Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Horatio Nelson on Corsica

Calvi today

In the fall of 1793 Horatio Nelson (see earlier post, Horatio Nelson Champion of Liberty, 1/15/12) was given command of a small squadron of ships and ordered to effect a blockade of the French occupied island of Corsica.  The British were at war with revolutionary France and were supportive of Corsican independence and resistance to France.  In 1794 Horatio Nelson served on shore commanding gunners that were besieging the Genoese-built citadel at Calvi.  It was on July 12 1794 while directing a land battle on the island that Nelson was wounded by a cannonball that displaced sand and grit into his right eye.  He was never able to see properly out of his right eye for the rest of his life.

Calvi surrendered to the British on 10 August, 1794.

Commander Kelly at bay of Calvi
Years later, at the battle of Copenhagen in 1801 when things were getting hot his more timid superior officer signalled for Nelson's fleet to retreat.  Nelson said to his flag captain, 'You know, Foley, I have only one eye. I have a right to be blind sometimes.' He raised the telescope to his blind eye, and said 'I really do not see the signal."  Nelson proceeded to destroy the Danish fleet at Copenhagen.

View from the Genovese Citadel of Calvi
The British briefly occupied much of Corsica, including Ajaccio and even the house where Napoleon was born.

Today Calvi is a beautiful seaside town that is home to the paratroopers of the French Foreign legion.

Corsican Conjugation

Commander Kelly in Corsica

First lesson in Corsican!

                                                                  Je plastique
                                                                  Tu plastiques
                                                                  Il Plastique

                                                                  Nous Plastiquons
                                                                  Vous Plastiquez
                                                                  Ils Plastiquent

Arapa's  Nessun Dorma

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The Forgetting of History

Munich 1972

In The Dictator (see earlier post, The Dictator, 5/29/12) there is a hilarious/tasteless scene depicting Cohen's character, Aladeen, playing a video game that simulates the slaughter of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympic games.  The film pays its viewers the compliment of presuming that they remember or understand what happened 40 years ago in Munich (  As Ali G. would say, "Respect!"

We are now on the verge of the 2012 London Olympics.  Israel requested that the IOC honor the memories of those slain 40 years ago in Munich with an official "minute of silence" to remember the tragedy.  The IOC recently refused.  (  He who controls the past controls the future as well.

Separately, there have been internet hoaxes about the banning of the teaching of the Holocaust in the UK Curriculum that have proven to be false.  I was, however, astonished to learn recently that a non-muslim Tory politician, Lord Baker, has actually come out in favour of such a ban...

What harm could a minute of silence in London this summer possibly represent?  Apparently it is too great a risk for the IOC to contemplate.  This may give many a prospective Olympic tourist guest pause.  What is the IOC afraid of anyway?  Will Oldman imitators (see earlier posts, Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race 4/15/12 and Breivik and Oldman, 4/20/12) disrupt the games on behalf of their respective causes?  What exactly is Lord Baker afraid of anyway?

Commander Kelly says, "Remember always!"

UPDATE 7/21/12...
Bob Costas has not forgotten...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Dictator

Sic Semper Tyrannis..?

The Dictator features Sacha Baron Cohen in an acting role as a Qaddafi-like figure (he even has a golden gun) who comes to New York, falls in love and becomes slightly human.  Cohen is no longer trying to fool anyone into thinking that he really is Borat, Bruno or Ali G.  Cohen is an incredibly gifted and brilliant comedian who has made a career of provocative risk-taking humor experiments.  He thrives on skating on the edge.  The Cambridge-educated Cohen claims to have been sued more than any other living actor and it could well be true.

The movie begins with a moving dedication -- "In Loving memory...Kim Jong Il"!

Cohen then proceeds to rip the dictator lifestyle.  The film is allusive to Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" which mocked Hitler prior to World War II.  One could also compare it to The Emperor's New Clothes with Ian Holm about the taming and domestication of another dictator, Napoleon.  I found The Dictator incredibly funny.  

Cohen is ably assisted by Anna Faris who plays a somewhat butch organic market owner based in Brooklyn and his inevitable love interest.  She has appeared in the Scary Movie parodies among other films.  Ben Kingsley of Gandhi fame plays Cohen's scheming rival for power.

There are brief hilarious cameo appearances with Gary Shandling and Megan Fox.

The key to all good comedy is good writing and this movie has it in spades.

The conclusion of the movie is marred by a rather tedious scene in which Cohen would appear to endorse the bromides of the scruffy Occupy Wall Street crowd.  There is also a brief cheap shot at Dick Cheney.  These are balanced out by the rough treatment meted out to the tofu and spouts eating crowd in the Faris scenes.  For those with delicate sensibilities a warning: Whole Foods is mocked and derided!

The movie, while being consistently funny, does also touch on some incredibly serious topics such as nuclear proliferation, violent hatred of Israel, the danger of Iraq, racial and gender stereotypes.  By far the greatest question raised, however, is the broader question of tyranny.  What drives a tyrant?  How can the rest of the world deal with the reality of tyranny in our troubled world?  What happens when tyranny acquires technology that gives fuel to megalomaniacal dreams of conquest and destruction?

Another dictator, Napoleon, once said, "From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a single step."  The Dictator, however, suggests that from the "ridiculous to the terrifying may also be but a single step."

Mock the Casbah!

Was Napoleon a Conservative?

Commander K. exposed!
Taken on Corsica, 2012

Was Napoleon a Conservative?

A case can be made that Napoleon had strongly conservative instincts.  He initiated the Concordat which made peace with the Roman Catholic church (while a conservative need not be religious, it does not hurt to believe) ending the secular excesses of the French Revolution.  He also brought a halt to the terror of the Revolution that had sent so many to the guillotine.  He was clearly opposed to the chaos that was unleashed by the Revolution; the French people craved  a re-establishment of order after the turmoil of the revolution.  He reformed and modernised the French state with his Code Napoleon.  This guaranteed that France would be a meritocracy very much unlike the patronage system prevalent across the channel in Great Britain.  He commanded the respect and loyalty of his soldiers who he showered with baubles such as La Legion d'Honeur.  All of these elements a Conservative would applaud.

On the other side of the ledger, however, Napoleon displayed a ruthless disregard for the value of human and, for that matter, equine life.  Well over 3 1/2 million Europeans perished as a result of the Napoleonic wars along with countless horses  After the battle of Jaffa in the Egyptian campaign General Napoleon ordered the slaughter of 1,400 prisoners on the beach by bayonet or drowning.  During the same campaign he ordered the poisoning of some of his own soldiers who were afflicted with plague in order to speed the retreat from Acre.

In 1804 Emperor Napoleon ordered the execution of the Duke D'Enghien (son of Louis Henri de Bourbon and a Prince du Sang) on trumped up charges in the moat of the Chateau of Vincennes.  Napoleon's minister of police, Fouche, said of the judicial murder, "It was worse than a crime; it was a blunder!"

Napoleon was certainly no great champion of individual human rights.  He plotted to reintroduce slavery into Haiti (see earlier post, Toussaint L'Ouverture Champion of Freedom and...Conservative,  He was a pioneer in the art of political propaganda and would never have tolerated a free press in the Empire.  He oversaw a police state full of informers and rogues supervised by Fouche.

He divorced Josephine -- the only woman that he ever truly loved and who loved him as well -- for reasons of state.  He needed an heir and she could not provide him one.  The subordination of the personal family life to the requirements of the state is hardly a conservative trait.

Napoleon's greatest political crime was, however, the annihilation of the Venetian Republic.  The longest representative democracy in Europe was snuffed out with all the grace and dignity of a wheel chair-bound senior citizen being shoved into a Venetian canal!

After Nelson's decisive victory over the Franco-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar, Napoleon's dream of a cross channel invasion of Britain vanished.  The only way to prosecute the war against England seemed to be launching a trade war with Britain.  Napoleon introduced the Continental system which embargoed all trade with Britain.  The price of commodities such as sugar skyrocketed.  Smugglers continued, however, to evade the Continental system and trade with Britain and her empire.  Frustrations with the flouting of the Continental system by Tsarist Russia (who sold critical ship-building timber to England, for example) led Napoleon to proceed with his disastrous invasion of Russia two hundred years ago.  Napoleon's Continental system was, in fact, the ultimate reductio ad absurdum of protectionist economic policies and was diametrically opposed to the free trade policies endorsed by Conservative/libertarian economists such as Adam Smith.

Beethoven famously lionized Napoleon early on dedicating his 3rd Eroica symphony to him, but then later grew totally disillusioned by him.  He then dedicated a work (Wellington's Victory or The Battle of Vitoria) to Napoleon's nemesis, the Duke of Wellington.  He raised nationalistic hopes in Germany, Italy and Poland though endless war prevented these from coming to fruition.

Napoleon famously and ironically declared that "La Revolution, c'est moi."  He was the revolution's consummation and its terminus.

At the end of the day, Napoleon was a dictator who recklessly spent the lives of his citizens as if they were counterfeit coins and bankrupted his country in the process.  A dictator seeks to centralise all the powers of the state towards his own will.  A dictator, even when highly gifted and well-intended, cannot truly be a conservative.

Beethoven's Eroica 

Wellington's Victory

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Napoleon and Corsica

Commander Kelly in Ajaccio
I was somewhat astonished to learn last week that Corsicans do not, in the main, have a favorable view of their most famous native son -- Napoleon.  He and his family committed the great crime of switching allegiance and siding with France against Paoli in the struggle for independence.  As a result, Napoleon received an education at Brienne military school in France but he and all his family were compelled to flee the island.  The entire Bonaparte clan is regarded in Corsica with all the respect accorded Benedict Arnold in the USA.

His last visit to Corsica took place in 1799 on his return from Egypt when he was 30 years old.  He never returned to Corsica as First Consul or Emperor.

You will, nevertheless, find the spirit of Napoleon throughout the island of Corsica to this day.  Consider the Napoleon Grotto near Bonifacio. Napoleon seems even to have become a part of the natural landscape of the island (see photos below)!
Napoleon's Grotto (Photo: Tom Ziemba)

Napoleon's Grotto, near Bonifacio

You will find more evidence of Napoleon in the exquisite town of Bonifacio where Napoleon stayed briefly in 1793...

Napoleon slept here, Bonifacio

It is in the sleepy Corsican Capital of Ajaccio that you will find the epicentre of the Napoleonic world, for it was here that Napoleon was born and spent his youth.  Under the shadow of a monument to Napoleon you will hear the "clack-clack" of Frenchmen of a certain age playing boules in the sun...

Frenchmen at work, Ajaccio

In Ajaccio you will find Napoleon decked out as a Roman emperor on the town square...

Napoleonic Toga Party, Ajaccio

In Ajaccio you will find the church in which Napoleon was baptised...

Napoleon's first church

You will find Napoleon even in the bars and restaurants of Ajaccio...

Spirits of Napoleon, Ajaccio
You will also find the Palais Fesch, a wonderful museum founded by Napoleon's maternal uncle, Cardinal Fesch.  This museum is home to works ranging from medieval through to contemporary Corsican art.

Cardinal Fesch, Palais Fesch

Ajaccio had another favourite son -- the singer and actor Tino Rossi.  You will find his home on the beach near Ajaccio.  Here is a sample of Tino Rossi...

Tino Rossi's tour of Ajaccio

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Corsica in World War II

Resistance Memorial in Ajaccio
The liberation of France did not begin on June 6th 1944 as many believe, but rather commenced on September 15, 1943.  The first Department of France to be liberated was Corsica in September-October of 1943 with operation FIREBRAND.

Maquis near Calvi
The English referred to Corsica as the "Perfumed Isle" because of its fragrant maquis.  The maquis is a dense undergrowth of mixed vegetation up to 10 feet high that covers nearly half of the surface area of Corsica.  It is made up of various plants and trees including myrtle, oregano, rosemary and mint.  "Maquis after all is the Corsican name for the thick local brushwood, and partisan forces made extensive use of it."  (SOE in France, M.R.D. Foot, 1966 http:/ The term Maquis was later generalised to represent all resistance activity throughout France.

The SOE -- Special Operations Executive (HQ on Baker street in London) -- had been charged by Winston Churchill during World War II to "set Europe Ablaze."  Twenty-six SOE agents sent in from Algiers, three SOE instructor officers and the SOE-trained Free French battalion de choc landed at Ajaccio on September 15, 1943.  Italian fascist troops had been occupying the island.  Germans units that had been based in Sardinia were attempting to retreat back to the continent through Corsica.  The last Germans were chased out of Bastia on October 4, 1943.

General George S. Patton visited Corsica and made the pilgrimage to Napoleon's home town of Ajaccio in late 1943 after the invasion of Sicily.

The island was then transformed into a massive airbase for the allied air forces.  The allies referred to the USS Corsica -- an unsinkable aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean.  Many allied bombing missions originated out of Corsica.  Joseph Heller (, author of Catch 22, was a bombardier in a B-25 based on Corsica and flew 60 missions (see earlier post, Duxford and George Carlin 4/30/12).

It is interesting to note that Heller, in spite of having authored Catch 22, had no real complaints about his time spent as a bombardier in the Army Air Corps.  He was, of course one of the "lucky ones" who survived the war and even actually benefited from the experience.

Catch 22 in 1 minute

The 57th Bomb Wing was stationed on the east coast of Corsica from Bastia in the north to Solenzara in the south.  The island was also used as the staging point from which Operation Dragoon (commencing on August 15, 1944) was launched to liberate the south of France.

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Island of Beauty!

I have had a lifelong interest in Napoleon and always wanted to go to Corsica.  Last week Commander Kelly fulfilled his lifelong dream and finally visited Corsica!  I learned that Corsica is far more than just the birthplace of Napoleon.  Corsica is an island of mystery, an island of beauty.  It is a perfumed isle, scented by the Maquis.  It is a towering mountain rising out of the sea.  Its fiercely independent and creative island people have longed for independence while living under the boot or shadow of nearby and more powerful political entities (somewhat akin to Ireland).  The term "Vendetta" was invented in Corsica and they have long memories here.

Filitosa Statue
Man's first settlement in Corsica dates back to the seventh millennium before Christ -- a staggering 9,000 years ago!  This was, therefore, long before the Egyptians built the Pyramids.  You can see the ruins of this at Filitosa ( near the southwest coast of the island.  This area was first rediscovered by novelist Prosper Merimee in 1839.

Commander K. at Cuccuruzzu
Corsica boasts the seat of the oldest castle in Europe -- Cuccuruzzu -- a bronze age fortification that dates back three thousand years.  Ancient Corsica was settled by the Greeks and later Romans.  It was occupied by the Pisans then the Genoese.  The Barbary pirates (see earlier post, The Pirate Coast 5/9/12) raided it along with most islands in the Mediterranean.  Land on the coast (ocean views) was traditionally viewed as being worthless due to the fear of abduction and seaborne violence.  The Maison Napoleon (his birthplace) in Ajaccio has a trap door in the second floor which would have allowed residents to conceal themselves from marauding pirates.  Napoleon is alleged to have taken refuge here at some point in his youth, perhaps from his unruly siblings...?

Note Trapdoor in floor of Maison Napoleon, Ajaccio
Pasquale Paoli 1725 - 1807
Pasquale Paoli ( was the leader of movement for an independence from the Genovese and, later, the French (to whom Corsica had been sold).  He was the elected leader of a representative democracy where he was also Commander in Chief.  He was also author of its constitution.  Does this all sound vaguely familiar?  The Corsican Constitution was, in fact, a model for the American founding fathers who created the US Constitution.  The Corsican Constitution Paoli wrote was far ahead of its time, even guaranteeing voting rights for women in the 18th century!  Napoleon's father Carlos Maria served under Paoli.  After Paoli's defeat by the French in 1769, he retreated into the mountains and continued a guerrilla struggle.  The town of Paoli, PA is named in his honor.

After having been conquered and assaulted so many times, Corsica perhaps avenged her honor when its most famous native son, Napoleon Bonaparte, managed to conquer most of Europe at the start of the 19th century (see earlier post Napoleon..Relevant to Americans in 2012, 5/28/12).

Corsicans have a well-deserved reputation for toughness.  The paratroopers of the French foreign legion make their home in Calvi.  The Union Corse (mentioned by Ian Fleming in Casino Royale) was/is a Corsican mafia (drugs, prostitution, etc.) that dealt harshly with French collaborators in southern France after the Second World War.

On April 22, 2011 in Porticcio Marie Jeanne Bozzi, the former deputy mayor and a madame in local prostitution, was shot eight times in the back.  Here is the full article...

The Corsicans' favorite French verb is "plastiquer" -- to blow something up with plastic explosives!  I saw buildings on the Corsican coast that had been blown to smithereens.

Romaneque Church, near Calvi
Corsica has a year-round population of 300,000 but swells to 1.5 million during the summer months!  It is a part of France, though often an unwilling part.  Corsica has no industry to speak of.  It does, however, have unspoiled natural beauty, a moderate climate, hearty cuisine and good affordable wines.  The Chestnut-flavored beer, Pietra, is not to be missed. This combines to form a the booming tourist trade in the summer months.

Do not allow any possible feelings of Franco-phobia to deter you from making a visit to Corsica.  There are no "French Surrender-monkeys" hiding in the Corsican mountains!  The brutal truth is that most Corsicans cheerfully despise the French!

Commander Kelly says that a great way to see and explore Corsica is to go on a hiking tour with Butterfield and Robinson (

Special Thanks to Marya Dumont and Dale Sherrow (of B&R) who were my outstanding guides to Corsica last week!

Corsican group, Arapa, sings of Cuccuruzzu

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Napoleon...Relevant to Americans Today?

Napoleon I, Maison Napoleon, Ajaccio
Is Napoleon relevant in any way to Americans today?  Does our war-weary nation simply regard him as the ultimate "War lover" and a bloated symbol of an outdated Imperialism?  Perhaps, but consider the following...

1) Louisiana Purchase.   In 1803 the Jefferson administration purchased the Louisiana territory from Napoleon for the sum of $15 million or about 3 cents an acre.  The Louisiana purchase accounts for 23% of all current US territory including ALL of the states of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, and parts of Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico, Northern Texas and Louisiana.  Furthermore, the Louisiana purchase enabled the US to expand even further westward pushing on to the Pacific.

Commander Kelly and Self-made man shirt
Marshal Murat...Rock Star?

2) Self-Made Man.  Napoleon's life exemplified the social mobility beloved by Americans.  The Code Napoleon stipulated that government jobs would be awarded on the basis of merit.  He disrupted forever the hidebound class system of Royalist France.  He extended opportunity to those in the French military by promoting according to merit and asserting that there was the potential for "a marshal's baton in every soldier's  knapsack."  Marshal Ney, the bravest of the brave, was the son of a barrel cooper.  Marshal Murat, who looked like a rock star, was the son of an innkeeper.  Marshal Massenna was the son of a shopkeeper.  Nor was he unwilling to promote nobly-born officers such as Marshal Davout -- probably his most able subordinate.

Napoleon was the son of a petite bourgeoisie family who rose to become Emperor.  He was, as the t-shirts in Ajaccio say, a "self-made man."

3) Napoleon -- Amercian Ally.  This year, 2012, marks the bicentennial of the start of the War of 1812 againt Great Britain (see earlier post War of 1812, .  During this three year conflict Napoleonic France was the de facto ally of the United States.  The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

4) Napoleon and Modern Family.  Napoleon was part of a complicated blended family.  He was the second oldest of eight children.  His father Carlo Maria Buonaparte was a lawyer who died when Napoleon was only 16.  His first wife,  Josephine had creole (mixed race) roots.  Napoleon had two stepchildren, two wives and numerous mistresses.  He attempted to run Europe as if it were the Bonaparte family business with brothers assigned to thrones in Spain, Holland, Italy and Germany.

Napoleon briefly had an American sister-in-law named Elizabeth Patterson from Baltimore who wed his youngest brother Jerome in 1803 with the marriage later being annulled by Napoleon who had other plans for his brother.

Napoleon was, like so many American men, a mamma's boy.  Napoleon once said, "It is to my mother that I owe my fortune and all the good I have achieved."

Vote Napoleon!
5) Napoleon and Modern Politics.  Napoleon was, in many ways, the first modern politician.  William Dietrich writes, "modern politicians who seem coated with Teflon (meaning that nothing critical sticks to them) cannot compare to the slickness of Napoleon Bonaparte."  The Rosetta Key, William Dietrich 2008 (http:/  After the debacle of his expedition to Egypt where his army was a marooned when Nelson led the Royal Navy victory at the battle of the Nile. Napoleon fled back to France on a Frigate abandonning his army but his spinmasters went into overdrive touting his land battles against the Mamelukes and cultural gleanings from the invasion.  He was shrewd in his manipulation of the media -- he would sometimes dictate articles in newspapers like the Moniteur.

6) Napoleon and Louisiana.  The Code Napoleon was once in force in Louisiana and the state still is affected, for better or worse, by Napoleon.  Louisiana is divided into parishes rather than counties due to Napoleon.  Some argue that the curious structure of Louisiana may have have hampered relief efforts during hurricane Katrina.

In New Orleans today you can enjoy a drink at the Napoleon House ( which was the building that Bonapartist conspirators hoped to bring him to after rescuing him from the clutches of the British on the barren south Atlantic island of St. Helena.  Napoleon himself foiled the conspiracy by dying at the age of 51, most likely as a result of stomach cancer.

7) Napoleonic and Food and Drink.  Have you ever eaten Napoleonic?  The Napoleon mille feuille pastry is delicious.  Chicken Marengo, which includes crayfish, tomatoes and garlic, is a classic dish known world-wide.  Pumpernickel bread was allegedly invented for Napoleon who responded to its creation with "C'est bon pour Nichole!" -- "It's good for (my horse) Nichole!"

Du Vin Napoleonique
Have you ever drunk Napoleonic?  Ever quaffed a Napoleon brandy?  Ever sipped a glass of Chambertin Clos de Beze -- Napoleon's favourite wine?   He insisted that cases of this delightful Burgundy accompany him on his campaigns. In Corsica today you can even find a wine called simply 1769 -- the year of Napoleon's birth.

8)  Napoleon, Art and Museums.  Have you ever visited the Louvre?  It was once known as the Musee de Napoleon.  Visit and you may find the sword de Valette which was stolen at bayonet point from the knights of Malta when Napoleon's force captured the island in 1799 on his way to Egypt.  The inscription reads "A gift from the people of  Malta to the People of France," thereby explaining much of art collecting history!

Maltese Gift to France...?

Have you been to the British Museum in London?  Have you perhaps studied a foreign language with a certain company?  Are you interested in mummies, pyramid power or Egyptology?  It was Napoleon's expedition to Egypt that discovered the Rosetta stone which was the key breakthrough that allowed translation of Egyptian hieroglyphics.  For an entertaining take on Napoleon's expedition to Egypt Commander Kelly says "check out William Dietrich's novels Napoleon's Pyramids, 2007 (http:/ and  The Rosetta Key, 2008 (http:/!"

Napoleonic Air Force - Bonaparte's Gull
9) Napoleonic Names and Places.  Still don't think Napoleon is relevant to 2012?  You must not live in or near Napoleon Michigan, Napoleon Mississippi, Napoleon North Dakota and or Napoleon Missouri!  You must not live near Bonaparte Lake in my adopted home state of Washington.  Have you ever been to the beach and seen a gull flying overhead?   You may have seen a Bonaparte's Gull which was actually named after Napoleon I's nephew Charles Lucien Bonaparte who studied birds in America with James Audobon.

10) Napoleon and Film.  Have you ever seen a Napoleonic film or TV program?  Master and Commander was based on the Patrick O'Brian novel series and featured Russell Crowe.  The Hornblower TV series with Iaon Gruffud was exceptionally well-produced.  The Sharpe Novels of Bernard Cornwell were rendered into a TV series with a terrific cast featuring Sean Bean. The Emperor's New Clothes was a charming non-military take on Napoleon that featured Ian Holm as Napoleon.  Then, of course, there is always the 2004 classic Napoleon Dynamite!

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Sweetings, 39 Queen Victoria Street, London

Sweetings is a refreshing stop on the American Conservative tour of London.  It was founded in 1830 and has been operating from the present location since 1889.  It is a great place for fresh seafood -- native oysters, dover sole, smoked Scottish salmon, lobster and some of the best fish and chips in London.  All of this can be washed down with an excellent selection of French wines and also tankards of black velvet (a combination of Guiness and champagne that was reputedly invented as the funeral beverage of Prince Albert -- black for a funeral, champagne because Albert loved it).  Be sure to leave room for spotted Dick with cream for dessert!

Sweetings is a friendly though quirky restaurant located in the City of London near St. Pauls' cathedral and is open Monday through Friday for lunch only! It does NOT take reservations.  It also refuses to serve coffee.

Tradition, individuality, good seafood and adult beverages -- what more could a conservative want?

Here is the link...

Commander Kelly says, "For the best lunch in London, go to Sweetings!"

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Why I Write?

Why I write?

As a father, I write in the hope that my children will, someday, read me. I write in answer to the age-old question asked by children to their mothers everywhere, "Why is dad so grumpy, anyway?"

I write in order to say that which ought to be said, but is, somehow, not being written elsewhere.

I write, not to praise war, but rather to understand it better.

I write to help understand the foundation of my own opinions and to test them in the fire of opposition.

I write in reverence for the past and its profound impact on our present, its influence on our future.

I write in reverence for the value of human life and the importance of liberty for all people.

I write against those who would ignore or distort the past to grind their ideological axes whether they are libertarians, Marxists, etc.

I write because I must.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, May 12, 2012


Commander Kelly's Football team!

The American Conservative tour on London resumes with a tour of Arsenal Football Club's home in London.  Emirates stadium in Holloway is now where you will find the legendary Arsenal Football Club playing its home games (  Arsenal was founded in 1886.  The team was created by fifteen workingmen employed at the Royal Arsenal in Woolich that supplied weapons and munitions to the British military.  Each of the workingmen / partners put up sixpence for their interest in the team (then called "Dial Square") and a another bloke kicked in three shillings to buy the ball for a team's first game!

Go Gunners!  (Photo: Lari Abraham)
Arsenal holds the record for the longest uninterrupted period in the English top flight (Premier league) and would be placed first in an aggregated league of the entire 20th century.  The Gunners have won 10 FA cups.  They have been coached since 1996 by the aptly-named Arsene Wenger, a French player and one of the best coaches in the game.  Controlling interest in "The Gunners" is now owned by Stan Kroenke -- an American sports tycoon who also has interests in the St Louis Rams NFL, Denver Nuggets NBA, Denver Avalanche NHL and the Denver Rapids Major League Soccer and other sports franchises.

Commander Kelly at Emirates Stadium (Photo: Lari Abraham)

Emirates stadium was completed in 2006 and features a pair of historic brass cannon at the front.  Arsenal is not bashful about celebrating its military roots.  Consider how very different this is from the names of professional sports franchises in the USA.  Our most violent and aggressive national sport, NFL football, features only three vaguely combative historical team names -- the Patriots, Raiders and Buccaneers.  The US Constitution has at the Second amendment and millions of Americans support the NRA, but what US professional team would dare to put a gun on its uniform?   The Cowboys of Dallas, for example, may have had six-shooters, but you won't find any on Tony Romo!  The British, however, are fiercely proud of their island heritage and the role that their armed forces have played in building an Empire that, in general, advanced the cause of liberty around the world.

Soviet Philately

If you want to learn more about historical Gunners and the history of artillery Commander Kelly suggests that you also visit Woolich (the original home of Arsenal) and tour the Firepower museum -- The Royal Artillery Museum.   This museum first opened in 1820 and is one of the oldest military history museums in the world.  It features a host of interactive elements and is very child-friendly.  Here is the link...

Napoleon and his guns
Artillery is by far the deadliest and most effective form of land-based armament; in the Napoleonic Wars, World War I and World War II the vast majority of combat deaths were caused by artillery (source: Wikipedia).  The father of the creator of James Bond, Valentine Fleming, was killed by an artillery shell in World War I.

Any list of world-famous artillerymen must begin with Napoleon, who commanded the French Republican guns that drove the British from Toulon in 1793.  He was promoted to Brigadier General at the age of 24 after this feat.  He defeated a royalist insurrection on October 5, 1795 (13 Vendemiaire) with a famous "whiff of grapeshot" advancing himself further.  Other great artillerymen include the German philosopher Friedrich Nietszche who once wrote, "had God thought of 'heavy artillery' he would never have created the world".  The American President who dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, Harry Truman, was a proud veteran of battery "B" in World War I.

It was Friedrich the Great, the Prussian warrior-King, who said, "Artillery adds dignity, to what would otherwise be an ugly brawl." He recognised the care, precision and science which distinguish the role of artillery on the battlefield.

The etymology of the word "artillery" is both controversial and suggestive.  The English word "artillery" dates back to the Middle ages.  One version holds that the word is derived  from the French verb "atelier" or "to arrange."  Another theory holds that "artillery" comes from the Italian expression "arte de tirare" or the "art of shooting."  Both derivations, however, suit "The Gunners" of Holloway very well.


You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades or on

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Pirate Coast

Lively History

Richard Zacks' excellent history, The Pirate Coast: Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines, and the Secret Mission of 1805, was published in 2005.  It tells the timeless and yet timely tale of America's first major covert operation which was led by the now almost forgotten William Eaton (  He was an ex-captain in the US army and former consul to Tunis who was dispatched by President Jefferson to north Africa on a mission to liberate the crew of the USS Phiadelphia.

The Babary pirates of north Africa  (see earlier post, The Shores of Tripoli, Jefferson in London and the Birth of the US Navy, 4/20/12) had been terrorizing, kidnapping and enslaving westerners for centuries.   An old a Barbary maxim statures: "Whoever acts like a sheep, the wolf will eat."   Most Western nations had simply opted to pay tribute to the wolf rather than confront the pirates.  After the American revolution, the USA no longer had the protection of the Royal Navy on the high seas.  In 1803 the entire American fleet consisted of six ships.  The Philadelphia, launched in 1799, was a 36-gun American frigate commanded by Captain William Bainbridge (the same Bainbridge after which Bainbridge island in my adopted home state of Washington is named).  The US did not want to be mistaken for a sheep and, therefore, dispatched the Philadelphia to the Mediterranean.  Bainbridge had orders to confront the Barbary pirates, instead he managed on October 31, 1803 to run his ship aground in Tripoli harbor.  The crew of 307 officers and sailors was captured and held hostage by Yussef Karmaanli, the Bashaw of Tripoli.  Yussef has the distinction of being the first foreign ruler to ever declare war on the United States.

William Eaton -- American Hero
William Eaton was a flinty New Englander who had served in the continental army during the American Revolution, attended Dartmouth college after the war and served as the American consul in Tunis.  Jefferson and his secretary of state, James Madison, opted to dispatch William Eaton to try to effect the release of the American hostages.  Yussef Karmaanli had a brother Hamet who was his political rival for the throne of Tripoli.  The Jefferson administration hoped Eaton would stir up a civil war that would topple Yussef and liberate the American sailors.  It was therefore, the libertarian Jefferson who first implemented an American policy of using a covert force to effect a "regime change" in a foreign country.

William Eaton had some choice words in support of aggressive American action against the pirates of the Barbary coast.  He said, "If the Congress do not consent that the government shall send a force into the Mediterranean to check the insolence of those scoundrels and to render the United States respectable, I hope they will resolve at their next session to wrest the quiver of arrows from the left talon of the (American) Eagle...and substitute a fiddle bow or a cigar in lieu."

Eaton was given the vague title of "Navy Agent of the United States for the Several Barbary Regencies".  With long delays in orders due to the communications realities of the time, Eaton had been granted great latitude to get the job done.

In spite of a lack of personnel, money and resources Eaton managed to link up with Hamet and lead a rag tag band of US marines (ten in all), Greeks soldiers and native mercenaries on a 500-mile overland desert journey from Alexandria to Derne in Tripoli.  Eaton, greatly outnumbered, led these and US naval forces in the battle of Derne on April 27, 1805 and triumphing over the Bashaw's forces capturing the fortifications of Derne in what is now Libya.  His faithful Lieutenant Presley O'Bannon of the US marines raised the American flag over a foreign fort for the first time in history.  The Marine hymn owes its reference to the "shores of Tripoli" due to this battle.  With the capture of Derne and a US naval blockade of Tripoli, victory seemed to be within the grasp of the American forces.

Jefferson, however, had been secretly proceeding down a double-tracked strategy, having also appointed Tobias Lear, formerly George Washington's private secretary, as US consul general to the Barbary Regencies with the task of negotiating a quick peace with Bashaw Yussef.  Lear was a Harvard graduate who had embezzled from his boss, Washington and most likely destroyed some of his Washington's private correspondence, particularly with Jefferson.  This naturally endeared Lear to Jefferson.  Lear succeeded in making peace with Yussef by promising to abandon Derne, give up the naval blockade of Barbary ports and pay the sum of $60,000 for the release of the Philadelphia crew.
The Slave Market, Jean-Leon Gerome

Eaton was horrified to discover that his country would pay tribute to a tyrant and abandon their sometime ally, Hamet even when the Americans seemed to be on the verge of total victory.  Hamet and his loyalists were evacuated by the US navy and dropped off in Syracuse on Sicily.  Eaton returned to the United States despondent at Jefferson's betrayal of his and Hamet's fondest hopes.  He was astonished to discover that he would be feted as a hero for his victory at Derne which was perceived to have led directly to the speedy conclusion of peace with the Bashaw and the liberation of American captives.

On his return to the United States, Eaton stood, Zacks writes, "at a strategic crossroad in his life.  He could back the president by downplaying his disappointment over the treaty and the handling of Hamet.  By doing so, he would be ensured a long status as a national hero, and might be short-listed for an appointment as a U.S. army general.  He also still owed the government the huge sum of $40,000 for his unsettled expenses in Tunis and could expect favourable treatment.  Or he could stand honest to what he perceived as the administration's failings."

In a letter to the secretary of the navy Eaton wrote, "It is impossible for me to undertake to say that the bashaw has not been deceived.  Nor can I by any shape in which the subject can be viewed reconcile the manner of his being abandoned with those principles of national Justice and honour which has hitherto marked our character."

Zacks calls this a "declaration of war against Jefferson."  Instead of doing the "sensible" thing, keeping silent and taking a share of the credit, he stuck to his principles and denounced Jefferson, the most powerful man in America at that time.  It was a career-ending decision.  Eaton, in spite of the support of many Federalists, would never return to government service of any kind.  He would beat a hasty retreat into alcoholism that shortened his life, dying in 1811 at the age of forty-seven.  He is buried in Brimfield Massachusetts.

Eaton's Tripoli adventure, however, had a profound influence on Thomas Jefferson's thinking, and, therefore, the future of American defence and foreign policy.  As Zacks writes, "Jefferson had always distrusted the idea of creating a strong permanent navy of massive warships.  And yet, on June 19, 1813 he wrote to Tobias Lear: "I suppose we can do little with the Dey of Algiers till we have peace with England, but then I would at any expense, hunt him from the ocean, a navy equal to that object we should ever keep."  Zacks continues, "In his later years, Jefferson inched closer to Eaton's view that the United States must spend money to create a military force large enough to compel respect."

Concluding Postscripts.  Tobias Lear would commit suicide in 1816 without bothering to leave a note.  William Bainbridge would redeem himself as captain of the USS Constitution in the war of 1812 with the defeat of HMS Java.  Bashaw Yussef Karamanli continued "to extort a luxurious lifestyle out of the nations of Europe and the United States" until he was forced from the throne by his own son in 1835, dying unmourned in 1838.

Given recent tumultuous history in Libya and north Africa it is very interesting to ponder the lessons learned from The Pirate Coast.    The fickleness of American politicians, the steadfastness of America's serving military personnel, the risky nature of covert operations and the precarious and menacing nature of the external world are enduring themes.

You can read more in Richard Zack's fascinating The Pirate Coast. 2005...http:/

Special thanks to William Funk, USMC, for bringing Zacks' book to my attention!

In 2014 Richard Zacks wrote this about America Invades...

"I would have lost the bet. I had no idea that the United States over its history has invaded almost HALF the countries on the globe. That’s an astounding amount of K-rations and munitions and mayhem, however well-intentioned. Authors Laycock and Kelly, with breezy wit and a dogged pursuit of neutrality, deliver a country-by-country compendium of U.S. intervention. Use it as reference; or, read it cover to cover, sea to shining sea, for the adventures and misadventures of American attacks on foreign soil. An eye-opener! a mind-expander! Can an attack of Bhutan or Lichtenstein be far off? One important final note:  this book is written with respect for the men and women of the U.S. armed forces."

Richard Zacks, author of "The Pirate Coast: Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines and the Secret Mission of 1805" and  "An Underground Education"

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's first book, America Invades or on