President Obama at work. Being the President of the United States of America places incredible demands on the person holding that office. These recent official photographs of the Hon. Barack Obama, President of the United States, show the unrelenting nature of the job.
President Barack Obama greets participants in the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride after their lap around the South Lawn of the White House, April 14, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama plays with August DuBois during an Oval Office visit with his parents, Joshua and Michelle DuBois, April 11, 2016. Joshua is the former Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama speaks with Avril Haines, Deputy National Security Advisor, in the Oval Office, April 15, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama reacts to his daughter Malia as they board Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Md., April 7, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama bids farewell to President Xi Jinping of China at the conclusion of the Nuclear Security Summit at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., April 1, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, April 18, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama blows a bubble while talking with nine-year-old Jacob Leggette about his experiments with additive and subtractive manufacturing with a 3D printer, his project that was part of the White House Science Fair in the Blue Room of the White House, April 13, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama looks over paperwork between meetings in the Oval Office, April 6, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama walks back to the White House with Obama family pet, Sunny, after joining students for the “Let’s Move!” spring garden planting in the White House Kitchen Garden, April 5, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Barack Obama talks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following their bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, April 4, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
“The Duce is a great statesman. He knows the mentality of his country perfectly and what he’s managed to achieve with Italy and those lazy people is a miracle…” – Adolf Hitler (1940)
“Italy is an enchanting country: it’s just a pity it’s inhabited by such lazy slobs.” – Adolf Hitler (1943)
Mussolini and Hitler: two evil men of the 20th Century who I hope are in hell
A little known episode of World War Two
Large numbers of Italian soldiers sent by Mussolini to the Soviet Union to fight with the Germans in the Ost Krieg or Eastern War. The Germans attacked the Soviet Union on 21 June 1941. The Germans had not asked Italy for soldiers but Mussolini had insisted on sending 60,000 men to participate in Operation Barbarossa, the German Invasion of the Soviet Union, to curry favor with Hitler and to be able to bask in a small part of the glory which would come from the crushing defeat the Germans were going to inflict on the Soviet Union.
Only the Germans didn’t manage to quite do that in 1941 so they asked Mussolini for more troops which he sent. By the summer of 1942, Italians reached their high point on the Eastern Front with 220,000 men, 16,000 motor vehicles, almost 150 aircraft as well as all of their small supply of modern heavy artillery. Italian navy units, primarily special forces, operated in the Black Sea. It’s easy to joke about Italian military capabilities but their naval special forces were as good as any in the world at that time.
Italian motor torpedo boats like the one pictured above, achieved a fearsome reputation for daring and effective attacks.
The lines below, from the memoir, The Sergeant in the Snow, by Mario R. Stern, an Alpine soldier from the mountains of Northeastern Italy, give a sense of the unreality of Italian soldiers in Russia.Yet this adventure ended in tragedy for the Italians with 90,000 soldiers dead. I say tragedy since most of the soldiers were illiterate conscripts, the elite divisions having creamed off the best men early on to fight in North Africa, and most of these young conscripts were badly led and poorly trained with only the most basic equipment.
“What direction is Italy in, Sergeant Major?”
“Over there, you see? A long way over there. The earth is round, Marangoni, and we’re among the stars. All of us.”
Stern’s memoir is one of the few written by an Italian soldier on the Eastern Front. It is matter-of-fact. He simply describes the retreat of Italian troops in winter after the Russians pushed them back. Nothing else is needed to create a story of such terrible reality. Tens of thousands of hungry men, cold and frostbitten with inadequate footwear, sanitation and medical services. A rabble. Many units had weak-willed and incompetent officers and under pressure these units disintegrated.
The only thing worse than being in an organized and disciplined unit retreating in the brutal winter was to be in mass of terrified men whose units had collapsed. At every turn the Russians were shooting at the ragged Italian troops, many of whom had dropped their rifles and ammunition because they were too weak to carry them. The Germans cursed them, kicked them, even shot some of the Italians because they wanted them to stand and fight but they refused to give the Italian troops any food or other supplies.
The Sergeant in the Snow is a memoir like no other because the very idea that Mussolini sent troops to Russia–in the winter– to fight with the Germans is so astonishing, so surprising, and so revealing of the contempt Mussolini had for his own countrymen that just to read the memoir is to be shocked.
Italian self-propelled anti-tank Semovente da 47/32. These vehicles were mainly used by the Italian Army in Russia. The vehicles have open tops so there was little protection against the climate or shrapnel. These lightly armoured vehicles were no match against Soviet tanks and the narrow tracks did not grip in heavy snow rendering them less than helpful in the Russian winter. Soviet tanks had much wider treads with steel spikes which help them move through snow.
Few Italian soldiers were properly clothed to fight in the Russian winter or any severe winter. The only troops of the Royal Italian Army who were both equipped and trained to fight in anything resembling the brutal cold of Russia were the elite Alpine troops–many of these regiments descended from the Alpine troops of old Hapsburg Empire. But there were only several division of these soldiers and in the vastness of Russia, what matter were a few divisions of the Italian Alpini anyway?
Italian POWs in Russia. Most of these men died of disease and starvation.
Mussolini and the spineless generals and senior officers of the Royal Italian Army (Italy was still a monarchy) knew that not one of the Italian divisions would ever had enough food. Don’t worry. The Führer would provide. That wasn’t true, of course. The Italian logistics system was almost non-existent and they depended on the Wehrmacht to supply them. Since the Germans barely had enough food for themselves–with much of that having been taken at gunpoint from Russian peasants–they hardly had a surplus to give the Italians.
German commanders were unhappy with the behavior of the Italian soldiers. The Italians wouldn’t shoot prisoners of war or Jews or Communists or anyone really except Russian soldiers and they preferred not to do that.
Instead of treating the Russians like the sub-humans many (but not all) Germans said them to be, the Italians took up with the Russian village women. Local males had all been murdered by the Germans, sent to be slave laborers in Germany, conscripted into the Red Army or had run away to join the partisans.
The Russian women were lonely. Many were young and beautiful. The soldiers were Italians. Yet the Germans were shocked, shocked I tell you to discover the Italian soldiery were sleeping with the Russian village women instead of terrorizing them. What did they expect? This happened in Germany itself. Italians who had gone to Nazi Germany as “volunteer laborers” or were soldiers temporarily stationed in Germany took up with lonely German women whose husbands were at the front.
MAKING A TRUCE WITH THE PARTISANS: our weapons for your women.
As you might imagine, what annoyed the Germans the most was many Italian units sold their excess arms and ammunition to the Russian partisans in return for food– as long as the partisans didn’t use the weaponry on Italian troops. If the partisans wanted to use Italian weapons to shoot German troops, well, that was a different kettle of fish altogether.
In the last days of the war, Hitler re-evaluated the assistance he had received from his Italian allies:
“Anything would have been better than having the Italians as comrades in arms.”
Adolf Hitler in his political testament dictated in the several days before he committed suicide on 30 April 1945.
Suburban women unassumingly flooded the workforce during World War II and exited it just as quietly, leaving their posts to open up jobs for the returning men. Some still hesitate to claim their contributions to war equipment production as “Rosie the Riveters.”
This African-American combat patrol advanced three miles north of Lucca (furthermost point occupied by American troops) to contact an enemy machine gun nest. Here a bazooka-man cuts loose at the target some 300 yards distant. These American soldiers of the US 5th Army were under the command of General Mark Clark. 09/07/1944 (Photo courtesy of the US National Archives and in the public domain)
US Army General Mark Wayne Clark in 1943.
Among his many decorations is the Purple Heart he received for being seriously wounded in World War One while leading a company of soldiers in battle and the Bronze Star for bravery under enemy fire.
(photo courtesy of US Library of Congress)
General Clark (1896 to 1984) remains a controversial figure in the literature of World War Two. His detractors say he disobeyed orders and allowed tens of thousands of German soldiers to escape because he was so focused on becoming known in history as “the general who liberated Rome,” which he did.
His defenders say his critics are carping, ill-informed, nit-picking dimwits. They point out he was a protegé of Army Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshal and that many, including General Eisenhower, thought General Clark one of the most brilliant Allied generals of World War Two. Clark was the youngest three-star general in the US Army in World War Two. Suffice it to say, this controversy will continue.
While he was baptized an Episcopalian while a cadet at West Point, his mother was Jewish, hence making Clark Jewish under Rabbinical Law. This would make him one of the few Jewish (by descent) generals in the history of the US. (Source: historian Rick Atkinson). I mention this because anti-Semitism was very strong in that era and especially in the military and I think it is important for Americans to know there were people of many ethnic groups who contributed to victory in World War Two.
The Summerall Guards. These young men, all of whom are seniors, comprise the elite silent drill platoon of the Citadel.
From 1954 to 1965, General Clark became the Commandant of the Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina in Charleston, SC, the city where he subsequently lived after retiring as Commandant of the Citadel. In 1968, while attending the Citadel summer camp, I actually met him.
He walked around the campus from time to time. He was well-known to everyone and was an awe-inspiring figure. I recall that he was dressed in the white summer uniform of the US Army which isn’t something one sees very often. He came over to a group of us campers and our counselor, who was a Citadel cadet, came to attention while General Clark shook our hands.
The Citadel summer camp was a good recruiting ground for future Citadel cadets as well as young men interested in joining the military. My mother sent me to this month-long camp thinking it would be fun–it was–and might interest me in a military career. It didn’t.
The lead counselor in our section was from Thailand. This being the height of the Vietnam War, he would jog with us to breakfast each morning leading us in the following chant, “I want to be an airborne ranger, I want to kill a Vietcong.” In retrospect, since we campers were all eleven or twelve years old, I find this odd but it wasn’t in the context of the times.
Writes Cyber-security Expert Bruce Schneier in his latest book, Data and Goliath: the Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World (which I highly recommend), when someone who has no business to know asks him for his home address he replies:
“9800 Savage Road, Columbia, MD 20755. This is, he says, “the address of the National Security Agency.”
This is a photograph of what the NSA describes as, “Our Utah ‘massive data repository’ [which] is designed to cope with the vast increases in digital data that have accompanied the rise of the global network.”
Uh, what global network would that be? All of them? The entire internet? According to at least half a dozen books and experts the answer is yes.
According the website of the National Security Agency’s Directorate of Domestic Surveillance, a dangerous and out of control division of the already out of control NSA, this “stunning photograph” above comes from their policy of openness and transparency.
As they explain in most condescending manner imaginable: “As proof of our genuine concern for privacy protection, we recently gave permission for several privacy groups to fly their little blimp over our massive data center. We would like to thank these airborne privacy pioneers for the stunning photo below of our impressive facility. By allowing harmless publicity stunts like these, we can have our data and store it too.”
My first reaction: Fuck you. To the author of this revolting tripe, I say you are sinister and evil person with no respect for the Constitution of the United States. You and your slimy co-workers at the NSA aren’t protecting us from the greatest threat to our freedom as American citizens. Why? Because it isn’t ISIS and other terrorists who threaten our liberty the most. It is you and the goons of the National Security Agency. Yes, you at the NSA have become the greatest threat to our liberty and freedom as Americans.
Because of your massive, and often illegal data collection of anything and everything Americans (and everyone else in the world) do, say, write, buy, or travel to, you have stripped us of our rights to privacy under the Constitution. NSA also breaks the laws of the European Union on a regular basis. Then again, as one of the previous 4 star general who commanded the agency said, his motto was, “collect everything.” Note, the the NSA is a “dual hatted” command since the 4 star general who commands this monstrous entity is also the head of US Cyber Command.
The most chilling US Government photograph I have ever seen. This is the entrance to the massive NSA data storage facility in Utah, the first of three. Read what the sign says below the “welcome message.”
“If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.”
This was, by the way, almost exactly word for word what the Nazis kept saying as they established their police state in the Third Reich. You can draw you own conclusion.
There is a reason murder mysteries are one of the most popular genres in both the publishing business and the movie business. Money. Both readers and moviegoers want blood and lots of it. Since we are all capable of killing someone under the right circumstances, we are drawn to entertainments which feature murder and killing.
This is our way of sublimating our own desire to kill. When we are so angry at someone we blurt out, “I could just kill him,” we are expressing the unconscious wish to kill the person, at least according to the Freudians.
FBI statistics on murder expand on this theme. In 2009, according to the FBI, 24.2 percent of murder victims were slain by family members; 53.8 percent were killed by someone they knew (acquaintance, neighbor, friend, boyfriend, etc). Hence 78% of murder victims knew their murderer. It’s why the law makes a distinction between murder in a fit of passion (you come upon your significant other donging or being donged by someone) and premeditated murder or murder with “malice aforethought.”
Only a gossamer thread of civilization separates us from spectators in the Roman Coliseum who watched gladiators fight to the death. Certainly in the years to come watching people fight to the death on television will become a legal entertainment. Just look at the popularity of The Hunger Games and of footage showing our soldiers in combat.
If you don’t agree with me then ponder this: the most watched sport in America is automobile racing. Given the boring nature of the cars going round and round in a circle, you don’t think people are watching it just to see that, do you? Come on, we want to see the car crashes.