Category Archives: History

America Admits to Cooking its Numbers on Coronavirus

A tragic day in America as the White House occupants have openly stated they’re actively manipulating coronavirus case numbers for political reasons.

…[He is as or more] concerned about the political fallout of the growing number of coronavirus cases in the United States as he is about how those cases should be handled. […] {His] concern is just that numeric increase, a concern that has no other apparent root besides his insistence that his administration is keeping that particular number low.

Sounds like an obsession with appearance, and no concern for people who will die. In other words it suggests numbers everywhere are being cooked by this administration because they love power, hate science and believe gambling with other peoples’ lives has no consequences.

Some also are reporting that warnings by intelligence professionals to the White House of the pandemic risk to America… were ignored and the office leadership fired.

Stanford lecturer Brett McGurk cited a document from the office the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats’ 2019 “Worldwide Threat Assessment,” which specifically warns of a disease like the coronavirus.

Low numbers of cases doesn’t even mean things will be better for those reporting them, since they sit on an exponential curve early in the spread cycles. Here you can see Michael Lines graphing the similarity in rates:

France replaced Japan in tracker of the 4 largest coronavirus outbreaks outside of China. US is expected next. Source: Michael Lines

Data is beautiful” on reddit offers this graph, which indicates the US being slow on response and failing to test means it is ramping quicker than countries that tested early and often:

“point of this is not to compare which country has or had more cases at a given date, but rather show how the virus propagates”

Any country having only 50 cases on the same day that Korea has 5,000, for example, could indicate Korea is 15 days ahead on a single contagion timeline. They’re linear numbers following the same line not running in parallel.

WHO has stated these three factors are most important to containment:

  1. sufficient testing to identify the infected
  2. isolation and treatment of infected once identified
  3. tracing anyone who had contact with them

So the real questions right now are what testing capability has America demonstrated relative to number of cases it has reported on the shared timeline (sufficiency), and how early did the testing start relative to the case numbers (enabling isolation and treatment during spread to contacts).

The answers are that America’s federal government not only is intentionally cooking its numbers to artificially keep numbers reported low, it’s also been dangerously slow to deploy test kits that would be able to prevent thousands of deaths in America.

…the country’s true capacity for testing has not been made clear to its residents. This level of obfuscation is unexpected in the United States, which has long been a global leader in public-health transparency. The figures we gathered suggest that the American response to the coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, has been shockingly sluggish, especially compared with that of other developed countries. The CDC confirmed eight days ago that the virus was in community transmission in the United States—that it was infecting Americans who had neither traveled abroad nor were in contact with others who had. In South Korea, more than 66,650 people were tested within a week of its first case of community transmission, and it quickly became able to test 10,000 people a day. The United Kingdom, which has only 115 positive cases, has so far tested 18,083 people for the virus.

That’s a disaster, and it seems to be an intentional one. The US government is likely to get a lot of Americans killed. Already confirmed cases have exploded after the White House literally said (not a joke) that we should expect cases soon to go to zero.

Appointing Pence, who infamously bungled his state’s AIDS crisis, is only going to make the numbers games worse (like most White House appointments so far, including the newly appointed CDC head infamous for believing a virus is God’s punishment).

In Seattle, a hot spot of the virus where a dozen people already have died, only about 100 tests were done across an area with greater than 3 million people.

It’s truly bizarre to run America completely blind like this, unless you think back to how badly President Reagan infamously intentionally delayed and suppressed national virus numbers and response while thousands were dying.

To be clear, scientists today refer to the COVID-19 a cross between AIDS and SARS. That makes it especially important to reflect on an American President in the 1980s who intentionally hamstrung the CDC and blocked scientific response to AIDS.

I’ve written about this before, in context of the “executive privilege” stain from anti-science extremists in American politics (including present Supreme Court Justice Roberts, adviser to Reagan during the AIDS crisis):

One of the most prominent stains on the…Reagan administration was its response, or lack of response, to the AIDS crisis as it began to ravage American cities in the early and mid-1980s. President Reagan famously…didn’t himself publicly mention AIDS until [Sept 17th] 1985, when more than 5,000 people, most of them gay men, had already been killed by the disease.

Reagan’s first public address on the subject came even later, captured in a story about the White House turning down pleas for help from political backers with the virus.

President Reagan did not give his first major public address on the disease until …May 31, 1987 — well after the number of AIDS deaths in the United States topped 25,000.

Italy, with its high fatality numbers serves for most countries as a foreshadowing of what’s to come with COVID-19. That country is now predicting 18,000 people hospitalized in Lombardy region in a few weeks, of which they expect 3,000 will require intensive care (that’s 10 times Italy’s current capacity).

Diffusion of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) in Italy. Source data: https://github.com/pcm-dpc/COVID-19

However, Ronald Reagan and Justice Roberts perhaps are an even better foreshadowing of what’s to come with COVID-19 in terms of America’s lack of transparency and overly political approach to healthcare, downplaying fatalities or even ignoring them altogether.

In the early stages of the AIDS virus thousands were dead and yet the Reagan Administration sat opaquely disbelieving, refusing to give scientists a voice and devaluing American lives. Cooking the numbers during that crisis quickly resulted in high fatality rates into the tens of thousands, with nearly 700,000 Americans in total killed since the virus was first reported.

The very telling history of virus response in America is captured especially well by the documentary “When AIDS Was Funny

A modern element of this can be found in the ugly section following the “At Harvard forum, three who know warn of ‘most daunting virus’ in half a century” story, where you will find comments like…

  • “…these ‘experts’ have no real evidence that what they say is true…”
  • “I support any disease that thins out the heard. Especially liberals and filthy Democrats.”
  • “I am sorry but all you Democrats and socialists will rot slowly as the disease consumes you then its time for the eternal lake of fire.”

And as Sue Turner has pointed out, here’s how the UK government used its office of information in 1987 to counteract these kinds of ignorant and harmful comments.

British Had a Laugh at Rommel’s 1942 Crude Propaganda Attempts

PsyWar hosts a photo gallery with some interesting history, such as this one from WWII:

Indian troops in the Egyptian desert get a laugh from one of the leaflets which Field Marshal Erwin Rommel has taken to dropping behind the British lines now that his ground attacks have failed. The leaflet, which of course are strongly anti-British in tone, are printed in Hindustani, but are too crude to be effective. (Photo was flashed to New York from Cairo by radio. Credit: ACME Radio Photo)

See also, headlines from Operation Torch reporting how badly Rommel was routed by the British:

Rommel was often beset by communications and supply failures, his troops ultimately crushed by Allied forces and abandoned by him in 1943. This ended his personal role in spread of horrors from fascism:

…empowered to “take executive measures against the civilian population”, Nazi jargon for robbery, murder and enslavement.

His “famous reputation” of strategy was nonetheless highly spun by Nazi military intelligence and shifted north in an attempt to “morale boost” troops facing defeat in European campaigns.

A couple years after his failures in North Africa and Europe he was coerced into suicide by state threats to kill his entire family, covered up by propaganda claiming he died from battle wounds.

Inarticulate Grief

Spoiler alert. Inarticulate Grief is a poem by Richard Aldington about WWI that is still relevant today.

Let the sea beat its thin torn hands
In anguish against the shore,
Let it moan
Between headland and cliff;
Let the sea shriek out its agony
Across waste sands and marshes,
And clutch great ships,
Tearing them plate from steel plate
In reckless anger;
Let it break the white bulwarks
Of harbour and city;
Let it sob and scream and laugh
In a sharp fury,
With white salt tears
Wet on its writhen face;
Ah! let the sea still be mad
And crash in madness among the shaking rocks —
For the sea is the cry of our sorrow

Now read Inarticulate Grief, by Sean Patrick Hughes, a beautiful prose about America’s endless Bush-Cheney Wars.

No deployment I had was hard enough to make me deal with the pain it caused. Someone always had it harder. No loss suffered; no trauma absorbed was bad enough to acknowledge. Someone always had it tougher. Acknowledging it, in some way, dishonored them.

Interactive Map of U.S. Supply-Chain Vulnerabilities

Years ago I wrote about the secret history that lurks behind a famous American dessert.

Nobody else, at least to my knowledge, has been thinking and writing about the supply-chain vulnerability management required for America to promote itself as home of the banana split.

Now there’s an interactive map of supply-chain vulnerabilities, which seems like it would be ideal for speeding up research and illustrating stories like the one I wrote.

FEW-View™ is an online educational tool that helps U.S. residents and community leaders visualize their supply chains with an emphasis on food, energy, and water. This tool lets you see the hidden connections and benchmark your supply chain’s sustainability, security, and resilience.

FEW-View™ is developed by scientists at Northern Arizona University and at the Decision Theater® at Arizona State University. FEW-View™ is an initiative of the FEWSION™ project, a collaboration between scientists at over a dozen universities (https://fewsion.us/team/).

FEWSION™ was founded in 2016 by a grant from the INFEWS basic research program of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The opinions expressed are those of the researchers, and not necessarily the funding agencies.

However, there are two problems I see already with the map. First, it doesn’t go backward in time. The illustrations would be far more useful if I could pivot through 1880 to 1980. Second, the interactive maps allow you to break out a booze category but I have yet to find a way to filter on bananas and pineapples let alone ingredients for three flavors of ice cream.

Glory to the Modern Propagandists

The nature of propaganda is that a tiny seed of truth is grown into massive distraction.

People tend to overlook the basic fact that an adversary has used a tiny seed to confuse their whole plans. Any sense of real progress — ultimately a target’s fractured resources are more easily divided or disabled from within than confronted as a whole directly from the outside — falls victim to a tactic that really shouldn’t be so easy.

The problem, to paraphrase Mark Twain, is that it’s much easier to manipulate people than to persuade them they’re being manipulated.

I’ve presented about this many times in the past, such as 2012 when I explained how Vanuatu’s rapid mobile phone adoption made it ripe for a political coup by manipulating voters. Most recently I spoke of the Russian government targeting foreign athletes with psychological warfare to “get in their heads” and reduce competitive performance against weaker Russian athletes.

Some new analysis from the alliance for securing democracy shows how this all works. Their “Hamilton Dashboard” highlights two important findings in a post titled “Why the Jeffrey Epstein saga was the Russian government-funded media’s top story of 2019”

…few topics dominated the Russian government-funded media landscape quite like the arrest and subsequent suicide of billionaire financier and serial sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. In its year-end review, RT named the Epstein saga “2019’s major scandal,” and RT UK media personality George Galloway listed it as his number one “truth bomb” of the year (ahead of all the aforementioned events). Given the lack of any notable connection between Epstein and Russian interests, the focus on Epstein highlights the Kremlin’s clear prioritization of content meant to paint a negative image of the West rather than a positive image of Russia.

The first finding is a somewhat obvious one that Russia actively uses seeds that are meant to destroy positive imagery of the West (i.e. reverse the “Hope” campaigns that had resulted in President Obama). Epstein falls into this category.

The second finding is more subtle and implicit. Russia fails miserably to generate any positive image of itself. Every analysis I have read suggests Putin is both desperate and incompetent at forming a national identity, despite ruthlessly positioning himself as a long-term dictator with total control of all resources.

To put it in some context, Putin is a trained assassin, with little to no evidence he can develop a sense of national interest or ability to convey any leadership story about belonging. In fact, these two positions may be contradictory (inherent weakness of being an assassin) given how anyone forming greater identity and purpose would be assassinated; rise of identity could be seen as potential threat to the man with an artificially inflated sense of self worth above everyone else.

Anyway the graphic for the Hamilton Dashboard of the securing democracy site really caught my eye as a beautifully done rendition of the classic Soviet propaganda art that Putin seems incapable of achieving (a bit like doing the work for him):

The Hamilton 2.0 dashboard, a project of the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, provides a summary analysis of the narratives and topics promoted by the Russian government and Russian state-funded media on Twitter, YouTube, broadcast television (RT), and state-sponsored news websites.

For comparison here’s some actual Soviet propaganda that celebrates creating a powerful aviation industry (a suspicious claim given staggering death tolls in their airline: in 1973 alone the Soviet aviation industry had 27 incidents and 780 people were killed)

This genre of “positive” spin poster of prosperity was backed by a complete suppression of any and all “unfavorable” communication that would challenge a progressive narrative (e.g. propaganda seeds of despair pushed by running a story about Epstein). Especially suppressed by the Russians were news of crimes against humanity (massacres, famines and energy/environmental disasters on Russian soil).

In other words, two diametrically opposed threads can be tracked in Cold War propaganda, posters of hope by the Soviets and counter-posters of despair by the CIA (the subject of Putin’s study while in the KGB).

Example of a Soviet poster pushing a positive narrative of prosperity from labor:

Map of the Soviet Union highlighting the contributions to the economy of its major cities and regions, each represented by symbols for dams, factories, mines, agriculture, and so on. Quoting Premier Nikolai Bulganin (served 1955-58). Source: Boston Rare Maps

Contrarian example of a CIA poster pushing negative narratives (indirectly via Italian media platforms) of demoralizing labor brutality:

A map flanked by long text notes describing the Gulag’s size — “if consolidated, would make a submerged empire the size of Western Europe” — and its staggering brutality, with an “average mortality rate… exceed[ing] 12% a year.” Source: Boston Rare Maps

In the modern context, being the typical self-promoting KGB agent trained in the art of copying everything the CIA did and trying to use it for his own gain, we see clear evidence in the Hamilton Dashboard that Putin is pushing a despair campaign using today’s social media platforms. He doesn’t, however, seem to be able to come up with any positive sense of identity for his own nation.

And I have to say, despite me being a student of these communication methods (even having a degree related to their usage) my attempts at art in this domain simply pale in comparison to what the Hamilton Dashboard has come up with.

Hats off to them…although really I would expect some despair in their graphic if they wanted to play this game right. I mean it seems a bit counter productive to gift the enemy with banner-level positive glorification imagery that everyone sees when they come to study the enemy.

The same mistake probably should be said for me, in retrospect, as here’s my 2017 image that used to show up in many of my presentations:

“cyberbombs away” 2017

It was a refresh of the 2016 rendition that was even more snarky about the U.S. being way ahead in kinetic yet woefully behind in the more pressing cyber domain…

Czech Patton Museum Comes to America

The 75th anniversary of liberation from Nazi occupation is giving Americans a chance to see memorials to them that usually are found only in Czechia.

The exhibition, entitled Liberation of Pilsen, will be unveiled at Czech Centre New York on Wednesday afternoon. It outlines the advance of Allied troops from Normandy to Pilsen, the role of General George S. Patton and other historical circumstances.

Ivan Rollinger of the Patton Memorial Pilsen museum, who curated the exhibition, says it also maps the many memorials to civilians and soldiers in the region of Pilsen.

“Even today, 75 years after the end of the war, there are still new monuments being erected to the victims of the Second World War, including fallen US soldiers.

“We still come across new information about the individual victims in the region, for instance in the Washington National Archive or in daily reports, and then we unveil new memorials to them.”

New Book: Going to War Against Fascists Earlier Prevents Late Realization That Fascism is Really Bad

It’s a complicated claim, given how fascism is based on constant deception and lying; yet the facts are in again that the far more powerful armies would have benefited from earlier political support to declare war against the expanding lies and aggression of fascism.

Caquet’s most potent argument, borrowed as well from Winston Churchill, is that in 1938 the Allies were in a much stronger military position than Germany. By virtually every measure, including the number of soldiers, ammunition, tanks and aircraft, he reveals, the combined armed forces of England, France and Czechoslovakia greatly exceeded those available to be deployed by the Nazis.

In 1938, Germany was only about halfway through its rearmament initiative, and remained somewhat constrained by restrictions in the Treaty of Versailles. France and Czechoslovakia alone could produce twice as many armored divisions than the Reich, following a general mobilization. German supplies of oil, iron and aviation lubricants sufficed for three months or less. German construction of battleships, aircraft carriers and submarines had just begun. German bombers lacked the range to effectively bomb Britain. And in 1938, Caquet points out, with Czechoslovakian forces on high alert, Germany could not launch a surprise attack. That the Allies did not call Hitler’s bluff and go to war, he implies, resulted from a lack of political will and not inferior military might.

“Supermarine Spitfire, Britain’s premier fighter plane from 1938 through World War II.” Source: Britannica

See also: death camps described by an escapee in detail to London June 1942

JFK Assassinated Weeks After Shifting to Cuba “Accommodation”

There long has been speculation that foreign policy hawks in the US had JFK assassinated for taking a diplomatic approach to Cuba instead of a more militant one. We finally are starting to see official history beginning to emerge from government archives:

…National Security Archive today posted an audio tape of the President and his national security advisor, McGeorge Bundy, discussing the possibility of a secret meeting in Havana with Castro. The tape, dated only seventeen days before Kennedy was shot in Dallas, records a briefing from Bundy on Castro’s invitation to a U.S. official at the United Nations, William Attwood, to come to Havana for secret talks on improving relations with Washington. The tape captures President Kennedy’s approval if official U.S. involvement could be plausibly denied. The possibility of a meeting in Havana evolved from a shift in the President’s thinking on the possibility of what declassified White House records called “an accommodation with Castro” in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Proposals from Bundy’s office in the spring of 1963 called for pursuing “the sweet approach…enticing Castro over to us,” as a potentially more successful policy than CIA covert efforts to overthrow his regime. Top Secret White House memos record Kennedy’s position that “we should start thinking along more flexible lines” and that “the president, himself, is very interested in [the prospect for negotiations].” Castro, too, appeared interested.

Food for thought when looking at the US faith-based revenge assassination doctrine of state actors, as pushed into the news in recent weeks.

Update 19 Jan 2020: Lawfare implores the US to resist its impulse to assassinate leaders.

…openly targeted a senior official of a sovereign nation-state, carrying out a satisfying act of short-term revenge but undermining its long-term strategic interests…in a destabilizing era of open assassination…a favorite tactic of weak states seeking leverage against strong powers. […] Banning assassination was not just the right thing to do; it was how modern nation-states consolidated their power. […] Democratized digital technologies have enabled weaker states and nonstate actors to more effectively target the United States and its personnel and facilities abroad in ways that were once exclusive to Washington’s arsenal. U.S. policymakers must resist the temptation to use their technological and military prowess to target senior government officials, remembering who is watching and learning from what they do.

See also the CIA roles in Au service de la france: “We know how to discredit him…”

Religious Pompeo Rejects Science: New Faith-Based US Assassination Doctrine?

Standard disclaimer: I am not a national security lawyer, always seek professional advice***

Please consider the huge significance to the future of science and scientific inquiry in America when you read the latest headlines:

Pompeo says ‘we don’t know when, we don’t know where’ Soleimani had planned ‘imminent attacks’

This is what radical “end is neigh” evangelical thinking looks like when shoe-horned into modern concepts of self-defense that usually require leaders to accept scientific realities like clock and compass.

I mean any garden-variety dictionary would tell you “imminent” means “happening soon…menacingly near”.

Normally that means we would be checking a clock as we talk about soon and near events as detailed and measurable concepts (given centuries if not millennium of time-telling technology)… and yet the White House claims they “don’t know” how to predict either.

Let me now philosophically break the faith-based White House policy position into the three logical parts:

1) “We don’t know when”

The science of measuring time is called horology, which refers to timekeeping and advances in related technology (e.g. clocks and watches).

Saying we know something is “imminent” and yet don’t know when it will happen is a dog-whistle (dare I say a god-whistle) rejection of science; a wide rejection of scientific disciplines from history to physics that predict imminence.

More specifically, physicists are prone to argue things like “time is an arrow” and say deep things like this about looking forward:

We remember the past but we don’t remember the future. There are irreversible processes. There are things that happen, like you turn an egg into an omelet, but you can’t turn an omelet into an egg.

A natural scientist of course would laugh at the example and simply say if a snake or lizard eats an omelet it can lay an egg, thus easily proving how and when an omelet turns into an egg. They probably could even tell you when a new egg is considered imminent after eating an omelet.

It begs the obvious question if science can tell us with great precision and detail when something is going to happen, why is Pompeo declaring he has rejected science with “we don’t know” yet still claim he knows something “imminent”?

2) “We don’t know where”

Speaking of arrows…

The science of measuring space is called cartography, which refers to spacial scale making and advances in related technology (e.g. maps and geographic information systems).

Saying something is “imminent” and yet don’t know where it will happen is a dog-whistle (dare I say a god-whistle) rejection of science; a wide rejection of scientific disciplines from history to physics that predict imminence.

More specifically, I think you can see where I’m going with this…

It begs the obvious question if science can tell us with great precision and detail where something is going to happen, why is Pompeo declaring he has rejected science with “we don’t know” yet still claim he knows something “imminent”?

3) “Imminent attacks”

Pompeo allegedly welcomes “end-times” Evangelical faith as a strategy. When is the end of end-times? It is famously considered by faith-based groups to be “imminent” while also very importantly…unknown when and where.

Conlusion: White House is Waging a War Against Science

I’m reminded of Pompeo’s HR 4432 bill in 2014 (defeated in 2016) dubbed the “Deny Americans the Right-to-Know” or DARK Act.

More than 30 states introduced legislation to require GE labeling in 2013 and 2014, with laws recently passed in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine…

Imagine that, Americans were using science in governance to make it a requirement they know when and where something harmful might come their way.

In response, Pompeo said he wanted people to not use science or know when or where harms would come and instead have faith in the word from on high. To be fair, DARK literally said this:

Preempts any state or local requirement respecting a bioengineered organism intended for a food use or application, or food produced from, containing, or consisting of a bioengineered organism. Sets forth standards for any food label that contains claims that bioengineering was or was not used in the production of the food. Preempts any state and local labeling requirements with respect to bioengineered food. Requires the Secretary to issue regulations setting standards for a natural claim on food labels. Preempts any state or local regulations that are not identical to the requirements of this Act.

Pompeo sponsored America going DARK to make science difficult for harm predictions. You can see he required state and local thought to be identical to what the federal secretary opaquely thought about harms, regardless of science.

People may joke about Communism being dead. Yet it is Pompeo’s brand of un-American top-down centrally-planned dictation of knowledge that reminds me most of a 1980s meme “In Soviet Russia…”.

Today the ad would be more like “in Pompeo America, party imminently knows when and where you are”!

I deserve no credit for pointing this out

In honor of scientific method having citations I am far from being the first to notice a war against science going on with the White House, let alone wider political party attempts.

There are many who deserve credit. Here are only a few examples:

I’m just applying this kind of ongoing reporting to an important area of security like the ethics of self-defense and targeted assassination of foreign state leaders.

The US could have shown deference to scientific thought or methods and gone with a Robert Baer (CIA Middle East field officer) “we assassinate*** because…these reasons” document in the open. Then it would have worked with other states to lay out logical/moral justification claims within inherited (internationally accepted) systems of ethics, and submitted for peer-review.

That could even open up the archives and dialog on the controversial death of the 1961 UN Secretary General, or the controversial death of the 1969 FRELIMO leader (a professor of Syracuse University, New York).

Instead it has Pompeo standing alone and naked in the streets making a god-whistle while wrapped only in the isolationist trope of destroying science because “national security” is declared a higher order than a public’s right to know. As Foreign Policy wrote, probably without meaning any irony, it is the voices of locals that need to be heard on these issues if bad leadership is meant to be ended:

Mistaken support for a terrible political leader is hardly unique to the Middle East.

Terrible political leadership? The concept of “imminence” is before our very eyes being diluted into a religious war cry by a faith-based group in a so called “ok to prey if you pay” system. It is the Evangelical state of being both always and never in danger.

It is the knowledge that His coming is soon that puts a little bit of immediacy into our step and determination into our service.

Or as the New Yorker famously put it…

Bob Mankoff was the cartoon editor of The New Yorker from 1997 to 2017

This tragically diminishes global respect for America as it shockingly improves perception and appeal of faith-based rule by an Ayatollah.

Why would any American willingly do that (again)? The anti-science tactics fundamentally (pun not intended) encourage corrupt over-centralized belief-based systems, which used to be considered the exact opposite of successful public American foreign policy let alone domestic.

The answer to my question may surprise you.

My assessment of science denialists has changed a lot since I started writing my dissertation on anti-science propaganda 5 years ago. I used to think they were stupid and culpable. My position has changed 180 degrees. I now believe these people are victims of sophisticated and well-funded manipulation campaigns that prey on social trust and our necessary reliance on others for knowledge.

And since we’re now obviously talking here about denialists running a war-machine after an assassination of foreign state leader, I’m also reminded of WWI. The current administration has many same hallmarks of “the Kaiser in 1914…who saw his empire first defeated and then dismembered” due to German leadership faith-based mystical belief in “Der Tag”


*** Per my disclaimer at the top, lawyers have recommended listening to Episode 106 of the ABA National Security Today Podcast from yesterday:

Iran and the Law of Armed Conflict with Bill Banks and John Bellinger“.

The first speaker, Bellinger, makes the point that use of terms like assassination and reprisals are to describe illegal acts. Pompeo (if he cares to abide by law) thus has to frame his doctrine as “targeted killing” of a leader of a state that was to prevent some imminent terrorist act (because there is no declaration of war).

Bellinger also brings up a lot of interesting detail on the lack of legal authorization for targeted killing and lack of necessary communication with Congress. At one point he says the American people should be told the exact reason for immediacy. References:

  • Executive Order 13382 and Executive Order 13224
  • War Powers Resolution of 1973

Even against such legal podcast terminology, my point hopefully remains clear. Pompeo is engaging in a particular type of contradictory rhetoric, consistent with other attempts to destroy science, by saying he both does not know and does know something to be true.

To put it simply, the term where means a place has been targeted for a terrorist act and the term when means soon enough to require immediate action. If Pompeo says he didn’t know where or when then in what possible way will an imminent terror attack be proven to be real instead of being faith-based?

This Day in History: American “Free Men of Color” Defeat British in 1815 Battle of New Orleans

There are many, many versions of the January 8, 1815 Battle of New Orleans. None of them, so far, seem to tell the history in a manner that would be most fair to the participants.

Most ignore completely the most important detail:

American forces were made of “free men of color”. Specifically, of the 1,000 Louisiana militia and volunteers in the battle, it was nearly 50% non-white. The U.S. Army even has a print set called “The American Soldier” with a depiction of a the free men of color battalion in action to celebrate this fact.

Battle of New Orleans. Night attack of December 23. The painting shows the Choctaws and a mixed group of Major Daquin’s Battalion of Free Men of Colour. The latter were mostly attired in civilian clothes because they had been organized only for a few weeks. They are led by an officer distinguishable by his sword and red sash. Facing them are members of the British 85th Regiment in red coats with yellow facings and white lace, and members of the British 95th Regiment in green uniforms with black facings and white lace. Source: “The American Soldier.” U.S. Army Center of Military History.

An example of a site that does mention the “men of color” soldiers is the Tennessee Historical Society.

[Jackson] included a large number of both free men of color and enslaved black men in and around the city. To recruit the former, Jackson promised them the same wages and, equally important, the same respect as their white compatriots — a unique opportunity for black and Creole residents living in a Southern city committed to white racial superiority. For those enslaved, he appealed to their desire for freedom.

Take a moment to question the statement New Orleans was “committed to white racial superiority”. Lacking any citation at all, it sounds suspicious to me for a city known to be highly diverse in the 1800s.

Although it is true that New Orleans brutally put down a huge slave revolt in 1811, the free men before and afterwards still were present and exercising their rights up until America started shutting them down.

A good resource on this is the Louisiana Digital Library: Free People of Color collections, which is full of first-person materials as well as insights such as “white soldiers were thought cheaper than Negro slaves” as well as statements like “all the difference between a free man of color and a slave, that there is between a white man and a slave”.

During both Spanish and French rule of the colony of Louisiana the “free men of color” regularly served in militias. So when the U.S. took over New Orleans, it started with an integrated military.

At the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, about 16% of the roughly 8000 people living in New Orleans were free people of color. The first official U.S. census of the Orleans Territory in 1810 counted 7,585 free persons of color, or about 10% of the total population.

Remember how above I mentioned 50% of Jackson’s force from Louisiana was non-white? That’s a huge jump up from being just 10% of the population.

The above quote from the Tennessee History site is followed-up soon after on the same page by another odd statement:

Jackson not only ordered all black troops out of New Orleans at the behest of white residents who were fearful of armed black city-dwellers; he also reneged on his offer to free his enslaved troops and instead, ordered them to return to their slave-owners.

Let me try to untangle this.

First, Jackson saw all men of color as a potential enemy. When Governor Claiborne offered the free men of color as a veteran militia, Jackson responded that arming them and putting them into harms way was a good way to prevent them siding with the British.

The free men of colour…will not remain quiet spectators of the interesting contest. They must be for, or against us — distrust them, and you make them your enemies, place confidence in them, and you engage them by every dear and honorable tie to the interest of the country who extends to them equal rights and privileges with white men.

This probably explains the exceptionally high percentage of free men of color serving, relative to population numbers. It is incredibly tempting to read that letter and think Jackson had in mind at least some advance to equal rights and privileges, however there’s a fundamental problem with such a line of thinking.

When Jackson arrived in New Orleans he declared military (martial) law for the first successful time in United States history. He proclaimed it necessary because “those who are not for us are against us, and will be dealt with accordingly” and then “refused to lift his order instituting martial law for months…”.

A Louisiana State senator expressed unease about the ongoing state of martial law in a March 3 newspaper article; Jackson promptly had the senator arrested. When a U.S. District Court Judge demanded that the senator be charged or released, Jackson not only refused, he ordered the judge jailed before banishing him from the city. (When Jackson eventually lifted martial law, the returned judge proceeded to charge him with contempt and levied a thousand-dollar fine, which the “Hero of New Orleans” paid.)

It is worth considering how martial law was Jackson’s preferred method of rule, completely inverted from his letters he sent that said to “place confidence” in the public would gain their loyalty.

He seemed very keen to convince people he had their best interests in mind while he also demanded they pick a side. Martial law stemmed from his complete lack of trust in allowing freedoms. The key to unlocking Jackson’s true feelings seems to be that his concerns over spies and dissent was related to what he saw as a “largely foreign city” (French and Spanish). Jackson fundamentally distrusted New Orleans residents because they were not white like himself.

In other words, what if martial law was Jackson’s manner of dealing with discomfort and protest from a militia of non-whites he planned to defraud?

Don’t forget the Peninsular War kicking off in 1807 between France and Spain meant that by 1809 Cuba expelled Franco-Haitian and French residents. They became refugees escaping to New Orleans, which doubled the population of the city, and tripled the size of its free people of color population two years before the 1811 slave revolt. Martial law may really have been Jackson’s way of dealing with how to maintain white supremacy.

Dozens of “citizens without charges” were put in jail for weeks, not to mention Americans put in jail on spurious basis such as just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Jackson even tried (unsuccessfully) to enforce blatant military censorship on local newspapers.

Another line of reasoning is that martial law helped obscure a true casualty rate of the American militias, as well as lack of true threat from the British. Most accounts of American deaths seem low, even though hundreds of the “professional” British soldiers had laid down and played dead rather than fight.

Second, Jackson did not have honest intentions. Of course the freemen were promised equal pay, equal treatment, freedoms and so forth but Jackson appeared to have every interest in bringing non-whites to his side, with no plan of honoring his word to them when he no longer needed them.

In other words, a large U.S. military force of veteran free men of color and slaves was used by Jackson to deliver victory yet his response was to deny those men freedom (as he had promised) at the time of victory and then, as he became U.S. President allegedly in part from the tales of this battle, to strip non-whites in America of their voting rights and perpetuate/expand slavery.

To be fair…while Spanish/French colonial-era slave codes had granted complete rights and equality to a “free man of color” (allowed to be educated, serve in military, own land, business, and even slaves) it was only the March 4, 1812 Louisiana Constitution that removed the right to vote from 2/3 of the people living there. That was long before Jackson would fight a vicious political campaign at the federal level to do them even more harm.

When you think of a battle for “freedom” from British rule, consider the new state’s constitution was so undemocratic and exclusionary, property worth at least $5,000 had to be owned by a white man for him to be a candidate for governor and then he would be chosen by the legislature not voters. So it wasn’t just Jackson trying to build a new aristocratic empire, denying democratic rights to Americans.

However, Jackson was a major influence on the undemocratic and racist direction of America in the mid-1800s. While the British abolished slavery in 1833 (led in 1829 by Mary Prince, an escaped slave from Bermuda), not to mention New York in 1827, or Mexico in 1824, America instead was about to be dragged down by Jackson’s seemingly endless thirst to use his authority for enslaving and massacring non-white Americans.

Extensive administrative and diplomatic experience since Washington was a norm for anyone serving as President of America. Jackson found this unnecessary and dismissed critics who pointed to his lack of time in any Cabinet post or even travel abroad. Jackson had poor writing skills in English alone, so studies in advanced topics such as foreign travel and languages seemed out of the question.

The thing Jackson really leveraged was brutality of his plantations and militancy against non-whites. It was in this context the stories told about the Battle of New Orleans under his martial law and strict control of the press worked to his political advantage.

Although stories of valiant brutality (despite the truth being British soldiers laid down and pretended to be dead) stoked his persona as a war hero by 1824, Jackson failed to navigate the process required to become President. Described as a simple “military chieftain” by his opponents, he proved the title accurate as he initiated a vicious campaign against the newly elected President Adams.

A truly barbaric personality, Jackson spent the next years in bitter opposition to everything and anything American government was doing, framing himself as a benevolent dictator. President Adams, who had been duly voted into office in 1824 under the 12th Amendment, was being challenged to lead the country given vicious and underhanded tactics coming from Jackson’s desire to shut the entire government down if he wasn’t the one put in charge.

When Jackson ran again for President in 1828, he framed himself a victim of free press and set about trying to take control of political discourse through disinformation tactics. For example, a famous “coffin handbill” depicted American militia men who had been unjustly ordered executed as six black coffins, suggesting that they had been murdered by Jackson. These basically were accurate criticisms of Jackson’s background.

Jackson was alleged to have “illegally and wantonly shed the blood of his countrymen and fellow soldiers” ordering six militiamen executed on 1815 Feb 21 after a military trial in which they were convicted after leaving camp to return home during their tours of duty. The handbill stresses that the men realized their error and returned to camp voluntarily to resume service but instead were detained and slowly shot dead one-by-one.

While the press fairly pointed out a record of unjust brutality and lawlessness within Jackson’s only claim to fame, his campaign responded by cooking up a series of total falsehoods to target and destroy his opponent’s character. Jackson basically and openly lied in response to the press pointing out how awful Jackson was, all the while calling himself the real victim.

Jackson delighted in this process, even personally contacting papers with guidelines in what was basically an information warfare campaign by a military chieftain to undermine democracy. Once President, Jackson expanded his war on the press, as I’ve written before:

In 1844 former-President Adams won an eight-year long campaign in the House of Representatives and overturned the Jacksonian bans on free speech, but torture and murder by pro-slavery terrorists continued to rise.

Anyway, PBS has posted an excellent explanation of how free men under Jackson suffered greatly, as he pivoted from credit for this battle to lay the foundation for white-nationalist sentiments and stoke racial divisions in America that remain a challenge today.

Before 1800, free African American men had nominal rights of citizenship. In some places they could vote, serve on juries, and work in skilled trades. But as the need to justify slavery grew stronger, and racism started solidifying, free blacks gradually lost the rights that they did have. Through intimidation, changing laws and mob violence, whites claimed racial supremacy, and increasingly denied blacks their citizenship. And in 1857 the Dred Scott decision formally declared that blacks were not citizens of the United States. […] The concepts of ‘black’ and “white” did not arrive with the first Europeans and Africans, but grew on American soil. During Andrew Jackson’s administration, racist ideas took on new meaning. Jackson brought in the “Age of the Common Man.” Under his administration, working class people gained rights they had not before possessed, particularly the right to vote. But the only people who benefited were white men. Blacks, Indians, and women were not included.

Without taking credit away from the free men of color for their role in the Battle of New Orleans, and stoking up its significance for his own political campaigns, Jackson may never have succeeded in his information war to become President, gag abolitionists and perpetuate slavery, precipitating Civil War.

Jackson’s sentiments greatly foreshadowed not only the Trail of Tears and Civil War but also treatment of American blacks who served in much later wars. Most notable perhaps was the 1921 massacre of WWI veterans in Tulsa by the KKK restarted by President Wilson under the America First campaign.