Let’s Get the Conspiracy Theorists on This One, Stat!


It’s safe to say that anyone with a shred of sense is horrified by Trump’s idea of having a military parade “bigger then the French one.”

Never mind that one particular French crowd-participation event seems apt: [assassin’s creed, unity]

Doesn’t the idea of pulling a huge amount of military force into Washington, DC, seem like a set-up for a military coup? I’m sure that if Obama the stealth muslim Kenyan “manchurian candidate” was trying to have a parade in Washington, there would be gun-toting fringers all over the place, ready to defend their precious bodily fluidsliberties.

I actually do worry, slightly, that such an event could be a prelude to a putsch. I am much more concerned about a military/intelligence take-over than any other kind of threat. In part, that’s because it’s pretty clear to me that politicians from both parties are perfectly happy to make any compromise necessary in order to enhance their proximity to real power.

Hitler and Röhm’s original plan for what became “The beer hall putsch” was to strike when the military was planning a big parade in Munich on November 4th, 1923. Hitler’s plan was incompetent: a small force of stormtroopers were to seal off the military units, trapping them in the streets in a cross-fire with machine-guns. Whereupon, they were going to somehow be enticed to surrender en masse instead of breaking out through the buildings and starting a general melee between the 200 or so stormtroopers and several thousand regular army troops. The face of European history would have been changed – nobody would have ever heard of Hitler – if that had happened. But, the point remains: it’s a bad idea to have potential radical strong-men parading around capital cities with armed, formed, units of troops.

Following the “beer hall putsch” Hitler realized that a military coup was not the path to power – subverting the political system was. For all that many call Trump a “fascist” that’s what worries me most about him: he has an uncanny sense for subverting the system from within; possibly the only thing that is preventing him from a major power-grab is that he’s not as competent as Hitler was. And, in case you don’t know, I think Hitler was remarkably incompetent.

A competent coup was Napoleon Bonaparte’s coup on the 18 Brumaire – Bonaparte convinced the Revolutionary Council that a Jacobin revolt was coming the next morning, so the Council “strategically re-positioned” themselves to a place of safety, leaving young Napoleon in charge of all of the regular troops in Paris. The next day, he attempted to exercise authority and form a government, but was stoutly resisted by Jacobins (the original “leftists”) however, god was on the side of whoever had units of grenadiers and artillery, which happened to be Bonaparte. I hate to sound like a paranoid, but I can see events playing out similarly in Washington, right down to Congress’ taking to their heels and running for safety at the threat of an imaginary left-leaning force. At least they understand that, to proper Jacobins, both the Democrats and the Republicans belong up against the wall in a final bipartisan stand.

One army chases out another: the Bonus Army’s camp, bulldozed and razed, Anacostia flats, DC

Dwight Eisenhower was no stranger to running military troops through Washington. As a young soldier he was part of the force (along with Douglas MacArthur and George S. Patton) who went in to Washington and crushed the “Bonus Army” – depression-era veterans who had no jobs and noplace to go, who had camped out in Anacostia flats near where the Watergate Hotel is now.

Eisenhower’s inauguration included a military parade that’s right out of every petty dictator’s playbook. Remember that Eisenhower was – for all of his sanctimonious words – a militarist and imperialist who greatly expanded the military/industrial complex that he warned everyone about, as he walked off the stage.

Eisenhower’s inauguration

By the way, the tanks at Eisenhower’s inauguration were M-60 “Patton” tanks; the same type we occasionally glimpse the Egyptian military driving, and which the Turks are currently driving around in Afrin near Manbij. Those old death-traps are up against one generation-old antitank guided missiles; they may as well be made of cheddar cheese for all the protection they offer.

John Kennedy’s inauguration also had a military march. Kennedy was the “New Camelot” president who – with the advice of a host of counsellors – got the US more deeply stuck into the Vietnam War. Somehow, he remains a hero to many Americans, in spite of having nearly provoked WWIII by stationing medium-range ballistic missiles in Turkey and Italy, right in the Soviet Union’s back pocket, which encouraged the Soviets to respond in kind with missiles in Cuba. Kennedy managed to broker a deal with the Soviets that they would appear to back down unilaterally – doubtless Kennedy was already angling for re-election. An American president negotiating with the Russians to manipulate public perceptions before an election? It would never work.

Missiles on display at the Kennedy inauguration

 

After Gulf War I, the US had a sort of a WWII-style ticker-tape parade in New York, [la times] celebrating the US’ brave victory at returning the lines on the map back to their original position, and slaughtering Saddam Hussein’s army, which was generally about Vietnam War-vintage, and completely outgunned and outclassed. The parade was pretty much like if Mike Tyson beat up PeeWee Herman and held a Roman-style victory parade afterward.

There was some grumbling, even from a Desert Storm veteran, Army enlisted man Jeff Benton of Milwaukee. “I think the celebration and things going on are a little too extreme,” Benton said. “The parade is sort of a campaign boost for Bush and the Republicans.”

Well, yes.

I see no glory in any of this. But it’s nothing new for dictators to want to rattle their sabers a bit and make scary noises. After all, Caligula had a “triumph” in Rome in which gauls dressed as goths were paraded as prisoners, and sea-shells collected on a beach were offered as evidence of Caligula’s forces triumphing over even Neptune.

The conspiracy theorists generally don’t pay much attention to history (except through a very long-distance distorting fun-house lens) so they probably can be spun up about the threat of a military parade that’s a cover-operation for a coup. I wonder which side they’d be on?

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The Nike Zeus antiballistic missile pictured on display at the Kennedy inauguration is a bit of cheesy propaganda. For one thing, you’ll notice there’s no erector system on the carrier; the missile is just sitting there on display. Secondly, it’s almost certainly just an empty frame or even a mock-up. It had better have been – antiballistic missiles need to get off the ground on very short notice and generally that means they aren’t liquid-fuelled (at that time most liquid fuels depended on liquified oxygen) – you can’t sit around for an hour filling a rocket while rockets are coming in to destroy you in 30 minutes. Nobody, but nobody, would take a solid-fuelled rocket into downtown of some urban area; the thing is a gigantic roman candle.

Comments

  1. brucegee1962 says

    Well I, for one, am all in favor of Cheetoh Hitler having his little parade. I’ll even chip in for one of the great big jackets and a couple of medals for him to wear.

    I’m pretty confident that most of our military is just as horrified by him as we are. But the big thing is, as long as he’s playing with his toy soldiers, he’s much less likely to be using them to start a war somewhere. We’ve got to keep our eye on the big picture here.

  2. says

    brucegee1962@#1:
    I’m pretty confident that most of our military is just as horrified by him as we are.

    Now, yes. It sounds like during the election he got pretty good support. Fortunately, he has a talent for making enemies.

  3. komarov says

    The Nike Zeus antiballistic missile pictured on display at the Kennedy inauguration is a bit of cheesy propaganda. For one thing, you’ll notice there’s no erector system on the carrier; the missile is just sitting there on display. Secondly, it’s almost certainly just an empty frame or even a mock-up.

    What you have here is the groundwork for a classic James Bond movie plot. Supervillain waits for a military parade, manages to infiltrate the parade and has his henchmen drive off with a truck carrying a fully loaded, nuclear-tipped ICBM. Or, if you prefer Moonraker and a bit of carnage, they might take control of the truck during the parade and launch the missile, only to have it caught or otherwise ‘collected’ by another goonsquad before crashing. Either way the end result is the same: A whopping one million dollar ransom (which won’t even appear in the DoD accounts due to rounding).

    Although I suppose the proper cold war approach to someone blackmailing you with stolen nukes is to threaten to nuke them and everyone else alive right back if they try anything. It’s the logical conclusion of ‘never negotiating with terorrists’. No need to bother the MI6 with an investigation. Just keep the arsenal on standby and see who blinks first.
    “Either that missile turns up at our base by noon tomorrow or a lot of missiles will be turning up all over the place.”

  4. says

    komarov@#3:
    What you have here is the groundwork for a classic James Bond movie plot. Supervillain waits for a military parade, manages to infiltrate the parade and has his henchmen drive off with a truck carrying a fully loaded, nuclear-tipped ICBM.

    Muaaahaaaahaaaa!

    Maybe I shouldn’t have “outed” that the Nike was a prop: we could have rounded up a dozen of them and set them up in a field out in New Mexico and given Trump matches and some cord fuse and let him run around trying to light them off.

  5. nastes says

    […] given Trump matches and some cord fuse and let him run around trying to light them off.
    Trump running? That would be some sight…

    As he is more like being driven around in a golf cart, can we get him to make a race with the pope in his bullet proof “golf cart”? The US is still doing this NASCAR stuff, right?

    nastes

  6. Dunc says

    I am much more concerned about a military/intelligence take-over than any other kind of threat.

    Why would they bother? They can already do whatever the hell they want, plus they have a clown to keep the public occupied. What does getting rid of the clown get them?

  7. cartomancer says

    One of the subtleties surrounding the Roman Triumph parade was the delicate social and political balance that had to be struck between being seen to want the glory enough that you’re not dismissing that whole pillar of Roman militaristic culture outright, but not showing unseemly eagerness and enthusiasm for it either. Refusing a triumph was sometimes seen as more glorious than accepting one – the Romans valued displays of continence and self-control, if not exactly of humility as we would recognise it, and excessive fondness for display and self-aggrandisement were generally frowned upon. It was a difficult balance to strike.

    We actually have some letters of Cicero’s from the end of his governorship in Cilicia, just before the outbreak of the civil war, that give us an insight into the political manoeuvres that went on behind the scenes when a returning general wanted to secure a triumph for himself. Generally it involved buttering up as many of the six hundred odd senators as one could by reminding them of your past and potential future favours to them. In Cicero’s case it seems he treated the whole exercise as an amusing public farce, at least in part. He had his troops proclaim him imperator at the site of Alexander’s battle of Issus, and would often joke that his victory over the Free Peoples of Mount Pindenissus was just as historically significant. He knew the spirit of the triumph wasn’t exactly aimed at people like him, but he felt he could make political capital out of it anyway. It was probably only the outbreak of the civil war that prevented him actually celebrating one.

    Caligula’s seashells are possibly to be understood in the same vein – a bit of humour injected into proceedings by an Emperor aware that he was not in any way the military equal of either his father Germanicus or the great Roman generals of old. Ancient historians tend to take Caligula as the archetype of the mad tyrant, and it is very unsafe to go along with that uncritically. The year before the abortive invasion of Britannia Caligula held a mock-triumphal parade across the Gulf of Baiae, riding first his horse Incitatus then the general’s chariot over a pontoon bridge that was framed as a challenge to the sea itself. Suetonius says it was specifically aimed at making fun of a prophecy that said Caligula had as much chance of being Emperor as he did of riding a horse over the gulf of Baiae. Of course, to the historians keen to make him out as a mad tyrant this was another bit of overweening hubris and mad incontinence. But Baiae was renowned as the playground of the Roman rich and famous. It was the Monte Carlo, Las Vegas or Dubai of its day. It had a reputation as the place to go for transgressive fun and moneyed excess. Furthermore, Caligula’s mock-triumph ended with very real banqueting for his soldiers and gifts of cash as most real triumphs did. It seems much more likely that this was a bit of carnivalesque fun intended to endear him to his troops and show off his sense of humour – to prevent him seeming dour and overly serious and obsessed with protecting a military reputation he simply didn’t have. Putting a few nods back to the fun in Baiae of 39AD in his actual triumphal procession may well have been an attempt to extend the levity into that too.

  8. says

    cartomancer@#7:
    I always learn so much from these little lessons you post!

    Caligula’s seashells are possibly to be understood in the same vein – a bit of humour injected into proceedings by an Emperor aware that he was not in any way the military equal of either his father Germanicus or the great Roman generals of old.

    For example, I simply accepted the historical propaganda about (those particular) of Caligula’s deeds. Perhaps Caligula was actually a great guy, making Rome Great Again, who was just slandered in history by the “altum statum”?

  9. jazzlet says

    If I was in charge of the roads in Washington I’d be wanting a cast iron guarantee of money to repair any damage to the roads caused by the heavy equipment Trump wants to parade. Not hugely important you may think, but if it is just self-agrandisement then the legacy for drivers in Washington is likely to be damaged roads unless the roads have been designed to support the weights involved, which given what one hears about American infra-structure seems unikely.

  10. cartomancer says

    Marcus, #8

    Great guy might be pushing it. Given how weird his childhood was it is unlikely he could have passed as a model of sanity even by Imperial Rome’s low standards. Constant danger of being assassinated by your own family while you’re growing up tends to leave anyone a bit damaged. But opposition from the “deep state” was almost a given. Caligula was only the third Emperor Rome had seen, and Republican sentiment was still alive and well among the aristocracy for at least a century after him. Furthermore, he was the first Emperor to ascend to the throne at a young age (he was in his early 20s) and without a glorious military record to buttress his claim to supreme authority (as both Tiberius and Octavian before him had had). All things considered, Caligula’s political position was rather precarious. He thus sought to present a monarchical, splendid, dynastic model of Imperal power – borrowing from Hellenistic Greek and Egyptian models – to legitimise his rule. The re-casting of the military triumph in the mould of fantasy and whimsy fits well with this new take on power that he had to try thanks to the circumstances he found himself in.

    Which, of course, opened him up to criticism for introducing foreign ways, luxury and excess where he should have been a model of old-fashioned Roman frugality and seriousness. Some of the Roman anxieties about monarchical rule are reflected in the lurid stories. The prominence of his sisters and hints of incest reflect the degree to which traditional Roman patriarchy was challenged by the idea that the women of the Imperial family were close to power. No longer were one set of old wealthy men giving power over to another set of slightly younger wealthy men – now heredity, succession and the involvement of powerful women was a thing, and the Romans didn’t like it.

    There seems to have been an eagerness to distort and misunderstand. One suggestion is that stories of Caligula’s incestuous dinner parties were just misunderstandings by later historians of descriptions of the seating arrangements round the table for formal banquets (“altera sorore infra, altera supra” can mean “with one sister underneath, the other on top” or just “with one sister sitting one place down, the other one place up”). When the old Emperor has been assassinated (as Caligula was only four years in) and you need to justify your patron’s own claim to rule in his stead, anything goes. We simply don’t have enough evidence to know what an accurate, unbiased picture of Caligula’s reign from contemporary witnesses would look like – Suetonius and Dio wrote centuries later, and Josephus, while contemporary, was distant and heavily biased against the Imperial regime.

    I used to find myself instinctively suspicious when a historical figure was presented as a cartoon tyrant. Having seen that cartoon tyrants actually do exist these days, I’m a little more open to the idea. But Caligula is just too easy and obvious.

  11. jrkrideau says

    @ Marcus
    Just to add a bit to your paranoia, just because Trump wants the parade, that does not exclude someone or someones else carrying out the coup and adding Trump to the wallflowers.

    In fact was the parade really the Donald’s idea or did someone subtly insert the idea?
    There is a rather funny, supposedly Chinese twitter what ever

    The Relevant Organs @relevantorgans
    China’s soft power vanguard, rectifying your thought since 2010.

    and strangely enough there was a tweet:

    Hey, we love a good military parade! But, just thinking out loud here, if a Helmsman wanted a good pretext to bring a large military contingent into the capital for, you know, no particular reason….

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