The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Mark Salter's vew of Donald Trump… is it John McCain's?

There is a posting by Mark Salter dated yesterday, entitled “Donald Trump, the Anti-Patriot,” which I've been reading. Now Salter's name is not widely known, but he has co-authored a number of Senator John McCain's books, and I suspect that he and Sen. McCain have very similar views on many political topics. In Salter's post, there are a number of points, and one of the counts he has against Trump is the remarks he has made about Sen. McCain:

By his own admission, the closest he came to combat was his sexual adventurism in the 1980s, when HIV/AIDS was claiming the lives of better men than him. It was his “personal Vietnam,” he told shock jock Howard Stern in 1997. “I felt like a great and very brave soldier.”

While Americans with little wealth and few family connections were dodging bullets, mortars and booby traps in the jungles and rice paddies of Vietnam, our Sergeant York of well-appointed bedrooms was bravely jumping in harm’s way, armed only with the aphrodisiac of his daddy’s money.

From his brush with mortality in service to his libido he acquired the self-regard to find John McCain’s heroism wanting, and by implication the heroism of all POWs. What’s to admire about being shot down, imprisoned in solitary confinement and tortured? Losers.

But there is a real concern there as to Trump's own proposals on how he might treat our enemies:

His cluelessness about what a genuine love of country entails seems to have liberated Trump from other conventional scruples including a respect for the inherent dignity of human beings that is central to Judeo-Christian values.

Trump is also ignorant, it seems, about just what constitutes a war crime; what is and is not permissible in lawful warfare. Or worse, he vaguely knows and doesn’t care.

Trump’s ignorance is a distinctive kind, familiar to schoolyard bullies everywhere. It’s indifferently stupid and reflexively brutal, a dumbass cruelty exercised by people too emotionally incontinent to let reason govern passions, too selfish to develop a conscience, and too insecure to relate to others by means other than base instinct.

In the war against terrorists, he’s recommended deliberately killing their wives and children. He promises to waterboard captured prisoners and torture them even more severely though the practice of waterboarding was ended by executive action and outlawed by congressional legislation. He can’t reinstitute it without new legislation and without changes to war crime conventions.

Were he to order military and intelligence officers to employ torture, as he insists he would, they would resign rather than comply, as they would if he ordered them to take innocent lives on purpose. He would deserve to be impeached. He would belong in an international court of justice, on trial for his life, the fate met by enemies in World War II who authorized the torture of our prisoners.

Trump recently cited as an example of how to deal with captured Muslim insurgents an anecdote from America’s occupation of the Philippines in the beginning of the 20th century. Gen. John J. Pershing ordered 49 of 50 Muslim prisoners shot with bullets dipped in pig’s blood, defiling them under Islamic law, and ordered the survivor to report to his confederates what he had witnessed. After which, Trump assured his audience, “for 25 years there wasn’t a problem.”

In fact, Salter points out,

The story is fiction. Pershing did nothing of the kind. He was a disciplined general officer, whose sense of honor remained intact through the trials of war, as did his loyalty to our country and values. See what I mean about dumbass cruelty? Trump’s never more ignorant then when he’s playing at being a tough guy.

And I did some checking. Salter is right about this story being fiction; perhaps Trump actually believed it, however, as such a story has been circulating on the Internet:

On Friday in South Carolina, Donald Trump told a story of how General John J. Pershing executed 49 Muslim prisoners in the Philippines.

In the early 1900′s, Trump said, Pershing “caught 50 terrorists that did tremendous damage and killed many people.” So Pershing “dipped 50 bullets in pig’s blood” and executed 49 of the men. Then he released the 50th prison to tell others what had happened. Trump’s point was that America needs to get tough on terrorism.

But the story is not true. There was no mass execution led by Pershing. That is a rumor created on the Internet.

A Chicago Daily Tribune article from 1927 reports the true story that Pershing was holding prisoners from the Moro Rebellion in the Philippines. The Moros were Muslims who resisted American or any other occupying force. The Moros included swordsmen, called Juramentados, who were killing Christians in the uprising. It had to be stopped.

The Tribune story reports that Pershing sprinkled some prisoners with pig’s blood, which the Juramentados believed would condemn them for eternity. But then Pershing let the prisoners go. He issued a warning to others about being sprinkled with the pig’s blood. And, according to the Tribune story, “those drops of porcine gore proved more powerful than bullets.”

There were no executions as described by Trump.

In fact, Pershing was more inclined toward peace talks with the Moros rather than violence. The general met with the Moros and read from the Koran with them. Pershing wanted to build bridges. An illustration accompanying the story shows the general in peace talks in the jungles of the Philippines.

Salter continues:

Wars have brought out the worst as well as the best in Americans. We have struggled at great cost to uphold the values that distinguish us from our enemies. In every war, soldiers under enormous strain have committed atrocities. In some cases they had been ordered to. But those instances were aberrations, considered a national disgrace and are remembered that way. Except, I guess, by Donald Trump, the man who fought his war in the discos of New York and would have American soldiers commit atrocities as a matter of national policy.

Much of what Salter says has validity. However, his final conclusion gives me pause:

Trump is not trying to make great America great. He’s trying to make us the worst we can be to satisfy his own vainglory. There’s no dealing with him, no trying to encourage him to behave like a grown-up, much less a statesman. If you can see him plainly and you love our country, you must vote against him. Even if that means electing Hillary Clinton.

That last sentence goes, in my mind, too far. “Even if that means electing Hillary Clinton”? I hope that Sen. McCain does not agree with this part of what Salter says here. For she has her own problems. She may not plan to torture our enemies. However, she has a direction for this nation that goes counter to our greatest needs. She has said,

I'm a progressive, but I'm a progressive that likes to get things done

and “progressive” is a term that here means “extreme leftist, possibly socialist.”

I do not know whether Sen. McCain agrees with Mark Salter on this position. I strongly respect Sen. McCain, and wish he had been elected eight years ago and was now coming to the end of two terms as President, rather than the man who is actually in that office today. But if he agrees with Salter's remark that Hillary Clinton is preferable to onald Trump, I must there respectfully disagree.

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