Monday, September 24, 2007

To Speak Up Or Shut Up

I find this to be an absolutely provocative topic.

It really is a bit of a conundrum, to keep one's mouth shut out of a sense of duty or to speak up out of a sense of responsibility.

If I had to pick a position it would be this: Woe to the world when we rely on the infallibility of our leadership and keep silent, for truly that is when we allow atrocities to happen.

Example 1
Equally prescient and independent was Under Secretary of State George Ball. Unswayed by the technocrats around him, he kept warning respectfully that their course was wrong. His memo to President Johnson on July 1, 1965, took account of souls, and French history, as well as weapons. It concluded: "No one can assure you that we can beat the Viet Cong or even force them to the conference table on our terms, no matter how many hundred thousand white, foreign [U.S.] troops we deploy. Once we deploy substantial numbers of troops in combat, it will become a war between the U.S. and a large part of the population of South Vietnam. U.S. troops will begin to take heavy casualties in a war they are ill-equipped to fight in a noncooperative if not downright hostile countryside. Once we suffer large casualties, we will have started a well-nigh irreversible process. Our involvement will be so great that we cannot -- without national humiliation -- stop short of achieving our objectives. I think humiliation would be more likely -- even after we have paid terrible costs."


Example 2 (a remarkable read for those who are interested in raw history)


The following month, Bruhn - one of the few generals to emerge with credit from these conversations - said he believed that Germany did not deserve victory any longer, "after the amount of human blood we've shed knowingly and as a result of our delusions and blood lust. We've deserved our fate."

In reply, General-leutnant Fritz von Broich said: "We shot women as if they had been cattle. There was a large quarry where 10,000 men, women and children were shot. They were still lying in the quarry. We drove out on purpose to see it. It was the most bestial thing I ever saw."

It was then that General von Choltitz, the "saviour" of Paris, spoke of the time he was in the Crimea and was told by the CO of the airfield from where he was flying: "Good Lord, I'm not supposed to tell, but they've been shooting Jews here for days now." Choltitz estimated that 36,000 Jews from Sebastapol alone were shot.

"Let me tell you," General Count Edwin von Rothkirch und Trach told General Bernhard Ramcke on March 13, 1945, "the gassings are by no means the worst."

"What happened?" asked Ramke. "To start with, people dug their own graves, then the firing squad arrived with tommy-guns and shot them down. Many of them weren't dead, and a layer of earth was shovelled in between. They had packers there who packed the bodies in, because they fell in too soon. The SS did that.

"I knew an SS leader there quite well, and he said: 'Would you like to photograph a shooting? They are always shot in the morning - but if you like, we still have some and we can shoot them in the afternoon sometime.'"



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