"Men are being brought to this black business hoodwinked. They are to be drawn in by degrees, until they cannot retreat ... we are breaking through all those sacred maxims of our forefathers, and giving alarm to every wise man ... that all his rights depend on the will of men whose corruptions are so notorious, who regard him as an enemy, and who have no interest in his prosperity."
Couldn't have said it better myself. I've been thinking of this quotation since I learned Friday that in the "Court of First Instance" (Tribunal de Grande Instance) Donald Rumsfeld was charged with war crimes. Why Friday? Because Rumsfeld was in France and French law requires that the accused be in the country when charged. Hey, what's Rumsfeld doing in France? I thought he didn't like "Old Europe."
This isn't the first time either. He's also been charged in five other countries including Germany. Since World War II, Germany's had a zero tolerance policy on war crimes - so they get a jump on things, they don't require that the accused be present. But the French charges could get real interesting. Some of the former prisoners of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib now live in France and they can testify.
The little soliloquy above is from a guy worried about his country irrationally going to war. Basically, he thought that the war wasn't about justice; it was about plundering natural resources for personal gain. To compound his reservations, he feared that his countrymen had underestimated the will of the locals to defend themselves and that spelled disaster. He believed that his country stood on much nobler ideals and would lose its reputation, its integrity and eventually its place on the world stage.
The quotation comes from 1775. A guy named George Johnstone said it. The one-time British governor of West Florida thought that King George III underestimated the difficulty of forcing people so far away to comply with his demands.
But the majority in Parliament believed that their superior firepower would quickly stun the rabble into compliance. A little "shock and awe" would do the trick - a couple of pre-emptive blasts from the royal canons and everyone would fall into line.
Gee, if Rumsfeld had read a few history books over those years between serving in the corrupt Nixon administration and 2001, he might have avoided the German charges of waging an illegal, pre-emptive war - not to mention learning the folly of burning people's homes. After widely publicizing their plans to attack what would become Portland, Maine the British bombarded the city, completely destroying it.
Boy did George Washington use that to rally the troops. I mean that guy just wouldn't let it go. He got soldiers to fight by reminding them of their ruthless enemy.
You know Rumsfeld's ignorance might be understandable if this was Nairobi's history, but it's ours. Sigh.
The charges levied in France have little to do with the war per se. No, they accused Rumsfeld of authorizing and harboring knowledge of torture. Now there's no excuse for that, I mean Rumsfeld's been to Wall Street!
Just down from the stock exchange, on the other side of the street, is a commemorative plaque that points out where the British tortured our soldiers in a POW camp during the revolutionary war. I guess I don't have to tell you what old Gen. Washington did with that little bit of information.
"They are brought in by degrees until they can not retreat." Just like Johnstone: a lot of our elected officials think that we got sucked in and can't withdraw. But if folks can't look backward and learn, they eventually learn from their own mistakes. And sooner or later we'll learn that in the face of senseless destruction, plundered natural resources, careless disregard for the rule of law and torture of their countrymen, rebellion is so well fueled that invading forces retreat.
The Royal Mayor of London, John Wilkes, foretold in 1775 "we shall be considered as their implacable enemies and the grandeur of the British Empire will pass away."
Unless the trial in France succeeds and "men whose corruptions are so notorious" are brought to justice we will never be grand again.