The Siege of Jadotville

Some time ago, in the early sixties, Belgian Congo, located smack bang in the middle of Africa, moved towards independence. Not everyone was thrilled with the idea. For one, a sizeable group of people living in the mineral-rich province of Katanga(uranium) wanted independence from independent Congo, while  the original colonizers, the Belgians, wanted no independence at all. Both being the enemy of their enemy, they went for one of those curious alliances that defy logic and Katanga was declared independent. To make sure it retained it’s independence Katanga was supplied with an army of mercenaries. French ones, given by De Gaulle, so the movie tells us.

The new government of Congo under Lumumba tried to conquer the state of Katanga by force. Since the west and the UN seemed lackluster in their support, Lumumba turned to the Soviets for aid. With the cold war edging towards a new high Congo seemed to become a battle ground where east and west could fight the cold war by proxy. So the United Nations stepped in with the aim to prevent this from happening or to control the damage.
(which it did in hindsight).

 

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In this complicated political scene a company of Irish soldiers gets ordered to take control of a place called Jadotville as part of their UN Peacekeeping mission. Unfortenatly, we are not informed why that particular place. It gets hinted at that it is an important location, but what are the orders?

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What orders?

The movie does spend some time on the background of the incident, but when it comes to the main part of the movie, we are clueless. What are these guys doing there anyway?

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The compound consists of a few buildings. Wisely enough the commander has his men dig trenches. Which is following the sage advice: dig in dammit!

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After some preliminaries, we get to the meat of the movie, which consists of an hour of battles scenes. There is little time for anything else but explosions and shooting. Character development is the first victim in this movie.

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The French dude. He is the honorable enemy. Who is he anyway? 
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Allrighty.. I just killed like three hundred of your men with no loss of my own. No hard feelings, right.
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That is the enemy. Figures in a landscape.

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The second victim is, of course, the truth. Politicians are not to be trusted and leave noble soldiers to fend for themselves.Reality is probably more complex and given that the movie spends some time on background, but not enough to flesh out the characters  we are never given an insight into the complex  political background and motives of the persons involved. In fact, the movie would have done better with leaving this part out entirely and not painting those involved in this tense complex political situation in a bad light with such rough brushstrokes. It is easy to point the finger at them politicians.  A more noble and heroic movie would have shown how hard the job actually is.

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O’Brien being appointed by the UN Secretary. O’Brien’s career as an international politician was broken in Congo/Katanga incident.
He is the bad guy.

 

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And there you have it. Katanga’s prime minister Thombe doesn’t think well of the UN.

 

.The siege of Jadotville isn’t really a good movie. Its main flaw is a lack of character development. Except for the commander, everyone is forgettable. But even as a historical insight into the events it leaves much to be desired. The same old story can be found here: untrusty politicians are selling out the noble soldiers. There is simply no time taken to delve into the complex world of cold war politics, but just enough to lay the blame with the usual suspects. The issue isn’t that there is someone to blame, the issue is that a good movie would show how a person choose his path, not because he is an untrusty bad person, but because that was his best choice, according to him at that time.

But even as a war movie it lacks the quality of say: Karthoum, Zulu, The Alamo, The lost battalion, Saving Private Ryan or the defense of Arnhem bridge by Frost in A bridge too far.
It is just a boring sequence of heroics that get to be unbelievable.

The siege of Jadotville rightly salutes the  company of Irish soldiers who ended up in a bad situation at a bad time, but it dishonors them at the same time by making a complex situation easy by laying blame by the politicians for betraying them. I know this is a hugely popular thing, but you can’t just do away  history because you dislike politicians. It would have been a better movie if it had just not taken that path but had given the politicians their due.  Politicians are people and they sometimes have to make hard choices. It would be a great movie that takes that into account.

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Stefan Molyneux! Because paying taxes sucks!

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Philosophy is like lighting a room with cigarettes: not very practical and possibly unhealthy(and it makes you smell bad).  It is a bit of a forced statement, but it reflects how I feel after having seen some philosophical discussions. These discussions tend to become quoting contests in which the one who can quote the best or the most wins the contest. And I suck at remembering quotes, that is why I prefer to make them up myself.

I guess that philosophy might have it’s uses, but it can be used to reason the non-existent into existence and that is why it sucks as well. The apologist William Lane Craig gives a showcase example of reasoning a fictitious being into existence.  It his god of course, not yours(because only his god can be reasoned into existence). A philosopher isn’t required to give proof, he is just required to string words into sentences that sound okay. It is why religion likes to don the cloak of philosophy, because in philosophy, like in religion, anything can be said and nothing needs to make sense because nobody can agree on what sense is..

Another example is the ‘philosopher’ Stefan Molyneux. He is styled as an anarcho-capitalist or styles himself that way. Molyneux strikes me as a spokesman for the disgruntled members of the lower middle class and those teens who think Ayn Rand’s writings are pearls of wisdom. While the teens might eventually grow out of their fantasies, the disgruntled ones are condemned  to perpetual wailing because they have to pay taxes each and every year and everyone knows: paying taxes sucks..

In anarcho-capitalism the state is evil because it amasses wealth and power and gives that to a selected group of people who use it for their own selfish goals. These people are called politicians and they are as dangerous as the Illuminati are and probably in league with them! Therefore the state should be abolished. Those who hold to Ayn Rand’s writings will readily agree because Rand sees the state as parasite limiting progress.. And of course a lot of tax payers agree as well, because they don’t want to pay taxes and without a state you don’t need to pay no taxes. Cause you know: paying taxes sucks!

Of course, someone must have asked at one moment: “but who is going to take care of all the stuff that the state does?”
“Like what?” (insert condescending tone).
“Like education, research, exploration of the universe(nasa), firefighting, policing, health care, the furtherance of the common good, protecting the weak, feeding the poor, disaster relief, providing justice, maintaining the infrastructure, settling disputes, sponsoring art, protecting the environment, protecting historical sites, making sure that the coin in your hand is worth something tomorrow and..”
“Capitalism!”
And there is the solution. The free market will arrange everything through the never failing system of supply and demand all perfectly organized and overseen by companies who are, of course, pinnacles of talent promotion and efficiency. And so the people don’t have to pay taxes anymore because the free market will take care of everything that you paid taxes for. So you don’t need to pay taxes anymore cause: paying taxes sucks!

But even the likes of a Molyneux realize that unbridled capitalism might not solve everything and so they start reasoning things into existence. First they come up with voluntary organisations that will regulate the market based on voluntary participation and arbitration.  Next they give limitless self healing properties to the free market in which the consumer, well informed through the internet, will punish those companies that  fail to meet standards by no longer buying from them. Companies will deliver these services off course against cut-throat prices thanks to the power of the internet and all will be well, so we don’t need to pay taxes. Cause you know: paying taxes sucks!

Happiness becomes a commodity and profits and margins become the main principles for making decisions. And if you  fall by the wayside because you happen to be too poor to pay for education, too ill to work for your money, too crazy  to make sense or just someone who can’t keep up with the rat race: though luck, live is a bitch. I don’t  care as long as I don’t have to pay taxes! Cause paying taxes sucks!

“But uh…, what happens if  that someone then is going to get a gun and rob you or goes on a killing spree? To get the things through violence?  Who is going to prevent him or her from doing so?”
And now Molyneux turns into an advocate of the  extreme interpretation of 2nd amendment: everyone gets to have a gun. And he sees firms and organisations of armed people protecting each other, protecting of course, not robbing or blackmailing or racketeering.  Not like those gangs do, but benevolent voluntary organisations of the kind that you have never seen in the course of history.  Thus society becomes an armed society in which anyone can be shot by anyone, especially when they suck or nobody is watching or they are outgunned a hundred to one. Is that the wild west? Yes.. But who cares… as long as I don’t have to pay taxes. Cause paying taxes sucks!

“But what happens when a foreign country makes use of the now largely disorganized organisation of this country?”
“Army!”
“What?”
“We have an army of volunteers to protect us against foreign aggression.”
“Just like they had at the start of the American Revolution?”
“Yes!”
“Like that army made up of local militias that was unable to defeat the English until it was reformed into the continental army?”
“Yes!”
“So why would that work now?”
“Because of the internet.”
“Say what?”
“Because the internet makes everything different.”
“I see.”
Of course anarcho-capitalists will play the internet card again and again.
“Who will prevent those abuses that unbridled capitalism caused in the 19th century such as working days of 14 hours or more?”
“The internet!”
“What about the abuses that now occur in some countries where some people and even children are treated as no better than slaves?”
“The internet!”
“What if a company pollutes a place and pays off people or just moves elsewhere rather than cleaning up or changing their production methods?”
“The internet!”
“What if companies form a monopoly?”
“The internet!”
Monopolies are a cause for reasoning things into existence. Both Molyneux and Ayn Rand follow two tracks:  they attack government and babble. Rand goes on a tangent arguing that it is governments that cause monopolies and she finds ample proof in history.  Of course she does. History is full of bad behaving governments(and companies). When however she has to argue how this not will happen  with a truly free market economy she has only on thing to offer: trust me on my word.  And so does Molyneux. You see, as much as Rand and Molyneux give examples of how monopolies were caused by states or the law,  they can not give you any proof that a free market prevents them, because there has never been a free market economy such as they want: one without state interference, and therefore they have no proof to offer. And if they can argue a perfect system into existence based on zero proof then any system, including those that did exist and failed(communism, absolutism and fascism) can be declared to be perfect by downplaying the parts that are not.  So just take their word for it because when you do you no longer need to pay taxes. Cause you know….Yeah, you know the drill.

It is funny that the internet actually started out as a government project. Would a company have been able to do it? Let’s have that answered by Neil deGrasse Tyson when he is talking about space exploration.  He is asked in his reading about his book on the video: The History and Future of NASA and Space Travel: Neil deGrasse Tyson – Space Chronicles (2012) whether private enterprise could have done it and he answers that private enterprise requires investors who want to see a return of investment that can be quantified. And the frontier of (space) exploration poses unquantifiable dangers to investment and therefore will scare away investors.  Exploration has always been something  that governments have done and  companies come in after to reap the benefits.  Nothing wrong with that, but that is the way it has worked and not the other way around. Be sure that anarcho-capitalism will not be a way to the stars: there is no profit in it. But who cares about the stars anyway.. as long as you don’t have to pay taxes.
Would the internet have come about without the state? It might have, but it also very likely it wouldn’t.

There is no perfect system because every system can be abused, twisted and corrupted because every system is a system made by fallible humans, but people want to find this self-healing perfect system(so they don’t have to pay taxes) and the likes of Molyneux  cater to that desire by dreaming up perfect systems out of thin air. It is perfect, because it hasn’t existed and thus has not been tarnished by reality. And it will never exist. It is a philosopher’s stone.  That is the power of philosophy. It creates things that do not exist: gods or stateless non coercive societies based on market capitalism.  And history be damned! For history sucks. Just like paying taxes does.

Did I tell you I was an historian?


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“Gott mit uns”(God with us)

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http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Grand-Guignol-Gott_mit_uns-1928.jpg

I can’t help it to  write this post. I resisted several times and I even have a complete rant hidden as post someplace that addresses this issue, but I decided against posting it.

But now it happened again!

“What is the issue?,” you might ask.

It is the use of the “Gott mit uns” argument.

The “Gott mit uns” argument usually pops up in discussions between atheists and theists. It is an extension of Godwin’s law: the longer a discussion on the internet last, the higher the chance that Hitler or Nazis will be mentioned.  And Hitler is a hot button.

The argument comes down to this: and the Germans(or the German army) under Hitler used “Gott mit uns” on their belt buckles(which means that he supported Christianity or was a Christian, but certainly not an atheist) In an slightly less charged discussion it might also mean: for any argument you have that he is an atheist(and therefore by association atheists are evil) we have an argument that he is a Christian(and therefore by association they are evil).

I have heard Matt Dillahunty use this example twice(once in his debate with Father Jacobse and once on the ACA podcast) and now I hear it repeated by Jacquelyn Glenn(1).

I think they usually have good arguments, but I would like people to stop using this argument because it speaks of a lack of knowledge of history of Germany, Hitler and the Second world war and therefore illustrates a lack of insight. And here is the reason why.

“Gott mit uns’ was a slogan displayed on the buckle of the privates and soldiers of the regular German army( and not on that of the SS for instance, who used: Meine  Ehre heisst treue: my honor is loyalty).  The slogan was used by the Germans under the Empire(1870-1918), during the Weimar Republic(1918-1934) and even by Prussia before the German unification.  In other words, it wasn’t implemented as part of a conscious decision by Hitler but part of a tradition of the German and Prussian army(2)
Now you might say, by not removing it, he supported it, but this speaks of a lack of knowledge of German history. For one when Hitler went on his program of rearmament in 1933 he needed the German army to make it happen. In addition Hitler came to power through a series of power deals, most specifically with the conservatives which were well linked with the German army, industry and with the churches. In addition, Hitler did not attain full dictatorial powers until after after the burning of the Reichstag, the death of von Hindenburg, the president of Germany and one of the leading exponents of the Germany army, and the elimination of the SA.  And those who are informed about the German army, know Hitler did not acquire full nominal control of the German army until the removal of von Blomberg in 1938(3).
We basically have no idea what Hitler’s vision was on the buckle. You could claim he supported Christianity because of it, but you could equally state that he was against it because the SS had a different slogan. Against the latter views speaks for that the SS slogan was not introduced by Hitler, but by Himmler and the SS had nothing to do with the army, even though the waffen-ss became a rival of the army during the war.

I hope that the above will convince people to be cautious when using the argument that the belt buckles of the German soldiers say anything about Hitler’s religious convictions. It is a small point, but it makes me cringe every time when I hear people refer to it as if it is a proof in one way or another.

(1)


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbtDQYAk09Y#t=387

(2)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gott_mit_uns
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meine_Ehre_hei%C3%9Ft_Treue
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schutzstaffel

(3)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werner_von_Blomberg,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler’s_rise_to_power
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_von_Hindenburg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturmabteilung
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_re-armament