 1919, the German Government not unreasonably asked the British to "put up or shut up" and the British and Canadian Governments carried out enquiries, which failed to find the evidence.

The upshot was, of course, terrible, in that in WW2 no-one was willing to believe the absolutely true accounts of what the SS were doing, thinking that these were also "made up" atrocity stories. Massacring people just because they were Jews? Absurd!

The disturbing aspect of the programme was that modern research has shown that the horror stories were true. A baby was bayonetted, and a Canadian sergeant was crucified near Ypres. There were mass executions of civilians in Belguim in the firts weeks of the war. These seem to have been caused by what we now recognise as "friendly fire", attributed then by the German (constcript) Army to fire by civilian "francs-tireurs".

Pretty worrying stuff - not in relation to Germany, but in relation to all sorts of other rumours. One concludes that they often have a basis in fact.

whb
12-12-2002, 08:04 PM
Ah, you believe that where there is smoke, there might, just might be a fire.

Howard

Peter Malcolm Jardine
12-12-2002, 08:07 PM
My Grandfather was a lieutenant in an artillery battery in the first war. He was most of the places you would never want to have been... Passchendaele, Vimy, Mons, Cambrai.... He was awarded the Military Cross for valour. My dad said he never spoke about the war... it was simply too awful. Anyone who would like a good accounting of a first world war campaign, read Pierre Berton's "Vimy".

Wild Dingo
12-12-2002, 10:19 PM
It doesnt really matter who did the deed... man is his worst enemy... no ifs no buts no maybes... man has continuously over the centuries slaughtered his fellow man in the most disgusting dispicable and deplorable ways possible...

WW1? WW2? Veitnam?... and any other field of war has made opportunity for the basest among men to show their true leanings and colors...

Out among the brave go the evil and under cover of war they carry out their cruelty while the brave do fight and die the coward leaves and hides... war does bring out both the best and the worst in men.

Does man ever learn from his own history?...

What has been will be again...

Take it easy
Shane

rodcross
12-12-2002, 10:51 PM
"atrocities made against the German Army by the Allies in WW1. These included an allegation that a Canadian sergeant was crucified...."

What are you trying to tell us, ACB, or are you merely dyslexic. It casts a little doubt on some of your other posts.

whb
12-13-2002, 12:08 AM
You know, the fact that we generally consider them attrocities and that soldiers can in fact be tried for them as war crimes shows that we have gotten somewhere. Not that many centuries ago such actions were expected even applauded.

I think there is hope for the human race.

Howard

martin schulz
12-13-2002, 05:08 AM
Giving the history and idaea behind the SS it is clear that horrific crimes have been commited.

The SS was actually a group of people installed by AH to act as german role-modell-athletic-soldier. The presence of the SS on the battlefield did disturb and anger most "Wehrmacht" personal (the plain soldier as well as the top-rank officials). The "Wehrmacht" was a "normal" well trained army, whereas the SS was just a group of highly motivated fanatics that had its center in AH himself (french !!! SS Soldiers have been fighting to the last bullet against the redArmy in Berlin).

That irritation by the "Wehrmacht" changed later on in the war as 1st the training of the SS got better, due to new schools for tactical training, and 2nd because the "Wehrmacht" made use of the SS as sort of suicide-commando. Even my Grandfather said that having a SS Devision on the side was a relaxing thing to have.

In stress-situations every soldier in the world tends to freak-out and gets "bloodthirsty". It is the job of those in charge to keep that brutality in check while on the other hand to ensure that the aggression can be used as an advantage. With the SS as group that was dedicated only to AH, that had no proper training or military-history, that knew that they had to kill, or get killed (no other way) - this was not easy - or better impossible. Those young people (the average SS Soldier was about 19 in WWII) were deliberately let loose on the battlefields convinced that they were trained to kil and die. Of them nobody thought that they were going to get home again. They had no way of handling what they experienced - so their slaughtering was never under control, but more or less encouraged.

What history tells us.
Everytime I see a report about the Navy-Seals, the french legion, the Marines... I get afraid that training those young people to such a degree, deliberately destroying their identity, might again lead to such a group of atrocious "elite-butcher", totally convinced of their superiority and eager to accept any order given.

ACB
12-13-2002, 06:22 AM
Very good point, Martin.

I recall that some modern historians say that one reason why the German army advanced so rapidly in 1940 was that some German units were taking an incredible rate of casualties and still advancing. The old theory - that the "blitzkrieg" was due to superior tactics alone - is now said by some to have been an extremely convenient "myth" for De Gaulle and Churchill; indeed we can trace it in De Gaulle's famous first broadcast, but it may not have been quite the whole story.

I share your unease about "elite" units. For some reason the media have been tending to glorify these units, (we can add the British SAS and SBS to your list) in recent times.

I don't follow what you are saying, Rodcross - my sentence seems grammatical enough for everyone else to have parsed it sucessfully
"...allegations (of atrocities) made, against the German Army, by the Allies, in WW1..."

Anyway, to summarise the programme, the gist of it was that the German army of 1914 was, of course, an inexperienced conscript force. When their rate of advance fell below what the Plan called for, and they began to suffer what now seem like friendly fire incidents (remember, no radios, and no field telephones unless entrenched, so communication between units was infinitely worse than it is now or had been a hundred years before, when bright coloured uniforms were worn and advances were all at walking pace) they assumed that this was due to resistance by Belgian civilians.

This led to mass reprisals against civilians, cluding women and children, including bayonetting a baby, in two Belgian towns.

From the perspective of almost a century later, we may see frightened men, under inexperienced officers, who are unable to keep good discipline and who lose control of their men, doing these things.

It is interesting that no such events seem to have happened later in the war, although the war itself grew more terrible. No doubt experience grew.

The episode of the Canadian sergeant in 1915 was re-opened by the makers of the programme, and a name put to the man, on the basis of some accounts which were not turned up by te 1919 enquiry.

History is a continual process of revision, of course. As a part of that process, we very often find that the "truths" of our childhood, concerning recent history, turn out to be rather more complex than those who told them to us believed they were.

Wild Dingo
12-13-2002, 08:05 AM
And the Brits "crucified" Breaker Morrant... so your point is???

Take it easy
Shane

Scott Rosen
12-13-2002, 09:05 AM
Originally posted by martin schulz:
It is the job of those in charge to keep that brutality in check while on the other hand to ensure that the aggression can be used as an advantage.Martin, I think that is the most important point. Combat atrocities represents, first and foremost, a failure of leadership.

A well-disciplined group of men, led by competent and ethical leadership, will not engage in those kinds of atrocities.

ACB
12-13-2002, 09:28 AM
Originally posted by Wild Dingo:
And the Brits "crucified" Breaker Morrant... so your point is???

Take it easy
ShaneShane, I don't know where Harry Harboard Morant, an English petty criminal who was shot, not crucified, after a court martial for the murder of Boer prisoners of war and a German missionary, a British war atrocity, comes into any of this.

Given that there is no shortage of admirable Australians, and that Morant was (a) English, (b) trying to get home to England when the war started (c) had just spent his leave, not in Australia, where he had too many bad debts and too bad a reputation to risk returning, but in England, when he joined the Bushvelt Carbineers, I do wonder why Morant is admired by some Australians - his only qualification seems to be that he was shot by the English.

My point is that propaganda and "spin" are highly dangerous. (Perhaps Breaker Morant's story illustrates this?)

A few units of the German army, a very large conscript force, which had not fought a war since 1871, so none of its officers and men had any combat experience at the outset of the war, did behave badly and did commit atrocities. The British propaganda machine enlarged hugely on these grains of truth and managed to convince almost the entire populations of Britain and Canada that the Germans were actually evil. This furore reached its height with the exhibition of the notorious sculpture group "Canada's Golgotha" in London just before the Versailles peace conference.

When put to strict proof by the German foreign office, the British and Canadians were unable to support their case with evidence, so there was a massive public reaction agaist this propoaganda.

Come WW2, some elements in Germany were indeed doing far more terrible things, but because people had been convinced that "all Germans" were monsters, they refused to believe that some Germans, such as Himmler, actually were.

So my point is that when Governments play around with "spin", as is so fashionable now, they risk unexpected and serious consequences, and we should all be sure to check information before relying on it.

By the way, the dingo was'nt innocent.

Bruce Hooke
12-13-2002, 10:25 AM
Sounds to me like what that ancient folk tale tries to teach...never cry wolf (unless there really is a wolf), hasn't really sunk in with out leaders.

martin schulz
12-13-2002, 11:13 AM
That brings me to another point (I hope you will allow me Andrew - I am not trying to hijack this thread!).

We all know that given certain circumstances almost every man (don't know about the women - they seem to tic a little different) will let his inborn agression-potential loose and will then eventually be brutal and bloodthirsty.

As Scott pointed out an able leadership can keep that within a defined limit.
But what is the real atrocity, the real barbarous-inhuman threat to mankind is not the stress-inflicted outlash of man let-loose but the cool and clinical planning of murder.

I posted that before and hope nobody gets bored with this.
In WWII there was a german minor official (Otto Ohlendorf) who was sent out by AH to organize the mass-murder of soviet jews. They sent him away, because he was getting on their (AH, Himmler, Göring, Goebbels...) nerves with his secret-service like organization he built up to gather informations even about higher officials among the Nazis.
Well-he was sent to russia and figured out the major problem with the elimination of jews. Shooting them, or killing them with trucks who's exhaust fumes were let inside was unefficient.
1st. It took too long and not enough jews could be killed,
and!!!
2nd the stress on the men who undertook the killings was too big. They simply couldn't stand it very long. And even those hardened, indoctrinated SS-killer could brake apart when ordered to kill children, or old people - if not accidentally in blood-rage (which was also unefficient). Otto Ohlendorf tried to solve this problem, as we all know with gas-chambers - not to torture the jews, but to keep too much stress (with the victims as well as the committer) away.

And this is exactly where the true atrocity starts. It is not the soldier who runs wild, however tragic the result, it is the clinical, unemotional planned elimination of people which is totally inhuman.

Cap'n R an R
12-13-2002, 11:29 AM
and this is the problem Pres Bush is facing up to....he knows there is a plan to kill and eliminate all Jews and Christians from this Earth wherever they live and by whatever means neccessary...shall he wait untill the killing plan goes chemical,biological or nuculear????....or shall he preempt the disaster by acting first??.... what a choice!! ...I am comforted that he is willing to make the choice...what a tough job to have...he'd be better off as General Manager of a lousy baseball team....but glad he switched...let's hope he has a winning team now!!!

Scott Rosen
12-13-2002, 11:41 AM
Martin, aren't we talking about two different kinds of crimes?

Atrocities in combat are different from the calculated murder of civilians, without any stragegic purpose. For example, one can imagine capturing an enemy soldier and in the heat of combat realizing that this man may have been shooting at you and killed or wounded some of your fellows. It's not difficult to picture one's self taking quick and immediate revenge, or even inflicting torture. I think almost any one of us could do such a thing under the "right" circumstances. That's where leadership comes in to play.

On the other hand, very few of us can imagine the thought or emotion that underlies the desire to commit genocide, killing men, women and children of all ages. No matter how much I try to muster the feelings of hate, I cannot kindle the desire to kill like that. I can and do understand the motivation behind the A-bombing of Japan or the fire-bombing of Dresden: right or wrong, it was undertaken in war, with the goal of ending the war more quickly and producing fewer casualties on the Allies' side. I cannot understand the desire to kill an entire people for no other reason than you don't want them to exist any more. That is evil. Hopefully it is rare.

ACB
12-13-2002, 12:34 PM
Breaker Morant's crime was of the first type; he found a Boer (who had surrendered) wearing the clothes of a dead friend, and shot him and his colleagues. Since he was the senior surviving officer, and not only did he fail to control his men, but he took part in the killing, I think he was guilty.

Now, the second case is more difficult. Take the British bombing of Dresden. The military value of the target was slight. The amount of force used was grossly excessive, and tens of thousands of civilians died horrible deaths.

I strongly suspect that the guilt here lies at a bureaucratic level, with people rather like Martin's Otto Ohlendorff, but working in the Royal Air Force. For the first few years of the war the RAF had been pretty useless at "taking the war to the enemy" - bombers were the only offensive weapon we had, but they very seldom hit anything. The strength of Bomber Command had been built up, it finally had good aircraft and plenty of them - and the war was almost over.

It would have taken real moral courage to say, at this point "There is no further need for the heavy bombing of civilian targets, the war is almost won already and we should spare life if we can!"

Nobody said that, the bombing continued and Dresden and other cities were flattened.

Incidentally, the bombing of Hamburg was as bad, but for some reason less is made of this - pre-War Hamburg was not as beautiful as Dresden and because it was a port and industrial city it was somehow "all right" to bomb Hamburg - as if the average citizen of Hamburg was more deserving of death than the average citizen of Dresden.

Eric Sea Frog
12-13-2002, 12:38 PM
Originally posted by martin schulz:
Giving the history and idaea behind the SS it is clear that horrific crimes have been commited.
What history tells us.
Everytime I see a report about the Navy-Seals, the french legion, the Marines... I get afraid that training those young people to such a degree, deliberately destroying their identity, might again lead to such a group of atrocious "elite-butcher", totally convinced of their superiority and eager to accept any order given.The difference you yourself stressed at the beginning of your post. Democratic armies generally don't get a racist instruction before they go to war.
"On nous reproche d'être des soldats politiques. Mais cette guerre est une guerre politique!"
Standartenführer SS Léon Degrelle, leader of Belgian Fascists.
The line of decency runned a different way on the East front from the West.
On the Eastern front, AH succeeded at blurring the line between Wehrmacht and SS troops; his aides explained high-ranking officials before the invasion of Russia that they would have to wage a special, extermination war. You could indeed find WH troops in Einsatzkommandos.
On the West front, the difference is clear to see. In the North of FRance, SS soldiers would kill our soldiers when they resisted them too strongly, even as they had surrendered for lack of ammo.
Wermacht troops, when their French opponent had fought particularly well, stood in a line and presented arms as their prisoners passed them by en route to Germany and a prisoners' camp.
ISo did the Italians in the

Eric Sea Frog
12-13-2002, 12:47 PM
Originally posted by martin schulz:
Giving the history and idaea behind the SS it is clear that horrific crimes have been commited.
What history tells us.
Everytime I see a report about the Navy-Seals, the french legion, the Marines... I get afraid that training those young people to such a degree, deliberately destroying their identity, might again lead to such a group of atrocious "elite-butcher", totally convinced of their superiority and eager to accept any order given.Martin,

The difference, you yourself stressed at the beginning of your post. Democratic armies generally don't get a racist instruction before they go to war.
"On nous reproche d'être des soldats politiques. Mais cette guerre est une guerre politique!"
(Standartenführer SS Léon Degrelle, leader of Belgian Fascists.)
The line of decency runned a different way on the East front from the West.
On the Eastern front, AH succeeded at blurring the line between Wehrmacht and SS troops; his aides explained high-ranking officials before the invasion of Russia that they would have to wage a special, extermination war. You could indeed find WH troops in Einsatzkommandos.
On the West front, the difference is clear to see. In the North of France, SS soldiers would kill our soldiers when they resisted them too strongly, even as they had surrendered for lack of ammo. THey had been told that the enemy belonged to an inferior race, which probably fueled their ferocity.
Wehrmacht troops, when their French opponent had fought particularly well, would stand in a line and present arms as their honoured prisoners passed them by en route to Germany and a prisoners' camp.
So did the Italians in the Alps, where they achieved very little success.
The Oberkommando der Wehrmacht in France hated and loathed the Nazis. They plotted the failed assassination of AH.
They disapproved of the killing of hostages.
They were decent people whose memory I respect.

Eric

Eric Sea Frog
12-13-2002, 01:57 PM
Originally posted by ACB:
I recall that some modern historians say that one reason why the German army advanced so rapidly in 1940 was that some German units were taking an incredible rate of casualties and still advancing. The old theory - that the "blitzkrieg" was due to superior tactics alone - is now said by some to have been an extremely convenient "myth" for De Gaulle and Churchill; indeed we can trace it in De Gaulle's famous first broadcast, but it may not have been quite true. ACB,

It is true that the Germans had many casualties, which is proof of very fierce fights. About the whole roll of Panzergrenadier Regiment Grossdeutschland was killed on the first hours of the attack on the Meuse river.
But, AFAIK, I'd be still sticking to the early explanation of the 1940 campaign's issue: practically any blitzkrieg would succeed at the time. It worked everywhere, as cynicism works, from Poland to Belgium to Tchekoslovakia to Greece, until Adolf attacked a country that was too big for him to swallow, because it needed a long war.
Preemptive strikes would destroy heavy enemy weapons, planes and tanks. Watching archive films, I've seen our Renault and Somua tanks spring up in the air under the impact of German Stuka planes' bombs like Dinky toys kicked by a bitter child. They were about all destroyed, including De G's Ferry Corps. It's a story of courageous machine-gun servants gunned and bombed by aircraft behind stacks of sandbags, like those who fought to the last one to permit the BEF to reembark at Dunkirk, and bloody, haggard fighters staggering on the roads of defeat.
Stalin could make it because he had taken away armament factories beyond Ural Mountains, so could they soon resume production.
The French troops' daily casualty rate in WWII is far higher than the WWI figure; only can it be compared to the harshest WWI battles like Verdun, etc. Total figure for one short month is 92,000.
Nevertheless the campaign was so short, especially when compared with WWI, that it's often been considered a soft, cowards' fight.
De Gaulle indeed make it worse, wrongly asserting that the war could have been successfully continued in North Africa (where all heavy weapons had been hastily shipped to France as things turned bad).
AAMOF, one can't compare an infantry's war to a plane and tank war. In the heydays of the Cold War, the Soviets thought they would invade France in three days. Wishful thinking probably, but it's a ball park.
The Germans, typically an industrial country, had more planes and faster tanks. The French had so heavily invested in the Maginot defense lines in the late 1920es, that they could hardly choose an offensive strategy in the later years. Pétain being responsible for that also!

My two pennies.
Regards
Eric

Scott Rosen
12-13-2002, 02:02 PM
Originally posted by ACB:
Now, the second case is more difficult. Take the British bombing of Dresden. The military value of the target was slight. The amount of force used was grossly excessive, and tens of thousands of civilians died horrible deaths.The gray areas are always the most troubling. I suspect (just guessing here) that part of what motivated the bombing of German civilian areas was Allied anger and outrage over the German bombing of London and other civilian parts of England. My late uncle was with the US Army Air Corp, stationed in London during those years. I've heard a few stories. Until the day he died, he wore a bracelet made out of a piece of shrapnel that was removed from his body. Even if the bombing of Dresden did not hasten the end of the war and save some Allies' lives, England's fighting back in anger, even where excesses were committed, was not the same thing as the cold-blooded mass murder of innocent civilians with no conceivable provocation, justification or even excuse.

Andrew, I'm willing to give your countrymen the benefit of the doubt under those circumstances.

Scott Rosen
12-13-2002, 02:07 PM
Originally posted by ACB:
It would have taken real moral courage to say, at this point "There is no further need for the heavy bombing of civilian targets, the war is almost won already and we should spare life if we can!"It may have taken a lot more than moral courage. It may have taken knowledge and a perspective that one can only acquire with the benefit of hindsight.

Eric Sea Frog
12-13-2002, 03:52 PM
Originally posted by ACB:
Incidentally, the bombing of Hamburg was as bad, but for some reason less is made of this - pre-War Hamburg was not as beautiful as Dresden and because it was a port and industrial city it was somehow "all right" to bomb Hamburg - as if the average citizen of Hamburg was more deserving of death than the average citizen of Dresden.None of us rejoices in the killings, but let's not forget that Hamburg, Dantzig and other ports harbored the hull segments of the latest XXI submarine type.
Segments were assembled in various factories all over Germany, then floated on canals to the North, to be eventually assembled in the main harbors.
The bombings destroyed a lot of them, delaying the completion of others so only two of them were launched, a few weeks before the armistice.
They could run free from Allied detection and destruction, diving for hours thanks to their increased battery, torpedo, etc. capacity.
Manufactured in numbers, they would sunk so many ships that the Ally war effort couldn't have been continued.
Meaning, poof, a lost war.

Eric

ACB
12-13-2002, 05:41 PM
Well, to me, since Martin's intervention, for which I am most grateful, this has become the most interesting thread for a long time, and I must apologise to our American hosts if it seems very "European".

Scott - it's an odd feature of bombing in WW2 that, (putting the US 8th Air Force's contribution to one side, for a moment) it seems to have been driven by "revenge" more than "strategy". It was extremely fortunate for Britain, in the summer of 1940, that RAF Bomber Comand decided to raid Berlin. No significant damage was done (the RAF only had light bombers, then, bomb aiming was hopelessly primitive, and the aircraft were at the limit of their range) but the element of shock was considerable, because Goering had said that Berlin could not be bombed.

AH ordered "his" bombers to switch from military targets (RAF airfields and radar stations) to cities, in revenge. This is commonly held to have saved RAF Fighter Command, which was under extreme pressure, and won the Battle of Britain.

In the same way, British raids on Germany were certainly seen as "retaliation" for "what they did to us" only the retaliation was an hundred times more severe.

The comparison between 1940 and 1914 is a very interesting one. Two things strike me - that the armies of 1939-45 were commanded by Generals who had been subalterns in 1914-18, and that, of the explanations for the Anglo-French collapse in 1940, two are suspect. The "failure of willpower" or "moral failure" theory, which explains it in terms of the collapse of a decadent Third Republic, not helped by poor British generalship, must be wrong, given the casualty rates.

The "superior tactics" theory, which I earlier called a convenient myth, seems also too simple.

The committment of French forces to a defensive strategy, enforced by the Maginot Line, seems the most likely - thank Heavens NATO's strategy against the Warsaw Pact was never tested!

It is very noticeable that no-one was more surprised by the rate of the German
advance than the Wehrmacht high command themselves.

Probably most readers of WSC's History of the Second World War are arrested by the following exchange, which took place at the time of WSC's last visit to French HQ:*

"Ou est la masse de manouvre?", I asked.

"Aucune".

* "Where are the reserves?" I asked.

"There are none".

Those are two of the most chilling lines in any history that I have read.

martin schulz
12-14-2002, 08:47 AM
Originally posted by Eric Sea Frog:

On the West front, the difference is clear to see. In the North of France, SS soldiers would kill our soldiers when they resisted them too strongly, even as they had surrendered for lack of ammo. THey had been told that the enemy belonged to an inferior race, which probably fueled their ferocity.
Wehrmacht troops, when their French opponent had fought particularly well, would stand in a line and present arms as their honoured prisoners passed them by en route to Germany and a prisoners' camp.
So did the Italians in the Alps, where they achieved very little success.
The Oberkommando der Wehrmacht in France hated and loathed the Nazis. They plotted the failed assassination of AH.
They disapproved of the killing of hostages.
They were decent people whose memory I respect.
Eric1942 After the desaster of El Alamein Rommel was first sent to Italy and then to France to prepare for the Allied-Landing. Perhaps the difference in the war in the East and in the West lies also in the commander who were in charge. When Gerneral Paulus in Stalingrad couldn't ignore AH's idiotic orders Rommel could and did. He did ignore AH direct orders of killing british soldiers in Africa, and he did ignore orders about picking out jews from captured french soldiers. I wouldn't like to make a hero out of him, but he was definetely the plain-soldier type of man, who saw his profession as fighting a war with exactly defined rules.
And although he did start negotiations with those who planned the Hitler assasination and although he planned to end the war in the west himself, he was still a plain-soldier naive and without any political interest, who couldn't stand up against the Führer. After the abortive assasination he was forced to take the pill.

The solution for armies not to run wild lies not only in the democratic state they are from. The actual german army differs in one major point from the Wehrmacht. We learned that a soldier always has to be a "citizen in uniform" and not some well-trained stupid professional. Armies have the tendencies to build states within states. When that happens you will eather get brainless soldiers eager to fulfill any order, or you get professional soldiers that don't care about anything political, which makes them both vulnerable to false political influence.

ACB
12-14-2002, 03:23 PM
Martin - the British do tend to make a hero out of Rommel. Partly because the Desert War was one of the more "romantic" episodes, in a way, of WW2, no doubt. Two well trained and well motivated armies under two talented commanders, fighting in a war which did not involve civilian casualties and which had several changes of fortune. If modern war could have a romantic face, this would be it.

I do wish I could be sure that all the armies of the "western powers" were as sure that they are citizens in uniform, but I do rather share your concern about our adulation (caused by Hollywood, no doubt) of "elite" units, who do tend to form states within states. The Praetorian Guard are the classic example, of course.

John Gearing
12-14-2002, 04:40 PM
In the book "Berlin: the Downfall" Antony Beevor reports that Berlin area hospitals reported 100,000 German women raped by Red Army troops, and perhaps 10% of the victims committing suicide afterwards. But that is not all....

"Beevor accepts that 'altogether at least two million German women' were raped, 'a substantial minority' suffering multiple or gang rape."

"...he (Beevor) dismisses the idea that Soviet hate propaganda and the vengeful war-verse of Ilya Ehrenburg had much to do with it. The hate was there already, and Beevor sees it expressed in the horrible atrocities committed in the first East Prussian villages reached by Soviet troops when they crossed the German frontier. There, gang-rape was accompanied by mutilation and murder; the naked, crucified women found by German counter-attack forces were filmed by the Nazis and stiffened the will to fight on. As the war progressed, however, Beevor identifies a second phase: the sadism grew rarer, and soldiers simply helped themselves to German women with a casual minimum of force, as if they were looting a bottle of cognac or grabbing a civilian's bicycle. Now the rapist (Frau, komm!) might unpredictably offer his victim an endearment, or a piece of sausage. A third phase, in occupied places where all supply had broken down, replaced the need for guns and violence with the need of starving women to bargain their bodies for food. In a fourth, according to Beevor, women were able to keep their families alive and secure themselves against further rape by setting up 'occupation wife' arrangements with individual soldiers or officers.

All this information was available to anyone who went looking for it, but looking was discouraged. Even though Stalinism was abominable, who wanted to tarnish the reputation of the simple Russian soldiers who saved Europe from Hitler? But since the resurgence of gang-rape by irregular troops in Bosnia, attitudes have changed. The world now admits what professional soldiers have known since Roman times - that armed men have a strong inclination to rape 'enemy' women - and wants to know why."

And that is the interesting question---what goes on in the heads of armed men in combat vis a vis noncombatants???

The full review of Beevor's book is here:
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v24/n23/asch01_.html

Turns out the Soviets found AH's body right away when they got into Berlin and kept pieces of the skull for a good long while.......

Eric Sea Frog
12-14-2002, 06:53 PM
Hitler's war on the West and East fronts had about nothing to do, except the first was supposed to prepare for the second.
Hitler had to bring down the French army and influence in Europe in order to wage his great race war. He also knew that Stalin would invade
Europe as soon as he could if he didn't do so.
There were two WWII genocides: one against the Jews (6M casualties), another against the Slavs (Russians, Poles, etc. 3M dead). The difference was most of the Russians were not killed in concentration camps, but in prisoners' camps; they were just left in the cold without food, fighting typhus and freezing in the shallow holes they had dug in the frozen ground.
Wehrmacht troopers received orders to kill civilians in villages.
AH felt it was his duty to exterminate the Slavs.
The Russians retaliated by letting most of German prisoners die in camps, and by raping women as the Germans had done in Russia.
Every civilian in Berlin knew what his or her fate would be if ever Germany should loose the war to the point of letting the Russians cross the border. So did they fight to the last, along with the soldiers.
About no rape was committed by Russian elite
Guard Divisions; it was the second lines' rank-and-file's crime. They of course had Stalin's consent. It would be their reward.
Many Russian soldiers would steal lightbulbs from German homes though their own homes back in Russia weren't equipped with electrical connections. They just thought they would have to hang the bulb from the ceiling to get some light.
In other word, they weren't extremely sophisticated people. Just poor devils. The learned, wealthy people especially at the countryside, had been exterminated by Stalin and predecessors.
Look what they're doing in Tschetschnia; they kidnap young boys to ask their families a ransom, when they don't kill them right away. I mean civilians.
The most dreaded soldiers in France were not Germans, it was the Ukrainian SS by far; they would hang Resistants by their own guts. Ur, sorry, Professors...

Ha Zgapobue !

ACB
12-14-2002, 07:05 PM
Thank you, John, a very sobering reminder.

"How yet resolves the governor of the town?
This is the latest parle we will admit.
Therefore to our best mercy give yourselves,
Or, like to men proud of destruction,
Defy us to our worst; for, as I am a soldier,
A name that in my thoughts becomes me best,
I will not leave the half-achieved Harfleur
Till in her ashes she lie buried.
The gates of mercy shall be all shut up
And the fleshed soldier, rough and hard of heart,
In liberty of bloody hand shall range
With conscience wide as hell, mowing like grass
Your fresh-fair virgins and your flowering infants
What is it then to me, if impious war,
Arrayed in flames like to the Prince of Fiends,
Do, with his smirched complexion, all foul feats
Enlinked to waste and desolation?
What is it to me, when you yourselves are cause,
If your fair maidens fall into the hand
Of hot and forcing violation?
What rein can hold licentious wickedness
When down the hill he holds his fierce career?
We may as bootless spend our vain command
Upon the enraged soldiers in their spoil
As send precepts to the leviathan
To come ashore. Therefore you men of Harfleur
Take pity of your town and of your people
Whiles yet my soldiers are in my command
Whiles yet the cool and temperate wind of grace
O'erblows the filthy and contagious clouds
Of heady murder, spoil and villainy.
If not - why, in a moment look to see
The blind and bloody soldier with foul hand
Defile the locks of your still-shrieking daughters
Your fathers taken by their silver beards
And their most reverend heads dash'd to the walls
Your naked infants spitted upon pikes
Whiles the mad mothers with their howls confused
Do break the clouds, as did the wives of Jewr'y
At Herod's bloody-hunting slaughtermen.
What say you, will you yield, and thus avoid
Or, guilty in defence, be thus destroyed?"

Scott Rosen
12-16-2002, 12:07 PM
The US tends to view WWII as something that was fought and won by the Allies in the West. Maybe it's because of the Cold War hostilities, but we don't give much attention to the Russian and Eastern fronts.

There are some outstanding pieces of literature and history that can give some insights. The 900 Days, by Harrison Salisbury is an excellent place to start, as it covers the early stages of the war in Russia and documents what is probably the last great siege in recorded warfare.

Another excellent book about the Red Army's advance to Berlin is Cornelius Ryan's The Last Battle. This book gives you a taste of the Russian desire to destroy and brutalize anything German. The accounts of the Russian artilliary barrages are chilling.

To read about the Eastern Front from the German perspective, see The Forgotten Soldier, an autobiography by Guy Sajer, a Wermacht infantry private. Its only flaw is that it downplays incidents of German brutality and war crimes, while emphasizing the Russian ones. By the end of the war, he and his surviving comrads are desparate to surrender to the Americans in the West. Anything to avoid capture by the Russians.

I can't easily imagine what it would be like to have my country invaded by a foreign army. The Russians were brutal, but I have to ask myself if we Americans would be any different if we were fighting a war to chase out invaders.

Alan D. Hyde
12-16-2002, 01:43 PM
These are difficult matters. Clearly there was much brutality by both armies, and certainly brutality is a big part of the history of warfare.(And Henry V is splendid Shakespeare--- see Olivier's film version sometime, and Branaugh's).

What particularly saddens me, is that Patton and American troops were capable of taking far more German territory than they in fact did. FDR and his advisors, against the repeated counsel and fervent pleas of Churchill, cut a deal with Stalin, who they called "Uncle Joe." FDR, through Eisenhower (and much to Patton's disgust), held Patton's army back.

The blood of those brutalized Berliners is, in part, on our hands as Americans. (Has anyone here read Thomas Fleming's book on FDR and WWII? I haven't, but understand that he raises interesting and controversial questions.)

Churchill liked to refer to WWII as "the unnecessary war." I'm inclined to believe that he was right. Our brave and heroic troops extricated our mendacious and unsavory politicians from predicaments they could and should have avoided.

That doesn't detract from the valour of those who fought, the principles that moved them, or the magnitude of what they accomplished. But it does provide one more reason to mistrust big governments.

Alan

[ 12-16-2002, 01:50 PM: Message edited by: Alan D. Hyde ]

NormMessinger
12-16-2002, 02:38 PM
What motovated FDR, I wonder. My father in law often said we should have gone right on into Russia but he had some advantage of hindsite when I knew him in the 50's.

--Norm

ishmael
12-16-2002, 02:44 PM
Maybe it's 'cause Harry Hopkins was a pink as Uncle Joe's hankies, along with much of the rest of the State Department, ala Alger Hiss.

[ 12-16-2002, 02:46 PM: Message edited by: ishmael ]

Scott Rosen
12-16-2002, 02:47 PM
Norm,

I think you may be underestimating the power of the Red Army. "Going on to Russia" was not exactly an easy option for the Allies. What makes you think we could have succeeded where Hitler and Napolean, et al., failed?

After Berlin fell, we still had to deal with the Japanese. Although we were winning the Pacific war by then, the end was looking pretty grim, with an invasion of the Japanese mainland the number one option.

Maybe you were kidding, and I didn't detect the humor.

ishmael
12-16-2002, 02:52 PM
Scott,

The question was, why was Patton held back? He could have been in Berlin before the Soviets, save for the politics.

Georgie wanted, in his blood and guts way, to keep going to Moscow. If he'd been given his way, your observations would be most relevant.

I haven't the history at my fingertips, but FDR was counseled to trust Stalin in Eastern Europe and Germany, by, at the least, poor counselors.

Scott Rosen
12-16-2002, 02:57 PM
Originally posted by Alan D. Hyde:
The blood of those brutalized Berliners is, in part, on our hands as Americans.Alan,

Are you suggesting that the Allies had a responsibility to get to Berlin before the Russians to protect the remaining Berliners?

With the benefit of 55 years of hindsight, we can speculate that the politics of dividing Europe weren't as favorable as they could have been, and that our leaders could have driven a harder bargain. I haven't studied enough to form an opinion. My unstudied hunch is that things could have been much worse. We avoided war with the Russians, which was one of the principal goals. We rebuilt half of Germany and most of Continental Europe into a peaceful and presperous society. Fifty five years later, we have accomplished peacefully what would have cost untold blood in 1945.

The Berliners knew what was coming from the Russians. They could have surrendered to the Allies earlier if they wanted to avoid that fate. Instead they continued fighting on both fronts, knowing the war was lost, and knowing that surrender to the Allies would be the better choice. The insane Nazi fantasy had to play itself out to the very end. That type of collective schitzophrenia has a powerful momentum that doesn't stop for mere rationality or mercy.

[ 12-16-2002, 02:59 PM: Message edited by: Scott Rosen ]

Scott Rosen
12-16-2002, 03:15 PM
Originally posted by ishmael:
why was Patton held back? He could have been in Berlin before the Soviets, save for the politics.One theory has it that it was FDR's payback to Stalin for Russia's efforts in the war. It fit well into FDR's belief that Germany had to be dismantled and permanently neutered. To some extent, I think FDR understood that the most important result of the surrender would be the dividing of Germany. The perspective of 1945 was that a united Germany would be the biggest threat to peace. In 1945, the Soviet threat to America was hypothetical. Germany was the problem. When you look at Europe today, you can conclude that the plan worked. Germany was divided, weakened and then rebuilt. Churchill, in discussing the results of the Allies' policies after WWI, put it this way: "The redress of the grievances of the vanquished should precede the disarmament of the victors." The Gathering Storm, Ch. 3, 1948. In simple terms, I think FDR understood that he had to address the situation with Germany before he could start "disarming" the Soviets. In that way, he could avoid a repeat, a fourth Reich.

One of the advantages we have as "historians" of WWII is that there is much primary material from the war itself and also that many scholars and historians did their writing from their own personal experience, just after the war, while the blood was still wet. Writings of people who weren't even born in 1945 have to be discounted somewhat as academic.

Just my $0.02.

[ 12-16-2002, 03:20 PM: Message edited by: Scott Rosen ]

NormMessinger
12-16-2002, 03:29 PM
I was not joking Scott, mearly quoting the belief of my daddy-in-law (Keith) to see what discussion would result if any for my enlightenment. You done good. I think keith was being serious but he often said he would never let the facts interfere with a good arguement. I came from a family that discussed little and never argued. Quite a contrast.

--Norm

ishmael
12-16-2002, 03:50 PM
My only point is that Roosevelt's motives -- which we are never going to know well -- contained either an incredibly naive attitude toward Stalin, or, more likely, a gloss on Communist ideology cultivated by those close to him.

I happen to think that FDR was a bunch of things, but naive doesn't come to mind. I believe he, like many leftist American politicos of the era, had real sympathies for the Russian revolution, and the Soviet system.

He was an old, old man at Yalta. I can feel him aquiesing to his flirtations with socialism, and giving Stalin his way. I could be way off base.

[ 12-16-2002, 03:50 PM: Message edited by: ishmael ]

Scott Rosen
12-16-2002, 04:41 PM
Let's follow this through. What would have happened if FDR let the the Americans advance to Berlin before the Russians got there? (This question assumes that the other Allies would have gone along with it as well. It also assumes that the Allies could have made the advance.)

One thing that would not have happened: The Russians would not have stopped at the German border and let the Allies have the glory to themselves.

Could the Allies have gotten a better deal? What do you think would have been a better deal?

ACB
12-16-2002, 04:51 PM
That is pretty much the standard British view of what happened at Yalta, but I think Scott's point - that he wanted a radically different Europe, divided along different lines, so that the old nation states would not revive and resume their ancient rivalries, fits the case as well.

It matches Eric's point on the De Gaulle thread - that FDR wanted to recreate Burgundy as a buffer state between a small weak France and a small weak Germany. This plan was foiled by De Gaulle's instant assumption of power throughout France as it was liberated, thereby depriving the American forces of any opportunity to set up a military administration, and helping to strengthen the "necessary myth" that Free France was never defeated, the homeland was just occupied.

(The more I think of De Gaulle, the more I come to admire his achievement).

I am not inclined to think, from what I know of Harry Hopkins (and remember, Hopkins got on extremely well with Churchill) that FDR was persuaded by crpto-Marxists in his entourage.

I think he saw Germany, and to an extent German-French rivalry, as the great problem, and his great wish to end the European colonial empires ran happily along with this view. He probably did not see "Joe" in the way that Churchill (who had seen more of him) did.

Churchill was prepared to bargain with Stalin over "spheres of influence" - as with his famous "naughty bit of paper". One cannot, somehow, see FDR doing anything as "old world" as that.

ishmael
12-16-2002, 05:23 PM
The Venona Secrets, Romerstein/Breindel

I've been meaning to read this book since it was released. It isn't my usual fare, but I heard Romerstein speak a few years back, and was impressed.

It is an analysis of intercepted Soviet cable traffic during the Cold War.

Who knows what history actually happened? We have documents, we have memoirs, and each is subjective, to an extent. How much is purposely hidden from our view?

Here is a link to an admittedly partisan review of the book.

http://www.humaneventsonline.com/articles/01-29-01/ryskind.html

[ 12-16-2002, 05:36 PM: Message edited by: ishmael ]

Eric Sea Frog
12-16-2002, 05:47 PM
Trying to assess FDR's views and posish, certainly the general distrust (in pre-war and war times, from the 30es to the 40es, nearly a generation) of old-style, clubbish, silk-hat parliamentary politicians could give some clue.
Vladimir Nabokov went into all sorts of troubles with his dean at Harvard's girls' college, because as a Russian language teacher and "White" émigré, he would tell his charming audience the awful truth about the Soviet régime...
This was the United States, a few years before the Cold War! OK, this was war-time...
The question of course wasn't so much to let or not to let Patton rush to Moscow and glue Coca-Cola posters on the Kremlin wall, than decide where to spot the landings. France (Normandy and Provence 15 August 44, including on my very marina, then a swamp) or further East, Yugoslavia and the North Sea.
This debate opposed FDR to Churchill, but FDR won.
The more bitter thing that happened then on was Stalin's "replacement" ;) of mixed, moderate governments in Eastern Europe, by wholly commie juntas.

ACB
12-17-2002, 05:32 AM
Yes, Eric. It is hard for us, after the end of the Cold War, to remember that there once were many people, particularly in the 1930's, who seriously and sincerely believed that Communism in Russia was the Great Hope of Mankind.

After all, I can remember some people saying the same sort of thing, quite sincerely, about the Chinese version in the 1960's.

Alan D. Hyde
12-17-2002, 11:10 AM
There is nothing so wrong or so false, that vanity or self-interest cannot lead a man to believe that it is right or true.

Those who have yet to read The True Believer by Eric Hoffer, will find it illuminating.

Alan

ACB
12-17-2002, 11:46 AM
Possibly, a propos Eric's Harvard principals and silk hatted types, the wish to get through a dinner party without causing umbrage may have caused a good deal of mild fellow travelling. This may have been more dangerous than anything else.

Alan D. Hyde
12-17-2002, 01:05 PM
The "go along to get along" mode of behavior does make it possible for a small minority who really care about certain matters to bring a large mass of followers behind them.

And, as I think Andrew may mean to imply, what is in fashion in an era can play a big part in how many individuals respond to such pressures.

Alan

martin schulz
12-17-2002, 02:01 PM
Originally posted by NormMessinger:
What motovated FDR, I wonder. My father in law often said we should have gone right on into Russia but he had some advantage of hindsite when I knew him in the 50's.
NormTannenberg

It's always Tannenberg. Since the unsucessful campaign of Napoleon into Russia, German military-tacticians have been dreaming of invading that vast country. The Schlieffen-Plan of 1914 included the simutaneous attack on France (through Belgium) and Russia (through Serbia). That didn't work out and the German Army was close to total destruction when Hindenburg was re-installed as leading General. He managed to drive a wedge though the 2 Russian Armies (with only a third of soldiers), inclosed 1, the Russian Narew-Army and destroyed it totally in the "famous" Tannenberg -battle.

Now one has only to remember that Hindenburg lectured generations of German officers in the peace between the wars and was a highly honored politician and even the Reich-President who helped Hitler to his Reich-Chancellor Job. What all military-tacticians believed back then is that Russian Armies can be beaten and Russia can be invaded. What they didn't take into consideration is that Tannenberg was just a small battle with "old-style" warfare (two Armies meeting) and Russia is just too damn big. And what happened to the Germans as well as Napoleon is that the invading Armies just drained themselves in those wide-plains - and then the winter set in.

Going back to the crucified Soldier - I once read an essay on modern warfare suggesting to train women as Soldiers. The advantages are pretty clear. Women can manage more pain, won't fall into raiding and raping civilians and the lesser physical strength can be neglected due proper training and modern equipment. Such an Army would be easier to control, unless you are using raiding and rape as a tactical-weapon, of course.

ACB
12-17-2002, 03:30 PM
And the 1410 Battle of Tannenberg - defeat of the Teutonic Knights - come into this, I fancy?

To judge by the behaviour of some teenage girls in Britain, they might be much worse than men.

Scott Rosen
12-17-2002, 05:30 PM
Originally posted by martin schulz:
Such an Army would be easier to control . . . Martin, I've greatly enjoyed this post and your contributions to it, so please don't take this next comment the wrong way, but I assume you are not married.

I am married (to a woman) and have two daughters (one a teen-ager), and I can assure you that an all female army would NOT be easier to control. They may not be as prone to commit rape (but who knows for sure), but they sure as hell don't take orders very well. :D

[ 12-17-2002, 05:34 PM: Message edited by: Scott Rosen ]

Eric Sea Frog
12-17-2002, 05:48 PM
There were many women in Stalin's Red Army: infantry troopers, tactical airplane pilots, tank crews, behind-the-lines snipers. Those were left behind up in a tall tree with one good rifle and a few cartridges, expected to aim at tank commanders only, who stood out of their turret's hatch.

martin schulz
12-18-2002, 03:24 AM
Originally posted by Scott Rosen:
I am married (to a woman) and have two daughters (one a teen-ager), and I can assure you that an all female army would NOT be easier to control. They may not be as prone to commit rape (but who knows for sure), but they sure as hell don't take orders very well. :D No - this was not meant to be a funny try at the "battle of sexes". I meant this seriously. and I certainly wouldn't like to have it responded to like: "...then every battle would start at 11am, because those women-soldiers couldn't get out of bed" or "women wouldn't make good soldiers because the uniform will eventually get stained"

No, this was a serious posting of mine and it should be possible for everyone to set those soap-opera-like socially-learned prejudices aside fo an earnest contribution.

ACB
12-18-2002, 06:08 AM
Martin - this is serious. I really do not think that women in such circumstances would behave better than men. The history of Europe from the Thirty Years War onwards is littered with accounts of horrors carried out in warfare by female "camp followers". The Ancient Greeks had accounts of atrocities carried out by Maenads - women attending drunken ceremonies of Bacchus.

Scott Rosen
12-18-2002, 08:33 AM
Serious?

I agree with Andrew.

It is an example of blind stereotyping to make a blanket statement such as "women would be better soldiers than men." I think it is equally wrong to make the prejudicial statement that women would behave differently or better than men. A quick perusal of history will uncover many examples of women engaging in barbaric and cruel behavior. Where women share power equally with men, women behave much the same as men. I see it in the business and legal worlds.

It is only in fairy tales and romantic fantasies that women have a nature that is kinder and gentler than men.

martin schulz
12-18-2002, 09:16 AM
Originally posted by Scott Rosen:
It is only in fairy tales and romantic fantasies that women have a nature that is kinder and gentler than men.What I am trying to discuss here is not the stereotype idea of men being more brutal than women. And I am not trying to idealize the female gender. Throughout history we have always thought it best to have the male part of society do the physical jobs (except of course minor exceptions in history). But because of the different physical aspects in men and women, which definetely have an effect on our behaviour, women might be better suited for warfare than men.

Not because they are more gentler or kinder (which I think is a stereotype), but because due to their genetic-code they might create different forms of behaviour in groups, might act different when under pressure, or might even be less scrupulous in battle.

just a thought...

Garrett Lowell
12-18-2002, 10:21 AM
I must say that I didn't know what to expect when I opened the link to this thread. The European and North American view points and interplay have been quite interesting, and I hope you all continue your conversation.

Scott Rosen
12-18-2002, 10:29 AM
Marin,

I do think it would be very hard to find an "ideal" type of warrior. That's because the nature of warfare is complicated and diverse. The qualities that make a good infantryman are not the same qualities that necessarily make a good submariner.

One thing that has changed radically is that now it is an advantage to be shorter in stature rather than larger. In the days of hand-to-hand, large size was a strong advantage. (Remember David and Goliath?) That is no longer true. However, physical strength and stamina are still important, even though tall size is not.

martin schulz
12-18-2002, 11:00 AM
Thats what I have been observing as well Scott - and that not only with the U-Boot crews.

A larger statue has also been used as visual threat for the enemy. The German Kaiser "Friedrich der Große" (Frederick II the great) had a special troup called the "langen Kerls" ( the long fellows) who surpassed the average soldier in height (back then 6ft). Fitted with the then typical headwear (which was also designed to "enlarge" the soldier) they must have been an impressive sight and formed the myth of the perfect prussian soldier.

http://www.e-papyrus.de/images/Grenadier.183x523.jpg

Bill Perkins
12-18-2002, 01:14 PM
I'm going back to the moral justification for bombing strategic ports in WW2 mentioned by Eric .There seemed to be silent agreement that this was morally justified , even tho this ment many civilian deaths . I think in part this was because that was the best they could do with the existing technology .

It's interesting how the moral equation is altered as the weapons and intelligence become more accurate .The situation on the ground can now be photographed from space and a cruise missile can be delivered to a specific address , so civilian casualties are less easily justified . Also if one has perfect intelligence and perfect accuracy is that then assassination ? That's the word some are using for the killing of an Al Qieda leader by a drone as he crossed the desert by car with three or four others . If one accepts this definition , then how many people have to be killed at the same time for an action not to be considered an assassination , but rather a legitimate action against an enemy force ?

Alan D. Hyde
12-18-2002, 01:20 PM
Wellington's comment to the contrary, I think that in modern war, the killing of an enemy leader is not "assassination," but rather the effective and morally acceptable pinpointing of force.

Alan

ACB
12-18-2002, 02:28 PM
Thank you, Bill, for a very astute and, to me, novel, observation.

There has been a long running discussion amongst certain British historians about whether AH should have been assassinated. Apparently someone did offer to do the job, in 1938, but was turned down. But aside from this, in dealing with terrorists, there may be a sound case for assasination, once one accepts that terrorism is a matter for the armed forces, not the police.

Like may people on this forum, I knew little of Frederick the Great until I picked a biography off an airport bookshelf. I was filled with admiration for him - as a man of his time - and a sense of guilt because there really is little doubt that, but for him, and his nation, the "French and Indian War", or the Seven Years' War, would have gone very differently, and he did get a raw deal from Britain, as our only ally. We left him unsupported far too often. Not that we had anything to do with the Silesian business. That was all his own doing.

Scott Rosen
12-18-2002, 02:55 PM
Alan,

I agree. There's one catch, though. When you are fighting against a democratic country, killing the leader should not make much difference in the outcome of the conflict. That's because the leaders are carrying out the will of the people. When one leader is killed, another will take its place.

Totalitarian regeims are different. There, the people follow the leader's will. If you kill the leader, you may very well decide the conflict.

Ian McColgin
12-18-2002, 03:24 PM
As Xenophon's March of the 10,000 showed.

But there are huge problems. We should not be like them. We should be better. That's why we renounced assassination and first strike nukes.

The biggest problem with guerilla fighters is that they so often become the most dangerous criminals. Part of the idea of soldiers, uniforms and all that, is to make the violence of war different from real life, not a natural part of it. Many of the regiems that came to power through guerilla activity either became criminal regiems themselves or had to kill off their first supporters or both.

Same with national policy. If we violate our basic principles in the act of fighting, if we murder indiscriminatly on an international level, if we diminish our own liberties, then the terrorists will have won by reducing us to their level.

We've people, mainly outside the military like Sec. Abrams, but a few in the military, who seem to believe that military measures can be carried out in a sanitary fashion. Idiots. Violence is inherantly messy. The innocent inevitably suffer.

Besides some pretensions to decency which do no harm, the main reason for not waging war by simply bombing all the civilians is that it's a huge waste of ordinance that does little to reduce the fighting ability of the other side and may well just get the population royally angered. Bombing Coventry did not cause Britian to fall. Nor did firebombing Dresden diminish German will.

Our national leaders who actual served and led in combat, both in the Congress and the one in the Cabinet, know this. Those who did not appear the more enthused about 'surgical strikes.'

Frankly, it takes more courage to be the good guy. Hope we find a national leadership with that courage.

Alan D. Hyde
12-18-2002, 03:38 PM
I agree with the tenor of your comments, Ian.

The means are the ends in the making. We cannot preserve our principles by means of acts contrary to them.

However, I would think it would have been much more morally justifiable to put a bullet into Adolph Hitler's head, than it would be to do the same to a reluctant German youth on the front line, caught up in the maelstrom of war, and serving only because he saw no other workable option.

If you're driving a Thunderbolt, you pull the trigger on this kid because you know he may kill Americans if you don't.

But you won't feel good about it. You'll just be glad you did your job and got back home. On the other hand, you might feel good about putting some 50 cal. rounds into Adolph.

Alan

[ 12-18-2002, 04:12 PM: Message edited by: Alan D. Hyde ]

ACB
12-18-2002, 04:07 PM
I agree with Ian's and Alan's posts. But we seem to be very slow in applying these principles. For some reason which doubtless seems less bizarre to its bureaucratic originator than it does to me, the British Foreign Office has just issued a travel advisory on....Iraq.

I quote:

"UK nationals should beware of indiscriminate attacks on public places, including tourist sites."

One is, to put it mildly, gobsmacked!

This seems to be an announcement that we, and presumably our allies, are proposing "indiscriminate attacks on public places, including tourist sites". This, some 67 years after our indiscriminate attack on a tourist site called Dresden.

Scott Rosen
12-18-2002, 04:22 PM
I'm a little confused by some of the comments. In times of war, a country's leader is also the commander in chief of the military. Why would it be immoral to kill the enemy's commander in times of war?

Ian, I agree with your sentiment, but I'm not sure how it plays out in today's situation. If it turns out that Iraq has WMD, and we get undisputed evidence that they plan to use them on us, would it be better to invade Iraq, killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi troops and civilians, or would it be better to find a way to eliminate the leadership and make the change from the top down?

Say there's a leader, living comfortably and safely in his bunker, a thousand miles from the front, in complete control of his country's military force, and ordering them to wage war on us. Wouldn't he be a fair target?

Ian McColgin
12-18-2002, 04:54 PM
Nothing is obvious here. But that's not new. My father was ostracised from the family (briefly) for joining the Army Air Corps before WWII started. But though to him war with Japan and Germany was obviously inevitable, he does not believe we should have gone preemptive, even with Britian's invitation. That's largly because the nation would not have really joined in.

We're acting now like we did after Pearl Harbor but there are profound differences - the terrorists who did the September 11 atrocity remain at large and have nothing (proven) to do with the rather dispicable dictator whose nation we are preparing to punish more severely than we've been doing for the past decade.

Far as I can tell, since we've been unable to close with the enemy who hurt us, we've chosen a different enemy who may or may not have the ability to hurt us in the future.

Our leaders do not appear to even know what ball is in play, much less have their eyes on it.

ACB
12-18-2002, 05:31 PM
Well, here in Britain MI6 have just held a briefing session for journalists in which they made it pretty clear that they are now sure that

1. Al-Quaeda cells are being established in Britain

2. They consider the "war on terror" will be a very long haul (their words) lasting six to ten years, during which time the terrorists (not necessarily just al-Quaeda) will become very much more skilled, and will use chemical and biological agents and will attempt to use nuclear weapons.

3. The unstated implication of the briefing (and this is where this becomes pertinent to this thread) is that in these circumstances intervention to prevent access to such weapons (eg in Iraq) is justified.

Anyway, that's what our Government seems to be saying to us.

Scott Rosen
12-18-2002, 05:43 PM
Originally posted by Ian McColgin:
But though to him war with Japan and Germany was obviously inevitable, he does not believe we should have gone preemptive, even with Britian's invitation.Maybe that's because we weren't prepared and didn't have the military capability to launch any kind of preemptive war in 1939 or 1941. Today we take it for granted that we can project our military power anywhere in the world, at a moment's notice, with overwhelming effectiveness. That wasn't the case 60 years ago.

ishmael
12-18-2002, 05:55 PM
Andrew,

I saw some British tabloid headlines several days ago to the effect that Osama Bin Laden had acquired twenty tactical (so called backpack) nukes, along with the ex-Soviet technicians to keep them "tuned", back in 1998. He supposedly bought/hired them from the Russian Mob, who acquired them after the downfall of the USSR. Any mention of that in the intelligence briefing?

This sort of story has been bubbling, just under the surface, since 9/11. Not knowing British publishing, perhaps the newspaper was equivilent to our less reputable (not to say absurd) tabloids?

Has anyone read anything substantive regarding missing Soviet nukes?

[ 12-18-2002, 06:05 PM: Message edited by: ishmael ]

ACB
12-18-2002, 07:22 PM
Jack, the British tabloids, in order of absurdity:

The Daily Sport. Far worse than anything you have. Does not have a discernible political slant. Probably because they cannot spell long words like "Conservative" or "New Labour".

The Sun. The Dirty Digger's cheapo organ. Rubbish, usually supports Blair at the moment, but supported Thatcher in those days. Most famouse headline, "Freddie Starr ate my hamster!"
Second most famous (and most repulsive) headline
"Gotcha!" (over a photo of the sinking Argentine warship "General Belgrano")

The Star. Same as the Sun, but not owned by Murdoch (yet).

The Daily Mirror. Officially left wing, long term supporter of Labour. Has been known to have articles with more than 100 words in, sometimes on grown up subjects.

The Daily Mail. Conservative, mainly read by women. Orchestrated a recent campaign against Cherie Blair.

And now the broadsheet papers, for people who can do joined up writing:

The Times. Owned by the Dirty Digger and need we say more? Alas.

The Telegraph. Right wing; owned by Conrad Black.

The Guardian (known as the Grauniad, due to its phenomenal frequency of misprints). Intellectual left.

The Independent. Somewhere in the soggy centre of the above three.

The Financial Times. At last, a newspaper....

I would not take anything in the Star or the Sun at all seriously. The Mirror occasionally prints facts, but not often enough to be relied on.

martin schulz
12-19-2002, 05:20 AM
Originally posted by ACB:
There has been a long running discussion amongst certain British historians about whether AH should have been assassinated. Apparently someone did offer to do the job, in 1938, but was turned down. As for those who tried to assasinat AH in Juli 1944, mainly higher military ranks (Graf v. Stauffenberg, Mertz v. Quirnheim, v. Tresckow) are not undisputed in Germany. Although the former conservative government tried to turn them into "gleaming white knights of freedom" there are some other aspects to consider. First those Army-Officers didn't question the decisions made by Hitler to ignore the Versailles-contract and his decisions to invade Poland, get Austria back in the Reich, or to start the invasion of france. I fact as professionals they were delighted when AH came into power. It was he who started building an Army again and he did his best to use every citation of famous prussian soldier-images.
Second some of them even thought like AH concerning his plan to eliminate the Jews. The constitutive element in the Nazi-society was the dual world-view with the confrontation of hard working, "clean", "value" creating German and the parasite-like, destructive-acting jew.

The only thing, which drove them to try to assasinate AH was their frustration as professional-soldier to see him making grave mistakes over and over again in the ongoing war. They already saw that with AH Germany will eventually falter and their way of living, their values will come down with Germany's downfall.

The question is, and I would like to bring this up in the discussion about the present situation, how good is the single assasination of a dictator when the circumstances which made his dictatorship possible are not altered. The whole structure, the values and self-conception of Germany would not have been fundamentally altered by the assasination of AH. A military junta would probably have been installed - not as scrupulous but basically with the same ideas.

As for Iraq. I would wish that there was an ongoing discussion as to what to do after SH is disposed. What of the people who lived like this for long periodes of time (you can't just say: "Hey now you are an democracy"). What about the whole structure of the government? Not only of higher officials, but also of all those minor officials, the military, the court-officials...
As reminder from German history it is common knowledge that former feudal-officials from Kaiser Wilhelm II still in office during the Weimar Republic with their Anti-Democracy thinking made Hitler possible.

ACB
12-19-2002, 06:38 AM
Martin, I think you are right; to assasinate a dictator would probably lead to those around him keeping power and cracking down harder than ever on dissent. The history of sucessful assasinations of tyrants tends to support that.

Perhaps the real "problem" in the history of Germany in the early twentieth century lies with Bismarck, after all? I was taught at school that his system of alliances, safe in itself, caused the confrontation which led to WW1 when it fell into the hands of people who did not have his genius, but I am thinking here of the "stillborn democracy" of Imperial Germany, where Bismarck bought off the factions which might have created a genuine democracy - the Churches, the labour movement, and so on, one by one.

Certainly, the example of the Weimar Republic should make us think very hard about how easy it might be to change a nation's ideas about itself.

Anyone who imagines that "regime change" in a country as large and as complex as Iraq, is a simple matter, as it might be in a banana republic, should be very cautious. Few living Iraqis can remember anything except Saddam Hussein. Big Brother has been watching them for a long time, and they talk Newspeak and think Doublethink.

Next door to Iraq, we, (the British and the Americans), toppled Mossadeq and re-installed the Shah. Much good that did us....

Scott Rosen
12-19-2002, 08:06 AM
Interestingly, Iraq is one of the most Westernized of the Arab countries, and the least hostile to American culture. Radical Islam does not appear to be in control of Iraq. That suggests to me that it would be easier to install some kind of Western-style government in Iraq than in, say, Saudi Arabia.

I've read several articles about the Bush administration's efforts to work with Iraqi defectors and political opposition.

I don't think there's a "cookie-cutter" solution for regime change. Each situation is different and presents new and infinite variables. If the US and its allies bring about a regime change, I hope we do more than just trade a friendly dictator for an unfriendly one. I, for one, wouldn't have the foggiest idea of how to rebuild Iraq's political system.

[ 12-19-2002, 08:08 AM: Message edited by: Scott Rosen ]

John Gearing
12-19-2002, 01:11 PM
My own take on Germany is that the rise of Nazi-ism began back in the 19th century as the multitude of small "german" states combined to form "Germany". "Germany" is a fairly recent invention. Used to be that Prussia was one country, Bavaria another, etc. As "Germany" began to form, the people in these coalescing countries struggled to come to grips with defining what a "german" was. From this came the concept of the "volk" and the idea that germans are a race of people. All of which set the stage for AH. There is a fine book on this subject which traces the path of this development quite nicely...but of course the name of that tome is not close at hand nor at neuron just at the moment.

Alan D. Hyde
12-19-2002, 01:53 PM
To add to John's point, it is my understanding that "Deutchland uber alles" originally was meant to refer to allegiance to united Germany as being more important than was the older loyalty to its constituent states.

Kind of their equivalent of Daniel Webster's toast: "Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseperable."

Of course, later events have given it more sinister connations...

Alan