The Times from 12 September 1914. A vicar passes on a letter from his son, an officer in the British Expeditionary Force:
Another poor girl has just come in, having had both her breasts cut off. Luckily, I caught the Uhlan [German cavalryman] in the act, and with rifle at 300 yards killed him. And now whe is with us, but, poor girl, I am afraid she will die. She is very pretty, and only about 19, and only has her skirt on.
The article continues in a similar vein with this and other letters from the front telling tales of rape, the use of civilians as human shields and other forms of German treachery.
But what is one to think? I suppose the first question is, is it true? And then, was it intentional (on the part of the Uhlan)? Are there any mitigating factors? And are the British any better?
On that last one I am inclined to think yes, simply because they are amongst friends.
And on the first one, I see little reason why an officer or a vicar would make it up. But someone else might. And The Times which backs the war effort might not be that keen on checking up. Or maybe the officer was suffering hallucinations through lack of sleep.
But on the other hand, the Kaiser’s men did raze Louvain to the ground, and massacre civilians at Dinant and use the ones they hadn’t massacred as human shields.
Ultimately, I am inclined to believe this. And I am shocked. And if I am shocked a hundred years later it is not difficult to imagine what people must have been thinking at the time.
This is certain to cause much mirth:
The U.S. military has always been the one place in government with a plan, forever in preparation mode and ready to yank a blueprint off the shelf for almost any contingency. Need a response for a Russian nuclear missile launch? Check. Have to rescue a U.S. ambassador kidnapped by drug lords? Yup, check, got that covered. How about a detailed strategy for surviving a zombie apocalypse? As it turns out, check.
A well-armed peshmerga and renewed investment in proven intelligence techniques will be critical to combating extremists inside and outside of Iraq. America can stand tall with the Kurds, cripple Iran’s paramilitary capability, and destroy the Islamic State, but must act decisively and creatively – today.
- Robert Caruso
The evidence that confirms what anyone paying attention suspected has been released: Russian artillery is firing on Ukrainian forces across the border from inside Russia. And the PutinBots in the comment sections of the world’s media are out in force saying “nothing to see here, move along”.
The only surprising thing about this is that anyone is surprised. World War 3 is not at hand, but it is definitely time to pay more attention and point more guns eastward.
I expect many afflicted with Obama Derangement Syndrome will be dismayed to see Obama praised for anything, but the actions in Iraq seem to be pretty much correct, at least so far.
My views on Iraq (and Afghanistan) are well know and can be summarised thus: it was right to go in and topple the governments, whereupon the US (and its allies should have) should have declared victory and got the hell out many many years ago, saying only “now that you have seen what will happen to any government who annoys us enough, keep that in mind when you sort it out amongst yourselves who will be your subsequent rulers. Our armies have gone home now but we own your sky any time we wish to, so you need to realise we will not tolerate any jihadi lunatics running the country.” No futile democratic nation building.
So Obama is right to not put any substantive forces on the ground beyond the barest advisers who are there now (and perhaps some forward air controllers). And he is right to strike this most deranged lunatic strain of jihadis yet seen from the air. If I have any criticism, it is that as the IS nutters are currently exposed targets out in the open, having transitioned from guerilla war to out-in-the-open war, the intensity of strikes should be increased rapidly whilst the opportunity presents itself. Kill as many of these islamo-fascist barbarians as possible as quickly as possible.
Just as Kabul was actually taken by the Northern Alliance with US air support, so too can people like the Peshmerga do the ground work with US assistance from the air.
But so far at least, well done Obama. That is the first time I have ever said that particular combination of words.
Thousands of Christians are reported to be fleeing after Islamic militants seized the minority’s biggest town in Iraq. The Islamic State (IS) group captured Qaraqosh in Nineveh province overnight after the withdrawal of Kurdish forces. An international Christian organisation said at least a quarter of Iraq’s Christians were leaving Qaraqosh and other surrounding towns.
So my question is why were rifles and RPGs and a few truckloads of ammunition not deposited in these communities weeks ago? The Yazidi and Christian communities should have been armed to the teeth by now. If 100,000 people from the region have been displaced, at least 10,000 of them should be viable militia, no? Why leave such things to various state armies?
From a couple days ago, I just noticed a story from Breitbart Network claiming the government of Israel was being criticised for not sharing Iron Dome technology with Gaza’s government (i.e. Hamas) so that Hamas could defend its population from bombardment… presumably by Israeli attacks.
Please read the article and then tell me if I have misunderstood this. It seems rather like criticising the government of the United Kingdom in the 1943 for not sharing centimetric radar technology with the German government so that the German government could better protect their population from bombardment… by the RAF.
Either Breitbart Network have got the story wrong or the world is an even more absurd place than even cynical old me realised.
The “July Crisis” of 1914 may have come as a shock to the British but that does mean they were not able to weigh their options. I was surprised by the excellence of a couple of articles I came across in The Times. One of them appeared on the editorial pages, did not have a byline but didn’t appear to be an editorial either. It was still good though. This is the key passage:
France does not threaten our security. A German victory over France would threaten it irremediably. Even should the German Navy remain inactive, the occupation of Belgium and Northern France by German troops would strike a crushing blow at British security. We should then be obliged, alone and without allies, to bear the burden of keeping up a Fleet superior to that of Germany and of an Army proportionately strong. This burden would be ruinous.
That is the best explanation from Britain’s decision to go to war I ever heard. Peace is perilous.
The other was a letter from Norman Angell, author of The Great Illusion:
We are told that if we allow Germany to become victorious she would be so powerful as to threaten our existence by the occupation of Belgium, Holland, and possibly the North of France. But, as your article of to-day’s date so well points out, it was the difficulty which Germany found in Alsace-Lorraine which prevented her from acting against us in the South African War. If one province, so largely German in its origin and history, could create this embarrassment, what trouble will not Germany pile up for herself is she should attempt the absorption of a Belgium, a Holland, and a Normandy?
Rather depends on how civilised she plans on being. He goes on:
The object and effect of our entering into this war would be to ensure the victory of Russia and her Slavonic allies. Will a dominant Slavonic federation of, say, 200,000,000 autocratically governed people, with a very rudimentary civilisation, but heavily equipped for military aggression, be a less dangerous factor in Europe than a dominant Germany of 65,000,000 highly civilised and mainly given to the arts of trade and commerce?
A prediction, of course, that manages to be both very wrong and, ultimately, very right.
Crowdfunding military procurement? Could this be the best idea ever? Or at least the best idea since letters of marque?
Actual link to the project here.
I recognize that some of the other contributors to this blog believe that military intervention in Iraq was justified.
However, it appears that, after expending literal trillions of dollars, and after countless deaths, Al Qaeda, which had not even a slight foothold in the country before the U.S. led invasion, is in a position to take over the bulk of the country. Certainly it is a real risk in coming days, even if it does not actually happen.
Iraq had no involvement in 9/11. Trained weapons inspectors said that it possessed no weapons of mass destruction, and that claim proved to be correct, while the claims of politicians that they were actively developing WMDs proved to be wrong. Today, however, Iraq stands on the threshold of being a location actually controlled by Al Qaeda, an outcome that would have been unimaginable if Saddam Hussein had remained in control.
Some might ask, “who could have predicted that the U.S. would leave the country with a corrupt, ineffectual government capable only of looting foreign aid and oil revenues?”
I would argue that anyone with an understanding of what government programs are like could have predicted that.
One might have a beautiful, seemingly airtight argument for why an ideal intervention into Iraq might have been of enormous benefit both to the Iraqis and to the world. This is not very different from the beautiful, seemingly airtight arguments made by Statists for why the government should run health care, or why it should help train the unemployed for new jobs, or a raft of other claims.
However, in the end, your beautiful idea will not be executed by angels, or even by you. It will executed by bureaucrats.
Perhaps (and I say at most “perhaps”) if angels had invaded Iraq they would have produced a wonderful outcome. However, the nation was invaded by the same keen minds responsible for such disasters as the U.S. Postal Service, the Veterans Administration hospitals, the Internal Revenue Service, and other organs that are hardly paragons of good management and reliable execution.
Libertarians are (correctly) fond of telling collectivists in debates that utopia is not an option. One cannot compare one’s idealized government program against the alternative, one must compare what will realistically happen under state control with the alternative.
The current disaster is simply another example of this. Iraq was not, in fact, invaded by angels, it was invaded by the U.S. government, the occupation was run like any government program, and the resulting disaster was entirely predictable.
The lesson to us all is that it is all fine and well to muse “if I ran the world”, but in reality no one person can run the world. Even if a leader actually has the best of intentions (which is rare in itself), they plan as men do, not as gods do, and they rely upon men, not gods, to execute their plans. Dreaming about what might be accomplished by gods is insufficient. One must instead discuss what is actually achievable by men.
Forces of an offshoot of Al-Qaeda advance on Baghdad
“Blame Bush!” “Blame Blair!”
Can anyone explain to me why the starting point for anything newsworthy that Muslims do is eternally set at 2003?
Why not September 11th 2001 – one might have thought that was the big day this century for violent beginnings connected with Islam? Or why not date it from 1988, with the formation of Al-Qaeda? Or from the year 622, first year of the Hijra – if you take a long view of history, as ISIS themselves undoubtedly do? Or why not start the count later? How about late 2011 when President Obama took the last American troops out of what he called a “a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq” just “in time for the holidays”?
Not that it is likely, as Muslim Iraqi fights Muslim Iraqi in a land from which the infidel was so delighted to absent himself, that comabatants on either side think much about American presidents at all.
Ten years ago today I tried my hand at alternate history with a post whose title was taken from the words General Eisenhower prepared for use in the event that the Longest Day had ended in defeat: “Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold.”.
Here is an earlier effort in the same genre – a German newsreel made, I would guess in late June 1944. It mentions stiff fighting around Caen, but since Caen did not fall to the Allies until late July, that does not narrow the date down much.
The claim made at 2:07 that infantry assault troops were “airlifted in for the first night of the engagements” is false. The Allies owned the skies. Nor do I believe that the “German wartime fleet” ever gave the “signal for resistance” (as claimed at 2:46), or any other signal at that time and place.
It would have been a remarkable stroke of journalistic good fortune to have happened to be filming when the first news of the invasion came and to have captured the moment when soldiers grabbed their rifles, so I guess what we saw one minute in was a drill. The numerous shots of explosions and guns firing could have been filmed at any time during the war, although they may show real combat. Film of men looking through binoculars and speaking into microphones in a resolute manner is best obtained on days when little else is being done.
Since reality did not grant German soldiers an opportunity to stroll around abandoned Allied landing-craft on the beaches of Normandy, I think the shots shown at 5:16 (just after the picture at 5:13 of an SS soldier who looks oddly like Barack Obama) must be of the aftermath of the Dieppe Raid of August 1942. Given the great losses the Canadians suffered that day I initially thought the film at 8:25 of Canadian prisoners from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders was also taken after that operation, but Wikipedia makes no particular mention of soldiers from Nova Scotia taking part in the Dieppe Raid, whereas the North Nova Scotia Highlanders are listed as having taken part in the Canadian D-Day landing at Juno Beach. I now think that last part of the film is mostly true.
The panning shot at 3:16 of the invasion fleet itself – impossible not to admire the steady nerves of the German cameraman who took that – looks as if it really does depict that vast armada coming “straight for me”, as Major Pluskat famously told his superiors, and I cannot see how the pictures of downed gliders could show anything but the real price paid by the D-Day vanguard.
I see no particular reason other than the general mendacity of the Nazis to disbelieve the section showing the fighting around Caen. There was plenty of time for film really taken then to have reached Berlin and be made into a newsreel. The announcement at 7:09 that the men shown surrendering “are all surprised that the invasion is over so quickly” turned out to contain a wrong assumption, but one that might have been believed at the time.
Many Samizdata readers know much more than I about military history – including the Samizdata reader to whom I am married – and I expect some of them will make better informed judgements than mine as to the actual origin of some of the scenes in the newsreel. Let us be glad that we can look back at these images with the tranquility of the historian in a society that, unlike the Nazis, still cares, if diminishingly, for objective truth.
For a view of D-Day from the German side that strove a little harder to be honest, see Von Rundstedt’s report for distribution to commanders.
And remember those Allied soldiers, sailors and airmen who died. Their comrades who survived are mostly entering their nineties now and vanishingly few will live to assemble on the beaches for any big anniversary after this.