Gen. Buford: You know whats going to happen here in the morning? The whole damn reb army is going to be here. They'll move through this town, occupy these hills on the other side and when our people get here Lee will have the high ground. There will be the devil to pay! The high ground! Meade will come in slowly, cautiously. New to command. They'll be on his back in Washington. Wire hot with messages 'Attack! Attack!'. So he will set up a ring around these hills. And when Lee's army is nicely entrenched behind fat rocks on the high ground, Meade will finally attack, if he can coordinate the army. Straight up the hillside, out in the open, in that gorgeous field of fire. We will charge valiantly... and be butchered valiantly! And afterwards men in tall hats and gold watch fobs will thump their chest and say what a brave charge it was. Devin, I've led a soldier's life, and I've never seen anything as brutally clear as this. It's as if I can actually see the blue troops in one long bloody moment... going up the long slope to the stony top... as if it were already done... and already a memory. An odd, set... stony quality to it. As if tomorrow has already happened and there's nothing you can do about it. The way you sometimes feel before an ill-considered attack... knowing it will fail... but you cannot stop it. You must even take part and help it fail. . .
They'll be coming in force. There could be 20,000 coming down that road in the morning. If we hold this ridge for a couple of hours, we can keep them away. We can block that road until our main body gets here. We can deprive the enemy of the high ground!
Colonel Devin: The boys are ready for a brawl. No doubt of that.
Buford: We'll force the rebs to deploy. That's a narrow road they'll be coming down. If we stack them up, it will take them a while to get on track to get into position. Is Calef's battery up yet?
Staff officer: His six guns are deploying now.
Buford: How far back is Reynolds with the main force?
Staff officer: About 8 miles, sir. Not much more.
Colonel Gamble: Sir, you were right. My scouts report the rebel army is coming this way for sure. They're all concentrating in this direction.
Buford: We'll hold here in the morning. Long enough for Reynolds and the infantry to arrive. If we hang on to the high ground, we have a chance... to win this fight that's coming. Understood?
Gamble, Devin, Staff Officers: Yes, sir.
Buford: Post the cannon along this road, the Chambersburg Pike. The rebels will hit us at dawn. I think we can hold them at least 2 hours.
Devin: Hell, General, we can hold them all the livelong day.
Staff officer: He's right, sir.
Devin: At Thoroughfare Gap, you held against Longstreet. You held for six hours.
Gamble: And they never came. We held for nothing.
-- Gettysburg, 1993.
My friend Bob Wright and I were talking this morning after his successful training exercise in the New Mexico desert. His recruits were so eager and committed that the instructors, mostly older guys, had trouble keeping up. They absorbed the new lessons, these men without military experience, so fast that the instructors had to add material to the curriculum.
But in the larger picture, the political picture, Bob was frustrated.
Twice in recent memory, Bob pointed out, popular political movements have breached the wall of the federal leviathan. The first in 2005, when the Minutemen embarrassed the Bush administration along the southern border and then a popular uprising of activists rammed the Amnesty Bill back down the throats of the Bushies and their allies of both parties in Congress. A well-timed alternate bill without amnesty could have secured the border at that point and ended the argument for a while. The GOP, allowing the Minutemen to be denounced as "vigilantes" and the natural outrage at the destruction of the rule of law to be characterized as racist and xenophobic, just stood there.
The people, without the GOP, had successfully breached the wall but the GOP dithered and the moment passed.
Then came the "Health Care" Bill, the townhalls and the Tea Parties. Once again the GOP allowed the protesters to be characterized as racist "teabaggers." The GOP pretty much stood and watched once more as the Dems, rocked back on their heels by popular outrage, were allowed to recover their equilibrium. The momentum to kill the bill was lost, and we apparently made the breach, once more, for nothing.
The GOP's failure in the first instance happened because the president was a member of their own party, I suppose. And what is their excuse in the second? Or the third, when amnesty once again rears its ugly head? The undeclared war on the border goes on and on, people are dying, and what has the GOP done about it?
I suppose I expect too much. The GOP is a political party and is only worried about the next election, not defending principle or even the Constitution. They are, by temperment, inclination and even institution, incapable of exploiting breaches. They are not fighters, they are cheerleaders. They wait until the opinion polls tell them it is safe to make a statement.
Wars come about because of political failures. When they write the history of the political failures that led up to the next American civil war, the GOP will garner much of the blame.
I suppose when I issued my call, it would have been more just to have asked people to break the windows of both political parties, for surely they both bear responsibility.
It takes neither crystal ball nor divine revelation to see the bloody road this country has veered off on thanks to the corrupt misfeasances and malfeasances of both political parties.
After it is over, each side will blame the other.
And they will both be right.
I do not expect to live to see that day, but I do expect more than one survivor will understand the follow excerpt from Cecil Brown's book, Suez to Singapore.
Brown was a freelance journalist and later, CBS radio correspondent, who covered the civil war in Spain, the anschluss of Germany and Austria, the partition of Poland, the destruction of the Poles, the fall of France and later, from his assignment in Mussolini's Rome, the Nazi campaigns in Greece and the Balkans. Expelled by the Italians, he took ship for Turkey on his way to the Middle East, which is where the excerpt below comes from. Later he covered the North Africa campaigns of the British against Rommel and then made his way to Singapore, covered the fatal arrogance of the British in the days leading up to December 7, 1941, survived being sunk on the H.M.S. Repulse, and barely made it out of Singapore alive ahead of the Japanese. But here, the Middle East and Singapore and merely in his future. He had made it onto a Roumanian freighter headed for Turkey.
I stood on the deck watching the shore, closing and opening my eyes, adjusting them to the hot glare of strangeness, the way you do when you emerge from a cave into sunlight. I gazed idly at the brightly colored lateen sails of the small fishing vessels, heeled over and moving gently away from our wake. My mind, like my eyes, struggled to absorb new scenes to impinge them on old. I wanted to pour from my heart these words:
For the rest of my life, peace will be unnatural. Forever in my nostrils will be the smell of death. Always there will be in my ears the scream of Stukas and always in my eyes the crash of bombs, and mangled bodies torn apart and streets splattered with blood. Forever, there will be in my heart the lust to kill evil men, the consuming desire for vengeance against men who had sown misery and murder in this world.
I hope that in the war crimes trials at the end of our upcoming civil war, we see in the dock the men of both political parties who by their actions or inactions made it necessary.
When these men dangle at the ends of the hangman's ropes, will someone say a little prayer -- a small kaddish -- for me?