Maurizio – Omnologos

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Where’s the Medal for the Woman Who Saved FDR?

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75 years ago, on Feb 15, 1933, an Italian US citizen by the name of Giuseppe Zangara stood on a bench to aim at then-President-Elect Franklin D Roosevelt. Unfortunately for Zangara, and fortunately for much of the rest of humanity, at the other side of the bench there was a woman by the name of Lillian Cross standing already.

As Zangara’s movements made her risk to fall, Mrs Cross “turned around and said “Don’t to that”…Just then [she] saw the pistol“.

Determined to stop Zangara, Lillian Cross managed to “[force] the would-be assassin shooting arm upwards“.

The end result was a healthy FDR ready to take on the Presidency in 3 weeks’ time, to enable welfare reform if not its foundation, to get the USA on the path towards recovery from the 1929 crisis, to get re-elected for a record 3 times, and to push a reluctant nation towards supporting Britain against the Nazis and then to a full-scale victorious war on two faraway fronts.

Mrs Cross died in 1962 at the age of 78. Had she been heavier than her 100-pound body frame, perhaps she would not have noticed Zangara’s hand soon enough.

This is of course the stuff of sci-fi and alternative universes, and no less than Philip K Dick has visited this episode, twice in fact.

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A curious side story: among the wounded that day, Detective William Sinnott (on holiday in Florida), with a bullet in his head. Described as an “old friend” by FDR in a Feb 17, 1933 message, Sinnott was back at work in New York on April 8, that is only 52 days later, 4 days after leaving hospital.

Sinnott, who died in 1965, received a Congressional Gold Medal in 1940, although his exact role in saving the President is not clear.

Mrs Lillian Cross has received no Medal, as far as I know. She does not even have her own Wikipedia page…

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Zangara died on the electric chair on March 20, 1933 (33 days after the incident…as they say, the past really is a different country…), as Chicago mayor Anton Cermak died on March 6 due to complications having received one of Zangara’s bullets in his chest.

SOURCES FROM THE ARCHIVES OF THE NEW YORK TIMES

(1) Assassin shoots 5 times; police and bystanders leap for him and take him prisoner. Accomplice taken later cermak and new york officer, rushed to hospital — now in serious condition. Roosevelt delays trip had been warmly welcomed and intended to start for north at once. Shooting at miami causes profound sensation in the national capital
By james a. Hagerty.special to the New York Times.
February 16, 1933, thursday

(2) Woman diverted aim of assassin; 100-pound wife of miami doctor tells how she forced up. Man’s arm. Held on during shooting gun had been pointed “right at mr. Roosevelt” 15 feet away, she relates. Woman diverted aim of assassin
February 16, 1933, Thursday

(3) Messages sent to victims.
February 17, 1933, Friday

(4) Policeman, shot by Zangara, back.
April 8, 1933, Saturday

(5) Woman who saved Roosevelt from assassination is buried; incident is recalled
November 11, 1962, Sunday

Written by omnologos

2008/Feb/16 at 22:25:07

What Did They Kill One Another For?

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The Croatian Parliament on Saturday backed the new government of Prime Minister Ivo Sanader […]. Serb official Slobodan Uzelac [of the Independent Democratic Serbian Party (SDSS)] was designated a deputy premier.”

During the wars that dissolved Yugoslavia in the 1990’s, more than 140,000 people died, and more than a million were displaced. And the Croatian War of Independence, fought mainly between Croatian and Serb ethnic nationals living in the present territory of Croatia, was “striking for its brutality and intensity“.

Written by omnologos

2008/Jan/13 at 23:26:36

The Uncomparable Life and Death of the Most Famous Pakistani Leader

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Whatever one could think of her and her many defects, there will undeniably be a time-before and a time-after the death of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

And that should be enough to establish that she wasn’t just “the daughter of <somebody>”.

Even her assassination has been a very special event. Gunshots followed by a bomb? Virtually unheard of. Al Qaeda it ain’t! As things stand now, it’s more likely that the bomb has been the tool used to “cancel the fingerprints” of whoever ordered the shooting.

Sadly, that means the Pakistani Government is the most likely culprit.

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One definitely wonders what has gone so wrong in the past 60 years, to make the inhabitants of the Land of the Pure so keen to kill each other.

Written by omnologos

2007/Dec/27 at 21:47:34

Posted in History, Politics, Terrorism

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History, a Murderous Farce

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Napoleon, the Emperor of the French, destroyed the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, thereby establishing the basis for the ascent of the German Empire that was going to humiliate France in 1871.

Prussia and Austria fought hard to establish their leadership over Germany. The result was a militarized Prussian class that killed Germany once in the First World War, and then again with its support for Hitler.

“Of course” Adolf, from Austria of all places, dedicated his life to the nationalist cause, with the result that Germany was annihilate and Prussia airbrushed from history at the end of World War II.

Those are not the only ironies of history. The end result of the Christian Crusades was the undermining of the Byzantine Empire, and the opening up of Eastern Europe to the Ottoman Muslims. Nobody has killed as many Communists as Stalin, or as many Chinese as Chairman Mao, and since Tamerlane perhaps nobody has killed as many Muslims as Osama bin Laden and his loose “organization”.

I am sure there are many more examples of unbelievably unintended consequences. Hadn’t it been for the continuous slaughter, History would be a topic to laugh very hard about.

Written by omnologos

2007/Sep/19 at 21:18:18

Posted in History, Humanity, War

After Iraq – Six Points for a New Approach to International Military Interventions

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-If President Bush had followed his “Mission Accomplished” message! He may have been celebrated to this day as an accomplished Statesman

The situation in Zimbabwe appears so dire, even Pius Ncube, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, is calling for an outside intervention to free the locals from the overpowering elite that has ruined the Nation.

Unfortunately, no outside intervention appears forthcoming.

For each Sierra Leone where foreign troops got rid of murderous rebels, there are innumerable counter-examples of places abandoned to the rule of unsavory characters: Afghanistan until 2001, the Kurdish villages in northern Iraq until 1991, Rwands in 1994 of course, and nowadays Darfur.

Despite the experience of the appeasers in the 1930’s, the temptation is always very high towards opting against direct intervention. Especially so now, with no end in sight for the military adventure in Iraq.

But think for a minute: if only President Bush had followed through the message bourne out of the “Mission Accomplished” May 1, 2003 banner on USS Abraham Lincon to its obvious consequence! He may have been celebrated to this day as an accomplished Statesman: having successfully completed the mission of toppling Saddam Hussein.

In other words: in case of a dire humanitarian crisis caused by egregiously unlawful behavior, there is a way to intervene: by setting ourselves to fight the criminals against humanity, and to accomplish the goal of defeating them: and then, to subsequently go back where we came from.

To understand how can this be done in practice, let’s imagine that there is a need to rapidly convince a State to change its tactics.

Sadly, that is not difficult: candidates abound, where humanitarian aid is not allowed to a wayward province, or wholesale killing is still considered an option, or otherwise part of the local population is criminally treated.

1-Start by establishing a clear measurable objective (eg “remove tyrant”…and that’s it!)

This is a basic principle of management so obvious, and yet betrayed at least as often as proven correct. How many targets can one hit with one shot? Hence the objective should be “Free the Zimbabweans from the rampant inflation”. Or “Remove the Iraqi individuals that will build a nuclear arms capability at the first occasion”. Vaporous stuff such as “exporting democracy”, etc should be forgotten altogether.

2- To avoid war, use a credible threat of war

If the counterpart is hell-bent in their devilish actions, scare them by showing seriously-ready-to-use violent means. Seriousness and readiness are imperative.
In truth, the actual start of the war is a sign of failure, because evidently the actions put in place were not scary or credible enough: just as good crowd control involves showing off truncheons to frighten, rather than actually beating people up.
On the other hand, if a war looms anyway, it has to be started. Otherwise, any threatening posturing will be even less effective next time around: and therefore the risk of future misbehaviors (and wars) much higher.

3-Get in quick, get out fast

Conduct the war by getting in, shocking, aweing and then leaving.
George HW Bush understood it in 1991. George W Bush declared just as much in that banner in 2003, but then carried on with the occupation regardless. And a never-ending occupation can only erode political support at home, while keeping the troops in danger of being attacked by ever-more-empowered insurgents.

4-Stand-by, ready to invade again very quickly

Once the enemy country has been left to its own devices, the usual cliques could simply regain power (see Iraq 1991). This can be prevented by keeping alive a credible, ready-to-strike threat.
Admittedly, that can evolve into a tragically ironic, revolving-door situation, with several rounds of invasions and retreats. But then, one hopes even the most recalcitrant political elite may opt for a different take, after suffering the umpteenth invasion.

5-Prevent civilian casualties

The death of any innocent “enemy” civilian is a fiasco akin to bombing one’s own cities.
Civilian deaths have boosted rather than weakened their Government since time immemorable (think the USA’s reaction on 9/12). This is contrary to the stated objective of changing a State’s criminal ways.
The absolute reduction of “collateral damage” to the utmost minimum is therefore not just an ethical goal, it makes good political and military strategy. And it will definitely help in preventing an organized insurgency to form.

6-Invade by land, avoid aerial bombings, and stay away from big equipment as much as possible

The threat and practice of repeated invasions is only feasible if the conflict can be carried out without the use of large, hard-to-position, hard-to-move, maintenance-hungry equipment, bombers included.
Apart from logistical considerations, in fact, if we want a quick conclusion with no “collateral damage”, i.e. precision and speed, bombing cannot be an option. In fact, whatever Air Force generals have been saying for the past hundred years, the effectiveness of bombing in preparation of a later invasion has been tragically debunked in the Flanders, in Normandy, and even in the first Iraq war.
After all, the objective is change the ways of a State, not to destroy it wantonly, the latter is the only thing bombing is good at in a modern war (if anybody believes in “precision targeting”, I’ve got a bridge to sell)

Will the above ever become reality? It is well known that we are always ready to fight the last war. And so there is some hope indeed, that will have to wait for the time when it will be possible to analyze the Iraq conflict with pragmatic-historical rather than political eyes.

Written by omnologos

2007/Aug/14 at 22:15:40

90 Years After Killing Itself, Europe at the Crossroads

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The umpteenth EU summit is taking place in Brussels from tonight.

The issue at stake is far heavier than in past meetings of Heads of State and Government. With the expansion to include countries formerly behind the Iron Curtain, the EU has to find a way to work despite its components living in different histories.

Call it “Constitution”, call it “Treaty”, call it “Donald Duck” but a new set of rules is needed for a future of prospects rather than implosion.

As I wrote yesterday, the best way to keep one’s life truly alive is to deal with the diverse times that cohabit in one’s soul: just as well for the European Union. Its old, Western core is several decades in front of the new Eastern members in matters of handling national interest in a multi-state Union.

It is not that the Poles or the Czechs are slow-witted: it is that by wrapping their national evolutions in ice under the Soviet domination, it is all too natural to them for history-heavy questions such as strategic defence and World War II considerations to be on the table right now.

Unfortunately, those are exactly the questions that cannot interest their Western counterparts. Because to them, history is at best a nuisance.

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Europe and European culture committed suicide around 1917 and perhaps didn’t stop stabbing itself for another 30 years. All the Empires that boldly entered World War I in 1914 were irreparably damaged by three years of war, and in all the participating countries only the most rabid types were not appalled by the pointless carnage.

To compound the situation, millions had joined the fight inspired by enthusiastic nationalism, almost invariably spiced up by religious references. Ominously, they had done it in Britain, in France, in Germany, in Russia, in Italy, everywhere following similar patterns.

They literally marched on to kill one another, seemingly unaware of their extraordinary similarities. And obviously in hindsight, their war could not end, as they were able to perfectly match and outwit one another.

That’s why it was a mass suicide, of bodies and of culture. The U.S. officially joined the war on April 2, 1917. Their mere presence was enough to finally put it to a stop. Old Europe heard its bell tolling.

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Fast-forward to 1947. Hell-bent on destroying themselves, Europeans had managed to complete the Great War with the even bigger World War II. A great chunk of them were taken out of history by falling into the hands of that failed experiment called Soviet Communism.

Another large chunk, to the West, decided to forego history altogether, laying its soul finally to rest. No more violent nationalism, no desire to stomp on one another, no talk of reparation of this or that historical tort, and since they were at it, steam ahead with a Union of nation states, but down with religion and all mores of old (from “Father knows best” to “A woman’s place is in the kitchen“). Some call it “modernity“.

Sixty years later, the process is almost complete. There is no aspect of contemporary (Western) European life that has not been affected by modernity. The artistic renovation s of the 1920’s have fathered an incredible variety of movements. Religion is on the wane, especially organized religion, and it has become perfectly normal to practice homosexuality and to raise single-parent children, things considered quite deviant as recently as 30 years ago.

Frankly, it is more than absurd to imagine the great-grandchildren of those knowingly sent to die at the Somme or Caporetto, accept any Government initiative without much skepticism.

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That’s not the experience elsewhere on the Continent and beyond. For example it is almost impossible to deny the impetus given to liberation of Western European women by the request to work during both wars in stead of their war front-bound men. That’s not exactly what has happened in Communist countries (where the desire to free men and women alike somehow became synonimous of morphing citizens into State servants).

And that’s not what has happened in the Middle East either. Who knows, without World War I there would still be little or no voting rights for female citizens of…liberal democracies! (The U.S.A., of course, is a whole different topic).

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And so the new bunch of countries cannot simply join the European Union without a lot of kicking and screaming: Poland especially, a former Empire in itself from the Baltic to the Black Sea, then put together, dismembered and forcibly moved westward by its neighbours.

Will the Brussels meeting be any fruitful? Usually, if a summit like that fails, it is simply forgotten. But let’s hope it does succeed, so it will leave a mark in history.

Imagine if Germany could finally accept Poland’s requests, recognizing each other’s completely different historical paths, and convince it to actually become a leader in the Union: putting to rest at least 13 centuries of enmity.

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If the EU will be able to rationally accommodate so many countries with such a variety of experience, cares and worries, then it will be ready to expand even further: Turkey, the Ukraine, Israel, Morocco, Tunisia…and why not?

As a sort of grass-root United Nations, the EU could then become the first gift to Humanity by a more peaceful, re-born Europe. 

Written by omnologos

2007/Jun/21 at 22:27:12

Kosovo, Another EU Failure

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The European Union is chugging along with its Ahtisaari Plan for the future of Kosovo, the quasi-independent province still nominally and legally part of Serbia albeit occupied by NATO and a UN protectorate since the end of the 1999 war.

In truth, that Plan seems more the result of a vision-free EU that is trying its might to get out of a region that has seen the Union’s reputation hit rock bottom several times for the past 15 years or so.

Of course, ultimately any failure and the blame for any violence lie with the Kosovo residents. It’s their lives that they themselves seem so apt to make more miserable than should be.

But the sudden push for making Kosovo independent does not look like the wisest of choices for the EU.

They are now claiming that they want to prevent development of local dependency on foreign aid, but foreign aid will surely continue flowing to Kosovo for the foreseeable future.

Also, the Ahtisaari Plan is highly-detailed: yet more evidence that there is no comprehensive vision for both communities. Expect further hardships for the Serbs.

What are the alternatives? For example, simple allow Serbian areas of Kosovo to rejoin Serbia, rather than remain a small minority in a brand-new State that Serbian will never be.

And what is this idea of attaching peoples one to the other with superglue even when they blatantly do not want to live together?

The EU itself is made up of nation-states that were established and are still run on the idea that people of the same nation (traditions, culture, but at the end of the day a matter of shared heritage with dubious genetic aspects) must be allowed to govern themselves free from the influence of other nations.

The Kosovo plan makes no sense in this respect. Why force them something we have no intention to do ourselves?

Written by omnologos

2007/May/09 at 22:31:10

Posted in Democracy, EU, History, Kosovo