There Are No “Boots,” Only Men and Women

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

 

No one who serves is a “boot on the ground.” That is a phrase for politicians and bean counters. Each is a man or woman, someone’s child, spouse, sibling, lover, and friend. Each lives, loves, bleeds, and dies. Each commits his or her life to the service of our great nation, risking all.

Our profound thanks to all who serve in the military and clandestine services, allowing our nation to enjoy peace and prosperity at home.

You are, each of you, a blessing. Our prayers and gratitude are with you on this

Veterans Day and always.

 

 

The Shot Heard ‘Round the Bedroom

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

For history buffs, “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World” refers to one of two significant dates.

For American History buffs and American English majors, the distinction refers to a phrase from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Concord Hymn.” When Emerson was writing the Concord Hymn in 1837, he lived in an old family house thirty yards away from North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts, where American patriots are reputed to have first fired their rifles at British soldiers in organized resistance on April 19, 1775.

 

The Battle of Lexington, 1775 Emmet Collection of Manuscripts Public domain, wikimedia commons

The Battle of Lexington, 1775
Emmet Collection of Manuscripts
Public domain, wikimedia commons

 

On the other hand, those in Lexington, Massachusetts will point out that before the American Minutemen defeated that British force at Concord, shots had already been fired at Lexington. Concord proponents claim that the Lexington skirmish was not an organized battle conducted by militia, but rather an impromptu act of resistance that led to the slaughter of the Americans. Emerson might not have been thorough enough in his research for the tastes of the folks in Lexington but his point was valid. It’s fair to say that all the shots fired in Massachusetts on April 19, 1775 were indeed noticed around the world.

For most Europeans, “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World” refers to the June 28, 1914 assassination of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo.

That assassination is generally accepted as the spark that ignited the hellish tragedy known as “The First World War.” If that particular Archduke had never been born, the war would have occurred any way. The Austro-Hungarian establishment was hungry for an excuse to embark on what they were certain was to be a quick and easy land grab from Serbia. It generally takes at least a few chapters to summarize the causes of that war, but quotes of sixty thousand or more words are never popular, so Europeans prefer to remember the assassination of an otherwise unloved Duke as “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.”

For fans of the New York Giants baseball team, “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World” refers to a Home Run hit by New York Giants third baseman/outfielder Bobby Thomson on October 3, 1951.

In early August of that year, the Brooklyn Dodgers had a commanding 13 ½ game lead over the Giants, and the pennant race appeared to be no race at all. Then the Giants surged, and the Dodgers faltered. They ended the season tied for the National League Pennant.

 

New York Giants Bobby Thomson Image by Bowman Gum, 1948

New York Giants Bobby Thomson
Image by Bowman Gum, 1948

 

The Dodgers and the Giants then played a three game series to decide break the tie. They each won one of the first two games. In the bottom of the ninth inning of the third game, the Dodgers held a 4-1 lead. The Giants scored a run, and Thomson came to bat with two men on base. He hit a line drive home run into the left field seats. Overjoyed Giants fans christened Thomson’s home run “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.”

Which of the three aforementioned events deserves to be remembered as “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World” is a matter of personal perspective. Perhaps it’s fair to say that two shots were heard ‘round the world, and one was heard ‘round the baseball world.

On February 28, 1844 another important shot was fired. While it was not “Heard ‘Round the World,” it was heard by several hundred notable American politicians and dignitaries, and it led to a marriage bed.

The USS Princeton had been launched on September 5, 1843. Like every expensive Naval vessel both then and now, it was presented as a “state-of-the-art” warship. The USS Princeton created quite a stir in the USA because it was the first ship to use a screw propeller propulsion system, and it was considered to be the best-armed ship in the US Navy. Along with a variety of smaller guns, the Princeton carried two long-barreled cannons named the “Oregon” and the “Peacemaker.” The Peacemaker’s twelve-inch bore made it the largest naval gun yet created.

The USS Princeton sailed to Alexandria, Virginia in 1844 for a publicity visit. Its visit was the social event of the year for politicians and the American social set.

On February 28, US President John Tyler was the guest of honor at a party onboard, along with US Secretary of the Navy Thomas Gilmer and US Secretary of State Abel Upshur. One of President Tyler’s guests was his close friend David Gardiner and Gardiner’s two daughters. The fifty-four year old President was a widower and had set his eye on twenty-four year old daughter Julia. Julia had thus far declined President Tyler’s advances. Based on Tyler’s portraits, even on his best days, he was as ugly as a mud fence. Against that, he had power, wealth, and prestige going for him. Julia Gardiner remained unimpressed.

In the excitement of the moment, US Navy Secretary Thomas asked the Princeton’s Captain Robert Stockton to fire salutes from the massive Peacemaker.

Stockton agreed and had two shots fired. The roar of the Peacemaker appropriately awed the crowd, and most of them returned below decks for more free food and booze.

As the toasts continued below, Navy Secretary Gilmer grew prouder and more emotional about the marvelous Princeton and her massive Peacemaker gun. Gilmer asked Captain Stockton to please fire another salute. Captain Stockton thought that it was unwise to risk more shots with a crowd of civilians on board since the Peacemaker had not yet undergone proper testing. Why Stockton was reluctant to fire a third shot is a bit of a mystery.

However, with President Tyler’s coaxing and Secretary Gilmer’s insistence Captain Stockton finally ordered that another salute should be fired.

 

Explosion aboard US Steam Frigate Princeton Image by N. Currier, public domain

Explosion aboard US Steam Frigate Princeton
Image by N. Currier, public domain

 

Toasting guests delayed President Tyler below decks. When he began climbing the ladder* to the main deck, the Peacemaker fired a third time. The cannon exploded.

Six people on the main deck, including the Secretary of the Navy, the Secretary of State, and the President’s friend David Gardiner, were killed. When Julia arrived on the main deck with the President’s entourage, she saw her dead father and fainted. President Tyler whisked her away in his carriage. The incident apparently affected Julia to such a degree that she then saw President Tyler in a new light. She agreed to marry him. Hence, “The Shot Heard ‘Round the Bedroom.” Fortunately for all concerned, any details about their honeymoon remain mercifully mysterious.

Tyler lived happily with Julia until his death, eighteen years later. Julia survived him and died in 1889 at the age of 69. They remain forever together at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.

*Your house has “stairs;” our ships have “ladders.”

Turkey — America’s Special Frenemy

By Jay Holmes

US Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent visit to Turkey has momentarily brought US-Turkish relations to the forefront of US foreign affairs news. Days before Kerry’s visit, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan turned up the tension in US-Turkish relations by announcing that Zionism is a “crime against humanity.”

President Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, image in public domain

President Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, image in public domain

Many folks in the West had to wonder precisely how much of a “friend” US President Obama’s “special friend” Erdogan is and precisely who Erdogan’s friends might be. I didn’t include Israel in the list of those who wondered about Erdogan. Most Israelis long ago gave up wondering and decided they could always count on Erdogan to play that easy Anti-Israel card whenever it suited him. He has never disappointed them on that score.

The day before Kerry’s arrival, the Turkish government arrested yet another eleven journalists for daring to question the Erdogan regime. As near as I can tell, Turkey now has more journalists in prison than Communist China does. Of course, that’s a tricky comparison because China enjoys an advantage in dealing with journalist prison populations. China executes them. To their credit, the Turks generally avoid executing imprisoned journalists so they’re bound to accumulate a higher total of jailed journalists as long as they continue to suppress free speech.

Kerry issued a carefully muted disapproval of Erdogan’s words. I can’t fault Kerry for not speaking out more directly because he was in the middle of a diplomatic mission to Turkey—a NATO ally—and he was carrying a sizeable agenda of urgent issues. Beyond that, it’s not Kerry’s job to act on his own opinions. It’s his job to execute whatever foreign policy the US president dictates. Given that Obama has spent the last four years cultivating a “special close friendship” with Erdogan, and given the number of urgent issues shared by the US and Turkey, Obama is not likely to cut his losses with Erdogan too quickly.

In spite of the professional opinions of State Department employees and the US Ambassador to Turkey, President Obama was certain that, with a little influence from the US and the West, he could count on Erdogan to act as a moderate Islamic Democratic leader. The President has consistently held up Turkey as a leader of reform in the Middle East.

Given the turmoil in the Middle East, our addiction to petroleum, and the previous half a century of fairly good relations with Turkey, it’s understandable that the Obama crew might engage in a bit of wild optimism in dealing with Turkey. The White House publicly defined Turkey as a natural economic, ideological, and political gateway between the West and the Middle East. A country that’s supposed to be like leaving East L.A. via Disneyland and finding yourself on a quiet beach in Malibu without any drive-by shootings along the way.

That history of cooperation between the US and Turkey has to be placed in the context of the Cold War. Although Turkey tried to establish a close working relationship with the USSR after World War One, it quickly realized that it was on Stalin’s lunch menu and started looking to the West for friends. By the end of World War Two, the US and Turkey were working overtime to build a strong friendship based on Turkish geography and US cash.

The history of US-Turkish relations since World War Two is a complex one, filled with constant friction and held together by the overriding concern about Soviet aggression. That glue of Soviet aggression is no longer present, and like a passionate young couple, common ground and mutual understanding must be defined for the US and Turkey for the relationship to attain any lasting mutual benefit. The Obama administration sees common ground, but does Turkey see the same thing?

Both the US and Turkey openly agree that Turkey can be that peaceful gateway between the West and the Middle East. Turkey maintains diplomatic and economic ties to Iran and has consistently, and apparently faithfully, done a good job of acting as a diplomatic conduit for Iran and the US. Given that Turkey and its growing economy purchase oil from Iran, it’s no small matter for them to take on that role as a diplomatic third between Iran and the US. Erdogan sees himself as a top tier world leader, and his diplomatic position between Iran and the US gives him credibility both in the Mid-east and the West.

Many analysts point to the current civil war in Syria as a turning point in US-Turkish relations. It’s certainly an important event. In fact, if you live next door to Syria, as the Turks do, and artillery rounds and rockets are finding their way to your side of the border, which they are, then it’s critically important and urgently requires a solution.

More realistically, the strain in US-Turkish relations is at least in part caused by long standing issues. The first sticking point revolves around the fact that about one and a half million Armenians live in the US, and they remember the genocide carried out against Armenians by the Ottoman Empire after World War One. Please don’t hate Armenians just because of those silly Kardashian people. Most Americans of Armenian descent are lovely folks. They and the other millions of Armenian diaspora around the world want Turkey to admit that the genocide occurred. It’s quite clear to everyone except successive Turkish governments that it did occur. That has caused friction between the US and Turkish governments.

Another long-standing conflict between Turkey and the US has been Israel. While Turkey has not generally counted itself among the “death to the Jews” Middle Eastern crowd, it has been sympathetic toward Palestinians and cozy with Hamas. At the same time, the US categorizes Hamas as a terrorist group. Given that Hamas has spent most of its cash and effort over time on terrorist activities, the US is not likely to change its stance.

Then, there are those other, not so well-treated folks who call themselves Kurds. I happen to like the Kurdish people but in international terms, I’m in a minority. Some adventurous Americans, as well as a few nosey Brits, had very cordial dealings with the Kurds back when a nasty old creep by the name of Saddam Hussein was running Iraq.

Parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran were the Kurdish homeland for a period. The Kurds want those parts back. Turkey, Iran, and Syria have no intention of giving that land back any more than the US, Canada, or any other New World nation intends to return this half of the globe to the Native Americans. Note to Argentine President Kirchner: If the Brits gift you the Falklands, you’ll have to find some Native Americans to give it to.

During the Iraq War and the early stages of the subsequent “rebuilding” of Iraq, the vast differences in the US and Turkish view of the Kurds appeared to be a long term problem in US-Turkish relations. Most observers assumed that the PKK attacks on Turkish soil, which the PKK considers to be their rightful home, would remain the defining issue for Turkey in its policies toward Iraq. Problems are not always what they seem to be on the surface. As it turned out, there was a deeper underlying issue that would eventually shape a new Turkish outlook on Iraq. In our next article, we will examine that issue and the other emerging issues that have intervened in the simple view of US-Turkish relations that the present and recent US administrations have tried to implement.