The Charlotte News

Friday, January 31, 1941



Site Ed. Note: For more on the president's war powers, see "Amendments", editorial of February 17, 1941.

It must not have been coincidence that on May Day, 2003, we looked to the sky to see not a bird, but a plane, though not the usual one, transporting George Jetson to a dramatic landing on the Lincoln in an F/A-18 Super Hornet (E or F?). Za-zooooom. (See "" --no link, for it won’t zoom back, you see.) The catapult never had it so good. It must not have been coincidence either that a cable caught Mr. Jetson to prevent him from going into the drink--just as in November-December, 2000.

For when we tune in to MTV, (Military Television), we find indeed things which should alarm any parent of a child growing up in this world today. Perhaps, the programming should carry a parental advisory regarding its content, what with there being daily images of death and destruction, juxtaposed to criticism of the past Administration for its "weak" insistence on peace, (not Manly enough). And death and destruction precipitated offensively for the first time by this country on the convenient premise that Terror will reign otherwise. (Never mind that much of the Terror seems to be over poll ratings every time they slump toward the critical 50 percentile mark.) Weseems the terror to have occurred because the present Administration did not heed intelligence reports in its early months--but we won't harp on that because we are supposed to "get over it". We understand. All that was because weak-kneed, appeasing "liberal Democrats", after all, didn't arrest the terrorists when given the chance. And of course, no one could expect in a mere eight months the current Administration to have done anything about that as that Administration was too busy then with other things like "Faith-based Initiatives" and tax rebates of a whopping amount useful to buy such necessities as a new tv so we could sit back and watch in higher definition all the war news to come while having faith that it will all get better shortly, next year or the year after, at least before the unemployment insurance runs out for those among the 6.1% and rising. There's an old country saying with plenty of wisdom in it which appears apt here: If it isn't broke, don't fix it.

What we see daily on MTV, in short, the thing which demands these parental advisory warning labels, are wheelwrights aplenty--military spokespersons, retired spokespersons, their sponsors--promoting aggressive warfare on third world countries, all to promote unity and security among us. Every hour of everyday now, they advertise for war and more of it. G.I. Joe sales ought to skyrocket among the children in days to come. When the video games and "reality tv" viewing are traded in later for the real thing, we need not wonder from whence it all came.

It has not been that long since November, 2000 when the world was largely at peace and divisive domestic issues were largely abated in favor of trying to plan for the new century. Remember? There were no important issues in the campaign of 2000--except, as it turned out, the election itself and whether or not all the votes could be counted properly. It would now seem, as it seemed to the carefully attentive then, that such was the period in which MTV took over our public airwaves through the corporate hucksters who never met a war or a war-waging Administration, (at least a Republican one), they didn't like.

Then came early 2001 during which the fief commander went about the world changing all the past Administration's foreign policies. First, he cancelled talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Second, he went to Europe and made speeches insisting on the necessity of a new "defensive" missile initiative, (presumably an interplanetary one), and a new strategic arms limitation treaty to replace the "outmoded" one of thirty years earlier which had only managed to maintain a tenuous peace in the world since. And they rioted in Italy.

All in a time a decade after the Cold War, the end of which is attributed by the soft-headed to one Republican President. (Whatever happened to the seven presidents who preceded him? They didn't contribute to it at all, huh? Nor did the economic instability of the former U.S.S.R., brought about through its own insistence for decades on military superiority and Empire? Nor glasnost and Mikhail Gorbachev? Nor Lech Walensa, Vaclav Havel and other leaders, intellectuals and freedom fighters in former Soviet satellites? Nor did the Soviet war in Afghanistan, their Vietnam, which began under the President preceding the one they credit with ending the Cold War, and with considerable weapons and training support loaned by that former Administration to the Afghan freedom fighters, including of course one who has since become notorious as an enemy to the United States, because the Administration, (the one which gets the credit), turned its back on Afghanistan after that war ended? And will they also credit old Dutch eventually with freeing South Africa from the tyranny of the British empire and Apartheid? That happened 'round about the same time, too, after all. Maybe, that was Duchess Maggie instead. Who knows, maybe both. Well, these questions could go on. But somehow we understand the wisdom more and more everyday of the actions last fall of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.)

The soft-headed though see all of that very simply: When he said to the former Soviet Premier that he should tear down that wall, the wall came a tumblin' down--just like in the commercial playing throughout the nineties for one of those 24-hour "news" networks, don't ye know. Makes for good television, but it also points out how editing of film and sound, together with the politically and economically motivated sycophantic charlatans who use it to prey on the uninformed, can prove to manipulate minds too concerned with earnin' a livin' to be much concerned with more than a shallow understanding of history as it is built from the day's events as the days pass to weeks, months, years, decades, and centuries, those who don't see much beyond the end of their nose. After all, they have to take up all that time either fixing the busted water line which froze during the winter underneath the trailer or taking the SUV in to have it fitted with armor to guard the family against imminent peril of terrorist attack or going out to march in a protest somewhere because the "liberals" want to take their right to pray from them and their children or writing letters to the editors of great metropolitan newspapers telling "liberal Democrats" to "get over it" (whatever "it" is--democracy?) over and over and over and over again.

Then, 9-11. Oh, happy day. Unity, at last.

But getting back to Tailhook George Jetson--(every Tale has to have a hook, after all)--we had to wonder about this image being presented to the world and its children and what its consequences are ultimately therefore to the United States in years to come. We had to wonder what the New American Century foreign policy would do for the children today who will be adults of this New Century. We had to wonder what the Administration's broadening of the commander-in-chief's legal powers to unprecedented and likely unconstitutional levels would do to that newest generation. (We also had to wonder, what with all the imminent danger of terrorism afloat, and given the investment of a nation in the continued viability of its leader, whether this was a sound idea from the standpoint of domestic security. We had heard that Air Force One is specially equipped to ward off all forms of attack by land, sea, and air. We would assume a fighter jet, even if accompanied by a squadron, and even without incurring enemy fire, might be quite a bit less safe trying to land on a short runway bounded on all sides by water and dependent on a tailhook catch to save it from the disaster film archive kept by the networks. Aside from that, didn't anyone in the Administration tell Mr. Jetson that it is against 214 years of protocol in this country for the civilian commander of the armed forces to don any form of military uniform? Ten former generals, one named George, who preceded him in the office had well enough sense to understand why that image would be disdained and inappropriate to convey to the world or to our people. But the Jetsonites obviously know best. The polls have to get higher and higher, after all, as they no doubt will. We hope they don't shoot for 100%, (to top Jett, Sr.), by firing off a rifle on the South Lawn to celebrate victory in Iraq. But, we stream a bit...)

There isn't a draft these days. We have wondered throughout these months of promotion of war just how these same people who parade their patriotism on their sleeves, unabashedly promoting warfare, would react to the situation at hand if there were--if their sons and daughters had to face the imminent threat of being sent involuntarily to fight in these wars, as once sons did. And, by like measures, we wonder about the people who stood on the podium and protested against the war but almost always coupled their remarks with apologetic notes of "support for the troops".

That wasn't always the case 30-35 years ago. Then, the people who fought more often than not fought because they were drafted to fight. Today, they are volunteers. The protestors then offered little or no verbal support for the troops, often openly disdained them, often included among their numbers former draftees or even volunteers themselves. But we offer no opinion as to the rectitude of these varying statements on support or lack thereof for the troops, or support or lack thereof for the war, then or now, for the statements are proper exercises in both cases, that of 35 years ago and that of today, of freedom of speech, a right for which many fought and died in most of the wars in which the United States has been an active participant, the Indian wars, the Spanish-American War, Vietnam and small wars since notwithstanding, through and including World War II and the Cold War (of which some will contend, with some good argument despite perfect hindsight suggesting the contrary, that Vietnam was a part). And that freedom is exercised always against the backdrop of current situations and so may vary in tone and substance from one situation to another without thereby becoming subject to criticism for inconsistency or hypocrisy.

War is a complex thing. Being opposed to a war is a complex thing. Just as with text attempting to describe the concepts. Anyone who thinks it is simple for those who reach their decisions and opinions honestly and with conscientious thought on either side of the issue takes their cues from the manipulators of the soft-headed.

But whatever else such complex views are about, they are not about patriotism, or at least the rhetoric which attempts to divide the patriotic from the unpatriotic. Patriotism is something else, something harder to define, we think. Standing up for rights, our own or someone else's, under the Constitution, doing so quietly and in an unheralded manner most of all--somehow that seems to us to define it better than singing the anthem or waving a flag or promoting warfare in between sales pitches for products which none of us really need--or landing on a tailhook in a foolhardy and potentially nationally and internationally disruptive stunt. (We might think it wonderful for a fellow to jump a big truck over a bunch of junk cars but we don't necessarily think it wise for anyone but a damn fool.) The conscientious thought process preceding the formulation of opinion or conclusion is, at the end of the day, that, of which history itself bears plentiful proof, which appears most exemplary of patriotism in any land.

Some have proclaimed all of this present situation as a new unity born of tragedy. We think there is a profound difference, however, between unity and a people trying to grapple with shock from sudden tragedy and slowly emerging from that shock into feelings first of anger, then dread, then lashing out at a chosen, convenient enemy, (one which, despite many other faults, did express horror at the tragedy for which many blame it), only to show a quiet resignation from the ensuing shellshock, PTSS, as we now call it, in the aftermath of it all. We saw, those of us who lived through enough of it to understand its antecedents, the same thing after 1963 through the 1980's. And we thought we had pretty much "gotten over it".

But now. Now, we have to wonder about the long-term effects of this New Century policy, the HDFS, (Herr Doktor Fremdliebe Strategy), on those children of today, not only those in this country but those in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places around the globe at present.

Long about 1970, a singer wrote a song about his childhood in England in the 1940's. It began: "In an upstairs room in Blackpool, by the side of a northern sea, the army had my father and my mother was having me/ Military madness was killing my country/ Solitary sadness comes over me..." And the child of the forties became the adult of the sixties who could, along with many of those who had fought in it in the forties, see the insanity of warfare for what it is and communicate that to the children of the fifties and sixties who are now middle-aged adults who ought to be able, and in many cases do, communicate it to the children of today.

But some have poor or clouded memories.

Some turn suddenly into George Jetson catching the Tailhook...

Once upon a time, along about late November, 2000, we asked, a little sarcastically, in a prolix note in these spaces, "Where's the law, Drew? Aren't we in the wood?" That in response to the proclamation by the new Queen of Florida, (lately in Congress giving important speeches on high school state champions in some sport we didn't bother to catch), that "The Rule of Law is Restored". Well, it all seemed at once sad and tragically humorous then.

But now--now, we don't know. Maybe we are in the wood sure enough, maybe the Northwood. (Shortly after he sought to take the country into the Northwoods in 1962, incidentally, General Lyman Lemnitzer, appointed by President Eisenhower as head of the Joint Chiefs, was dismissed by President Kennedy.)

And maybe it's no coincidence that today in history, at fair odds against it, a horse named "Funny Cide" won the Kentucky Derby.

Or that in the great State of New Hampshire, long a bastion of preservation of democratic republican politics, bearing since 1809 the motto "Live Free or Die", and the last home of Robert Frost, somewhere over near Franconia Notch above the Pemigewasset River roiling its way to the Merrimack, sometime in the wee hours, with no one around to witness, the Old Man of the Mountain, a hard-nosed, square-chinned, no-nonsense appearing, rocky gentleman, wearing maybe some sort of cap or other headdress to shield his eyes from thousands of years of sunshine, snow and rain, suddenly and without warning, after standing his watch for time immemorial, and despite special care taken since 1960 to preserve him, unceremoniously collapsed.

Legal Powers

Moral Duty of President, Right of Congress Different

The convoying of supplies to Britain is so fraught with the chance or even the probability of war (in the full sense) that the President may be said to be under moral obligation to consult Congress before resorting to it, save perhaps in the direst emergency. And the simplest common sense would seem to require the President to consult the chiefs of staff of the Army and Navy before making a decision in any military or naval matter.

But there is a very great difference between the President's moral obligations and the legal powers of the Congress. And Secretary Simpson has done a useful piece of work in pointing out that the Congress would be busily engaged in usurpation if it attempted to pass a law absolutely forbidding convoying and ordering the President to "consult" with the chiefs of staff before transferring anything at all to Britain.

Under the Constitution the President is made commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy, without reservation. And the Constitutional debates show that he was meant to have full power over the movements of the navy, and even though it involved the risk of war. Moreover, many Presidents have exercised the power.

At Wilson's order, the navy bombarded Vera Cruz without any declaration of war. Theodore Roosevelt sent the navy steaming to Venezuela under sealed orders to drive out German warships without bothering with Congress. Coolidge and Hoover occupied various Latin American lands at will, and many of the men who now bellow about Roosevelt did not even open their mouths.

And obviously if the "consult" provision means that the President must follow the advice of his chiefs of staff, then the commander-in-chief is not the President but these staff officers.

Petty Graft

Long as It Is Tolerated, Corruption Will Prevail

A college president made a speech in Pittsburgh the other day in which he laid down the startling premise that "Hitler is right in preaching to the world about corruption in democracies."

"Our courts are filled with the trials of corrupt officials," he said. And just think of all the corrupt officials who never get caught, or whose predatory instinct finds an outlet in the accepted political malpractices.

Such, for a minor example, as the purchase by the Federal Communications Commission of thirteen $150 (wholesale price) radio-phonograph sets for use in the homes of its well-paid members and top officials.

There was nothing particularly corrupt about this transaction. Indeed, if it had not been for the phonograph attachment (with automatic record-changer), the purchase might well have been justified, for the radios had frequency-modulation reception, and FM broadcasts are made in Washington only during the evening when FCC members are in their homes.

But the phonograph attachment made any explanation exceedingly lame. The boys were simply getting a handsome combination set at the expense of the Government, an easy mark and one with so much money that it wouldn't miss a few thousand dollars here and there.

That is the accepted attitude of nearly everybody connected with the Government and, for that matter, of nearly all the people toward their Government. And until that attitude is changed, until office-holders lean over backwards in their transactions with the Government for fear of abusing a trust, the Government cannot hope to be effective as an instrument of reform. Let it cast out the mote in its own eye before it passes uncomplementary remarks on other people's optics.

A Rebuff

Which, However, Will Be Lost On Lindbergh & Co.

Adolf Hitler's threat yesterday to torpedo on sight any American ship which came within range of his submarines was designed to furnish Lindbergh, Wheeler, Nye, Hugh Johnson & Co.--all the isolationist-appeasers--with new terrors with which to frighten and confuse the American people.

Addressed to the isolationist and appeasers also was the long tirade against the wickedness and tyranny of Britain and the Treaty of Versailles. This is old stuff now and merely funny in view of the crimes which Hitler has already successfully carried out--to everybody but the willfully-blind isolationists and appeasers.

To the isolationist-appeasers, again, was addressed the statement that it was a lie that he had designs on the Americas and wants to conquer the world.

On one point, however, Adolf let the boys down. For months now Wheeler, Nye, General Wood, Verne Marshall, etc., etc., etc., have been squawking that a decent "negotiated peace" was quite possible--and that the United States ought to abandon England by way of bringing pressure on her to accept it. Only last week Lindbergh, that great expert on everything, confidently asserted the same thing to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Yesterday Adolf Hitler saw it a little differently. Said he:

"Let them realize that this is not a small fracas. It is a total war which will never end until total destruction of England has been accomplished... I cannot and will not give up one inch of the program we have laid down for ourselves..."

Grim Notice

Mr. Hitler Abolishes the Freedom of the Seas

It is worth observing closely--that threat of Mr. Hitler's. For it is official notice of the end of the freedom of the seas and international law based on common agreement. And a striking commentary on the policy of appeasement.

Says the official German version, as read over the official German radio:

"Who thinks to be able to help England must know one thing: Every vessel which--guilty or not guilty--gets in front of our torpedo tubes will be torpedoed."

The tables are neatly turned on us. We adopted the Neutrality Act requiring our ships to stay out of "war zones" (fixed by ourselves) as a unilateral act supposed to be for our own safety and involving no surrender of our legal rights on the sea, for which we had fought since the beginning of the Republic. Mr. Hitler takes that act, proceeds to assume it as the basis of his right to forbid our ships to pass, and to extend that right not merely to the "war zones" we ourselves have fixed but to all the waters before England--and probably in the Pacific also--that his torpedoes can reach.

At the same time, he abolishes the distinction between the "guilty" and the "not guilty." That distinction--the distinction between contraband-bearing and non-contraband-bearing ships--has always been the prime basis of the international law of the sea. And what Hitler's words amount to is notice that no American ship, however innocent its mission, can pass within zones fixed by himself, subject only to the range of his torpedo tubes, under penalty of being destroyed on sight.

Framed Edition
[Go to Links-Page by Subject][Go to Links-Page by Date][Go to News Framed Edition]
Links-Date -- Links-Subj.