Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Military Anninversaries

Commander K. and Napoleon
Hyde Park Station, London

Before bidding a final adieu to 2013 it may be fitting to acknowledge some significant military anniversaries.
Napoleon I, Elba
I) BATTLE OF LEIPZIG, October 16 - 19, 1813

This year marks the bicentennial of the Battle of Leipzig.  At this battle, also called the Battle of Nations, fought in Eastern Germany Napoleon faced armies from Austria, Russia, Prussia and Sweden.  In the course of the four day affair some of Napoleon's Saxon allies actually switched to the Allied side.  The disastrous campaign in Russia in 1812 had killed 370,000 of La Grande Armee with a further 200,000 captured.  The recruits of 1813 were young and inexperienced soldiers.  In addition, 200,000 horses had been killed in Russia devastating the French cavalry force.

Battle of Leipzig, Re-enactment 2013
Napoleon commanded a force of 225,000 including Germans, Poles and Italians as well as French forces.  The Allies outnumbered Napoleon with 380,000 troops and far better cavalry.  Leipzig marked the largest battle ever fought in Europe until World War I.  One of Napoleon's favorites, Prince Poniatowski, was drowned while crossing the Weisse Elster river in the retreat that followed the battle.  He had been made a Marshal of France the day before his death.

Napoleon's decisive defeat at Leipzig, coupled with Wellington's victory at Vitoria in Spain, meant doom for Napoleon's First Empire.  Napoleon would sent into exile on Elba in 1814 (http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2013/08/napoleon-on-elba.html).

Napoleon's defeat in 1813 was also a blow to the fledgling American Republic who were fighting the War of 1812 (http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2012/04/war-of-1812.html) with Britain at the time.  Napoleon was the de facto ally of President Madison and his defeat at Leipzig forced the Americans to sue for peace or face a reinforced British Army redeploying from the Peninsular campaign.  The War of 1812 was a highly partisan war which divided Americans on political fault lines; Britain was New England's greatest trading partner.  The Governor of Massachusetts, Caleb Strong, actually tried to negotiate a separate peace for his state.

Italian Campaign

In July of 1943, seventy years ago, Allied forces invaded Sicily beginning the Italian campaign.  This was the start of a brutal slog up the length of Italy.  The Mountainous terrain worked to the advantage of the Axis defenders in slowing the Allied advance up the boot of Italy.  The Germans were led by "smiling" Albert Kesserling, arguably the ablest Wehrmacht commander of the war.

Rick Atkinson's work, The Day of Battle (www.amzn.com/080508861X), is a masterful history of the Italian campaign.

Profligate waste characterized the entire Italian campaign.  In the initial invasion of Sicily many Americans were killed by friendly fire due to trigger happy anti-aircraft gunners in the Allied naval forces (http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2012/07/a-hard-lesson-from-world-war-ii-and-d.html).  An Axis air raid of Allied occupied Bari resulted in the sinking of a merchant ship loaded with mustard gas.  Hundreds of Italian civilians and Allied soldiers died from exposure to the poison.  The ancient monastery at Monte Cassino was destroyed by Allied bombing which killed monks and civilian refugees.

Iris Origo, an Englishwoman married to an Italian count, kept a fascinating diary of the war years (http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2013/07/war-in-val-dorcia.html).

Sherman, Flying Heritage Collection
Rome was finally liberated on June 4th, 1944 but the news was quickly overshadowed by the D-day landings in Normandy.  Though more Allied soldiers died in the Italian campaign than in the campaign in northwestern Europe, veterans who served there received scant credit and even became known as the "D-day Dodgers".

Many of the nearly forgotten dead of World War II lie today under the shade of the cypress and the vine (http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-nearly-forgotten-dead-of-world-war.html).

"Let Freedom Reign"
George W. Bush Museum, Dallas

2013 also marks the tenth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq.  Partisanship continues to be the prism through which many view this recent conflict.

Those on the left tend to decry it as being an unnecessary or "dumb" war.  They view it as a distraction from the Global War on terror and the war in Afghanistan.  They charge that Saddam had no direct link to Al Qaeda or Osama Bin Laden.  They point to the war's enormous cost in terms of lives and treasure.   They point to the botched occupation and the bloody insurgency that followed the invasion.  They point to the catastrophic intelligence failure of the CIA in the lead up to war and the failure to find WMD in Iraq.  Some even allege that it was a mercenary war for oil.

Deluded Power, Patty Warashina
Those on the right, however, remind us that Saddam did indeed have direct links to terrorism, if not to Al Qaeda.  Abu Nidal took refuge in Baghdad.  Saddam tried to kill George HW Bush on his trip to Kuwait (Source: http://hnn.us/article/1000).  Saddam also paid cash bounties to the families of suicide bombers throughout the Middle East.  The rising price of oil which leapt from just over $30 a barrel in 2003 to almost $140 five years later would have allowed Saddam's gangster regime to finance far more destructive terrorist plots.

We tend to suffer from a surprising forgetfulness or historical amnesia about even the recent past.  We complain about the rhetorical brick-bats that Iran hurls at the state of Israel (Ahmadinejad: "Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury."), but we seem to forget the actual SCUD missiles launched at a reluctantly neutral Israel that killed civilians in the first Gulf War in 1991.  In all, 38 Iraqi missiles reached Israel, killing two and wounding 230 people (Source: http://drum.lib.umd.edu/bitstream/1903/4282/1/1993-Nature-Scud.pdf)
Commander K., 221 B Baker Street, London
Saddam did indeed have WMD in Iraq (http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2013/09/wmd-10-years-on.html).  He used them against the Iranians in the 1980s and also against his own people.  Thousands of Kurds were killed in northern Iraq.  One does not have to be a Sherlock Holmes to realize that these weapons were either degraded, destroyed or moved to other nations such as Syria before the 2003 invasion.  Part of Saddam's arsenal may have been employed by Assad in Syria this year.*  Even Saddam's own General officers were unaware the dispositions of his WMD.

In considering the cost of the war it is also well to bear in mind the tremendous cost of NOT acting in Iraq.

1) Saddam could have used oil money to finance more terrorism and to develop its nuclear and biological capability.

2) Qaddafi's subsequent removal from Libya would have been far more costly had he retained his stocks of WMD that were disposed of in Tennessee.

3) Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Israel would all lie under immediate threat from a much more potent Iraq.

4) The world would not have witnessed the sight of a brutal dictator being toppled and put on trial by his own people.

5) The purple fingers of Iraq's experiment with representative democracy would never have helped to inspire the Arab Spring which has spread the winds of change throughout the Muslim world.  Toppling Saddam in Iraq was the often unacknowledged sine qua non of the Arab spring.

Commander Kelly concludes, "War is always wasteful; it is also, however, the surest means of removing despots such as Napoleon, Hitler and Saddam Hussein.  When the fires of partisanship eventually die down perhaps history will be kind to George W. Bush after all..?"


* Sarin gas degrades over weeks or sometimes months.  It is interesting to note that the poison satchel made for Napoleon in case of capture in the 1812 invasion of Russia merely made him wretch after he swallowed it in 1814 after his defeat in France.

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades here...www.americainvades.com or on Amazon...www.amzn.com/1940598427

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Apsley House

Commander K. + Wellington
Hyde Park Station, London
Apsley House (http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/apsley-house/), built between 1771 and 1778, was the home of the First Duke of Wellington (1769 - 1852) and remains a residence of the Duke of Wellington to this day.  This gem of a house has a fitting address -- "Number One London".  Wellington, rewarded by many of Europe's crowned heads, amassed an outstanding collection of fine paintings.

Duke of Wellington on his horse Copenhagen
The Duke of Wellington (http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2012/01/day-out-with-duke-of-wellington.html) is remembered today as the man who triumphed over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815.  The Duke purchased this home just two years after the battle in 1817.

State Dining Room, Apsley House
The Duke hosted annual Waterloo dinners each year for the officers who had served with him on that fateful day.  A marvellous silver gilt service that was a gift to Wellington from the Portuguese dominates the room.  Before Waterloo Wellington fought and defeated Napoleon's Marshals in the Peninsular campaign from 1809 to 1814.  In Portugal Wellington had the Lines of Torres Vedras constructed to defend Lisbon from the French.

Commander K. with Napoleon
Hyde Park Tube Station, London
After his defeat at Waterloo Emperor Napoleon was sent to exile on the barren isle of St. Helena.  He died, likely of stomach cancer in 1821.

Commander K. at Apsley House
Napoleon and Wellington had much in common.  Both men were born in 1769 on islands (Corsica and Ireland) under the thumb of their more powerful imperial neighbors (France and England).  Both pursued highly successful military careers which culminated in political power.  Both very were voraciously heterosexual and neither man enjoyed a happy marriage.  They even shared two mistresses -- the Italian singer Grassini and Mademoiselle George.  The later judged that, "Monsieur le duc etait de beaucoup le plus fort" (The duke was much the stronger).

Duke of Wellington fights a duel
Battersea Park, London
Wellington, on the other hand, returned to England where he later became Prime Minister.  In 1829 he fought a duel at Battersea park against the Earl of Winchelsea who opposed Wellington's support of Catholic emancipation.  No one was injured.

Commander K. and the Duke, St. Paul's, London 
Wellington''s older brother helped him advance early in his career.  Andrew Roberts writes that, "A combination, therefore, of nepotism, racism and snobbishness - all anathema to twenty-first century liberal society  -- saved Europe from despotism."  (Source: Napoleon and Wellington, Andrew Roberts, 2001www.amzn.com/B004GHN2VC)

William Funk USMC at The Grenadier, London
After a visit to Apsley House, be sure to drop by The Grenadier pub which is nearby on 18 Wilton Row in Belgravia.  Wellington's officers used it as a mess in his time.  Try the Beef Wellington which is excellent!  They even have ghost!  Here is the link...


You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades here...www.americainvades.com or on Amazon...www.amzn.com/1940598427

Get your signed copy of An Adventure in 1914 here...www.anadventurein1914.com

Or now on Amazon...www.amzn.com/0692767894

Monday, December 16, 2013

Hess, Hitler & Churchill

A Spy book for Christmas...?

The Second World War was the most costly manmade catastrophe in human history.  This conflict killed over 60 million people around the globe.  At the heart of this terrible war lies a mystery that remains, at least to some extent, unsolved even after seventy years have passed.  Bletchley Park yielded up her secrets long ago.  Why not the Hess flight to Scotland?  It is the ultimate spy story played for the highest possible stakes.

Hess' BF 110, Imperial War Museum, London
Consider first the curious timing of this event.  Hess, the deputy Fuhrer of the Third Reich, took off in an ME-110 from Germany to Scotland on May 10 1941.  Up until this point in the war, the Axis had experienced only success.  Just a few weeks after the Hess flight on June 22 Hitler would launch Operation Barbarossa, the disastrous invasion of the Soviet Union.  After the Hess flight, the Axis forces would experience no more strategic victories.  The Hess flight truly was, as Peter Padfield puts it, "The real turning point of the Second World War".

Hess was a curious specimen of humanity (see earlier post Rudolph Hess...http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/rudolph-hess.html).  He was a German who had been born in a colony of the British Empire -- Egypt.  He grew up a German expatriate in comfortable circumstances, the son of a successful businessman.

Hess was, like Hitler, a veteran of the First World War.  He was a courageous German soldier earning the Iron Cross, 2nd class.  After the war he met Hitler and his life was changed forever.

Padfield writes, "Hess loved Hitler.  That is the essential key, without which his life story becomes incomprehensible."   Even years after the Fuhrer's sell-inflicted demise when Hess was languishing as the sole inmate in Spandau prison he was still infatuated the man who had brought Gotterdamerung to Germany.

Commander K. at Tower of London where Hess was first held

What unsolved mysteries remain about the Hess gambit?

1) First, was Hitler in on the Hess conspiracy?  Padfield assembles plausible evidence which would suggest that he did.  Hitler's temper tantrum on "learning" of the Hess flight may have been mere play-acting at which the Fuhrer was quite talented.

2) Second, did Hess bring with him a written peace proposal with specific concessions that the Nazis were willing to make in order to assure that they would have "a free hand in the east" to invade the Soviet Union?  Padfield cites convincing evidence that there was such a document.  "MI5 files released recently show that on 14 May Censorship intercepted photostat copies of a letter Hess had brought with him". but that its contents, held by the British government, remain secret to this day.

3) Third, if the answer to 2) is "yes," then what exactly did it contain?  Padfield's account necessarily relies upon the word of "anonymous informants".  According to these sources, Hitler was offering to give up nearly all of his conquered territory in the West with the exception of Luxembourg and Alsace Lorraine.  Padfield further speculates that Hitler may have used the issue of the Jews as a bargaining chip or ransom demand to enforce acceptance of his terms.  The final solution or else.  This would explain why such an incendiary document might remain buried even to the present.

4) Fourth, Padfield suggests that Hess was likely to have been the victim of an MI6 plot to embarrass the Nazi regime.  There was a British "Peace"party in 1941, but the Duke of Windsor had been exiled to the Bahamas and Churchill was, thankfully, in control of the reigns of government.  Extreme measures had been taken; habeus corpus was suspended.  Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists and a "Peace" advocate, was arrested on May 22, 1940 and imprisoned for the war's duration.  Churchill immediately had Hess incarcerated (initially at the Tower of London) to await trial for war crimes and the Peace plot was foiled. While many historians and commentators have questioned Churchill's strategic judgement he got it right on the big things.  As the South African statesman Jan Smuts said of Churchill, "in great things he is very great, in small things not great."

5) Fifth, Padfield dismisses the conspiracy theories that Hess may have been murdered in Spandau prison rather than hanging himself at the age of 93 with an extension cord.  The suicide note seems plausible and the surveillance in Spandau prison makes assassination highly unlikely.

Could Hitler have prevailed in a war against the Soviet Union without Britain and the United States?  This is a truly terrifying scenario but the answer is probably "yes".  Although 4 out of 5 German soldiers were killed on the Eastern front that does not really tell the complete story.  The Allied campaign in North Africa in 1942 captured more Germans than those that surrendered at Stalingrad that same year.  Allied strategic bombing attacks meant that the Red Air Force would enjoy air supremacy on most of the eastern front.  Billions of dollars worth of Allied lend lease supplied the Red Army with jeeps, trucks, boots, food and much more.  Second fronts were opened by the Allies in Italy in 1943 and in France in 1944.  Nor did the Soviets have to face the Imperial Japanese forces until the closing days of the war.

Commander K. with friends
Every Christmas season we celebrate the birth of the "Prince of Peace".  The strange case of Hess reminds us that even Peace itself can be used as a weapon of war for the treaty that he likely brought would have been "a Peace to end all Peace".  Hess was the world's first "peace-monger" (see earlier post...http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/rudolph-hess-peace-monger.html).

Have we not seen "Peace used as a weapon of war" in the 21st century as well...?  Could that not also describe Putin's recent intervention in Syria?

If you enjoy reading spy stories where the fate of the world is at stake look no further than Peter Padfield's Hess, Hitler and Churchill, The Real Turning Pint of the Second World War -- A Secret History, (www.amzn.com/B00CKD970Y).

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades here...www.americainvades.com or on Amazon...www.amzn.com/1940598427

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela 1918 - 2013

Nelson Mandela died this week at the age of 95. Mandela deserves enormous credit for South Africa's peaceful transition from Apartheid to Democracy.  He believed that the cycle of violence can be broken only by forgiveness.  Only this way can we achieve peace.  He forgave his jailers after spending nearly 30 years behind bars in South Africa's apartheid regime.  Mandela won the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize.  He also learned to loved rugby.

These things are known to all, but Commander Kelly has a somewhat different perspective on Nelson Mandela.

Mandela was born into a royal family in Africa.  Both his parents were illiterate, but they wanted their son to receive a western style education.   It was a teacher that gave him the name "Nelson" after his baptism into the Methodist faith.

"Nelson" was, of course, a reference to Lord Horatio Nelson -- the greatest naval commander of all time.  It was Nelson's decisive victory at the battle of Trafalgar against the Franco-Spanish fleet that gave the Royal navy world wide naval supremacy for more than a century.  Wise laws are useless if unenforced and it was the Royal Navy that enforced the Slave Trade Act of 1807, just two years after Trafalgar (see...Horatio Nelson Champion of Liberty http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/horatio-nelson-champion-of-liberty.html.

Nelson's column, Trafalgar Square, London
Bronze Relief made from melted French canons
If you visit Nelson's column in London and regard the bronze relief featuring the death of Nelson.  Please note the African sailor on the left holding a musket.  Lord Nelson has just been fatally shot.  The African sailor is looking up into the rigging in the direction of the perfidious French soldiers that have killed his admiral.

There were 22 Americans on board HMS Victory at the battle of Trafalgar, also one Jamaican, 4 West Indian and one African.  It was a rainbow crew that triumphed that day.

Consider also the year of Mandela's birth - 1918.  A momentous year that marked the end of the Great war.  This year also marks the near apogee of the British Empire into which Mandela was born.  In 1918 the Royal Navy was one of the most powerful institutions on earth.  In 1918 the Royal Navy alone among the world's navies had aircraft carriers. (see...http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/fleet-air-arm-museum.html).

1918 was only about 16 years after the conclusion of the Second Boer war which raged from 1899 to 1902.  The last years of Queen Victoria's reign were marked by a rebellion against British rule by the Afrikaans of South Africa.  The Boers were excellent hunters and marksmen who knew their homeland and used hit and run tactics inflicting many casualties on the British.

The rebellion was eventually put down with all the tools in the Imperial arsenal.  Troops were brought from the far corners of the Empire.  Maxim guns were employed foreshadowing the horrors of WWI trench warfare.

The Boer war represented a great stain on Britain's Imperial honor as it marked the invention of the concentration camp.  Many Boer civilians including women and children (over 22,000 under 16 years of age) would perish in these hideous camps due to disease and starvation.  In addition over 14,000 Black Africans died in the camps as well.  Many Americans were sympathetic to the Boer cause and volunteered to join their fight against the British.

It was the bitterness of the Boer defeat in this war that helped mould the Afrikaan character, developing a stubbornness that Mandela would encounter in dealing with the Apartheid regime years later.  South Africa would fight alongside the British in two World Wars in the 20th century but would pursue its own path apart from the Commonwealth after 1945.

Mandela spent 18 years on Robben Island imprisoned by the Apartheid regime.  For many years he was forced to break rocks in the sun.  He chose to study the Afrikaan language.

Who does Mandela remind us of...?

There was another man who had been born into a noble family with lofty expectations in a different corner of the British Empire.  There was another man who, years before, had spent time as a prisoner of the Boers.  He, however, had the good fortune to escape.  This man too was a great statesman who won a Nobel prize, though his was for literature.  This man too had a direct connection to and love for the Royal Navy.  He persevered against extreme adversity.  He even allied himself briefly with Communist dictators whose views he deplored. This man too fought for human freedom and triumphed.  After attaining victory, he too preached the necessity for magnanimity.  His name was...Winston Spencer Churchill.

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's first book, America Invades here...www.americainvades.com or on Amazon...www.amzn.com/1940598427

Monday, December 2, 2013

Young Titan

The Making of Winston Churchill

In these days of hyper-partisanship where "true believers" of all stripes seem to be intent upon annoying the rest of us, it is well to recall the lesson of Winston Churchill's extraordinary life.  We Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike, need to be reminded that greatness can spring, not always from a log cabin, but even from a palace (http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/blenheim-palace.html).

Winston Churchill was not a religious man in the conventional sense of the term.  After attending a rare service near his home at Chartwell the local rector remonstrated, "Well, Prime Minister, you are not quite a pillar of the church, are you?”

No,” replied Churchill, “I’m not a pillar.  I’m a buttress.  I support the church from the outside."

Nor was his loyalty to political parties unquestioning, unwavering or conventional; quite the contrary, he changed party affiliation twice moving from Conservative (Tory) to Liberal and later back again.   Churchill straddled a lifelong ideological divide; he was a Conservative by instinct intent upon preserving Britain's Imperial glory who was also a zealous reformer believing that government policy could effect positive change in the lives of its citizens.  His wartime government was a cabinet of ALL major British parties.  Clement Atlee of the opposition Labour party served as the Deputy Prime minister in Churchill's government during the war.

The thesis of late Victorian Imperialism and the antithesis of the Edwardian Liberal Reform movement received a Churchillian synthesis: The British Empire with it rule of law and free trade represented the best interests of humanity, or at least the one quarter of humanity that resided within the pink bits of the world map.

An early advocate of free trade, Winston fell out with the protectionist Joseph Chamberlain who had been an early Conservative patron of his.  Joseph Chamberlain was the father of Neville of appeasement fame.  Churchill crossed over to the other side of parliament to stand beside Lloyd George, leader of the Liberal party.

Nevertheless, Churchill was not a man lacking faith or conviction. Churchill's faith was four-fold.  The first pillar of Churchill's faith was an unshakable patriotic devotion to King and Country.  He had, after all, risked his life as a cavalryman at the battle of Omdurman where he slew the enemies of Queen Victoria with a German Mauser.  A visitor to London can see this gun at the Churchill War Rooms http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/churchill-war-rooms.html). The adventures of his youth are best told in his own classic autobiography, My Early Days (www.amzn.com/0684823454).  Churchill's story is ably continued by Michael Shelden's Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill, published in 2013  (www.amzn.com/1451609914).  Young Titan takes Churchill from his return from the Boer war to the conclusion of the Great War.

Churchill, Parliament Square, London

The second pillar of Winston's faith was his steadfast devotion to the cause of democracy.  Churchill famously said that "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried".

In May of 1941 the Luftwaffe was raiding London on a nightly basis.  One spring night fires broke out at Westminster Abbey and shrapnel struck the tower of Big Ben.  Shelden writes, "Soon flames were sweeping through the debating chamber of the House of Commons.  Its roof fell away, the galleries collapsed, and ashore if twisted steel and masonry buried the rows of green leather benches where so many famous debates had raged over the decades.  Only the scorched walls were left standing."  Churchill lamented, "Our old House of Commons has been blown to smithereens."

Churchill paid a visit to the devastated site that had been the home to the oldest parliamentary democracy in the world.  "Now, as he surveyed the damage of that fiery Saturday night, tears began to trickle down his cheeks, and then to slow.  'He did not try to stop them,' noted a reported standing nearby, or even wipe them away.'  Motionless in the sunlight -- one hand in his overcoat, his feet planted firmly on amount of rubble -- he looked for a second like a statue that had miraculously survived the bombing."

Churchill, true to his bedrock Conservative instincts, insisted that, "The Chamber must be rebuilt -- just as it was."  And so it was.  Source: Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill, Michael Shelden, 2013 (www.amzn.com/1451609914)

WSC stepping out
The third pillar of his faith, tested by many setbacks and reversals over his long life, was his belief in himself and his destiny.  Born in a grand palace, he confided that, "the stars in the courses guided my progress."  Churchill also said, "We are all worms. But I do believe I am a glow-worm."

Shelden's book does not focus on the well-known Churchill of the World War II, but rather his early formative years in politics from 1900 to 1918.

For much of this time Winston was a bachelor.  The young Churchill was comically unlucky in love, falling in love with and being rejected by a series of beautiful and prominent women: Pamela Plowden who became Lady Lytton, the American actress Ethel Barrymore and a Prime Minister's daughter Violet Asquith.

Churchill's bad luck with the ladies was political as well as personal.  In spite of the fact that he was supportive of voting rights for women, the suffragettes attacked him repeatedly.  They heckled his speeches and rang cow bells in the middle of his meeting interrupting his flow of thought.  When he lost a by-election in 1904, Emmeline Pankhurst claimed that, "It was the Suffragettes who defeated Mr. Churchill."

Commander K. Temple of Diana
Blenheim Palace Garden
Spot where Winston proposed to Clemmie
Finally, he had the good fortune to meet, propose to and be accepted by Clementine Hozier. You can find the spot in Blenheim palace gardens in front of the Temple of Diana where he popped the question to Clemmie  http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/clementine-churchill.html.  It was no coincidence that their first daughter was named Diana.  The fourth pillar of Winton Churchill's faith was undoubtedly his marriage in 1908 to Clementine.

Churchill was a rising star in the British government.  He was first elected to Parliament at age 26.  He was the youngest man to join the British Cabinet in fifty years.  He rose to become a reforming Home secretary and to preside as First Lord of the Admiralty over the most powerful navy on earth.  Long before the start of  World War I he foresaw the devastation that threatened to shake the roots of European civilization: "A European war can only end in the ruin of the vanquished and the scarcely less fatal commercial dislocation and exhaustion of the conquerors...The wars of peoples will be more terrible than those of kings."  Source: Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill, Michael Shelden, 2013 (www.amzn.com/1451609914)

Many predicted that this young man would rise to become Prime Minister.  Instead the First World War very nearly crushed him.  In order to avoid the horrors of static trench war along the Western front Churchill sought to make a strategic flanking move attacking the weakest ally of the Central powers, the Ottoman empire, near the Dardanelles.  The Gallipoli campaign would prove to be a fiasco costing thousand of Allied lives and several ships.  Churchill assumed the guilt for the operation on his broad shoulders and was expelled from the cabinet.  Disgraced, he joined the British Army fighting in the trenches as a lieutenant colonel  in the Royal Scots Fusiliers.  He showed remarkable physical courage venturing into no man's land no less than 36 times.

Imagine if Donald Rumsfeld, after resigning as Secretary of Defence, had served as an active duty Army colonel in Fallujah!

Churchill, written off by many, would storm back to later become Prime Minister in Britain's hour of greatest need.  The privileged scion of an aristocratic brood had been polished by adversity into a man of rare eloquence and judgement. He is now widely regarded as the greatest Britain of all time.

Commander Kelly says, "Shelden's Young Titan would make an excellent Christmas gift for anyone who with an interest in politics or history."

Commander K. with WSC and Clemmie (Photo; Jeff Dody)

Special thanks to Sandy Owen for commending Young Titan to my attention.

See also this video...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zikzztD0V30

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades here...www.americainvades.com or on Amazon...www.amzn.com/1940598427

 You can purchase your copy of Italy Invades: How Italians Conquered the World here...www.italyinvades.com
or on Amazon...www.amzn.com/1940598729

Sunday, November 24, 2013

JFK & Reagan

Bill Maher suggests in the above video that JFK was a "cooler" President than Ronald Reagan.  He cannot seem to manage this without coarse disparagement of Sarah Palin.

What is Maher missing in his JFK / Reagan comparison?  Well, almost everything.

First off, he does not seem to have any awareness of the many traits that JFK and Reagan shared.  Both were white, heterosexual males of Irish descent.  Both were American Presidents and that alone puts them in a very exclusive club.  Both were gifted speakers.  Both men could look good in a suit and liked to pal around with Frank Sinatra.  Both men were accomplished in the nearly lost art of letter-writing.  Both men had a sense of humor.  Both men had highly unsatisfactory fathers, though JFK's enjoyed more material success.  Both began their political lives as New Deal Democrats who worshipped FDR.  Both were fervently anti-Communist Cold War warriors.  Both cut marginal tax rates thereby stimulating the economy.

Both supported a strong US defense posture.  JFK launched the Navy Seals which proved to be pretty cool in 2011 when they got Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.  Reagan used SDI as a massive bluff which helped to win the Cold War.  Genrikh Trofimenko, a high ranking official in the Brezhnev era, declared, "Ninety-nine percent of the Russian people believe that America won the Cold War because of your president's insistence on SDI."  Source: Reagan and Thatcher: A Difficult Relationship, Richard Aldous, 2013).  That is still pretty cool even today.

Both men were strong advocates of the second amendment who later became victims of an assassin's bullets (see...http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/jfk-6th-floor-museum.html).  JFK's encounter was fatal while Reagan recovered from Hinckley's 1981 attempt.  Reagan did not live long enough to see and appreciate Hinckley's final humiliation when Jodie Foster emerged from the closet to torment his pathetic fantasies.

Both men made significant and costly mistakes in deploying American military support -- Kennedy at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba (1961) and Reagan in sending the Marines on shore in Lebanon (1983).

Reagan's blunders with the Iran/Contra scandal nearly destroyed his administration.  Kennedy's blunders in his dealings with Khrushchev nearly destroyed the world.  The only time the US has ever gone to Def-Con 2 was during the Cuban Missile crisis in 1962.  Afterwards, Che Guevara, of the million T-shirts, told a British journalist that, had the Cubans controlled the missiles on the island, he would have authorized a launch.  That would have been totally "uncool".

Both men chose for their running mates Texans who had served honorably in the US Navy during World War II.  Both respective VPs were elected to a single term.

There were also differences small and large.

JFK Plaque, National Museum of the Pacific War
Fredericksburg Texas
JFK saw active duty in World War II with PT-109 which was very cool.  Reagan helped make wartime propaganda films -- not so cool.

As Commander-in-chief, JFK escalated our involvement in Vietnam raising the number of U.S. Military advisers from 800 at the time of his inauguration in 1961 to over 16,000 by the time of his assassination in Dallas in 1963. (Source: A Vietnam War Reader, Michael Hunt, 2010).   JFK's administration collaborated in the assassination of the Diem brothers who were our allies in South Vietnam.  Very Uncool.

Reagan, on the other hand, presided over a period of peace and prosperity.  Much cooler.

JFK teed up Vice President Johnson for a catastrophe in Vietnam that would cost over 50,000 American lives.  JFK said "we will bear every burden" and we bore many burdens through the 1960s.  That was kind of "uncool".

Ronald Reagan, Grosvenor Square, London
It was Reagan who later said that the conflict in Vietnam "was, in truth, a noble cause."  So, in a sense, Reagan helped us to forgive JFK's youthful indiscretions and a nation to forgive itself.  That was pretty cool.

Reagan teed up his Vice President H.W. Bush for a final, peaceful victory in the cold war.  Reagan went to the Berlin Wall and said, "tear down that wall" and the wall came down.  The absence of "duck and cover" in our world today remains totally cool.

At the end of the day, Ronald Reagan was a successful President and a much happier man than JFK;  the martyred JFK remains to history a well-polished question mark.

Special thanks to Lois Walker for directing me to Maher's video.

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's first book, America Invades here...www.americainvades.com or on Amazon...www.amzn.com/1940598427

Friday, November 15, 2013

Royal Salute

Commander Kelly + Royal Horse Artillery
Photo Courtesy: Tim Lyons
London offers many unique sights, sounds and experiences.  Where else can you find a troop of Royal Horse Artillery to celebrate life's special moments?  The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery may have moved out of Saint John's Wood last year and are headquartered now in Woolwich, but they remain very active in celebrating special events such as the Queen's birthday with a whiff of grapeshot.  Yesterday (November 14th, 2013) some friends and I attended the Royal Salute to the Prince of Wales' birthday.  Forty-one shots were discharged -- twenty-one for the birthday and twenty for the Royal Park (Hyde Park) that was the setting.

Hyde Park November 14, 2013
Photo Courtesy: Tim Lyons
Women are not allowed into the British cavalry but they are welcome in the Horse artillery.  As a consequence, about 40 percent of the artillerymen are women.  See earlier post Women in Combat here...http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/women-in-combat.html

Hyde Park, London
Photo Courtesy: Tim Lyons

The 13 pound breech-loading canons that they use were fired in anger during the First World War and perhaps even in the Second.  They still can make a deafening roar.  Several nearby car alarms went off during yesterday's salute!

Prince of Wales Birthday 2013
Photo Courtesy: Tim Lyons
From the Napoleonic wars through World War II artillery has been responsible for more combat deaths than any other class of weapon.  Napoleon learned the craft of war as an artilleryman and first distinguished himself by directing the guns at the siege of Toulon.  Nietzsche called himself a "swaggering old artillery man".  Ian Fleming's father (Valentine) was killed by artillery while serving on the Western front in World War I.  Harry Truman served in "Battery B" in the American Expeditionary Force in the Great War.

Royal Salute, Photo courtesy Will Heim
Royal salutes are held at least seven times per year.  They are held in Hyde Park and in Green Park.  They are open to the public and entirely free.  You can find details and the upcoming schedule here...http://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/green-park/green-park-attractions/gun-salutes.  Plan your visit!

Artillery on the move
Photo Courtesy: Will Heim

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades here...www.americainvades.com or on Amazon...www.amzn.com/1940598427

Monday, November 4, 2013

Guns, War and Statistics

Commander Kelly + His Favorite Gun

Let's talk about guns.  Let me say at the outset, that I am NOT an NRA member and I have NEVER owned a working firearm.

I recently was forwarded this startling message via social media.  Mark Shields, a commentator on PBS claimed on 12/20/2012 that "more Americans have died from gunfire than died in … all the wars of this country's history,"...http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2013/jan/18/mark-shields/pbs-commentator-mark-shields-says-more-killed-guns/.  We are assured by the "Politi-fact Truthometer," that Shields' claim it "true".

This is precisely the type of rhetoric that Europeans and others love to read about those "bloodthirsty American cowboys" mowing each other down in the streets.  It confirms all their favorite prejudices about violent American gun owners.  This is a shocking, attention-grabbing headline.

But is Mark Shields' claim really correct?

First off, are the US War deaths figures accurate?  According to Shields, total US war deaths have been 1,171,177.  Well his source is the CRS (Congressional Research Service), which appears reputable.  Here is their 2010 study: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL32492.pdf.

Cherry Valley Massacre
November 11, 1778
Let's start with America's first war the American Revolution which ran from 1775 to 1783.  The CRS cites total American deaths as 4,435.  Does this include American Tories who fought on the British side?  I doubt it.  Does this figure include American civilians killed by native Americans that fought on behalf of the British?  Dubious.  This question is not simply theoretical for me as I had ancestors who were massacred by the Mohawk and Seneca tribesmen (with British leaders) in Cherry Valley, New York (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherry_Valley_massacre).  Had my ancestor not been sent away to boarding school I would not, ahem, be writing this blog now--his entire family was killed!  Out of the 44 Americans killed at Cherry Valley on November 11, 1778 most were civilians.  Many Americans were killed while imprisoned on British POW ships.  The most recent scholarship on American deaths in the American Revolution by John Shy puts total American death in the Revolution at 25,000 (Source: John Shy, A People Numerous and Armed: Reflections on the Military Struggle for American Independence (revised edition, University of Michigan Press, 1990).  The CRS study on which Shield's claim is based is, therefore, off by a factor of nearly 6X in the case of the American Revolution!

What about America's bloodiest conflict -- the US Civil war?  The CRS study only cites total Union deaths which it gives as 364,511.  In a footnote it mentions an estimate of total Confederate dead at 133,821 and cites an additional 28,000 to 31,000 of POW deaths.  Shields' source extrapolates on the basis of the footnotes and gives a combined Civil war death total of 525,000.

In 2012 a new study by demographer David Hacker, however, has just raised the estimated total American civil war deaths to 750,000  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/03/science/civil-war-toll-up-by-20-percent-in-new-estimate.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.   This implies that, according to the latest scholarship, Shields' source UNDERCOUNTS civil war deaths by 225,000!

If we take WIKI as our source for total US War deaths (1,321,612 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_military_casualties_of_war) which was clearly more accurate on the American Revolution (thought probably still too low) we get and then update for the latest US civil war deaths based on the Hacker study (add 125,000 deaths more than the WIKI Civil War figures) we get a total American war deaths figure of 1,446,612.

If look a the other side of the claim (1,384,171 killed by firearms from 1968 to the present) and accept that, provisionally, as true we can see that SHIELD'S CLAIM IS DEMONSTRABLY FALSE. 

You might still object that 1,384,171 killed by firearms since 1968 is still an awful lot and close to the total US war dead.

Shield's claim is also highly misleading.

Consider, for example, the phrase "killed by firearms".  That means that ALL firearm-related deaths are counted, including suicides and accidents.  The annual murder rate by firearms (11,078 in 2010) has been going down steadily since 1981.  The annual suicide rate by firearms (19,392 in 2010) is, however, is nearly TWICE the murder rate  and is reaching new highs (Source: http://www.factcheck.org/2012/12/gun-rhetoric-vs-gun-facts/).  Consider this suicide rate against the fact that 1,660,290 new cases of cancer are estimated to be diagnosed in 2013 (American Cancer Society).  A majority of firearm deaths are NOT the result of violent crime at all.

It is true that many Americans own guns (88.8 guns per 100 people in 2007).  It is also true that the total population of Americans (316,364,000 per 2010 census) is vastly larger than it was at our nation's founding (3,929,214 per 1790 census) and about 10X greater than at the start of the US civil war (31,443,321 per 1860 census).  A combination of more people, more guns and a greater acceptance of suicide as an option has, tragically, elevated US suicide rates to record levels.

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades here...www.americainvades.com or on Amazon...www.amzn.com/1940598427

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Obama and the Washington Redskins

Washington Redskins

Our sensitive and caring President took time out of his busy schedule during the recent government shutdown to inform us that the Washington Redskins should think about changing the name of their football team in order to avoid offending Native Americans....

According to a 2004 survey, 90% of Native Americans were not actually bothered by the term "Redskins" and many Native American schools use the name for their school teams (http://washington.cbslocal.com/2013/10/08/how-many-native-americans-think-redskins-is-a-slur/).

But let's leave that aside, as clearly a minority within a minority is offended by the name "Redskins".

President Obama did not, however, go on to make positive suggestions for changing the name to something that would more accurately express the feelings of Americans towards Washington D.C. and all of our elected officials.  To remedy this oversight Commander Kelly had come up with a list of alternate team names that would address this dire problem facing the nation's capitol....

First, there are alliterative options such as...

Washington Weenies
Washington Weasels
Washington Wimps
Washington Wankers
Washington Weaklings
Washington Wusses
Washington Worms
Washington Werewolves
Washington Worthless
Washington Waiverers
Washington Witless
Washington Will O' the Wisps

Then there are more descriptive options...

Washington Drones
Washington Gridlockers
Washington Losers
Washington Leakers
Washington Sell-outs
Washington Scumbags
Washington Liars
Washington Blow-hards
Washington Bloviators
Washington Hypocrites
Washington Fence-Riders
Washington Deceivers
Washington Dunces
Washington Gutless
Washington Cro-Magnons
Washington Duds
Washington Poll-takers
Washington Num-nuts
Washington Spineless
Washington Nitwits
Washington Drunkards
Washington Sexters
Washington Teleprompters
Washington Un-named Sources
Washington Scumbag Millionaires (Bollywood combines political types and NFL felons)

PETA may object, but there are some choice animals names that remain unused by the NFL...

Washington Dinosaurs
Washington Dodo Birds
Washington Snakes
Washington Sloths
Washington Goats
Washington Horny Toads
Washington Vermin
Washington Rats
Washington Pigs
Washington Turkeys (Benjamin Franklin would surely have approved)
Washington Trough-Gobblers
Washington Monkeys
Washington Apes
Washington Invertebrates

If the franchise were to move to London and play at Wembley they would just require a small tweak...

Go London Redcoats!
Guards Museum, London
London Redcoats (Great Match-up when they play the New England Patriots!)

Finally, there his my own personal favorite...

Washington Zombies (Go Team Z!)

On second thought, perhaps they should just stick with "Washington Redskins" (about 80% of Americans actually agree on something -- see video below).  Go Redskins!

Commander Kelly invites you, dear reader, to come up with your own helpful suggestions for new and improved names for Washington's NFL franchise in the Comment field below.

You can order Commander Kelly's first book, America Invades here...www.americainvades.com or on Amazon...www.amzn.com/1940598427