September 13, 2013

An Ox Bow Incident with poison gas?

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:27 pm

Seeing a Forty Ford arrive in Berkeley wasn’t the only Forties Flashback moment this week for one columnist.

Pops Finnegan, the legendary journalist, guru, and (amateur) philosopher from Scranton Pa., always taught his fledgling analysts to consider questions from all sides and all possible angles, so if he were alive this week and seeing the President urging the country to believe that an attack on Syria is not war, he would (hypothetically) roll a sheet of paper into his typewriter and begin formulating an opposing devil’s advocate point of view such as:

“The course of action that President Obama was suggesting regarding the allegation that Syria used chemical weapons came perilously close to fitting the definition of a crime against peace that was used at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial.”


Then he would include a relevant quote from the opening statement of Robert H. Jackson such as an elaboration of the hallmarks of a crime against peace:

“(3) Attack by its land, naval, or air forces, with or without a declaration of war, on the territory, vessels or aircraft of another state; and

(4) Provision of support to armed bands formed in the territory of another state, or refusal, notwithstanding the request of the invaded state, to take in its own territory, all the measures in its power to deprive those bands of all assistance or protection.”

Then he would challenge folks to do their own fact checking by providing a link to the full text of that speech.

The fact that Pops Finnegan lost a son fighting in the South Pacific in the early stages of WWII might have an influence on Pops’ respect for the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial and any attempt to eliminate such material from a modern debate about national policy.

No one disputes that the use of poison gas is reprehensible but the Ox Bow question is:  Who did it?  Could Assad have used a tactic that was sure to draw international condemnation in a fight that he was winning?  Could the rebels have been so vile as to kill some of their own supporters just to bring outside intervention into their effort which seemed to be failing?

The World’s Laziest Journalist, who does not squeeze writing time into a schedule that is full of talk show appearances, has had time to read up on the Nuremberg Trials.

Citizens, who find and read a copy of “Justice at Nuremberg,” Robert E. Conot’s 1981 book about the historical legal proceedings that came after the conclusion of WWII, might find it disconcerting to contemplate the concept of crime against peace for humanitarian reasons.

When we asked a woman who had worked on gathering evidence during WWII for a potential War Crimes Trial involving the Japanese military, if George W. Bush was a war criminal she immediately snapped:  “Of course, he is.”

If her experience based opinion was correct, then it is rather ominous to see the current American President repeating the Bush foreign policy because that tends to indicate that experts on war crimes might be harsh in their assessment of the Obama speech this week.  Luckily for him, the number of living people who are available for sound bytes on the Evening News with such insights has dwindled to a small number.

On Sunday, September 8, 2013, a German magazine reported that the BDN (Germany’s Intelligence Service) has heard phone calls that indicated Assad may not have personally authorized the use of the poison gas.  This bit of news got very little notice in the media inside the USA.  Was the fellow who wrote “The Ox Bow Incident” embroiled in the HUAC Hollywood Hearings?

The World’s Laziest Journalist would prefer to write columns about other more innocuous and vapid topics such as the arrival this week of the Juice Box camper in Berkeley as part of their effort to travel the country and inform the USA about the connection between diet and health.  They are using a forty year old Winnebago and that, in turn, got us to wondering if Tom Wolfe or anyone else will be doing a fiftieth anniversary recreation of the famous Magic Bus tour of the USA in 1964 and if so how can we get a chance to cover that journey.  Wouldn’t a chance to get a ride-along on Willie Nelson’s tour bus make any journalist almost famous?  Heck we got all jazzed by a Forties Flashback moment seeing a Forty Ford in Berkeley, recently.

Pops Finnegan would probably stress that the fun feature work can always be done later and that writing a column about a historic sidebar aspect to the plans to deliver a pin prick attack on another country might have priority.

The Peaceniks are deluging their representatives in Washington with a tsunami of phone calls and e-mails strongly urging a “no” vote against military action.  They could, if they chose to, make a much stronger case if they drafted recall petitions and informed their representatives that a “yes” vote would automatically initiate the use of the recall petition before sundown on the day of the vote.


[Photo editor’s note:  The columnist interrupted a week of unfolding ominous history to indulge in some innocuous car-spotting.  It wasn’t the week’s only Forties Flashback moment for the writer.  Without a chance to get closer to history in the making in other cities, this mundane photo with a very tenuous link to the topic is the best that a citizen journalist can provide.  The news organizations that provide stealth propaganda get better photo ops.  Could that be an example of a quid pro quo arrangement?  Are some American media exceptional in their ability to please the Administration?]

At Nuremberg the lead prosecutor, Robert Jackson, said:  “Our position is that whatever grievances a nation may have, however objectionable it finds the status quo, aggressive warfare is an illegal means for settling those grievances or for altering those conditions.”

Now the disk jockey will play the song that played during the opening sequence of the movie “Apocalypse Now,” Wagner’s “The Ride of the Valkeries,” and Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.”  Now we have to go see a bargain matinee showing of “The Family.”  Have an “America Exceptionalism” type week.

February 8, 2013

War Crimes and Irony

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:28 pm

“Turnabout,” the 1931 novel by Thorne Smith was given a very strong recommendation that sparked a relentless search in used book stores from New York City to Los Angeles.  The story is about the struggles of a married couple who became the victims of an ancient Egyptian god’s practical joke when he magically (as ancient Egyptian gods are permitted to do) switched their minds into the other’s body.

Our quest to find that obscure literary treasure came to an end in Los Angels many moons ago.  The book delivered the expected level of entertainment and in an odd twist of fate that copy of that particular paperback was handed off to the fellow who had given the original recommendation because he wanted to re-read the hilarious antics again.

It turned out that the concept of two fictional characters trading minds had previously been used in an obscure short story, written by A. Conan Doyle, about a student and one of his professors.

The concept of two disparate personalities switching host bodies was used in the Tom Hanks film “Big” which told the tale of a father and young son who experienced that particular transformation.

In a week in which Republicans were castigating a Democratic President for not following the rules of warfare and the Dems were shrugging off the criticism with studied nonchalance in the “I can’t hear you” mode of saying “bugger off,” the entire staff at the World’s Laziest Journalist headquarters was coping with a strong attack of déjà vu . . .

President Obama let an opportunity to investigate the possibility that George W. Bush and his posse might have (subjunctive mood) exceeded the bounds of good taste slip away and then when Obama gave his acceptant speech at the Nobel Peace Awards, he sounded a tad bellicose.  Now, the Obama supporters approach the subject of impeachment and charges of war crimes with a very Karl Rove-ish sounding collective voice and the Repubs (does that word mean folks who visit a tavern for the second time in one night?) are snickering with fiendish delight.

Isn’t there an old legal adage that states “Silence Implies Consent!”?

So if Obama was silent about any possible Bush complicity in war crimes (and he was), then, at the very least, the possibility has to be considered that Obama was an accessory after the fact for any (hypothetically speaking) Bush War Crimes.

The German High Command in WWII went to great lengths to insure that the citizens of their country didn’t know what was happening and thus they had a legitimate claim to say to the members of the various allied armies that occupied Germany after the war was over that the average German in the streets didn’t know what was being done in their name by their leaders.

George W. Bush made goddamn sure that his policies were reported by America’s Free Press and thus insured that sooner or later Americans would be accessories before, during, and after the fact to his dirty deeds, if, indeed, there were any.

How many conservatives completely ignored the precepts contained in Robert Jackson’s opening statement at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial and cried;  “He (Bush) didn’t know that there was no WMD’s!”?  More than a few.

Any debate, at this point, over which Party’s guy did or did not commit war crimes is an exercise in futility.

The War Crimes Studies Center operates on the University of California Berkeley campus and since they haven’t made any headlines about launching an investigation into the possibility of any Bush war crimes, that aught to settle the question once and for all.

By a remarkable coincidence, John Yoo, who led the team of legal advisors that George W. Bush used to insure that he never, either deliberately or accidentally, did anything which might arouse suspicions of potential War Crimes, works on that same campus and perhaps the War Crimes Study Center could invite Yu to be a guest lecturer who would be able to suggest to other countries what effective measures could be used to insure that their leaders would never commit a War Crime.  Isn’t preventing War Crimes as the Yoo team did, just as important as studying other countries’ War Crimes?

On Thursday February 7, 2012, Senator Diane Feinstein explained to excitable, gullible political activists that their concern about civilian casualties from drone strikes are based on only seven or eight fatalities and that efforts to allay their fears and rectify their gross misperception, based on a regrettable clerical error, should be made.

The fact that the Dems now sound like Bush supporters and the Repubs sound like some old Berkeley peaceniks, might appeal to some people with a connoisseur’s appreciation for irony (Isn’t the dictionary definition of irony:  saying the exact opposite of what you mean?  Don’t many people often incorrectly use that word [irony] when they mean poignancy?).

The cavalcade of confusion this week on talk radio is what brought the old literary gem, Thorne Smith’s “Turnabout,” to mind this week.

Many of Smith’s comic novels were turned into classic movie comedies and later TV series.  His novel “Topper,” became a hit movie for MGM in 1937 (with Cary Grant as the ghost George Kirby) and later a popular TV series in the Fifties.  Smith’s “The Passionate Witch” ultimately became the 1942 hit movie “I Married a Witch” and subsequently that morphed into the TV series “Bewitched.”

Smith’s novel “The Bishop’s Jaegers,” which told a story about a rich geek accompanied by his adventurous secretary and recounts their reactions when they land in a nudist camp.  It was ahead of its time when it was published in 1932.  Apparently it is still a little too edgy to be adapted into a film script today.

The acquisitions librarian at the World’s Laziest Journalist headquarter’s tried for twenty years to acquire a copy of “The Bishop’s Jaegers.”  At one point he balked at the chance to purchase a collector’s hard back edition for a hundred bucks.  Ultimately, at a used bookstore on Wilshire Blvd., in Santa Monica, he stumbled across a used paper back in the bargain bin for a dime.

Isn’t it rather poignant to note that Germans are not afraid of nudity but they are ashamed of their country’s participation in war crimes while Americans are terrorized by the concept of a nudist camp but are completely unfazed by the remote possibility of any hypothetical involvement in War Crimes.

At this point, some of this columnist’s faithful readers might expect this column to segue into a column’s end quote using Australian outlaw Ned Kelly’s final words, but that, like a War Crimes trial for an American leader, aint’ gonna happen.

In an opinion piece titled “Fear and Loathing in the Bunker,” published in the New York Times on January 1, 1974, Hunter S. Thompson predicted:  “ . . . an American invasion, seizure and terminal occupation of all oil-producing countries in the Middle East.”

Now the disk jockey will play “The Age of Aquarius,” “Springtime for Hitler,” and Randy Newman’s “Let’s Drop the Big One Now!”  We have to go dig up a new wedge issue.  Have a “no foul, no harm” type week.

Powered by WordPress