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Thursday, February 25, 2021

FURTHER THOUGHTS ABOUT THE INSURRECTION

Five days ago I put up a post in which, at one point, I described the insurrectionists as people “playing at being soldiers.” There were several interesting responses questioning such things as my snark about their wearing camouflage equipment. Without returning to that issue, let me say something in a more organized way about why I found the entire event so weird.

 

The purpose of many of those who broke into the Capitol, I think we can agree, was not merely to protest the declaration of Biden as the new president but to “stop the steal” by interrupting the procedure by which the vice president in his ceremonial role as President of the Senate opens the envelopes containing the reports of the electoral votes and declares the winner.

 

The entire event was so horrendous, the real-time cell phone videos so mesmerizing, and the threat to the lives of the senators, the members of the House of Representatives, and the vice president himself so dire that none of us really thought to ask an obvious question: suppose the efforts of the insurrectionists had been successful, what would they have done then? Suppose they had succeeded in breaking into the Senate chamber and House chamber while the Senators and Representatives were still there and the Vice President was still in the chair. Suppose – what is hard to imagine, given the presence of armed Secret Service agents not hesitant about using force – that the insurrectionists had actually coerced Pence into declaring Trump the victor in the election. Then what? What would the insurrectionists have done?

 

I think the answer is clear. They would have declared victory and gone home. Gone home! I think they actually believed that if they forced the Vice President to go through the charade of declaring Trump the winner in the election, then that would have been it and Trump would have continued to be president.

 

Think for a moment about how crazy that is. Did they actually think that Joe Biden would just say “aw shucks, I came so close, well nothing for it but to go home to Delaware and have dinner with Jill.” Did it never occur to them that after they left town Mitch McConnell might move to strike those proceedings from the record and then go on with the regular declaration of Biden as winner?  Did they think that the members of the House of Representatives would shrug their shoulders, snap their fingers, and just figure that there was nothing they could do? Did they imagine that a Supreme Court that had declined even to listen to any of the 60 and more lawsuits brought by Trump against state election commissions would certify the proceedings as constitutional?

 

I really do not think any of this crossed their minds.  I think they viewed the proceedings on January 6 more as part of a videogame than as a political ritual. They were not revolutionaries, they were action figures.

 

None of this makes what they did any less dangerous nor, I am happy to say, will it constitute a successful defense when they are called into court. But it would not surprise me if a videogame surfaces in the near future titled Stop The Steal. It will be a great success.

56 comments:

Anonymous said...

Along these video-fantasy lines, today’s Washington Post has an article about how one of the insurrectionists text-messaged his ex-girlfriend back home and sent her self-incriminating images, taken on his cell phone, of the rioting at the Capitol. He made the mistake of calling her a “moron” for not believing that the election had been stolen. Insulted (I guess), she turned the video stuff she got from him over to the FBI the next day. The article, if I’m reading it right, says that his lawyer is—a federal public defender. –Fritz Poebel

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I saw that.Thank heavens these people are. not the sharpest tools in the toolbox

s. wallerstein said...

Mobs don't think.

About once a week the far left (not the right) calls for a demonstration to demand hated Chilean rightwing president Sebastian Piñera's (10% support according to polls) resignation in front of the La Moneda presidential palace. At some point they try to break through police lines and enter the La Moneda palace (I have no idea whether that is decided in advance or is a "spontaneous" decision of the demonstrators).

They throw rocks at the cops, the cops fire tear gas back, they break some windows in nearby shops and of parked cars. The cops call for reinforcements, they arrest some demonstrators, they fire more tear gas and finally, the demonstrators give up.

What would they do if they succeed in breaking through the police lines and entering the palace besides spray graffiti everywhere? Even if they were to find President Piñera inside (he'll be evacuated by his bodyguards long before) and were to lynch him, what would that accomplish?

Yet otherwise reasonably intelligent people will try this with a certain frequency.

I myself dislike mobs, whether they are rightwing or leftwing mobs. Mobs don't think.
If I have to choose, I prefer a leftwing mob, but I avoid both.

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

My expectation was that the attack on the Capitol, had it succeeded in stopping the electoral certification, would have provided the pretext to declare martial law. Had they either captured the House and Senate members and coerced votes to delay certification, or perhaps captured the official letters of certification thus delaying certification, it would have given Trump a rationale for a state of emergency. The martial law approach was advocated by Flynn, whose brother was in the meeting when the request for National Guard support was delayed.

They couldn’t breach the House chamber, where Secret Service or Capitol police shot and killed a protester trying to get in. That seemed to be the end of it. There was no tactical team prepared to use force to breach the House Chamber. The insurrectionists also appear to have had an insufficient understanding of the layout of the Capitol. They appear not to considered the escape routes, i.e., the tunnels connecting the House and Senate office buildings. That said, there are undoubtedly secure sites that only Capitol police and perhaps members know about.

This was our first insurrection, and although many insurrectionists were ex-military,, they lacked intelligence, planning and command structure. I assume they all lacked the advanced, post-grad, training the military offers to up and coming officers. I think we have to assume that some of these clowns will realize social media is not their friend in these situations, bring burner phones with encryption (I have seem reports that militias are buying secure walk-in talkie systems like the police use), etc.

Anonymous said...

These people would eventually have had to step out of the background:

https://www.16af.af.mil/News/Article/2471181/joint-chiefs-of-staff-issue-letter-to-joint-force-in-response-to-january-6-assa/

They would not have wished to do it, but they would have. Now you can ask who's side would they have taken? You can rest assured (I know these people personally, and when they say they follow Washington's example of not voting for president, they are not misleading you) they would have -- in the horrible event -- painted the sidewalk with those mobsters the way you butter toast. And if a faction developed within the uniformed services themselves, it would have been ugly, but remember this: the armed services are a thoroughly "integrated" organization all the way through the ranks. That is all that needs to be said about them.

jeffrey g kessen said...

The motives of the insurrectionists are as varied as their costumes. One suspects less variation in their I.Q..---There's at least one common denominator.

L.F. Cooper said...

@ jeffrey g kessen

I think the issue may be more one of ignorance than stupidity: these are of course two different things. Ignorance not only of specific facts (such as who actually won the election), but also of broader sets of facts, such as of the multi-pronged, so to speak, and fairly complex structure of the US govt or 'state.' And of the position of the military (see comment above).

Couple that w a lack of a well thought-through plan and being mired in a kind of fantasy, and there was little likelihood these people cd have achieved their aim of reversing the election result, though they certainly cd have caused more damage and even more fatalities than occurred.

Anonymous said...


What is happening now though? One of the two major political parties is making itself over entirely along the lines of the nazi stab-in-the-back story. It took the Ludendorff clique a number of tries before they made their way into the mainstream. It took them 12-13 years! Do we have even that long? If the middle-of-the road america burgher class is set on consuming this poison, we as a whole cannot be saved; other than by some act of nature; or the equivalent of the Russian army -- which administered the cure at least in 1945.

L.F. Cooper said...

The "stab in the back" myth or story was not exclusively a Nazi thing, but rather a post-WW1 thing bought into by various sectors of the German political spectrum on the Right. Indeed it predates the formation of the Nazi party, iirc.

What is happening now in the Republican Party is not that it is making itself over "entirely" [sic] along the lines of the stab-in-the-back myth, but rather an internal schism pitting Trumpists against people like McConnell, Sasse, Liz Cheney, etc.

By the way, who do the Trumpists think stabbed them in the back? Pence? Raffensberger? The Trump-appointed judges who dismissed the baseless election lawsuits? All of the above?

s. wallerstein said...

One huge difference between the U.S. today and Weimar Germany is demographics. I don't have the exact percentages, but White Aryan Germans must have made up at least 90% of the population, while in the U.S. if we add up African-Americans, Latinos/as, Muslim-Americans, and Asian-Americans, etc., we have a much higher percentage of the population, which is very unlikely to endorse a racist white supremacist movement.

Furthermore, as someone remarked above, the U.S. military is a racially or almost racially integrated organization.

Anonymous said...

"By the way, who do the Trumpists think stabbed them in the back? Pence? Raffensberger? The Trump-appointed judges who dismissed the baseless election lawsuits? All of the above?"

I am afraid to say it, but they imagine it was a very subtle conspiracy involving many players behind the scenes, pulling strings. At the same time they probably would attribute the whole subtle artifice to an especially talented malefactor. They probably will tell you the suspect either the Chinese or the Jews.

Samuel Chase said...

What do the insurrectionists plan for the future?

Here is the leader of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, discussing the future plans of the PB, among other things:

https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/25/politics/capitol-riot-proud-boys-enrique-tarrio-soh/index.html

By the way, although I believe that he and his followers are misguided and dangerous, I do not believe he sounds stupid or unintelligent. Quite the contrary.

Samuel Chase said...

By the way, Enrique Tarrio was born and raised in Little Havana, Miami. He identifies as Afro-Cuban. Things are getting really strange when a person who identifies as Afro-Cuban condemns the Black Lives Matter movement. Perhaps the social anthropologists/political activists among the readers of this blog can provide some insight into this rather strange (in my eyes) phenomenon.

Charles Pigden said...

Suppose the mob had broken into the chamber and ‘stopped the steal’ by violent intimidation. Wouldn’t McConnell have simply moved that the mob -intimidated proceedings be stricken from the record before proceeding to a regular vote once the crowd had dispersed? Not if he was lying hog-tied in some basement. Would not vice president Pence have resumed his ceremonial duties once the insurrectionists had gone home? Not if he had been hanging from the gallows. Wouldn’t Speaker Pelosi have tried to do something about it? Not if she had been raped and murdered. From what I’ve heard and read at least some of insurrectionists had something like this in mind for some of the President’s enemies, a class that had just been expanded to include those members of the Republican leadership who retained some shreds of constitutional principle. Suppose then that the congressional leadership had been decapitated, figuratively, if not literally. Would not loyal (that is loyal to the Constitution ) members of the Police or the National Guard or the Armed Forces have moved in to restore order and validate the election? Perhaps not if these organisations were headed (as some of them were) by recently appointed Trumpian fanatics.
There is of course a problem in assessing the mental processes of Trump and his followers, namely that they exist in a fog of self-delusion. But in so far as they had a plan to ‘stop the steal’ which couldn’t have been reversed once most of them had gone home, it would have had to be something as violent and fascistic as this. So the alternatives for Trump and the Trumpians are these: Either they were a bunch of nitwits with no clear idea of what they were doing or what they were trying to achive OR they were plotting a very violent coup d’etat.

s. wallerstein said...

They don't have to be nitwits or stupid.

Normally intelligent or even highly intelligent people when they form a mob behave very very irrationally.



Anonymous said...

Life is full of ironies. In part due to MS (Samuel Chase?) I had promised myself never to comment here again. Today, not without some embarrassment, I am forced to break my promise because of the very pertinent question Samuel Chase asked at 9:57 AM.

So, can the political philosophers around this blog explain Enrique Tarrio? In fact, can they also explain Herman Cain, or George State Representative Vernon Jones? How about rappers like Lil Pump, Ice Cube, Kodak Black, Lil' Wayne, Blocboy JB, and Waka Flocka Flame? That phenomenon of African-American support to Donald Trump may be predominantly a male thing, but it's far from being exclusively a sausagefest: witness Diamond and Silk.

Anti-semites and neo-Nazis have been among Donald Trump's fans from the start. But so were Stephen Miller and Jared Kushner. Sheldon Adelson donated $25 millions to the Trump campaign; Paul Gottfried (a fellow philosopher, by the way) was also a bit of a Trump fan boy. Ben Shapiro? How can that be? I also believe Trump was very popular in Israel. He had a bromance with Bibi Netanyahu and Bibi's son Jair used to prefer the alt-right to antifa and BLM.

So I have to ask the illustrious readership what gives? Not that I am realistically expecting an answer, for that would require a lot of honest introspection.

Samuel Chase said...

Anonymous,

No need for embarrassment simply because you found something I wrote to be pertinent and thought-provoking.

Let me point out, however, that my comment regarding Enrique Tarrio is doubly ironic, because not only as an Afro-Cuban was he supporting Trump, but he was also attacking fellow African-Americans who supported BLM. Although I am not familiar with the rap artists you listed, I suspect that none of them condemned BLM, as has Tarrio. Nor have Adelson, Kushner, Miller made public comments attacking their fellow Jews, many of whom who have been critical of Trump. Thus, Tarrio has taken his admiration for Trump one step further, in a somewhat schizophrenic manner. Yet, as I say, judging from his statements in the video of his interview, he was quite articulate. Among his fellow Proud Boys, I wonder if there are any other who identify as Black, or partially Black, who also condemn BLM.

s. wallerstein said...

Trump is a charismatic, attractive figure for many people.

I enjoyed his presence in the Republican primary debates. He seemed like a breath of fresh air compared to the other Republican candidates with their cliche replies.

From time to time, in the midst of his constant lying, he said something brutally honest and that was refreshing. That is very attractive to many people because most politicians never say anything honest, whether it be brtual or not.

I recall that once someone asked Trump to condemn Putin because Putin has people assassinated and Trump replied that "we" have people assassinated too and that's how international power politics works. No other public political figure is capable of that level of brutal honesty.

The only other major U.S. political figures with similar charisma are Bernie Sanders and AOC, because they both from time to time break through the tissue of lies and cliches that dominate mainstream political discourse.

What I say above is completely politically incorrect I know, but Anonymous asked for honest introspection. For the record, I do not support Trump politically and I condemn him as a demagogue, a conman and an incompetent president.

L.F. Cooper said...

Anonymous @4:02

You write that "anti-semites and neo-Nazis have been among Donald Trump's fans from the start."

Be that as it may (and I think it's correct, at least if you interpret "from the start" to mean "since the 2016 campaign"), I'm aware of basically no evidence that Trump himself is anti-Semitic.

Not only did he have a "bromance," as you put it, w Netanyahu, he aligned U.S. policy on the Israel/Palestinian conflict completely w the Israeli right wing. The Trump admin's so-called Middle East peace plan was an absurd joke, and the Palestinian negotiator and former PLO official Hanan Ashwari accurately described the Trump admin as a catastrophe for the Palestinians and their interests.

What made some neo-Nazis or neo-fascists like Trump was mostly that they perceived him as a defender of white identity politics, if I can put it that way.

I don't know why you are teasing readers w this stuff about "honest introspection." There's no especially daunting puzzle here. Trump is a somewhat protean figure in the sense that people were to some extent projecting what they wanted onto him. I don't know exactly what an African American rapper might have seen in him, but people see what they want to see, and the fact that some prominent rappers apparently supported Trump is not the sort of conundrum that really calls out for explanation beyond saying that people do all kinds of odd things. Maybe they saw Trump as an exponent of "self-reliance" of the sort that they think the African American community needs. Who knows, and more to the point, who really cares. I couldn't care less about why Ice Cube supported Trump, assuming Ice Cube did.

By the way, not all prominent African Americans are on the left, as you well know. Some time ago I read Corey Robin's quite interesting book The Enigma of Clarence Thomas. I recommend it.

L.F. Cooper said...

p.s. Don't know anything about Enrique Tarrio, but I believe Little Havana voted heavily for Trump. Cuban exiles, or their children, or maybe in some cases grandchildren. Different Hispanic voting pattern in Florida than in other parts of the country.

Samuel Chase said...

L.F. Cooper,

The nature of anti-Semitism and its multiple and various manifestations is a very complicated subject. Despite that Trump’s favorite lawyer was Roy Cohen; despite the fact that his daughter married an Orthodox Jew; and despite his bromance with Netanyahu, none of this dispels other aspects of his behavior and rhetoric which points to anti-Semitism. Individuals who publicly state that their best friends are Jewish (or Black), often exploit stereotypes that bespeak a deep-seated anti-Semitism or racism. Harry Truman, for example, who many in the Jewish community regard as a hero because he supported the UN vote on the partition of Palestine to form the state of Israel, and despite that he had a Jewish partner when he owned a haberdashery, in private spoke of Jews in virulently anti-Semitic terms, and he never stood up to his anti-Semitic wife who made it clear that when Jewish members of his cabinet or staff showed up in Independence, they were not allowed to step foot in their home, and had to discuss political issues with President Truman on the porch.

Regarding Trump’s anti-Semitic propensities, read Trump Goes Full Anti-Semite In Room Full Of Jewish People, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2019/12/donald-trump-anti-semitic-remarks

Finally, the fact that many Hispanic Americans supported Trump does not explain Tarrio’s hostility to BLM, at the same time that he identifies, according to is own words, as Afro-Cuban. What it may mean is no more than that human beings are idiosyncratic and unpredictable.

C said...

Samuel Chase:

"By the way, Enrique Tarrio was born and raised in Little Havana, Miami. He identifies as Afro-Cuban. Things are getting really strange when a person who identifies as Afro-Cuban condemns the Black Lives Matter movement. Perhaps the social anthropologists/political activists among the readers of this blog can provide some insight into this rather strange (in my eyes) phenomenon."

I am not a social anthropologist or political activist but here is my guess. He is part Cuban and grew up in Little Havana, Miami. Cubans in Miami tend to strongly oppose Fidel Castro, communism, and socialism. Tarrio views Antifa and Black Lives Matter as proponents of (democratic) socialism, which is somewhat accurate. Antifa (Antifaschistische Aktion) was started by the Communist Party in Germany in the 1930s. Many branches of Black Lives Matter advocate for various "socialistic" policies (e.g. basic income, reparations, significant redistribution of wealth, etc.). So Tarrio despises socialism and communism, opposes Antifa and BLM, and embraces nationalism and right-wing authoritarianism.

You can be Hispanic and/or black and still be a hard nationalist, authoritarian, or fascist. Recall Franco in Spain, Juan Peron in Argentina, and Pinochet in Chile.

Anonymous said...

In the end, people tend to align with their immediate self-interest. Trying to take apart the layers of an individual's multiracial/national/sexual demographic is a red herring. Neo-Nazis adore Stephen Miller because he gives them cause to believe he hates fellow Jews and non-Whites alike. The racial, religious, cultural identity of an advocate is irrelevant. Who cares *where* they're from or why they're advocating an issue? Who cares about the psychological makeup of Hitler? What matters is what policies an individual promotes and and the means for achieving that objective and it's ramifications if successful. You fight a fight for the right cause, damn the personalities.

Samuel Chase said...

C and Anonymous,

Thank you both for your answers, which highlight the complexities and inscrutabilities of human behavior.

L. F. Cooper said...

Mostly agree w C, and my brief p.s. about Cuban exiles in Miami was intended to convey telegraphically much the same pt. Apparently it was too telegraphic.

S. Chase, I'm aware that anti-Semitism is complicated, and nothing I said really indicated otherwise.

L. F. Cooper said...

If S. Chase had read my p.s. with care, he would have seen that I used the phrase "Cuban exiles". I was specifically talking about exiles from (i.e. opponents of) the Castro regime and their descendants, a category that includes Ted Cruz btw, and not Hispanics in general. Why do you think the Little Havana area in Miami is called Little Havana in the first place?

Howie said...

Dear L. F Cooper

There is a cleavage in the Jewish world between Israel and American Jewry. The time I spent there convinced me of this tare. The Israelis are a warlike people at least in their own way. They are more like their grandparents the ancient Hebrews than the Diaspora. Israelis are as ferocious as the Nazis. They used to say that Sabras had something soft inside. The fire of Yahweh is the same fire as the fire of Auschwitz.
So I can see how some Nazis would have a soft spot for Israel. Sometimes I joke the law of return should be updated to include Nazis

Samuel Chase said...

L.F. Cooper,

You appear to take my comments responding to you as a personal affront. You stated, “I'm aware of basically no evidence that Trump himself is anti-Semitic.” Well, I provided you with a link to an article in Vanity Fair that claimed otherwise. The point of my comment was that on a superficial level, people like Trump can appear to be pro-Semitic when they actually harbor anti-Semitic stereotypes, as evidenced by Trump’s comments at the Israeli American Council conference discussed in the article.

Regarding Tarrio, I was obviously aware of his Cuban roots, since I referred to him as Afro-Cuban, and I am well aware also that the Cubans in Florida are descendants of those who escaped when Castro defeated Batista and whose property was confiscated when he turned Cuba into a Communist state, so they are fervently anti-Communist. My reference to Hispanics included Cuban-Americans, as well as many Mexican Americans in Texas who also supported Trump.

L.F. Cooper said...

Howie,
Don't take this personally but (1) I don't esp. agree with the way you have phrased things here, and (2) after this comment, I'm not really inclined to get into a further discussion of this whole topic.

The issue I was raising in my comment upthread had nothing to do with the putative "national character" of Israelis, to the extent there even is such a thing. Rather, it had to with the policy the Trump administration took on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the broader Israel/Arab conflict. Trump cut off U.S. funding to the UN agency that aids Palestinian refugees -- UNRWA -- thereby deepening human misery. He approved Netanyahu's formal annexation of the Golan Heights. He supported settlement expansion in the West Bank, or at least didn't oppose it. J. Kushner and someone else from the administration presented a Mideast "peace plan" that was absurd and was dead on arrival. The only accomplishment Kushner can point to is that the UAE and a couple of other countries established formal relations w Israel for the first time, so now there are flights between the UAE and Israel. Yay.

Trump's entire approach to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict was an unmitigated disaster. It did not serve U.S. interests on any reasonable interpretation thereof, or Palestinian interests, or really the long-run interests of Israel either. The U.S. gives Israel some 2 or 3 billion a year in mostly "security" i.e. military assistance; it gives Egypt close to 2 billion. There is, as best I can tell, no effort to condition any of this money on policy changes, esp. on Israel's part, that might improve the miserable economic conditions in the Gaza Strip or the situation in Gaza and the West Bank generally. The so-called Trump peace plan was supposedly a path to a two-state solution, but if you look at the details it was unacceptable to one of the parties right out of the box.

There are catastrophic ongoing humanitarian situations in Yemen, in parts of Syria, in the Gaza Strip, and the Trump admin did nothing to improve any of them and if anything worsened them. It remains to be seen whether the Biden policies will improve things substantially, but they can hardly makes things worse.

I got into this upthread because Anonymous mentioned Trump's "bromance" with Netanyahu. My point was that this bromance was part of a broader U.S. policy under Trump in the region.

OK, I'm out of here for the evening.

Samuel Chase said...

Howie,

Your comment, “Israelis are as ferocious as the Nazis. They used to say that Sabras had something soft inside. The fire of Yahweh is the same fire as the fire of Auschwitz. So I can see how some Nazis would have a soft spot for Israel. Sometimes I joke the law of return should be updated to include Nazis” is a virulently anti-Semitic remark, even if you yourself may be Jewish. Unlike Nazi Germany, there are no concentration camps, gas chambers or crematoria in Israel. Palestinians are not forced to perform slave labor until they collapse and die of starvation. You may regard this as a small, insignificant difference, since you apparently believe that Israel is oppressing the Palestinians – despite the fact that the Palestinians since the inception of the Jewish state in 1948 rejected the partition and refused to share the land of Palestine with the Jews who had as much right to be there as they did (a proposition that you no doubt reject, but which history confirms) – but the oppression which you charge against Israel has no comparison to what the Nazis did to the Jews during the Holocaust, and for you to equate the two is despicable. I await the onslaught of comments condemning me as being a fascist.

L.F. Cooper said...

p.s. will reply to S. Chase later on.

L.F. Cooper said...

p.p.s. I mean his comment directed to me, not to Howie.

Samuel Chase said...

L.F. Cooper,

I am responding to your comment regarding Israel to say that I agree with much of what you have written. I oppose an expansion of the settlements; I believe that Netanyahu has been Israel’s worst Prime Minister; I support a two-state solution, with Israel returning to the pre-1967 borders and Jerusalem being the capital for both the State of Israel and a new Palestinian state; and I agree that Trump's Mideast policy was a disaster and the moving of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem was premature. That said, any comparison of Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians is, as I commented to Howie, despicable and a gross distortion of history.

Samuel Chase said...

The sentence should have read: "any comparison of Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians to the Nazi effort to exterminate the Jews during the Holocaust is despicable ... "

Samuel Chase said...

While this comment may appear initially to be off topic, it ends on topic.

Several posts back, s. wallerstein commented that he was not aware of any American film which offered a sympathetic view of Germans during WWII. I responded that I knew of two – The Young Lions, starring Marlon Brando as a Nazi officer, and Ship of Fools, in which Oscar Werner portrayed a humane physician just before the war. There is also a recent movie I did not mention, Alone in Berlin, based on actual events, which depicted a German couple, disgusted with the Third Reich due to the death of their son in combat, who left notes around Berlin criticizing the Reich. They were eventually identified and executed.

Last night I watched a movie that I had not seen before that was listed among the best war movies about the conflict on the Eastern Front. Number two on the list was Cross of Iron, written and directed by Sam Peckinpah. The movie, made in 1977, portrays the German being slaughtered as they retreat from Russia in 1943. The movie is quite sympathetic to the German soldiers, who despise the Third Reich, but being soldiers, fighting for survival, obey orders. The main characters are portrayed not by German actors, but by American and British actors – James Coburn as Sgt. Steiner, a cynical, war weary noncommissioned officer who excels as a soldier, admired by the other soldiers in his platoon; James Mason as a colonel who detests the Reich for what it has done to Germany, but is trying to muddle through; and David Warner, a philosophical lieutenant who sees the absurdity of it all. Maximilian Schell plays a narrow-minded captain with Prussian heritage whose main goal is to obtain the Iron Cross, Germany’s highest medal for combat valor.

The movie opens with a montage of photos showing Hitler attending various social events, juxtaposed with photos of dead and dying German soldiers. Being a Peckinpah movie, there is a lot of violence and the most explosions I have ever seen in a movie. But there are several scenes depicting the absurdity of war. James Coburn turned in the performance of his life-time. In one scene he comments, “I believe God is a sadist, and he doesn’t even know it.” In another scene towards the end of the movie, James Mason orders David Warner to be transferred out of harm’s way. Warner resists and refuses to obey the order to evacuate, saying there are many more soldiers more worthy than he. Mason responds that then it is his job to find those people after the war and rebuild a better Germany.

The film ends in a flurry of violence reminiscent of the conclusion to Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, in which everybody dies. Then the surprise – it concludes with a montage of photos similar to those at the beginning of the movie, which gradually morphs into a montage of photos from the Vietnam War, showing dead and murdered Vietnamese. At the very end, Peckinpah displays the following quote:

“Don’t rejoice in his defeat, you men

For though the world stood up and stopped the bastard,

The bitch that bore him is in heat again.” Bertolt Brecht

Rather prophetic, given the recent insurrection on the Capitol, No?

L.F. Cooper said...

Interesting that a movie by a big-name Hollywood director and presumably released by a big-name studio would have ended with such an overtly political statement (i.e., the photos of dead Vietnamese and the Brecht quote), albeit a statement perhaps (?) subject to more than one interpretation. I don't know much of anything about Peckinpah's politics, but it's a reminder that Hollywood used to be, arguably, more open to this kind of statement than it is now. Now we get movies appropriately critical, say, of racism and sexism, but I can't think of all that many recent Hollywood movies critical of U.S. foreign policy, though there have been a few.

To be sure, there were some movies critical of the Vietnam War, but I suspect many of them have passed into oblivion and are forgotten except by historians of film and movie buffs. Coppola's Apocalypse Now, one of the best-known Vietnam War movies, is an anti-war film of a sort, but for many viewers I think it's more of a study in character and (in)sanity than an anti-war statement.

But then I don't see very many movies and am not that familiar w/ the history of film. Might be interesting to hear from J. Rapko on this topic.

s. wallerstein said...

And speaking of U.S. foreign policy, yesterday good old Joe Biden bombed Syria.

Now with what right did he do that?

Imagine that Iran were to bomb Colombia because they don't like Colombian president Duque.
That would be an act of terrorism, wouldn't it?

Good old Joe Biden by definition doesn't commit acts of terrorism just as Iran by definition commits acts of terrorism.

As one of my favorite philosophers, Dario Sztajnszrajber, says "we're always the good guys, they're always the bad guys".

Samuel Chase said...

L.F. Cooper,

There are several American movies critical of the Vietnam War besides “Apocalypse Now.“ “Platoon,” written and directed by Oliver Stone (who served in Vietnam) about the May Lai massacre; and “Casualties of War,” by Brian de Palma, based on actual events relating to the kidnapping of a Vietnamese girl who was kept by a soldier squad as a sex slave; the perpetrators were court-martialed.

s. wallerstein said...

Born on the 4th of July, directed by Oliver Stone.

L.F. Cooper said...

s. wallerstein,

It was in retaliation for an Iranian-backed militia attack that killed a U.S. mil. contractor. I'm not defending it, just saying that was the stated rationale.

Re Vietnam movies: Thank you for the reminders on "Platoon" and "Born on the Fourth of July," both of which I'd seen, but a long time ago. "Casualties of War" I haven't seen and am not even sure I was aware of it. (There's also Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket," but not sure whether that has an antiwar message or not.)

Samuel Chase said...

s. wallerstein,

I have difficulty figuring out your politics. You purport to be a liberal who opposes tyranny, authoritarian dictatorships, etc., and then you make a comment like that above criticizing Biden’s authorizing military attacks against the Shia militia which Iran has placed in Syria to support Assad’s dictatorship. Do you even know what has been going on in Syria over the last six years? Assad has brutally crushed a rebellion launched by Syrians who were seeking to overturn his tyrannical rule. In the course of Assad’s suppression of his own people, he has killed literally hundreds of thousands of citizens, including women and children, and decimated whole neighborhoods just so he can retain powere. He has used poison gas to destroy whole segments of people in the capital, Damascus. And what role is Iran playing in this? They are there to support Assad. Why? Because Assad belongs to a Muslim sect called Allawi, who identify with Shia Islam, the dominant form of Islam practiced in Iran.

Biden launched the attack in retaliation to attacks by the Iranian Shia militia against U.S. forces in Syria. Those U.S. forces are there to protect the rebels – who, again, are fighting against an authoritarian regime – from Assad, the Iranian Shia militia and the Russians. Yet, you criticize the U.S. for engaging in what you claim is American imperialism. So, do you support Assad’s dictatorship and his Iranian allies in their suppression of the Syrian people? Is this your version of liberalism? It seems you criticize American diplomacy every chance you get, regardless its objective.

s. wallerstein said...

Sam,

Does the CIA pay you or do you work for free?

Samuel Chase said...

That’s your response? That’s it? Some snarky remark to sound smarter than me, when your criticism of Biden’s attack against Shia militia responsible for killing innocent Syrians displays your utter ignorance and political hypocrisy?

L.F. Cooper said...

Some background is here:

https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/25/politics/us-iraq-iran/index.html


I would mention a couple of points. First, the militia strikes on U.S. bases in question occurred in Iraq not Syria, though the militias are based in Syria.

Second, the U.S. forces in Syria -- and there are not very many of them -- are not protecting "the rebels," taking that term for the moment as an umbrella category for all the disparate groups that have been fighting the Assad regime. The "last rebel stronghold" in Syria is in parts of Idlib province, in northwest Syria, and that's not where the U.S. forces in Syria are. Rather, the U.S. forces are in northeast Syria, which is the region in which the Syrian Kurdish army (or militia forces) operate. The Syrian Kurds fought against ISIS on the ground and, with the help of US air power, drove ISIS out and dismantled much of the territorial base of the so-called Islamic State. (ISIS of course is a Sunni group, hence an enemy of both Assad and Iran, but also of the U.S. and its Syrian Kurdish allies.)

As of roughly a year ago, according to this NPR story (link below), the US forces in northeast Syria were involved in helping secure oil fields so that Syrian Kurdish forces cd use or access them. Trump wanted to remove all US forces from northeast Syria and leave the Syrian Kurds to be attacked by the Turkish military, but, in the face of objections, Trump reversed himself and so there are still some US forces in northeast Syria but, as I said, not very many.

https://www.npr.org/2020/03/26/821379862/u-s-forces-in-syria-tackle-a-more-complex-and-possibly-dangerous-mission

On the question of war crimes, all sides in this horrible conflict have committed them, but there is no question that the Assad regime (and the Russians) are guilty of numerous war crimes, including the deliberate bombing and destruction of hospitals and deliberate targeting of civilians.

Samuel Chase said...

L.F. Cooper,

I agree with you in part, and disagree. The Kurds, in fighting ISIS, were protecting those rebelling against Assad from atrocities also being committed by ISIS. So, in protecting the Kurds, the U.S. was also protecting the rebels.

Regarding war atrocities, it is clear that Assad and his allies the Shia militia and the Russians have deliberately terrorized the Syrian rebels in an effort to suppress them. I am not sure what you mean when you say that all sides have committed war crimes. Can you identify any military action by the U.S. forces which would constitute deliberate attacks on the rebels that would compare with anything Assad and his allies have done, other than perhaps collateral damage caused by U.S. attacks on Assad’s forces, the Russians and the Shia militia?

s. wallerstein said...

LFC,

Independent of who has committed more war crimes, the U.S. has no right to be in Syria or in Iraq.

No other country has military bases on the other side of the world or feels the need to control what occurs so far from its borders. Yes, Russia and China both try to control countries which border on them and both Russia and China use soft power to gain influence far from their borders. Notably, both China and Russia are winning the vaccine wars against the U.S. in South America: here in Chile and in Brasil we're being vaccinated with the Chinese vaccine, Sinovac and in Argentina they're using the Russian Sputnik vaccine.

As for the rebels, we've heard so many stories about the wonderful rebels. Remember the rebels fighting the horrid Soviets in Afghanistan who turned out to be Al Qaeda. Then there were the rebels fighting the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, the Contras, who were involved in all sorts of dirty business, drug trading, etc. The official U.S. line will always frame whatever force they are backing as rebels against tyranny, although when there are rebels against a tyranny the U.S. backs, such as the Pinochet dictatorship here in Chile, those rebels become terrorists and the CIA assists the freedom-loving tyranny in crushing them as they did with the Frente Patriotico Manuel Rodriguez here.

I'm not claiming that Assad is a wonderful person, although I'm not at all sure that he is any worse than several Middle Eastern tyrannts whom "we" back such as the Saudi regime. At least he is more liberal on gender issues and women's rights than the Saudis are.

No other government in the world has the aggressive imperialist prepotency as the U.S. does.

Thanks for the links. I appreciate your feedback.

Samuel Chase said...

s. wallerstein,

It is obvious that you are incapable of making nuanced judgments regarding complicated international contexts. Because Russia and Iran are next door to Syria, it’s okay for them to interfere in the internal affairs of Syria in order to support a blood-thirsty tyrant. And it follows that the United States, which is not next door to Syria, has no business intervening on behalf of the Kurds and the rebels who oppose Assad. Yeah, that makes sense. And because the rebels who opposed Russia in Afghanistan evolved into Al Qaeda, the rebels in Syria must be their equivalent. All rebels are alike, especially if they are supported by the U.S. And then you seek to disclaim any appearance of appeasement of Assad by stating, well, yeah, I realize he is not a wonderful guy, but he’s better than the Saudis when it come to issues of gender. So, therefore, the U.S. should stand by and watch Assad, the Iran Shia militia and the Russians kill hundreds of thousands of Syrian rebels because Assad’s gender politics are in the right place. And, by the way, Biden has indicated that he is going to reverse Trump’s policies which favored the Saudis, particularly in regard to their involvement in the atrocities in Yemen.

To you everything is black and white – if the U.S. is involved, the motives are reprehensible, regardless the context. And if any other country is involved, their motives are not quite that bad.

Samuel Chase said...

I was never a big fan of the Three Stooges. My parents thought they were too violent and preferred the insanity of the Marx Brothers instead But a friend just sent me the below link, and it is quite funny.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9k5v6bjwGA


L.F. Cooper said...

Civil wars that become "internationalized," as the Syrian civil war did, are always very complicated, and if one is not an expert on the region -- which I am not -- and did not closely follow every twist and turn -- which I definitely did not -- they are hard to decipher.

W that caveat, I wd note the following.

First, there is no such thing as "the rebels" against Assad if by that one means some kind of unified opposition. There were (and maybe still are) a bunch of different opposition groups. Some have been aligned w Turkey. Some are Sunni Islamist groups that have gotten monetary and other support from Sunni govts and private actors in the Gulf and prob elsewhere in region. Then there are the Syrian Kurds, and my impression is they have created their own quasi-independent or very autonomous space in the northeast of the country.

After some internal interagency incoherence and pulling in different directions, the U.S., first in the Obama admin and then after 2016 also, basically decided it was not going to intervene in a significant and direct way on the side of any of the groups fighting Assad, but instead was going to concentrate on fighting ISIS and taking down its "caliphate" in Iraq and Syria.

From Wikipedia:

"In Syria, the group [ISIS or ISIL] conducted ground attacks on both [Assad] government forces and opposition factions, and by December 2015, it held an area extending from western Iraq to eastern Syria, containing an estimated eight to twelve million people."

[continued next box]

L.F. Cooper said...

"In mid-2014, an international coalition led by the United States intervened against ISIL in Syria and Iraq with an airstrike campaign, in addition to supplying advisors, weapons, training, and supplies to ISIL's enemies in the Iraqi Security Forces and Syrian Democratic Forces. [note: the Syrian Democratic Forces were a mix of groups but led by the YPG, the Kurdish militia] This campaign reinvigorated the latter two forces and dealt a blow to the nascent Islamist proto-state, killing tens of thousands of its troops and damaging its financial and military infrastructure. This was followed by a smaller-scale Russian intervention exclusively in Syria, in which ISIL lost thousands more fighters to airstrikes, cruise missile attacks, and other Russian military activities and had its financial base even further degraded."

So rather than intervening in some direct and significant way against the Assad regime, the U.S. decided to focus on attacking ISIL/ISIS, while the Russians, while backing Assad vs. various opposition groups, also conducted a campaign against ISIS.

ISIS had attacked both Syrian government forces and opposition factions, and the eventual elimination of ISIS as a significant factor in Syria cleared the way for the conflict betw the govt and opposition factions to continue and, if anything, probably gave the Assad regime, the Russians, and the allied Iranian-backed militias a freer hand to go after the opposition factions. With ISIS out of the way, the Assad regime did not have to worry about an Islamist caliphate or "proto-state" in the eastern part of the country and could focus on crushing the opposition factions and regaining control of the whole country.

So one major result of the successful U.S.-led campaign against ISIS (coupled with the Russian attacks on ISIS) was to strengthen the Assad regime's position in the civil war. The U.S. did not intend that consequence, but it was a consequence.

Thus, I don't see how one can portray the U.S. role in the Syrian conflict as primarily or significantly one of "protecting" the "rebels" against the Assad regime (and as for the Syrian Kurds, they appear to have been interested in carving out a quasi-autonomous space rather than overthrowing the Assad government). Rather, the main U.S. preoccupation was defeating ISIS, and defeating ISIS helped Assad, on balance, rather than hurting him. Again, not an intended result, but it occurred.

Re war crimes: well, in any conflict of this size, messiness, and complexity, I just assume that no side and no faction can possibly end up with completely clean hands, and "collateral damage" can sometimes easily blur into or cross the line into impermissible conduct. That said, when it comes to deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure on a large scale, the Assad regime and the Russians are I think the main culprits (though I'd be surprised if some of the Islamist opposition groups in particular had not also done some deliberate targeting of civilians, and ISIS of course did that too).

Samuel Chase said...

LF Cooper,

Again, I agree with you in part, and disagree in part. ISIS was also killing Assad’s opponents, so in opposing ISIS, the U.S. was protecting the rebels, regardless which sub-group the rebels belonged to. There is no way of knowing whether, had the U.S. intervened against Assad directly, it would have saved more lives, while ISIS continued to go on a killing spree. Given this, the U.S. cannot be blamed for the fact that by defeating ISIS, the U.S. unintentionally helped Assad. As you note, there is a morally significant difference between intentionally targeting civilians for slaughter, and unintentionally strengthening another adversary. Moreover, the fact that war crimes inevitably occur in civil wars does not mean that any war crimes were actually committed by the U.S. The point of my comments with regard to this tragic conflict was to debunk s. wallerstein’s claim that the U.S. was somehow a more culpable culprit than Syria, Iran and/or Russia. And I believe your comments reinforce that rebuttal, even if this was not your intention.

Anonymous said...


Lord Acton, to Chase, Cooper, Wallerstein, inter alia:

"At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare, and its triumphs have been due to minorities, that have prevailed by associating themselves with auxiliaries whose objects often differed from their own; and this association, which is always dangerous, has been sometimes disastrous, by giving to opponents just ground of opposition, and by kindling dispute over the spoils in the hour of success."

Samuel Chase said...

Lord Acton, what the hell are you talking about? Can’t you speak plain English, like saying something like, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” instead of this convoluted gobbly-goop?

Anonymous said...


I think Acton's trying to say something like this:

鷸蚌相爭漁人得利

Anonymous said...

All of you miss the ultimate point regarding the Middle East and international policies. The Middle East has always been a proxy war for the "powers that be". The super powers and the hopeful ascendant super powers in the region, could care less about the triumph of any particular local faction. They are pawns. The prizes are: oil, Mediterranean sea ports, drug trafficking, religious dominance (population control), and money laundering. "Terrorism" is the international snake oil they all sell to the hapless consumer.

Samuel Chase said...

Anonymous,

I get your point, but you appear to be suggesting that the Middle East has been unique in this regard. It is not. The powers that be have always fought proxy wars over territories in which could be found the resources most sought during the time in question. During the 1700s, it was tea in India; furs and timber in North America.. During the 1800s, it was the diamonds, gold, nickel, etc. to be found in Africa; opium in China (with which to addict the Chinese). But I suspect Iran would disagree with you regarding its motives for intervening on behalf of Assad in Syria. They are not interested in Syria’s resources – Iran has enough of its own. Their interest is to expand the territory in which Shia Islam is dominant, because they believe Shia Islam is superior, as far as religion goes, to Sunni Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and what have you.