Project 60 - "The First Fight Against Fascism" - Archives

Commentary and Columns


Hitler's Angle "The story of Prescott Bush and his association with the Nazis begins just before the end of World War I..."

The Past Through Tomorrow "It is quite frightening to realize just how similar our nation's actions have been and appear to be heading when compared this way..."

Even the Army Tells the Truth - Once in a While "Information, good, thoughtful and accurate information, is often hard to come by in this day and age. But every once in a while, a group will immerge which provides that need to the people...."

The Afghan War and the Geneva Convention -  "The Bush administration just doesn't get it. The latest "final decision" on the fate of the prisoners..."

Vietnam and Afghanistan "... The goals and objectives are different but the level of lies and deceits have not changed one bit ..."

The First Casualty "... in time of war, those in power are even more inclined to hide the truth, since that truth is often manifest in the most gruesome and terrible acts".  

Want to Win - Think Before You Lash Out - "If we are serious about taking the war to the enemy, it is time to look ..."

The First Fight Against Fascism - "We must remember the Spanish Civil War also."

Arguing Victory - "... Each nation who fought against fascist tyranny in WWII brought with it part of whole needed to defeat that evil..." 

War, Glory, Honor and Remembrance - "War is a brutal and savage insult on human society..."


Want to Win - Think Before You Lash Out

America is preparing to go to war again. As photos of victims from the September 11 massacre are plastered on our TV screens, few people can help but react with emotion and anger. But now, more than ever, is the time to think - coldly and unemotionally - and decide what must be done.

If we are serious about taking the war to the enemy, it is time to look to history for some indication of how this war should be fought. History is littered with the cases of how to conduct, and more importantly how not to conduct this type of fight.

Terrorism is simply the first stage in the evolution of guerilla war. Mao Tse Tung, arguably the most successful of modern practitioners of "irregular warfare", describes in his writings the stages of a successful guerrilla war.

Guerilla war has its genesis in discontent. A body of people see themselves as being repressed, disrespected, and trod upon. The natural reaction is to strike back. However, those who are seen to repress others are typically too powerful to take on directly.

This discontent spawns small groups of people who take action against their enemy. In essence this is what we call terrorism today. These fanatics (their friends call them freedom fighters) come together to create havoc and inflict pain on those who allegedly repress or insult their people. This leads to reprisals and the discontent from those reactions create the fertile fields where masses of recruits can be harvested.

The other stages are not important for this discussion but basically follow the evolution from terrorism to "hit and run" military type raids to, at it's conclusion, open warfare against the enemy.

But first, there is terrorism. Mao explains in "On Guerrilla War" that there are two basic requirements for the birth of a guerrilla (or terrorist) movement. He says,

" guerrilla warfare basically derives from the masses and is supported by them, it can neither exist nor flourish if it separates itself from their sympathies and co-operation."

And the second requirement is that,

"All guerrilla units must have political and military leadership."

So, if we truly desire to "win" a guerrilla war, at least before it moves out of the terrorist phase, we must address these two basic prerequisites for a successful enemy campaign. We must deny the terrorists popular support and deny them their leadership.

So how is this accomplished. We actually have a recent historical example that provides some insight. Not only does the example show how such a war can be won, but show also how that war can be utterly lost. That example is, of course, Vietnam.

"Hearts and Minds"

The first objective is to win over the population of the target nation. First and foremost, this means we must respect the people and treat them with the same respect we give to our own people. They are not the enemy. The vast majority are those who simply want to live their lives, raise their children and grow old with some sense of peace and security. It is therefore incumbent on us to insure and reassure, through our actions, that these honest, hardworking people can get on with their lives in peace and brotherhood.

In the very earliest stages of the Vietnam War, we sent small groups of elite soldiers into villages to assist the local authorities in setting up local defense, building schools and providing medical services. The goodwill generated by these efforts turned the population (Mao's masses) away from the guerillas, and nearly won the war before it started.

So what went wrong? In short, we did. We got impatient. Rather than this indirect action, we decided to place a barrier between the population and the guerrillas. We herded the population into base camps (slums really), erected barbed wire fences around them, and burned their homes. All of this in an attempt to keep them from the Viet Cong. It didn't work. The people resented being treated like animals and rebelled. Support for the VC became entrenched. We became the hated enemy and not without reason.


The second objective is to eliminate the enemies ability to fight. In conventional war this means destroying their armies, cutting off supplies and destroying their production facilities. In this type of war, the infrastructure needs of the guerrilla band are practically non-existent. As such, there is only one area of vulnerability - the actual leadership and bands themselves. The bands and leaders must be hunted and destroyed.

Once again, Vietnam offers answers to those willing to look. During the height of the war, the CIA and military cooperated in an operation called the "Phoenix Project". The basic effort was to assassinate the leadership of the VC at the local level, such that local officials could once again operate in some sense of normality. Initially, the "Project" was extremely successful, nearly reversing the ratios of "turned" and "friendly" local officials in a few short years.

Regrettably, the oversight on Phoenix was missing and they started assassinating targets they should not. Also, security on the operation deteriorated to the point where public became aware of these activities. In the end, the political leadership of our country and to a lesser extent, the people, found the practice to be so repugnant that the operation was terminated. These feelings are still with us today, most recently evidenced by the crucifixion of Senator Robert Kerry and the revulsion by many regarding his SEAL mission in Vietnam where he was accused of killing civilians. This was a Phoenix Project operation.

"Fighting to Win"

So what needs to be done?

The first step, and it may already be too late for us this time, is to make a declaration of this nation's intent in clear and specific terms. Before America became involved in WWII, Roosevelt help craft the Atlantic Charter, which among other things guaranteed the right of self determination and called for the end of "fear and want". This would be a good start. Add to that a declaration that all support for any terrorist organization or those with terrorist elements would end and you'd really have something for other nations to get behind.

However, we, the United States of America, would have to be good to our word. All of the taverns in Boston that have mayo jars for IRA donations sitting on their bars have to go. All private support for the PLO must go. Support for Israel must end. Our own homegrown terrorists must be hunted down and eliminated. Our house must be clean or we can not expect others to follow us. We must show that we have zero tolerance for hate. If we did this, others would follow.

Second, we need to establish strong economic ties with those who sign onto this "new Atlantic Charter". Economic stability is the first key to insuring a population that is content. This could start with dept forgiveness or expand to a "Marshal Plan" for the world. This single act of generosity will pay huge dividends in the long run.

Third, if we must take direct action in another person's nation, we must respect the people who live in the combat zone. Their personal safety and the safety of their families must be guaranteed. These people must know that their rights will be respected - especially their religious beliefs. Our soldiers must respect their customs, respect their women, respect them as humans. They must be assured that there is nothing to fear from our military. They must be assured that we operate with the consent of their legal government and we are not there to take over and prop up some puppet government we control. We must show that justice and truth are more than words. From this all else flows naturally.

Finally, we need to unleash our assassins. There is no nice way to say it. If terrorist organizers and bands can not be brought before the bar of justice, they must be killed. This can only be done with oversight by our political leadership, with guidance from the judiciary, but if we are serious about combating terrorists, it must be done. Bombs and cruise missiles are simply too crude a weapon for this type of warfare. This is dirty war, it is messy war, but, when a nation will not participate in the community of the world, it becomes a necessary war.


So when someone you know, or overhear starts talking about "nukin' those bastards", ask them if they want to win? The surest way to lose this war is to treat a body of people who are not the enemy as if they are the enemy. This simply fuels the hate that feeds the terrorist. The enemy must be eliminated and the best way to do that is to deny them followers and, ultimately, deny them life.

D.A. Friedrichs

Return to the top

Arguing Victory

People, and historians in particular, love to argue. They love to argue politics, and religion, and conspiracies, and, well, just about anything else. Wars, by their nature, bring out the absolute best and worst in  humans. This provides the most fertile of ground for controversy and argument.

World War II is certainly no exception. People love to argue about its causes, who won, who lost, which country was most important to victory and so on. Although these discussions can be enjoyable, most devolve into nationalistic fervor which tends to obscure the really important element of that war.

 That one important and universal element is that a very small number of fascist, in a handful of countries, were utterly and mercilessly destroyed by an alliance of most of the rest of the world. The important fact is that the world joined together to destroy an evil that knew no bounds. All other arguments pale when compared to that reality.

To argue whether the Australians at Tobruk were braver than the Marines at Guadalcanal, or whether the citizens of Leningrad suffered more than those of London is folly. All those who fought and died to stop tyranny were brave and suffered. But they did it together, in coalition against a common enemy.

So long as I am involved with this project, that factor will always be at the fore. Each nation who fought against fascist tyranny in WWII brought with it part of whole needed to defeat that evil. No one nation alone could have won this great victory. That is where the true victory lies - in our ability to come together to destroy an evil. Perhaps that is the lesson that we need to take to heart today.

D.A. Friedrichs

Return to the top

War, Glory, Honor and Remembrance

War is a brutal and savage insult on human society. For nations it is the destruction of the resources needed for the enrichment of its citizens. For families, it is the loss of loved ones and the horrors held by the survivors. For the individual, it is the loss of precious time and ultimately, life itself.

There is no honor or glory in war. The sacrifice of a generation of humans cannot be seen in anyway to be glorious. Platitudes like "just cause" and "noble purpose" are meaningless to the person whose body has been blown to bits. If there is honor, it is in survival. If there is glory it is returning to your families, friends and community.

What we, the people who did not have to experience war, must do, is remember those who gave so much for our freedom. We must redouble our efforts so that their sacrifice is not in vane, so tyranny will not threaten our world again, so no more young men and women of any nation, need be surrendered to the insanity of war again.

D. A. Friedrichs

Return to the top

The First Fight Against Fascism?

Recently, I received a note from a bartcop reader who pointed out that the tag line for this project "The First Fight Against Fascism" is wrong. Although it's hard, I have to admit that he was right and I was not.    

Fascist aggression started when the Japanese invaded Manchuria in 1931, the west did nothing. When the anti-Semitic, racist, Nazis seized Germany in 1933, we did nothing. When Fascist Italy, with dreams of empire, invaded Ethiopia in 1934, the free nations of the world stood by and watched.  Fascist aggression went unchecked by the forces of freedom.

In 1936, the legally elected government of Spain was overthrown by a military junta lead by the Fascist Franco. Once again, the peoples of the world saw their governments  do nothing to stop the disease of fascism from spreading, but their outrage had reached its limits and they moved on their own. 

Thirty-five thousand volunteers, from 52 nations, with no assistance from their home countries, went to fight Franco's fascists in Spain. With little more than the righteousness of their cause, these brave volunteers went forward in this, the first fight against fascist tyranny. 

The untrained volunteers fought bravely and were largely responsible for giving the Republicans in Spain a chance to raise their own "people's army" to fight the Fascists. Germany and Italy flooded Franco's forces with modern arms and support of every variety while the Republican forces starved and begged. Three years of fighting, saw the defeat of the Republican forces and the end of freedom in Spain. 

Nearly 3000 Americans fought in Spain. Their unit was known as "The Abe Lincoln Brigade". Few came back uninjured and 750 did not come back at all. For those who did come home, there were no parades, no speeches of thanks, and no recognition of any kind. 

During McCarthy's reign of terror in the 1950's, most of the  "Lincolns'" were harassed, and ruined  by the FBI and the Subversive Activities Control Board. In many cases, they were arrested and jailed for violating the Smith Act or state sedition laws. In the end, most of the convictions were overturned, and an ungrateful nation chose to forget these brave soldiers.   

Even today, the only public recognition to these first fascist fighters are two small plaques. One sits in the shade of a large tree in "Red Square" on the University of Washington  campus in Seattle, Washington. The second is near Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin. At the dedication for the monument in Madison, Lincoln Brigade veteran Clarence Kailin said, "[People] shouldn't see this as a memorial to old soldiers. They should see it as a reminder that the struggle we joined in Spain, the struggle for economic and social justice, goes on."

D. A. Friedrichs

Return to the top

The First Casualty

 "In time of war, the first casualty is truth." Boake Carter

The pressures of war push people, and nations, to the extremes. A fundamentally good soul can rise to great heights of honor and sacrifice, while those with a darker side can execute the most terrible and horrific acts. Since no person, or nation for that matter, is totally good, or totally evil, those with a conscious tend to hide the evil and display the good.

This is what Carter was talking about. Hiding the evil is simply hiding the truth and in time of war, those in power are even more inclined to hide the truth, since that truth is often manifest in the most gruesome and terrible acts.

Lies and secrets between a national government and her people are an anathema to a democracy. Our leaders claim "national security" and "executive privilege" to excuse their lies and omissions. The abuse of these worn phrases are well known. However, in time of war, people, your people, get killed when security is breached - when secrets are exposed - when the truth is told.

How can a democracy stand against such a tyrant?

"In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies." Winston Churchill

Of all the leaders in history, few, if any, held, guarded, and distributed more secrets than Winston Churchill. Even before America joined the fight against fascist tyranny, Churchill gave information to Stalin critical to defeating an even greater tyrant. Later, he would hide the secrets of the atom bomb from that same ally. He walked openly through the ruins of London, sharing the dangers with his fellow citizens and in the same week allow the Germans to bomb the city of Coventry to insure that the secret code breaking efforts would not be uncovered. He walked on the razors edge and his country survived.

What made Churchill's efforts in this area so successful was his ability to determine the effects of information. He, unlike most modern political leaders, understood the actions and reactions that would come from information. He was expert at manipulating and analyzing a myriad of information sources and determining what was right and what was not. He knew what the people needed to know to act in a positive manner and he knew what lies to leak to his enemies to befuddle them. His efforts went a long, long way to winning WWII.

"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts." Lincoln

Few leaders in history have had the ability to connect with their citizens like Abraham Lincoln. Intelligent and articulate, he could reach out and pick a story seemingly out of thin air that would convey a concept in meaningful terms for anyone to understand. Facing the worst situation any national leader can face, a civil war, he remained calm, honest and trustworthy in his dealings with the citizens.

This is not to say that he didn't have his "Chuchillian" moments, but he never hesitated to articulate his goals and objectives in a conflict. The "truths" which Lincoln felt the citizens needed, where those elements. He knew that a free people needed to understand the direction and methods of their nation.

This is not to say that the general population needs to know what unit will take what hill. That is called tactical or operational information and must be guarded. However, there is no sense in keeping secret the strategic considerations. Our nation has never hesitated to support its leaders and military when those strategic considerations were articulated clearly and our methods of achieving those goals understood.

This is something that needs to be kept in mind when considering the actions of our nation today. We have seen nothing analogous to Roosevelt's Atlantic Charter, which articulated the goals and objectives in WWII, in this war. What we have seen is a complete breakdown in communications of any meaningful information from our leaders to the citizens. The Bush mania for secrecy will ultimately defeat our purposes through simple confusion. The plans of this administration's could be right on the money. However, unless they are able to articulate that plan, in clear and non-ambiguous terms, to the people such that it can be supported based not on blind obedience but thoughtful understanding, it, and we will be doomed to failure in this cause.

D.A. Friedrichs 

Return to the top

Vietnam and Afghanistan

When the "war against terrorism" began, many knowledgeable people warned that our operations in Afghanistan would turn into another Vietnam. In the flush of "victory", much of the gloomy projections have been relegated to the trash heap.

However, there are still some interesting comparisons that can be made.

In the early days of Vietnam, the United States inserted teams of Special Forces, to assist in establishing good relations with the locals by helping with village defense, health, and education programs. These operations were highly successful in combating the influence of the Viet Cong. In the Afghan war, a similar, and, like its predecessor, highly successful program is well underway.

Like Vietnam, we are currently destroying any good will we have with the locals by blowing stuff up. The old saying "we had to destroy the village in order to save it" is alive and well and making a comeback in Afghanistan. However, we have progressed a long way in 35 years. In Vietnam, we would send an infantry platoon with Zippos into a village and burn it down. In Afghanistan, the mud doesn't burn, so we use precision-guided ordnance to turn peoples homes into craters. The downside of this "improved" system, is that by the time we get around to blowing up a house, a wedding party moves in and we blow up a few score party-goers like we did at Qalaye Niazi.

The biggest similarity between the two wars is the Pentagon briefings. The goals and objectives are different but the level of lies and deceits have not changed one bit. In Vietnam, the goal was to show progress by inflating "body counts". In our new, more compassionate world, we measure progress by how many buildings we blow up in a sterile and non-violent manner, with "minimal collateral damage".  In Vietnam villages were called Viet Cong strongholds and in Afghanistan they are called Al Qaeda compounds. In reality, these are places which were filled with people, who wanted nothing more to try to scratch out a life for themselves before we came and destroyed everything in their pitiful lives.

The one area that is glaringly different is how the US press is conducting operations in the two wars. In Vietnam, the horrors and violence of war were brought home. We saw that people, our soldiers, their soldiers, innocent people, were horribly maimed and killed in war. Since Desert Storm, war for our citizens has been converted into some sort of sick bloodless video game. Our press today call sitting in a pentagon briefing journalism and don't bother to fact check the lies they are fed by the Administration. The India Times has better, more accurate and more complete war coverage than the New York Times. This is a sad and pathetic commentary on the health of our Fourth Estate.

Like Vietnam, one of the reasons we got involved in the first place was to prop up a corrupt and inept government, which we installed. In Afghanistan, we have installed a government, but it remains to be seen just how corrupt and inept it will be. Early signs, despite what is reported in the US media, are not particularly encouraging.

In Vietnam, the primary reason for our presence was to stop Communism. In Afghanistan, we have traded the bogyman of Communism for terrorism. Both were and are vile and, if you will, evil. However, neither will be defeated by military intervention. Economic stability, justice and self-determination are the keys to defeating both of those enemies.

In both Vietnam and Afghanistan, the more compelling, and less acknowledged, reason for intervention appears to be US business interests. In the 60's it was rubber and oil. Now it's just oil and not even really oil, just a place to put a pipeline that the Ruskies don't control. We seem to have an annoying habit of trading red blood for black gold.

So in the end, there are quite a few similarities. We can still avoid the bloodbath of Vietnam. There is no reason for our military to continue the bloodletting. With luck and some thought, perhaps we can avoid the need to put another black wall on our national mall. We shall see.

D.A. Friedrichs 

The Afghan War and the Geneva Convention

 The Bush administration just doesn't get it. The latest "final decision" on the fate of the prisoners taken during the Afghan war is that the "Taliban soldiers" will receive the guarantees outlined in the Geneva Convention while the "al Qeada soldiers" will not. None of the "illegal combatants" will be considered Prisoners of War.

This is simply a complete misrepresentation of international law and such an interpretation leaves this country and it's leadership open to charges of war crimes. Bush and Ashcroft have managed, in one outlandish and stupid declaration, to lay waste to any pretext we have to be the guardians of human rights in the world today.

So what are the mistakes that Bush and his legal eagles have made?

Are They POWs?

First, the people we hold at Camp X-ray are Prisoners of War. Article 4 of the Geneva Convention states


Prisoners of war   are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:


1. Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.


2. Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfill the following conditions:


(a) That of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;

(b) That of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;

(c) That of carrying arms openly;

(d) That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.


3. Members of regular armed forces who profess allegiance to a government or an authority not recognized by the Detaining Power.


4. Persons who accompany the armed forces without actually being members thereof, such as civilian members of military aircraft crews, war correspondents,


5. Members of crews, including masters, pilots and apprentices, of the merchant marine and the crews of civil aircraft of the Parties to the conflict,


6. Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units, provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war.


All of the prisoners at Camp X-Ray fall under provision these provisions.


Case 2 covers the bulk of the cases. The Taliban fighters and the para-military arm of Al Qeada (the 55th Brigade) all fought under the Afghan flag, fought under a loose cabal of leaders and warlords, carried arms openly, and Islamic law regarding war fighting is far more strict than anything in the west.


Case 6 takes care of any argument. This provision says that if any force invades their land and the occupants of that land take up arms against the invaders, and they are captured, they are POWs. 

If all of this is still unconvincing, Article 5 clears things up quickly. It states

Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal.

It is that simple. There are no ambiguities, no stringent requirements, no dog tags, no serial numbers, no uniforms, no rank insignia requirements. There are no gray areas. There is no definition of "illegal combatant" anywhere in the convention. If you are under arms, in a combat zone and captured by an enemy force, you are classified as a prisoner of war. If there is any question to status, the prisoner is a POW and subject to the rights granted under the Geneva Convention.


However, some, if not all of the POWs at Camp X-Ray, may indeed be terrorists or have perpetrated other crimes, and should not be protected by the Geneva Convention. Chapter 3 of the Geneva Convention outlines the provisions and process on how to address this situation. A distinction is made between "disciplinary proceedings" (those involving rules violations at the camp) and "judicial proceedings" which involve crimes committed by the POW either before or after capture.  

Article 84 states

 A prisoner of war shall be tried only by a military court, unless the existing laws of the Detaining Power expressly permit the civil courts to try a member of the armed forces of the Detaining Power

 In no circumstances whatever shall a prisoner of war be tried by a court of any kind which does not offer the essential guarantees of independence and impartiality as generally recognized, and, in particular, the procedure of which does not afford the accused the rights and means of defence provided for in Article 105.

Article 99 states

No moral or physical coercion may be exerted on a prisoner of war in order to induce him to admit himself guilty of the act of which he is accused. No prisoner of war may be convicted without having had an opportunity to present his defence and the assistance of a qualified advocate or counsel. 

Article 104 lays out the pre-trial requirements and states


[the Detaining Power] shall notify the Protecting Power as soon as possible and at least three weeks before the opening of the trial The said notification shall contain the following information: 

1.    Surname and first names of the prisoner of war, his rank, his army, regimental, personal or serial number, his date of birth, and his profession or trade, if any;

2.       Place of internment or confinement;

3.       Specification of the charge or charges on which the prisoner of war is to be arraigned, giving the legal provisions applicable;

4.       Designation of the court which will try the case, likewise the date and place fixed for the opening of the trial.

5.       The same communication shall be made by the Detaining Power to the prisoners' representative.

Article 105 states

[the accused is entitled] to defence by a qualified advocate or counsel of his own choice, to the calling of witnesses and, if he deems necessary, to the services of a competent interpreter.

Article 106 states

Every prisoner of war shall have, in the same manner as the members of the armed forces of the Detaining Power, the right of appeal or petition from any sentence pronounced upon him .

This means that the POWs may only be tried as an individual. Council must represent them and they have a right to appeal, and the trials are open to international observers. The process is simple and straightforward. Present the case, allow the accused to defend themselves, pass judgment, and insure that the judgment is sound.


When Bush says "the Al Qeada members are criminals", it is a violation of the convention. It is a war crime. It is that simple.


What Rights?


The Bush administration has made a great deal of noise in attempting to show that the conditions at Camp X-Ray and the treatment of the prisoners is far better than anything they had at home and that they are being treated under conditions outlined in the Geneva Convention. The first contention is, quite frankly, immaterial and the second is a plain old-fashioned lie.


Article 25 states

Prisoners of war shall be quartered under conditions as favourable as those for the forces of the Detaining Power who are billeted in the same area. The said conditions shall make allowance for the habits and customs of the prisoners and shall in no case be prejudicial to their health. The foregoing provisions shall apply in particular to the dormitories of prisoners of war as regards both total surface and minimum cubic space, and the general installations, bedding and blankets. The premises provided for the use of prisoners of war individually or collectively, shall be entirely protected from dampness and adequately heated and lighted, in particular between dusk and lights out. 

This means that the state that the soldiers were suffering under before their capture is not the important factor. The condition that our soldiers are housed under is the guiding factor for the prisoner's conditions. The United States is not adhering to the spirit, let alone the letter of this article. By caging prisoners in open-air pens, we make ourselves very vulnerable to reasonable criticism and potential charges of war crimes.


Article 13 states


Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention. In particular, no prisoner of war may be subjected to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest.

Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.

Measures of reprisal against prisoners of war are prohibited.

Article 14 states


Prisoners of war are entitled in all circumstances to respect for their persons and their honour. Women shall be treated with all the regard due to their sex and shall in all cases benefit by treatment as favourable as that granted to men. Prisoners of war shall retain the full civil capacity which they enjoyed at the time of their capture. The Detaining Power may not restrict the exercise, either within or without its own territory, of the rights such capacity confers except in so far as the captivity requires.


Housing the Camp X-Ray prisoners in open-air cages, shackled, and under intense floodlights day and night would not be considered appropriate under this article of the convention.


Article 17 states

No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.

This is reiterated in clearer and stronger language in Article 87, which states

Collective punishment for individual acts, corporal punishments, imprisonment in premises without daylight and, in general, any form of torture or cruelty, are forbidden.

Calls from an enraged American public to torture of these men must be stamped out with gusto. These men cannot be mistreated. Not only the convention, but our own 5th Amendment prohibits the types of abuse which many in this country seem to think is just and right. Even if torture is not the case, our actions to date are not without serious question. We are very vulnerable, if not guilty out of hand for violating the convention on this point. 

Article 20 regards the transport of prisoners of war and states

The evacuation of prisoners of war shall always be effected humanely and in conditions similar to those for the forces of the Detaining Power in their changes of station.

This means that we cannot hood the prisoners, we cannot drug the prisoners, we cannot beat the prisoners. This, allegedly, was not the case when POWs were moved from Afghanistan to Camp X-Ray.  

Article 70 states

Immediately upon capture, or not more than one week after arrival at a camp , every prisoner of war shall be enabled to write direct to his family,

To date, the United States government has categorically refused to release any information regarding the prisoners, let alone allow them to communicate with anyone outside the prison. This is a major violation of the convention and leaves our national leaders open to war crimes charges.

Other articles that we are ignoring include the following:

Articles 18 and 40 state that the POWs are to retain their personal belongings, badges of rank, and clothing. The Camp X-Ray prisoners have been stripped of every vestige of the personal belongings.

Article 22 refers to the housing conditions of prisoners. Open-air cages are not included in the acceptable realm of housing.

Articles 26 and 29 allow the POWs to care for and feed themselves. This is not the case at Camp X-Ray.

Article 38 allows and encourages the opportunity for POWs to exercise and participate in games. This is not the case at Camp X-Ray.

Articles 71 through 77 provide provisions for prisoners to send and receive mail and parcels. All of these provisions are being ignored by the United States.

Article 118 outlines procedures for repatriation after the end of hostilities. Since a new government has been installed in Afghanistan, these provisions are in force. Of course, they are being ignored by the United States.

The official statements by the Bush administration that these POWs are being treated under the conditions outlined in the Geneva Convention are a transparent lie. It boggles the mind that the lie would even be attempted. It is also a war crime.


Are US Soldiers Adhering to the Tenets of the Convention?


The Geneva Conventions also have wording regarding the actions of soldiers in combat situations. There are specific actions which are allowed and disallowed. Despite the news blackout from Afghanistan, a startlingly large number of "mistakes" have been reported. Two cases will be discussed in this section - the Hazar Qadam raid and the massacre at Mazar-i-Sharif. Both illustrate some of the potential problems the United States has in the conduct of the war.


Hazar Qadam - On the night of January 23/24, a US Special Forces team raided an arms stockpile outside Hazar Qadam. In the raid, 27 prisoners were taken and 15 people killed. In the days that followed, the Defense Department reported the success of the raid.


However, the real story was somewhat different. Apparently, the raid, executed on information from a disgruntled warlord, was executed against a group of local militia who support the US installed Karzai administration and were involved in disarming the locals.


Upon discovering the error, the "prisoners" were released, with no apology or explanation. Also, the CIA moved in and started distributing cash to the relatives of those killed in the raid.

However, the story didn't die there. When the "prisoners" returned home, they reported that they had been severely beaten. Many had broken ribs and noses. One elderly man has potential kidney and liver damage from his beatings. The "prisoners" had been stripped of their cloths, held in open air cages and subjected to intense and abusive interrogations by their American captors.

More information came out from the raid itself. A report from an eyewitness said that he saw men shouting "We surrender" and then gunfire cut them down. Testimony from the locals indicates that several of the victims in the attack had been found at dawn with their hands bound and fatal wounds to the back of their heads and shoulders. Others were found, simply riddled with bullets or shell fragments. 

Mazar-i-Sharif - On the night of November 23/24, Taliban forces in Kunduz surrendered to the Northern Alliance. The Afghan nationals were allowed to return to their villages, but at the insistence of the US government, the foreign Taliban were taken to the fortress at Qala-I-Janghi outside Mazar-i-Sharif. The next day, the Northern Alliance troops started binding the POWs hands behind their backs. About 250 of the 600 POWs had been tied up when two CIA agents came to the fortress-prison to interrogate the captives. 

Upon seeing the CIA agents, the prisoners panicked and charged their guards. One of the CIA agents killed four of the prisoners before he and the rest of the armed guards were also killed. The second CIA agent fled and called in US and British Special Forces.   

Over the course of the following days, the fortress was bombed by US aircraft. Reporters photographed gleeful Northern Alliance soldiers pouring magazine after magazine of fire into the compound from the enclosing walls. US Special Forces snipers were engaged to hit those hiding in the fortress buildings. In order to force the "rioting prisoners" out, diesel fuel and water were poured into underground passages.

In the end, only a handful of prisoners survived. The fortress grounds were covered with bodies and parts of bodies. Fifty of the dead were recovered with their hands still bound behind their backs. In all, the "rioting prisoners" were armed with 30 captured rifles, two rocket launchers and two grenade launchers.

The Problems - The common thread in both of these cases is that prisoners, hands bound were attacked by various elements of the US armed forces. This is a war crime.

Article 3 of the Geneva Convention states

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture
(b)    Taking of hostages;
(c)     Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d)  The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

In both of these cases, the enemy was rendered defenseless by binding their hands behind their backs. In both cases, defenseless people were killed. They were killed by the armed forces of the United States. That is the problem.


The case of the Hazar Qadam raid is a clear-cut case of war crimes. Nothing can justify the actions of the US Special Forces in this case, assuming the allegations are true. However, the case of the massacre at Qala-I-Janghi fortress deserves a closer look.


In the weeks before the incident, Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense, made a number of provocative comments. At various times he indicated that he was "not inclined to negotiate surrender". He also said, "if people will not surrender, then they've made their own choice". In other statements, he made it clear that any foreign troops captured in Afghanistan were not to be released. The Middle-east press was incensed by these incendiary statements, calling Rumsfeld's comments a "green light for wholesale slaughter."


When Mazar-i-Sharif fell to General Dostum's Northern Alliance forces, the capture was accompanied by an orgy of killing and summary executions. These actions were well known and in keeping with General Dostum's methods from his rein of terror from 1992-96. He had succeeded in showing what would happen if anyone resisted his forces.


The Taliban, according to their own statements, surrendered Kunduz, in large part, because of the statements of Rumsfeld and the actions of Dostum. By surrendering, they thought they could avoid the killings. For the Afghans, that was the case. The foreign troops however, were somewhat taken aback by not being released. Many actually killed themselves in preference to being a captive of Dostum. The situation became tense when Dostum's troops started tying up the prisoners and the situation simply exploded when the CIA agents showed up,


Parties to an action are responsible. Rumsfeld's comments and more importantly his insistence that non-Afghan prisoners be held had a great deal to do with this incident. The prisoners were being held because of our desires, they were bound for the safety of our operatives and they were being interrogated by our agents. The violation of the POWs rights by Dostum's "soldiers" and the illegal interrogations by the CIA are what caused the prisoners to their feeble uprising. We bare no small portion of the responsibility for the riot.

Once the prisoners gained arms, our responsibility to them was not at an end. A small handful of men were actually armed yet we chose to kill everyone we could. Article 42 of the Geneva Convention states

The use of weapons against prisoners of war, especially against those who are escaping or attempting to escape, shall constitute an extreme measure, which shall always be preceded by warnings appropriate to the circumstances.

 The vast majority of the prisoners killed were still prisoners. They were not under arms, some were bound and defenseless. All, including the armed rioters, were enclosed in a walled fortress, surrounded by thousands of enemy soldiers. There was neither hope for, or attempts to escape. Our response to the uprising was not proportional to the threat that existed. Soldiers of the United States participated willingly in the massacre. This constitutes a war crime and the magnitude of the killing only makes it worse.

In short, some of our soldiers are acting far outside the law. These are the best trained, most disciplined, most capable and finest troops for this type of mission in the world. Yet, these "mistakes" happen. This mission is beyond the capabilities of any armed force and it is wrong for our national command authority to be placing these fine troops in the situation in Afghanistan.

So What!

In the previous discussions, it should be patently obvious that the leadership of the government of the United States is, if not guilty of war crimes, certainly vulnerable to the accusation. This begs the question, so what?

War crimes, as defined in the 1992 UN Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (which the United States is a party) clearly states that  "grave breaches of the Geneva Convention" constitute a war crime.

Article 130 of the Geneva Convention states

Grave breaches to which the preceding Article relates shall be those involving any of the following acts, if committed against persons or property protected by the Convention: wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, compelling a prisoner of war to serve in the forces of the hostile Power, or wilfully depriving a prisoner of war of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed in this Convention.

By denying the existence of POWs, by stripping these men of their humanity, by housing them like they were animals, by threatening or executing torture, by depriving them of due process, we leave ourselves vulnerable to charges of war crimes.

It should come as no surprise that the Bush administration, in their infinite capacity for arrogance, ignores the niceties of international agreements. Kyoto, nuclear weapons test bans, chemical/biological weapons development, the ABM treaty and the land mines ban have all been abrogated by the current occupant of the Whitehouse. Now it appears that the Geneva Convention will be added to that long list.

As this is being written, Slobodan Milosovich is in the Hague being tried for crimes against humanity and war crimes. The international community has come to the conclusion that the acts of tyrants, even if directed against their own population will not be tolerated. Our leadership, Bush, Rumsfeld, and Ashcroft in particular are vulnerable to similar charges. It is highly unlikely that they will ever face a court of law regarding any wrong doing, but the accusations alone undermine any authority this nation can have regarding human rights. That is the problem. If we are to make the world a better place, we must have that moral authority. Our current policies and actions undermine that authority.

The people of this nation should not tolerate such actions by our leadership. Osama bin Laden and his band of thugs hurt this nation, and hurt it badly. This, however, does not give us the right to take our righteous indignation, born from fear, to wreak havoc on other people. If we are indeed a nation of laws (which may be in doubt after the Clinton impeachment and the Florida election fiasco), those laws do not disappear when troubled times arrive. Those are the times that test our moral fortitude. At present we are failing that test.


D. A. Friedirhs

Even the Army Tells the Truth - Once in a While

Information, good, thoughtful and accurate information, is often hard to come by in this day and age. But every once in a while, a group will immerge which provides that need to the people. The publishers of  Parameters is one such group.

Parameters is the quarterly journal of the U.S. Army War College. Their stated mission is to provide,

"a forum for mature professional thought on the art and science of land warfare, joint and combined matters, national and international security affairs, military strategy, military leadership and management, military history, military ethics, and other topics of significant and current interest to the US Army and the Department of Defense."

To a large extent, they do just what they say they will do, providing intelligent and often critical commentary on their profession. This is not the typical propaganda we have come to expect from our daily Pentagon news briefs or political nonsense from a never-ending stream of Republican chickenhawks. These are the thoughts of professionals, striving to make their profession function better.

In the Spring 2002 issue, there is an interesting article by Michael A. Carlino entitled "The Moral Limits of Strategic Attack". Carlino writes,

" the prevailing view is that American lives are somehow more important. That view, however, is misguided. A military commander is morally obligated to do as much as he can to preserve the lives of all noncombatants, even if significantly increasing the risk to his own soldiers. This does not necessitate fighting a war devoid of noncombatant casualties--that may well be virtually impossible--nor does it mean that winning is unachievable. Wars can still be fought and won; however, the moral import of noncombatant immunity demands a shift in the current conception of force protection."

Seldom have truer words been spoken.

Carlino presents a commentary on the concept of "force protection" as a military goal and concludes, 

" the commander's duty to minimize the harm that comes to his soldiers in combat is of tremendous pragmatic import, but it is not a stringent moral obligation. Ultimately, mission must come first, and the safety of each individual soldier comes second."

He goes on to discuss "mission" and introduces the idea, that underlying all missions are the protection of the values of the nation for which the combatant is fighting. One of the universal principles of the United States is the right of the individual to life. Therefore, concludes Carlino, the preservation of the lives of innocents is a mission requirement at all times for our military and concludes,

" all moral agents possess the inalienable right to life, regardless of whether they are citizens of the United States or an enemy state. This does not mean that a person cannot forfeit the right voluntary combatants give up at least a part of their right to life--the right not to be killed by other combatants--in order to gain the right to kill. In contrast, noncombatants do not participate in any such exchange, and their right to life remains inalienable and stringent. Given this difference, the noncombatant is not subject to direct attack, being targeted or intentionally harmed by combatants.

Hence, a combatant is obligated to respect the rights of all noncombatants. Combatants are morally obligated to respect the stringency of noncombatants' right to life and must never intend to harm them or use them solely as a means to an end. This obligation is particularly poignant for US soldiers. The values that US soldiers fight for are not simply constrained or applicable to their own citizens but are liberal democratic ideals that apply to all people. The Constitution rests on this very premise. So, any war involving the United States ultimately centers on the advancement of such ideals; any fight for the United States against a state that is not "well-ordered" is a fight for basic rights--including the right to life--for not only its own citizens but those of the enemy state as well." 

The ultimate conclusion then is that the concept of "force protection" takes a back seat to minimizing "noncombatant casualties". If this is not the case, we deny those fundamental values that we supposedly fight for.

US Air Force doctrine since operation Desert Storm has centered around the concept of destroying the enemy's "centers of gravity" - denying the enemy freedom of action through destruction of leadership, communications and transportation infrastructure. 

In a "just war", targeting considerations are based on four basic requirements - legitimacy (is the target valid), effect (are the results of a successful mission worth the effort), intent (is the destruction of the target moral), proportionality (do potential "collateral damage" effects outweigh the level of effort required). This concept is in direct conflict with stated doctrine and politically defined missions in our recent commitments in the United States.

After a great deal of discussion on these factors, Carlino brings forward an interesting comparison between terrorism and strategic bombing, stating,

" terrorism is condemned as immoral because of its indiscriminate nature, which causes foreseeable, innocent noncombatant deaths. In other words, terrorism harms innocents as a direct means to effect its end. Even if the terrorists' cause is considered in some instances to be worthy and good, terrorism, as a means, remains unpalatable, because the terrorist attempts to achieve expediency by placing his goal ahead of his moral responsibility to innocents. 

The terrorist's response would be that his seemingly evil methods, though drastic, are in fact justified, because they are the only ones available in the given situation. Such a claim is unacceptable. Even a good cause does not justify the use of any possible method to achieve it. The fact is that other means are always available. terrorism is not the only recourse, as the terrorist claims. The reality is that the terrorist is unwilling to assume risk and instead transfers it to innocents

Interestingly, however, the moral condemnation that applies to the terrorist differs only in degree, not kind, regarding the current practice involving foreseeable deaths [from strategic bombing]. breaking the will of an enemy through strategic attack has no more moral legitimacy than terrorism if it capitalizes on the innocent."

Carlino concludes his discussion with several recommendations. He indicates that if we are to fight a "just war", our political leaders need to de-emphasize zero-casualty wars. Political leaders need to better articulate national goals so that everyone is cognizant that this is important and worth doing even with losses. Also, until bombing can be as discriminate as the soldier on the ground, military leaders must shift to the "smarter weapon" to avoid mistakes.

The article concludes by saying,

"Integrity demands not the obtaining of an end, but the rightness of the means. Integrity thus precludes foreseeable deaths as accidental and unintended, because it demands right action regardless of the consequences involved. Integrity also entails selflessness in soldiers, since fulfilling their moral obligations inherently shifts risk onto themselves. Such must be the nature of the true military professional. If we cannot prosecute a war justly, then the war should not be fought. To do otherwise is a compromise of integrity and directly contradicts the very reasons for fighting."

That pretty much covers it.

D. A. Friedrichs

Read the Carlino article by following this link.

The Past Through Tomorrow

The following is a fictitious report to the US Joint Chiefs of Staff summarizing the War in Afghanistan. To date, the events described have come to pass. No one knows if the future events described will occur. We can only hope for the best.


The US entered the territory of Afghanistan in the last days of September 2001 with the mission of "rendering ineffective the Al Qaeda terrorist organizations and their Taliban allies controlling Afghanistan." Thus, with this extremely vague goal and limited military planning time, the US peoples were cast into a bloody war that would last for nine years, one month and eighteen days. The war took the lives of 55,000 US citizens and did not result in the desired victory for the government.

At the same time, the unsatisfactory political and military-strategic results of the war should, in no way reflect adversely on the quality of the US armed forces, especially in the area of operational art and tactics. During the course of the war, US operational art and tactics developed under the particular conditions of Afghanistan - the physical geography, the local economy, the peoples, the history and the internal and foreign affairs of the last decade.

In light of the defining military-political missions and ongoing combat, the conduct of the US-Taliban War can be divided into four phases.

PHASE 1 (October 2001 - December 2001)

This phase began with the entry of US forces into Afghanistan, their stationing in garrisons, and their final organization for securing bases and various installations. During this phase, the enemy deployed comparatively powerful forces against the US forces. The US forces (Special Forces and air assets) did not avoid direct conflict with them. The US forces fighting alongside Northern Alliance forces, took the most difficult missions for themselves. The Northern Alliance forces were poorly trained to conduct independent actions and attacked only after US bombardment guaranteed success in the fulfillment of operational and tactical missions.

PHASE 2 (January 2002 - February 2007)

Active combat characterized this phase. US forces undertook combat on a wide scale, mainly employing only US forces, but also conducting joint actions with units of the former Northern Alliance and newly constituted Afghan Army. By the start of this phase, the enemy, having suffered heavy losses, was switching to guerrilla tactics and moving into the mountains. Principally, these tactics consisted of avoiding combat with superior US forces; conducting surprise action against small groups; and refusing to fight conventional, positional warfare while conducting widespread maneuver using autonomous groups, and detachments. If the Taliban were unable to avoid combat, they reverted to close combat where it was difficult, if not impossible, to use air strikes and artillery fire against their dug-in firing positions. Under these circumstances, the US forces attempted to conduct "combat operations" with a clear superiority in forces and means.

PHASE 3 (March 2007 - November 2008)

During this phase, the US conducted a two-step conversion from primary active combat to supporting reconstituted Afghan Army forces with aviation, artillery and engineer subunits. US airmobile, airborne and light infantry forces became the reserves to raise the morale and warrior spirit of the friendly Afghan forces. US Special Forces continued to operate to stop the supply of weapons and ammunition from across the border. During this phase, US authorities began withdrawing forces from the country.

PHASE 4 (December 2008 - December 2010)

This phase marked by US forces' participation in the Afghan government's program of national reconciliation. During this time, the US forces conducted virtually no offensive actions and went into combat only when attacked by the Taliban or when supporting combat by Afghan forces. During this phase, the US forces prepared for their total withdrawal.


Interestingly, this "fictitious" account is quite true. The original story is, of course, a summary of the 1979-1989 Soviet-Afghan War. The report above was gleaned, with no major editing, from the original study prepared for the General Staff of the Soviet Union and published under the title  "The Soviet-Afghan War: How a Superpower Fought and Lost" (pages 12-14).  The only changes made (other than grammatical) were as follows

It is quite frightening to realize just how similar our nation's actions have been and appear to be heading when compared this way. Phase I was nearly identical, if not in details, then in outcome, to the Soviet invasion in 1979 and early 1980. The recently concluded "Operation Anaconda" is a classic Phase 2 type operation. Our efforts to reconstitute an Afghan national army are the first steps toward Phase III.

One can only hope that this does not happen and the rest of the story turns out to indeed be fiction.

D.A. Friedrichs

Hitler's Angel

Many of the great houses of American industry and finance had very dirty hands when it came to dealing with the Nazis. General Motors, IBM, Standard Oil and many others have had their sorted dealings with the enemies of the United States aired in public forums. However, one criminal has had little exposure - Prescott Bush, father and grandfather to two occupants of the Whitehouse.

The story of Prescott Bush and his association with the Nazis begins just before the end of World War I with the dealings of the German industrialist family of Thyssen. As German hopes for victory sank into the mud filled trenches of the western front, August Thyssen, known as the "Rockefeller of the Rhur" opened the Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart in Rotterdam, placing his son Fritz at its head. The bank, being in neutral Holland, was an excellent place to hide his vast wealth as the Imperial Germany disintegrated. Meanwhile, his other son, Heinrich, married into Hungarian nobility and changed his name to Barron Thyssen Bornemisza de Kaszon.

After the war, Avrell Harriman, son of the rail baron E. H. Harriman, and his partner George Herbert Walker, was busy setting up their own international banking network. In 1922, Harriman met with Fritz Thyssen and agreed to set up banking interests for him in the states. By 1924, the Union Banking Corporation was born.

Meanwhile, back in Germany, the crippling effects of the war and the harsh conditions inflicted on the German economy due to the Versailles Treaty were causing widespread unrest. One of the players in this unrest was, of course, Adolph Hitler. Fritz Thyssen became an ardent follower of Hitler, embarrassing the ideas of the Nazis, especially his anti-union, anti-labor views. He provided Hitler with his first infusion of cash. Several German industrialists followed Thyssen's lead and also donated to the Nazis. After the failed "Beer Hall Putsch" in 1923, many gave up on Hitler, but not Thyssen.

The late 1920's saw a boom in the German economy. August Thyssen died, leaving his son Fritz in control of their vast holdings. Thyssen merged his steel operations with Flick who owned many coal and steel interests throughout Germany and Poland, forming United Steel Works (USW). Walker and Harriman meanwhile sold $50,000,000 in German bonds to bankroll the Thyssen/Flick Empire.

It was at this time that the young Prescott Bush entered the picture. Walker hired his new son-in-law to run the American side USW. Prescott was a hard worker and helped everyone involved make a great deal of money. 

Then 1929 came. World financial markets crumbled to dust. However, the plutocrats -, Thyssen, Harriman and Flick maintained their empires. With the ever-deepening desperation setting into the mindset of the German public, Hitler's maniacal rants became more popular. Thyssen joined the Nazis and bankrolled their rise to power.  By 1932, despite loosing 35 seats in parliament in the national election, the Nazis were able to broker a power sharing deal. By 1934 Hitler was the dictator of Germany.

Hitler wanted to see the rebirth of Germany. He began a massive campaign to build the autobahn and rebuild his military. All of this needed steel, steel which Thyssen and Flick controlled. Profits for the Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart and the Union Banking Corporation soared. Prescott Bush became managing director of Union Banking Corporation and personally ran the German end of the business.

However, all was not rosy for the gang. The Polish government was growing weary of Flick's operations in Poland and threatening to take over the businesses claiming fraudulent bookkeeping, securities fraud, tax evasion and excessive borrowing. The conflict with the Polish government ended when Hitler invaded, destroying that nation and, starting World War II in Europe.

Thyssen and Flick's Polish steel interests were centered at Oswiecim in the heart of a vast coal and steel-producing region. After Hitler's takeover, he decided to place a forced labor camp in the area in order to exploit the resource rich state. That camp became Auschwitz.

Thyssen and Flick, fearing a repeat of the collapse of Germany after WWI, bailed out, selling their Polish interests to Union Banking Corporation and fleeing Germany. As it turned out, Fritz and his brother Heinrich had made similar slights of hand between these banks and a third bank - The August Thyssen Bank of Berlin - many times, perpetrating a series of tax and securities frauds. Whenever there was a threat to the Thyssen Empire, the brothers would collude to hide their assets. In this case, Harriman became the controlling interest and Bush managed the former Polish enterprises, all of which were supplied labor from the camps at Auschwitz.

On December 13, 1941, six days after the attack at Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt signed the "Trading With the Enemy Act". This act banned business dealings the enemies of the United States. Prescott Bush ignored this and continued to do business with the Nazis.

Prescott's dreams of riches began to crumble in the summer of 1942. The New York Tribune had discovered and written on the Bush-Thyssen connection. The Tribune hung the moniker of "Hitler's Angel" on Bush. On October 20, 1942, after investigation by the US government, Vesting Order 248 was executed. The order stated

Under the authority of the Trading with the enemy Act, as amended, and pursuant to law, the undersigned, after investigation, finding:

(a)    That the property described as follows:

All of the capital stock of Union Banking Corporation, a New York corporation, New York, New York, [identifying E. Roland Harriman, Cornelius Lievense, Harold D. Pennington, Ray Morris, Prescott S. Bush, H.J. Kouwenhoven and Johann G. Groeninger as shareholders]

all of which shares are held the benefit of Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart, N.V., Rotterdam, The Netherlands, which bank is owned or controlled by members of the Thyssen family, nationals of German and/or Hungary

(b) That the property described as follows is an interest in the aforesaid business enterprise held by nationals of an enemy country or countries, and also is property within the United States owned or controlled by nationals of a designated enemy country deemed it necessary in the national interest, hereby vests such property in the Alien Property Custodian, to be held, used, administered, liquidated, sold or otherwise dealt with in the interest of and for the benefit of the United States .

With that, Prescott Bush lost his power in the Union Banking Corporation. Bush resigned as managing director in 1943, but still retained his stock interests. For the remainder of the war, he engaged in fund raising activities and became the founder of the United Services Organizations (USO).

But the story, and the audacity, of Prescott Bush do not end here. For that, we must return to Fritz Thyssen.

After Holland was overrun in 1940, Hitler's auditors investigated the Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart. Hitler was after Fritz Thyssen's fortune, which had been transferred to the Netherlands after he fled Germany in 1939. Transfer of funds outside the Reich was illegal. However, no evidence was found in Rotterdam and Hitler imprisoned his one-time benefactor for the duration of the war. Unknown to Hitler, Thyssen had transferred his family's assets to his brother Heinrich in Hungary.

As the war ground on and German hopes faded, Thyssen planned to transfer his empire back to "neutral" Rotterdam as in German and the Soviet bloc would not be recoverable. The only hitch in the plan was that the August Thyssen Bank of Berlin was destroyed in the war and the vault with all the Thyssen family papers were buried under a mountain of rubble. But the enterprising Thyssen brothers got Dutch authorities to dig up the vault and bring it back to The Netherlands.

Despite being held and interrogated by the Allies, Fritz Thyssen never told the authorities where his fortune was hidden and ultimately he was released from prison. He died in Argentina in 1951. Upon his death, the Alien Property Custodian released the assets of the Union Banking Corporation. The principles cashed out and the UBC was no more.

Prescott Bush received $750,000 for his share of Union Banking Corporation, a princely sum in 1951, but nothing compared to the millions the Thyssen family got back. Prescott used some of this Nazi cash to bankroll his son George Herbert Walker Bush's first business enterprise and to support his successful bid for Senate in 1952. The Thyssen's rebuilt their empire, and today, the Thyssen Group (TBG) is the largest industrial conglomerate in Germany.

D. A. Friedrichs


This column relied heavily on the writings of John Loftus, President of the Florida Holocaust Museum and Tony Rogers of Clamor Magazine. I am greatly indebted to them for their work.

Return to the top


Privacy Policy
. .