Well, after face-planting all over the UK, including, most horrifyingly, engaging in an off-hand discussion with the Irish Prime Minister on the merits of a post-Brexit “hard” border with Northern Ireland, and the possible utility of a Trump-style wall – what does Donald know about the Troubles? – the fat bastard managed not to make a hash of the D-Day 75th anniversary ceremony. As he does sometimes, he stuck to the teleprompter and gave one of his “hostage video” recitals of whatever was written for him, which in this case was a speech filled with the right sort of sentiments. The Press, as usual, talked about how dignified and presidential he was, like a traumatized dog owner giving the Doberman a milk bone because this time the snarling predator didn’t try to bite off his left leg above the knee.
Somebody should euthanize the mutt, but that seems to be off the table.
It wasn’t a great speech, but given by anybody else it would have done the job and sat well. Coming from Donald it was, simply, disgusting. It doesn’t lie in the mouth of Trump to say things like:
To all of our friends and partners: our cherished alliance was forged in the heat of battle, tested in the trials of war and proven in the blessings of peace. Our bond is unbreakable.
I’m not even going to get into it. I’m not even going to bother. I will however note, again, that were there a God, any such man uttering those or similar sentiments would have immediately been given the Lot’s Wife treatment, so there’s your answer: we’re on our own.
You have to keep reminding yourself that there was a time when giants strode among us, when Roosevelt and Churchill had a meeting of the minds, when Eisenhower sent his armies across the Channel under an order of the day that read:
You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.
…and it wasn’t empty rhetoric. There was a time when those charged with securing the legacy of the myriad dead understood their duty, when Truman had the likes of Marshall and Acheson to help him establish a post-war international order based on classical liberal values, one built around rules, alliances, treaties, multilateral organizations, and enlightened self interest, too. This time there would be no punishing the vanquished, no extraction of reparations, no carving up the spoils, and no witless march towards yet another war to end all wars. This time would be different. I spent years in academia studying various aspects of what they achieved, and yet I can still barely wrap my mind around it. As Churchill had predicted, the New World had come to the rescue of the Old.
We’ve sheltered so long behind the seawall they built that we don’t even remember why we’re dry. We’ve forgotten there’s an ocean.
D-Day, despite what the journalists always say, was not history’s largest amphibious military operation. That came later, in Okinawa, where the landing was easier but the eventual fighting was not, not by a damn sight, but that does nothing to diminish the magnitude of what was accomplished at Normandy. The mind reels not just at the horrendous risk that was run, that had to be run, but the sheer triumph of innovation, organization, planning, and logistics that made the assault on Hitler’s Atlantic Wall even remotely possible. The scope of it – there aren’t words. One can’t help but wonder, sitting here amid all the bureaucratic incompetence and crumbling infrastructure, if we really belong to the same civilization that was able to pull off Operation Overlord. It’s not just that we lack the courage. We lack the skill.
That’s not always a bad thing, I guess. If Trump had a team around him like the one Eisenhower assembled, his damned wall would have been finished 22 months ago via previously inconceivable industrial processes invented for the purpose.
From this distance, the successful invasion of occupied France looks to have been a sure thing, inevitable, but Eisenhower knew better. A hand-written draft of a statement to be issued in the wake of catastrophe rested in his pocket as the armies embarked:
Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.
If any blame attaches it is mine alone; such is the burden of command, as those worthy of the power they wield comprehend it. Ike’s draft, reproduced below, further reveals the man’s true character, with the passive words “have been withdrawn” scratched out and replaced with “I have withdrawn”. I have. My responsibility. My decision. My fault. This reflexive assumption of responsibility, and if it comes to that blame, is a trait that Donald, full of dull affect, reading his teleprompter and droning the sentiments belied by everything he otherwise says and does on the international stage, has never displayed nor understood. His “in case of failure” statement would need to be improvised on the spot and would likely read “Blame Bolton!!” – or maybe he’d lay it on Obama. Or Hillary.
Anyway, he made it through fine, our Donny. He walked a bit among the thousands of immaculate white crosses. He gave his speech, like he was reading from a manual on lawnmower repair. Nothing struck him down. No pillar of salt. No bursting into flames. It’s a vast, cold universe, indifferent not just to the frightened, miserable living things that inhabit it, but to itself, and we’re on our own. We can be sure of that now.