Two Nazis and a Military Analyst Walk into a Bar… (May11th)

~May 11~

On this day, May 11, 1960, four Israeli Mossad agents, with the help of Simon Wiesenthal/the Nazi Hunter, captured fugitive Nazi Adolf Eichmann who was living under the alias of Ricardo Klement in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

After his trial in Israel and the denial of his appeal, Eichmann was scheduled for execution. He refused a last meal, instead, Eichmann requested a bottle of wine, and he also refused the traditional black execution hood.  His last words were:

“Long live Germany.  Long live Argentina.  Long live Austria.  These are the three countries with which I have been most connected and which I will not forget.  I greet my wife, my family, and my friends.  I am ready.  We’ll meet again soon, as is the fate of all men.  I die believing in God.”

He was executed shortly after midnight on June 1, 1962; his body was cremated at a secret location, and his ashes were scattered in the Mediterranean Sea, outside of Israeli territorial waters by an Israeli Navy patrol boat…

And, I guess, that’s the end of the story, right?

Well, no, in my opinion, there’s more. How did Eichmann get to Argentina, how was he able to hide for so long, how was he found, and perhaps, most importantly, why was he not extradited, why was he kidnapped by one nation-state from inside another nation-state. Could you imagine the outcry if the Russian’s kidnapped an American in the US, and snuck him to Russia for trial?  Look at the situation in the UK, where Russians have assassinated and attempted to assassinate British residents twice in the past several years… if its outrageous for Russian operatives to work inside the UK, isn’t it somewhat outrageous that the Israeli Mossad operated within Argentina? Or are international norms only for the bad guys to follow? It seems, at times, that we have Double Standard in terms of expected international norms by state actors, and, additionally we don’t even always know what our government is doing.

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Take this other example: On this day, May 11, 1973, the charges against Daniel Ellsberg, for his involvement in releasing the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times, were dismissed. Daniel Ellsberg, who had worked on the Pentagon Papers, officially titled Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force, had leaked/released the report to the Times. The report was a history of the United States’ political and military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967 and had demonstrated, among other things, that the Johnson Administration “systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress”. More specifically, the papers revealed that the U.S. had secretly enlarged the scope of its actions in the Vietnam War with the bombings of nearby Cambodia and Laos, coastal raids on North Vietnam, none of which were reported in the mainstream media.

The Pentagon Papers were announced and described on the front page of The New York Times in 1971. Ellsberg was initially charged with conspiracy, espionage, and theft of government property, because of the leaks… but on May 11, 1973, the charges were dismissed after the Watergate prosecutors discovered evidence that the Nixon White House had ordered the so-called White House Plumbers to engage in unlawful efforts to discredit Ellsberg.

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Finally, on this day, May 11, 1987, Klaus Barbie went on trial in Lyon, France, for war crimes committed during World War II. Known as the “Butcher of Lyon,” Barbie personally tortured French prisoners of the Gestapo while stationed in Lyon. After the war, United States intelligence agencies used Barbie for their anti-Marxist efforts and also helped Barbie and others escape to South America. Later, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (the West German intelligence agency) recruited Barbie. Barbie is even rumored to have helped the CIA capture Che Guevara in 1967, as well as assisting in the Bolivian coup d’état orchestrated by Luis García Meza Tejada in 1980 [I mentioned that coup briefly on the May 5th podcast of This Day Today]. After the fall of that dictatorship, Barbie no longer had the protection of the Bolivian government. In 1983, Barbie was extradited to France, not kidnapped by French intelligence agents, and he was ultimately convicted of crimes against humanity. He died of cancer in prison on September 23, 1991.

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May 11th: An Israeli operation, quite illegal from an objective point of view, to capture a Nazi; the arrest of an American who leaked to the public the truth of what the government was hiding from the American people, and the doll-faced Nazi named Barbie, who was recruited to work for the US Government as well as West Germany, even though both agencies knew him to be a war criminal.

Certainly, politics makes strange bedfellows. Yes, the enemy of my enemy, maybe my friend, but shouldn’t we have some standards? If its ok for the US to lie to the American people, to hire known war criminals, and to look the other way as Israel violates the national sovereignty of other nation-states… then, are we any better than those we criticize in the world community? Are we really the beacon on the hill, the New Jerusalem? …Or are we just another rogue state ourselves?

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And that’s what happened This Day in Today…

Remember,

Today’s Tomorrow’s yesterday.

Thank you for listening!

Cinco de Mayo

Image result for bartali gino

 

On this day, May 5, 2000, Gino Bartali died in Florence, Italy. Bartali, July 18, 1914 – May 5, 2000, was a world champion cyclist. That enough makes him famous, right? But, during WWII, Bartali used his fame as a champion cyclist to carry messages and documents to the Italian Resistance. Bartali all over northern Italy, from Florence through Tuscany, Umbria, and Marche, sometimes traveling as far as Rome, all the while wearing the racing jersey emblazoned with his name. Neither the Fascist police nor the German troops ever stopped the cultural icon for fear of upsetting the Italian people. Most of this was unknown until recently.

When Nissim died in 2000, his sons found from his diaries from WWII with the recollection of how Bartali had used his fame to help. Giorgio Nissim, a Jewish accountant from Pisa, who had also been part of the Assissi Underground worked with Bartlai. Nissim and the Catholic Oblati Friars of Lucca would forge the documents and photographs of those they were helping, then Bartali would to leave for Florence while pretending to train, ride his bicycle to the convent in which Jews were hiding, collect their photographs and ride back to Nissim. Bartali also used his visible and movements to learn about raids on safe houses and report back to the Underground.

At one point, Bartali was even brought into Villa Triste by the authorities in Florence. The Italian RSS official Mario Carità questioned Bartali and threatened his life. Bartali simply answered, “I do what I feel [in my heart].” And Bartali continued working with the Assisi Underground. In 1943, he led Jewish refugees towards the Swiss Alps himself. He cycled, pulling a wagon with a secret compartment, telling patrols it was just part of his weight training. In December 2010, it also emerged that Bartali had hidden a Jewish family in his cellar and, by doing so, had saved their lives.

In 2013, Yad Vashem awarded Gino Bartali the honor Righteous Among the Nations. Bartali never spoke of his heroic deeds but, later in life, Bartali simply told his son Andrea that “One does these things and then that’s that.”

I suppose the added irony, and my fascination with Bartali is the juxtaposition of Bartali with the story of Giovanni Palatucci, the so-called Italian Schindler. Palatucci was given credit for decades for using his position in the police department of Fiume to save hundreds of Jews in WWII. In fact, it turns out that most of that story was fabricated and, worse, it’s probably that Palatucci may have participated in the deportation of Italian Jews. 412 of the 570 Jews living in Fiume were deported to Auschwitz, a higher percentage than in any Italian city. Bartali and Palatucci, another example of the irony of history that reminds me of the Zen adage that, “Those who know, don’t say, those who don’t say, know.”

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On this day, May 5, 2002, Hugo Banzer died.  Hugo Banzer Suárez (May 10, 1926 – May 5, 2002) was a Bolivian politician, military general and twice President of Bolivia… first from 1971 to 1978 as dictator; and then again from 1997 to 2001 as constitutional President.

While scholars debate the United States and Brazilian involvement in the Banzer’s 1971 coup d’état, it is apparent that significant clandestine financial & advisory assistance was provided to Banzer by the Nixon administration.  As a result, on August 18, 1971, General Banzer, led a successful military uprising in Santa Cruz de la Sierra.  Democratically-elected President Juan José Torres was forced to take refuge in Argentina, where five years later he was kidnapped and assassinated by right-wing death squads associated with the Videla government and with the knowledge if not encouragement of Hugo Banzer.  The murder of the democratically elected president is part of a string of anti-democratic coups and assassinations supported by the US government including, but certainly not limited to, Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh (1953), Guatemalan President Jacobo Árbenz (1954), South Vietnamese President Ngô Đình Diệm (1963), João Belchior Marques Goulart (1964), Bolivian President Juan José Torres (1971), and Chilean President Salvador Allende (1973). In Latin America, these covert operations by US agents to eliminate leftist politicians and support right-wing dictatorships are collectively known as Operation Condor.

Human rights groups believe that during Hugo Banzer’s 1971-78 tenure (known as the Banzerato) several thousand Bolivians fled seeking asylum in other countries, more than 3,000 political opponents were arrested, at least 200 political opponents were killed, and many, many more Bolivians were tortured.  In the basement of the Ministry of the Interior or “the horror chambers” around 2,000 political prisoners were held and tortured during the 1971-1978 military rule.  Many others, as happened elsewhere in Latin America, simply disappeared. Ironically, another coup d’état, removed Hugo Banzer Suárez from dictatorship on July 21, 1978.

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Yes, today is Cinco de Mayo, the anniversary of the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. While national celebrations are beneficial for social cohesion, particularly when the celebrations recognize a military victory over a foreign power, on this Cinco de Mayo, perhaps we ought to meditate on our individual choices. May 5th, a day in history highlighting the enormous capacity that each person has to be a force for good, or evil, in our world. Are we heroes like Bartali? Paranoid authoritarians like Banzer, or do we sit on the sidelines of history like Palatucci, playing both sides in the face of evil in the world.