Friday, November 30, 2012

Happy Birthday Winston Churchill!

1874 - 1965

Happy Birthday Winston Churchill!

How sad that his bust and spirit are missing in today's White House!

We are now living through, I fear, a new set of  "Wilderness years".  Major Hasan sprays his comrades with automatic weapons at Fort Hood, but it is labelled "workplace violence".  Our ambassador and three other Americans are killed in Benghazi, but we are told that a You Tube video is to blame.

We have just re-elected an administration that specializes in appeasement and apology.

Commander Kelly says, "God Bless Winston Churchill!  Hoist a glass of champagne today in his honor!"

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Santa Croce, Florence Italy
According to Gourgaud, Napoleon Bonaparte once said, "Io sono Italiano o Toscano, piutosto che Corso" ( "I am more Italian or Tuscan than Corsican").  In spite of having been born in Ajaccio on Corsica, the etymology of his name is completely Italian.  "Leone" is the Italian word for "Lion," thus his first name means "Leone di Napoli" or "Lion of Naples".  "Buona" means "good" in Italian while "Parte" means "parts" or "sides" thus his surname "Buonaparte" means "Goodparts".

Napoleon's brother Lucien lived in Florence for while (see earlier post Napoleon and the Rebel, 10/24/12).  His sister Pauline (the beautiful one sculpted by Canova) died in Florence, though she is buried in Rome.

Bonaparte Chapel, Santa Croce, Florence
The Bonaparte or "Buonaparte" family had roots in the small Tuscan town of San Miniato, about 40 kilometers from Florence.  Napoleon was the King of Italy as well as The Emperor of the French.  His short-lived Kingdom of Italy was an inspiration for subsequent Italian nationalists such as Cavour and Garibaldi.

Tomb of Julie Bonaparte 1771 - 1845, Santa Croce, Florence IT
A contemporary visitor to Florence can easily find reminders of Napoleon and his Italian connections.  Step inside the beautiful Cathedral of Santa Croce (see photo above and link... and you will find the tomb of Napoleon's sister-in-law Marie Julie Bonaparte ( who was married to his eldest brother Joseph, the King of Spain.  She had been born Marie Julie Clary the daughter of a prosperous silk merchant from Marseille.  Her sister Desiree Clary married Napoleon's Marshal Bernadotte who later became the King of Sweden.  The Swedish royal family of today are, therefore, linear descendants from the French bourgeoisie with an assist from Napoleon.

Charlotte Napoleone Bonaparte 1802 - 1829
Facing Julia's tomb in Santa Croce you will see the tomb of her daughter and Napoleon's niece, Charlotte Napoleone Bonaparte (  Charlotte had married her first cousin Napoleon Louis, the second son of Louis Bonaparte and Hortense de Beauharnais.  Charlotte Bonaparte, much like the fictional Lady Sybil Branson (of Downton Abbey), died in childbirth at age 26. Unlike Sybil, however, Charlotte's child did not survive her death.

Lady Sybil Branson (played by Jessica Brown Findlay), Downton Abbey
Commander Kelly says "Charlotte Bonaparte is a poignant reminder of the precarious and vulnerable position of women in the 19th century. Her tomb in Santa Croce is a tangible proof of Napoleon's Italian heritage and his lasting impact on Italy."

Tomb of Charlotte Napoleone Bonaparte, Santa Croce

Charlotte (on left) and sister Zenaide Bonaparte by Davide

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

HMS Belfast

Commander K. with HMS Belfast on Thames
From Tower Bridge, London
The American Conservative tour of London continues with a stop at the HMS Belfast ( on the South Side of the Thames near the London Bridge tube stop on the Jubilee line.  The HMS Belfast was a cruiser that served in the Royal Navy from its launch on St. Patrick's Day 1938 until her retirement from the active fleet in 1963.  She displaced 10,000 tons, making her a medium-sized Cruiser.  She served in the Arctic convoys escorting vital supplies to the Soviet Union during World War II.  She participated in the battle of the North Cape where she fired on and helped sink the German battle cruiser Scharnhorst on Boxing Day 1943.

6 Inch Gun, Shard in background, London
The HMS Belfast provided naval gunfire with her 6-inch guns in support of the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944.  She had responsibilty for supporting the British and Canadian landings on "Gold" and "Juno" beaches.

HMS Belfast Ship's Bell
Presented by the people of Belfast 1948
She later saw duty during the Korean war where she again provided shore bombardments in support of South Korean and UN ground forces.  She spent 404 days on active patrol during the Korean War.

Union Jack, HMS Belfast
She opened to visitors on Trafalgar Day 1971 at her present location on the Thames.  She now forms part of the Imperial War Museum that also includes The Churchill War rooms (see earlier post, Churchill War Rooms, 2/1/12) and The IWM Duxford (see earlier post, Duxford and...George Carlin, 4/30/12).

Touring the HMS Belfast today gives one an appreciation for the difficulties of naval service.  Sailors slept in hammocks often in crowded conditions.

Measuring out the Daily Grog Ration
"Rum, Sodomy and the Lash!"
Royal Navy personnel were issued a daily rum ration of grog (3 parts water to one part rum) each day right up until the 1970's.
HMS Belfast, London
The HMS Belfast was ordered by His Majesty's government in 1936 and built by a Corporation -- Harland and Wolff of Belfast (see earlier post, Corporations that Won World War II, 7/20/12) -- the same Corporation that built the ill-fated Titanic.  Her crew was made up of men who had a strong sense of duty and self-sacrifice.  This ship and her crew did their part to end the scourge of Nazism and preserve freedom in South Korea.  She is a constant reminder of the days when Britain really did rule the waves.

Commander Kelly says, "If in London, go check out the HMS Belfast!  Remember all those who served aboard her and think of those who serve us and keep us safe today.  Go Royal Navy!"

PS:  Here is my friend Scott Cummins link on camouflage that features the HMS Belfast...

You can find signed copies of our books at 
these web sites...

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Moon is a Balloon

David Niven, 1910 - 1983

David Niven ( published his autobiography, The Moon is a Balloon ( in 1971.  This book, filled with amusing anecdotes from his remarkable life, sold 5 million copies and quite deservedly so.

In this book you meet a charming English gentleman of the old school.  We know him from roles in pictures such as Around the World in Eighty Days, Guns of Navarone, Death on the Nile and Sir Charles Layton in The Pink Panther.  In spite of having started his movie career with virtually no stage experience (unlike the vast majority of English actors) he won an Oscar for his performance as the Major in Separate Tables.

Niven's Autobiography, 1971
Niven was born in London in 1910.  His mother was French.  His father was a English soldier who died at Gallipoli when David was only five years old.  His grandfather had died at the battle of  in Isandlwana in Africa.  Niven soon had a stepfather whom he despised.  He was soon packed off to a boarding school that he detested.

Niven writes, "Apart from the Chinese, the only people in the world who pack their sons off to the tender care of unknown and often homosexual schoolmasters at the exact moment when  they are most in need of parental love and influence, are the British so-called upper and middle classes."

His school days were difficult.  Niven was sexually abused by an older Ex-Eton schoolmate.  He was expelled from school at age 10. He did eventually manage to transfer to Stow which he much preferred.

With his military background, he attended the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and later became an officer in the Highland Light Infantry.  He served in the garrison on Malta.

David Niven Interview with David Frost
Partying on Malta

He later resigned his commission at the age of 23 and took off for Canada and the United States.   He eventually headed West hoping to become a movie star in Hollywood.  His wishes were granted when he was given a contract by Sam Goldwynn of MGM.  He lived with Errol Flynn in a swinging bachelor pad in Hollywood.  One of his best know pre-war films was The Prisoner of Zenda (1937).

When  World War II broke out in September 1939, David Niven opted to give up his movie career in order to rejoin the Rifle Brigade in the British army.

Back in England, he attended a party in 1940 where he met Winston Churchill who was then head of the Admiralty.  Niven writes, "We were twenty in number and just as we were about to sit down, Churchill spotted me from the far end of the table .  I had heard before that he was an ardent movie-goer but I was unprepared for what was to come.  He marched the whole length of the dining room and shook me by the hand.

'Young man,' he growled . 'you did a a very fine thing to give up a most promising career to fight for your country.'

I was conscious that the great and near great in he room had remained standing and were listening with interest.

I stammered some inane reply and Churchill continued with a twinkle, 'Mark you, had you not done so -- it would have been despicable!'  he marched back to his seat.

After dinner Churchill talked and expounded on every subject under the sun.  Eden took issue with him on several occasions but Bracken, always so opinionated on his own, was very subdued in the presence of the Champion.

After church on Sunday, Churchill requisitioned me for a walk around the walled garden.

He talked at great length about vegetables and the joy of growing one's own,  He made it clear that before long, rationing would become so severe that 'every square inch of our island will be pressed into service.'  He questioned me abut the problems of a junior officer in the army and listened most attentively to my answers.  It saddens me greatly that I had the enormous good fortune to have several of these 'garden tours' with this unique human being and that I remember so little of what he actually said.

That first weekend he extolled the virtues of Deanna Durbin, 'a formidable talent', and whenever he spoke of Hitler, he referred to him either as 'Corporal Hitler' or as 'Herr Schickelgruber'.

Ronnie Tree asked me if I could arrange an occasional private showing of a movie for Churchill. 'He loves films but he doesn't want to go out in public to seem them for obvious reasons.'

The next morning I got busy and on the last evening of my leave, I booked a projection room in Soho and obtained a copy of the latest Deanna Durbin musical.  I installed a bar in the projection room and gave a small dinner in the private room of a nearby restaurant  before the showing.

The Trees and Eden came to dinner.  Churchill was detained at the Admiralty but he joined us for the show. When he arrived, he accepted a large liqueur brandy, lit a cigar and settled down in his seat.  Half way through the film, whispering started at the back and I saw that Churchill was leaving.  I followed him out and he thanked me kindly for my efforts but said that 'something important' had come up and that he must return to the Admiralty.

The next day the headlines were ecstatic.  Churchill had given the order for the HMS Cossack to enter Josling Fjord 'to board with cutlasses the German naval auxiliary Altmark and free three hundred British prisoners  -- seamen of merchant ships sunk by the Graf Spee."

This was the "Altmark incident" that the Nazis would later cite as a pretest for their invasion of Norway.

In a subsequent meeting with Churchill after he became prime Minister they had this exchange: "He asked me what I was doing at the moment so, as we walked, I filled him in on the exciting prospects of the Commandos.  He stopped by a greenhouse and said, 'Your security is very shouldn't be telling me this.'  He was always a superb actor but to this day I don't know whether or not he was joking."

Niven had what would be considered a "good war".  He met and married his first wife "Primmie" who served in the WAAF.   He met Ian Fleming who was the assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence;  Fleming later wanted to cast him as James Bond when the films were made (he later played Bond in the 1967 spoof Casino Royale). Niven would serve as a platoon leader in Normandy after the D-day landings.  He ended the war as a Lieutenant Colonel and would receive the American Legion of Merit decoration from Eisenhower himself.

He  also served in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge (see earlier post, Battle of the Bulge 10/12/12).  Niven writes, "I went down through the fog-shrouded Forest of the Ardennes to Marche.  Within hours the last great German offensive of the war erupted.  Ahead of it, Skorzeny's Trojan Horse Brigade, American-speaking and wearing American uniforms, infiltrated everywhere with captured American tanks and half tracks.  Sabotaging as they went, they rushed for the Meuse.  The rumors of Skorzeny's men flew wildly.  In my British uniform and jeep with the 21st Army Group markings, I had some anxious moments at the hands of understandably trigger-happy G.I.s Identification papers mean nothing -- 'Hands above your head, Buddy -- all right -- so who won the World series in 1940?'

I haven't the faintest idea but I do know I made a picture with Ginger Rogers in 1938.'

'O.K. beat it, Dave, but watch your step for Crissake.'"

David Niven was an incorrigible name-dropper who happened to meet and many of the most interesting people of the 20th century.  He suffered many tragic losses including the death of his first wife in a freak accident when she was twenty five years old, but he always managed to pick himself up and cheerfully carry on.  He was a courageous man who brought joy to many others and, through his work in many films, continues to do so even today.

Commander Kelly says, "Remember David Niven--soldier, actor, writer, gentleman."

The Streaker

The Prawn

You can now find Commander Kelly's first book, America Invades,  here or on Amazon

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving 2016 from The Mayflower!

Mayflower Pub, Rotherhithe, London
Happy Thanksgiving 2016!  We survived another election and we are likely to survive the Trump years just as we survived the Obama years (

The American Conservative tour of London makes its annual Thanksgiving pilgrimage to Rotherhithe on south side of the Thames.

It is quite possible to celebrate uniquely American traditions such as Thanksgiving while living abroad. A group of American guys in London have been going to The Mayflower Pub in Rotherhithe in South London ( on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving for many years now.
Commander K. with statue of Christopher Jones
The Mayflower pub is very the site from which the Mayflower, a 120 ton cargo ship, sailed for the new world in 1620.  After the return journey the Captain of the Mayflower, Christopher Jones, died in London and is buried just across from the pub.  There is is no marked grave for him, but there is a statue (see above photo) commemorating him.

Mayflower Pub, Rotherhithe, London
The Mayflower pub is old -- the oldest pub on the Thames -- but does not quite go back as far as 1620.  They serve the best burger (Kobe beef) in London and have a friendly and attentive staff.  They also have a handsome deck which overlooks the Thames.

Cheers from London!
It was from just this site that Turner observed and painted The Fighting Temeraire -- the most popular painting in Britain which can be found in the National Gallery (see earlier posts, The Fighting Temeraire, 1/16/12 and Skyfall, 10/27/12).  This is the painting that was recently featured in the James Bond movie Skyfall.

Pilgrim Statue, Rotherhithe, London
In November 2012 we have much to be thankful for.  Those of us in London are grateful for the opportunity to live in a fascinating city.  My Democratic friends are grateful for their re-elected President and Senate majority.  We Conservatives are grateful for a Republican House of Representatives and a majority of Republican governors.  All of us can be thankful for the disappearance of  election ads, a peaceful transition of power and the retirement of Ron Paul!

Commander Kelly wishes, "Happy Thanksgiving to all".

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Singed Copies of  Italy Invades
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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Are Syrian babies not as cute as British babies?

Cecil Beaton's Blitz baby
See IWM London for Cecil Beaton Exhibition

In September 1940 the above photograph by fashion photographer Cecil Beaton graced the cover of Life magazine.  Americans saw the above photograph and listened to Edward R. Murrow's reports of the bombing of London on their radios.  Murrow would later risk his life accompanying 24 allied bombing missions over Germany.  The American people were horrified by the spectacle of a brutal dictator mercilessly attacking a civilian population.  Though the isolationist "America First" movement was strongly opposed to taking sides in the European conflagration, FDR did not remain strictly neutral in the conflict between Hitler's Germany and Churchill's Britain.  He could not declare war on Germany, but he did mobilize Congress to assist in passing Lend Lease that started supplying Britain with much-needed arms.  He also traded destroyers for British bases in the Caribbean which helped the Royal navy in their duel in the North Atlantic with Nazi U-boats.

Murrow Blitz Broadcast 

Today a brutal dictator, Bashar al Assad in Syria, has been attacking his own population since at least March of 2011 (see earlier posts Syria Burning, 10/12/12 and A More Dangerous World, 11/8/12).  Over 20,000 people have been killed.  Thousands of refugees have fled into Turkey and Jordan.  Syrian mortar attacks have killed civilians in our NATO ally Turkey.

Francois Hollande
France shows moral leadership on Syria
Recently British Prime Minister Cameron has called on Assad to step aside offering asylum and safe passage (  Just this past week French President Hollande openly recognized the Syrian National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the of Syrian people (

During the American election neither Presidential candidate showed any fortitude in calling for principled action in Syria;  both candidates knew how such words would poll test with a war weary nation. The conflict in Afghanistan is a bleeding ulcer that costs us lives and billions of dollars.  The memory of the Iraq war is still vivid in the minds of most Americans.  Consequently the American administration has done virtually nothing to call for change in Syria.  The Obama administration's "light touch" approach has doomed thousands of Syrian civilians.  Russian-made Migs are attacking Rebel targets killing and wounding civilians including children.

Now, however, the election is over and some politicians on both sides of the aisle are finally calling for action.  Consider this from the NY Times this weekend: “It’s not a fair fight,” Senator Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, said on Saturday at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia. “The election is over, and while I’m not endorsing a no-fly zone today, we can’t stand idly by” and risk having the rest of the region inflamed.

Senator John McCain of Arizona, who ran against Mr. Obama in 2008 and has been among the most vocal advocates of greater intervention, argues that “every bad thing that we predicted would happen if we intervened — instability in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey — is already happening anyway.”

Here is the full article...

FDR's example in 1940 demonstrates that there is much that the United States can do to affect a positive outcome in the world short of a declaration of war.  There are multiple options, short of war, that are available to the United States...1) active consultation with our regional allies, 2) naval blockade of Syrian ports and 3) imposition of a no fly zone 4) recognition of the Syrian National Coalition, 5) supplying the rebels with anti-aircraft missiles.

Why does the Obama administration sit back and do nothing to oppose Syria's Assad -- Iran's best ally in the middle east?  What message does this send to the Mullahs in Iran?

Syrian Child Victim of Assad
She won't appear on Life magazine
Concluding Questions from Commander Kelly

Are Syrian babies of today not as cute as British babies of 1940?  I don't believe it.

Does Syria just lack photographers as talented as Cecil Beaton undoubtedly was? (See my earlier post Imperial War Museum, London 11/15/12 and the current photography exhibition at the IWM in London

Or is President Obama just incapable of leading?

Not Edward R. Murrow but...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Good Riddance to Ron Paul!

Au Revoir, Ron Paul!  11/14/12

On November 14 Ron Paul gave his farewell speech to Congress.  He is retiring after serving as a US Congressman from Texas' 14th district.   Ron Paul was a three-time candidate for President, once as a Libertarian (1988) and twice as a Republican (2008 and 2012).

Ron Paul claims to be a Libertarian.  I share many of his strongly Libertarian sympathies.  In his essay Civil Disobedience Henry David Thoreau wrote, "That government is best which governs least" (often misattributed to Thomas Jefferson).  Ronald Reagan summed up the essential truth of Libertarian Conservatism very well in his farewell address: "I hope we once again have reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There's a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts."  Paul would seem to concur with these noble sentiments.

I agree with much of what Paul has to say about economics, private property and an overly intrusive federal government -- including the heinous abuses of the TSA.  Paul is provocative on the issues of an out-of-control federal reserve and raises the intriguing possibility of a return to the gold standard.  Paul is right to object to a wasteful and intrusive federal government.

Ultimately, however, I find that Ron Paul is neither a Libertarian, a Republican, nor even a Conservative.  He seems to believe most of all in "Ron Paul-ism" -- a curious mixture of Libertarian economics, neo-confederate nostalgia and isolationism.

Ron Paul Uses Confederate Flag backdrop
Does this help Republicans woo back non-White voters?
What is most disturbing about "Ron Paul-ism"?  Is it his willingness to give a speech in front of the confederate flag (see image above)?  Is it the racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic remarks that were in his newsletters  Is it the possibility that his presence at the Republican primary debates may have devalued the Republican brand name and helped Obama to win reelection in 2012 as Jed Babbin suggested in a recent article (

These are all factors to be weighed, but they are tangential to my deepest objection to Ron Paul.

Ron Paul's foreign policy is far to the left of President Obama's (see earlier post, A Bi-partisan, though perhaps not Tri-partisan, Joke, 11/9/12).    He is in favor of Liberty, but only up to the water's edge.

US Army liberates Dachau, 1945
A Noble Purpose
The United States of America in 2012 continues to be, in Lincoln's phrase "the last best hope of mankind".  It was US military and industrial might that helped to destroy the sinister barbarism of Hitler and the Japanese Empire in World War II.  It was American might that helped to liberate the Nazi concentration camps.  After World War II it was America that led the free world in opposition to communism ultimately triumphing without a shot being fired in anger.  Since the shock of Pearl Harbor, the USA emerged from isolationism and realized its need to remain engaged int he world.

Today the USA stands as the only superpower left in the world.  In many parts of the world, if the United States does not act, then nothing positive will occur.

Ron Paul in his farewell address on 11/14/12 said, "This attitude has given us a policy of initiating war to “do good,” as well. It is claimed that war, to prevent war for noble purposes, is justified.  This is similar to what we were once told that:  “destroying a village to save a village” was justified.  It was said by a US Secretary of State that the loss of 500,000 Iraqis, mostly children, in the 1990s, as a result of American bombs and sanctions, was “worth it” to achieve the “good” we brought to the Iraqi people.  And look at the mess that Iraq is in today."

Many citizens of a war weary nation might be tempted to nod their heads in agreement.  "What a horrible thing for an American Secretary of State to say!  How terrible that we killed 500,000 children in Iraq!"

Ron Paul was alluding to a Sixty Minutes interview on CBS with President Clinton's Secretary of State, Madeline Albright and this is exactly what she said...

The problem is that Ron Paul is just telling part of the story, distorting the truth to serve his own ideological ends.

Madeline Albright immediately regretted speaking as she did that day.  "Albright wrote later that Saddam Hussein, not the sanctions, was to blame. She criticized Stahl's segment as "amount[ing] to Iraqi propaganda"; said that her question was a loaded question; wrote "I had fallen into a trap and said something I did not mean"; and regretted coming "across as cold-blooded and cruel".  The segment won an Emmy Award. Albright's "non-denial" was taken by sanctions opponents as confirmation of a high number of sanctions related casualties." (

Did "500,000 Iraqis, mostly children" really die as a result of "American bombs and sanctions" as Ron Paul says they did?

1) We know that UNICEF estimated that 500,000 children may have died as a result of sanctions and that Saddam Hussein used this as propaganda directed against his enemies.  Other sources, however, suggest that the total affected may have been as low as 100,000.  "This rise in the mortality rate accounted for between a minimum of 100,000 and a more likely estimate of 227,000 excess deaths among young children from August 1991 through March 1998" Source: (  Yet another source, the Project on Defense Alternatives in an article from 2003 called "The Wages of War" estimated "probably ... 170,000 children".  The real truth of the matter is murky to say the least.

United Nations: Imposed Sanctions on Iraq
August 6, 1990 (Four days after invasion of Kuwait)
2)  The sanctions were imposed NOT by the USA, but rather by the United Nations.

3) Why were these sanctions imposed in the first place?  The Sanctions were a direct result of Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.  They were imposed by the UN on August 6, 1990 only four days after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.  Thus one can argue, as Madeline Albright did, that it was Saddam's policies that resulted in the premature deaths of some children in Iraq.

4) The "Children dying as a result of sanctions" was a propaganda line used by Saddam Hussein, regardless of the fact that the incompetence of Saddam's government may have played an even greater role in these deaths.  According to Michael Rubin writing in the New Republic at the same time that children were allegedly starving in Iraq, Saddam's government was selling food abroad  that had been earmarked to Iraqi citizens.  Rubin writes, "incredibly, even as Saddam's regime milks its people's suffering for international sympathy, it sells food abroad that is earmarked for Iraqi citizens. According to the U.S. State Department, in October 1999 Allied patrols in the Persian Gulf stopped three ships that were carrying food out of Iraq. Near the Iranian border, I watched smugglers load sacks of rice and grain (and whiskey) for export."  Here is the full article...(

5) Why were the sanctions lifted?  The sanctions were lifted as a direct result of the USA-led invasion (vociferously opposed by Ron Paul) of Iraq in 2003 and were specifically cited by Tony Blair as a coherent reason (unlike WMD) for supporting the invasion.*  For a fuller treatment of the effect of the UN sanctions on Iraq please see this 2002 article from Reason magazine...

Saddam Hussein
The Butcher of Baghdad
Why then is it that Ron Paul even as he bids farewell to Congress is willing to believe and say the worst about his country regardless of the fact that it is not true?  Why is Paul always a member, like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn of the blame-America-first crowd?  Why are we willing to give any credence to a man who stoops to regurgitating the propaganda talking points of a dead and little-mourned dictator?

Ron Paul claims to holds liberty in high regard.  If so, why does he seem to deny support for liberty among our allies throughout the world?  Do the Iraqis not deserve to be free of a murderous dictator?  Did the Czechs in 1938 not deserve freedom and autonomy?  The Poles in 1939?  Do Afghan girls not deserve a chance to receive an education?

Has the US blundered in any of its military interventions?  Yes, the Vietnam war was a series of tragic miscalculations that cost over 50,000 American lives.  After 2003, the occupation of Iraq was miserably botched and nation building was a costly mistake.  The surge policy of escalation in Afghanistan adopted by President Obama remains highly questionable to this day.

Is there waste and inefficiency in our military procurement system?  Unquestionably (see earlier post Colonel John Boyd, 1/6/12).

Commander Kelly must insist, however, that these facts do not outweigh the truth that there is no viable alternative to the United States remaining engaged and exerting principled leadership in our the world; we cannot retreat into the turtle shell of isolationism as Ron Paul suggests.

* The late Christopher Hitchens wrote, "March 2003 happens to mark the only time that we decided to intervene, after a protracted and open public debate, on the right side and for the right reasons. This must, and still does, count for something."  For his full take on the Iraq war see Christopher Hitchens article -- Did I get the Iraq War Wrong? :

How ironic that Hitchens the socialist should stand up for human liberty while Ron Paul, the putative "libertarian" should be an apologist for dictatorship and tyranny!

Hitchens on Iraq

What would Ron Paul make of this...?

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's first book, America Invades or on

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Imperial War Museum, London

V2 Rocket, IWM, London
Vergeltungswaffe - Retaliation Weapons

The American Conservative tour of London continues with an essential stop at the Imperial War Museum ( on Lambeth road in South London.

Leon Trotsky famously said, "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you".  You may not be interested in visiting the Imperial War Museum (, but even if you are a pacifist who despises all forms of Imperialism and colonialism you can still learn much from this museum.

The Real Bridge on the River Kwai
The Imperial War Museum London now occupies a building that used to be Bethlem Royal Hospital -- an insane asylum.  The word "bedlam" derives from Bethlem Royal Hospital.  Londoners used to be able to pay a penny for the privilege of poking the inmates with a stick!  The conjunction of an insane asylum and a war museum always reminds me of the concluding lines of the film Bridge on the River Kwai where Major Clipton exclaims, "Madness, madness".

Outside of the museum you will be welcomed by a pair of huge 15 " naval guns from the HMS Ramilles and HMS Roberts.

15" Naval Guns at IWM, London

In the nearby garden you will find a memorial to the 26.6 million of Soviet soldiers and citizens that perished in World War II (see earlier post Moscow's 65th Anniversary May Day Parade).  Recall also that 4 out of 5 German soldiers killed during World War II died on the Eastern front.

"We Shall Remember Them"
The IWM London collections cover the full range of modern warfare that involved Britain and the Commonwealth countries.  The IWM makes a particular effort to record the toil and sacrifice of all those affected by war -- not merely the combatants.  In addition to the equipment of war, you will find films, uniforms, works of military art, diaries, recordings and much more.

Sherman Tank, IWM, London
You will find tanks from both World Wars, airplanes, artillery, and interactive displays.

The IWM London is, in fact, part of a family of 5 major UK military museums -- IWM London, IWM Churchill War Rooms (formerly Cabinet War Rooms), IWM Duxford, IWM HMS Belfast and IWM Manchester.  I have written earlier about the "Churchill War Rooms" (see earlier post, Churchill War Rooms, 2/12/12) and also Duxford (see earlier post, Duxford and...George Carlin, 4/30/12).  The HMS Belfast battlecruiser, moored in the Thames, was used to sink the Bismarck in 1941 and fired its big guns in support of the D-day landings on June 6, 1944.

"Their Finest hour" RAF Hurricane, IWM, London
The IWM celebrates an Empire that has faded from our world.  Today the UK still clings to Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands and St. Helena (Napoleon's Guantanamo) and not much else beyond the British isles.  At one time, however, it could be accurately be said that "the sun never set on the British Empire."  Just prior to World War II, about one quarter of the earth's surface was part of the British Empire; it was the largest Empire in the history of the world.

British 8th Army, Armored Car, IWM London
The British exploited the resources of native people for their own economic gain, but they also ended barbaric practices such as Suttee (ritual murder by fire of widows) in India.  During the 19th century they fought war  in order to force the Chinese to buy and become addicted to opium, but they also built railroads throughout India and Pakistan.  The British Empire may have been founded by Elizabethan pirates such as Sir Francis Drake, Sir William Raleigh and others and it may have been guilty of many a crime, but it ended in a blazing flash of glory when it stood alone in 1940 against Hitler.  This was indeed "their finest hour" as Winston Churchill proclaimed.  It is fashionable today to wring our hands over the sins of colonialism, but had it not been for the British Empire, today's world would be a much darker place than it is today.  For an outstanding appraisal of the British Empire I recommend Niall Ferguson's Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power  ( see video below).

"Big Beautiful Doll", USAAF P-51 Mustang
(See earlier post, Tommy Hitchcock and the P-51, 6/27/12)

Does World War II seem a distant fading memory of questionable relevance to you?  Just this year (2012) an English homeowner in Surrey, who was cleaning out his chimney, found a secret message was attached to a dead pigeon's leg (!  The coded message, perhaps bound for Bletchley park, has yet to be decoded.  The past continues to reverberate and spill into the present.

Cecil Beaton's London Blitz Victim, 1940
Used in Life Magazine cover, IWM London
Admission to the IWM London is free of charge.  They always have an interesting selection of films and temporary exhibits. They currently have, for example, an exhibition of Cecil Beaton's wartime and fashion photography (see photo above).  Be sure to check their web site for details (  The IWM also boasts a wonderful gift shop for all with an interest in military history.

Commander Kelly says, "Go visit the Imperial War Museum in London!"

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Rumble in America

When We Were...Presidents?

The election contest of 2012 bears some interesting parallels to the famous Rumble in the Jungle in 1974 between Muhammad Ali and Gorge Foreman that was depicted so well in When We Were Kings  (  No, I am not referring to the commercialized "twit race" between Jon Stewart and Bill O'Reilly that was streamed on the Internet in October.

Ali, like Obama, had more charisma than Romney.  Though neither Ali nor Foreman really knew that much about Africa before the fight, it was Ali who worked the crowd to get the populace of Zaire on his side.  By the time the fight occurred, the mass of spectators were loudly chanting "Ali Boombaye" or "Ali Kill him!"
Foreman and his dog
Foreman brought his beloved dog to Zaire.  He used to jog and train with his dog.  This might have been endearing except for the fact that these types of dogs (German shepherds) were associated with the Belgian colonial masters that had recently departed the Congo after years of exploitation.  Foreman's dog incident recalls both Romney's strapping his dog to the roof of his car and also his costly 47% remark.  Both George and Mitt had dog problems!

Ali was more handsome and a better public speaker than heavy-weight boxing champion George Foreman.  George Foreman is, without question, the better businessman.  Outside of boxing, he became a successful entrepreneur and is known for his promotion of the George Foreman Grill, which has sold over 100 million units worldwide.  In 1999 he sold the naming rights to the grill for $138 million.  George Foreman has worked hard all his life and is squarely in the 1%.  Ditto for Romney.

George Foreman is a job creator while Ali is...a celebrity.

Liberals such as Norman Mailer and East coast elites such as George Plimpton adored Ali, particularly for his anti-war stands during the Vietnam war.  The left came to love Obama for his anti-war stands on Iraq during the Bush administration.

Mitt Romney has five sons.  George Foreman has five sons -- all named George!  Foreman also has 6 daughters.  Both Romney and Foreman are pastors in their respective churches.

Ali has had mostly daughters while Obama has had only two daughters. Born "Cassius Clay" the fighter changed his name to "Muhammad Ali" after converting to Islam.  While Barrack Obama is Christian, his middle name is "Hussein", he had a muslim stepfather and he spent part of his childhood in Indonesia -- a predominantly Muslim country.

During the Rumble in the Jungle Foreman backed Ali up against the ropes.  Romney scored big points in this electoral contest, especially in the first debate.  Foreman punched himself tired and Ali swooped in for the kill knocking him to the ground.  "Ali Boombaye!"

Ali called himself "The Greatest".  Obama said in the third Presidential debate, "This Nation. Me."

Commander Kelly concludes, "Ali won the fight.  Obama won the election.  Who is happier today Ali or Foreman?  Who would you really rather be...'The Greatest' or the creator of the George Foreman Grill?"

When We Were Kings