A Man for All Seasons

LZAlbany

I first wrote this for 9/11 in 2012, and have published it several times since. It is one of those things and one of those people we should remember. A man who came to join us, and to whom many of us owe their lives

There were plenty of heroes on 9/11. Fire and police and port authority all going in. Passengers counterattacking on Flight 93 and various civilians and military in New York and the Pentagon. Even what the military calls NCA, the National Command Authority.

If

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

….
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

~Kipling

But the one that is my especial hero of the day; is my hero because of how he lived his life.

A British NCO from Cornwall who served in the Parachute Regiment immigrated to the US, served as Platoon Leader, B Co 2/7 Cavalry in the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) in the battle of Ia Drang, where he gave the British commands of ‘Fix Bayonets, On Line, Ready forward’. His picture is on the cover of ‘We Were Soldiers’. It is a praiseworthy story prompting us to Remember:

But it doesn’t end there, although that charge was enough to make him a hero as long as the United States of America shall last.

On 9/11 he was vice-president in charge of security at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. We all know what happened that day, but do we remember that only six Morgan Stanley employees died when their building was obliterated. One of them was this man, now a retired Colonel, who stayed to make sure he got his people out. In all those situations, he was singing an old song commemorating the resistance of the Welsh against the English, and Roark’s Drift in the Boer War, and other engagements. That song is:

Men of Cornwall stop your dreaming;
Can’t you see their spearpoints gleaming?
See their warriors’ pennants streaming
To this battlefield.
Men of Cornwall stand ye steady;
It cannot be ever said ye
for the battle were not ready;
Stand and never yield!

That man was Colonel Rick Rescorla and he is a legend in the 7th Cavalry. He is not a man any of us should ever forget. A real-life Sagaman, who lived quietly amongst us. From Shakespeare:

“His life was gentle, and the elements
So mix’d in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world ‘This was a man!'”

The tragedy of 911 was this; multiplied by three thousand.

Never forget.

After having reached safety, Rescorla returned to the building to rescue others still inside. He was last seen heading up the stairs of the tenth floor of the collapsing WTC 2. His remains have not been recovered. He left a wife and two children.

He is my hero not least because he fulfilled to the last breath the leadership credo that the Air Force taught me and so many others:

First: The Mission

Always: the People

Last: Yourself

And thus, on this September 13h the story of how the people of a great American financial institution were rescued by the 7th U.S. Cavalry (Custer’s Own).




America Goes to War

We all, if we are old enough, remember the horror we felt 18 years ago this morning. I happened to be home and watching the morning news, never, not once in my life have I been so shocked, and yes, angered. But we all were, I still remember the picture of a German destroyer coming alongside one of our warships on a NATO exercise,  rails manned, stars and stripes at the foretruck, and a homemade sign on the bridge, “We are with you”, it said.

We talk of this every year, as our parents and grandparents talked of Pearl Harbor, and it was the same kind of thing, out of the blue, mass casualties, and a coming together. Sadly that last didn’t last very long. My remembrance of the day is here, and I’ve spoken of the heroes of the day before as well, here. Both are, I think, worth rereading.

But we are continually learning more, and seeing people in a new light. Garrett M. Graff published in Politico last week an excerpt of his book: The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11. Even the excerpt moved me to tears and a huge respect for all those mentioned in it. I’m not sure how ‘fair use’ plays out here, but I think we should be all right with his chosen excerpt, and perhaps a couple pictures. I hope so, I want you to read this.

Gary Walters, chief usher, White House: It was a little bit before 9 a.m. when Mrs. Bush came downstairs—I met her at the elevator. As we were walking out, I remember we were talking about Christmas decorations.

Laura Bush, first lady: My Secret Service agent, the head of my detail, Ron Sprinkle, leaned over to me as I got into the car and said, “A plane has hit the World Trade Center.”

Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser, White House: I thought, Well, that’s a strange accident. I called the president. We talked about how odd it was. Then I went down for my staff meeting.

Matthew Waxman, National Security Council, White House: I had started about six weeks earlier as Condi Rice’s executive assistant. At about 9:00 o’clock, we would have a daily Situation Room meeting for the national security adviser and all the senior directors. It was during that meeting that the second plane hit.

Mary Matalin, aide to Vice President Dick Cheney: I was with the Vice President when the second plane hit, and we knew instantly that this was not an accident.

Condoleezza Rice: It was the moment that changed everything.

Matthew Waxman: We went into full crisis response mode.

Mary Matalin: We went right into work mode. While we were in his office making calls to New York, making calls to the president, making calls wherever they needed to be made, the Secret Service barged into his office.

Dick Cheney, vice president: Radar caught sight of an airliner heading toward the White House at 500 miles an hour.

Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney: We learn that a plane is five miles out and has dropped below 500 feet and can’t be found; it’s missing. You look at your watch and think, Hmmm, five miles out, 500 miles an hour. Tick, tick, tick.

Dick Cheney: My Secret Service agent said, “Sir, we have to leave now.” He grabbed me and propelled me out of my office, down the hall and into the underground shelter in the White House.

Mary Matalin: My jaw dropped and the jaws of my colleagues dropped because we had never seen anything like that.

Condoleezza Rice: The Secret Service came in and they said, “You have got to go to the bunker.” I remember being driven along, almost propelled along. We had no idea where it was safe and where it wasn’t. We didn’t think the bunker of the White House was safe at that point.

Dick Cheney: They practice this—you move, whether you want to be moved or not, you’re going.

Gary Walters: The Secret Service officers started yelling, “Get out, get out, everybody get out of the White House grounds.” I remember early on, the chaos. People running, screaming. Fear was in my mind.

Christine Limerick, housekeeper, White House: The look on the faces of the Secret Service agents who were told that they had to stay—I will never forget that because we had at least the opportunity to flee.

Ian Rifield, special agent, U.S. Secret Service: We were fairly confident that plane was going to hit us. The supervisor in the [Secret Service’s] Joint Operations Center basically said, “Anybody who survives the impact, we’ll go to an alternate center, and we’ll continue.” It wasn’t a joke.

Dick Cheney: A few moments later, I found myself in a fortified White House command post somewhere down below.

Commander Anthony Barnes, deputy director, Presidential Contingency Programs, White House: Vice President Cheney arrived in the bunker, along with his wife. The PEOC is not a single chamber; there are three or four rooms. The operations chamber is where my watch team was fielding phone calls. Then there’s the conference room area where Mr. Cheney and Condi Rice were—that’s the space that had the TV monitors, telephones, and whatever else.

Mary Matalin: It took a while for everybody to actually get to that area. It hadn’t been used for its intended purpose—which was to be a bomb shelter—since its inception.

Commander Anthony Barnes: Shortly thereafter, I looked around and there was Condi Rice, there was Karen Hughes, there was Mary Matalin, there was [Transportation Secretary] Norm Mineta. Mr. Mineta put up on one of the TV monitors a feed of where every airplane across the entire nation was. We looked at that thing—there must have been thousands of little airplane symbols on it.

Mary Matalin: The vice president was squarely seated in the center. It was emotional, but it was really work, work, work. We were trying to locate first and foremost all the planes. Identify the planes. Ground all the planes.

Commander Anthony Barnes: That first hour was mass confusion because there was so much erroneous information. It was hard to tell what was fact and what wasn’t. We couldn’t confirm much of this stuff, so we had to take it on face value until proven otherwise.

At 9:59 a.m., those inside the bunker—as well as millions more glued to TV screens around the country—watched in horror as the South Tower fell.

Mary Matalin: We saw the building collapse.

Commander Anthony Barnes: There was a deafening silence, and a lot of gasping and “Oh my god” and that kind of thing.

Mary Matalin: Disbelief.

Commander Anthony Barnes: There are four or five very large, 55-inch television screens in the PEOC. We would put the different news stations—ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC—on those monitors. I remember Cheney being as flabbergasted as the rest of us were sitting there watching on these monitors. Back in those days, a 55-inch TV monitor was a really big TV. It was almost bigger than life as the towers collapsed.

Dick Cheney: In the years since, I’ve heard speculation that I’m a different man after 9/11. I wouldn’t say that. But I’ll freely admit that watching a coordinated, devastating attack on our country from an underground bunker at the White House can affect how you view your responsibilities.

Mary Matalin: We had to go right back to work.

Richard Clarke, counterterrorism advisor, White House: Many of us thought that we might not leave the White House alive.

Matthew Waxman: One of the things we were all very conscious of down in the PEOC was that the White House Situation Room was staffed with our close colleagues and friends who were staying in those spots despite a clear danger. The Situation Room, which is only half-a-floor below ground, was abuzz with activity, from people who wouldn’t normally be posted there, but who felt duty bound to stay there to help manage the crisis. Especially early in the day, there was a palpable sense that close friends and colleagues might be in some significant danger.

Ian Rifield: There was a sense of frustration too, because we were sitting there. Everybody wanted to fight back. We’re trained to go to the problem, and we were sitting there. There was a lot of tension in that regard. You wanted to do something to protect the complex and the office of the president even better than we were, but we were doing the best we could with what we had. […]

Commander Anthony Barnes: I was running liaison between the ops guys who had Pentagon officials on the phone and the conference room [in the PEOC] where the principals were. The Pentagon thought there was another hijacked airplane, and they were asking for permission to shoot down an identified hijacked commercial aircraft. I asked the vice president that question and he answered it in the affirmative. I asked again to be sure. “Sir, I am confirming that you have given permission?” For me, being a military member and an aviator—understanding the absolute depth of what that question was and what that answer was—I wanted to make sure that there was no mistake whatsoever about what was being asked. Without hesitation, in the affirmative, he said any confirmed hijacked airplane may be engaged and shot down.

Col. Matthew Klimow, executive assistant to the Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, Pentagon: No one had ever contemplated the need to shoot down a civilian airliner.

Major General Larry Arnold: I told Rick Findley in Colorado Springs [at NORAD’s headquarters], “Rick, we have to have permission. We may have to shoot down this aircraft that is coming toward Washington, D.C. We need presidential authority.”

Major Dan Caine, F-16 pilot, D.C. Air National Guard, Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland: I handed our wing commander the phone to talk to the high levels of government to get the rules of engagement.[…]

Col. Matthew Klimow: It was a very painful discussion for all of us. We didn’t want the burden of shooting down the airliner to be on the shoulders of a single fighter pilot, but we also didn’t want to have that pilot go all the way up the chain of command to get permission to shoot. It was decided the pilots should do their best to try to wave the airplane off, and if it’s clear the airplane is headed into a heavily populated area, the authority to shoot can be given to a regional commander.

THE CALL

Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney, F-16 pilot, D.C. Air National Guard: This sounds counterintuitive, but when the magnitude of the situation hit me, I really lost all emotion. It was really much more focused on, What are the things I need to do to enable us to protect our capital? What are the things I need to do to facilitate us getting airborne?

Brigadier General David Wherley, commander, D.C. Air National Guard, Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland: My translation of the rules to Sass was, “You have weapons-free flight-lead control.” I said, “Do you understand what I’m asking you to do?” [Sasseville and Penney] both said yes. I told them to be careful.

Lt. Col. Marc Sasseville, F-16 pilot, U.S. Air Force: As we’re going out to the jets, Lucky and I had a quick conversation about what it is that we were going to do and how we were basically going to do the unthinkable if we had to.

Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney: We would be ramming the aircraft. We didn’t have [missiles] on board to shoot the airplane down. As we were putting on our flight gear in the life support shop, Sass looked at me and said, “I’ll ram the cockpit.” I made the decision I would take the tail off the aircraft.

Lt. Col. Marc Sasseville: We didn’t have a whole lot of options.

Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney: I had never been trained to scramble [mobilize] the aircraft. It would typically take about 20 minutes to start the jets, get the avionics systems going, go through all the preflight checks to make sure the systems were operating properly, program the computers in the aircraft. That’s not even including the time to look at the forms, do the walk-around of the airplane, and whatnot. We usually planned about half-an-hour to 40 minutes from the time you walked out the door to the time that you actually took off.

Col. George Degnon, vice commander, 113th Wing, Andrews Air Force Base: We did everything humanly possible to get the aircraft in the air.

Major General Larry Arnold, commander of the 1st Air Force, the Continental United States North American Aerospace Defense Command, Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida: Bob Marr quotes me as saying that I told him that we would “take lives in the air to save lives on the ground.”

Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney, F-16 pilot, D.C. Air National Guard: Seeing the Pentagon was surreal. It was totally surreal to see this billowing black smoke. We didn’t get high. We were at about 3,000 feet. We never got above 3,000 feet, at least on that first sweep out.

Lt. Col. Marc Sasseville: There was all this smoke in my cockpit. It made me nauseous to be honest with you—not from an Ugh, this stinks, it was more from an Oh my God, we’ve been hit on our own soil and we’ve been hit big. I couldn’t believe they had gotten through and they managed to pull off this attack.

Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney: The real heroes are the passengers on Flight 93 who were willing to sacrifice themselves.

Lt. Col. Marc Sasseville: They made the decision we didn’t have to make.

There is much more at Politico and  I really want you to read it all. It includes the transcripts and remembrances of the phone calls and cockpit voice recorder from Flight 93.

Too often we talk about heroes, and often we exaggerate. We don’t here, from Vice President Cheney right down to the passengers and crew that took down flight 93, we can truly say,  The soul of the United States of America in action.

Thus ended the first day, many would follow.

 

Brexit Updated: The Queen Acts for the People

Andrew Cadman has an article up at The Conservative Woman that I want you all to read. Go ahead, even if you read the comments as you should, I’ll wait.

So, you’re back hut? Let’s talk about it.

[S]HHHH . . . don’t tell them, but in fighting the prorogation of Parliament British liberalism is about the make the greatest, most unforced error since its rise to hegemony began more than fifty years ago. By deciding to die in a ditch to defend ‘Parliamentary sovereignty’ – by which they mean EU sovereignty – over our affairs, they will end both, and with it their grip on British politics.

To understand why, it is worth recounting how liberalism became such a completely dominating force in Western politics over the past half century. It started, of course, in the 1960s, the ‘boomer’ generation which idealistically surfed the sexual revolution and the age of mass prosperity. Growing in power as it came of age, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the communications revolution allowed it to become truly international or ‘globalist’ in nature. Its hegemony was due not to a conspiracy hatched in the brain of Antonio Gramsci or Davos Man, but rather the simple, organic consequence of highly connected liberal elites who gradually came to realise that they had more in common with their counterparts in other countries than the majority of their own countrymen. A natural consequence was that liberalism became progressively anti-democratic, as nationally based democratic institutions could not represent the new ‘global’ demos that the elites increasingly felt they belonged to.

I think he is correct, and it is a very stupid ditch to die in. The British people acting through their Queen have acted to take their country back, and in opposing both people and the Monarchy, the anywheres will not win, and even if they did at this point, they will have lost.

Brexit is the British form of Russia, Russia, Russia, and like it has taken on a life of its own. Like putting the ghost of Hillary Clinton forward for president, abrogating the sovereignty of Great Britain was a very foolish idea. It was made worse by the stupid intransigence of the EU itself. If the EU had offered a reasonable exit, the British would have mostly remained aligned with it. But you cannot impose a Carthaginian peace without winning the war.

But they didn’t, and now they can’t, in my opinion. So now we have a new thing to us all, the Monarch acting for the people in proroguing Parliament. An entirely legitimate thing to do, as a couple of quotes will show.

A.V. Dicey wrote in ‘The Law of the Constitution’ (1885): “The House can in accordance with the constitution be deprived of power [when] there is fair reason to suppose that the opinion of the House is not the opinion of the electors.”

Edmund Burke noted: “The virtue, spirit, and essence of an House of Commons consists in its being the express image of the feelings of the nation. It was not instituted to be a controul upon the people, as of late it has been taught, by a doctrine of the most pernicious tendency. It was designed as a controul for the people.”

From The Daily Caller and worth your time.

Parliament has certainly lived down to those conditions.

And when the Americans, taking heart from Brexit, elected Donald Trump, above all a nationalist, as President, the error became fatal. If the Democrats had offered a reasonable candidate, although I can’t remember one, they might have forestalled their defeat in not only the US but in Great Britain. Because whatever they say, the support of the United States for Brexit matters quite a lot. The US is still by a fair margin the largest economy in the world, and an attractive partner for the fifth largest, with which we share almost all our ideals.

This is, in truth, the death warrant of globalism, if Britain comes through as it almost always has, allied once again with the United States, the Anglo-Saxons will once again lead the world, to prosperity, yes, but also to freedom of speech, thought, and action for the individual.

That is the foundation of both the United Kingdom and the United States. The amazing prosperity with which we have bequeathed the world is but one of the outcomes of that freedom.

And so today, as a sign of hope renewed, and faith in our peoples, Britannia and Uncle Sam return to our sidebar.

God Save the Queen, and God Bless America

And as Churchill noted after El Alamein, this is not the beginning of the end, but it may be the end of the beginning. Keep up the skeer.

Too small? Or a Leadership Deficit.

The Week asks the question, is the Royal Navy too small to deal with the Iranian threat.

The Royal Navy is too small to counter the potential threat from Iran, the defence minister has admitted.

Tobias Ellwood told The Times: “The threats we’re facing are changing in front of us, the world is getting more complex. If we are wanting to continue to play this influential role on the international stage it will require further funding for our armed forces, not least the Royal Navy. Our Royal Navy is too small to manage our interests across the globe.”

The Guardian says the British government is facing accusations it had “failed to sufficiently guard its shipping in the Gulf.”

The Independent says the crisis has “roiled UK politics” ahead of a “potentially contentious week” in which Boris Johnson is likely to take over as prime minister from Theresa May.

Well, OK, even Sir Humphrey at PinstripedLine sort of concurs.

The first thing to take away is not to sit there and feel despondency that the RN ‘only’ has one frigate in the region. Other than the US, no other nation has warships permanently based in the Gulf region. To act as if the RN has failed for doing something that practically no one else can do is a uniquely British characteristic.

The harsh reality is that had the tanker had flown the flag of convenience of any other state, then it is likely that said country would not have had an escort anywhere near the Gulf on the day of the incident. The RN may ‘only’ have one vessel permanently based in the region, but that’s one more than most other navies. Perspective matters here.

The RN force in the Gulf has remained relatively static for decades in its structure and size. Back in the 80s it averaged 3-4 escorts supported by a tanker and store ship. Humphreys instinct is that the reason for this slightly larger force was to provide mutually complementary air defence capabilities in a time when RN vessels had more specialised roles (e.g. the so-called 42/22 combo) and needed to work together to deliver the effect. This period also saw a reliance on the use of Mombasa as the main support base, meaning a long passage off station, reducing the number of vessels in the Gulf.

By contrast more modern vessels not only have more effective and mutually complementary weapon systems (compare a Type 23 to an Exocet Leander for example), but they are also able to rely on facilities more locally for support (e.g. Bahrain).

The actual force numbers have remained remarkably constant for decades now – with an average of 1-2 escorts in the Gulf region on an enduring basis. The real change has been the move to a permanently based frigate in the region, rather than overlapping deployments, which has increased ship availability, but reduced the number of RN hulls transiting into, and out of, the region. The overall effect delivered is broadly similar but delivered in a different way.

Suggestions that defence cuts have left the RN without enough ships in the Gulf then are wide of the mark. The RN escort force in the region has been consistent in its size and capability for decades, regardless of wider defence cuts – the RN choosing to prioritise the region over other areas to ensure a continuous presence. Perhaps a bigger challenge than force size is the problem of distances for the force.

Later on, he says this:

What matters now is the safe release of the crew and the continued safety of the Royal Navy crew in the region. Let us keep this foremost in our minds as they once again sail difficult waters and conduct challenging operations to keep this nation safe where the tactical actions of (often very young and very junior) personnel will have strategic consequences. There is no doubt though that once again our nation’s finest people will rise to the challenge admirably.

Well yeah, that is perhaps important, but somehow I doubt that Drake or Nelson would be excited by this dry bureaucratese. I find myself agreeing with CBD over at Ace’s, it ain’t the number of ships, it’s the men (and women) commanding them.

It’s not the size of the Royal Navy, it’s the size of Britain’s balls that’s the problem.

Is the Royal Navy too small to deal with Iranian threat?

Tobias Ellwood told The Times: “The threats we’re facing are changing in front of us, the world is getting more complex. If we are wanting to continue to play this influential role on the international stage it will require further funding for our armed forces, not least the Royal Navy. Our Royal Navy is too small to manage our interests across the globe.”

The issue isn’t the size and reach of the Royal Navy; it has been shrinking for years. The issue is that the United Kingdom has been emasculated by its elites, who would rather kowtow to the maniacal SJWs and cultivate voting blocs within immigrant populations than defend the culture and history of their country. The result is a country without a core; one that is unwilling to defend itself even in response to a direct and obvious provocation from a country that is reeling from sanctions and is lashing out at the world.

I have no doubt whatsoever of that being true. It’s true here as well. but not as badly. The elites/ globalists or whatever you wish to call them, want us all to be what Malvina Reynolds described so well back in 1962:

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,1
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same,
And there’s doctors and lawyers,
And business executives,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

Well, those people aren’t going to make Britain great again. The Brits, like the Americans, built the joint against great odds. And none of the people she described in the song are going to use Nelson’s Telescope, let along go against the standing orders to win the battle that would win Britain supremacy for a century. This is the navy that once executed an admiral for not engaging aggressively enough but now sold to middle management who only know how to tick the boxes.

But that’s not strictly a naval problem, it is the base problem with HMG, which has sold itself to the EU, and their gray dull, masters only want subservience. It a formula for losing and losers. England Expects Better. They deserve it too.

And there is the real task that Boris (and Trump) have each undertaken. And it needs the stamp “ACTION THIS DAY

The American Way

We’ve talked some this week about Apollo 11, indeed the whole early space program, and we’re going to today as well.

S[ecofically, how very American the whole thing was. Joshua Lawson at The Federalist says.

In the 2008 space documentary “When We Left Earth,” while addressing the success of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders remarked that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were “humans” who “just happened to be Americans.”

Last year, Canadian actor Ryan Gosling played Neil Armstrong in Damien Chazell’s biopic “First Man.” In an echo of Anders’s comments from a decade earlier, Gosling raised the eyebrows of many Americans when he said the moon landing was “widely regarded in the end as a human achievement” and that’s how the team making “First Man” chose to view it.

These statements are part of a trend of historical revisionism that paints every American achievement as universal and global while portraying the nation’s past sins as exclusively American. In truth, NASA’s missions in general—and the Apollo 11 moon landing in particular—represent an odds-defying triumph of American exceptionalism.

In good forthright American terms, “It’s bullshit”. Only in America. It’s another attempt to denigrate America, although more subtle than usual.

Like many of the most inspiring adventures in history, the American moon landing is a comeback story. The United States began the space race trailing the Soviet Union. In 1957, the U.S.S.R. stunned the world when they successfully launched the Sputnik satellite into orbit. The first man in space was not an American but Soviet Yuri Gagarin.

Those involved in the first days of NASA were flabbergasted at the early Soviet success. Space correspondent Jay Barbree recalls the sentiment of the time: “These people couldn’t build a refrigerator…how can they get into orbit?”

Rather than looking at the initial score in the space race and giving up, Americans saw the deficit they had to overcome and were emboldened. The Soviets touched a nerve. Unknowingly, they reinvigorated the determined, persevering, and rugged streak embodied in the very nature of the United States. In the drive to remain the preeminent leader in science and engineering, the NASA missions tapped into something deep within the American character.

The space program that led to men landing on the surface of the moon is part of the grand narrative of Americans braving forth and conquering the unknown. The Apollo program and the Mercury and Gemini missions that preceded them were victories of innovation, adaptation, and a hungry (and distinctively American) competitive instinct. Although there were certainly some non-American-born engineers and scientists working for NASA in the 1960s, the entire endeavor was fundamentally American in its ethos.

Looking back. it reminds me of nothing so much as Babe Ruth in Wrigley Field all those years ago ‘calling his shot’ and then doing it. But then, like the Mitchell Raid showed, America is the Babe Ruth of nations. Tell us something is impossible and we’ll just ‘get ‘er done; quicker.

Like a lot of people, I liked President Kennedy. Part of that is that I was too young (and too sheltered) to understand some of his flaws, but a lot of it was that he believed in the sort of America that I did. At Rice University, he said this in 1961 he said this:

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard … [the] challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win…

That’s powerful stuff, isn’t it? Echoes that Marine Sargeant in Belleau Wood a half-century before Kennedy’s speech, “Come on you sonsabitches! You want to live forever?” But compare it to this, from William Bradford, from over a century before we even became Americans:

…all great and honourable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and must be both enterprised and overcome with answerable courages…all of them, through the help of God, by fortitude and patience, might either be borne, or overcome.

Once you account for the changes in the vernacular language, it’s the same damn speech! And it’s not a speech, any Frenchmen or Spaniard, and not even many Englishmen would make, although quite a few Aussies might. Good people they may all be, they’re followers. We’re not, we lead. Follow me, it says on the statue at the Infantry School, it does not say, together we shall overcome.

Kennedy was on to something when he harnessed the idea of a “New Frontier” during the 1960 presidential election race. After the U.S. Census of 1890 reported the closing of the American frontier in the West, historian Frederick Jackson Turner revealed that much of what made America so exceptional and successful could be tied to the exploration of its expansive frontier.

This perennial rebirth, this fluidity of American life, this expansion westward with its new opportunities … furnish the forces dominating American character. … At the frontier the environment is at first too strong for the man. He must accept the conditions which it furnishes, or perish. …Early Western man was an idealist withal. He dreamed dreams and beheld visions. He had faith in man, hope for democracy, belief in America’s destiny, unbounded confidence in his ability to make his dreams come true.

In the roughest days of the American West, the harsh, unforgiving, and trying experience of trying to eke out a living was a baptism of fire. The nation’s character was both forged and revealed in the conditions of the Old West.

Turner observed that America owes its most striking attributes to the frontier. It took a particular brand of dogged determinism to fight against the unforgiving climate, an often-hostile native population, and the ever-present threat of failure.

That coarseness and strength combined with acuteness and inquisitiveness; that practical, inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients; that masterful grasp of material things, lacking in the artistic but powerful to effect great ends; that restless, nervous energy; that dominant individualism … withal that buoyancy and exuberance which comes with freedom—these are traits of the frontier.

In short, as General Patton said,

Americans love a winner. Americans will not tolerate a loser. Americans despise cowards. Americans play to win all of the time. I wouldn’t give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That’s why Americans have never lost nor will ever lose a war; for the very idea of losing is hateful to an American.

It’s time we remembered who we are, and acted like it.

 

Loud, Proud, and Rowdy, and on a Mission

243 years ago today, a document was read out by the town crier in Center City Philadelphia. That document was and is America’s Mission statement. This is it:

In Congress, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Seal_of_Virginia.svgOf course, it had been building up to that point for years, the shooting had started over a year earlier, when an unlawful government in Massachusetts tried to disarm the people. but in truth the roots were deeper still than that. If one were to look at the Massachusetts state seal, one would find Liberty, with a sword in one hand and Magna Charta in the other, or one could look at Virginia’s state seal.

Because this marked the start of the second of the three cousin’s wars and was the English Civil War, all over again. Again the cause was the rights of freemen, and this time not amongst the relatively calm precincts of England but here where men had learned to breathe free, and already knew the timeless cry of the American to his government, “Leave me alone!”

And so came one of America’s most heartbreaking wars, where we gave up that of which we were most proud, our Britishness, to preserve our English rights. It was hard, and it pretty much ended here.

Tom Paine had it pretty much right when he said, “You can’t conquer an idea with an army.” I’m sure that a few shades of Stuart kings agreed with him. Where that idea went is a modern legend.

4 July 1776 fired off a crazy rocking rolling ride that hasn’t stopped ‘stirring things up’ on a global scale.

Advancing arrogance into an art form with a remarkable relentless risque commitment to liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, and laissez-faire values. 

America differs qualitatively from all other nations, because of her unique origins, nat’l credo, historical evolution, and distinctive political and religious institutions.

Great Satan is magically especial because she was a country of immigrants and the first modern democracy. 

Loud, proud and rowdy – early America forecast future stuff with a provocative lingo that still fits today. “Don’t Tread On Me!” “Liberty Or Death”, “Live Free Or Die” 

Great Satan’s superiority of the American xperiment is reflected in the perception among Americans of America’s role in the world. That American foreign policy is based on moral principles is a consistent theme in the American hot diplopolititary gossip – a phenomenon recognized even by those who are skeptic of such an assessment. 

This inclination to do right has been virtually unique among the nations of the world – and for this very reason – America has been totally misunderstood. How could a nation so rich, so successful actually, really be so unselfish and so caring?

Unconvincing (and either historically igno – or deceitfully dishonest – either term will do) critics cry Great Satan must have darker motives! America must be seeking imperium – to dominate everyone else, suck up all the oil, to trade and rob blind for America’s selfish purposes. 

People from more grasping, less idealistic societies find it nigh impossible to accept that America honestly believes that giving everyone opportunity is the real roadmap for abundance and happiness everywhere – not merely in the magical Great Satan.

Americans honestly believe that securing other people’s freedom is actually like the best guarantee that America can keep her own. […]

Creative destruction is Great Satan’s middle name. It is her natural function, for she is the one truly revolutionary country in the world for more than 2 centuries. 

She does it automatically, and that is precisely why creeps and tyrants hate her guts, and are driven to attack her. An enormous advantage, despots fear her, and oppressed peoples want what she offers: freedom. 

Amazingly, some suspect states, illegit leaders and some people have not yet comprehended that America’s primary intention is to preserve and keep our own land and liberty and all it’s prosperity and that America will do anything and go anywhere to make it happen.

From Great Satan’s Girlfriend, Thanks, Courtney!

So, sit back, enjoy the hotdogs and beer, the tanks on the Mall, the music and the speechifying. We’ve got some problems that Tom Jefferson and the boys in Philadelphia would understand, we’ll get them sorted eventually, I reckon. Meantime the band’s playing our song.

happy-birthday-americaFirst published on 4 July 2015 at All along the Watchtower.

And now we watch with interest as the British themselves join our Revolution against a Parliament grown overpowerful that has become a threat to freedom itself. Godspeed to them, we pray that we aren’t entering the time of the fourth of the cousins’ wars but Americans and Britons will be free.

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