The Charlotte News
Thursday, March 4, 1943
Site Ed. Note: The front page reports of the most singularly decisive naval battle to date in the war, the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, in which the Japanese naval armada, reported in the accounts of the previous two days headed from Rabaul to Lae on New Guinea to provide reinforcements and supplies to the key remaining Japanese base there and at Salamaua, was completely decimated. Fully 22 ships were claimed by the Allies as sunk or sinking, with 55 planes downed and an estimated 15,000 Japanese troops lost. The allies lost three fighter planes and two bombers during the two days of missions.
While subsequent accounts vary on the number of Japanese troops killed and the number of ships destroyed, there is no doubt that it was the most singularly destructive air to sea Allied victory of the entire war to date and, crucially, crippled Japanese attempts to reinforce Lae and Salamaua.
From Tunisia came the news that the Allies had advanced to within three miles of Faid Pass, taking back Sidi Bouzid along the way, thus in nine days pushing Rommel back to the starting point of his 66-mile offensive which took him nine days, from February 14 through 23, to accomplish. Rommel's remaining troops were said to be gathering behind the Mareth Line, to resist the efforts of the British Eighth Army to penetrate it.
In northern Tunisia, the Allies had suffered four miles of lost ground near Sedjenane, but at a high price to the Nazis. In other areas of the sector, Axis drives had been repulsed.
On the Russian front, as clean-up operations continued in Rzhev in the central region, the Soviets moved closer to recapturing Orel in the south, a key remaining center between the central and southern fronts. In the central area, efforts centered on taking back Bryansk, which had served as principal supply depot for Axis operations in that region.
Maritime Commission Chairman Emory Land appeared to confirm the criticism being leveled at Labor by Eddie Rickenbacker. Chairman Land reported that current unauthorized absenteeism in the shipbuilding industry was costing the war production effort fully a hundred Liberty ships per annum.
And from Chicago came the valuable information that three camels and a small donkey were passing through the stockyards on their way to show dates in South Dakota. Those who favored Richard Nixon in 1968 and 1972 will no doubt find humor in the report. We ourselves find it rather inconsequentially asinine.
On the editorial page, Fletcher Pratt supplies a piece in which he assesses the various fronts to date. Notably, he considers the recent move of Rommel in Tunisia through the Kasserine Pass, which at the time of his writing had not yet been beaten back, to be only a stalling maneuver, not one, as reports had assumed, to attempt a semi-permanent interruption of communications and supplies between the central and northern sectors of the Allied operations or to take the airfield at Tebessa. He saw it as an effort instead only to buy time, that Hitler might shore up his defenses in southern Europe preparatory to Allied landings. By drilling a line through the Allied forces and scattering them for nine days, Mr. Pratt contends, Rommel was able to effect the same disorientation to the Allied cause as would an entire campaign lasting several weeks, forcing the Allies to regroup and impress soldiers reserved for the final push to rid North Africa of Axis troops into early service to force Rommel back to his starting position.
Rommel's fast retreat and equally celerious pursuit by the Allies would suggest that Mr. Pratt was correct in his assessment and that the glowing reports of Allied victories after the terrible losses at Kasserine Pass were little more than part of the designs of the Desert Fox's operations, to exhaust Allied reserves to buy time. Viewed in that light, Rommel had achieved a resounding success, despite the apparent loss in quick succession of all of the ground he had so quickly gained.
Samuel Grafton finds the recent remark of U.S. Ambassador to Spain Carlton J. H. Hayes, that Franco was "wise", to be particularly offensive in combination with the oil being sent to Spain as it maintained the face of neutrality while sending a division of troops to the Russian front in support of the Axis, sending large amounts of money for their support in the bargain, and spending a quarter of its national budget on its navy. Joining the cozy relations between the State Department and Franco with the policy in North Africa of ignoring De Gaulle while placing ex-Vichyites in charge of Algeria and Dakar, Mr. Grafton cavils at the pattern as suggestive of a purposeful design to curry the favor of Fascists while dismissing democrats as mere window dressing. He does not question the patriotism of State but finds the policy counter-productive of instilling confidence in the people of France and Belgium, sending the wrong signal to the underground ready to foment revolution in the Nazi-occupied lands of Western Europe.
The piece offers debate with Burke Davis's editorial "Coming Events" of the day before, which defended the policy of providing oil to Franco on the ground that it could invigorate defenses in Spain in favor of the Allies should Hitler, as predicted, invade Portugal.
Who had the better of the argument?
"'Best Hope'" observes that the lasting peace for democracy which Lincoln sought from the Civil War was as yet an unattained dream, one which, Mr. Davis posits, was unattainable, bound to be corrupted every so often by the eruption of anti-democratic tension into war somewhere in the world. He argues that, far from guaranteeing the lasting peace, the Civil War had only been a waystation along the road to future wars, World War I and World War II, that there was no end in sight and a future generation would no doubt have to defend democracy likewise. To safeguard the peace for long, to insure the continuity of democracy, required, he suggests, continual fighting for it.
Parenthetically, we have to question then why he found fault the day before with the criticism by the black press of Warren Brown's criticism of the black press.
Nevertheless, from the perspective of 1943, it is not hard to imagine the reasons for Mr. Davis's view, as things certainly so appeared with two world wars having erupted twenty years apart. But as events quickly changed in 1945 with the coming to the world scene of the atomic bomb, with the chartering of a United Nations with teeth, unlike the failed League of Nations before it, hot wars, while not a thing yet of the past, would, with time, dissipate into relatively small regional conflicts--to contain the spread of Communism, in Korea, in Vietnam, to contain the spread of extra-territorial aggression in the first Gulf War of 1991, and to contain the spread of terrorism with the War in Afghanistan since 2002.
Regardless of whether one accepts the policy which led to American involvement in these other wars since World War II, the second war with Iraq from 2003 to the present falls outside this mandate to resist aggression. For the first time, a war precipitated exclusively by the United States followed more the Hitlerian course of anticipating aggression on trumped-up charges of possession of weapons of mass destruction, pre-emptively then seeking to interdict the supposed unrealized aggression which, it turned out, Iraq had no capability to undertake in the first instance as it had no weapons of mass destruction, just as the arms inspectors expelled from the country had stated in early 2003 it could not have acquired.
That policy of anticipatory interdiction of aggression, pre-emptive warfare, is now gone, thoroughly repudiated by the American people in the last election. We should hope that it will be a lasting lesson and that it will never again return. It is antithetical to democracy, and democratic ideals are still recovering across the land from the atmosphere which permeated the country under its reign, the notion that if you don't like someone personally, you simply make up a story about them, spread rumors, and seek to enlist the police or government agencies to destroy their lives--a scenario still being repeated daily in this country by Neanderthals. We apparently are consigned locally to live with the bitter-end dregs, foisted by bitter-enders, of a thoroughly repudiated policy nationally, for some time to come.
Our own view is that Lincoln's "best hope" still is and is becoming. It is true that democracy is always wedged between interests of capital on the one hand and fascists and dictators seeking a stake from that capital on the other, stuck in between the two interests in tension, constantly seeking through means instructed by the Constitution to find a way out of the dilemma.
Those who seek to circumvent the Constitution on the notion of pragmatism, while appearing tough in the short run, always lose in the end. For the spirit of the country and its democracy resides in the people, not in little local bureaucrats setting themselves up as dictators, not in state bars seeking to take away freedom of speech from lawyers, thereby chilling the populace at large from fighting back against corporate thieves in the night seeking to steal private property, not in cheap judges on the take, ignoring the law in favor of corporate interests. Those latter will lose always, despite their arrogance of power. The democratic weal will always prevail for it resides in the spirit of the people. It always has, despite the recurring attempts of the little dictators to have their way while seeking to brand impliedly anyone who resists them that which they in fact are and plainly embody.
"Bus Control" leaves us pondering whether the control of buses wasn't left eventually, by fall 1955, to Ralph, or maybe Norton, at least in Montgomery and elsewhere.
--What's that? Thuy! Phoey! Faweva!
And, on Tuesday, when we concluded our note a little strangely, just something popping into mind, we had not read today's quote of the day or noticed its author even with a side glance. As we said, it becomes ghostly at times. And should those of the United Klanspeople of America persist in their efforts to destroy, they will find out that these ghosts are quite real and not to be toyed with or for long resisted in their will to democracy. They, unlike the Klanspeople, do not wear robes for effect.
Tonight, incidentally, we had occasion to discover that in order to effect purchase of a copy of Bill Maher's "Religulous" in North Carolina, at Walmart anyway, though we didn't try it at a Raleigh truckstop, one must prove age. Never mind that one may buy all manner of violent movies without such proof. Never mind that, based on our viewing this documentary about a year ago, we found it most conducive to thought and debate on the subject of religion, and certainly not the least bit offensive to anyone of a rational mind, that is, someone not insane. Anyone under 18 would likely find it a little boring, probably, unless advanced for their age, as the film directs its discussion more philosophically than humorously, though adequately infused with enough doses of humor to keep it wet. Nevertheless, it is certainly not offensive compared to other films freely purchaseable at this same store without proof of age, a few four-letter words stated with point, notwithstanding, also in many films, and stated quite gratuitously, so purchaseable freely at the age of five or three at this same store. Is Walmart, or the State of North Carolina, we know not which, equating "Religulous" with wine and beer? Regardless, the policy is certainly quite religulous. But, dare to question doctrinaire religion, especially of the evangelical and performance-oriented variety, in the Bible Belt, especially with use of four-letter words in tow, and why, brother, best watch your head. A Klansperson may be watching you with a cross ready to burn in your yard to demonstrate what happens to those who confront the Lord Our Saviour, God Almighty, with words in vain. Right, Jesus-Mary Chain of the Golden-oil of California Kaligulous Klansperson?
Don't like it? We refer you again to Mrs. Roosevelt's sign language.
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