Monday, 28 July 2008

Gleiwitz Incident

So, when you are invading a country (ie, Iraq) you need a good reason (ie, WMDs) or people get pissed off at you (ie, France) and might respond negatively (ie, throw baguettes.) If you dont have a good reason, maybe you can just make one up (ie, that whole example I just gave) so you can do it for the real reasons you want to do it (ie, spreading freedom and love to godless arabs.)

This isnt just a modern phenomenon, there are famous examples of this, my favourite of which is the Gleiwitz incident.

See, before Germany invaded Poland they were worried this might make them look like total dicks and bring down the furious wrath of the English and others upon them. So they decided to make it look like they had cause. Diplomatically they call this "he totally started it miss, he took my ball".

This was part of what was called Operation Himmler, points for guessing who was behind that one, basically they put out a lot of fake propaganda and torched some German homes in a disputed area with Poland (the Polish corridor) to make it look like they were being oppressed.

But the master stroke of the whole plan was at Gleiwitz, a german radio station, a number of German operatives seized it.. impersonating Poles, broadcast a message to supposed Pole insurgents and a general call to arms against Germany (the actual message is lost, we just have the leader of the op's summary of it, which was basically them saying "fuck germany" a lot in Polish) and ... to make it all that more convincing... they arrested a German dissident, who was known to roll with the poles, killed him (lethal injection) and shot up his body, so he could be one of villains killed during the attack.

"I shall give a propaganda reason for starting the war; whether it is plausible or not. The victor will not be asked whether he told the truth." - Hitler, referring to Operation Himmler

Then Germany pretended to be all up in arms about this, outraged. They allowed very limited media access to the contrived scene and then pretended to be the victim. You know, like when you catch your girlfriend out lying and suddently she remembers you said she looked a bit fat in her jeans 2 months ago and suddenly you are sleeping on the couch.... err... anyway, I always liked this little bit of history because it shows that bizzare subterfuge takes place all the time. And Germans are crazy, yo.

Admittedly, nobody really bought this on the (soon to be) allied side and the war with Britain/France still happened when Germany invaded Poland and Germany didnt really change the international image of the war significantly, but still, points for trying guys. If the Germans had won WW2, we would probably be learning about how the Polish incited the whole war in schools RIGHT NOW. Well, those of us still in schools, and if it was time for school and we had a history lesson. Y'know.

"On or about August 10, 1939, the chief of the SD, Heydrich, personally ordered me to simulate an attack on the radio station near Gleiwitz near the Polish border and to make it appear the attacking force consisted of Poles. Heydrich said: "Practical proof is needed for for these attacks on the Poles for the foreign press as well as for German propaganda." - Alfred Naujocks, statement made at Nuremburg Trial

Other nice details, the murdered fake dissident was only captured the day before by Gestapo, they had a number of other potential candidates for the spot prepared at Dachau with usual German efficiency. The candidates for murdering were referred to by the code word "Konserve" which is German for canned goods. Nazis are a bit cold.

The plan was also largely undermined by the fact the German "defensive" response against Poland was so clearly well planned and of such a massive scale it must have taken months to get ready.

Anyway, I will leave you with the words of Adolph...

In my talks with Polish statesmen I discussed the ideas which you recognize from my last speech to the Reichstag. No one could say that this was in any way an inadmissible procedure on undue pressure. I then naturally formulated at last the German proposals, and I must once more repeat that there is nothing more modest or loyal than these proposals. I should like to say this to the world. I alone was in the position to make such proposal, for I know very well that in doing so I brought myself into opposition to millions of Germans. These proposals have been refused. Not only were they answered first with mobilization, but with increased terror and pressure against our German compatriots and with a slow strangling of the Free City of Danzig - economically, politically, and in recent weeks by military and transport means.

Poland has directed its attacks against the Free City of Danzig. Moreover, Poland was not prepared to settle the Corridor question in a reasonable way which would be equitable to both parties, and she did not think of keeping her obligations to minorities.

I must here state something definitely; German has kept these obligations; the minorities who live in Germany are not persecuted.

- Reichstag Address, September 1st 1939.

Germans, efficient, masters of subterfuge and media manipulation and total liars. Got to love them.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Tombstone - Fact or Fiction?

There are many great western movies, but the greatest is Tombstone. Oh I know John Wayne movies beautifully illustrate the idea of the old west values against modernism, that Leones pulp flicks are better montages of violence and glorified conflict and there are numerous classics you might think are better... but you'd be wrong, because nobody in that movie is wearing a fake moustache, beating on a guy for hitting a horse or have Doc Holliday played by Val Kilmer quipping wittily before shooting guys.

So, there you go.

There is only one problem with this movie. No, wait two problems. Firstly the movie sort of implies its vaguely historical, starting with a "setting the scene historically" with black and white footage and everything and ending on "and heres what happened after the events of the movie" text. When the movie is absurdly, absurdly fictional.

The second thing is that romance with the actress, talk about gay. Live on room service, blegh. BLEGHHHH. Why must you gay up my mass-murder-with-quips movies, hollywood?

Anyway, I know you are desperate to know how the movie differs from reality, so i'm going to tell you.

Earp as a noble hero and man's man

Wyatt in the movie is a man of honour, he was a respected lawman (everyone is trying to get him to be sherrif) and though he is now out of the game, he eventually cant ignore the ill deeds of "the cowboys" and has to back his brothers, bringing justice back to Tombstone. By shooting loads and loads of people, incidentally I believe he brings hell with him.

He also gets by purely on his intimidating presence and general character as a fearless, son of a bitch.

In reality, Wyatt was a bit wet at times. After his first drink of whiskey, he abstained for 20 years, because it made him ill. Not exactly manly stuff. Though he was a fan of gambling and boxing. Its unclear if he ever travelled with Hell, but it cant be ruled out.

He did serve as a lawman, but he was repeatedly accused of theft, racketeering and horse theft among other things. His guilt in these matters isnt clear, but the repeated charges are a bit suspect.

Earp's biography made a lot of claims about arrests he made, famous people he met and places he was. A lot of which just cant be true according to things like facts. It also paves over the petty crimes he was accused of, doesnt mention his fine for running and being present in a whore house (with his brother Virgil, also in the movie.)

There was also a fine for slapping a prostitute noted for being especially masculine in Dodge. Which just sounds hilarious to me. Anyway, he also made repeated claims to kill people in gun fights he probably didnt, along with lots of other suspect stuff.

The movie seems to just take Wyatt's bio as its source of information, which would be fine only it seems to be a whole bunch of lies. He probably had a chapter on where he invented the rifle, shot a guy with it and then improved it all in one duel. And he no doubt can jump buildings in a single bound and once shot a guy just using his mind. Or maybe just his MOUSTACHE.

The fall out with the cowboys

In the movie, the cowboys are a bunch of evil evil people. They go around shooting up people on their wedding days, then the priests, then presumably the children and small puppies. They are bad. The Earps fall against them due to them being honourable men who cant stand for this sort of evil, damn it man, this town needs some law and order!

From now on I see a red sash, I kill the man wearing it. So run you cur. And tell the other curs the law is coming. You tell 'em I'm coming! And Hell's coming with me you hear! Hell's coming with me!
- Wyatt Earp, in Tombstone

Then Curly Bill, the leader of the cowboys shoots dead the sherrif of the town all hopped up on drugs, which the Earps sort out and are later disgusted to see him get off with the crime. Eventually Virgil institutes a minor offence of carrying weapons, which some of the cowboys disobey, leading to the showdown at the O.K Coral.

Well, actually the Earps initially fell out over some stolen mules. Yeah, they left that out of the movie because a bunch of mule thiefs probably doesnt have the same emotional impact. Then the cowboys committed a bunch of robberies and stuff, which Virgil as lawman had to sort out, there was a long drawn out dispute which ended with the O.K Corral showdown.

Now the movie got the O.K Corral part pretty much right, Doc and Wyatt were deputised, the fight happened in pretty much that fashion (including Ike being allowed to pass as he was unarmed.) Of course the movie glosses over the accusations they shot an unarmed man and their two trials for that, but there you go.

Love Conquers All!

Wyatt in the movie falls in love with the "free spirit" Josie Marcus, which was ok because his wife was a filthy, filthy junkie who was unwilling to live on room service. Yeah, thats pretty much the justification given in the movie for leaving her.

In reality, its unclear wether his wife (who was a former prostitute) was ever a laudanum addict, just that after Wyatt left her to fend her herself she did end up killing herself with the stuff.

Not stellar hero stuff, really, the old "wife killed yourself after you left her" aspect, so sort of ignored in the movie.

The duel between Ringo and Doc

The movie ends with the two perfect shots, dead inside, monsters... Doc and Johnny Ringo, ending it in a duel.

This isnt actually how Johnny Ringo died. A wife of Wyatt Earp claim long, long after the event that Wyatt and Doc did kill Ringo, but in a much less dramatic way, with the fatal shot coming from a distance from Wyatt with a rifle. But that isnt really accepted, no one really knows how he died.

Johnny may be the monster of the movie...

Doc - "A man like Ringo has got a great big hole, right in the middle of himself. And he can never steal enough, or kill enough, or cause enough pain to fill it up. And so he walks the earth, forever seeking retribution..."
Wyatt - "For what?"
Doc - "...Being born"

- Tombstone

..But in actuality he was just your run of the mill mean tempered gunslinger type. He is remembered now as a monster because he ran into the self styled heroes The Earps, and is often cast as the villain. Though he apparently did once shoot a guy for getting him a beer instead of a whiskey, but thats just cool.


So the movie portrays the Earps as heroes, the cowboys as moustache twirling villains and makes general events a bit more dramatic. Not really a major sin, they add a murder here and take away a gross act of indecency here, who really minds?

They got the most important thing right, Doc Holliday was one hardcore, pasty killing machine.

That cousin story might be true as well, you know, which is just hot.

Thats right, my analysis is "ahhh it doesnt really matter, Doc Holliday was awesome though, eh" but YOU'VE READ IT NOW, YOU CANT ESCAPE MY NON COMMITAL CONCLUSION! RUE MY INDECISIVE SUMMARIES!

Real quotes and stuff

"There was something very peculiar about Doc. He was gentlemanly, a good dentist, a friendly man and yet, outside of us boys, I don't think he had a friend in the Territory. Tales were told that he had murdered men in different parts of the country; that he had robbed and committed all manner of crimes, and yet, when persons were asked how they knew it, they could only admit it was hearsay, and that nothing of the kind could really be traced to Doc's account. He was a slender, sickly fellow, but whenever a stage was robbed or a row started, and help was needed, Doc was one of the first to saddle his horse and report for duty." - Virgil Earp, Arizona Daily Star 30/5/1882

"I coughed that out with my lungs, years ago."
- Holliday's purported answer to a question on if his crimes ever affected his conscience.

"Doc was a dentist whom necessity had made a gambler; a gentleman whom disease had made a frontier vagabond; a philosopher whom life had made a caustic wit; a long lean ash-blond fellow nearly dead with consumption, and at the same time the most skillful gambler and the nerviest, speediest, deadliest man with a gun that I ever knew."
- Wyatt on Doc Holliday, article in 1896

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Duke of Wellington - The Wonder Years

Since 1789 France had been involved in a revolution, what we now refer to as "The French Revolution" which shows a shocking lack of naming fun in my book when we could be calling it "dawn of the decimals" or "rise of the frogs" but there you go.

Of course, quite a few good things came out of the revolution, scientific reasoning applied to society actually helped. The Napoleonic code is a great legal/political system.

Wellesley was sent to Portugal, Britains oldest alley and at the forefront of the action. He reminded his superiors of the importance of Portugal, its terrain making it eminently defendable against aggression and its location tactically awesome for naval combat. Unaware presumably that one day Portugal would spawn Christiano Ronaldo and that in anything it deserved this fate... It was when the war took the offensive that nosey started to shine the most however, in an invasion of the French held Porto. From there he linked up with the Spanish army and met Marshal Victor in combat, giving him a damn good thrashing at the battle of Talavera. You will be familiar with that one because that is where Sharpe took a golden eagle from the french, which may be from a tv show but just as valid historically in my book, because Sharpe is awesome. The elites back home were definitely pleased with that (the victory, not the Sharpe thing) and enobled him Viscount Wellington of Talavera and of Wellington.

In modern armies the best you can hope for is a medal or maybe an OBE one day, in those days they were dashing out viscounties and lordships to any man who could take 30,00 men through a French line against the odds, hold an infantry division as its approached by a column and send the old cavalry in a pincer movement and send the enemy running. Now you just bribe the labour party with supposed loans.

Later the war took a turn for the worse, France pitched an invasion of Portugal and the general consensus was "fuck it, they are going to win". But "fuck it they are going to win" isnt in Wellingtons vocabulary, the individual words are obviously since its quite hard to get through a conversation with saying "to" or "it" but as a sentence, meaningless. He was pulling out secret earthworks to make defensive lines, attacking the French on the hop and eventually sent them scurrying back into Spain leaving only a force in Almeda, which was promptly put under siege.

I love the phrase "put under siege" by the way. Its also my preferred euphemism for sex.

n 1812, Wellington finally captured Ciudad Rodrigo, catching the French on the bounce heading back to winter quarters. This was followed by the storming of Badajoz where he apparently broke his composure, the only time he was ever known to do so, nearly weeping at the sight of all the dead.

I know, crying is a bit girly, but when you've liberated spain from Napoleon you will be fit to judge the man. Anyway, war continues, the mans slaughtering french all over the place... he gets bumped up to Earl and then even Marquiss, my favourite title personally, and he is rocking.

Battle of Salamanca, the French made a little mistake in their positioning, he set up his entire strategy on taking advantage of this and giving them a damn good routing. A record victory over a 50k strong force. Salamanca he broke the spanish lines, and got made Field Marshal for it, thats military terms for "big daddy" of a war. It was witnessing his own men break ranks to attack baggage carts for loot that led to his much quoted remarks..

"We have in the service the scum of the earth as common soldiers"

A remark said in an emotional private letter, but given the recruitment of the time not entirely untrue. He was a man who cared for the soldiers, but he knew that unleashed they could be monsters.

He waged war through Spain. His tactical genius came to the front, the only man who could match (and better) Napoleon in that regard. He knew the importance of keeping Spain onside while waging war there, which allowed him to gain the aid and scouting of partisans and bring on side anti-french sentimented parties who had nothing to say for the English. He kept a tight reign on the men, flogging and hangings for those who thought being the army was free reign to rape and murder everytime they took a city. Much like english tourists today in Spain.

The war went well, the Peninisular War was a victory and Napoleon having failed abdicated, defeated. Wellington returned home, where he was given the title we know him by now, Duke. Hailed as the conquering hero.

But Napoleon, much like the villain in any decent cartoon, always has a secret tunnel or escape hatch. He came back from Elba, retook France and began the final stage of what would be known as the Napoleonic wars, culimating in a battle in a place called Waterloo.

Now Waterloo is one of the most examined battles in history, the French were outnumbered but always dangerous and to be fair, on a sheer numbers sheet, you could call it more a German victory than an English one... especially given the importance of the Prussians in waylaying a large chunk of the force meant for the main battle on the flank. But It was Wellingtons final hour, he dictated a beautiful final battle against one of the greatest military leaders their ever was and gave old boney a damn good thrashing and his final defeat.

I leave you with this famous poem from the time, which I think describes the battle better than any boring blow by blow tactical account...

My my, at waterloo napoleon did surrender
Oh yeah, and I have met my destiny in quite a similar way
The history book on the shelf
Is always repeating itself

Waterloo - I was defeated, you won the war
Waterloo - promise to love you for ever more
Waterloo - couldn’t escape if I wanted to
Waterloo - knowing my fate is to be with you
Waterloo - finally facing my waterloo

My my, I tried to hold you back but you were stronger
Oh yeah, and now it seems my only chance is giving up the fight
And how could I ever refuse
I feel like I win when I lose

Waterloo - I was defeated, you won the war
Waterloo - promise to love you for ever more
Waterloo - couldn’t escape if I wanted to
Waterloo - knowing my fate is to be with you

And how could I ever refuse
I feel like I win when I lose

Waterloo - I was defeated, you won the war
Waterloo - promise to love you for ever more
Waterloo - couldn’t escape if I wanted to
Waterloo - knowing my fate is to be with you
Waterloo - finally facing my waterloo

Man, those classic poems are so much more beautiful than the trash they come up with these days. Lets see Carol Anne Duffy come up with something like that.

Nosey went onto politics after his military days, and to be a right wing PM of some success. His politics are a little stodgy by modern standards and he wasnt entirely suited to politics but he served well enough.

A great man, an awesome Brit and one hard mofo.

FUN WELLINGTON FACT - The title "Iron Duke" actually came from his policy of having iron shutters at his house during his politics day, to prevent window breaking from upstart proles, not from his military days.

FUN WELLINGTON IMAGINARY FACT - He was made almost entirely of Jelly. Making his military victories all the more impressive.