August 2, A Date That Should Live In Infamy, But Doesn’t

I usually check the historical significance of dates. This time, I discovered that August 2 is one of the most ethically disastrous in history.

  •  In 1934, Chancellor Adolf Hitler became the absolute dictator of Germany with the death of German President Paul von Hindenburg. I think we can all agree that this wins the prize as the worst event on this date. The German army quickly took an oath of allegiance to its new commander-in-chief, and Germany’s democratic government was erased, with  Hitler’s Third Reich taking its place.

The result was genocide, world war, and the deaths of millions.

  • On August 2, 1990, Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait. This, in turn, led to the Persian Gulf War, which resulted in at least 25,000 Iraqi soldiers killed and more than 75,000  wounded in one of the most one-sided military conflicts in history. Only 148 American soldiers were killed and 457 wounded. The war also ended the lives of an estimated 100,000 Iraqi civilians who died from wounds, lack of adequate water, food, or medical supplies. As Saddam Hussein exploited corruption in the U.N. and played games with the terms of the cease fire,   about a million more Iraqi civilians died as a result of the U.N. sanctions.

The Persian Gulf War led directly to 9-11, the Afghanistan War, and the invasion of Iraq, and indirectly to too many horrible results to count.

  • Speaking of too many horrible results to count, the Potsdam Conference concluded this day in 1945. That meeting ensured the launch of the Cold War, notably by dividing Germany and Berlin, and  condemned millions of citizens in Germany, Poland, Austria, Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria to Soviet domination.

Of course, the earlier Yalta Conference started the latter process, and the new trio of Truman (taking over for FDR), Stalin and Churchill completed it. That the Cold War didn’t kill us all is only moral luck.

  • President Warren G. Harding died of a stroke at the age of 58 on this date in 1923. The death in office of any President is a national trauma and a tragedy, but Harding’s death was the one Presidential demise in office that unequivocally removed an inferior Chief Executive and blessed the country with a far more competent one. When he died, Harding was popular; the extent of his scandal-riddled administration was not yet known. (His habit of having adulterous sex with every young woman who came within reach in the White House was also yet to be revealed, and remained a secret for many years.) There is emerging evidence that Harding was growing into the job, and was a more skilled and forward looking leader than his reputation, which usually has him at or near the bottom of Presidential rankings, suggests.

That, however, is squarely in the wistful fantasy land of What Might Have Been.

  • On August 2 in 1876, “Wild Bill” Hickok was assassinated in Deadwood, South Dakota during a poker game. One of the few genuine gunfighters in the Old West, the aging Hickock had seen better days.  His eyesight was failing, and he knew that many would love to gain momentary fame by killing him.  As a result, Hickok always played poker sitting with his back to the wall. But on August 2, the game he wanted to play in had no such seats open, so Bill sat with his back to the saloon door. An aspiring  gunslinger named Jack McCall walked in that door, recognized Hickock’s flowing locks, and seized his opportunity. He approached Hickok from behind, and shot him in the back of the head. Hickok died immediately, leaving on the table his probably winning hand: a pair of aces and a pair of eights, all black. Even today, it is known as “the dead man’s hand.”

In John Ford’s movies where a  Western character is killed after playing poker, he always is shown getting dealt aces and eights.

11 thoughts on “August 2, A Date That Should Live In Infamy, But Doesn’t

  1. Looking back, I think the Yalta Conference did far more damage to the USA and Britain than the Potsdam Conference. Roosevelt sick and naive pretty much gave Stalin a free hand in Eastern Europe especially as it effected Poland and Czechoslovakia. Truman couldn’t really do much about this fate accomplice and since the Soviets had already moved into Berlin, the best he could do was settle forAmerican, British, French, and Soviet zones to run the city and keep Berliners from starving.

    • Pragmatically I don’t think there was anything anyone could have done to stop the Soviets from taking over Eastern Europe. Churchill did everything he could to try to hold Stalin to his word on allowing a democratic government in Poland, or at least including the Polish government in exile, but the Soviets pretty much ignored them and (I believe) shot the exile leaders who came back to Poland.

      Remember that Poland was the casus belli for Great Britain to declare war against Nazi Germany — they were not actually attacked (much as the invasion of Belgium tipped the scales a generation earlier). I believe they felt very strongly about Poland, but it was in vain. Most likely the only way to prevent the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe was to drive them out by force. I cannot think of any Western Ally who would have seriously considered such a course (even assuming we would have been successful).

      I also think that nothing would have saved Germany from being partitioned. The Allies were absolutely determined not to have a repeat of what happened after WWI and, there at least, they succeeded.

  2. Barely ethics related, but, four years ago, my wife and I were in Deadwood, in Saloon No. 10, and I was among the few tourists chosen to be in the reenactment of the killing of Wild Bill. As luck would have it, I (partially costumed) was the dealer at that poker table. I also was the one who hollered out, to no avail, “Don’t do it, Jack!” That was ethical, right?

  3. You relate the conventional lines of historical understanding. In that sense *the official version*. At this point, I assume, everyone knows that I tend to have issues with official stories. They reflect truth, no doubt, but they are not the full truth. The full or the filler truth always complicates narratives. Because things are less black and white. People require black & white stories and through them, or with them, they *organize their perception of the world*. But this does not — unfortunately (but then sometimes also fortunately!) — provide them with a full enough picture of the truth and of reality.

    I find this problem to be both interesting and agonizing.

    You often notice that ‘the media’ have failed in their mission and responsibility. I wish only to mention that the Dissident Right, to use a generality, has very different interpretations of much of the structure of narrative on which the understanding of our present is understood.

    The result? Well, for one example I will mention *the war on whiteness*. There is a causal line back to both the European wars. The war on whiteness is a war, essentially, against the Nazi. But Nazi as a symbol of ontological evil. The Dissident Right wishes to understand how this has come about and who are the responsible parties.

    Today I was reading up on David Irving’s book on the Nuremberg Trials (Nuremberg: The Last Battle). There is an interesting article on Counter-Currents with the title “The Last Battle
    Part I: Might Makes Right”.

    Power-dynamics determine historical interpretations.

    This all does fit in to addressing that problematic question of “Why what is happening is happening”. It is interesting that answering that question — truthfully — involves getting out of a mystified state of mind. And we are all in a mystified state. And the *powers that be* tend to want that.

  4. I think we need to note that the ceremonial Declaration of Independence on display in the Smithsonian was signed on this date in 1776. Far from what many may say in ignorance today, this document directly contributed to the spread of freedom and democracy throughout the world. While at best a minor step in the promulgation of this venerable document, August 2 is not a date that is solely made in infamy.

  5. Here’s a buried lede from the NY Times today, in a story about how we need to worry that Donald Trump might not vacate the White House when he loses the election in November: Democrats war-gaming secession and a military coup in the event that Trump wins.

    [A] group of former top government officials called the Transition Integrity Project actually gamed four possible scenarios, including one that doesn’t look that different from 2016: a big popular win for Mr. Biden, and a narrow electoral defeat, presumably reached after weeks of counting the votes in Pennsylvania. For their war game, they cast John Podesta, who was Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, in the role of Mr. Biden. They expected him, when the votes came in, to concede, just as Mrs. Clinton had.

    But Mr. Podesta, playing Mr. Biden, shocked the organizers by saying he felt his party wouldn’t let him concede. Alleging voter suppression, he persuaded the governors of Wisconsin and Michigan to send pro-Biden electors to the Electoral College.

    In that scenario, California, Oregon, and Washington then threatened to secede from the United States if Mr. Trump took office as planned. The House named Mr. Biden president; the Senate and White House stuck with Mr. Trump. At that point in the scenario, the nation stopped looking to the media for cues, and waited to see what the military would do.

    • There is one teensy weensy problem with this scenario. It is assuming, as I read it, that the House of Representatives is electing the President and the Senate electing the Vice President, as provided by the constitution when no one gets an absolute majority of the Electoral votes. That’s the only way the House can actually select a president.

      Well, when that happens each state gets one vote. The current Congress, even though Democrats hold the majority in the House of Representatives, has 26 states with Republican majorities and 22 with Democratic majorities. 2 states are equally divided. That could change with the November election, of course (although it might be harder than one thinks), but currently if the election were thrown to the House, it would elect Trump. All those silly flyover states…that could well have been what happened to Jackson way back when.

      One other point: Governors do not have the power to simply submit a slate of electors, nor can they simply ignore the popular vote totals of their state. There would certainly be lawsuits, injunctions, appeals, etc. It might well result in that state simply losing their electoral votes altogether. And, of course, in that case, in the scenario as described, no candidate would have an absolute majority as required by the constitution — go to the previous paragraph.

      Or, on the other hand, the Democrats could just accept the election results. Hmmm, what a concept!

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