Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Munsee Massacre of 1644 by Missy Wolfe

The Dutch launched a number of forays against the Indians in 1643 and 1644 from Tomac Cove in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, which were described in unique documents that the New York State Secretary John Brodhead retrieved from The Hague in the early 1800s.One of these actions resulted in what might have been the largest massacre of Native Americans in the Northeast, surpassing some of the estimates given for the hundreds that were killed in Mystic by John Underhill and John Mason some seven years before.

New Netherland's legacy is that every aspect of the Dutch experience in America provides a useful lesson in the perils of nation-building. When it became clear that New Amsterdam no longer functioned as a simplistic trading outpost- dealing principally in furs- , and that it had morphed into a full-fledged colony in need of serious infrastructure, funding, and community controls, the West India Company could have made a more timely transition to English control, cut its losses quickly, and recalled or relocated its many employees to more profitable and less problematic regions when it saw no game-changing revenue support in its immediate future.  That Manhattan's decreasing profitability and increasing community problems were reasons to stop further finding resulted in stagnation. The decision not to nation-build  any further after a significant, yet unstable, European presence had been established   left New Netherland without clear objectives and increased its corruption and instability.

The West India Company was for its time a racially and religiously tolerant as a corporation for purely pragmatic reasons. The needed to work with many races, nations and religions in the Caribbean, Africa, East Asia Manhattan, although their "work" with other people extended to buying and selling them as well , for the company was an active slave trader, and the enslaved at this time were a class entirely left out of compassionate consideration. Never-the-less, if one could possibly set aside this corporate abuse of the enslaved, as difficult as that is for us today, the company can be credited for readily soliciting sales and supply-side workers from all over the world to cooperate, and near New York it needed diverse Indian groups. Seventeen languages were spoken and any faith was welcome.

"The consciences of men ought to be free and unshackled," wrote the company directors when they scolded  Peter Stuyvesant for attempting to banish the newly minted Quakers William Hallett and John Bowne, "so long as they continue moderate, peaceful, inoffensive  and not hostile to the government; such have been the maxims of prudence and toleration by which the magistrates of this city (Amsterdam) have been governed and the consequences have been that the oppressed and persecuted from every country have fund among us an asylum from distress. Follow in the same steps and you will be blessed." But that was in 1663, long after their previous governor - William Kieft- had sailed for home and been drowned, along with his 400,000 guilders in a shipwreck near Swansea.

The Dutch experience is also a cautionary tale of long-distance oversight that is unable to address the dangerous actions of an errant individual who uses his authority to mutilate a corporate mission, dismiss credible complaint, and establish a pattern of autocratic action. Like Warren Hastings in India more than one hundred years later, Kieft rejected and evaded all means of control and trampled egregiously on the common good.

By 1643 Kieft's mismanaged use of force and diplomacy had worsened the Indian situation for Manhattan-area Europeans who were clamoring ever more loudly and relentlessly for a resolution to what had become and endless cycle of European-Indian murder and revenge.  Governor Kieft's notion of what to do, however,  did not meet the expectations of his subjects. While some Dutch farmers, traders and soldiers had killed small numbers of Indians and the Indians avenged themselves with small-scale though shocking murders in return, few settlers of West India Company soldiers felt comfortable with the idea of a large-scale Indian slaughter as a solution to their problems. To discourage this idea, the Council of Eight Men tried to make Kieft personally lead any expeditionary force against large Indian massings, such that he would fully assume responsibility for such offensive ideas.  Kieft begged John Winthrop, for troops, offering 25,000 guilders and Fort Amsterdam  itself as collateral, but the governor of MA Bay Colony  "wholly declined, doubting the wisdom of his cause."

Kieft found the man for the job in John Underhill, an experienced man in such matters. Receiving information of a large gathering of Munsee people to celebrate the new moon of February:

One hundred and thirty men were accordingly dispatched under General Underhill and Ensign Hendrick van Dyke. They embarked in three yachts, landed at Greenwich, where they were obliged to pass the night by reason of the great snow and storm. In the morning they marched northwest up over stony hills, over which some were obliged to creep. In the evening, about eight o'clock, they came within aleague of the Indians, and inasmuch as they should have arrived too early and had to cross two rivers, one of two hundred feet wide and three feet deep, and that the men could not afterwards rest inconsequence of the cold, it was determined to remain there until about ten o'clock. Orders having been given as to the mode to be observed in attacking the Indians, the men marched forward towards the huts, which were set up in three rows, street fashion, each eighty paces in length, in a low recess of the mountain, affording complete shelter from the northwest wind.

The moon was ten at the full and threw a strong light against the mountain, so that many winter's days were not clearer than it was then.  On arriving, the enemy was found on alert and on their guard, so that our people determined to charge and surround the huts, sword in hand. The Indians behaved like soldiers, deployed in small bands, so we had in a short time one dead and twelve wounded. They were likewise so hard pressed that it was impossible for one to escape. Ina brief period of time, one hundred and eighty were counted dead outside their houses. Presently none durst come forth, keeping themselves within the houses, discharging arrows through the holes. The General, seeing that nothing else was to be done, resolved with Sergeant Major Underhill, to set fire to the huts. Whereupon  the Indians tried every way to escape, not succeeding in which they returned back to the flames, preferring to perish by fire than to die by our hands.

What was most wonderful is, that among the vast collection of men, women and children, not one was heard to cry or scream. According to the report of the Indians themselves, the number then destroyed exceeding five hundred. Some say, full 700, among whom were also 25 Wappingers, our God having collected together there the greater number of our enemies, to celebrate one of their festivals. No more than eight men in all escaped, of whom even three were severely wounded.

The fight ended, several fires were built in consequence of the great cold. The wounded, fifteen in number were dressed and sentinels were posted by the General. The troops bivouacked there for the remainder of the night. On the next day, the party set out much refreshed in good order, so as to arrive at Stamford in the evening. They marched with great courage over that wearisome mountain, God affording extraordinary strength to the wounded, some of whom were badly hurt and came in the afternoon to Stamford after a march of two days and one night, with little rest. The English received our people in a very friendly manner, affording them every comfort. In two days they reached here. A thanksgiving was proclaimed on their arrival.

The Europeans who participated in the massacre did not boast or write of it in  personal documentation yet discovered. Killings on both sides continued.

In April 1644, seven savages were arrested at Hempstead on Long Island for killing two or three pigs, although later found that some Englishmen had done it. Kieft sent John Underhill and fifteen or sixteen soldiers to Hempstead, who killed three of the seven in a cellar. He then put the four remaining Indians in a boat, two of whom were towed behind in the water by a string round their necks. The soldiers drowned these two men and the two unfortunate survivors were detained as prisoners at Fort Amsterdam where they were brutally tortured. A critic of the events, perhaps David DeVries, wrote of Kieft's brutality in the most inflammatory manner possible to drive home his point that Kieft must be recalled:

When (the Indian prisoners) had been kept a long time in the corps de garde, the Director became tired of giving them food any longer and they were delivered to the soldiers to do with as they pleased. The poor unfortunate prisoners were immediately dragged out of the guard house and soon dispatched with knives of from 18 to20 inches long which Director Kieft had made for his soldiers for such purposes, saying that swords were for use in the huts of the savages, when they went to surprise them; but that these knives were much handier for bowelling them.

The first of these savages having received a frightful wound, desired them to permit him to dance what is called the Kinte Kayce, a religious use observed among them before death; he received however so many wounds that he dropped down dead. The soldiers then cut strips from the other's body, beginning at the calves, up the back, over the shoulders and down to the knees. While this was going on, Governor Kieft, with his comrade Jan de la Montaigne, a Frenchman, (and Fort physician) stood laughing heartily at the fun and rubbing his right arm, so much delight the took in such scenes. He then ordered hit to be taken out of the fort, and the soldiers bringing him to the Beaver's Path, he dancing the Kinte Kayce the entire time, threw him down, cut off his genetales, thrust them in his mouth while still alive, and at last placing him on a mill stone cut off his head . . . What I tell you is true, for by the same token there stood at the same time 24 0r 25 female savages who had been taken prisoner at the N.. point of the fort; and when they saw this bloody spectacle they held up their arms, struck their mouth, and, in their language exclaimed: "For shame! For shame! Such unheard of cruelty was never known, or even thought among us!" The savages have often called out to us from a distance: "what scoundrels you Swanneken are, you do not war upon us, but upon our wives and children who you treacherously murder; whereas we do no harm either to your wives or your children, but feed and take care of them, till we send them back to you again.

And further, Director Kieft, not content with this causing the hunted savages to be surprised, engaged some English spies to accompany his soldiers as guides, into places unknown to our people, by which many poor inoffensive savages were cruelly and traitorously massacred.

In 1908, the extended descendents of John Underhill erected a monument over his grave. Buoyed by generation of gratitude and reverence to the man, including John Greenleaf Whittier's ode to his many exploits, the family invited President Theodore Roosevelt and the editor of the Brooklyn Daily Times to speak at the large granite monument's unveiling ceremonies. The  newspaper editor, to his credit, felt somewhat squeamish at extolling the virtues of a man who had slain close to a thousand Indians personally, noted that Underhill, "judged by today, would have been called a butcher." He also appropriately reminded his audience to "judge him as of his own time, and not as our time, to which he did not belong." It is undeniable, however, that the man had a mental construct that allowed him to kill hundreds of men, women and children when others in his time would not .

Nor were those times so different from our own.

Antietam by Richard Slotkin

McClellan's overestimate of enemy strength was fabulous in scale, and the errors that produced it were systematic. McClellan typically credited Confederates on his front with two or three times their actual strength. Every military operation McClellan undertook, from his arrival in Washington to the end of the Antietam campaign, would be premised on the belief that the enemy heavily outnumbered him. Because the War Department did not have its own intelligence apparatus, it had no independent means of checking McClellan's estimates.

McClellan's earliest force estimates were based on Confederate newspaper reports and civilian rumors, but he soon put in place an intelligence service commanded by the railroad detective Allan Pinkerton. Although Pinkerton's methods were effective against rear-area subversives liker the pro-Confederate Knights of the Golden Circle and the Baltimore "Blood Tubs", he was out of his depth in the field of military intelligence. His operatives did succeed in infiltrating Confederate offices, obtaining army paperwork, and gathering rumors about Rebel operations; but they did not know how to distinguish units that existed merely on paper from regiments fully manned, equipped, and ready for battle.. They could tell McClellan the number of regiments officially credited to Lee's army but not the actual strength of these nits. This failure was not entirely their fault, however -  Confederate accounting methods were so slipshod that even an army commander like Lee could not be absolutely  certain of the number of troops in his command.  Never-the-less, the result was an astounding overestimate of the Rebel forces in Virginia.

(In their meeting on September 22 , after the battle, Lincoln completely bamboozled Pinkerton in regards to his estimation and intentions  to McClellan. "Pinkerton was disarmed by his own and McClellan's belief that the president was not very intelligent.")

Pinkerton's information might have been useful had it been subject to critical analysis by an intelligence staff and supplemented by other forms of intelligence gathering - scouting by cavalry, or the use of large units for a reconnaissance- in-force, the taking and questioning of POWs, and assessment of their state of equipment, health and training, and so forth. an analysis of the Federal army's own difficulty raising troops, equipping them, and maintaining regiments at full strength would have suggested how unlikely it was that the Confederates were raising a larger army - given that the North had a larger White population to draw on, and far better resources for transporting and supplying its armies. But since McClellan insisted on being his own chief of intelligence, there was no independent staff review. McClellan also read all intelligence through the distorting lens of his conviction that he and his army were the Republic's sole hope of salvation  against the twin threats of Secession and Radical Republicanism) and must run no risk of defeat. It followed that in estimating the opposition he must always err on the side of caution, basing his moves on the assumption that the enemy force was as large as it  could conceivably be. Field reports that suggested the enemy in his front was at less than maximum possible strength were characteristically discounted. He never tested these strength estimates by matching them against the known limitations of Confederate manpower, production, and transportation.

[At Antietam he withheld or too cautiously deployed reserves at crucial times in the battle thus failing to exploit breakthroughs on the right, center and left of his lines. He failed to recognize and make use of his advantage in numbers and the reports of his own line commanders on the weakness of the enemy's positions after the day of the battle thus allowing Lee to stand his ground unmolested all day and to retreat with impunity the next day. ]

Questionable judgments were also being made on the other side of Antietam Creek. Lee had been too sanguine about the speed with which Jackson's force could join him at Sharpsburg, so for the whole of September 16 he had faced McClellan with a force less than half as large. His assumption that McClellan would not immediately attack in force proved correct, but his army's situation on September 17 would have been only fractionally better than it had been the day before.  All his labor and daring since September 14 had only succeeded in putting his army in an extremely dangerous position, faced with an enemy twice its strength, with its back to a river crossed by two difficult fords. To achieve a meaningful victory, Lee had not only to defend his lines but to drive the larger army back and force it to retreat behind South Mountain. If at the end of the day McClellan simply held his very strong position on the high ground east of the creek, Lee would have little choice but to retreat to Virginia. It has been said, and is certainly true, that Lee understood McClellan's weaknesses as a battlefield tactician, and believed he could exploit these ( by means of the excellent lines of communications he maintained with his line commanders) to win a victory. But that seems a slim reed on which to rest the fate of an army and, potentially, a nation.

Still, the possibility exists that Lee was unaware just how far his original force had been diminished by combat and straggling (he did not established an adequate  system of accounting for the real strength of his regiments until after Antietam). Lee's troops, however, were not only weak in numbers, their physical strength had been compromised by weeks of hard marching and a bad or inadequate diet, in addition to the ordinary debilitating effects of bad sanitation and polluted drinking water. Most of Lee's men had been subsisting on unripe or uncooked corn and unripe fruit, which gave them the "gripes" and the "squitters". Diarrhea and dysentery were endemic in the Rebel camps. After the fighting their abandoned battle lines could be traced in rows of loose and bloody feces.

By his excessive caution, his refusal to move until every risk had been minimized, McClellan had revealed his fear of losing control of the action. In contrast, Lee understood and accepted the fact that battle is chaos and was a 'connoisseur' of this chaos. At least he believed that his own skill as a commander, the experience and skill of his chief subordinates, the efficacy of his command system, and the superior morale of his troops would allow him to ride that chaos; and that the weaknesses of McClellan, his generals and his army made them liable to a loss of control, and a cascade of failures leading to defeat.

The strategist does what he can to create a situation in which victory is likely and the gains in battle are commensurate with the risks. But battle is the violent collision of two highly complex human systems, driven by different impulses, organized indifferent ways, with different strengths and solidarities. The outcome may turn on actions far down the chain of command, surprising local successes that boost the advantage and morale of one side, wreck the prospects and demoralize the other. . . 

September 17 was the costliest day of combat in American history, leaving 25 thousand Americans dead or wounded. That Lee's army retreated meant that the battle was a tactical victory for the Union. But the sound and fury, the immense cost in death suffering, and grief, had not resolved the strategic crisis. Hardly anyone was entirely happy with the result apart from George McClellan and his supporters- they believed he had vouchsafed his position as sole savior of the Republic. Lincoln had still not effected the strategic transformation envisioned in early July: the shift from a strategy of conciliation to a war of subjection, in which restoration of the Union was linked to general emancipation - a shift that required the permanent sidelining of General McClellan.  Victory at Antietam fulfilled one condition for issuing an emancipation proclamation, but that same victory also seemed to aggrandize McClellan, who opposed emancipation and was attempting the thwart Lincoln's policies.

In the end, however, McClellan's political advisors decided  that it was the general's duty  to submit to the president's proclamation and quietly continue to do his duty as a soldier, that any form of opposition by McClellan to the president's decree  would be perceived  by Democrats as a military usurpation. To weaken McClellan's position, Lincoln and his Secretary John Hay began feeding criticisms of the general's performance to Republican journals . One of Lincoln's favorite criticisms o McClellan - that he was "an auger to dull to take hold" - started popping up (without attribution) in the Tribune.  Lincoln also authorized John Hay to begin a secret journalistic campaign to expose McClellan's flaws as a general, thus preparing the public mind for his removal. Hay's method was one Lincoln had used often against opponents: he satirized the general, deflated him by ridicule.

Above all it was McClellan's inactivity after the Battle of Antietam  which doomed his future as the top general in the Union Army,  dramatically demonstrated during three days in October when General Lee unleashed Jeb Stuart's cavalry for a spectacular raid that took him up into Pennsylvania and all around McClellan's Army.

[ Lincoln is renowned for his ability to manage the "Team of Rivals" that constituted his government, but in1862 his strategic transformation was nearly wrecked by his inability to get his cabinet officers and his generals   to cooperate with him and each other.]

The Great Primaeval Contract by Richard Bourke

Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution (1790) in France is a defense of the British constitutional setup, including existing relations between the church and state. As such it is an attack on figures hostile to the Anglican establishment as well as to the principle of parliamentary monarchy. Its immediate target was the nonconformist preacher Richard Price, who sought with various fellow travellers  to undermine ecclesiastical and political arrangements in Britain. Noble patrons of dissent, like the Earl of Shelburne, and aristocratic critics of the national Church, like the Duke of Grafton, are treated with particular distain. For Burke, , their public support for the values of Revolutionary France exposed them to justifiable derision. They were driven, he supposed, by a kind of demagogic enthusiasm which hid their goal of self-serving ambition. In the process they helped publicize an attitude to politics and religion that would ultimately be destructive of both. Burke was desperate to consolidate Whig antipathy to such principles and recover Charles James Fox from the temptations of populism by counter-posing the enlightened values of British domestic politics with the chaos of ideas that were serving to dismantle France.

Burke's principal target was Price's idea of freedom as self-government, which extended civil liberty to include a right to public power. It was on this basis, Burke believed, that Price had mistaken the Whig conception of legitimate resistance for a license to resort to revolution as a matter of convenience. With this approach, it was suggested, neither Parliament nor monarchy could stand. Burke accepted that, fundamentally, government was an instrument of convenience. However, he also thought that constitutional government should provide a way of deliberating over the character of that convenience. This required the provision of means of scrutiny, debate and execution under conditions of stability and allegiance. For this reason, Burke dwells at some length on the emotions that support continuity in national counsels and attachment to the welfare of the community.  These included moral and aesthetic sentiments that encourage respect, as well as feelings of veneration for enduring customs and the national past. None of this was intended to affirm an empty reverence for "tradition". Instead, support for authority was interpreted as a means of advancing the common good.  As Burke was at pains to emphasize  in his speech opening the Hastings trial, the failure to protect the good of the community provided grounds for legitimate resistance. More expansively, the Reflections dwells on the duty of obedience as well as protection. He claimed that both should comprehended under the "great primaeval contract" that defines the moral relations between rulers and ruled. Burke recognized the right to revolution against the state but he also appreciated the gravity of resource to insurrection. The situation in France, he thought, could scarcely justify resort to violence, still less attempt upon the pillars of established government.

Burke claimed that civil society was a mechanism for survival as well as a vehicle for human progress towards perfection.  It was consequently an object of both reverence and piety as well as a beneficiary of trust.  In France it had fulfilled its trust only to be treated with contempt. Full-scale resistance had begun not with popular insurgency  but with the treachery of disaffected courtiers and nobles. These were soon abetted by disgruntled men of letters who found themselves in league with aspiring of the moneyed interest.  Between them the launched an offensive against the property of the Church, condemned as a bastion of corporate privilege. On Burke's analysis the Revolution was fuelled by resentments about inequality rooted in the ambitions of rising talent along with competitiveness over standing among the divisions of the aristocracy. The diverse appeal of equality focused hostility against the monarchy, giving rise to a reckless spirit of innovation. That mood was eagerly heightened by the deputies in the Assembly, who were in Burke's opinion bereft of practical wisdom and the inclination to pursue sustainable reform.  Superstitious fear of timeworn  historic abuses were conflated with current political practice.  Luxury was unwisely taken to be a cause of misery. The determination to overturn the consolation of providence made the spectacle of unmerited prosperity seem unbearable. As corporate bodies and social divisions were progressively undermined, the military poised to extend its power without resistance. The spirit of conquest was reborn under the cloak of liberty...

Unlike the class of freethinkers in the first half of the eighteenth century, dissenters in Britain in the 1780s and 1790s were aided by an alliance with the political mainstream. They shared this advantage with atheists in France, who had formed a vehicle among deputies in the third estate hostile to the clerical establishment. Despite  the outright animosity of rational dissenters towards irrational irreligion, Burke regarded the two groups as constituting a common peril. First of all, he ascribed to both a similar intellectual approach; and second, he noted their shared antagonism to established religion.  Burke accounted for both these features
in terms of a shared attitude of 'enthusiasm." Ascribing an enthusiastic spirit to English dissent and French heterodoxy was of course an affront to both, since they separately prided themselves on supplanting credulity by means of rigorous, rational procedure.

Two forms of excessive credulity came under attack in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: superstition on the one hand, enthusiasm on the other.  Both presumed to sustain belief on the basis of insufficient evidence, driven, it was often claimed, by excessive fear in the case of superstition, and by disproportionate hope in the case of enthusiasm. Burke took many of the heterodox, congratulating themselves on their success in overcoming superstition, to have slipped into enthusiasm, pretending in the process to have achieved enlightenment. He sought to turn the tables on what he saw as intellectual complacency, implying that for Priestly, Price and Helvetius, reason operated less as a means of genuine enlightenment than as a kind of spiritual "illumination." In seeking to purge belief of all superstition, faux enlighteners confused reasonable assent with the foundationless "Fancies of a Man's Own Brain", as Locke had put it.  Reason among the deists and rational dissenters was a merely presumptuous mental persuasion. Burke thought: the feeling of certainty that it communicated was a kind of intellectual conceit.

The term conceit has two senses here: it refers, first to a whimsical notion; and second, to the presumptuousness of treating personal fancies as tokens of divine revelation. The belief that reason reveals to the mind the truths of nature by introspection combines both meanings into a comprehensive conceit amounting to a self-regarding confidence in one's own opinions without reference to probable evidence. Revolutionary agitators in France shared with rational non-conformity in England a determination to impose moral truths of reason on the actions and opinions of individuals already existing under the discipline of civil society. This bespoke an extraordinary arrogance: to begin with, it equated personal preferences with rational norms of conduct; next, it strove the impose these values irrespective of circumstances. The procedure was both sophistical and pedantic at the same time, and therefore dubbed by Burke a regressive "political metaphysics." All judgments of experience, and consequently all existing arrangements could only be validated by the abstract ideals of doubtful speculation.

As we have seen, Burke assumed that this would usher in an age of false "humanity" under the impact of the ideas of Rousseau: ordinary feelings would be suppressed out of deference to abstract norms, the metaphysical love of man would encourage contempt for  individual men, and the idlest fantasy of social improvement would be sufficient to justify limitless suffering.

Given  the remoteness of these norms and ideals from the existing order of things, the criticism of concrete abuses gave way to exposing the foundations of legitimacy. The most reasonable prejudice was restlessly discarded. Since actual political attitudes and institutions would never "quadrate" with the amplitude of pre-civil rights, their illegitimacy was a foregone conclusion of the theory. This mode of dissection masqueraded as enlightened critique by public opinion, but in truth it was a recipe for antinomian destruction. Every civil restraint was branded as illicit  "privilege, all government deemed a form of "usurpation." Improvement was predicated on what Priestly projected as "the fall of the civil powers", and the means to reform was supplanted by permanent insurrection.

As Burke saw it, spurious emissaries of enlightenment in France promised nothing more edifying than an anti-Christian establishment founded on persecution. They proffered liberation from the authority of the past, but would in practice deliver ruthless tyranny; they held out the promise of toleration, but would end by heightening religious oppression. Christian charity should be taken as the "measure of tolerance", Burke later argued, not apathy or hatred towards religion. The self-appointed representatives of "light" in Britain would similarly squander toleration by capsizing the Church under which it was provided. In the absence of that ecclesiastical structure, sectarianism would proliferate, and animosity deepen.  At the same time, public life would lose its connection to the sanctity of religion. Religion was essential to the progress of culture: containing the germ of the moral life, it laid the foundations for humane behavior.  Without it, regression to brutishness was assured. The endeavor to destroy organized belief would vitiate morals, and manners accordingly would become depraved. The endeavor, however, was bound to fail. Man, Burke claimed, was "by his constitution a religious animal." Any attempt to eviscerate the influence of religion from the human mind could only succeed in creating yet more mysterious forms of persuasion, at once "uncouth, pernicious and degrading."

While religion was the basis of moral edification, it was also the pillar of the state: in the first place, God prescribed the formation of civil society; and in the second, the sanction of religion operated as a check upon its rulers. Both these natural law precepts can be traced to diverse sources in the history of jurisprudence, and they found expression in one of the pivotal paragraphs of the Reflections. "Society is indeed a contract,"  the paragraph begins.  By "Society" Burke meant civil society, and he was signaling his belief that the state was founded on reciprocal obligations. These were neither as arbitrary nor as perishable as the contingent  interests that were served by ordinary agreements in business or trade.  The national interest was rather an enduring interest that bound one generation to the next. The personality of the state was a product of human artifice and could not  be reduced to its transitory parts. Equally, its objectives were not exhausted  by the mere "animal existence" of the individuals who composed it. Since civil society was enjoined by divinity  ['Providentially'] as a mechanism for realizing human ends, it was a means of advancing towards the perfection of science, art and virtue. This did not mean, in neo-Aristotelian fashion, that it was the state's purpose to realize the perfection of human nature, but that, in protecting society, and thus religion too, it facilitated the objective of mental and moral improvement. In combining their aptitudes for that purpose, citizens were subject to the obedience while sovereigns were bound by the obligation to protect.  Accountability, in both directions, were fixed by a law of nature. Burke dubbed this "the great primaeval contract of eternal society". It implied the subjection of nature to divine will (which Burke saw less as a burden than a consolation). It was on the basis of this subjection that the responsibility of human conscience to a higher law was commanded.           

[The author notes on several occasions in his text that it is not easy to fit Burke's thesis or position into the opposing 'conservative' and 'liberal' paradigms of contemporary political discourse; "the force of his argument has been drowned out by subsequent political rhetoric", he is not adequately represented as            'a leading opponent of modernity', he is wrongly 'deputed to represent the forces of reaction.' Indeed, both political parties  in the U.S. put significant emphasis on the primacy of civil society as the engine of human progress, the importance of religion in that construct and the duty of reverence towards  the constitutional structure of the State, as each accuses the other of failing to do so. Burke himself considered the Constitutional framework of the American Republic sufficient for the purposes he outlined in Reflections.]

Long book. This is the most justice I can do for it at this time.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Johannesburg Unlocked by Ian Vladislavic

Occasionally, when Louise was teaching at the Twilight Children's Shelter in Esselen Street and I was working as an editor at Ravan Press in O'Reilly Road, we would meet for lunch at the Florian in Hillbrow. If the weather was good, we sat outside on the first-floor balcony. Then she would slip her arms out of her paint-stain overalls and tie the sleeves in a big bow across her chest, so that she could feel the sun on her bare shoulders. Despite the chocolate-dipped letters of its Venetian name, the Florian offered English  boardinghouse fare: chops and chips, liver and onions wit mashed potatoes, mutton stews and long-grained rice. We drank beer, although it was sure to make us sleepy, watched the traffic in the street below, and stayed away from work longer than the lunch hour we were entitled to.

The discovery of something unexpected about the world always filled her with infectious wonder. Once, she tugged me over to the balcony railings at the Florian to point out the iron covers on the water mains set into the pavement. Did I know the spaces below these covers , where the meters are housed? Well, the poor people of Joberg, the street people - we did not call them 'the homeless' in those days - the tramps, car parkers and urchins, used them as cupboards! They store their winter wardrobes  there and the rags of bedding they used at night, they preserved their scraps of food, their perishables, in the cool shade, they banked the empty bottles they collected for the deposits. It tickled her - she laughed out loud, just as if the idea had poked her in the ribs - that such utilitarian spaces should have been appropriated and domesticated, transformed into repositories of privacy for those compelled to live their lives in public. Any iron cover you passed in the street might conceal someone's personal effects. There was a maze of mysterious spaces underfoot, known only to those who could see it. And this special knowledge turned them into the privileged ones, making them party to something in which we, who lived in houses with wardrobes and chests of drawers, and ate three square meals a day, could not participate. Blind and dumb, we passed over these secret places, did not even sense them beneath the soles of our shoes. How much more might we be missing?

The food came. While we ate, I began to argue with her about the 'cupboards' and what they represented, as if it were my place to set her straight about the world.

'It's pathetic,' I said, 'that people are so poor they have to store their belongings in the hole in the ground.'

'No, it's not. It's pathetic when people don't care about themselves, when they give up. These people are resourceful, they're making a life out of nothing.'

'It's like a dog burying a bone,' I said.

'Oh, you'll never understand.'

When we'd finished our lunch and were walking down Twist Street, I wanted to lift up one of the covers to check the contents of the cavity beneath, but she wouldn't hear of it. It wasn't right to go prying into people's thing.

'What about the meter-readers?' I asked. 'Surely they're always poking their noses in?'

'That's different,' she said. 'They're professionals. Like doctors.'

'They probably swipe the good stuff,' I insisted.

'Nonsense. They have understanding.'

Then we parted, laughing. She went back to the children and I went back to the books. And this parting, called to mind, has a black edge of mourning, because she was walking in the shadow of death and I am still here to feel the sun on my face.

Ten years later, the domestic duty of a tap washer that needs replacing takes me out into Argyle Street to switch off the main. There is a storm raging in from the south, the oaks in Blenheim Street are already bowing before its lash, dropping tears as hard as acorns. I stick a screwdrivers under the rim of the iron cover and lever it up.  In the space beneath I find:  a brown, ribbed jersey, army issue; a red flannel shirt; a small checked blanket; two empty bottle - Fanta Grape and Lion Lager; a copy of Penthouse; a blue enamel plate' a clear plastic bag containing scraps of food (bread rolls, tomatoes, oranges). Everything neatly arranged. On one side, the empties have been laid down head to toe; the plate balanced across them to hold the food, the magazine rolled up between.  In the middle, behind a lens of misted glass, white numbers on black drums are revolving, measuring out a flood in standard units.

I kneel on the pavement like a man gazing down into a well, with this is  small, impoverished, inexplicably orderly world before me and the chaotic plenitude of the Highveld sky above.  .   .  .

Strolling home with the morning paper under his arm, Branko passes a salesman dragged a large briefcase. He looks like a salesman anyway, in blazer and flannel, white shirt and stripped tie, a door-to-door man lugging a set of samples. Branko feels sorry for him in this heat, trying to give the heavy case an extra little shove with his calf at each step, his free arm sticking out like a wing, pigeon-toe with effort.

At his own door, Branko nearly falls into a hole in the pavement. The iron cover that's supposed to conceal the connection to the water main is gone. It was here ten minutes, when he stepped out to buy the paper. He stands there puzzling.


He jams his paper in the letterbox and runs down the street, looking for the man with the case, unsure what he will do with this while-collar criminal when he catches him but he has already vanished.   .   .   .

Herman Wald's Leaping Impala sculpture was installed in Ernest Oppenheimer Park in 1960. Eighteen animals in full flight, a sleigh-ride arc of hoof and horn twenty meters long, a ton and a half of venison in bronze. In the sixties and seventies, fountains splashed the flanks of the stampeding buck, while office workers ate their lunch-time sandwiches on white-only benches. Although the park deteriorated along with the inner city in the following decades, until it came to be used primarily as a storage depot by hawkers, the herd of impala seemed set to survive the century unscathed. But towards the end of 1999, poachers started carving away at it, lopping heads and legs with blow-torches and hacksaws. At the end of October, a civic-minded hawker, who arrived at the park to find a man stuffing two severed heads into a bag, called the police. They arrested the thief, but he was subsequently deported as an illegal alien and the heads disappeared without a trace. A fortnight later, an entire impala was removed from the park by four men, who told security guards they were transporting it to another park, stock  thieves. A week after that, another ten heads were lopped. Police later rescued one of these heads from a Boksburg scrap-metal dealer. A leg was found in a pawn shop  in the CBD.

Johannesburg has an abundance  of wildlife, and the poachers have taken full advantage of the open season. They've bagged a bronze steenbok from Wits University; a horse from outside the library in Sandton (first docking the beast, to see if anyone would mind, and then hacking of its head like Mafiosi); a pair of eagles nesting near the Stock Exchange; and another steenbok in the Botanical Garden at Emmarentia. This little buck, which had been donated to the Gardens by the sculptor Ernest Ullmann in1975, was taken in 1998. The head turned up afterwards in a scrap-yard and was returned to the scene of the slaughter, where it was mounted on a conical pedestal like a trophy; along with a plaque explaining the circumstances of its loss and recovery. But before long the head was stolen for the second time and now the pedestal is empty.

Of course, urban poachers are not just hungry for horseflesh, any old iron will do. They are especially fond of the covers on manholes and water mains. When Kensington Electrical Suppliers took over Tile City  they painted the covers on their pavement bright yellow to deter thieves, but the logic was flawed: now thieves could spot them from a hundred meters.

Elsewhere in the city, the council has begun to replace the stolen iron covers with blue plastic ones. These bits of plastic tell scrap-metal thieves to go ahead and help themselves as the authorities have given up on protecting their resources. The council could wrest back the initiative by lifting all the remaining iron at once and selling it off. They could use the same argument the Botswana government uses for the controlled sale of ivory. Get a jump on the poachers  by selling the booty yourself.

The urban poacher is a romantic figure. In unequal cities, where those who have little must survive somehow by preying on those who have more, the poacher scavenging a meal from under the nose of the gamekeeper may be admired for his ingenuity and daring. AbdouMaliq Simone: ' There are young people in Johannesburg who spend twelve and more hours a day simply passing through different neighborhoods, different parts of the city, seeing what can be easily taken, but also running into others like themselves, sometimes teaming up to do "jobs", sometimes steering each in the wrong  direction."

The Pacific War by John Costello

It is now easy to see how the principle cause of the breakdown  in American military intelligence during the period before Pearl Harbor was that it was grossly overloaded and unable to carry out an adequate evaluation procedures. The lessons learned brought about a rapid expansion in 1942 in both service's cryptanalysis, translation, and assessment teams. Personnel training took time, but such was the proficiency achieved by naval units that within six months they had laid the groundwork for the Midway victory. The Army succeeded in cracking the Japanese army's ciphers by the following spring and both services  contributed to the establishment of units that monitored the German Enigma traffic using the British-supplied decrypting machines. The measure of the Allied victories in battles fought and won by their code breakers is the sheer volume of the material  now piling up along the shelves in London's Public Record Office and the National archives in Washington.  The highlights of the role of Ultra - as both Britain and the United States labeled their most secret intelligence- played in the war are now known , with the Battle of Britain, Midway, the Battle of the Atlantic, El Alamein, D-Day, and New Guinea perhaps the most spectacular achievements. But it will take years for historians to sift patiently through the records  that have now become available to reveal the fascinating details of just how significant a contribution intelligence actually  played in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters - and just how much the credit that has until now been given to the most successful military commanders should in fact go to Ultra. . .

[ Not all the records have been released by the British and there are critical redactions in the American records. On those occasions in which they managed to keep their plans secret the Japanese army and navy often punished American forces severely. American strategic planners were often divided and tactics used inadequate.]

Immediately after Pearl Harbor the United States declared a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare in the Pacific. It produced limited results at first because of defective torpedoes and a lack of aggressiveness on the part of the American commanders. Misapplied use of radio intelligence was at first send to the Pacific fleet submarines chasing over the ocean after the enemy's big warships instead of concentrating on blockading Japan's main shipping routes. In the first six months the U.S. submarines sank only thirty-five Japanese merchant ships, less than ace German U-boas managed to sink in a single Atlantic patrol. Such  poor performance was reflected in the Tokyo Naval Staff's response in setting up in Formosa the "First Convoy Escort Fleet", whose over-age officers were matched by a few ancient destroyers they were assigned. Their ineffectiveness was not important, for in the whole of 1942 the Japanese lost less than 700,000 tons of shipping to all Allied submarine activity. German's were sinking that much nearly every month in the Atlantic. That year Japan's shipyards turned out over 1 million tons of new capacity, more than enough to keep pace with the attrition.

Not until the end of that disastrous first year was the American submarine campaign shaken up. Rear Admiral Charles A. Lockwood was promoted from leading the flotillas stationed at Brisbane to become Commander Submarines Pacific Fleet. After studying the reports of the U-Boat assault on British shipping lifelines in London, Lockwood soon became convinced that the poor performance of his boats, which time and again failed to sink warships or disrupt poorly protected transport convoys during the invasion of the Dutch East Indies, must be caused by a combination of defective torpedoes and lack of aggression by his captains. Experiments proved that the technical cause of the problem was the standard Mark XVII torpedoes faulty depth-keeping mechanism, which unless adjusted would causes the torpedo to pass harmlessly below the keel of the target warship. Orders were sent to compensate for the inaccurate settings, but the first months of 1943 brought no greater success.

That year Lockwood systematically replaced almost a third of the captains. When the younger, aggressive commanders' sinking rates were still not commensurate with the number of hits they claimed, it became obvious that their torpedoes were still badly defective. After Lockwood had ordered and exhaustive series of tests in Hawaii in which torpedoes were fired at cliff targets, it was found that their magnetic and contacted detonating pistols were hopelessly unreliable.

"If the Bureau of Ordinance can't provide us with torpedoes that will hit and explode, or with a gun larger than a peashooter," he blasted at a Washington conference early hat year, "then, for God's sake get the Bureau of Ships to design a boathook with which we can rip the plates off the target's sides." In spite of such caustic words and constant prodding, it was September 1943 before the first Mark XVIII torpedoes arrived for us by his Pacific submarines - and many more months before their teething troubles were finally engineered out.

Just under 1.5 million tons of Japanese merchant ships had been sunk to the bottom in 1943, but their shipyards had succeeded in providing a net gain in tankers. The beginning of 1944 saw the American submarine campaign at last begin to gain effect. Lockwood- borrowing Admiral Doenitz's U-boat tactics - organized wolf-packs of submarines directed by radio intelligence against convoys off the Luzon straits, through which many of the enemy shipping lanes funneled.  The Pearl Harbor flotillas were sent to operate from forward bases at Midway and then from the captured atolls. Success rates began to climb sharply both for the Pacific Fleet boats and those of MacArthur's naval commander, whose flotillas were reorganized at Brisbane by Rear Admiral James Fife, Jr.

The Japanese lacked the weapons, escorts, and training to provide more than token cover to the convoys, which multiplied through the spring of 1944 as troops and supplies  were rushed to the threatened island perimeter. Assembling  the merchantmen in poorly protected and ill-disciplined gaggles only made success easier for the American submarine skippers.  In January 1944  294,902 tons of Japanese shipping were sunk - the highest monthly total the war, and a clear warning to Tokyo that the assault against both their island defense and convoys was accelerating.

.   .   .   .   .  .

Capturing the island of  Peleliu  cost the live of two thousand American soldiers and Marines and many times that number of wounded. It had taken 1,589 rounds of heavy and light ammunition to kill each of  the 10,000 enemy soldiers. Such grisly statistics were attributed by the field commanders as much to the terrain as to the well-drilled defenders. It was one of the tragedies of the war that the slaughter was unnecessary. Peleliu had ceased to be a vital objective to the Americans long before the first Marine died on the Island. However, as the naval bombardment force commander Admiral J.B. Olfdendorf observed: "If military leaders were gifted with the same accuracy of foresight that they are with hindsight, undoubtedly, the assault and capture of the Palaus would never have been attempted."

Never-the-less, Douglas MacArthur openly criticized the 'awful way" in which Admiral Nimitz sacrificed thousands of American lives to capture the whole of an island when he only needed its airfields.

[ The prospect of such wasteful expenditure of American lives in capturing the Japanese homeland, securing 'unconditional surrender' and hastening a conclusion to the war led, in part, to the decision drop the A-Bomb. There were extrinsic considerations- intimidating the Russians, for one, though they had already obtained the means to build their own bomb by 1945.  The complete destruction  the Japanese Navy and blockade of its ports, continued firebombing of cities and more vigorous diplomatic initiatives would, in my and others' estimation would have been sufficient without an invasion.]

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

How Little Chief Escaped by Jose Eduardo Agualusa

We always die of dejection, that is, when our souls fail us - then we die. That was Little Chief's theory. In support of this, the businessman described what happened to him the second time he was arrested. He faced terrible prison conditions, the ill treatment, the torture, with courage that surprised not only his companions in misfortune, but the prison guards and the agents of the political police.

It wasn't courage, he admits: "I was experiencing serious rebelliousness. My soul was rebelling against the injustices. Fear, yes, the fear came to hurt me more than the blows, but the rebellion was growing over the fear and that was when I confronted the police.  I was never quiet. When they shouted at me, I shouted louder. From a certain point, I realized those guys were more scared of me than I was of them."

One time when they were punishing him, and they put him in a tiny cell, which they called Kifangondo after the site of a great battle, Little Chief found a rat and adopted it. He called it Splendor, a name that was perhaps a little optimistic for a common rat, brown and shifty, with a gnawed on ear and fur in pretty poor shape. When Little Chief reappeared in the regular cell, with Splendor nestled on his right shoulder, some of his companions teased him. Most ignored him.  At that time, at the end of the seventies, the Sao Paulo Prison brought together an extraordinary collection of personalities. American and English mercenaries, taken in combat, lived alongside dissident exiles from the ANC who had fallen into misfortune. Young intellectuals from the far left exchanged ideas with old Portuguese Salazarists. There were guys locked up for diamond trafficking, and others for not having stood at attention during the raising of the flag. some of the prisoners had been important leaders in the party. They took pride in their friendship with the President.

"Only yesterday the Old Man and I went fishing together," one of them boasted to Little Chief. "When he finds out what's happened, he'll get me out of here and have the moons who did this arrested."

He was shot the following week.

Many didn't even know what they had been accused of. Some went crazy. The interrogations often seemed erratic, preposterous, as though the aim was not to extract information from the detainees, merely torture and confuse them.

In this context, a man with a trained rat wasn't enough to surprise anyone.  Little Chief took care of Splendor. He taught him tricks. He'd say "Sit!" - and the animal sat. "Around! he'd order, and the rat started walking in circles.  Monte heard of this and went to the cell to visit the prisoner.

"They tell me you've made a new friend."

Little Chief didn't answer. He's created a rule for himself never to reply to an agent from the political police, unless the agent was shouting. In such cases he would scream an attack at him, accusing him of being in the service of the socio-fascist dictatorship, etc. Monte found the prisoner's behavior exasperating.

"I'm talking to you, for fuck's sake! Don't act like I'm invisible."

Little Chief turned his back on him. Monte lost  it. He tugged on his shirt. That was the moment he saw Splendor. He grabbed hold of the animal, threw it on the floor and stamped on it. In the midst of all those crimes, such vast crimes that were being committed in those days, right there, within the prison walls, the tiny death of Splendor affected nobody, apart from Little Chief. The young man fell into a deep dejection. He would spend his days lying on a mat, unspeaking, unmoving, indifferent to his cellmates. He became so thin that his ribs stuck out beneath his skin like the keys of a kisanji. Finally, they took him to the infirmary.

When he was arrested, Nasser Evangelista was working at the Maria Pia Hospital as an orderly. He took no interest in politics.  All his attention was trained on a young nurse called Sueli Mirela, well known for the length of her legs, which she displayed generously in daring miniskirts, and for her round hairdo, in the style of Angela Davis. The girl, who was going out with a state security agent, allowed herself to be seduced by the orderly's sweet words. Her boyfriend, in a rage, accused his rival of being linked to factionalists. When he was locked up, Nasser started to work in the infirmary. He was moved when he saw Little Chief's condition. He conceived and organized the plan himself, a plan that was brave and happy, which made it possible to return the frail young man to freedom. Well, to relative freedom, since, as Little Chief himself likes to repeat, no man is free as long as one other man is in prison.

Nasser Evangelista registered the death of Little Chief, alias Arnaldo Cruz, aged nineteen, student of law, and he himself put the body in  the coffin.  A distant cousin, who was in reality a comrade from the same small party  in which he was himself an activist, received the casket. He buried it, in a discrete ceremony, at the Alto das Cruzes cemetery. This after removing the passenger in question. Little Chief got into the habit of visiting the grave on the anniversary of his supposed death, taking flowers to himself.  "To me, it's a reflection on the fragility of life and a small exercise in otherness," he explains to his friends.. "I go out there, and try and think of myself as a close relative. I am, really, my own closest relative. I think about his defects, about his qualities, and whether or not he deserves my tears. I almost always cry a little."

It was months before the police discovered the fraud. Then they arrested him again. .  . 

Magno Moreira Monte was killed by a satellite dish. He fell off the roof while he was trying to fix the aerial. Then the thing fell on his head. Some people saw the events as an ironic allegory for the recent times. The former state security agent, the final representative of a past which few in Angola wished to recall, was felled by the future: the triumph of free communication over obscurantism, silence, and censorship; cosmopolitanism had crushed provincialism.

Maria Clara liked watching the soaps. Her husband, meanwhile, took little interest in television. The pointlessness of the programs infuriated him. The news bulletins made him even angrier. He watched football matches, supporting Primeiro de Agosto and Benfica. From time to time he's sit down, in pajamas and slippers , to re-watch some old black-and-white movie or other. He preferred books. He had collected hundreds of titles. He planned to spend his final years rereading Jorge Amado, Machado de Assis, Clarice Lispector, Luandino Viera, Ruy Duarte de Carvalho, Julio Cortazar, Gabrriel Grcia Marquez.

When they moved house, leaving the dirty, noisy air of the capital behind them, Monte tried to persuade his wife to do without the television. Maria Clara agreed. She'd got into the habit of agreeing with him. For the first weeks, they read together. Everything seemed to be going well. But Maria Clara was getting sad. She'd spend hours on the phone with her friends. Monte then decided to buy and install a satellite dish.

Strictly speaking, he died for love. . . .

God weighs souls on a pair of scales. In one of the dishes is the soul, and in the other, the tears of those who weep for it. If nobody cries, the soul goes down to hell. If there are enough tears, and they are sufficiently heartfelt, it rises up to heaven. Ludo believed this. Or wanted to believe this. This is what she told Sabalu:

"People who are missed by other people, those who are the ones that go to Paradise. Paradise is the place we occupy in other people's hearts. That's what my grandmother used to tell m. I don't believe it. I'd like to believe in anything that's so simple - but I lack faith.

Monte had people to cry for him. I find it hard to imagine him in Paradise. Perhaps, however he's being purged in some obscure nook of immensity, between the splendor of Heaven and the twisted darkness of Hell, playing chess with the angels who are guarding him. If the angels know how to play, if they play well, this would be almost Paradise to him.

A General Theory of Oblivion by Jose Eduardo Agualusa, Daniel Hahn transl.; Archipelago Books, Brooklyn, 2013