Thursday, December 27, 2012

Lawrence of Arabia


T.E. Lawrence, St. Paul's, London

The American Conservative tour of London continues with a requisite stop at St. Paul's Cathedral to pay our respects to T.E. Lawrence, known to most of the world as Lawrence of Arabia.  But you don't need to visit London or the desert or Arabia to get a sense of T.E. Lawrence -- all you really need is a DVD player or, better still, movie theatre!

50th Anniversary, 1962 - 2012
David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia is simply one of the most extraordinary films ever made on the topic of human armed conflict.  This film was released in 1962 and was awarded seven Oscar awards including best Director and Best Picture.

The picture begins with Lawrence's senseless and premature death on a motorbike and then moves to his burial at St. Paul's in London (see above).  Here a visitor to London will find a bust (he was buried in Moreton Cemetery, Dorset) along with those of other champions of human liberty -- The Duke of Wellington and Lord Horatio Nelson (see earlier post, Horatio Nelson -- Champion of Liberty, http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/horatio-nelson-champion-of-liberty.html) to name but two.

T.E. Lawrence was an Oxford-educated archaeologist (an assistant at the British Museum's excavation of Carchemish on the Euphrates) who was living in the Middle East at the outbreak of the First World War.  He joined British intelligence and served in the Arab division. The Allies were frustrated by the appalling slaughter that was taking place in the trenches of the Western front.  Millions of lives were lost for the sake of mere yards of territory.  The Allies longed to come up with some kind a flanking strategy that could lead to victory.

The decrepit Ottoman Empire ("the sick man of Europe") had allied itself with the Central Powers (Austria and Germany).  Winston Churchill, who was the head of the Admiralty at the start of the Great War, won support for the Dardanelles campaign which attempted to knock the Turks out of the war.  The French and British landings at Gallipoli proved to be a disaster and Churchill was forced to resign.

The allies next strategic idea was to help stir up an Arab revolt against the Turks.  They needed someone who was fluent in Arabic, who could cultivate and influence the Arabs in aid of Allied strategic objectives.  They needed someone who could 'go native'.  They found their man...T.E. Lawrence.

Lawrence was a not merely a soldier, a master of espionage and a statesman -- he was a gifted poet.  He starts his famous Seven Pillars of Wisdom (www.amzn.com/1617201839) thus...

"Some of the evil of my tale may have been inherent in our circumstances,  For years we lived anyhow with one another in the naked desert, under the indifferent heaven. By day the hot sun fermented us; and we were dizzied by the beating wind.  At night we were stained by dew, and shamed into pettiness by the innumerable silences of stars.  We were a self-centered army without parade or gesture, devoted to freedom, the second of man's creeds, a purpose so ravenous that it devoured all out strength, a hope so transcendent that our earlier ambitions faded in its glare." 

The Classic poster
The film Lawrence of Arabia simply could not be made by today's filmmakers.  Steven Spielberg has estimated that his favorite film of all time would cost in the region of $285 million to produce today while the original production cost was $12 million.  This film is too well-written, it has no digital special effects, the pacing is sluggish by contemporary standards and it has no love interest (nor a single spoken female line).  It does feature a brilliantly costumed cast of thousands which included soldiers from the Royal Jordanian and Royal Moroccan armies.   The clean but brutal desert itself is a major character in the film along with Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, Claude Rains, Jack Hawkins and Alec Guinness.

Lawrence of Arabia was, in a sense, the First World War prequel to David Lean's Bridge on the River Kwai (see earlier post Bridge on the River Kwai, http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/bridge-over-river-kwai.html).  It portrays the sacrifice of youth and innocence in the ravenous maw of institutionalized industrial warfare.   It chronicles the outward ascent of Lawrence leading the Arabs to glorious victory over the Turks and his inner descent into near-madness and barbarism.  The boyish scholarly Lawrence of the film's opening scenes will be corrupted by war and sadistic torture into becoming a bloody-minded warrior who screams out, "No Prisoners!" in his final attack.  The tale of Lawrence mirrors one of the Great War's other warrior/writers -- Manfred Von Richthofen (see earlier post The Red Baron, http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/the-red-baron.html).  In his book Der Rote Kampflieger, Von Richthofen starts out taking his dog up for joy rides in his plane and ends as a cold-blooded killer of allied pilots before meeting his own untimely end.

The film's plot is a coming of age tale set in the Arabian desert.  The film is simply a meditation on the transforming power of warfare.  The purity of desert sand is mixed with the blood of hot youth.  Consider the eloquence and profound truth of Prince Feisal's (Alec Guinness) speech uttered to a retreating Lawrence from the film's conclusion: 

"We drive bargains. Old men's work.
Young men make wars, and the virtues
of war are the virtues of young men.
Courage and hope for the future.
Then old men make the peace.
And the vices of peace
are the vices of old men.
Mistrust and caution.
It must be so.             
What I owe you is beyond evaluation."

Commander Kelly says, "With so many films out there today that are a pure waste of time, why not take the time to see or revisit Lawrence of Arabia -- a timeless classic film made by a master craftsman with a stellar cast which continues to be reverberate to this day."

Dedicated to a great "American Invader" Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf, 1934 - 2012.






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



Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Fight Fiercely Harvard!

A "Veritas" about Harvard
You will not find in their Admissions brochure

Commander Kelly presents a Crimson Christmas cracker -- a World War II trivia question to stump your friends...

Question: Which Harvard graduate authorized the assassination of another Harvard man, which was duly executed in the course of World War II?

Answer: President Roosevelt (Harvard class of 1903) authorized the assassination of Admiral Yamamoto (graduate studies Harvard 1919-1921).  A Navy squadron of P-38 Lightnings made up the firing squad on April 18, 1943.  His corpse was later found in the jungle at the crash site with two 50 calibre wounds.



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Conspiracy Theories Old and New

Who made the salad?
Why so many anchovies?
I) Assassination of Julius Caesar. March 15 (Ides of March), 44 BC
Pretty well documented to be a plot by the Roman Senate.  Caesar was stabbed 23 times times by perhaps up to 60 individuals.  Brutus, Cassius and others implicated.  "I came, I saw, I bled to death on the Senate's cold marble floor."  This conspiracy started a civil war.  Will Shakespeare later purchases the stage and movie rights.  Highly unlikely for there to have been any direct CIA involvement, still a possible mafia connection though...?

"Hold my horse, Peanut!"
II) Lincoln assassination. April 14, 1865 (Good Friday)
There was a well-documented conspiracy, not only to kill Lincoln, but to decapitate the Union government  (see Manhunt: The 12 day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James Swanson, 2007 www.amzn.com/0060518502).  Lincoln was killed with a single shot pistol to the back of the head by the actor John Wilkes Booth while watching the play Our American Cousin at Ford's Theater.  Secretary of State Seward was stabbed  by co-conspirator Lewis Powell and nearly killed in his bed.  There was a plot to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson in his hotel room which miscarried.  Peanut, a young black man whose only crime was to have held John Wilkes Booth's horse in the alley near Ford's theatre, was convicted as an accomplice and went to jail. The unfortunate Dr. Samuel Mudd of Maryland ("Your name is Mudd!") who mended Booth's broken leg was convicted and sent to Devil's island.   This conspiracy ended a civil war.

Let's not forget the amazing series of dissimilarities between the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations.  Lincoln was a Republican, while JFK was a Democrat.  Lincoln wore a beard, while JFK was clean-shaven.  Lincoln was Protestant, while JFK was Catholic.  Lincoln led the Union during the Civil War, while JFK was a peacetime President, etc.  Mind-blowing stuff!

12/7/41 "A Day that will live in infamy."
III) Did FDR know about Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941? 

See earlier post, http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/fdr-in-london.html.

This just in!  A top secret recently released Freedom of Information Act cable reads as follows....

"November 20, 1941

My Dearest Eleanor,

It would really help my re-election chances if you would pay a visit to the island of Oahu this December.  I hear that the weather is lovely this time of year--much nicer than DC.  Regretfully, my darling, pressing affairs of state will prevent me from accompanying you...

Love,
Franklin"

"Mr. President, you can't say Dallas doesn't love you."
Nellie Connally
IV) JFK assassination.  November 22, 1963
The assassination of President Kennedy by a deranged communist fellow traveller and US Marine marksman who had spent time in the Soviet Union (Lee Harvey Oswald) has been a sore point for the left for many years.  Ruby's subsequent murder of Oswald deepened the mystery, but was wholly understandable on a human level.  In spite of all the books, movies and TV specials, the original Warren Commission report conclusion was very likely correct that Oswald was the lone killer of JFK.  He certainly had motive, means and opportunity.  Oswald did, however, visit the Cuban consulate in Mexico city prior to the assassination so perhaps we can look forward to a deathbed confession from Fidel before he reaches room temperature--though this would provide cold comfort for liberals...?

Oliver Stone on the Grassy Knoll with an editing machine...?
Both JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald were each reading an Ian Fleming James Bond novel the week before the assassination--just a coincidence?  James Bond...another suspect?

For a more complete look at JFK and his assassination see...http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/jfk-6th-floor-museum.html

God Bless America!
V) 9/11/01
Cooked up by Bush / Cheney in order to circumscribe our civil rights and increase the power of the federal government.  See Loose Change.  (Ok, Just kidding!)


Commander Kelly's first book, America Invades, is now available here...www.americainvades.com
and on Amazon...www.amzn.com/1940598427


An Adventure in 1914 is now shipping...www.anadventurein1914.com
Or on Amazon...www.amzn.com/0692767894


Don't Forget Italy Invades: How Italians Conquered the World...www.italyinvades.com

Also on Amazon...www.amzn.com/1940598729




Monday, December 10, 2012

FDR in London & Pearl Harbor

FDR, Did he know?

This past week marked the 71st anniversary of 12/7/1941 -- Pearl Harbor Day.  On that "day of infamy" the Imperial Japanese navy launched an attack on the largest American naval base in the Pacific sinking four battleships, destroying 188 aircraft and killing 2,402 Americans.

In David Niven's autobiography The Moon is a Balloon (see earlier post of the same title,11/26/12, www.amzn.com/0140239243) he relates an interesting exchange he had with Winston Churchill in the autumn of 1941...

"Churchill bade me take another walk in the walled garden.  Things were looking grim -- the war in the desert was at its lowest ebb with Rommel snapping a the gates of Alexandria and after their spectacular success in Crete, the possibility of an enemy airborne invasion of the UK had now superseded the threat of a conventional one.  Food was getting more and more scarce and a glance at the map sent cold shivers down one's back.

The whole of Europe was under German domination and in Russia, Von Runstedt had just captured 600,000 prisoners at Kiev and Von Bock another 600,000 at Vyazma...Leningrad was besieged and the road to Moscow appeared wide open.

'Do you think, sir,' I asked, 'that the Americans will ever come into the war?'

He fixed me with that rather intimidating gaze and unloosed the famous jaw-jutting bulldog growl.

'Mark my words -- something cataclysmic will occur!'

Four weeks later the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

Months later, when we were once more enjoying the delights of a short leave at Ditchley, I asked in the walled garden if the Prime Minister remembered what he had said so long ago.  His reply gave me goose pimples.

'Certainly I remember.'

'What made you say it, sir?'

'Because, young man, I study history.'"  Source: The Moon is a Balloon, 1971, David Niven (www.amzn.com/0140239243).

Bletchley Park had been working assiduously since the 1930's on breaking the Japanese codes, as were their counterparts (Magic) in America.   In 1937--four years before the pearl Harbor attack-- another student of history, General George S. Patton, who was based in Hawaii at the time, had written "a paper entitled "Surprise," which leading Patton biographer Carlo D'Este called a chillingly accurate prediction of a Japanese attack on Hawaii."  In his report Patton wrote, "The unheralded arrival during a period of profound peace of a Japanese expeditionary force within 200 miles of Oahu during darkness; this force to be preceded by submarines who will be in the immediate vicinity of Pearl Harbor...An air attack by navy fighters and carrier borne bombers on air stations and the submarine base using either gas or incendiary bombs."
 (Patton: A Genius for War, Carlo D'Este, 1995, www.amzn.com/0060927623).

FDR, Commander K. and WSC, London
Did they know?
Did FDR and/or perhaps Churchill know in advance of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor?  An article by Justin Raimondo suggests that they did...http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2012/12/06/pearl-harbor-roosevelt-knew/.  The allegation that FDR knew about the impending attack and did nothing has been a hoary claim raised by many different political extremists.  John Birchers in the 1950's and 1960's who detested FDR on account of the New Deal, insisted that FDR had betrayed American interests at Yalta and knew of the Pearl Harbor attack in advance.  Leftists such as Gore Vidal have backed this claim as well.  Now the conspiracy theories are supported by Libertarian Paul-bots such as Justin Raimondo.

His article is largely based on the claims of Robert Stinnett's book from 2001 called Day of Deceit: The truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor  (www.amzn.com/0743201299).  Stinnett was a US Navy World War II veteran who argues that Roosevelt had foreknowledge of the Japanese attack.  Stinnett was a Oakland Tribune sports photo journalist.  He alleges that there were intercepted radio traffic that was decrypted by the allies prior to December 7.

His book's title Day of Deceit is nothing if not ironic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_of_Deceit).

The main problem with his theory is that the Imperial Japanese Fleet maintained strict radio silence on the voyage from Tokyo until it was within striking distance of Pearl Harbor.  This is confirmed by US AND Japanese sources.  It beggars belief to suppose that after the war the ghost of FDR was somehow able to manipulate the Japanese naval archives to cover up his alleged foreknowledge of he Pearl Harbor attack.

Judith Greer's review of Stinnett's book Dive Bombing FDR in Salon provides a more balanced take...http://www.salon.com/2001/06/14/fdr/  In her article she quotes CIA historian Donald Steury who suggests that Stinnett "concocted this theory pretty much from whole cloth. Those who have been able to check his alleged sources also are unanimous in their condemnation of his methodology. Basically, the author has made up his sources; when he does not make up the source, he lies about what the source says".

Retired historian and cryptographic specialist Robert J. Hanyok wrote in 2008 in the Naval War college review, "The attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet by the aircraft of the Japanese Striking
Force (Kido Butai) at Pearl Harbor on the morning of 7 December 1941 was
a total surprise to the American commands in Hawaii and Washington (Commander Kelly's italics)."  http://www.usnwc.edu/getattachment/218c27dc-ad99-40a4-8d1e-03bee0db32e3/-Catching-the-Fox-Unaware---Japanese-Radio-Denial-.  Hanyok writes that, "On 5 November, Admiral Yamamoto issued Combined Fleet Secret Order 1, of which section 4 stipulated that the Striking Force, in accordance with instructions to be detailed by its commander, would maintain strict radio silence from the time of departure from the Inland Sea.  Admiral Nagumo reiterated these instructions, adding only the simple stricture “All transmissions of messages are strictly forbidden.”

Hanyok concludes, "In the weeks leading to 7 December, all levels of American naval intelligence unanimously reported to their seniors that the main Japanese carrier
forces were at their bases in Japan."  A meeting between Cordell Hull and War Secretary Henry Stimson just three hours before the Pearl Harbor attack, confirmed the American belief that the main IJN carriers were in Japanese home waters.

Stinnett also cites the McCollum memorandum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McCollum_memo) as evidence that FDR deliberately provoked Japan into attacking the United States.  He does this in spite of the fact that there is no evidence that FDR ever saw the Memorandum or ever met Lieutenant Commander McCollum.   Moreover, this ignores the context in which US foreign policy was conducted.  The US oil embargo and other measures taken towards Japan were, after all, taken in response to Japan's prosecution of a brutal war of conquest against China.  An estimated 250,000 to 300,000 Chinese were butchered during the Rape of Nanking in 1937.  Japan had also aggressively exploited the fall of France to Hitler in 1940 by occupying the French colony of Vietnam.

America's measured response to Japanese aggression drew Japan fatally away from what could have proven to be a war winning strategy in World War II.  Imperial Japan should have negotiated a peace with China and prepared a coordinated strike against its logical ideological enemy -- Stalin's Soviet Union.  Had they coordinated their strategy with Hitler's Barbarossa attack in 1941, the Russian port of Vladivostok would have been quickly over-run and the oil resources of Sakhalin island would have been seized.  The Siberian divisions that confronted the Germans in December of 1941 would not have been available to defend Moscow.  The Soviet Union would have been crushed in a vast strategic pincer movement.  Instead they turned disastrously against the USA.

The "FDR Knew in advance" crowd has always had a faint air of racism behind it --"the Japanese could possibly have pulled off operational and strategic surprise simultaneously against the Dutch, British and Americans, could they?"  This is reminiscent of the way that American's reacted with disbelief to the news of Custer's massacre at Little Big Horn on June 25, 1876 -- only treachery could explain the defeat of whites at the hands of "savages".  Custer's chief mistakes--poor intelligence and an underestimation of the potential enemy--were in play before Pearl Harbor as well.

Why is it that, in spite of mountains of evidence and the counter-testimony of so many respected historians (Andrew Roberts, Anthony Beevor, and John Keegan, to name a few), many people still prefer to subscribe to conspiracy theories such as the "FDR knew in advance" theory?  Mainstream military historians are summarily dismissed as being "court historians".  It flatters the amour propre of these conspiracy theorists to suppose that they have secret knowledge while other poor slobs are in the dark.

Commander K. and FDR, Grosvenor Square, London
To argue that FDR did not have foreknowledge of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is not, of course, to imply that FDR had a perfect wartime record as a Commander-in-Chief.  He had a mixed record as C in C during World War II.  On the positive side, he provided inspirational morale boosts to millions of Americans with his 'fireside chats" during the war.  To his credit he hired "Big Bill" Knudsen from General Motors recognizing the need to engage American business in gearing up war production (see earlier post Freedom's Forge, 8/10/12).  FDR also showed vision in reaching across the aisle to recruit capable Republicans such as Henry Stimson his War Secretary and Governor Winant his Ambassador to the Court of St. James (replacing the disastrous Joseph Kennedy).  Andrew Roberts in his book Masters and Commanders: How Four Titans won the War in the West (www.amzn.com/0061228583) points out that FDR, almost alone among Allied leaders in recognizing the possibility of Hitler's desperate Battle of the Bulge counter-offensive before it occurred.

On the other hand, FDR advocated cross channel invasions in 1942 and 1942 that would very likely have been disastrous for the Allies.  Fortunately, he lost those arguments to Churchill and the British General staff.  He was excessively paranoid about DeGaulle, Churchill and the British Empire, but insufficiently paranoid about Stalin.

FDR may have been vain, arrogant and a faithless husband, but he did lead the USA to victory against the greatest tyranny in the history of mankind.  Let's also not forget that he also serves credit for eliminating Prohibition.  FDR’s favorite drink was a cocktail he called a “Haitian Libation”: rum, brown sugar, egg whites and orange juice.  He also enjoyed mixing martinis for friends.

Commander Kelly say, "Raise a glass to toast FDR this December!  If you get a chance visit the wreck of the USS Arizona in Hawaii which continues to "weep" its 'tears" of oil every day over seventy years on.  Remember Pearl Harbor and all who served!*"


* Historian Steven M. Gillon in his recent book Pearl Harbor: FDR Leads the Nation into War, 2011 (www.amzn.com/046503179X) writes, "The 'back door' theory, like most conspiracy theories, fails the test of logic.  It assumes that the President of the United States, along with Secretary of State Cordell Hull, Secretary of War Henry Stimson, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, Army Chief of Staff George Marshall, an Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Harold Stark, knowingly risked the lives of thousands of servicemen in pursuit of a policy option that could easily have been achieved by other, less costly means.  Roosevelt did not need to sacrifice his Pacific Fleet to inflame public opinion.  the nation would have been aroused to fight had the commanders been fully prepared and the damage less extensive.  Also, it was by no means clear that the Japanese attack on an American military base in Hawaii would have allowed FDR to lead the nation into the European war.  Had Hitler not declared war on the United States, FDR would likely have been forced to focus all of America's resources on defeating Japan, leaving Britain to fend for itself against Germany.  Although if defies the rules of common sense and lacks evidence, the 'back door' theory refuses to go away."


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


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Antonio Mendez' Argo and Iran today



"Argo F__k Yourself!"

Many will be familiar with Ben Affleck's portrayal of the Canadian Caper in his film Argo (see earlier post, Argo, Art and the need for Camouflage,) but fewer will read Antonio Mendez account in his book Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled off the most Audacious Rescue in History (Antonio Mendez and Matt Baglio, 2012, www.amzn.com/0670026220).   This is a pity as the book contains some significant insights which are highly relevant given the current tensions between Iran and the West.  Mendez was a master of deception who formulated the plan and led 6 Americans out of Iran from the Canadian Ambassador's residence in January of 1980 under the noses of the Iranian Revolutionary guard.  The Americans' fabricated cover story was that they were a Canadian film crew scouting locations for a science fiction film called Argo.  Mendez in attempting to authenticate the back story had even leased Hollywood production facilities and taken out ads in Variety for his bogus film.

Right off the bat, Mendez disabuses us of the notion that intelligence is a science rather than being a black art.  Mendez writes, "As late as August of 1978, a National Intelligence Estimate famously reported that Iran was not in a "revolutionary or even a pre-revolutionary situation."  As to how we at the CIA and the White House could have been so wildly off the mark, there is no easy answer.  The Shah had maintained a iron grip on his country for nearly twenty-five years, and the common wisdom was that despite the unrest he could weather the storm,  After the fact, it was revealed that many in Washington had assumed the Shah would use any force necessary to save his regime, and they were baffled when he failed to do so.  Even the US ambassador to Iran at the time, Bill Sullivan, believed the Shah's government would survive, by the time he changed his tune, on November 9, 1978, there was little that could be done.  Throughout the struggles of 1978, there was no clear strategy for meeting with the opposition groups, partly because of the fear that it might undermine the Shah's regime. In the end, though, perhaps the biggest reason for the intelligence failure was that that the U.S. government had invested too much importance  in the person of the Shah and not enough in the people of Iran." (Commander Kelly's italics).

Prior to the Canadian Caper, Mendez led an exfiltration operation in Teheran that helped RAPTOR, a Colonel and member of the Shah's government, to escape from that country.  His subsequent exfiltration of the six Americans was not nearly as dramatic as portrayed in the film -- there was no visit to the Bazaar, no interrogation at the departure gate and no frantic chase on the tarmac.  Mendez and the Americans had more more prosaic challenges to surmount such as creating appropriate documentation and sweating out a one hour delay of the Swiss airlines jet due to mechanical difficulties.

President Jimmy Carter met with Mendez for about five minutes after his return to Washington DC.  Mendez was promoted to the equivalent of full Colonel rank in the CIA.

In writing his book he has maintained the circumspection and caution you would expect from a professional agent.  He identifies the Hollywood make-up artist who assisted his efforts (played by John Goodman in the film) only by his cover name of Jerome Calloway, though his real name was John Chambers.  Chambers' other great claim to fame was the invention of Spock's Vulcan ears on the television series Star Trek!

In spite of RAPTOR's warnings, Jimmy Carter launched the doomed Eagle Claw mission that killed six American servicemen in the desert and never reached the hostages that were being held in the US Embassy.  "On January 21, 1981 the fifty-two remaining American hostages were finally released.  Jimmy Carter flew to Germany to meet with them personally, but by this time the damage to his political career was irreversible.  His failure to resolve the crisis caused him to be seen as a weak and ineffective leader, and Ronald Reagan had easily defeated him in the 1980 presidential election.  Rubbing salt into the would, the Iranian had chosen the date of Reagan's inauguration as the day they would hand over the hostages."  Mendez is exceedingly generous to his old boss, Carter, and does not seem to acknowledge the possibility that the Iranians genuinely feared what "that cowboy from California" might do as President.

In 1997 Mendez was publicly recognized as the mastermind  behind the Canadian Caper and nominated as one of the fifty top officers in the agency's 50 year history up to that time.

Iran today is embarked on an ambitious program to develop nuclear weapons.  The are led by Ahmadinejad who denies that the Holocaust took place, insists that there are no gays in Iran and routinely threatens Israel with annihilation.  The centrifuges continue to spin in Iran (see earlier post, Iran 3/24/12).

Antonio Mendez American Hero
Mendez comments, "Iran today is considered a hot spot, one where the next international crisis may well be brewing.  The country's insistence on pursuing a nuclear capability has put it near the top of the list of rogue sates and earned it a series of international sanctions by the rest of world.  And Iran's capricious foreign policy relationship with Israel is much like a low grade fever that could spike at any time.

Following the Arab Spring in 2011, which saw turmoil across the region, I was reminded that Iranians are not Arabs.  They are Persians, a difference race with a different history.  On June 12, 2009, supporters of the opposition party candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi took to the streets of Teheran en masse in what has come to be known as the Green Revolution.  their aim was to protest the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadineejad.  Turnout was incredibly high and many Iranians suspected that Ahmadinejad had rigged the election.  In a scene eerily reminiscent of the violence that rocked the nation in 1978, protesters clashed with riot police and were met with tear gas.  In the ensuing struggle, nearly forty Iranians were killed.  This was followed up in February 2011 with what is commonly referred to as the Day of Rage, when loyalists of the rival candidate, Mousavi, decided to hold a rally in support of the recent Arab Spring.  But the spark was quickly extinguished by the mullahs and the heavy hand of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in a bloody crackdown.  Several demonstrators were beaten and arrested and the young activists retreated, perhaps to protest another day.

As an intelligence officer I am not confident that our old rules of engagement will work any longer.  It is difficult to negotiate with an adversary who does not want to come to the table.  And it is impossible to find common ground with another government that does not respect the rules of international diplomacy.  When the rules of governance flow only from the religious tracts of Islam, there is little room for agreement or compromise.  The best that our intelligence community can hope for is to keep a watchful eye on the mullahs and the Iranian government and to try to forestall any serious mischief they may be planning.  A daunting task to say the least."  Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled off the most Audacious Rescue in History (Antonio Mendez and Matt Baglio, 2012, www.amzn.com/0670026220)

Commander Kelly says, "Thanks for your gallant and supremely creative service Antonio Mendez, thanks also to your many un-recognized and unheralded comrades at the CIA. God Bless all those in Iran who long for peace, justice and an escape from the darkness under which they now live."


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




Saturday, December 8, 2012

Merry Christmas and Peace on Earth!

This is my Christmas card for ALL my readers--those who agree and especially those who don't!

Thanks to all my readers.  Thanks also for those who comment, join the site and share the blog with others!

Commander Kelly hopes for "Peace on Earth!"



God Bless and keep safe all those who serve the cause of human Freedom.

Two Special shout outs from the video:  1) For those incognito dancers from Damascus, Syria -- May 2013 bring some relief from your immense suffering and some measure of peace and...

2) For those serving the cause of peace and freedom aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln--I was fortunate to see this ship starting a "Tiger Cruise" (with family members) in Honolulu in the spring of 2011.

  Keep Dancing!

Special Thanks Matt Harding from Seattle/WA!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Argo, Art and the need for Camouflage

"Argo F__k Yourself!"
Nicholas Rankin in his book Churchill's Wizards: The British Genius for Deception 1914 -1945 tells us that "The word 'camouflage' itself is French, and was said by Eric Partridge to derive from Parisian slang verb 'camoufler' meaning 'to disguise', or perhaps from the Italian camuffare, derived from 'capo muffare', 'to muffle the head'.  'Camouflage' entered the English language during WWI, and the Oxford English Dictionary's first example of published usage is from the Daily Mail in May 1917: 'The act of hiding anything from your enemy is termed 'camouflage'".
English Skills
Gerald Thayer "published a groundbreaking book, Concealing-Coloration in the Animal Kingdom, an exposition of the Laws of Disguise through Color and Pattern...'The disguising patterns worn by animals are, in the best sense of the word, triumphs of art."

Rankin continues, "Picasso, who once defined cubism as not painting what you see but what you know to be there, recognized camouflage as his bastard child.  Gertrude Stein recalled being with Picasso on the Boulevard Raspail in Paris one night in 1915 when one of the first camouflage-painted heavy artillery pieces was hauled past them.  Picasso looked amazed at the canon with its blocks of disruptive pattern and then cried out, 'C'est nous qui avons fait ca!' ("We invented that!)."

The Royal Academy artist S.J.Solomon wrote this letter to The Times on January 27, 1915...

"Sir, -- the protection afforded animate creatures by Nature's gift of color assimilation to their environment might provide a lesson to those who equip an army; seeing that invisibility is an essential in modern strategy.  To be invisible to the enemy is to be non-existent for him.  Our attempts in this direction might well be a little more scientific.  A knowledge of light and shade and its effect on the landscape is a necessary aid to the imagination of a design of the uniform in particular, and the appurtenances of war in general."

Source all quotes: Churchill's Wizards: The British Genius for Deception 1914 -1945, 2008, Nicholas Rankin  (www.amzn.com/0571221963).

S.J. Solomon later volunteered to assist the British armed forces in their camouflage efforts in WWI.

Rankin makes the point that the art of deception carried on by camouflage artists and various espionage services was an essential part of British victory in two World Wars (see earlier post, Double Cross: the D-Day Spies, 7/1/12).

The role of artistic camouflage was equally central to Ben Affleck's film Argo and the history on which it was based.  Argo is based on the true story of the rescue of six American hostages from the Canadian ambassador's residence in Tehran during the Iranian hostage crisis of the later Carter years.  The central character, portrayed by Ben Affleck, is Tony Mendez, a CIA operative who helped to exfiltrate six Americans from Iran by posing as a film crew scouting out locations for a cheesy science fiction movie called Argo.  Art imitates life, imitating art all for the sake of life.  The heroic and indispensable role of Ambassador Ken Taylor and the Canadians is duly saluted.  The courage of the Canadian Ambassador's Iranian housekeeper, Sahar, provides a welcome counterpoint to the hysterical fervor of the Iranians caught up in their Islamic revolution.  Sahar's role, played by Sheila Vand, is suggestive of millions of Iranians longing for peace and real reform in their benighted country today.

Confronted by the challenge of how to come up with a credible plan to extract six Americans from Iran under the noses of the Iranian Revolutionary guard during the height of the hostage crisis, Tony Mendez turned to an acknowledged expert in camouflage -- Hollywood make-up and design artist John Chambers (1923 -2001). Mendez engaged the Hollywood professional Chambers, played by John Goodman in this film, who created special visual effects for The Outer Limits and Star Trek television series.  John Chambers was  a master of illusion who won the first Oscar ever awarded to a make-up artist for his work on Planet of the Apes.  After serving as a medical technician during World War II, Chambers found employment repairing faces and making prosthetic limbs for wounded veterans at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Hines, Illinois.  Chambers, like S.J. Solomon in WWI, made a study of nature in order to perfect his artistic craft.

Affleck's movie is "based on true events" but is a work of historic fiction rather than a documentary.  The tarmac chase scene, the tense moments at the airport and the bazaar sequence were all Hollywood additions designed to add dramatic interest to the film--and they succeed.  The Lester Siegel character, played with panache by Alan Arkin, is a fictional character invented wholly invented for the film.

Mendez chose to deploy a strategy of  high-difference, dazzle camouflage that is explicitly NOT about invisibility.  It was about disruption and confusion.  His American hostages would not try to fit in, but rather to be so outlandish that the Iranians would accept the premise of those crazy Canadian/Hollywood types trying to rip off a new Star Wars Persian-style.  If you want to baffle them with bulls__t, then Hollywood is always your very best option.  The Revolutionary Guards' heads are indeed muffled by illusion.

Actors are routinely asked to deceive the public with makeup, costumes and special effects for the purpose of selling tickets or filling seats in a theater.  These are the tricks of the trade.  What an unadulterated joy it is for the Chapman and Siegel characters to have an opportunity to practice their art on the side of the angels in the service of human liberty!

Argo also depicts multiple cultural collisions on several different levels.  America's open democratic society is contrasted with the closed fear-based society of the Ayatollahs' Iran, but the film also features the collision of the buttoned-up CIA and loose-living Hollywood and the collision of the public/political domain with the private world of children and families.

Commander Kelly says, "Argo works as a taut well-crafted caper movie.  It is exciting to see those unsung heroes in the shadow world of intelligence receiving some of the recognition that they so richly deserve and to see how the artistry of movie magic or camouflage can sometimes be used for a noble cause.  The MGM slogan was Ars Gratia Artis --"Art for Art's Sake", in Argo we see "Art for Man's sake".


Special thanks also to my friend Scott Cummins for this link which includes a discussion of dazzle camouflage...http://99percentinvisible.org/post/35069606750/episode-65-razzle-dazzle





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


The Joy of Hate

Gutfeld's Latest
Greg Gutfeld, the host of Fox's Red Eye and The Five, has just published a new book with the provocative title The Joy of Hate: How to Triumph over Whiners in the Age of Phony Outrage (www.amzn.com/0307986969).  Gutfeld is upset in a very funny way at the political correctness enforcers of our time.  Gutfeld documents the aggrieved whiners in our midst.  He is a Conservative Holden Caufield denouncing the phonies of our world and exposing their blatant hypocrisy.

He opens his book with "You know what really pisses me off?  People who are always pissed off.  Or pretend to be pissed off.  We've created a new, frantic world of the enraged, the phony grievance, the manufactured outrage.  If you make fun of something or say something truthful, someone, somewhere will be unhappy."

I must confess that Gutfeld and I have a few things in common.  We are both Californians who attended the University of California at Berkeley where we both debated the loonies on Sproul plaza.  "When I came face-to-face with the "believers," I realized that they lacked one thing that made life enjoyable: they couldn't take a joke."  We both fell under beguiling influence of Bob Tyrell's The American Spectator (www.spectator.org).  Gutfeld worked for that magazine out of college and then for other magazines including Men's Fitness and the UK version of Maxim; I spent many years in the television industry.  We both lived for several years as expats in the UK and I still do.

Gutfeld writes, "When I first heard "military-industrial complex." I thought it was the coolest thing.  How could that be seen as wrong?  A country that prides itself on both the military and its industry has to be awesome.  Somehow, we went from having a military-industrial complex to having a complex about our military and industry."  The MIC is of course the only thing from Eisenhower that liberals ever choose to remember.  It was, of course, the MIC that won World War II and the Cold War (see my earlier posts  Corporations won World War II ,8/19/12 and Corporation won the Cold War 8/29/12).  Have you hugged a Corporation lately?

Gutfeld has strongly libertarian sympathies.  He supports, for example gay marriage AND second amendment rights.  He argues that, "Guns, oddly enough, are the biggest force for real tolerance.  If you're a gay cross-dressing cowboy who likes to smoke jazz cigarettes (nothing but the most up-to-date references here, folks) in the privacy of your ranch, a shotgun will protect you from anyone who might find any one of those descriptors objectionable.  A gun lets your freak flag fly--provided you don't use that flag to stab to stab someone in the face at a strip mall."

He also gained a certain notoriety for responding to the proposed Mosque near ground zero (Commander Kelly notes that there is no Shinto shrine near the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor--the Japanese do not spike the ball in their opponent's end zone) with a suggestion of his own -- build a gay Muslim bar right next door (see video below).  His tentative title for the business, culled from many interesting suggestions, was 'Suspicious Packages.'  "I was trying to show that if the Muslim faith were truly tolerant, then they would welcome a gay bar.  But the point doesn't need to be made clearer -- we know they wouldn't -- for they hate gays.  In some countries they kill them. What I wanted to accomplish, I did: I revealed the fundamental hypocrisy of their "tolerance" defence."

Gutfeld skewers the mainstream media for their portrayal of anyone who sympathizes with the Tea Party or questioned the wisdom of Obama's health care overhaul.  Anyone who doubted Obama-care had to be a racist!  Alternatively anyone who supported the Occupy Wall Street movement was on the side of truth and justice, regardless of how many city parks they polluted, how many crimes (including rape, assault and even murder) were committed by their stalwarts.  The so-called "tolerant" media can't stand it when their biases are being challenged; as Gutfeld points out the media are like Madge in the old Palmolive ads, simply soaking in their own bias.

"Faux news" or "Fair and Balanced"?
Liberals are virtually unanimous (with the exception of many who actually work there) in their condemnation of Fox News.  They refer to it as "Faux news" in their dismissive t-shirts.  Gutfeld has this to say about his employer, "The network where I work is evil, or so I am told by people who don't watch it.  Which is why my employer is the only media enterprise exempt from the warm hug of tolerance.  A half dozen media groups are devoted to tripping it up.  Endless comedians, bloggers, and talking heads devote most of their mental energies to demonizing the network.  And why?  Because out of a media culture that is purely liberal --from newspapers, to networks, to music and entertainment--one entity rejects such easy assumptions about the world.  And for the modern tolerant liberal, that simply cannot be tolerated.  Everyone must be in lockstep--before we can disagree, apparently."

"Where is this feverish anti-war movement now that Obama got into power.  Obama has killed more terrorists than anyone in recent memory (God bless him for that), and you don't hear much of a peep from anyone other than Michael Moore (who even Karl Marx would have termed a commie pinko).  Gitmo is still open doing more business than your local Hampton Inn, but that ceases to be an issue now that their guy is in office.  Remember, Gitmo was the albatross around Bush's neck--now its the puka shells around Obama's neck (a shout-out to his tiny island nation, Hawaii).  As of this writing, we're still losing troops in Afghanistan, for purposes ever more attenuated from our original mission there.  Where's the outrage?  The 'not in our name' marches?  The judging on Dancing with the Stars gets more scrutiny."

Even the disastrous financial debacle of 2008 was attributable in part to a misguided worship of overly permissive attitudes.  Gutfeld writes, "people blame the banks and Wall Street for bundling high-risk loans and selling them like poisoned pancakes, nut those loans had to be approved for a reason.  and the reason, was...wait of it..tolerance!"

Right now Fannie May and Freddie Mac have all but stopped encouraging loans to high-risk individual.  This is all but an admission that their earlier practises were what caused this mess.  It's like when I stop ordering takeout from the same place after three solid days of diarrhea.  I see the link and make the connection.  Those lending practices --making it really easy for high-risk borrowers to buy homes they couldn't afford--arose from a fear of looking mean and heartless."

Gutfeld has taken up the mantle of P.J. O'Rourke's spirited defence of individual liberty (who was influenced by H.L. Mencken -- see earlier post, The Sage of Baltimore,.2/29/12) in the face of a humorless tide of political correctness.  He is passionate in his convictions, but never a scold.  You may not always agree with him, but Gutfeld disproves the stereotype that Conservatives must be prudish and judgemental bores.  He is the new clown prince of Conservatism.  After Obama's re-election we Conservatives may now be facing some "wilderness years" (see earlier post Happy Birthday Winston Churchill, 11/30/12), but that doesn't mean that we can't tell tall tales by the campfire, cook up some S'mores, keep warm in our jackets from Altrec (www.altrec.com) and have some fun while we offer up our constructive criticism of the imbecilities of the current administration.

Commander Kelly says, "What could be more appropriate this holiday season than to give The Joy of Hate as a gift to any of the Conservatives on your shopping list!  May all your intolerance be joyful like Gutfeld's!"



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



Sunday, December 2, 2012

San Miniato -- Home of the Bonapartes

Commander K. at San Francesco Church, San Miniato
Buonaparte Family Church
The Napoleonic Empire could, with apologies to Frances Mayes, also be referred to as "Europe Under the Tuscan Son."  See my earlier post Napoleon: Son of Tuscany 11/29/12.

Piazza Buonaparte, San Miniato
A beautiful medieval town in Tuscany called San Miniato (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Miniato) is the ancestral home of the Bonapartes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Bonaparte).  This town, also known as San Miniato al Tedesco (not to be confused with San Miniato al Monte), lies between Florence and Pisa in the Province of Pisa in Tuscany.  The Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II who had a tower constructed here in the 13th century.  Control of the town was contested during the Renaissance period by Florence and Sienna.

Commander K. at the Cafe Bonaparte, San Miniato, Italy
In 1796 Napoleon Bonaparte visited the town paying respects to his elderly uncle, the canon Filippo Buonaparte (http://www.napoleonsites.eu/en/default/563/the-buonaparte-family-in-san-miniato.html).

Plaque commemorating Napoleon's visit in 1796, San Miniato
Today's San Miniato features a Piazza Bonaparte and a Cafe Bonaparte (see above).   Jacopo Buonaparte was a friend and advisor to Medici Pope Clement VII in the 16th century.

Jacopo Buonaparte Memorial, San Miniato Cathedral
The Church of San Francesco was the ancestral burial place for the Bonaparte family.

Nicholas de Bonaparte memorial, San Francesco, San Miniato
You will find the Bonaparte family crest above the lintels of some of the homes in the streets of San Miniato...

Bonaparte Family Crest, San Miniato
You can climb the reconstruction of Frederick's tower (rebuilt in 1958 after the original was destroyed by the German Army in World War II) which gives one splendid views of the surrounding valleys.  My son and I climbed the 192 meter tower.

View from Frederick's Tower, San Miniato
Three weekends in November they celebrate a white truffle festival in San Miniato.  We were there on a Friday and missed the festival but we managed to find a delicious plate of truffle pasta at a local restaurant -- Pepe Nero (http://www.pepenerocucina.it/).




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