Barr's unmarked militia in DC during protests

Let’s Learn from the Past

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

George Santayana

“The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing”

Edmund Burke

Editor’s Introduction: These two quotes are important preludes to Eshrink’s latest blog post. My father’s knowledge of history, his expertise and experience treating mental illness, and his skill to communicate via the written word means he truly understands the importance of DOING SOMETHING in the face of evil…even if it’s just taking the time to stand up and speak your mind. Additionally, his nine decades on this earth have provided him with the wisdom we need in times like these.

HISTORY

Adolph Hitler’s rise to power was facilitated by a paramilitary group of ex-soldiers from the first World War colloquially referred to as the Brown Shirts. They were so named because they wore surplus army shirts which were cheaply available. They initially were used as bouncers at Nazi meetings, and to disrupt the meetings of Hitler’s adversaries. They became increasingly violent, culminating in “Kristallnacht” the night in which Jewish homes, businesses, synagogues, and schools were ransacked and looted. Jews were forced to wear a star of David with the word Jude (Jew) emblazoned on it. 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and untold numbers murdered. This marked the beginning in earnest of the persecution which would come to be known as the holocaust. Initially, those arrested would be housed in so-called concentration camps, later the even more horrible “final solution” would be implemented by Hitler and his followers.

Hitler’s genius lay in his use of propaganda. He had been so successful in convincing the country that Jews were the source of all the country’s problems that there was no resistance from local law enforcement. As a matter of fact, it has been said that hundreds of civilians joined in with the Brown Shirts. Earlier in the year, 1938, Nazi troops had annexed Austria and the Nazis were off and running to create an “Arian Nation” which would rule the world. The leaders of the Brown shirts were not deemed to have been sufficiently loyal to the Fuhrer so they had been executed and the Brown shirts were superseded by the SS who would prove to be better organized and more efficient at persecuting and killing those deemed enemies of the state.

 

TODAY in AMERICA | 2020

As is my usual habit, this morning I tuned into Fox News for my usual dose of Trumpisms. They were featuring a news conference in the Oval Office with Trump, Barr, and a group of other law enforcement types. The topic was law and order, and the failure of democratic mayors to control the recent rise in crime in their cities. Of course, there is nothing new in this, for Trump’s most recent attempt to divert attention from his failures, especially with the pandemic, has been to go with the tried and true law and order spiel. I flipped channels to the other cable news networks, and was pleased to see that they had ignored this latest dog and pony show and were proceeding with their regular programming, for I have been critical for of them for showing him on the tube every time he chooses to open his mouth.

My joy was short-lived however. Trump introduced the unmasked group who surrounded him as a task force headed by his personal defender and hatchet man Bill Barr, who would be tasked with apprehending and prosecuting his favorite group of boogey men, MS13. He proudly announced the arrest of “key figures” in New York and Nevada. No doubt these are very bad guys and their arrest is good news. It is also timely since Trump is in desperate need for some good news with his approval ratings in a precipitous decline. In addition, since this gang originated in El Salvador, it fits nicely into his anti-immigration policies. But the thing that disturbed me was a statement he made about how he planned to rid those cities mentioned as crime ridden by whatever means necessary since local law enforcement was not doing the job. He even mentioned the use of national guard troops.

The mere idea that our President was considering the idea of federal enforcement of state and local laws made my hair stand up. Our system of justice is organized with the principle that only federal laws are to be enforced by the feds. There has been a proliferation through the years of many different agencies that have been granted such police power, and the Patriot Act has further blurred the distinction between federal and local crimes.*

Barr's unmarked militia in DC during protests
My immediate reaction was to hearken back to those images of Barr’s anonymous uniformed armed militia guarding the White House grounds. When questioned, they refused to answer any questions as to their identity, by whom they were employed who paid them or the nature of their mission. To the best of my knowledge we still do not know who these guys were, who ordered them there or why, although it is generally assumed that they were a motley crew recruited by the Attorney General from various federal agencies who had some kind of police power. At the time there were serious questions as to why they displayed no badges or other means of identification. Even more disturbing was the fact that they were so secretive.

THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN ON EARTH

The idea of a secretive group assuming police powers without specific authorization by a deliberative arm of government is antithetical to a democracy. As with most of the weird stuff occurring in our government these days this incident and the President’s promise in today’s TV show to send in his own forces to replace local police has produced scant reaction from the press or Congress. In previous blogs I have commented at length on the instability of this president. I have also predicted that as he becomes cornered his behavior will likely become even more erratic and perhaps dangerous.

 

There are rumors of an increase in the severity and frequency of his temper tantrums. The diatribes against his perceived enemies have become more intense and less rational as his poll numbers decline, and his incompetence is exposed.
His defenses of denial, divert, and blame are no longer effective and I am concerned as to what he might do next. The subtext of the most recent Trump tell all book which labels him “The Most Dangerous Man on Earth” is not hyperbole in my opinion, and I am not alone. Thousands of mental health professionals have agreed that our country is now presided over by a man with very serious mental health problems. His fragility increases the likelihood of further decompensation and of his becoming desperate and totally irrational. Unfortunately, some of the same situations which exposed his deficiencies are the same ones which divert attention to his potential to do impulsive, crazy stuff.

At the risk of sounding like an off-the-rails conspiracy theorist, I would remind you of our fearless leader’s admiration of the world’s dictators. His Attorney General shows signs of being like-minded, his current Secretary of Defense refers to American cities as “battle spaces” to be dominated, and Trump has surrounded himself with a group of yes-men and women who are likely to support whatever crazy idea he pursues. Thus, his avowed intention to usurp the power of state and local police coupled with the apparent trial balloon of Barr’s secret police scares the Hell out of me, and the lack of any note of this by the press or congress makes it worse.

“The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing”
Edmund Burke

Editor’s Note: I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Trump’s emboldened threats (and use) of military force against civilians started once the Generals advising the Trump were summarily dismissed or “resigned.” For those living outside the USA, it might seem ironic that the departure of military Generals from the President’s cabinet would be promote Trump’s emboldened threat to use military force on U.S. citizens, but General Mattis and General Kelly had military training and education that focuses on the core purpose of the military and the responsibility to protect and defend The Constitution of the United States of America NOT the President. Sadly, it seems most rabid Trump supporters haven’t even read the Constitution, let alone grasp the importance of that oath.

Article John Kelly criticizes Trump threat to used armed forces on protesters

Article Former Defense Secretary Mattis’ Statement on Trump’s Handling of Protests

*Editor’s Note: This isn’t the first time Trump has tested the waters in threatening to use federal troops against civilians. 

June 1, 2020: “If a city or state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them,” Trump said, referring to himself as “your president of law and order and an ally of all peaceful protesters.”

He said he was already dispatching “thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers” to Washington to stop the violence that has been a feature of the protests here.

Watch the video of his announcement at this link.

 

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