July 14th 1789, 230 years ago, French revolutionaries stormed King Louis XVI's notorious Paris prison and freed his majesty's less favored guests from its fetid depths. The fall of the prison marked the beginning of the end for the King, whom the revolution would execute within four years.
Louis XVI is the French King whose assistance to the American Revolution was key to its successful overthrow of British rule over 13 colonies in America. Louis XVI had no interest in American ideals but he saw an opportunity to weaken his British rival and perhaps capture a few British colonies elsewhere in the world. His chief representative to the Revolutionary Army was the Marquis de Lafayette, whose name is scattered across the US in memory of the relationship established with George Washington. Lafayette was so inspired by George Washington and America's Revolutionary ideals that he returned to France in 1787 with a Brand New Plan. To be concise Louis XVI would have none of it and eventually Lafayette was a notable member and leader of the moderate faction of France's chaotic revolution. He celebrated the fall of the Bastille by sending one of its keys to his mentor, George Washington, citing the first US President as "The Father of Liberty". By 1792 more radical elements of the revolution ordered Lafayette's arrest and he spent the next 5 years in exile and prison. He returned to France and eventually became involved in France's July Revolution of 1830. At that time he was offered the Dictatorship of France. Like his mentor, George Washington, he declined the opportunity to seize absolute power.
The Key to the Bastille is still on display at Mount Vernon, George Washington's beloved home in Virginia. The Tour Guides like to point it out and mention how Lafayette sent it to Washington as a gift to "The Father of Liberty". The Key also serves another purpose, one the guides don't mention. It is a stark reminder to those considering getting involved in other's wars. The troops Louis sent to interfere in the British Empire's internal conflict learned a few things that eventually came home to cost the King his head.
The enemy of your enemy is not always your friend.
July 1st, 2019 is the 152nd anniversary of the Confederation of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia into the Dominion of Canada. Canada's shaking off of British rule was not as violent as the act of revolution that created the United States of America, but it was much more dramatic than most people now think.
Conceived in the aftermath of the rebellions of 1837, the first union within British North America was the 1841 creation of the Province of Canada from Upper Canada (now known as Ontario ) and Lower Canada (now known as Quebec) (It was called Lower Canada due its position at the lower end of the northeastward flowing Saint Lawrence River).
By 1864 the culmination of several factors led to the first formal conference on the union of Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Those factors included Britain's diminishing appetite for defending British North America; the cancelation of the first North American free trade agreement (The Reciprocity Treaty) by the US in retaliation for British support for the Confederate States of America; mounting debts and political instability in the Province of Canada.
By 1867 the momentum for Confederation was almost unstoppable. Every province housed opponents but they were unsuccessful except in Prince Edward Island. It took an act of the British Parliament to create Canada, and more than 100 years for Canada to become truly independent of Britain, but on July 1st 1867 the improbable union of Francophones, Anglophones, Tories (Conservatives), Whigs (Liberals), Federalists and Confederates was celebrated from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. In what became a running theme of Confederation, the act of union was also an act of separation as the Province of Canada was split into Ontario and Quebec.
The second act of Canadian Separatism occurred when the Nova Scotian Opponents to Confederation won 36 of 38 seats in the first Provincial election of Sept 1867. Britain would not allow Nova Scotia to secede and another Canadian tradition was established when the Nova Scotia Premier agreed to drop his attempts at repeal in exchange for more money from the new Federal Government.
152 years later, Canada has survived two world wars, multiple economic setbacks and separatist sentiments from all corners. It is a peaceful, prosperous nation and its citizens are amongst the luckiest in the world just by virtue of living there.
Happy Canada Day!
Today is the 78th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. A massive sneak attack contrary to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-aggression pact of 1939, the invasion was delayed due to Nazi operations in the Balkans that were needed to assist Mussolini's failing invasion of Greece. The 38 day delay from the original plan of May 15th meant that Hitler's effort to invade Russia commenced exactly 129 years and 1 day after the start of Napoleon's disastrous invasion of Russia. The 38 day delay proved critical when the onset of the fall rains and then winter stopped the Wehrmacht in its tracks just 25 kilometers from Moscow.
Napoleon occupied Moscow and still failed to defeat Russia. Nazi occupation of Moscow would have been a serious setback for the Soviet Union. Moscow was the central hub of the Soviet railway network. Without it the Red Army would have been unable to move reinforcements to where they were needed. Nazi occupation of the rail hubs at Moscow would have also stopped the Soviet effort to move factories and workers further east out of reach of the Nazis.
It is possible that the Soviet Union could have survived the loss of Moscow and come back to win but we should all be thankful that theory was never tested. Over the next 3.5 years the Soviet Union defeated the Wehrmacht in the field and destroyed the Luftwaffe in the air. Had Hitler not ordered the invasion of the Soviet Union, D-Day may never have happened and would have been a much bloodier fight against a larger and more powerful force.
The turning point of World War II in Europe is the Battle of Stalingrad, fought over the winter of 1942-43. Hitler's mistake, repeating Napoleon's after 129 years and delayed by 38 days cost him victory in World War II.
Today is the 75th anniversary of the Western Allies’ invasion of the Nazi built and defended Fortress Europe during World War II.
Anyone who has watched the opening sequence of “Saving Private Ryan” will remember the instantaneous slaughter of US troops once the ramp dropped on their landing craft. The survivors scrambling over the side to escape the fusillade of bullets entering the boat. What was not well depicted in that scene was the lead-up to that moment.
Many years ago, long before Spielberg’s movie, I read that D-Day soldiers in the landing craft could hear the Nazi machine gun bullets hitting the bow ramp as the gunners periodically checked the range on the approaching landing craft. Those gunners, firing “Hitler’s Buzzsaw” at 1,200 rounds per minute, knew that their richest kill box was that landing craft as soon as the ramp dropped. The soldiers behind the ramps knew that as soon as the ramp went down those bullets had their names on them. Think about that for a moment. You are standing there for ten minutes or so in a small, densely occupied boat with nowhere to go except into a swarm of full metal jacketed 7.92mm lead that will tear you to pieces once that ramp no longer serves as your shield. You don’t know when it will drop, just that it soon will. You are seasick, cold and wet and you have never been in a battle before. You may well never really be in one. Some landing craft lost everyone aboard. Overall the first wave lost one of every two soldiers, many before they ever stepped on the beach.
Other soldiers parachuted out of aircraft into the night illuminated by the tracers of anti-aircraft fire, muzzle flashes, explosions and the flames of burning aircraft. They couldn’t see the ground let alone their landing zones. They knew the deadly obstacles below them - flooded fields, tall trees, buildings and the enemy – but couldn’t see those either. Yet jump they did and then dangled alone, defenseless, unprotected and impotent for minutes that must have felt like hours as their parachute lowered them to the unseen ground. Imagine doing that.
The bravery of these American, British and Canadian men is what we honor today and every day. They were just like us with the exception that they chose to respond to a much more serious challenge than we will ever face. Thank them, remember them and be the best you can be in order to fully respect what they bought for us with their lives, wounds and suffering.
Today is the 30th anniversary of the massacre at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. For those unfamiliar with it, on June 4th 1989 the ruling Chinese Communist Party chose to launch an armed assault on a peaceful protest by Chinese citizens who wanted nothing more than freedom and reforms of the economic and political systems then (and still) operating in the People’s Republic of China. The peaceful protest had gone on for several days and included students, workers and even some Communist Party members. Estimates of the dead and wounded range as high as 2000 due to the gunfire and roaming vehicles that literally crushed the protesters as they scattered in hopes of surviving the assault.
Memories of this crime exist today only because of foreign press coverage of it and the testimony of the few survivors who were deported from China after serving prison sentences for their part in the protest.
The Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China has persistently tried to erase from History any record of the blood on their hands, knowing full well that if they can deny and obfuscate long enough eventually no-one will remember their atrocity and they will never be held accountable for it.
I write this for two reasons. The first is to do my part to ensure that the Communists fail in their mission to obliterate their crime from history. The second is to do my part to contribute to the world’s severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, aggressive ignorance obstructing our progress. My part is to remind readers of the role a free press plays in the preservation of the truth and our liberty. China’s state controlled press tells its readers nothing about a massive crime committed against them at the hand of their own government. Free presses around the world, be they right wing, left wing or neutral are capable of telling anyone whatever they see fit to publish, leaving us to decide what is true based on facts and opinions that we can compare. There is no question which system is better for the progress of the human race.
The pressures that led to the mass protest in Tiananmen Square have not gone away. China’s ever expanding middle class and those lucky enough to become billionaires will eventually remember their thirst for more political power and economic freedom. Those who have been left behind in the quest for riches will eventually resent the deck being stacked against them by the Communist Party and its fellow travelers. Because of the murders at Tiananmen Square, China is today a pressure cooker of suppressed freedom simply waiting for the first crack to appear. It may take decades, but China will explode. The longer it takes the worse it will be for China and the world.
So far Zapread is mostly about Bitcoin and other high tech future oriented stuff. Cool. Most of us, if we think about history at all, recall boring lessons about dead people who had done stuff that occurred long ago. No bearing on us whatsoever right? Wrong. History is how we got where we are now. History is our story - all of us, the collective memory of humanity with all of its successes, failures, bad choices, cruelty, beauty, truth and falsehood. History is how we know who we are and why we are. Even the most deliberately ignorant of us possess some idea of our history and regularly conduct themselves in accordance with the world view swirling in their heads.
People regard history as fixed and known. They are wrong. While the facts of the past cannot change, new facts can emerge, our understanding of the known facts are incomplete at best. Wars happened, governments changed, empires rose and fell, inventions changed our world. But why did any of that happen? That question is the essence of History. The reason we continue to study events long past us.
I also set up a group devoted to politics. That is not a coincidence. Politics drives the future and creates history. Politics also influences how we see the past. and often prompts further study of it. Politics and history are two subjects as connected as time itself in which the future becomes the present then recedes into the past.
History is about the debate, not the conclusions. I hope that many of you will join me in the discussion so we can learn from each other.