Thursday, November 30, 2017

Sacrifice at Fort Carillon

Today is St Andrew's Day, the "national day" of Scotland as the feast day of Scotland's patron saint, Andrew. As such, it is a day to celebrate all things Scottish and, for me at least, nothing symbolizes the best of Scotland like the highland regiments of the British army. Today they have been sadly reduced but best not to dwell on that now. One of, if not the, most famous of these regiments was the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment of Foot, better known as the "Black Watch". It was formed in the aftermath of the 1745 Jacobite Uprising and, naturally, consisted of highlanders who had supported the government which meant they tended to be Protestants in their religion and Whig in their politics. The Black Watch would have a long history of many great victories and ample military glory, however, one of her most famous engagements was not a victory at all but a very heroic, tragic and bloody defeat. It would go down in history as one of the worst British defeats but for the men of the Black Watch it would be remembered for the tremendous sacrifice their soldiers made. It was during the French and Indian War (which regular readers will know all about) and happened at a French fort called, at the time, Fort Carillon, later re-named Fort Ticonderoga on the east border of what is today the state of New York, south of Lake Champlain.

The French and the Indians
The French, and their Indian allies, had been winning stunning victories over the British despite the fact that they were outmatched and the governments in both Paris and London had focused mostly on the European front of the war. The Marquis de Montcalm, commander of the French forces in North America, had won a string of victories in 1756 and 1757 despite having the odds against him. Although he did not enjoy it, the lack of French support for the war in the American colonies meant that he had to augment his forces with American Indian tribes who were difficult to integrate into European-style warfare. However, for a change, in what was to prove his greatest victory, the French would be fighting on their own. The British government, after a number of embarrassing setbacks, decided to made North America the main focus of their war effort, seeing it as of greater long-term value which did not exactly best please King George II who was very concerned about his native Hanover in Germany falling into the hands of King Louis XV of France. However, his fears were set aside in favor of a new, major, offensive in North America.

The British planned for a huge, crushing blow that would strike northward, via Lake Champlain, retaking lost outposts and ending in a massive attack on Quebec City, the capital of New France (Canada) which would win them the war. Doing that, however, would mean that they would have to take Fort Carillon which the French had just built to guard the southern approach to Lake Champlain (the lakes and rivers being the most efficient ways to travel in North America at the time). On paper, this seemed to be no great challenge. General James Abercrombie would have nearly 30,000 British troops at his disposal, a huge army by the standards of the time and place, with many excellent units such as the Black Watch. The Marquis de Montcalm, on the other hand, would have only 3,600 soldiers to defend the fort and many of these would be Canadian militia rather than French regulars. However, perhaps overconfident because of all of this, Abercrombie would fight this battle with all of the strategic calculations of a bulldozer. The Marquis, on the other hand, had his men in well fortified positions, with men in trenches out in front with other men on the walls to give them covering fire and obstructions in front of all of them. Although his defenses could have been more solid still, they would prove more than up to the task given that Abercrombie's plan was simply to charge right in.

Abercrombie's force approached on July 8, 1758 with local militia units and the famous "Roger's Rangers" out front having no problem forcing the French skirmishers back. However, Montcalm had good troops under his command in the center with good protection for them and artillery in redoubts to cover his flanks. One of these was unfinished but, it would not matter, because Abercrombie would be charging straight in, confident that his regulars could smash the French without undue difficulty. He was, of course, to be proven completely wrong. In fact, from the outset, everything seemed to go wrong for the British. Units were drawn into battle early and not as planned which led to disorganized attacks that failed and were very costly. The Black Watch was supposed to have been kept in reserve but, seeing their comrades engaged, demanded to join the fight and so were sent in as well. The result was that the British troops charged into a killing zone of withering French fire. Montcalm, who had thrown off his coat and was dashing among his men in his shirtsleeves, kept up French discipline and morale while the British commander was far away from the action (which had broken out before he had planned). Nonetheless, Abercrombie ordered more attacks, thinking each one would break the French lines and carry the day. Instead, he simply sent more men to certain death.

To make matters worse, the British had no artillery to provide fire support for their attacks. The barges carrying the guns had gone the wrong way and ended up floating down within range of the French in Fort Carillon who quickly spotted them and sank several of the barges in quick order. Abercrombie then sent in his reserves, mostly local militia, but they too were ruined and finally he decided to admit defeat and call off the attack. However, heroically but tragically, just because he had had enough, did not mean the hard fighting highlanders of the Black Watch had. They refused to retreat and continued trying to push on, finally charging forward, they alone managed to reach the foot of the outer walls of Fort Carillon but those who tried to continue ran into French bayonets. When there were finally none left to carry on, the battle came to an end.

Montcalm triumphant
Ultimately, the Battle of Fort Carillon would prove to be the most vicious and bloodiest battle of the French & Indian War. The British lost nearly 3,000 men dead, wounded or missing. The heroic highlanders of the Black Watch lost more than half of their entire number. The French, on the other hand, lost only a little over 600 men, the vast majority of them wounded rather than killed. It was the greatest victory in the military career of the Marquis de Montcalm and would never be surpassed. Abercrombie, by contrast, would never command an army in the field again. The British offensive had been stopped cold and with bloody losses, bringing about a change in command, however, the overall situation did not change at all. The British continued to make North America the main focus of the war, the French would provide precious little support to their own forces in the region and Montcalm would go on fighting against the odds until his life and French rule over Canada both came to an end. Because of a lack of resources and defeats elsewhere, the French would later abandon Fort Carillon, leaving it to be occupied by the British who renamed it Fort Ticonderoga. It would remain in British hands until the outbreak of the American War for Independence.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Christianity and the Migrant Crisis

This has been an issue I have not been eager to expound upon but do so because so many have challenged my (very obvious and correct of course) remarks on the subject and it would be easier to simply have an article to refer them too with all of the proper Biblical citations. This has been coming up for quite a while, the issue that it is somehow a Christian duty to be in favor of open borders and allowing all and sundry into your country. This is not true. It is so manifestly untrue that it staggers the imagination that any serious Christian or anyone with any understanding of Christian Scripture could possibly believe it. Rest assured, I do not think they actually do as it is often the ones who are ordinarily the most anti-Christian who suddenly start telling actual Christians how to be ‘more Christian’ when it suits their political agenda. The really perverse thing is that, in this case, it is also an anti-Christian agenda.

I will address this primarily from a Biblical point of view because Christians have many different traditions but pretty much everyone has the same Bible and nothing I will be talking about will involve those books that are present in Catholic Bibles but missing from Protestant ones, so this does not devolve into a denominational food fight. There is actually nothing, at all, anywhere in the Bible that says one has to take foreigners into your country. You can read it from cover to cover, it is not in there. That being so, the proponents of open borders must cite other verses that they then ‘interpret’ to mean national borders should be abolished. They won’t come right out and say that quite often but when you say every country is entitled to have borders and set their own immigration laws but then oppose any and all efforts to actually enforce such laws, you are being dishonest and deceitful and I have heard many (usually Catholics) pull that trick. If you say you are for borders and for immigration laws but when someone crosses the border illegally they cannot be sent back, then you are not for borders and should stop lying.

Since the Bible does not say you must let any and all people into your country as they please, the people who favor this have to come up with something else and it usually comes down to only two or three verses that they repeatedly refer to. I cannot resist pointing out that there are more verses in the Bible that command people to obey kings and princes but I shall try to stay focused here. One of the most cited comes from very, very far back in the Bible, indeed almost to the book of Genesis which, by the way, pretty much all of these people believe to be completely fictions but I am speaking of Exodus 22:21 which says, “You shall not wrong a stranger (aka foreigner) or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” That is pretty simple, calling to mind the trials the Jews suffered in Egypt, it says do not treat others the way that you were treated. Do not oppress foreigners. The Jews, of course, were enslaved by the Egyptians and I don’t think anyone is arguing for the enslavement of foreigners. They want to keep the strangers out which, if they do, will certainly make it impossible to oppress them.

Everyone, presumably, knows the story of the Jews being in Egypt. The Patriarch Joseph became prime minister to the Pharaoh of Egypt and when famine struck the Jews, he gave them sanctuary in Egypt. After he died, the Jews were enslaved, Moses came and told the Pharaoh to ‘let my people go’ and God sent increasingly horrible plagues on the Egyptians until they finally did that and let the Jews go. As soon as they got the chance, all the Jews left, even digging up the bones of Joseph and carrying him away with them as well. The bottom line is, as soon as they were able, they left Egypt to go to their own country which is exactly what people who oppose open borders want too! They want these people to go back to their own countries. However, aside from the history lesson, if anyone quotes this verse, you might also put it in context for them by quoting the verse which immediately precedes it, Exodus 22:20 which says, “He who sacrifices to any god, other than to the LORD alone, shall be utterly destroyed”. Now, are most of these migrants Christians? No. Are they even Jews like the people in Exodus? No. You might ask the people who think Exodus 22:20 means to let anyone into your country if they then favor utterly destroying any of them who are not Christians.

The idea that the Old Testament commands mixing it up, promotes diversity or multiculturalism is so blatantly wrong as to be totally absurd. In speaking of foreigners in the “Promised Land” the people are told in Deuteronomy 7:3-4, “Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you.” You might also look at Joshua 23: 11-13, “So take diligent heed to yourselves to love the LORD your God. For if you ever go back and cling to the rest of these nations, these which remain among you, and intermarry with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, know with certainty that the LORD your God will not continue to drive these nations out from before you; but they will be a snare and a trap to you, and a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good land which the LORD your God has given you.” This is not exactly a call for inclusion and acceptance and there are numerous other verses that say the same thing.

Another passage, sometimes cited, is Leviticus 19:33 which says, “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.” For context, the following verse says to love the stranger as yourself and calls to mind the exile in Egypt just as the passage from Exodus did. As with the first verse addressed, this one is basically the same. It does not say to let all foreigners come to your land, it does not say to give them your land, it simply says not to oppress them and this is very interesting for the ‘open borders’ crowd to cite today. I should hope no one would be in favor of oppressing anyone but it is the people who are pro-open borders who are usually the ones who say that White/Western/European people are inherently oppressive which then begs the question of why they want more people to come in to be oppressed? I also cannot refrain from pointing out, to all of these recent, Bible-quoting leftists, that the same people here being told not to oppress the foreigners are also people for whom slavery was okay. Indeed, in the chapter preceding that of the first verse we looked at, which would be Exodus chapter 21, it starts with regulations regarding the treatment of slaves. It is also worth pointing out considering the topic under discussion that what is detailed there is the treatment of Jewish slaves owned by other Jews as foreign slaves were treated differently from Jewish slaves.

I point this out simply to show that, very obviously, the Old Testament did not regard all peoples the same or interchangeable and also to point out how, certainly when it comes to things like regulations regarding slavery or animal sacrifice, we are assured that us modern folk are not bound to obey all these regulations. So, when these irritating things called facts are brought up, if the exchange carries on this long, the open-borders advocate will then shift to the New Testament if they had not started out there with a verse that is, if anything, even easier to toss around in any and all circumstances. It will usually be a verse such as or similar to Matthew 22:39 which says, “And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself”. This is really a fun one to get in to as, again, the person quoting it at you is inferring meaning into it which it does not actually say and has no idea of the context in which the verse is given because they don’t actually read the Bible.

You will notice that this, the second-to-greatest commandment, to love your neighbor as yourself does not say anything about letting throngs of foreign people who worship a different god into your country and giving them welfare payments, housing and medical care. It says to love your neighbor and loving your neighbor is free. We then might ask, as someone did to Jesus, “who is my neighbor?” Before looking at the answer Jesus gave, we should have some context because you really need to do that every time, it is very easy to pluck verses out of context to give people a false impression. Notice that in Matthew 19:19 the command to love your neighbor comes immediately after the command to honor your father and mother, which is to say your ancestors, your blood. Then, for even greater context, look back to the Old Testament to Leviticus 19:18 which says, very similarly, “You shall not take revenge nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD”. Your neighbor was your people, after your family, your wider family, your race or your nation, in this case the Jews were being told not to hold hatred against other Jews. The command from Leviticus to love your neighbor was literally a command to observe what the scholarly types call “in group preference”, the exact opposite of viewing all people as being the same and interchangeable.

The response Jesus gave was the familiar story I am sure everyone knows about “the Good Samaritan”. Jesus was speaking to a predominately Jewish audience and the Samaritans were probably the one group of people the Jews despised more than any other. They were effectively a schismatic sect of Judaism, usually described as being mixed race though this may mean mixed-ethnicity but it doesn’t really matter. The point is, Jesus was talking about a people who professed the same religion as the Jews but who were traditionally hated and shunned by the orthodox Jews. As the story goes, a presumably Jewish man was robbed and left half-dead by the side of the road. His fellow Jews walked by without helping but a Samaritan saw him and immediately stopped to help and was extremely generous to the injured man. Jesus then asked which had shown himself to be a good neighbor and the obvious conclusion is that it was the Samaritan. He saw someone who had been injured and helped him which, contrary to the way most twist this story, makes the definition of “neighbor” even more exclusive rather than inclusive, it is something determined by how you behave.

One might also point out that the Samaritan did not take the injured Jew home with him, tossing out his youngest child to give the man a place to stay and so on. The exact words of Jesus in this story is to help someone who has been attacked in your path, not to go out into the world in search of people who have it worse off than you and bring them home. This was effectively a lesson about reciprocity, which is the part everyone gets wrong because they invariably reverse the story. It was about who the neighbor is and the point was that the neighbor is the one who helped the injured man, the Samaritan proved himself to be a good neighbor by his deeds. This, in context with what Jesus had first said which prompted this question comes down to this: He said to love your neighbor as yourself and when asked who your neighbor is, the answer is a person who helps you when you have been attacked. The Samaritan did not help a man who had ruined his own life, he didn’t take the man home with him, he effectively rendered first aid (to a schismatic of his own religion). It is really not a complicated story and is rather simple. It also has more to do with mugging than with migration.

In Like 9:51-56 we see that Jesus sent two of His apostles ahead of him, while on His way to Jerusalem, to make preparations for a place to stay in a Samaritan village. The Samaritans, hearing that they were headed for the ‘rival’ Temple in Jerusalem, refused to welcome them and when the apostles asked if Jesus might not rain down some fire and brimstone on the Samaritans for refusing to receive them, Jesus said no and scolded them for suggesting such a thing. That is worth keeping in mind because, if one is a Christian, commanded to love everyone, the greatest act of love for a Christian is to save the souls of others from eternal agony by spreading the Gospel to them. At this point in human history, most of the world is probably aware of Christianity and the story of the Gospels. Most of those flooding into Europe certainly know about it but believe it to be wrong, adhering to the Islamic religion which claims to be the final word. So, keeping that in mind, we can see from the reaction of Jesus that raining down Hellfire missiles on these people’s villages would not be the Christian thing to do but we are also told very clearly how to deal with such people and it is not letting them take up residence in your country in massive numbers.

In one of the shortest books of the Bible we see very clearly how a Christian is to handle those who have rejected Christianity. 2 John verse 10 says, “If anyone comes to you bringing a different doctrine, you must not receive him in your house or even give him a greeting. To greet him would make you a partner in his wicked work.” That is when they come to you but the same holds if you go to them as Matthew 10:14 says, “And if anyone will not welcome you or heed your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town” or in other words, have nothing to do with such people. Do not harm, do not oppress, simply avoid. Do not associate with them and do not allow them into your home. Mark 6:11, Luke 10:11 and Acts 13:51 all say the same thing just in case anyone thinks I might be taking things out of context.

The final point that I think needs to be made, which all of this tends to broadly coincide with, is the notion that Christianity should not even acknowledge nationality but should instead embrace the revolutionary “brotherhood of man” type concept. According to this way of thinking, everyone is your neighbor and even your brother or sister. This is not only wrong, this is anti-Christian. The fundamental mistake that well-meaning people make in parroting this line is to confuse the flock with the faith. Christianity is for all people and does not change according to time, place or nationality. That is not the same as saying these distinctions do not exist and, again, the Bible actually makes clear that the exact opposite is true. How many times does the Bible reiterate the commandment to “Honor your father and mother” to receive God’s blessing? This, particularly in the Old Testament days when people lived much longer, is a command to honor *you* ancestors who are, obviously, not going to be the same as those of everyone else. The numerous genealogical tables found throughout the Bible also attest to the importance of your blood ties, your ancestry, the history and bonds of your family and your people.

Isaiah 51:1 says, “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were hewn and to the quarry from which you were dug.” In other words, honor your heritage, know the history, customs and traditions of your people, your ancestors. Nor can this be confined to the Old Testament as I Timothy 5:8 says, “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” This means you take care of your own first, your own family and your own people are your first priority before helping others. This means that the “Good Samaritan” would not have been good if he had left his fellow Samaritans to starve so he could help the Jew on the side of the road. Although when it comes to the “Migrant Crisis” the focus is on Europe, this part is also very demonstrative for the United States and the influx from Latin America, all of which is Christian and has been for longer than North America. You take care of your own and it is precisely because Christianity is the same for all people in all places, that Christian mercy stuff does not just apply to Americans but applies to everyone south of the border too. You take care of your own, you do not shuttle them along for someone else to deal with for you.

However, on this issue the one verse that the “brotherhood of man” types invariably bring up is the line from Galatians 3:28 which says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” and, I must say, when it gets to this point you can start planning your victory dance because you are about to win the argument. This verse does not mean that all of these things are the same but that *Christ is the same* for all of them. There is not one Jesus for Swedes and another Jesus for Somalis, there is only Jesus. This is why, in Acts chapter 15, St Peter said that Christianity is not only for the Jews but for the Greeks and Romans as well and that they did not have to be circumcised. This is why Christians do not keep kosher, because such was not their custom, they did not have to become Jews in order to be Christians. Jesus is the same for all people everywhere but people are different and they do not have to all be made the same. Obviously, there were differences between Jews and Greeks as this shows, just as the distinctions between slave and free or male and female no longer ceased to exist. St Paul was approached by a runaway slave and he sent him back to his master, women were told to keep their heads covered in church and so on, there are numerous other verses showing that Christianity did not mean that men and women or different nationalities were all interchangeable but that the faith was the same and the need for the faith was the same for all people everywhere.

This is why, as with Christianity as I suppose it would be with anything else, you must take the entirety of it and not hand pick the bits out that please you. All people need salvation and that salvation is open to all but that does not change the fact that your family and then your people are your first priority. This goes back, again, to the “good neighbor” point. You cannot be a good Christian or a good neighbor on behalf of someone else. To say you will accept the responsibility of dealing with someone else’s problems is only to encourage them to carry on being a bad neighbor or a bad Christian or no Christian at all. Remember that Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God with all your heart and then, secondarily, to love your neighbor *as yourself*. This means that loving your neighbor in the Christian context is predicated on loving yourself first and if you are displacing your own people for another, you obviously do not love yourself and are, therefore, incapable of loving your neighbor!

The Bible clearly does not teach that all the people in the world are the same and interchangeable. Far from that, the Bible teaches people to have “in group preference”. It says to honor *your* forebears, take care of *your* own family and *your* own people before taking care of anyone else, it says that the teachings of Christ are for all people and not for some people to observe on behalf of other people. It says that the greatest thing you can do is save others from eternal damnation but if people refuse that gift, you are to have nothing to do with them and not even wish them well as you would be wishing them well on a destructive path. For a Christian country such as Poland being asked to take in Muslim migrants, even being scolded by the Catholic hierarchy for being reluctant to do so, the simple fact is that the Bible says not to welcome such people at all, not into your country, not even into your home. There are many *extremely* wealthy Muslim countries which could be taking care of their own just as there are many countries in between Somalia and Sweden for neighborliness to apply. The point about Christianity and Christian morals being the same for everyone means that you take care of yours and that everyone else does the same. You cannot be a good neighbor *for* someone else and taking care of others before you have taken care of your own is specifically anti-Christian. As with so many things these days, actual Christianity is the complete opposite of what so many so-called Christian leaders say that it is. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving Day, On the Bright Side

Tomorrow the United States celebrates Thanksgiving Day (though I myself do not) and someone online yesterday came at me with powerful volley against the holiday, probably having read previously that I do not celebrate it and expecting me to concur. I did somewhat but certainly not entirely. This was all the more strange in that this person did celebrate Thanksgiving and will be doing so again. If you think something is as bad as he seemed to, I would think the right thing to do would be to not take part. However, while I, myself, do not, I have said before that I have no problem with those who do and I have no special animus against the holiday. Giving thanks is good, we are supposed to give thanks all the time and these days a great many people have a serious lack of gratitude at every level in my opinion. So, having said before that I do not celebrate it and why I do not, I thought, in the interest of goodwill and truth, I would assuage any anxiety good monarchists might have about it.

The strangest thing the person I spoke to hit me with was the notion that Thanksgiving Day was some sort of Puritanical conspiracy to replace Christmas. Rest assured, there is nothing to such a notion. Thanksgiving was most widely celebrated in various ways at various times by people in New England who, early on, probably were not celebrating Christmas anyway (Puritans tended to dislike the holiday). By the time Thanksgiving became an official, national holiday the Puritans were long extinct and today Christmas (thanks to consumerism) is more apt to displace Thanksgiving Day than the other way around. So, I can hardly see how such an idea could have anything behind it. The Puritan origins are not something I am fond of, thanks to their embrace of republicanism later on, but it is entirely up to you and may depend on where you live if the Puritans had anything to do with it anyway. Ask any native of the Old Dominion state of Virginia and they will proudly tell you that the first Thanksgiving was not celebrated in New England at all but in Virginia by English colonists who were certainly not Puritans (depicted in the image above).

Texans, as I have written about before, know that both are wrong and that the first Thanksgiving in what would become the United States was celebrated in west Texas near what is now El Paso. However, to this day it is still a matter of debate as to where the tradition started in the English colonies, whether Virginia or Massachusetts. I may be biased but it seems to me the Virginians have the stronger claim, having it actually set out in a legal charter from 1619 whereas in New England it was simply a local custom with no official backing that I ever heard of. The New England Pilgrims, as I did mention before, professed their loyalty to King James I of Great Britain though I personally have my doubts about their absolute sincerity. There would, however, be little room for such doubts about the colonists of Virginia who were not Puritans and who even named their colony after England's most famous queen. Virginia, at least up until the War for Independence, was considered rather more on the royalist side compared to some others.

Thanksgiving Day did not become an official holiday until centuries later, even quite a while after the United States had already been established. It was first decreed in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln and this had practically nothing to do with the early English colonists but was supposed to be a day of thanksgiving for the recent victories of the Union armies during the American Civil War. Needless to say, this meant that the holiday did not catch on in the south for a very long time. I might also add that in Canada the Thanksgiving Day holiday has very explicitly royalist origins, being first celebrated to give thanks for the recovery of the Prince of Wales after a serious illness and later moved to its current place on the calendar so as not to detract from the rather more solemn observance of Armistice Day after World War I.

I would say one of the good things about Thanksgiving Day is to call to mind the colonial history of America which is all too often forgotten, that life in what is now the United States did not suddenly begin in 1783 and certainly not in 1776 but goes back to those colonists from the Kingdom of England and the conquistadors of the Kingdom of Spain, the Voyageurs of the Kingdom of France and so on and so forth. It can be an occasion to highlight the European roots of the country, its existence as a product of Western Civilization and that every last corner of this land was once reigned over by hereditary monarchs. America has its roots in the empires of Britain, France, the Netherlands, Spain, even Russia and to lesser extent a few others and those roots are not republican or anything to do with the revolutionary claptrap that is still being sold to people today. For myself, family gatherings have lost their appeal as not many of my family are left at this point and I will be spending the holiday alone. However, I do not think there is anything inherently wrong with it, giving thanks is good, focusing on the family is good and if you choose to celebrate it, I wish you all the best and hope you make the best of the occasion.

Related Posts:
The Real "First Thanksgiving"
Why I Don't "Do" Thanksgiving

Monday, November 20, 2017

MM Movie Review: The Last Samurai

“The Last Samurai” is a 2003 film I shall classify as “historical fiction” directed by Edward Zwick and starring Tom Cruise, Timothy Spall and Ken Watanabe. In describing what the film is about one of the major problems with it comes up immediately. As it is entirely a work of fiction, there is some debate over exactly what events the filmmakers are trying to portray here. It depicts a washed-up American cavalry officer who is hired by the government of Meiji Japan to train the newly established Imperial Japanese Army. This officer, Captain Nathan Algren played by Tom Cruise, is a veteran of the Indian Wars who is haunted by his experiences, particularly the atrocities committed by his unit in fighting the American Indians. He is then pushed into acting as an advisor to the Imperial Japanese Army as they confront an army of rebel samurai. Algren is taken prisoner by these samurai rebels, comes to sympathize with their cause, seeing them as analogous to the American Indians who fought the U.S. government, and finally joins them in their “last stand” against the imperial army.

Teaching the Japanese what they already would've known..
One thing to make clear at the outset is that absolutely nothing even remotely like this ever happened in Japanese history. However, the events in the film are generally said to have been inspired by the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877 with the leader of the samurai rebels, Lord Moritsugu Katsumoto played by Ken Watanabe, standing in for the historical figure of Saigo Takamori. The character in the film, however, is nothing like the historical figure and no one like the character of Captain Algren ever existed at all. He is portrayed as an alcoholic, haunted by demons from his past, forced to take a job because of his desperate poverty. His former superior officer who recruits him for this job in Japan is a moustache-twirling villain who is hired by equally stereotypical villainous Japanese government officials who are portrayed as cruel and corrupt, dominating the noble, young, Meiji Emperor to enrich themselves in collaboration with the unscrupulous Americans. Again, nothing like this ever happened. Captain Algren begins training the Imperial Japanese Army but, before he thinks they are ready, these men are sent into combat after a series of attacks by samurai rebels.

If all else fails...CHARGE!!!
For some reason, despite being hired simply as a military instructor, Algren accompanies these soldiers on their campaign and, of course, ends up taking part in the battle, effectively commanding them, they are wiped out easily by the samurai and Algren is taken prisoner. Held in the stronghold of the rebels in a remote village, he lives with the wife of a samurai he had killed in the battle, eventually learns Japanese and comes to sympathize with his captors. He trains with them, learns their ways, all in a part of the film that has caused many to refer to this as “Dances with Wolves” set in Japan. Finally, the rebel leader Katsumoto goes to the capital to attend a council meeting in which he hopes to convince the Meiji Emperor to see things his way. However, he doesn’t attend the meeting at all because he refuses to take off his swords, the wicked government officials try to assassinate him and Algren goes with him to prepare for the final battle. Algren becomes a samurai and fights with Katsumoto in the climactic battle of the movie against the Imperial Army, presumably based on the historic Battle of Shiroyama though of course what happens in the film is nothing like what happened in real life.

The most obvious problem with this movie is Tom Cruise and his character. The Japanese did not hire American veterans to train their army. During the period of modernization the Meiji government did try to learn from the west but they were much more influenced by the European powers such as Britain, France and Germany than by the United States. The U.S. had obviously played the decisive part in opening Japan up to the outside world but after that point American involvement was minimal. Indeed, the closest historical parallel to the character of Algren is usually given to be Captain Jules Brunet of the French army, however his involvement in Japan was earlier than the period depicted in this film. He was involved in the Boshin War, part of the fighting over the Meiji Restoration, not the subsequent modernization that happened in Japan. This, however, necessitates pointing out another glaring inaccuracy in the film which is the attitude of the rebel samurai toward foreigners and foreign ideas and tools, particularly weapons.

Muskets and volley fire were long established
In the movie, the rebel samurai are portrayed as fighting for the pure soul of Japan, Japanese tradition and as a matter of honor only fight with traditional Japanese weapons. This means they do not use firearms. Pardon me for being blunt but this is flat out retarded. The samurai rebels of the Satsuma rebellion were, to an extent, fighting for traditional ways but they were not stupid and would not refuse to use weapons that would help their cause. The Japanese had been using firearms for centuries ever since the first Portuguese explorers came to Japan and showed them what they were and how they worked. The Japanese immediately built their own firearms and used them forever after. Ranks of ashigaru armed with muskets were a staple of Japanese samurai armies throughout the famous Sengoku Period. Prior to the period of isolation under the Tokugawa Shogunate, many Japanese daimyos made extensive use of firearms with muskets, artillery and naval canon. The man who began the reunification of Japan, Oda Nobunaga, was one of the most enthusiastic about these western innovations.

Personally, I have often imagined what might have happened if Oda Nobunaga had not been assassinated, imagining Japan being united and modernizing earlier and sailing out into the northern Pacific to get in on the colonization of North America via Alaska and California, but that is getting off topic. The point is that no one in Japan would have considered firearms to be dishonorable or even “foreign” at all considering that they had been making and using such weapons for centuries to the point that their warfare was dominated by them long before Commodore Perry ever appeared on the horizon. This also highlights the way the film tries to simplify everything by having one side working with foreign powers and the other side shunning them (aside from Algren of course who adopts Japanese ways). The open to foreigners versus nativist dynamic was not the primary element of the Satsuma Rebellion but would have been more closely related to that of the previous Boshin War. However, even then, it was not so simple as both the shogunate and imperial forces had foreign powers they worked with against each other. As the historical case of Captain Brunet demonstrates, the forces loyal to the shogun had French backers whereas the imperial forces had British support.

Saigo Takamori
Brunet himself wrote to Napoleon III that the daimyos loyal to the shogun were friendly to France and that their victory would mean a greater French influence in the future Japan. No doubt the British backed the imperial forces for the same reason. Neither were open allies of course and neither would have all that much greater a position of favor in Meiji Japan but the point is that each side had foreign support and the rebels were not so puritanical as to shun any and all outside assistance. They would even ultimately adopt a rather foreign government model with a republic and a president; the Republic of Ezo. Their system was, to an extent, inspired by that of the United States yet there was no significant American involvement in this and it all happened in 1869, long before the events portrayed in this film. Saigo Takamori, on whom Katsumoto is based, fought with firearms as Japanese armies had long done, he often wore the western-inspired uniform (most similar to that of the French army of the time) as did the earlier rebel leaders of the Boshin War. Captain Brunet, it should also be mentioned, quite unlike Algren, did not ‘go native’ but rather insisted the Japanese adopt French customs.

Moreover, Saigo Takamori was no isolationist or backward-looking reactionary. He had supported the imperial party in the Meiji Restoration, he helped in the modernization and formation of the Imperial Japanese Army and advocated the conquest of Korea as a way to unite the country, gain foreign respect and provide the disgruntled samurai with an honorable death in battle. Far from shunning western technology, he established his own network of military academies throughout his prefecture and opened his own artillery school. Rebellion broke out when the imperial government tried to disarm these academies, fearing they could pose a threat and inadvertently provoking the very rebellion they had hoped to prevent. Saigo Takamori agreed to lead the rebellion that had already broken out, wearing his western-style army uniform at the head of a column of well-armed men who had raided government arsenals in order to do no more than demand reforms and the removal of corrupt officials and their replacement by men of more traditional Japanese morality.

The Battle of Shiroyama
The film is correct in depicting Katsumoto as a reluctant rebel. Saigo Takamori was insistent that he did not desire war and was loyal to the Emperor, that his only concerns regarded the government but the government would agree to nothing under threat of force and so warfare ensued. However, unlike in the film, the rebel forces never won any significant victories over the imperial forces. Their final confrontation, the Battle of Shiroyama, was not like what was depicted in the film at all but was similar at least in so far as it was an extremely heroic stand against impossible odds. The rebels were outnumbered roughly 60-to-1, were intensely shelled and faced assaults by huge numbers of imperial troops until the last handful of survivors drew their swords and charged to certain death. Saigo Takamori did not survive the battle though there is some dispute as to whether he died of his wounds or committed ritual suicide. Either way, even those who blamed the rebellion for setting back the Japanese economy and causing the samurai class to be viewed with suspicion could not help but admire the heroism of Saigo Takamori and his men.

His Majesty the Meiji Emperor did pardon Saigo Takamori posthumously but it is rather overstretching things to say, as the film does, that this gave Emperor Meiji the courage to slow down westernization and insist on Japanese traditions being retained. This was not something that the actual Meiji Emperor needed to learn. His father had been the most vociferous in rejecting any foreign contact with Japan at all and the Meiji Emperor was always cautious and rather suspect when it came to foreigners from the very beginning. He simply understood that isolation was no longer an option and if Japan was to avoid being dominated by foreigners, it would have to become as strong as the other foreign powers and this, during his reign, the Empire of Japan managed astoundingly well.

Low ranking foreign devils meet the Emperor
On the whole, “The Last Samurai” seems rather too full of tropes and very much lacking in any semblance to actual history. It is very well photographed, the visuals are extremely good and it at least does not ultimately depict the lone westerner as the one who saves the day. Algren is just along for the ride. It can be very moving at times and does get some things right, at least in terms of overall sentiment, which is to say being ‘true to life’ rather than actually true. I did like the scene toward the end when the imperial soldiers all bow down in respect to the courage of the defeated samurai rebels. Actual history is practically nonexistent. What is portrayed is simply not what happened in the Satsuma Rebellion, the rebels did not refrain from using firearms, the imperial army was not inept and not trained by American soldiers nor would any hired captain ever have been allowed into the presence of the Emperor. However, the actors mostly do very well, it can be entertaining and you do get to see Tom Cruise get the ever living crap beaten out of him on several occasions. There is that.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The State of the Khmer Kingdom Today

The often overlooked Kingdom of Cambodia was in the news recently as the pliant Supreme Court ruled to ban the primary opposition party in the country, clearing the way for the ruling Prime Minister Hun Sen of the Cambodian People's Party to sail to (another) easy victory in upcoming elections. I tend to think that many monarchists pay too little attention to Cambodia, thinking that since the monarchy was restored, the important job was done and we could move on. The truth, as usual, is not so simple and I am particularly sensitive to this case. I have personal ties to the Khmer kingdom that make it impossible for me to gloss over. I have family who were involved in the war there, both the U.S. and Vietnamese interventions, a Cambodian cousin (by marriage) and another cousin who moved there with her family last year. If you know what the situation is like 'on the ground' you will know that Cambodia is nothing like its official description as a run-of-the-mill "constitutional monarchy". It is effectively a socialist dictatorship using the monarchy for cover.

A Khmer Rouge King
As usual, to understand the situation, one has to look back at the recent history of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Prior to World War II the country was effectively a colony as part of French Indochina. In 1941, thinking he would be easier to work with, the French authorities influenced the Crown Council to choose Norodom Sihanouk to succeed his grandfather as King. He remained in power during the Japanese occupation, declared independence from France at their prompting and essentially held power in the country ever since 1941 (he did abdicate for a time in favor of his father but still held control of the government during that time). He became extremely popular but as communist subversion increased in the country, King Norodom Sihanouk tried to play both sides of the fence between the French and later the Americans on one side and the communists, particularly China, on the other. Ultimately, anti-communist/anti-Vietnamese uprising resulted in the King being deposed in 1970 while he was out of the country and replaced by General Lon Nol. This caused King Sihanouk to do an 'about face' and urge his people to go to the jungle and join the communist Khmer Rouge.

When the U.S. pulled out of Indochina, the Khmer Rouge seized power in 1975 and enacted a puritanical, fanatical, communist makeover of the country with the King as their 'front man' on the world stage. This has led to some lasting controversy given that the Khmer Rouge butchered about a third of the entire population during their time in power. They were not removed until the ruling dictator, Pol Pot, insanely launched an attack on the neighboring Socialist Republic of Vietnam. He may have expected that his forces and China would crush the Vietnamese between them but he learned the hard way what the Americans, French and others, including the Chinese themselves, could have told him; fighting the Vietnamese is not something to take lightly. The Vietnamese basically wiped the floor with Pol Pot's forces, took over the country and installed their own government in 1979. One of the figures they put in power was a former Khmer Rouge cadre leader named (you guessed it) Hun Sen who had fled to Vietnam several years earlier. The Chinese did not approve of this, having backed the Khmer Rouge and because the Vietnamese were backed by Soviet Russia with whom China had a very tense relationship. However, King Sihanouk refused to go along with any pro-Khmer Rouge at this point, being glad to finally be free of them.

Prince Ranariddh
Under various titles, Hun Sen has effectively been dictator of Cambodia ever since the Vietnamese installed him after overthrowing Pol Pot. The UN finally got involved, held elections and the people voted to restore the monarchy so King Norodom Sihanouk was back but Hun Sen was going nowhere. He was forced to join in a nominal coalition government with the royalist party FUNCINPEC, an opposition party founded by the King and led by his second son Prince Norodom Ranariddh. It seemed like a basically normal constitutional monarchy from the outside but such appearances were deceiving. Hun Sen still had the strongest position and in 1997 carried out a coup against Prince Ranariddh when the Prince started to publicly complain about Hun Sen have more than half the power he was supposed to have. In the next elections, and practically every election in Cambodia has been deemed highly suspect, Hun Sen became sole Prime Minister and immediately began building up a cult of personality around himself as the "strong man" leader of Cambodia. King Norodom Sihanouk, who had more political experience than anyone, had his number from day one, famously referring to Hun Sen as the "one eyed lackey of the Vietnamese". However, Hun Sen still had opposition parties to deal with and the very revered King to at least hinder him if not stop him from doing whatever he wants.

The opposition parties were not terribly difficult to deal with. Hun Sen could always find an excuse to arrest opposition figures, suspend their rights or in some way make sure that his party came first in every subsequent election. A favorite tactic of his, used more than once, was to take advantage of the long-standing dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over the exact location of their border. Whenever an election was coming up, Hun Sen would send military forces to the border, the Thais would respond by sending their own troops to the border and this was used as justification for Hun Sen to declare a state of emergency and martial law, putting the army on the ground to make sure people voted for the CCP, and then backing off when the elections were over. The only one with the prestige to challenge Hun Sen was King Sihanouk who, while his actual powers were extremely limited, could be a major problem for the prime minister due to his widespread popularity. King Sihanouk could force Hun Sen to back down by threatening to abdicate and the King still had considerable support from China, though many Chinese communists wondered why they spent so much money on a foreigner and a monarch.

King Sihamoni w/ King Sihanouk
When King Sihanouk died, in Peking, in 2012 the largest obstacle to Hun Sen was removed. In my opinion, I think King Sihanouk wanted Prince Norodom Ranariddh to succeed him but, and again this is only my opinion, the Crown Council chose Norodom Sihamoni to be the next monarch. Prince Ranariddh had his problems, whether genuine or arranged by his enemies in the ruling party, who can say, but it seems to me that the Crown Council was influenced by Hun Sen to choose Prince Norodom Sihamoni because he wanted someone who would not pose a political threat to his hold on power and not be as difficult and opinionated as King Sihanouk had been. King Sihamoni seems a very nice man and all Cambodians should be loyal to him, however, it just seems to me that when your choice for king is a gay ballerina from France, you are probably choosing someone who does not fit the bill of a king likely to stand up to a dictatorial prime minister. The royalist opposition has been divided with Prince Ranariddh forming his own party for a time and it is anyone's guess if this was a legitimate internal dispute or not. Personally, I suspect the CCP of being involved in breaking up their biggest rival but I may just be paranoid. Anyway, the bottom line is that there is no longer a monarch with the experience, international support and local prestige to stand up to Hun Sen, the royalists have been troubled by scandal and division and now the primary opposition party has been banned and, it is no coincidence, just before national elections.

Cambodia still has ties to Communist China but the reality that people need to understand is that the country is a dictatorship under Hun Sen with a figurehead monarch. If you want to know who is really in control, it is not that difficult if you take a broad view and not get bogged down in the local political squabbles that often do not amount to munch (even the royalists have long been accused of being what Americans would call 'controlled opposition'). Remember that the communist Vietnamese "founding father" Ho Chi Minh had originally founded the Indochinese Communist Party and he expected and planned to become the communist dictator of all of what had been French Indochina, not just his native Vietnam. Keeping that in mind, recall that Laos is effectively under Vietnamese occupation to this day and that Hun Sen was first put in power in Cambodia by the Communist Vietnamese and has remained in power ever since. If you ever go to Cambodia you will also notice that the army officers all speak Vietnamese. That should be a huge, huge clue as to who is really in charge in Cambodia and who is pulling the strings of Prime Minister Hun Sen. The King is still there but Cambodia is still in need of a true royal restoration.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Dutch Nazis, Nationalism and the Monarchy

Regular readers may recall a past article on the Netherlands involvement in World War II in which mention was made of the Dutch equivalent of the Nazi Party, the NSB or Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging in Nederland (National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands) which was founded in 1931 and led by Anton Mussert, today the most notorious Dutch collaborator of World War II. There is much that can, I think, be learned from the relationship between Anton Mussert and Adolf Hitler, the Dutch NSB and the German NSDAP which should serve as a warning for people today who might have the right intentions but who should be on guard against any threats to separate them from their own unique identity and historic institutions. The NSB started out with the simple goal of wishing to stop the decay in Dutch society and restore the Netherlands to her former status as a major world power but ended up, by their increasing adherence to the German Nazi Party, fighting for the exact opposite of that.

As with many such similar movements, the NSB was originally most inspired by the fantastic success of Benito Mussolini and his Fascist Party in Italy. They had swept to power a decade earlier while Hitler and his Brown shirts were still struggling. Because of this, the NSB, founded by Anton Mussert and Cornelis van Geelkerken, had more in common with the Italian Black shirts than with Hitler and the Nazis. The most noticeable difference was that they were pro-Dutch and not anti-Jewish, indeed, like the Fascists, originally had Jewish members. They were opposed to direct democracy, advocating corporatism rather than capitalism or socialism but were not revolutionary, planning to work within the existing constitutional framework to achieve power and enact their changes to the Netherlands legally. They pushed for national unity and favored the corporatist model specifically to end the labor-versus-ownership divide which caused strikes and to put occupational concerns over ideological divisions.

Their goal of pushing for a return to national greatness also meant calling to mind the glory days of Dutch history when the Netherlands had been a major power. This meant that they were not opposed to the Dutch monarchy, indeed they drew inspiration from many past members of the House of Orange and, most significantly for our purposes here, they wanted to see the strengthening and expansion of Dutch power around the world. This meant that they wanted to strengthen their position in the Dutch East Indies (modern day Indonesia) and to annex Flanders and French Flanders to create a “Greater Netherlands”. This would, of course, necessitate the break up of the Kingdom of Belgium and the NSB intended for the vast Belgian Congo to become a Dutch colony and, if possible, for the Netherlands to regain control of South Africa by restoring the Afrikaner republics as Dutch colonies united with their ancestral homeland. They expected to be a close ally of Germany but nothing more, pursuing their own national interests on the world stage. However, their friendship with the Nazi Party proved a double-edged sword.

Early on the NSB gained some surprising electoral success for a country which, then as now, was seen as a place where such a party would not be expected to do well. The NSB gained enough of a following for the socialists, trade unionists and major religious institutions to come out against them. The government forbid state employees from joining the party and the socialists formed groups to disrupt their events and prevent the NSB from getting its message out (the Antifa of the day). They reached their peak in 1935, saw support drop somewhat after that but they were still a force to be reckoned with when World War II in Europe broke out with the German invasion of Poland in 1939.

The decline in support for the NSB came at around the same time, roughly 1936 and afterwards, that the Nazis began to eclipse the Italian Fascists as their primary source of inspiration. Racial rhetoric and anti-Semitism began to appear and became increasingly common though never on the same level as these subjects dominated political discourse in Germany. One area of concern in this regard was the Dutch East Indies where the NSB had some sizeable support before the war. This is not surprising given that one of the primary concerns of the NSB was to strengthen and enlarge the Dutch colonial empire and so, naturally, they were not without support in the largest and most important Dutch colony. However, the Dutch East Indies was also home to a sizeable minority of mixed-race people who, like the Anglo-Indians for the British, were quite important to the smooth operation of the colony which constituted the vast majority of the Dutch empire. There was considerable concern that the racial rhetoric would damage the support for the NSB in the East Indies. As it turned out, that would prove the least of their problems.

Future Dutch Queen Juliana with exiled Kaiser Wilhelm II
Yet, it was partly the racial rhetoric of the Nazis that kept the Dutch complacent. When Hitler invaded Poland and Britain and France declared war on Germany, most people in the Netherlands expected to sit out the war just as they had done from 1914-1918. The German Nazis, after all, viewed them as their Germanic cousins of superior racial stock and this, along with the fact that the Germans had pledged to respect Dutch neutrality and the detail that the Dutch had not and would not be so foolish as to attack the Germans, caused many to think the war would pass them by. Their queen was even married to a German prince and the former German Kaiser was living in the Netherlands and had been protected by the Dutch monarchy from efforts by the Allies to have him extradited and hanged as a “war criminal”. It therefore came as a great shock when the Germans started bombing them, dropping airborne troops on them and had panzers racing across the border. The Dutch were caught completely unprepared and despite their surprisingly fierce resistance were only able to hold on for four days before being obliged to surrender with the government and Queen Wilhelmina going into exile in England (quite against her wishes as she was preparing to hand out rifles to her maids and butlers and defend her palace herself -she was quite a formidable old lady).

The Nazis occupied the Netherlands and, naturally, turned to their biggest local fans in the NSB for support in running the country and dealing with the local population. This brought about a dramatic change in how the NSB was viewed and by what the role of the NSB was to be in the destiny of the Netherlands. Formed in reaction to the Great Depression, the NSB had garnered much of its support from presenting an alternative to communism and Mussert had addressed record crowds to talk about an alternative to the alien ideology of communism and the recently discredited model of capitalism. However, as soon as the war touched the Netherlands, a war no one expected, least of all the NSB which thought the Nazis would never attack, bomb and invade their Germanic racial brethren which was also neutral, until they did, Mussert immediately got in touch with the Nazis and offered his country up for annexation by Hitler’s Third Reich and even proposed leading a secret mission to kidnap Queen Wilhelmina and present her to the Germans.

Anton Mussert, doing his best to look the part
Mussert had rather ‘jumped the gun’ in throwing himself at the feet of Hitler before Hitler’s forces had actually conquered the Netherlands with the result that the Dutch government found out about these messages and several NSB leaders were arrested though Mussert himself escaped and remained in hiding until after the German conquest was complete. When the dust settled, however, he was not immediately given control of the Netherlands as he had expected, Hitler appointing the Austrian Arthur Seyss-Inquart as Reichskommissar of the Occupied Dutch Territories. When Mussert approached him about being named head of state in place of the Queen, Seyss-Inquart referred him to Hitler and to Hitler the ambitious Mussert proposed a ‘Nordic Federation’ of Germanic countries under Hitler’s direction and with himself in charge of the Netherlands. Hitler brushed him off but Mussert went on, holding rallies urging for cooperation with the Germans but with talk of the “Greater Netherlands” being sidelined in favor of talk about the Netherlands simply having “a place” in the “new Europe” run by Germany and Italy. Later on, Mussert would propose that he himself should be Hitler’s ‘number two’ man in this new order but, again, Hitler brushed him off.

Nonetheless, Mussert remained devoted to Hitler, even publicly swearing personal allegiance to him and urged his people to do the same. In June of 1940, at a mass gathering, he called on the Dutch people to rally behind him in supporting Hitler and the German war effort and to renounce their allegiance to the House of Orange, the Dutch monarchy and the government-in-exile in Britain. The Dutch were thus given a choice and it was made very stark for them; Mussert or Queen Wilhelmina. Mussert had been the nationalist leader pledging to strengthen and expand the Dutch empire but now was more about having a favored position in German-dominated Europe so long as they behaved themselves. Hitler, it must be said, did little to encourage such expectations and never allowed Mussert any position of real importance. He was not the head of state, he was not the prime minister and was only allowed the sort of honorary title of “Leader” but with no official position or power to go along with it. On the contrary, the Germans would eventually show more favor to other NSB members who were more pro-German and anti-Dutch, one even proposing to replace the Dutch language with German.

Dutch recruiting poster for the SS
A new chance arose, however, to rally the Dutch to the Axis cause when the war was expanded to what Germany and Italy had always claimed was their real enemy; the Soviet Union. The Dutch had no desire to fight against the British but they volunteered in large numbers to fight the communist threat which had openly called for the subjugation of the world. The Netherlands supplied more volunteers for the Axis war effort than any other occupied country and the Germans were quick to make use of them on the brutal eastern front. Putting politics aside, the Dutch proved themselves in dramatic fashion, fighting with immense courage, many being highly decorated and taking dramatic losses in the process. Against the Bolshevik hordes, the Dutch fighting man had proven his worth and made incredible sacrifices in the process. However, just as the first year of the ‘Crusade against Bolshevism’ came to an end, Dutch nationalists would find themselves betrayed yet again when the Empire of Japan decided to get in on the global war. However, rather than joining Germany and Italy in war against the Soviet Union, it would be against the United States of America and, subsequently, against the Netherlands as well in order to seize the extensive oilfields of the Dutch East Indies.

Japan invades the Dutch East Indies
Once again, the Dutch were caught unprepared and had only minimal Allied assistance to call upon when the Japanese invaded, a massive operation that none of the western powers had previously thought Japan capable of. The Dutch set fire to their oilfields and their small colonial army offered gallant resistance but it was to no avail. Needless to say, the previously considerable support the NSB had in the Dutch East Indies immediately evaporated. It also caused considerable dismay at home. Imagine yourself being a proud, patriotic Nederlander; the NSB says they will lead you to a “Greater Netherlands” which will revive and enlarge the Dutch empire, making it bigger and better than it had ever been before. Then you are told that, instead, the Netherlands will be a subsidiary part of a greater Germanic federation but you can at least keep what you have and will be protected from communist subjugation. Finally, while your men are fighting and freezing to death on the eastern front alongside the Germans, you find out that Germany’s ally has seized your largest and most important colony, killed large numbers of your people and put everyone else in concentration camps. That sort of thing would tend to sap morale.

Queen Wilhelmina during the war
Now, still keeping in mind that you are a proud Dutch nationalist, possibly freezing to death on the Russian front, that while the side you are fighting for says your empire must be given up and your relatives in Southeast Asia are at the mercy of the Japanese, that Queen Wilhelmina, who you are told is now your enemy, is calling for the liberation of the Netherlands from German rule and the liberation of the Dutch East Indies from Japanese rule, fighting for the full restoration of the Dutch empire. You will also notice that all talk about South Africa is out of the question whereas Queen Wilhelmina had been the most sympathetic leader in the world toward your Boer brethren back in the days of their fight against the British, even sending a Dutch warship, HNLMS Gelderland, to evacuate the Boer President Paul Krueger from Africa and bring him to Europe. You might have even heard that the German Kaiser would not receive Krueger but in the Netherlands, Queen Wilhelmina and the Dutch Royal Family gave him the warmest welcome in The Hague. Which side, that represented by the Queen, or that represented by Mussert, must have seemed the proper cause for any proud Nederlander?

Mussert had enough sense to see this and when the Dutch East Indies was invaded he appealed to Hitler to use his influence to get the Japanese to back off, to call off his “Honorary Aryans” in favor of actual Aryans as the Nazis might put it. Again, Mussert was ignored and Hitler and Mussolini quickly declared war on the United States in solidarity with their Japanese ally. Did this have an impact on the Dutch who were fighting alongside the Germans? Obviously, it could not have helped. Friction over Dutch officers being replaced with German ones in the Dutch SS volunteer legion had caused many to resign and the Dutch suffered heavy losses around Leningrad after being reformed in the spring of 1942. Later, their nominal commander, a former high ranking officer of the Dutch military, Lt. General Hendrik Seyffardt was assassinated at home. After their enlistments expired in the spring of 1943, by which time the Japanese had seized the Dutch East Indies, most refused to reenlist to fight with the Germans. Due to the lack of recruits, the legion was disbanded in May of 1943. When Mussert tried to protest against the reprisals taken by the SS after the murder of Seyffardt, Hitler would not even see him.

As Axis forces were being pushed back in Russia, North Africa and the Pacific, the Germans ordered the conscription of all former Dutch soldiers into their own army and SS legions. In response, the Dutch went on strike and nearly a hundred were shot in retaliation but there was little the Germans could really do, a dead man being rather less likely to work or fight for your war effort than one on strike. The NSB was decimated, most of its members dead on the Russian front or assassinated by the Dutch underground. When Hitler finally gave Mussert a last audience he informed the Dutch “Leader” plainly that he would never be given any political power. Still, he carried on even as June 1944 saw the Allied invasion of France, including over a thousand Dutch soldiers who had escaped the continent, fighting for their Queen and country. On September 5, fearing the approach of Allied soldiers, the remaining NSB members fled to Germany though Mussert notably did not, was taken prisoner and executed for high treason after the war.

The Dutch spent the last winter of the war starving and freezing as the Allied Operation Market Garden failed and the Germans cut off all supplies to punish their racial cousins. The only relief came from 11,000 tons of food dropped by American and British aircraft. Not long after, the German forces remaining surrendered and soon the Queen returned, met by a rapturous welcome. Interestingly enough, after Mussert was convicted and sentenced to death, he appealed to Queen Wilhelmina to spare him. The Queen he had renounced his allegiance to, the Queen he encouraged his people to abandon, the last hope Mussert had was for her to use her royal powers to spare his life. However, Queen Wilhelmina was not that sort and Mussert was executed by firing squad. He died for his persistent allegiance to a German ruler who never trusted him nor made any objection to the stripping away of Dutch territory. Queen Wilhelmina, on the other hand, would spend the end of her reign fighting to maintain the Dutch colonial empire in Southeast Asia, even while her own allies betrayed her and the business elites of the country criticized her for not conceding.

Dutch colonial troops march against Japan
There is a great lesson to be learned from the sad life of Anton Mussert and his NSB. His desire for the Netherlands to be stronger was certainly valid as subsequent events proved that neutrality only works if your neighbors are good enough to respect it. He was not a revolutionary, was not anti-religion nor was he anti-other races, simply pro-Dutch. His political views about disliking democracy and preferring a system based around occupational representation were, in my view, perfectly reasonable. However, his captivation with Hitler proved disastrous for himself as well as his movement. It certainly did his country no good but Hitler would have done with the Netherlands as he pleased regardless of whether Mussert was in the picture or not. He became so enamored with the idealized image of Hitler that he turned against the traditions and traditional institutions of his own nation so that, in the end, it was the Queen he betrayed and was fighting against who represented the cause of Dutch greatness while the side he was on was allied to a power which themselves claim to have been fighting a race war against his people and those like them. That is something everyone with a proper pride and self-respect for their own people and culture would do well to take notice of.
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