M-day Passed Quietly By

World War II was exploding on the European continent in the year run up to the 1940 US Presidential election. The isolationist, non-interventionist mindset, still strong since WWI, became more of an election issue as the war moved to the forefront. Sending our boys overseas again to fight for European democracy was not a popular idea. To win re-election, Franklin D. Roosevelt would have downplay his foreign policy that contradicted that public sentiment while, at the same time, moving forward with war time preparations.

Though the isolationist view was a held amongst a large portion of the public, both candidates in that election, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) and his opponent Wendell Willkie, shared the belief that the nation would have to get involved in the war. Both men publicly limited that involvement to materials — not men. Willkie pledged “all aid to the Democracies short of war” and FDR wanted to make America a supplier to the Allied forces — an “arsenal of democracy.” When he was re-elected for an unprecedented 3rd term, the continuation of FDR’s New Deal domestic policy, rather than his foreign policy, is what won the day.

Prior to the election, behind the scenes, the military was already gearing up for war time on FDR’s orders. In the aftermath of WWI, much planning had taken place in the various war departments on how the nation — both militarily and industrially — would be quickly mobilized for battle on that future day — a day the military called M-day.

But, to declare an M-day, a turning point when the whole nation would mobilize for the war effort, the president needed a supportive public. The above board preparations he initiated prior to the election of 1940 had been met with much opposition from his New Deal supporters. They felt that the war effort would weaken the new social initiatives. A publicly declared M-day could mean a lost election for FDR.

Just days after the election, with his position no longer on the line, FDR proceeded with mobilization in a more limited and less public way than an announced M-day would have initiated. Over a short few weeks in November he issued a flurry of executive orders for personnel increases in the Army, especially the Air Corps, federalizing the National Guard, and setting aside public lands for air bases. Defense oriented appropriations from Congress, mostly for Air Defense, began to flow to the Army faster than they could spend them.

The industrial mobilization process still had not gotten up to speed and the supplies that the military needed were not being produced quickly enough. Because the US was not yet at war, the president didn’t have the war time powers to order the mobilization of industry. Instead he had to primarily rely on a free market response.

Even though the isolationist sentiments were still strong at the time France fell to the Axis powers in 1941, the US people began to be sympathetic towards financing more aid to Britain – now viewed as a last serious stand against the Axis powers in Europe. Britain couldn’t afford the weapons and munitions that they needed to defend themselves against the Nazi forces. They didn’t have enough gold — the currency that US neutrality laws required, for the purchase of war materials.

To make US support of Britain possible, FDR proposed the Lend-Lease Act which passed through Congress with the aid, of his once-rival, Wendell Willkie. The act granted authority to the president to exchange war materials needed by the Allied forces for other things, such as land, goods and services. Using this new power, the president obtained several US bases from which to operate once the nation entered WWII, even though, it was still materials — not men, that the US was supplying at the time. The purchases of war goods through the Lend-Lease Act by Britain, China and the USSR created even more demand on US industry.

Although the Army was still implementing a neutral defense strategy rather than planning for the offensive that would commence after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the amount of money for war preparation that had been spent prior to the attack had already surpassed all that was spent during the entirety of WWI. Appropriations for the Army went from $500 million in 1939, to $8 billion in 1940 and then jumped to $26 billion in 1941.

By the summer of 1941, the jobs growth from military expansion and aid to foreign nations along with the number of enlisted men being drafted into the military made it difficult for the public to not notice that M-day had already passed unannounced. For good or bad, the nation’s isolationist sentiments had been overruled by FDR’s executive authority to implement his foreign policy.

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Two Narratives — Heros and Helplessness

I read this post, The Joy of Dadhood, on Nate’s blog several years ago. I remembered it, not just because it was funny, but because of the narrative that Nate is telling into his children’s lives.

So an otherwise quiet morning was interrupted by my wife’s report the Eli had discovered a monster under the bed in the guest bedroom.

Now I don’t know how y’all deal with your pest issues but we take our monster problems very seriously. Drwho took the boys off to seclusion while I suited up… boots… bastard sword… firearms… black cowboy hat. (please… everyone knows you need a black cowboy hat to fight monsters)

So… I head up stairs… slam the door… and being shoutin and hollering nonsense… it was a great battle indeed. Once the beast was slain…. I devoured it… then came downstairs, grabbed the spotbot, and proclaimed that no one was allowed to go back up until I gave the word.

So… while now its entirely likely that my kids really believe in monsters… they also know that if one ever comes around… daddy will kill it and eat it… and clean up its remains with spotbot.

The narrative is one of safety and security — one of dad’s protection. Yet, as they are aware of his preparation and battle, he also demonstrates to his kids, that they too will be able to actively slay the monsters in their futures and make the world safe again.  As young children, it is dad who protects them, but someday, they will be the protectors of their own world. They will have a hero to emulate.

On my road trip to IUSB a few weeks ago, I listened to a discussion hosted by Audie Cornish on National Public Radio(NPR). The panel talked about lockdowns in schools that experience them regularly. It was during an explaination of the drill by first grade teacher Julia Gelormino, that Nate’s story came to mind — not because it was similar, but because it contains an important element missing in the narrative communicated to the children during these lockdown drills.

Ms. Gelormino explained that the game she calls hide-and-seek begins with an announcement on the school’s PA system that “Dr. Lock is in the building.” The game goes like this.  All of her students line up in an orderly fashion and proceed to crowd into a small bathroom. On her cue, they crouch down  and remain still and silent until the game is over. Since the specific event that Ms. Gelormino described was just a drill rather than the real thing, when one of them failed to be silent, she told the young children:

So right now, I don’t want to scare you but Lily(ph), if somebody was trying to harm us and you were making that much sound, guess where they’re going to go first? Here. So right now, you aren’t helping us to be safe.

Gelormino then led the class in a discussion about how the hide-and-seek game will keep them safe, when

… (crying) one of my kids asked what would happen if they shot through the door.

How do you answer that? “Just be quiet?”

My thoughts went to the feelings of helplessness that both the child and the teacher must be have been experiencing at that moment. And I wondered how much the narrative of the hide-and-seek game is affecting these children now and as they grow into adults. Does it make them feel not just personally helpless but also unprotected by the very adults whose job it is to keep them safe? Will their own life story be one of a helplessness-and-hiding worldview rather than one of actively facing down life’s monsters? Would it be a better to bring in elements of Nate’s narrative that show an adult actively doing something to make them safe? Would it be better to introduce a hero to the narrative?

I am not trying to be flippant in comparing these two stories. The school shootings that have occurred are real and terrifying. Yet, given that the probability of a child actually experiencing such a crisis is miniscule, the narrative affect should balance that slight chance against the lasting effects of the story being read into the young children’s lives.

As the powers-that-be work to implement the presidential action #12 of the 23 actions he released to the media in January to “Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations”, I hope that they keep in mind the life long effects of these plans and practice drills on the children. I hope that they consider that the children’s physical health isn’t, in the vast majority of cases, the thing on the line. The greatest impact will be on the childrens’ emotional well beings and worldviews.

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Cybersecurity Incomplete

President Obama’s executive order on cybersecurity appears to get a start on building the framework for sharing intelligence between private industry and government in order to prevent loss of critical infrastructure by cyber attack, Zach Whittiker of ZDNet explains. While the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CIPSA) stalled in the Senate due to internet privacy concerns, this order appears to roll out the less controversial parts of the legislation.

But CIPSA isn’t going away. Another tech personality and writer for ZDNet, Violet Blue, calls the bill “…a setup to wipe out decades of consumer privacy protections, giving the U.S. government unprecedented access to individuals’ online data and communications.” Many are relieved at the contents of this executive order because it only begins the work on the way that the intelligence will be shared, not what intelligence will be shared. The order isn’t entirely innocuous though. When viewed in conjunction with the likely passage of CIPSA, the order serves to increase the speed and efficiency with which internet privacy will no longer be protected.

The preliminary framework is supposed to be published 240 days from the date of the executive order. Within this time frame, CIPSA will be headed back to the House of Representatives. We’ll have to wait until the passage of CIPSA to see what the shared content will include, but I suspect that with the framework already in place, that data will be passed to the national databases and other network security destinations so quickly that there will be little ability to stop it through the slow workings of the judicial system.

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A Boy’s Life Cut Short

The first eleven years of his life were as normal as it gets for a boy from an intellectual, well-connected, multi-national family. And then, normalcy ended.

Abdulrahman, a first born son, was delivered in Denver in 1995, while his father was serving as an Imam at the Denver Islamic Society. His father Anwar, though from Yemen, was also a US citizen as he was born here while his father, Abdulrahman’s grandfather — attended university.  This was a family who had, for two generations before his birth, pursued their education in the US.

Until age seven, the boy was raised, mostly in California, with his father, Egyptian born mother, and the siblings that followed him. There he enjoyed the times that he spent hiking and fishing with his  father — an avid fisherman.

When his father left him to embark on a lecture tour of the United Kingdom, Abdulrahman moved with his mother and siblings to Yemen. His father reunited with them two years later in their ancestral village in the Shabwa province. There, Abdulrahman had the opportunity to develop relationships with some of his relatives and the tribal community.

Up to age eleven, Abdulrahman had known his father as an Imam, as a university lecturer and, most importantly, as father — a father critical of government possibly, but the radical Anwar al-Awlaki — Al-Queda leader? Not yet.  Although his father had been investigated in the United States for terrorist connections, the allegations of illegal activities had been dropped. But this time, his father was taken to a Yemeni jail on charges of kidnapping a teenaged boy for ransom and for being involved in an Al-Queda plot to kidnap a US official. Under very different circumstances than a lecture tour, Abdulrahman was separated from his father again.

Freed a year and a half later by intercession from his tribe, Abdulrahman’s father again reunited with the family. That togetherness lasted a little over a year when his father, wanted for continuing terrorist activities, left. This time to go into hiding.

Abdulrahman, with his mother and siblings, moved to the capital city of Sana to live with his paternal grandfather Nasser al-Awlaki.  Nasser is a man of wealth and renown, a Fulbright scholar,  a past Yemeni Agriculture Minister and a university professor.

An easy teen to raise, Abdulrahman was obedient and not tough as would be expected from a boy who had been through so much. Both his grandfather and mother often worried that he was a little too shy and soft. Nonetheless, by age fourteen he had developed many friends and common teenaged interests.

Abdulrahman and his grandfather often discussed what he would do after high school. Like his grandfather and father before him, the boy looked forward to returning to the United States for his university education. His grandfather had the means to make that possible, but the promise was still a long way off to a sixteen year old boy.

More immediately on Abdulrahman’s mind was that he hadn’t seen his father for two and half years and that his father was on the President Obama’s hunt-to-kill list. His grandfather had tried to intercede for his son, writing President Obama and leveraging his connections within his own government.  Yet, no assurances were forthcoming.

Abdulrahman wanted to reunite with his father again. So the boy wrote his mother a letter.

I am sorry for leaving in this kind of way. Forgive me. I miss my father and want to see if I can go and talk to him. I will be coming back in a few days.

Early in the morning, Abdulrahman set out on his journey. While the family was still asleep, he snuck out of a second floor kitchen window, jumping to a soft landing in the garden below, and left through the front gate. The family guard had seen him go, but did not find it suspicious enough to awaken anybody in the household. Abdulrahman then caught an early morning bus for the six hour journey to his cousin’s house back in the Shabwa province.

Twenty seven days later, on the day after a US drone targeted and killed his father, Abdulrahman called his mother from the same ancestral village that they had lived in, far away from where his father had been taken out, and told her that he was coming home.  Because it was not safe to travel during the political unrest that followed his father’s death, he decided to wait for a few weeks before leaving the security of his relatives and tribal community.

On October 14, 2011, the night before he was to embark for home, Abdulrahman joined his seventeen year old cousin and six others to share a farewell barbeque. As they gathered on that moonlit night, cooking, eating and talking, a US drone attacked them. The boy was finally reunited with his father.

In the initial US news release listing those killed, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was claimed to be a twenty something military aged Al-Queda terrorist. When it was revealed that he was a sixteen year old US citizen looking for his father, it was claimed that he was unfortunately next to a targeted terrorist. When it was determined that the targeted terrorist was not present at the barbeque, the US government’s explanations as to why Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was a victim of a drone attack went silent. Except this – Obama adviser and past press secretary Robert Gibbs, on video,  claimed “the boy should have had a more responsible father.”

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“Executive Orders” – TMI

I had never before asked a reference librarian for this kind of help before. So, I didn’t know what to expect from my research consultation with Linda Fleshman Fisher at the Franklin D. Schurz Library on the campus of IUSB.  What a pleasant surprise!  The meeting was certainly worth my time as Ms. Fisher gave me a few “use and abuse of executive orders to increase presidential power” research tips that I hadn’t thought of.

There are many articles about how specific executive orders affect the branches of the military and even scholarly historical writings can be found on the official military sites. Using the advanced Google search to specify “.mil” sites, weeds the other types of sites out. I had been searching “.gov” sites already, so the search technique wasn’t new to me. I just hadn’t thought of specifically looking for military sources.

I am familiar with some of the databases available to IUSB students, but Ms. Fisher showed me some of the better search criteria under EBSCOhost  and JSTOR to yield the most fruitful results.  EBSCOhost, she pointed out, will contain more opinion pieces while JSTOR will contain more scholarly articles.

We moved on to experimenting with various search criteria for books which resulted in me checking out a few that day and identifying some electronic resources and books held at other libraries for later perusal.

Ms. Fisher astutely realized that the problem with a subject like “executive orders” is that there is too much information rather than too little, so she showed me several ways to narrow the results.  When you add criteria like “presidential power” and “history” or “Wilson” or “propaganda” for example, the number of resources becomes manageable. Well, almost manageable.

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Does That Sound Like US?

It had never been legal, sans due process, for the US President to shoot to kill a US Citizen. Nor has it ever been legal to order the same of his underlings. That would deny us our rights — our constitutionally claimed God given rights.

Not many people would deny that Anwar al-Awlaki was a bad guy and deserved to die for the safety of our nation. But that view misses the point. To overlook the legality of denying him his rights, because he was a special case, means that you or I could be a special case someday too. And that is the point. Our rights were given to all citizens for that very reason.

Whether you trust President Obama to use this power wisely or not makes no difference. One president is given power and it passes to every president that follows. When it becomes lawfully acceptable for the person in the most powerful position in the nation to deny the rights of select citizens, with no burden of proof and no need to explain, does that sound like the United States of America to you?

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Persuasive, But True?

Blur-Brain attempts to persuade us that the Obama Secret Service doesn’t trust the United States Marine Corp because the Marines marched in the inaugural parade with disabled rifles. It has been confirmed by the Examiner that the Marines did indeed have missing rifle bolts and additionally that it is quite probably a change from the 2009 inaugural parade where photos show an armed Navy.  But, whether this is a policy change by the Obama administration based on distrust, a change in USMC policy, or something else, isn’t proven here. Though an interesting development, and one you might want to watch, be aware that the point of persuasive writing is to form your conclusions for you.

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