Saturday, December 6, 2008

Visiting Bhutan


The real King with his Army Chief of Staff and his Minister for Finance & Parking


My brother on his visit to Bhutan poses for a photo with the newly crowned King and his General. Or... perhaps it is his vivd imagination (with a little help from Photoshop) posing with the King. In this day and age one can never be too sure. As Obi wan Kenobi advised young Luke Skywalker, "Your eyes can deceive you - don't trust them."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Why History Matters

Why History Matters

The news of late has been full of Nazis and torture. Perhaps this is fitting; the two do seem to go together so well.

First there was retired Wisconsin farmer and former member of the Waffen-SS Ted Junker who built a museum to set the record straight about what a good guy Adolf Hitler was. Junker, who volunteered for the Waffen-SS in 1940, says he never made any attempt to hide his former membership, unlike Nobel Laurite Gunter Grass who recently revealed to a stunned world his former membership in the Waffen-SS. Some saw the timing of his admission as a ploy to drum up sales for his latest book while others viewed it as a ‘spiritual house cleaning,’ something we will all face as we near the end. Grass claims that he did nothing in violation of the Geneva Conventions, which is a far cry from what long time San Francisco resident Elfriede Lina Rinkel can claim. Late last year we discovered that Mrs. Rinkel too had been a member of the Waffen-SS, serving as a guard and dog handler at the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. Unlike Grass, who was drafted into the Waffen-SS in 1944, she had volunteered. Seems the pay of a dog handler was much better than that of a factory worker. However, unlike Junker, she did hide her former membership, even from her Jewish husband who, from all reports, she loved very much. Perhaps Rinkel thought a lifetime of love and devotion might make amends for the follies of her youth. Certainly Grass thought his writing would do so. As for Junker, it is difficult to know just what he was thinking.1
Currently there is a national debate concerning the reinterpretation of the Geneva Conventions, the use of torture as a matter of national policy and the labeling, by the Bush administration, as Nazi appeasers anyone who questions either the administration’s goals or methods in the “War on Terror.”

As symbols of evil the Nazis still hold first place, but the Bush administration would like very much to replace the Nazis at number one with the current crop of religious fanatics whom they have conveniently, if confusingly, dubbed “Islamo-fascists.”

Calling someone a “Nazi” seems to be the argument of last resort for the less articulate on both the Left and the Right. Doing so is like dropping a Neutron bomb – how do you counter a charge like that? It is somewhat akin to that old conversation stopper, “So tell us, when did you stop beating your wife?”

Bush Sr. began the current “They’re worse than the Nazis.” trend when he said Saddam was a tyrant as evil as Hitler. However, the first Gulf War revealed Saddam to have more in common with Mussolini than with Hitler. Saddam, despite Bush Administration rhetoric to the contrary, was no Hitler and his Republican Guard was not the Waffen-SS.2 Besides, if in fact Saddam was as evil as Hitler then why did we leave him in power at the end of the first Gulf War? Would the Allies have done the same with Hitler in 1945?

Such logic, however, seems lost on the current administration of Bush the younger which has returned to the Nazi rhetoric with a vengeance.

In the past few weeks we have been treated to speeches by several administration officers and a host of their media flaks, essentially accusing anyone who questions the administration aims or conduct in the “Global War On Terror” of being appeasers of the Nazis. Again they hope to cement in our minds the idea that as the Nazis were to our parent’s generation so the Islamo-fascists are to our own. This conflation has now taken an even more ominous turn with regards to the use of torture to gain not only “actionable” intelligence but also evidence to be used in the impending trials of the detainees.

From the very beginning of “The War On Terror” the Bush administration has sought to operate outside of or to otherwise ignore the Geneva Conventions. In a now famous memo concerning the treatment of prisoners taken in “The War On Terror” Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, then White House counsel, called the Geneva Conventions “quaint.”3 As Bush has so often said, “the world changed on 9/11” and to his way of thinking this included the way we deal with prisoners taken in Afghanistan, Iraqi, or anywhere in the world including US citizens within the borders of the US.

This new kind of war requires new terminology and new techniques: We do not capture prisoners of war but “Illegal Enemy Combatants” and we do not torture them, but rather use “Alternative Interrogation Techniques.” War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. With every passing day George Orwell becomes less of a prophet and more of an historian of our future.

Yet it is precisely historians who we should be consulting, for we have been down this road before. Despite the recent compromise between the President and dissident Republican Senators to safeguard the “…letter and the spirit of the Geneva Conventions.”4 the new law on interrogation still allows for the use at trial of evidence obtained by coercion (which can include torture as most reasonable people would define it). The administration insists it needs this law in order to bring to trial the people responsible for the 9/11 attacks and other acts of terror. Ironically, we used this same approach in 1946 at the Malmedy Massacre trial to disastrous results. 73 former members of the Waffen-SS were found guilty of murdering American POW’s. Reportedly some of them even laughed as they killed the wounded GI’s on that cold December day, and yet despite 42 death sentences not a single execution was carried out. The SS men escaped the hangman’s noose. How could this happen? The Bush Administration so fond of evoking the Nazis and World War II, has clearly not studied that war nor understood its lessons.


Dachau 1946

On May 16, 1946 the trial of 74 former members of the Waffen-SS began.5 Neither the prosecutor (LTC. Burton Ellis) nor the counsel for the defense (Col. Willis Everett) had any experience trying criminal cases, but this was not necessarily an impediment as the Military Tribunal before which the case would be tried did not resemble anything like an American civilian court nor even a normal US Army courts martial. Then again, this case was anything but normal.




Defense Counsel Col. Willis Everett (L) &
Prosecutor LTC. Burton Ellis


The defendants were accused of committing what was, as far as most Americans were concerned, the worst war crime perpetrated by the Waffen-SS: the murder of 84 American GI’s who moments before had surrendered to advancing German armored forces.6 Known as the Malmedy Massacre, the details of that day are still a matter of some contention. As might be expected, for every eyewitness, survivor and perpetrator, there is a different version of what happened and why.

The basic facts are these:

On December 16 the Germans launched their last major offensive in the west. Known as The Battle Of The Bulge, the initial attack took the Allies by surprise and quickly evolved into the largest battle in the history of the US Army. American casualties were heavy. Some units stood their ground or conducted fighting retreats while others simply ceased to exist. Entire battalions were overrun and taken captive or destroyed in detail. By the next day (December 17th) confusion reigned supreme as German armored forces, having broken through the front, by-passed American units in a headlong rush to reach the Meuse River as quickly as possible.

At about 1 pm on the 17th of December, Battery B of the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion was moving through what they thought was American held territory on their way to a new position when they ran headlong into the leading elements of Kampfgruppe Peiper, the armored spearhead of the 6th SS Panzer Army. The Germans caught the Americans by surprise and after a brief firefight (most accounts agree it lasted ten minutes or less) took the survivors prisoner, moving them into an open field next to the crossroads.

The kamfgruppe (battle group) commander, SS-Obersturnbannfuhrer Peiper now appeared at the crossroads with his command group. He ordered his lead element to resume their advance and following after them shouted out at the American POW’s “It’s a long way to Tipperary boys.”7 He was off to try and capture an American general rumored to be billeted in the next town. Peiper did not return to the crossroads.



Col. Jochin Peiper was the ideal SS officer: Handsome,

intelligent and ruthless in combat.

Video links to Peiper answering questions at the trial


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hlnO4dCNJw&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cv6VE3WmbFU&feature=related


By 2 pm the main body of the battle group, trying to catch up to their commander, was passing the crossroads and the field in which the 150 or so American POW’s stood. At this point details become less certain and no two versions seem to agree on all points.

Some accounts say the shooting began when SS-Sturmmann Georg Fleps took a couple of ‘pot shots’ at the POW’s, hitting one with his second round. A machinegun then opened fire followed by a general fusillade by all the Germans in the area. Some Americans were killed instantly, while others fell wounded and a very few, standing farthest from the road and the Germans, ran for their lives making good their escape.8



Survivor, Lt. Lary, identifies SS-Sturmmann Georg Fleps as the first shooter.


Almost as soon as it had started the shooting ended, but the killing had just begun. Now the Germans moved through the field looking for survivors and killing any they found. One German would later call these “mercy shots,” a common practice on the Eastern Front.9 Those Americans who managed to avoid this “German mercy” by playing “dead” remember the Germans laughing as they moved through the field. For these survivors their ordeal did not end with the departure of this first group of Germans. For the next hour or so passing tanks, and halftracks full of panzer grenadiers, fired into the field at the bodies lying there. That anyone survived was no small miracle and yet several Americans did. Of the American solders taken captive at the Baugnez crossroads 82 lay dead while an amazing 41 survived the actual massacre either by escaping as the first shots were fired or by “playing dead” and avoiding detection by the Germans.



US Soldiers killed by Waffen-SS troops at the Malmedy Massacre


Word of the Malmedy Massacre spread quickly through the Allied army serving to stiffen considerably the American resolve to resist as well as igniting a hunger for revenge.

From top to bottom of the US Army, the Malmedy massacre intensified a reluctance to take SS prisoners. (General) Bradley expressed surprise on Christmas Eve, hearing that four POW’s from 12th SS Panzer had been
brought alive to the cage. “We needed a few samples,” said an officer apologetically, “that’s all we’ve taken sir.”10
Not only members of the Waffen-SS, but Luftwaffe paratroopers and anyone in a black uniform were liable to be shot as they surrendered.

“This was the only time I saw American troops kill German soldiers that were trying to surrender,” wrote Private Donald Schoo of the 80th Infantry Division. “If they wore the black uniforms of the SS, they were shot.” Like many men, he did not know that every German tank crew [including those of the Army and the Air Force] wore black.11
The blood was up, and it remained ‘hot’ even after the war had ended. In a post war press conference at the Pentagon General Eisenhower was asked if he considered the “ordinary SS trooper a war criminal”:

This is what I’d say: The SS trooper, up until it began to get desperate, or somewhere in September of 1944, I’d say anyone that was an SS trooper until that time would be a war criminal. After that…they would put any healthy man in it they could get hold of. He couldn’t help himself. …Except for the 12th SS. I think that the American Army as a unit will handle the 12th SS, every man they can get a hold of. They are the men who killed our people in cold blood…We hate everybody that ever wore a 12th SS uniform.12
That the perpetrators of the Malmedy Massacre would stand trial for their crimes seemed a forgone conclusion. That they should, or more importantly, would be found guilty also seemed self-evident. As events would soon make clear the prosecution sought to leave nothing to chance. Yet even the most comprehensive plains, carried out with the best of intentions often run afoul of the Laws Of Unintended Consequences. The Malmedy Trial was no exception.

From the very start, with the selection of the 75 defendants, controversy attached itself to the trial. The various Allied prison camps were combed for former members of Kampfgruppe Peiper but many were left behind “because the prosecution felt they had enough men of Kampfgruppe Peiper to try.”13 Besides, in order to prove that a criminal conspiracy existed, it was necessary to reserve space in the dock for several senior members of the Waffen-SS rather than still more lower ranking members of the kamfgruppe itself even though they may have been directly involved in the actual killing. To this end Sepp Dietrich, commander of the 6th SS Panzer Army, Fritz Kramer, his chief of staff, and Hermann Priess, the commander of the 1st SS Panzer Division were included among the accused. The focus of US Army investigators, however, would be upon those at the crossroads on December 17th, namely Peiper and his subordinates.



In the dock: #11 Sepp Dietrich, #33 Fritz Kramer, #45 Herman Priess and
#42 Jochen Peiper.


The prosecution went to great lengths to gather the evidence necessary for an airtight case. This included the calling of witnesses, both survivors of the massacre and Belgian civilians who were in the area, as well as former members of the SS who had knowledge of but had not participated in the massacre. However, the core of the case would be based upon the confessions of the accused themselves.

Testimony given by prosecution witnesses was often vague as to the nature of ostensible criminal acts or indefinite as to the individuals responsible for the crimes. Many of the nearly one hundred sworn statements [from the accused themselves] on the other hand, associated specific SS men with crimes that were described in exhaustive detail. If the statements were accepted by the court as literal truth or even close approximations thereof, the case against the defendants was sealed.14
But were the statements true, and were they given voluntarily or under duress? It was on this fine legal point that the fate of the 74 defendants rested. Unfortunately for the prosecution, their zeal in obtaining this “evidence” would be their undoing.

When led counsel for the defense Col. Everett was assigned to the Malmedy case he was less than enthusiastic about the defendants, and told his family “these ‘clients’ of ours were really some terrible murderers and probably the hangman’s rope would be mild punishment for them.”15 Even so, Everett intended to mount a vigorous defense firm in his belief that the American legal system was not only fair and impartial, but also strong enough to dispense justice to the defendants within the bounds set by the US Constitution, the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions of 1929. However, almost from the start, Everett had suspicions that the US Army, and more pointedly the prosecution, did not share his faith in American jurisprudence.

These fears were confirmed when Everett conducted his pre-trial interviews with his clients. (Or at least as many as he could in the limited time allotted to him for preparation prior to the trial’s start.) Peiper presented Everett with a written summary of the abuses he and his men had endured at the hands of the interrogators at Schwabish Hall. Physical beatings, mock trials, the use of hoods, false confessions and simulated executions (nooses placed around the neck or being positioned in front of a “firing squad”) were all alleged. Upon subsequent interviews Peiper’s men confirmed the abuse, and although some of their accounts seemed exaggerated the general points remained consistent. It was obvious to Everett and his team that the detailed confessions of the SS men, upon which the prosecution was relying, were anything but voluntary. Such ‘evidence’ would never pass judicial muster in any US court of law.

Colonel Everett brought this inconvenient fact to the attention of the officers sitting in judgment, but the prosecution had anticipated this objection (how could they not) and countered without missing a beat that it did not matter if the confessions were voluntary or not. As prosecutor Ellis saw it:

To admit a confession of the accused, it need not be shown such confession was voluntarily made and the Court may exclude it as worthless or admit it and give it such weight as in its opinion it may deserve after considering the facts and circumstances of its execution.16
The panel of eight judges agreed with Ellis and went even further. For although it was true, as the defense contended, that the Geneva Conventions protected prisoners or war from the methods used to obtain the confessions in questions, the accused were in fact not prisoners of war at all. The moment they committed the murders at the crossroads they became war criminals and lost all protection and rights provided by the Geneva Conventions for honorable soldiers. The confessions were admitted into evidence and given enough weight so as to seal the fate of the defendants. Colonel Everett continued to mount a dogged defense and did manage to score a minor point or two, but to little effect. After just two and one half hours of deliberation the eight officers sitting in judgment returned verdicts of guilty for 73 of the 74 defendants.17

Deciding how the SS men should be punished for their crimes took somewhat longer than deciding their guilt (a week as opposed to 2.5 hours) but there was little surprise when sentences were at last read in court. Of the 73, 42 were sentenced to death by hanging, 22 to imprisonment for life, and the remaining 9 to imprisonment of various lengths from 5 to 20 years.



Colonel Everett stands with SS Lieutenant Heinz Tomhardt as the
Military Tribunal sentences him to death.



From the moment the sentences were read in court Colonel Everett began a “crusade” to have the convictions overturned on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct and judicial indifference. Besides using the normal military channels for judicial review, Everett attempted, over the next ten years, to have the case heard not only by the US Supreme Court (petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus) but also the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Not surprisingly this caught the attention of the press whose reporting in turn piqued the interest of the US Congress. Hearings were held and investigations launched culminating in allegations of a whitewash made by none other than the junior senator from Wisconsin, Senator Joseph McCarthy.

The US Army concluded that the Malmedy Trial had perhaps not been their finest hour. Consequently all death sentences were commuted to life in prison and, upon additional review, reduced further still. In the end the last defendant to be released, Colonel Peiper, had served just over 11 and one half years. It was now 1956, the war was long over and America needed Germany as an ally in the looming struggle with the Soviet Union. Revenge was no longer the order of the day; it was now a time for reconciliation.

However, in terms of the Malmedy Massacre, the question remains: Was justice done?

No one, least of all Colonel Everett, ever contended that a war crime had not taken place. Clearly American soldiers had been shot and killed after surrendering, an undeniable violation of the rules of war. And although he made some arguments about extenuating circumstances (heat of battle, confused situation, etc.) Everett seems to have had little doubt about the guilt or innocence of his clients. The International Military Tribunal at Nuremburg had already declared the SS, including the Waffen-SS, a criminal organization, and the ranks of the Waffen-SS were full of those who had knowledge of and complicity in the worst crimes of the Third Reich. Colonel Peiper himself had once been Himmler’s adjutant and had accompanied him to a concentration camp to observe the experimental use of gas to kill camp inmates. Unlike many others, Peiper could never say that he did not know about the camps or what went on there.18 Even so, Everett did believe that no matter how heinous their crimes the defendants deserved a fair trial in the best traditions of the US Constitution and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. When the defendants did not receive that ‘fair trial’ their cause became his cause. This is a point worth remembering.

In our current “War On Terror” do we so doubt our cause that we must resort to the use of torture to obtain confessions that we can then use against the accused to order to secure convictions? Have we such little faith in our Constitution that we feel compelled to abandon the Writ of Habeas Corpus and the Bill of Rights? Is our thirst for vengeance so great that we do not trust our Uniform Code of Military Justice or 200 years of US jurisprudence to deliver justice? Or is that really the point – that what we are seeking now is revenge and not justice?

In 1946, in a Dachau courtroom, the answer was, unfortunately, yes. In 2006, in a Guantanamo courtroom, the answer must be no. We must proceed by the strictest rules and win on the merits of the case, or risk losing all that we fight to defend. Bush, in his zealous drive to win at any cost, may in fact cost us the very justice we claim to be seeking.

When asked at a 1948 press conference if there was any truth to allegations that mock trials were used to obtain confessions from the Malmedy Massacre defendants, Colonel Rosenfeld the Trial Judge Advocate for the case responded “Yes of course. We couldn’t have made those birds talk otherwise. It was a trick, and it worked like a charm.”19
The irony is, of course, that had Rosenfeld and the other judges held the prosecution to the highest ethical and legal standards the convictions and punishments the US Army sought might very well have stuck. However, built as they were on such flimsy foundations, they fell apart and the guilty kept their lives.

John Toland, one of the first historians to write about the Battle of the Bulge, summed up the Malmedy Trials with words that ring a warning for our own time:

Because of poor preparation, shocking irregularities and impassioned pleas for vengeance rather than facts, the Malmedy Trials pleased no one. Many of the documented atrocities went unpunished; men innocent of atrocities were thrown into prison. … Enemies of the United States continue to point out that Malmedy is a good example of American justice.20

Will historians say the same things about the Guantanamo Trials? Will history repeat itself? Only if those charged with conducting this war fail to heed the lessons of our own past. Given the events of the last few weeks, “compromise” and all, a repetition seems all but inevitable.

The ends never justify the means. In fact, the ends are only as honorable as the means employed to obtain them.


Addendum December 14, 2007

Ever since President Bush the senior first juxtaposed World War Two and Hitler with war in the Persian Gulf and Saddam (a line of reasoning continued with gusto by his son President Bush the younger and his cohort of Neo-con advisors) it seems that earlier war will forever be used to justify the later one even when such references provide no such justification.

A case in point was the recent dust up between Bill O’Reilly of Fox News and Keith Olbermann of MSNBC.

On October 3 of 2005 O’Reilly, in an interview with General Wesley Clark, made reference to the Malmedy Massacre, trying somehow to compare the release of photos from that incident to the release of photos of the crimes committed by US Army soldiers at Abu Ghraib. O’Reilly had mistakenly stated that US Troops had murdered Waffen-SS POW’s at Malmedy during the Battle of the Bulge. Countering General Clark’s call for the public release of the Abu Ghraib photos O’Reilly shot back “…you need to look at the Malmedy massacre in World War Two and the 82nd Airborne. You want those pictures out?”

Then on May 30th of 2007 while once more interviewing General Clark, this time regarding the killing of civilians by US soldiers at Haditha, O’Reilly yet again used the Malmedy massacre as a counter point to what was happening in Iraq displaying more brilliantly than before his total lack of knowledge or understanding when it comes to the history of the Second World War.

O’Reilly (to General Clark): “In Malmedy, as you know, US forces captured SS forces who had their hands in the air and they were unarmed and they shot them down. You know that. That’s on the record. Been documented.”

Not only did Olbermann take O’Reilly to task for these gross mischaracterizations, but even the Fox commentator’s loyal followers chimed in to point out his error which O’Reilly disingenuously acknowledged on his May 31st broadcast.

O’Reilly (responding to a viewer’s e-mail): “In the heat of the debate with General Clark, my statement wasn’t clear enough, Mr. Caldwell. After Malmedy, some [SS troops] were executed by American troops.”

While this statement is true (see End Notes #10 and #11) it is also abundantly clear that O’Reilly does not “get it.” How does the commission of one crime justify in any way the commission of another?

As we examined in the preceding pages, US Troops did kill German POW’s out of hand, often for simply being in a black uniform (under the mistaken notion that only Waffen-SS troops wore black uniforms). However, the German atrocities before and after Malmedy in no way justified these American crimes, and they in turn offer absolutely no justification for the crimes committed against Iraqi civilians at Haditha. O’Reilly seems to believe that because soldiers then had the implicit or even explicit approval of their officers (including senior Generals) and essentially “got away with murder” that soldiers now should have the same leeway. In fact just the opposite is true – these earlier crimes should act as a warning against the commission of similar crimes today.

While it might seem ironic that O’Reilly, a former high school history teacher, shows little knowledge or understanding of World War Two, it is perhaps emblematic of our times that a serving officer, a general no less, in the United States Air Force is just as ignorant of history. Even more embarrassing, Brigadier General Thomas Hartmann, chief legal advisor for the military trials at Guantanamo, is a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Academy and holds a Master of Arts degree in Modern European History from Stanford University.21 Presumably General Hartmann’s studies concentrated on post 1945 Europe, though it is difficult to believe that as a military officer and a lawyer he knows nothing about the Malmedy Massacre trials. Yet that would seem to be the case.

In recent testimony before the Senate (on December 12, 2007) General Hartmann refused to classify waterboarding as torture. Even when presented with a hypothetical case, of a captured US Air Force pilot being waterboarded by his captors, the general declined to call it torture. However, in the case of the Guantanamo detainees, the general did aver that if such interrogation techniques resulted in evidence that “is reliable and probative, and the judge concludes that it is in the best interest of justice to introduce that evidence, ma’am, those are the rules we will follow.”22
This is exactly the line of reasoning used by LTC. Ellis and accepted by the trial judge at the Malmedy Trials that allowed the use of the confessions gained under torture. Clearly we have learned nothing from history – even our own. As LTC Ellis before him, now General Hartmann seems to believe that the end justifies the means despite over 200 years of US jurisprudence to the contrary. Justice was ill served by such thinking at the Malmedy Trials and it will be ill served again at Guantanamo. Then end has never justified the means, and it never will. More to the point, the end is only as honorable as the means employed to obtain it.

It is abundantly clear that war makes criminals of us all for it demands of our soldiers actions that if committed at any other time we would punish with the utmost severity. That we, as a democratic republic, ask this of our soldiers puts the onus of responsibility, and guilt, for any crimes committed by them, squarely on our shoulders. So it is then that we should use our army with the greatest of care, sending it forth only when there is no other choice and only if we are willing to accept responsibility for what happens as a consequence of having “let slip the dogs of war.”23
Perhaps it is fitting, as we rapidly approach the 63rd anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge that we consider the words of the great writer, pacifist, and father of modern tabletop war games, HG Wells when he asked: “Why do we revile Dr. Moreau for attempting to turn animals into men when we routinely honor politicians and generals for turning men into animals?”24 Why indeed. We can only hope that in the 21st century we will learn at last how to be humans and not animals.





End Notes
1. Heinz Hohne, The Order Of The Death’s Head, pp.524-525. On April 22, 1941 Himmler issued a directive listing 179 units he considered part of the Waffen-SS. These units included not only those combat units fighting at the front under the direction of the OKW but also various rear area units to include the Concentration Camp Guards (Totenkopfverbande) and the Einsatzgruppen. See Masters Of Death by Richard Rhodes concerning the activities of the Einsatzgruppen and their inclusion within the Waffen-SS.

2. Saddam was a “Fascist Buffoon” who resembled Mussolini more than he did Hitler. Of course, that might not be fair to Mussolini, after all Mussolini did manage to get the trains to run on time. As for Saddam’s Republican Guard and their military prowess (or lack thereof) see Toppling Saddam: Iraq And The American Military Transformation by Dr. Stephen Biddle et al. pp.26-27 concerning the battle at Objective Montgomery in which an entire armor battalion (with supporting troops) of the Hammurabi Republican Guard division, armed with T72 tanks and in a textbook perfect ambush position caught A Troop of the 3-7 Cavalry in their trap. The Americans did not even realize they had run headlong into an ambush until they saw the muzzle flashes of the Iraqi tanks firing at them. However, what should have been a resounding Iraqi victory was in fact a decisive defeat. Not only did all of the Iraqi tanks miss their targets in that opening salvo, but within 10 minutes the Americans had destroyed the majority of the Iraqis and were able to move out of the trap without a single casualty.

3. In a memo To Bush, written while he was White House Legal Counsel, Gonzales states that the war on terrorism “renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions.” Highlights of the Gonzales memo and General Colin Powell’s response, along with links to the originals in full are available on the Center For American Progress web site:
http://www.americanprogress.org/site/pp.asp?c=biJRJ8OVF&b=79532

4. How is it possible to have a compromise on torture? We will only use torture on Tuesdays & Thursdays and the other days we will limit ourselves to harsh language? See the LA Times Op/Ed of September 23, 2006 for a commentary by R. Simon and J. Barnes entitled: “Defense Lawyers Assail Legislation on Detainees” and a Times Editorial, “A Tortured Compromise” in the LA Times of September 24, 2006.

5. Originally 75 former members of the Waffen SS were selected to stand trial, however one committed suicide before the trial began (Arvid Freimuth) and another (Marcel Boltz) was transferred to French custody prior to deliberations because he was a French Citizen. French authorities subsequently released him due to a lack of evidence. See A Peculiar Crusade by James J Weingartner (2000, New York University Press) pages 72-74 for Freimuth and page 103 for Boltz.


6. There are, as might be expected, various accounts of what happened that day at the Baugnez crossroads. See: The Malmedy Massacre by John M Bauserman (White Mane Publishing 1995) p.30 for a German account claiming that fog obscured the field in which the Americans were held causing some passing units to believe the Americans were not POW’s but in fact active combatants.

Massacre At Malmedy by Charles Whiting (Stein & Day 1971) provides a straightforward narrative of the events that day and might be considered the standard.

Finally, there is a very interesting version related by one of the former defendants who attended a reunion of the Malmedy Massacre survivors and claims his version was corroborated by one of the survivors in attendance. This can be found at: http://www.scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/DachauTrials/MalmedyMassacre02.html

7. See testimony by 1st LT. Virgil P, Lary as reproduced in A Peculiar Crusade by Weingartner, p.61. See also Massacre At Malmedy by Whiting, p.49.

8. Whiting, Massacre At Malmedy pp.51-52.
Weingartner, A Peculiar Crusade pp.63-64.
Bauserman, The Malmedy Massacre pp.69-81.

9. Bauserman, The Malmedy Massacre p. 27.

10. Hastings, Max. Armageddon The Battle For Germany 1944-1945, c2000 Alfred A Knopf, p.209

See also the following web site on which the author talks about capturing a Tiger tank and upon questioning a crewmember about where he obtained GI issue boots and sweater was told “Malmedy.” As the site’s author puts it, “He should have taken the Fifth Amendment. Your web master thinks a dogface shot him in the backyard of the farmhouse where the headquarters was located.” http://www.737thtankbattalion.org/Memories

11. Hastings, Armageddon p.210.

12. Taylor, Telford. The Anatomy Of The Nuremberg Trials, c1992 Little, Brown & Company, p.110. Actually, General Eisenhower was off by a couple of years in his assessment of when the Nazis became desperate and started wholesale transfers and conscription into the Waffen-SS. See General Michael Reynolds’ book, Steel Inferno (Dell Books, 1997) pp. 18-19 for details on the transfer of Luftwaffe ground crews into the 1st SS Panzer Division (Hitler’s Bodyguard division) to replace losses suffered on the Russian Front. These former airmen had no say in the transfer – they were neither volunteers nor members of the Nazi Party, just ground crews with no planes to service.

13. Bauserman, The Malmedy Massacre p.30.

14. Weingartner, A Peculiar Crusade p.71.

15. Weingartner, A Peculiar Crusade p.40. In approaching his duties as Defense Counsel for the Malmedy Trial Colonel Everett, “…found the prospect of aiding Germans to offer ‘excuses’ for murdering American soldiers ‘in cold blood’ highly distasteful.” (Page 39.)


16. Weingartner, A Peculiar Crusade p.81. It should be noted that the Bush Administration is using this same rational to justify the use of confessions in the trial of “enemy combatants’ held at Guantanamo.

17. As noted above, SS-Sturmmann Marcel Boltz, who was born in Alsace, was turned over to French custody when Alsace returned to French control. Boltz, now a citizen of France was eventually released, the French finding the evidence against him less than compelling. Weingartner, A Peculiar Crusade pp.103-104. Interestingly, this was not the only time the French government would intervene on behalf of a French citizen being tired for war crimes while serving in the Waffen-SS. In the 1953 Oradour Massacre trial of 21former members of the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich, 20 were found guilty of which 15 were from the French province of Alsace. That they were members of the Waffen-SS was bad enough, but that they had also participated in perhaps the ugliest war crime to take place in France during World War II was even worse. However, the verdicts caused severe unrest in Alsace to the point that the French Assembly voted an amnesty for 14 Alsatians. (One Alsatian, a volunteer for the SS, along with a German remained under a sentence of death.) This of course angered the survivors in Oradour as well as the German government who protested that only Germans remained liable for punishment. In the end all death sentences were commuted to prison terms and by 1958 all had been freed. See Martyred Village, by Sara Farmer (University of California Press, 1999) pp.135-170.

18. Peiper was a fascinating character, intelligent and sophisticated, yet at the same time a cold and ruthless killer. Although his formal education ended with high school, he was well read and fluent in French and English as well as German. After gradation from high school he joined the SS as a member of Hitler’s bodyguard regiment, the Leibstandarte, rising through the ranks based upon his merits as a leader. Peiper ended the war as a highly decorated colonel and a convicted war criminal. After his release from prison in 1956 he worked as a manager with Porsche and then Volkswagen, however, is past kept catching up to him. He finally settled in France with his wife and children, making a living translating military histories. Peiper died on Bastille Day 1976, when his home was firebombed. Though most suspect either Resistance veterans or French communists the crime remains, officially, unsolved.

19. Weingartner, A Peculiar Crusade p.172

The Dachau Scrapbook web site Malmedy Trial section. http://www.scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/DachauTrials/MalmedyMassacre02.html

20. Michael Reynolds gives a good summation of the Malmedy Trial, including John Toland’s critique, in his book The Devil’s Adjutant (Sarpedon 1995) See in particular pages 252-259. Toland’s quote from his own book, Battle: The Story Of The Bulge, appears on page 258.

21. From General Hartmann’s official Bio found on the US Air Force web site. http://www.af.mil/bios/bio.asp?bioID=10078

22. Transcript of testimony by Air Force Brigadier General Thomas Hartmann before the US Senate Judiciary Committee on December 12, 2007

23. William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Act 3 Scene 1

24. I have not yet been able to pin down this quote and so can not, beyond a shadow of a doubt, be certain where or when HG Wells wrote this. It is also possible that some one else said this about HG Wells’ work. The only thing that I am certain of is that I did not write this myself – but I wish I had.




Sources Consulted

Bauserman, John M. The Malmedy Massacre. Shippensburg: White Mane Publishing, 1995.

Bender, Roger James & Hugh Page Taylor. Uniforms, Organization And History Of The Waffen-SS. Vol. I. Palo Alto: R James Bender Publishing, 1969.

Biddle, Stephen, et al. Toppling Saddam: Iraq And American Military Transformation. US Army Internal Study, 2004.

Farmer, Sarah. Martyred Village. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1999.

Hastings, Max. Armageddon The Battle For Germany 1944-1945. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.

Hohne, Heinz. The Order Of The Death’s Head. New York: Ballantine Books, 1969.

Rhodes, Richard. Masters Of Death: The SS-Einsatzgruppen And The Invention Of The Holocaust. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.

Reynolds, Michael. Steel Inferno: 1st SS Panzer Corps In Normandy. New York: Dell, 1997

Reynolds, Michael. The Devil’s Adjutant: Jochen Peiper, Panzer Commander.
New York: Sarpedon, 1995

Taylor, Telford. The Anatomy Of The Nuremberg Trials. Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1992.

Weingartner, James J. A Peculiar Crusade: Wills M Everett And The Malmedy Massacre. New York: New York Univ. Press, 2000.

Whiting, Charles. Massacre At Malmedy: The Story Of Jochen Peiper’s Battle Group Ardennes, December, 1944. New York: Stein And Day, 1971.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Halloween 2008 A Return to Ancient Rome


Roman Centurion joined by Warewolf, Anakin Skywalker, and Anime Slayer


Centurion K before the Standards


Being a Centurion is serious business

Centurion fully dressed with red tunic, chain mail, military cloak, helmet with transverse crest and wearing his medals.

You can do almost anything with cardboard, gaff tape, and a sharp knife.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Instinct For War



"It is tempting to close one's eyes to history and instead to speculate about the roots of war in some possible animal instinct: as if, like the tiger, we still had to kill to live, or, like the Robin Redbreast, to defend a nesting territory. But war, organized war, in not a human instinct. It is a highly planned and cooperative form of theft." -- Jacob Bronowski from The Ascent Of Man