Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Edith Cavell...the First "Bond" Girl?

Commander K. and Edith, St. Martin's Place , London

Edith Cavell, 1865 - 1915


The American Conservative tour of London continues with a stop just north of Trafalgar square in St. Martin's Place.  Here you will find a statue of Edith Cavell (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edith_Cavell) that was unveiled by Queen Alexandra in 1920 and lies just between the National Portrait Gallery and St Martin in the Fields. Edith Cavell was an English nurse who was working in a hospital in World War I.   She was executed  by a German firing squad on October 12, 1915. 

She immediately became a propaganda coup for the allied side who used the poignant death of an innocent nurse to help bring the USA into the war on the Allied side.  There were three incidents that moved President Wilson to act in 1917 to bring the USA into the war on the side of the Allies: 1) the sinking of the RMS Lusitania, 2) the Zimmerman telegram (Germany conspiring to have Mexico invade the USA in the event of America joining the allies)  and 3) the execution of Edith Cavell.

After Florence Nightingale, she is likely the most famous nurse of all time.  She was "the matron of the Berkendael Institute of Brussels who stayed at her post when it became a Red Cross hospital after the war broke out.  Miss Cavell, the 49-year old unmarried daughter of a Norfolk vicar was formally tried and shot by a German firing squad in Brussels for the crime of helping Belgian, British and French soldiers to escape from German-occupied territory into neutral Holland."
What is less well known about Edith Cavell is she was herself an agent of British Intelligence--an unrecognized "Jane Bond."  The historian M.R.D. Foot wrote, "a story on which I have had to sit for a generation: that Edith Cavell, shot by the Germans in Brussels in 1915 for having helped scores of British soldiers to escape into Holland, had, in fact, been an exceptionally well placed spy, despised in the Secret service for having turned aside from her duty as a spy to perform a work of mercy."

"Patriotism is not Enough, I must have no
Hatred or Bitterness for Anyone"
Nicholas Rankin continues, "Cavell's work could not be acknowledged for the usual reason: the secret services have to stay secret in order to be effective.  She probably also suffered because of her sex and the popular view of it in the media.  Women did not have the vote then and they did not serve in the armed forces; feminine heroism was mostly framed in terms of self-sacrifice.  Thus to call nurse Cavell anything like a 'spy' (with all its lurid connotations then) would mean sliding her down the scale of female achievement, away from worthies like Florence Nightingale towards houris like Mata Hari.  Compromising her virtue might have diminished her propaganda value."  Source all quotes: Churchill's Wizards, Nicholas Rankin, 2008, (www.amzn.com/0571221963).

Edith Cavell statue, London
Long before James Bond was conceived by Ian Fleming, Edith Cavell was spying for the British in occupied Belgium.  Could Edith Cavell have been the model for the "unlucky" Bond girl (Severine's fate in Skyfall is not dissimilar to Edith Cavell's)?  We do know that many girls in Allied countries were named "Edith" after the war in Cavell's honor including the famous singer Edith Piaf.

Edith Cavell's dog Jack, IWM, London
Edith Cavell had a dog named "Jack" who was not executed by the Kaiser's firing squad along with his mistress and lived an additional eight years.   Jack is now stuffed and mounted in the collection of the Imperial War Museum (http://www.iwm.org.uk/) -- though sadly not on public display at this time.

Meet Edith's dog Jack

Edith Piaf...Named After Cavell, Also Gloriously Defiant

American Espionage...


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Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Solution for Syria


Bashar al-Assad

A timely Suggestion from Commander Kelly...

I note that both US Presidential candidates support the use of drone weapons against terrorist targets and that President Obama has already disclosed the existence of a "Kill" list.

The "problem" of Syria (see earlier post Syria Burning, 10/12/12) could, perhaps, be solved effectively and efficiently with the launch of two drone missiles.  One would have Bashar Al Assad's name on it; the other would have the name of his British wife, Asma al-Assad, who grew up in Acton http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asma_al-Assad).  Any collateral damage done at Harrods with the second drone would surely be acceptable in the long run! In sha Allah!

Harrods, London

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Skyfall

Skyfall - The Latest Bond
Premieres 11/9/12 in USA

In an earlier post (Commander Bond in London, 2/23/12) I wrote that the James Bond "movies are, while more PC than the books, to the right of most Hollywood productions--a key to their long-standing success."  Does Skyfall, the latest Bond movie, validate that thesis or contradict it?

The role of the intelligence services has, of course, become highly controversial in our own day and age.  We all recall George Tenet's unfortunate assurance to President George W. Bush that finding WMD in Iraq would be a "slam dunk" and the disastrous and tragic consequences of poor intelligence ("Don't worry, it's a slam-dunk" according to Bob Woodward's book, Plan of Attack, (www.amzn.com/0743255488).

The Jason Bourne movies, which play off of cynicism aroused by real-life intelligence failures, are essentially "James Bond for liberals".  The equivalent(s) of the "M" character in the Bourne films is/are clearly deranged.  The intelligence chiefs in these movies have run amok.  They are sinister forces who do not merely make mistakes, but have become malignant forces for evil in our midst.  The Bourne films suggest that those in the highest levels of the Shadow world of intelligence are utterly corrupt betraying the interest of their nation for their own selfish ends.

The Bond movies, on the other hand, suggest an entirely different narrative in regard to the world of intelligence.  The principal reason for this has less to do with James Bond who is, after all,  a mere policy tool (a "blunt instrument") and much more to do with Bond's boss -- "M".

Rear Admiral John Godfrey, 1888 - 1970
The Original "M"
Ian Fleming based the "M" character in his novels on his boss during World War II the Director of Naval Intelligence, Rear Admiral John Henry Godfrey.  He was a competent and conscientious public servant.  "The Naval Intelligence Division was responsible for collecting analyzing and distributing intelligence for the Admiralty, and providing security and counter-intelligence to the Royal Navy for the war at sea." (For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming + James Bond, Ben Macintyre, 2008 www.amzn.com/1596915447).  At the NID, Fleming essentially played "Bond" to Godfrey's "M" (see earlier post Ian Fleming's Commandos, 10/14/12).  Fleming's father Valentine had been killed in the trenches in World War I and Godfrey became something of a father figure for Ian.

Judi Dench, "M" for Magnificent
SkyFall, the most recent addition to the Bond series, places the "M" character, portrayed by Judy Dench at the very center and heart of this film.  Is her record perfect?  No.  Does she and MI6 make mistakes?  Unquestionably the answer is, "yes".  Nevertheless, she is like Admiral Godfrey -- a conscientious selfless and caring servant of the state.  She is, in fact, invaluable in the face of a threatening Shadow world of evil that lurks.  Politicians prattle on about "transparency" while the the real world of terrorist threats becomes increasingly opaque.  In spite of the influence of technology with its vast array of satellites and cell phone tracking the value of accurate human intelligence has never been greater than today.  We desperately need gifted devoted professionals like "M" and, of course James Bond -- because sometimes as Skyfall reminds us  "a trigger does need to be pulled" (see earlier post, Yvonne Fletcher RIP and Commander Bond?, 3/6/12).

Judy Dench is superlative as "M" or the "Bond-mommy."  Just as Admiral Godfrey was a surrogate father for Ian Fleming, she becomes the surrogate parents for the orphaned James Bond.

Next year will mark the official "Diamond Jubilee" of James Bond as Ian Fleming's Casino Royale (www.amzn.com/1612185436) was the first published in 1953 sixty years ago.  The 2006 film Casino Royale (www.amzn.com/B000MRA5NS) introduced Daniel Craig, the blonde Bond, as a new MI6 agent making his very first "licensed" kills in the opening scene.  In 2012's Skyfall, Bond is no longer a novice, but rather an aging middle-aged single man with a shaky employment record and severe health challenges.  Bond is now "an old dog learning new tricks".

Turner's Fighting Temeraire, 1838, National Gallery, London
Early in the movie, Bond meets his new callow Quartermaster, "Q", in the National Gallery in front of a painting of the most popular painting in England--Turner's the Fighting Temeraire (see earlier post, The Fighting Temeraire, 1/16/12).  The choice of this particular painting near Trafalgar square to provide the backdrop for James Bond's own professional challenges is inspired.  The full title of Turner's painting is The Fighting Temeraire Tugged To Her Last Berth To Be Broken Up.    The Temeraire fought under Nelson in the Royal Navy's decisive victory over the Franco-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar in 1805.  Now in 1838, when Turner observed her, she is headed for the scrap heap pulled by a satanic-looking steamboat that is belching black smoke.  Is Bond too destined for early retirement?  Is the Aston Martin headed for the wrecking yard?

It is remarkable to note that Skyfall debuted in the UK the very same week that the President of the United States disparaged the use of "horses and bayonets" in modern warfare -- in spite of the fact that the US Marine Corps still trains with and uses bayonets in the field -- Semper Fi  (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/10/23/bayonets-still-standard-issue-despite-obama-debate-jab/).  The demise of Skyfall's villain, played brilliantly by Javier Bardem (the fortunate husband of Penelope Cruz), is a powerful argument for the continued relevance of "cold steel".  The traditional, conservative message is clear -- "Old ways (gun, knife, radio) are often the best ways."

Ian Fleming famously said, "Everything I write has a precedent in Truth."  Does Skyfall remain true to its Fleming heritage by having a "precedent in truth"?  I believe that its gritty portrayals of the London Underground, its use of glossy settings in contemporary China (see earlier post, China Today, 9/11/12), its depiction of feckless politicians and even its use of the favorite weapon of the US Marine Corps allows us to answer happily in the affirmative.  President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, acting on the best Western intelligence available at the time, "took the bloody shot" on Iraq; we live with the consequences.

Skyfall ultimately advances the traditional and, ultimately, Conservative notion that public service undertaken by our military and intelligence forces at great personal risk is 1) necessary in a dangerous world 2) highly honorable and, at times, even 3) heroic.


Commander Kelly says, "Three Cheers for Skyfall, sailing ships, MI6, the Royal Navy and cold steel!"




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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Napoleon...an Enemy of Love?

"Time for Love?", Wallace Collection, London
"Have you got three minutes?"

Napoleon was an "Enemy to love" to his siblings as he forced his youngest brother Jerome to divorce his American wife and tried unsuccessfully to do the same with his brother Lucien (see earlier post, Napoleon and the Rebel, http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/napoleon-and-rebel.html).  Moreover, Napoleon sacrificed his own happiness as well divorcing the only woman that he ever loved, Josephine de Beauharnais, for "reasons of state".  He adored his wife Josephine de Beauharnais, but in order to perpetuate his dynasty the Empire required a fertile womb.  He divorced Josephine in order to marry the 19 year-old Hapsburg Princess Marie Louise in 1810.  When they first met on March 27, 1810 she is said to have remarked, "You are much better-looking than your portrait."  Napoleon's only legitimate offspring, Napoleon II or the King of Rome, was born to much imperial fanfare on March 20, 1811.  A 101- gun salute was fired to let Parisians know that the Emperor now had a son and heir!

Commander K. with Napoleonic Cannon, Holland and Holland, Northwood, England
Stendhal wrote one of the very first biographies of Napoleon in 1818, A Life of Napoleon, while the Emperor was still alive in exile on St. Helena.  Stendhal was a staunch Republican who viewed Napoleon sympathetically and regarded his Empire as a continuation of the ideals of the French Revolution.  Stendhal describes Napoleon "the lover" as follows:

Napoleon Cameo, Wallace Collection, London
"You look so much better than this, dear" Marie Louise

"When, in his youth, Napoleon had been poor and completely devoted to serious matters, he had nevertheless been very far from indifferent to women.  His extremely thin appearance, his smallness and his poverty were not likely to give him confidence or to gain him many successes.  It had required courage in small doses.  It would not surprise me to think of him as having been shy with women.  He feared their ridicule and this man to whom fear was unknown, revenged himself upon them in his heyday by constantly and crudely expressing a fine contempt for them to which he would not have referred had it been true.  Before his elevation to power, he wrote to his friend Director Rey, about a passionate love affair in which Lucien was entangled:

'Women are like muddy sticks: one cannot pick them up without being soiled.'  By means of this inelegant image he sought to point out the errors of conduct to which they led; it was a prophecy.  If he hated women it was because he had a supreme fear of the ridicule which they dispensed.  Finding himself at dinner with Madame de Stael, whom it would have been so easy to have won over. He said coarsely that he only liked women who attended to their children."

Napoleon and Josephine, Wallace Collection, London
Here is how Stendhal describes Napoleon's "close encounters" with members of the opposite sex:

"Seated at a small table, his sword by his side, the Emperor would be busy signing decrees.  The lady would enter the room.  Without moving he would tell her to get into bed.  Shortly after, carrying a candle he would show her out and would then return to reading his decrees, correcting and signing them.  The essential part of the interview had lasted no more than three minutes.  Frequently his Mameluke was behind a screen.  He had sixteen such interviews with Mademoiselle George, and at one of them gave her a fistful of banknotes: there were ninety-six in all.  This had been arranged by the valet Constant.  Sometimes the lady would take off her shift and then, without troubling to move, he would send her away.

Mademoiselle George, "Fistful of Francs"
Such conduct on the part of the Emperor drove the women of Paris to despair.  To send them away after two minutes so as to sign his decrees and frequently without even removing his sword, seemed to them frightful, as it amounted to making them eat dirt."

A Life of Napoleon, Stendhal, 1818  www.amzn.com/0749296046

Countess Marie Walewska, 1786 1817
On January 25, 1814 Napoleon saw Empress Marie Louise and his son, the King of Rome, for the very last time.  She returned with her son to the Austrian Imperial family in Vienna.  On April 11, 1814 Napoleon abdicated and proceeded to exile on the island of Elba.  The Empress Josephine, ever a victim of fashion, died of pneumonia on May 29, 1814 after having caught a chill while walking dressed "a la mode" in the gardens of Malmaison with Tsar Alexander I.  Napoleon's beautiful Polish mistress, the Countess Marie Walewska, with whom he had an illegitimate son in 1810, visited him on Elba, but did not accompany him to St. Helena after Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo in 1815.

Commander Kelly says, "Napoleon worshipped, not at the altar of Venus, but rather that of Mars;  he sacrificed private love for public power and ultimately ended his life with neither, haunted by memories of his faded grandeur on the barren rock of St. Helena."

Special Thanks to Holland and Holland in Northwood (http://www.hollandandholland.com/) for use of their cannon!



Napoleon and the Rebel

Napoleon and Lucien Bonaparte

It was not easy to be a member of the Bonaparte clan.  Napoleon was the second child out of 8 siblings born to Charles Bonaparte and his wife Letizia in Ajaccio on the island of Corsica.

When Napoleon made his meteoric rise from corporal to Emperor, his family members were pulled up as well.  Napoleon's oldest brother Joseph became King of Naples and later Spain.  His brother Louis was made King of Holland.  His sister Elisa was a made Grand Duchess of Tuscany.  The beautiful Pauline, sculpted by Canova, was Duchess of Guastalla.  His sister Caroline became Grand Duchess of Berg.  Even Napoleon's youngest brother Jerome became King of Westpahalia.

Being related to Napoleon may have been good for one's social and economic mobility, but it was often hell on interpersonal relationships.  Napoleon sought to arrange marriages for his siblings as if they were mere pieces on the chessboard for his conquest and domination of Europe.  Consider the case of Jerome, Napoleon's youngest brother:

Jerome Bonaparte, 1784 - 1860

"The youngest of the Bonaparte siblings had married without Napoleon's consent, at the end of 1803.  The bride was an attractive, well-born American woman from Philadelphia, Elizabeth Patterson, whom Jerome had met in Maryland.  Napoleon refused Jerome's request to recognize the marriage.  But unlike Lucien, Jerome would give in to the political and emotional pressure.  Napoleon barred Elizabeth's ship from docking at a European coasts, and Jerome divorced her while she was pregnant with their son (who was born in London in 1805, before Elizabeth returned to Baltimore with he baby).  Eventually, in 1807 he married the German Princess Napoleon had chosen for him, Catharina von Wurtemberg, and became prince of Westphalia."  Napoleon and the Rebel: A Story of Brotherhood, Passion and Power, Simonetta and Arikha, 2011, www.amzn.com/B006LWEHNW

The Sleep of Venus Lucien Bonaparte and Alexandrine de Bleschamp by Guillaume Guillon Lethiere
Napoleon and the Rebel, co-written by Marcello Simonetta and Noga Arikha, (www.amzn.com/B006LWEHNW) is a remarkable book that tells in detail the story of Napoleon's turbulent relationship with his rebellious younger brother Lucien Bonaparte, 1775 - 1840. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucien_Bonaparte)  Lucien believed sincerely in the Republican values of the French Revolution -- Liberté, égalité, fraternité.

Lucien is best known to history for the political role that he played on November 10, 1799 (18 of Brumaire) when his intervention as President of the Council of the Five Hundred may have saved his brother's life and certainly did preserve Napoleon's political reputation.   Napoleon had impulsively decided to burst in upon the deliberations of the Council with a small armed guard of four Grenadiers.  Many members of the council were convinced that Napoleon would be a tyrant who would undo the work of the revolution.  There were angry shouts of "Down with the tyrant!  Down with the dictator!"  some men approached Napoleon with their knives drawn.  Punches were thrown.  At this point Lucien intervened on behalf of this brother.  He declared famously, "I swear that I will stab my own brother to the heart if he ever attempts anything against the liberty of Frenchmen."

French Grenadier, Wallace Collection, London
Simonetta and Arikha write, "Upon hearing this rousing promise from Lucien, the soldiers marched into the Orangerie and chased away all the protesters, some of whom escaped by jumping out of the windows.  By nightfall, Lucien had passed all the necessary resolutions, and Napoleon Bonaparte became first consul of the French Republic."  Napoleon and the Rebel, Simonetta and Arikha, 2011, www.amzn.com/B006LWEHNW.

Lucien was rewarded by Napoleon with the position of Minister of the Interior.  He was deeply involved with cultural affairs and amassed a huge and valuable art collection.  He later became the French Ambassador to Spain where he helped to negotiate the transfer of the Louisiana territory from Spain to France (later sold as the Louisiana Purchase to the United States).
General Bonaparte Reviewing Troops, Wallace Collection, London

Lucien's first wife Christine, by whom he had two daughters, died at age twenty-eight.

Napoleon's gratitude towards his younger brother was evanescent.  In the spring of 1802 Lucien the widower met and fell in love with a beautiful 24 year-old Parisian woman named Alexandrine de Bleschamp.  She was married to a Banker and had one child, but he was away on Napoleon's ill-fated expedition to Santo Domingo and would soon die leaving Alexandrine a widow (see Toussaint L'Ouverture Champion of Freedom and...Conservative?, 4/27/12).  Napoleon wanted Lucien to marry Princess Maria Louisa Bourbon, the daughter of the King of Spain, who would help him consolidate power in his empire.  Napoleon beseeched his brother to marry not realizing that Lucien had already married his love Alexandrine.

Lucien Bonaparte - Tea party member?
Napoleon later used threats as well as bribes in a vain attempt to coerce Lucien into divorcing Alexandrine.  Lucien refused, thereby ending a promising political career.  Lucien fled with his wife to Italy where they soon had nine children.    They lived for a time in Florence where he lived a s private citizen.  Simonetta and Arikha write, "Lucien's good manners and generosity made him popular with the Florentines.  the Italian states under Napoleonic control had been ravaged by war and welcomed a peace-loving, enlightened patron of commerce and the arts such as Lucien, who was opposed to the heavy taxation imposed by local administrators (italics added by Commander Kelly)."  Napoleon and the Rebel, Simonetta and Arikha, 2011, www.amzn.com/B006LWEHNW.  Could Lucien perhaps have been an early member of the tea party?

While in Florence, Lucien tried to buy and restore Michelangelo's house.

Frustrated by his Emperor brother, Lucien decided in 1810 to attempt to flee to America.  He made it to Malta where he was captured by the British who sent him with Alexandrine and their family to exile in England.  Lucien bought a castle in Thorngrove near Worcester where he and his family were comfortable prisoners of the English government.

Lucien was only able to return to the continent after the fall and exile of Napoleon to Elba in 1814.  After Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo, Lucien lived in Italy near Tusculum where he contributed considerably to the archaeological excavations which were first uncovered in 1828 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tusculum).

I must note one small error in the book.  The authors suggest that Napoleon-Louis Bonaparte (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napoleon_Louis_Bonaparte), the son of Louis Bonaparte and Hortense, was "killed" as a result of  the bloody repression of a plot against the pope.  In fact, he died of natural causes while suffering from measles.

Excepting Napoleon himself, the untitled Lucien was the most gifted Bonaparte sibling.  Lucien Bonaparte was a poet, an astronomer, a statesman, a diplomat, a patron of the arts; he was also a husband and the father of 11 children.

Napoleon's final verdict on Lucien was, "Of all my siblings, he is indisputably the most gifted one, but he has hurt me the most.  His marriage has been a terrible thing.  Marrying a bourgeoisie, a beautiful Parisian woman, right at the moment when I wanted to found a dynasty!  I did everything in my power to prevent him, but unfortunately he had always had a soft spot for women."  Napoleon and the Rebel, Simonetta and Arikha, 2011, www.amzn.com/B006LWEHNW.

Commander Kelly says, "For a fascinating examination of the eternal conflicts between public and private life, between duty and love, between love of family and romantic love check out Napoleon and the Rebel."

Special Thanks to the Wallace Collection (http://www.wallacecollection.org/) in London where you will find a wonderful selection of Napoleonic themed art works and also Velázquez Lady with a Fan which once belonged to Lucien Bonaparte.

Lady with a Fan, Velázquez, Wallace Collection, London


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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Napo-Bama!



Emperor Obama...?

"Prosperity had gradually altered and vitiated his character.  He made the mistake of being too surprised by his success...He drank great gulps of the poison of flattery.*  He believed that there was nothing personally impossible for him.  He could no longer stand contradiction and soon the slightest remark appeared to him an impertinence and what was more, stupid.  As a result of his bad choice (of men**) he was used to seeing only those things succeed which he did himself.  Very soon his ministers appeared to do no more than set down his ideas slavishly.  It is impossible, in this age, for genuine ability not to be allied to fairly liberal ideas.  Napoleon  (insert "Obama," says CK) himself is an example of this, and it is considered the greatest crime of all."


Napoleon Bonaparte, 1769 - 1821, Wallace Collection, London
A Life of Napoleon, Stendhal, 1818  www.amzn.com/0749296046

Now you know why 72% of the French support Obama over Romney in the US 2012 election (see also earlier post Final Debate - Three Little Words, 10/23/12 where I connect Obama and Louis XIV).  Thank goodness, France has no electoral votes!  (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-20008687)

Commander Kelly says, "Thanks Stendhal for enlightening us about President Obama way back in 1818!  Le plus ca change..."

* Nobel Prize etc.

** Biden, Holder, Geithner

Final Debate -- Three Little Words

Final Debate: The Decisive Draw

On October 22 The Gallup poll had Romney up by six points prior to the debate; Romney had the momentum and was gaining in all of the battleground states.  This was, therefore,  a must-win debate for President Obama.  He was desperately hoping that Governor Romney would make some kind of grave faux pas in the their debate last night on foreign policy.  Obama has, after all, been President for the past four years.  He has steered the ship of state.  He has had full access to our intelligence services.  Obama has a reputation as a foreign policy expert while Governor Romney is more of a novice when it comes to foreign policy.  This should have been an easy win for Obama.

It did not turn out that way.  Romney more than held his own when it came to foreign policy.  He spoke with knowledge and assurance about the principal foreign policy hot spots throughout the world.    He found common ground with President Obama on a surprising number of issues.  He seemed Presidential.

Are you, dear reader, old enough to remember the "good old days" when partisanship in the USA was supposed to stop at the water's edge?  FDR fought World War II with an able Republican Secretary of War -- Henry Stimson.  Truman initiated the policy of "containment" of the Soviet Union which was continued under Eisenhower and then passed to Kennedy, etc.  During the Reagan years the bipartisan consensus on foreign policy eroded and during the Presidency of George W. Bush it nearly vanished entirely.

Last night we witnessed Governor Romney's attempt to resurrect a bipartisan American foreign policy.  There was widespread agreement between Obama and Romney with regard to most major foreign policy issues.  Both want out of Afghanistan by 2014.  Both candidates support the "surge" or "escalation" in Afghanistan; a policy which Commander Kelly, by the way, deems to have cost much and accomplished little.  Both support sanctions against Iran and find the prospect of Iranian nuclear weapons unacceptable.  Both seem unwilling to commit American military forces to Syria (e.g. implementation of a No Fly Zone) or anywhere else unless as a last resort.

Right from the outset, it appeared that there was a "gentleman's agreement" between both candidates not to press the issue of Libya which could have given the appearance of exploiting a tragedy for political benefit.  Perhaps that is just as well.

Romney needed to reassure the electorate that he is not a warmonger and that he is not George W. Bush.  Romney is a successful businessman who sincerely longs to preside over a period of peace and a return to prosperity.  Obama also wants to pull back our force commitments around the globe.  They are both essentially dove candidates.  Personally, I feel it would have been wiser for both candidates to not explicitly take any option off the table with regard to Syria or Iran -- though I recognize that such a policy would have poll-tested disastrously for either candidate.

Obama went over to the attack on numerous occasions.  This made him look peevish and frankly Un-Presidential.  While he may may scored numerous points in the course of the debate -- which included a well-rehearsed sentimental rhapsody on avenging 9/11 victims -- his tone was off-putting. After Obama pointedly told him, “every time you've offered an opinion, you've been wrong,” Romney responded: “Attacking me is not an agenda.”

Romney may not have won the debate outright, but he fared well enough to continue his momentum to a victory on November 6.  Romney will not so much have won the election as Obama will have lost it.

How did Obama lose it?  Pundits have already begun to ask the question, "Where did Obama go wrong in his bid for re-election?"   How could a "like-able" incumbent blow his chances?

First, the President relied upon a flawed strategy in his race.  His campaign focused on attacking Romney with irrelevant charges (he makes too much money, doesn't pay enough taxes, Bain Capital outsources jobs, etc.).  His campaign then moved from the wildly irrelevant to the hysterically shrill charges epitomized by Biden in the Veep debate and embraced by Obama's tone in the second and third Presidential contests.  Now we are in the endgame of this election and the Obama campaign is rapidly moving into its political death spiral phase where recrimination will dominate.

Second, Obama's greatest enemy in this campaign has surely been...Obama.  He is not a natural politician who loves the rough and tumble of the game of politics.  For whatever reason, his heart has not really been in this campaign.  In his recent Alfred Smith dinner speech he declared with utmost sincerity that, win or lose, this would be his last political campaign.  Again and again, he has committed political Seppuku with horrendous self-inflicted verbal gaffes. Consider his comment in Roanoke Virginia on  7/1/4/12 when he said, "If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.”   With that one comment he managed to antagonize all business owners, all those who aspire to owning a business and all those who are gratefully employed by an American business.  Others may point to Obama's reiteration of Jon Stewart's unfortunate remark regarding Benghazi -- "If four Americans get killed, it is not optimal".

THREE LITTLE WORDS
My favorite Obama self-sabotaging moment, however, took place last night in this their final debate.  In discussing the administration's support of the Arab spring in Tunisia, President Obama used three very telling words.  Obama said, "This Nation. Me."  http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-TV/2012/10/22/Obama-This-Nation-Me. In just three words, Obama managed to channel the spirit of Louis XIV, "L'etat, c'est moi (I am the state)."

"L'Etat C'est Moi"  Louis XIV

With those three words what might have been merely a "draw" was transformed into a debacle for Obama's re-election hopes.  If you live in a battleground state expect to see this message -- "This Nation. Me." repeated endlessly on TV and radio until election day.

This is why I love Presidential debates.  The voters are able to see how these candidates for the highest office in the land perform under pressure and, despite all the coaching and debate prep, often surprising truths about character are revealed.

Last night, Obama's narcissism (President "Eye Candy") was on full display.
Governor Romney presented himself credibly as a politician who can reach across the aisle in a bi-partisan fashion to get things done in Washington.  Obama, on the other hand, came across as supercilious and condescending.  No wonder Republicans and many in his own party have found it impossible to work with him!  To vote for Obama in 2012 a voter must prefer Obama AND GRIDLOCK; for that is what we would have received in an Obama second term.

Commander Kelly concludes with a prediction, "Ohio might have voted for President Obama; Ohio will not vote for Louis XIV".   



Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Debate #3

Presidential Debate #2, Hofstra

President Obama definitely did better in his second Presidential debate than the first.  He was more aggressive and tried to take the offensive.  On points some sources are indicating an Obama victory in their second Presidential debate.

Romney, however, was far more persuasive on the economy; an issue that matters more to the few undecided voters that remain.  Moreover, Obama's Libya answer with his blatant assist from the moderator is continuing to unravel as coverage intensifies and Libya emerges as an ever larger blot on the administration's escutcheon.  The President was economical with the truth.  The record shows that President Obama did NOT explicitly call it a terrorist attack as alleged in the debate; he said, "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for".  But it is unclear whether this vague generalizing statement was referring to 9/11/01 or 9/11/12.

I also applaud Romney for also raising the issue of Syria where 20,000 to 30,000 people have been killed by that brutal with no apparent response by this White House.

The big political news of the past week, however, has been the polling out of Florida.  According to the 10/12/12 poll conducted by Rasmussen Romney enjoys a 51 to 47 percent lead over Obama in the state of Florida.  This virtually puts FL out of reach for the Obama campaign.  The Southern states, including VA and NC will be a solid block for Romney in November.  Meanwhile, many previously Obama leaning states such as NH, MI, PA and WI are now labelled toss-ups.

Will Romney actually win in PA?  The answer is unclear; the essential point, however, is that the Obama campaign is now being forced to defend regions that they thought were "in the bag".  This provides a tactical advantage to Romney who can now afford to get more aggressive with spending and campaigning in states such as OH and CO.

Rasmussen Reports today reports that in its past 10 national voter poll surveys Romney had led Obama in 7 out of 10 days, Obama led one day and two surveys were tied http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/archive/2012_presidential_election_matchups2.

The depth of anger, frustration and disappointment with the President surfaced in several of last nights voter-initiated questions (e.g. Michael Jones' question: "Mr. President, I voted for you in 2008. What have you done or accomplished to earn my vote in 2012? I'm not that optimistic as I was in 2012. Most things I need for everyday living are very expensive.")  Commander Kelly's prediction: This frustration will continue to bubble until erupting on election day and is consistently underestimated by the mainstream media.

I would call the current debate score 2 Romney / Ryan wins and one tie.  The momentum continues to favor Governor Romney.






Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ian Fleming's Commandos

"Everything I Write has a Precedent in Truth" Ian Fleming

Ben Macintyre writes, "Bond is, in part, Fleming.  The exploits of 007 grow directly out of Fleming's knowledge of wartime intelligence and espionage; they shared similar tastes and even attitudes towards women; they even look similar...But Bond is also, in part, what Fleming was not.  He was the fantasy of what Fleming would like to have been -- indeed, what every Englishman raised on Bulldog Drummond and wartime derring-do would like to have been.  Bond is a grown up romantic fairy tale, a promise that Britain, having triumphed in the World War, was still a force to be reckoned with in the dull chill of the Cold War.  In the grim austerity of postwar Britain, here was a man dining on champagne and caviar, enjoying guiltless sex, glamorous foreign travel, and an apparently unlimited expense account."  For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming + James Bond, Ben Macintyre, 2008 (www.amzn.com/1596915447).

Nicholas Rankin has written a fascinating book Ian Fleming's Commandos: The Story of 30 Assault Unit in World War II (www.amzn.com/0199782822) which explores exactly how Ian Fleming's experience of wartime intelligence shaped his creation of James Bond.  Years before he wrote the James Bond novels, Lieutenant Commander Ian Fleming served in World War II as the personal assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence.  Vice Admiral John Godfey was the Director of Naval Intelligence who hired Fleming and became the model for the "M" character of the Bond novels and films.

Naval Intelligence is, as Rankin tells us, "any information that gave advantage to His Majesty's Royal Navy in operational security and effectiveness."

Lieutenant Commander Ian Fleming RNVR,  1908 - 1964
Ian Fleming (see earlier posts Commander Bond's London 2/23/12 and Commander Bond in Thailand 9/22/12), was charged with heading up up the 30 Assault Unit of Commandos whose mission was to actively seek out and capture any intelligence that could be of assistance in naval warfare.  He referred to them as his "band of red Indians".  Fleming visited Bletchley Park (see earlier posts Bletchley Park and the Judgement of History 4/22/12 and Bletchley Park and Stalin 2/17/12) many times in the course of the war.  He was interested in code breaking and seizing copies of the German enigma machines and code books.  Fleming was on board the destroyer HMS Fernie off the coast of France on August 19 1942 observing the disastrous Dieppe raid in which members of 30 Assault Unit participated.  Fleming's knowledge of Bletchley park and other secrets prevented him from being allowed to go ashore with the 30 Assault landing party himself.

In 1943, Fleming assisted in engineering disinformation projects such as Operation Mincemeat (www.amzn.com/0307453286) that planted the corpse of a fake naval officer with phony plans for an invasion of Greece that helped divert Axis forces from the real target -- Sicily.

Fleming once said, "Everything I write has a precedent in truth."  In Rankin's book you see how Fleming real life experience helped to inform  and shape his later fiction.

30 Assault Unit's greatest coup of the war was the discovery of the German naval archive based in Tambach castle that housed naval records for two world wars.  This "library contained the complete operational logs, war diaries, technical reports and administrative minutes of all German navy business" dating back all the way to 1870.  This data was not merely of immense historical interest.  German "snorkel" submarine technology and experiment with hydrogen peroxide propulsion systems were the most advanced in the world at this time.  This treasury trove of intelligence would help guide the direction of the Royal Navy in the post-war era.

Rankin's book is loaded with interesting Bond-like anecdotes (see earlier post "Hemingway Liberates the Ritz Bar Paris, 10/10/12) such as this: "Training certainly paid off for Norwegian SOE agent Knut Haugland.  On 1 April 1944 a hundred Germans trapped him in the Oslo hospital where he was operating a secret radio hidden in a chimney.  When eight Germans came pounding up the stairs, Haugland crouched in a dark corner and then made a dash for it,  Two other Germans emerged, whom he shot and killed.  He made his way down to the cellars where he encountered four more Germans; one he killed, another he fired at, and tow others fled.  A fifth appeared and Lt. Haugland shot him at 30 yards with the last shots in his magazine.  he put int a fresh magazine as he emerged from the cellar down into the grounds.  He was fired on as he did so, but was not hit; he scaled a 9-foot barbed wire fence and dropped 15 feet into a quiet roadway from the rocks.  He took off his overalls, washed his face in the snow and walked leisurely about the streets while the Gestapo prosecuted a search of the whole neighborhood.  His look-out came through the controls in a car, picked him up and they drove quietly away.  The place from which Lt. Haugland transmitted in the chimney was not discovered, and the W/T set was recovered several weeks later."

Italian Covert Operation: Olterra
Another fascinating insight is Rankin's take on Italy's often overlooked naval efforts in the Second World War and their impact on the Bond series of novels and films.  Rankin writes, "Italy's most original contribution the technology of the Second World War was sub-aqua, pioneering midget submarines and producing many daring frogmen who rode the two-man machines known as 'human torpedoes'.  It was Italians who, planted the underwater mines that blew a hole in the British flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth and her sister battleship HMS Valiant in Alexandria harbor in December 1941, and also waged a three-year submarine guerrilla war against Gibraltar, sinking or damaging fourteen Allied ships.  One story about the Italian frogmen in Gibraltar made a great impression on Ian Fleming when he heard it from Alan Hillgarth.  The Decima Flottiglia MAS men were hiding inside a derelict Italian tanker, the 4,900 ton Olterra, moored within the breakwater at Algericas.  The Italian 'care and maintenacne' crew on board were discrete, and fat envelopes kept the Spanish police off their backs.  Crates of apparent 'spares' that arrived actually contained disassembled 'Maiale' ("pig" Commander Kelly) two-man human torpedoes with their limpet mines , and the Italians cut a hatch five foot by eight foot, below Olterra's waterline, so the mini-subs could slip out from a flooded bow compartment, wreak the sabotage and destruction in Gibraltar, and return undetected.  In chapter 13 of Ian Fleming's novel Thunderball (www.amzn.com/1612185525), James Bond tells Felix Leiter of the CIA that the failure to spot what was going on in the Olterra was "one of the blackest marks against Intelligence during the whole war'.  The Italian 'gentlemen crook' in the novel, Emilio Largo, has a treasure-hunting hydrofoil motor yacht in the Bahamas that conceals miniature submersibles ('a two-man underwater chariot identical with those used by the Italians during the war') used to steal two British nuclear weapons from an RAF V-bomber sunk and camouflaged on the seabed."

Emilio Largo's "Underwater Chariot"
Can you beleive it?  An Italian model for James Bond?  "Bondini, Giacomo Bondini" or "Commandante Bondo" don't have quite the same ring!

Rankin later mentions how Bill Donovan of the OSS managed to "pinch" Italian Admiral Minsini and other Italian engineers and technicians who worked on the Italian submarine programme.  Rankin writes, "Minisini and his Italian submarine engineers all ended up at the American Naval Torpedo Station at Goat Island, Newport Bay, Rhode Island, working on improving American underwater weaponry".

Rankin omits to mention my own personal pet theory about the transformation of World War II history into Bond fiction.  My thesis holds that the Pussy Galore's all woman Flying Circus from Goldfinger (www.amzn.com/1612185509/) was inspired the the real life Night Witches ("Nacthexen") of the Soviet Red Air force (see earlier post, Night Witches of World War II, 6/28/12).

Commander Kelly says, "If you enjoy tales of World War II espionage and would like to learn more about how Ian Fleming transmogrified these into the fictional world of James Bond, then you will love Ian Fleming's Commandos: The Story of 30 Assault Unit in World War II (www.amzn.com/0199782822).

Skyfall premieres in the UK, October 26 2012


You can now purchase Commander Kelly's first book, America Invades here...www.americainvades.com or on Amazon...www.amzn.com/1940598427



Saturday, October 13, 2012

RAF Bomber Command Memorial London

Commander K. and the RAF Bomber Command Memorial

The Conservative tour of London continues with a visit to the brand new Bomber Command memorial (http://www.bombercommandmemorial.co.uk/).  This June a long awaited and overdue memorial to RAF Bomber command was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II in London's Green Park, not far from Buckingham Palace.

"The Fighters are our Salvation But the Bombers Alone Provide the Means of Victory",  Winston Churchill
World War II ended in 1945.  Why did it take so long to honor the "bomber boys" with a memorial?

Bomber Command was always somewhat controversial.  The bombing of German cities was imprecise with many civilian casualties (the estimate in about 700,000 killed).  Most British veterans of the Second World War earned campaign medal such as Italian campaign, etc.  Veteran of RAF Bomber Command received no such medal.

Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five (www.amzn.com/0385333846) and other writers, including Anthony Beevor in his latest book, The Second World War, (www.amzn.com/0316023744) have criticized the fire bombing of Dresden as being excessive and unnecessary.

"Strike Hard, Strike Sure," London
Arthur "Bomber" Harris, head of RAF Bomber Command, mistakenly believed that strategic bombing alone could win the war.

It must be remembered, however, that the Allied strategic bombing campaign did contribute significantly to Allied victory in the Second World War for several reasons...

RAF Bomber Memorial, London 
1) The Luftwaffe was compelled to divert its fighter strength away from the Eastern front to defend German air space.  This allowed the Red Air force the opportunity to gain critical air superiority on the Eastern front.  Source: The Second World War www.amzn.com/0316023744.  (See earlier post Antony Beevor's Second World War, 9/12/12)


RAF Bomber Command Memorial is on Piccadilly!
2)  The Bombing was tremendously popular on the home front.  Allied bombers were the principal means the Western Allies had to strike back against Hitler who had earlier ordered Luftwaffe bombing campaigns against cities such as Warsaw, Rotterdam, London, Coventry, Liverpool, etc.

3)  The Allied Bomber offensive was the Allies best answer to Stalin's demands to opening up a second front in the West.  A premature assault on France in 1942 or 1943, as Stalin called for repeatedly, might have well have led to disaster for the Allied cause.

4)  The Bombing campaign, while lacking pinpoint precision, did lay waste to German industry and force its inefficient redeployment and dispersal.  Specific targets were hit such as Peenemunde (site of V-2 rocket research) and RAF Mosquito bombers hit the Mohne, Edard and Sorpe dams (The Dambusters www.amzn.com/B000H1RFSM).  The French railways were devastated by Allied bombing prior to D-Day, making it difficult for the Wehrmacht to redeploy its forces against the Normandy beachhead.

5) Goering, head of the Luftwaffe, famously said, "When I saw Mustangs over Berlin. I knew the war was lost."

The Americans and British divided up bombing duties in order to bring "round the clock" devastation to Nazi Germany.  The Americans bombed Germany by day in their B-17s, B-24s and B-29s, while the RAF bombed at night in their four-engine Avro Lancasters.  The USAF 8th Army Air Force was based at Duxford (see earlier post, Duxford and...George Carlin, 4/30/12) near Cambridge.

Avro Lancaster Bomber
If a fighter was shot down, one pilot was likely to have been killed or, if lucky, captured.  If a bomber went down, about 10 crew members often died together.  Over 55,000 RAF Commonwealth crew members were killed in the course of the war.  Allied bomber crews (RAF and American) lost over 100,000 crewmen over Germany and the KIA rate for heavy bomber crews was a staggering 71%.  The heavy wool-lined jackets visible in the monument's figures remind us of the freezing temperatures and lack of pressurised cabins that these men had to endure as well.   
55,573 Commonwealth Airmen lost in World War II
On my recent trip to Belgium, I saw the graves of one RAF Lancaster crew that had crashed near Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge...

Lancaster Bomber Crew grave site in Belgium; Note Australian, New Zealand and British Crew
The Bomber Command memorial is easily found near the Green Park tube stop.  On the way, be sure to check out the Blitz damage that is visible on the wall of the Ritz Hotel facing the park...

Ritz Hotel facing Green Park, Note Blitz Damage, London
After a visit to the RAF Bomber Command Memorial, be sure to make a tissue-restoring stop at The Grenadier pub which is nearby on 18 Wilton Row in Belgravia.  Wellington's officers used it as a mess  during the Napoleonic era.  Try the Beef Wellington which is excellent!  Bloody Marys are a specialty.  They even have ghost!  Here is the link...http://www.pubs.com/main_site/pub_details.php?pub_id=101

Commander K. at The Grenadier Pub
Special Thanks to Chris Moran, Jeff Dody and Bill Funk.




You can now find Commander Kelly's first book, America Invades,  here www.americainvades.com or on Amazon www.amzn.com/1940598427