Monday, December 17, 2018

Why is Christmas on December 25?

Whatever date Jesus was born, it almost definitely was not December 25. So why do we date Christmas on it?

One of the ways we know that Jesus' birth birth almost certainly did not take place on Dec. 25 is because the Gospel of Luke states that when Jesus was born, "there were shepherds in the fields keeping watch over the flocks by night." But Dec. 25 is in winter, of course, and Israel gets cold. Flocks would not be herded in the fields overnight, but brought into protective shelter, probably by the end of October and almost certainly by mid-November.

Just why Christmas Day falls on Dec. 25 was originally only a question for the Western (Latinate) Church because Christmas fell on Jan. 6 for the Eastern Orthodox Church, which later adopted the Dec. 25 date. Even so, Jan. 6,
... is still the date of the celebration for the Armenian Apostolic Church and in Armenia, where it is a public holiday. As of 2012, there is a difference of 13 days between the modern Gregorian calendar and the older Julian calendar. Those who continue to use the Julian calendar or its equivalents thus celebrate December 25 and January 6 on what for the majority of the world is January 7 and January 19. For this reason, Ethiopia, Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, the Republic of Macedonia, and the Republic of Moldova celebrate Christmas on what in the Gregorian calendar is January 7; the Church of Greece celebrates Christmas on December 25.
Christ's Mass (hence, Christmas) did not become an official festival day on the Roman Church's calendar until 300 years or so after Jesus. There was not much debate about placing it on Dec. 25. Modern historians used to argue that the Pope selected the date in order the Christianize a still-practiced Roman holiday celebrating the lengthening of daylight hours just after the winter solstice had passed. This idea has come under increasingly skeptical scrutiny, however, As Slate explains, (Why is Christmas in December?): 
The reasoning goes that the growing church, recognizing the popularity of the winter festivals, attached its own Christmas celebration to encourage the spread of Christianity. Business historian John Steele Gordon has described the December dating of the Nativity as a kind of ancient-world marketing ploy ...

This alternative explanation is sometimes deployed to dismiss the notion that the holiday had pagan roots. In a 2003 article in the journal Touchstone, for example, historian William Tighe called the pagan origin of Christmas “a myth without historical substance.” He argued at least one pagan festival, the Roman Natalis Solis Invictus, instituted by Emperor Aurelian on Dec. 25, 274, was introduced in response to the Christian observance. The pagan festival “was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians.” According to Tighe, the pagans co-opted the Christian holiday, not the other way around.
In fact, an early Christian Carthaginian scholar named Tertullian reported the calculation that the 14th of the Jewish month of Nisan (the day of the crucifixion according to the Gospel of John) in the year Jesus died was equivalent to March 25 in the Roman (solar) calendar. March 25 is, of course, nine months before December 25; it was later recognized as the Feast of the Annunciation, or the commemoration of Jesus’ conception. Thus, like important martyrs before him, Jesus was believed to have been conceived and crucified on the same date of the year, March 25, meaning that exactly nine months after the date of his conception, Dec. 25, Jesus was born. 

So, ascription of Dec. 25 to Jesus' birth took place 74 years before Emperor Aurelian instituted a Roman, pagan celebration of the winter solstice. So we can cast aside the idea that Christmas' dating was to take over an existing pagan holiday. There was, at the time, no pagan holiday to take over.

But wait! as they say on TV. There's more! Further complicating the debate is that there seem to be mathematical reasons for the Dec. 25 date that rest upon modern computational science, not legend.

A fascinating analysis of just what was the star that led the wise men to Bethlehem is given at Here is my summary.

After Jesus was born, wise men, or Magi, from the east made their way to Judea. Being astronomers, they had read the stars and concluded that a new king had been born to the Jews. This is related in Matthew chapter 2.

No historian today claims that there nothing happened in the sky that corresponds, somehow, to what the wise men saw. Just what it was has been a scientific quest for about 400 years, since Johannes Kepler developed the first mathematical description of how the heavens worked. Kepler, whose equations are still used by NASA and astronomers around the world, himself spent may laborious hours trying to calculate the position of the planets and stars above the ancient Near East in the year of Jesus’ presumed birth, 6 BC. But he found nothing.

Since Kepler, many others have suggested that the star Matthew describes might have been a comet or a supernova, but there are no records of such events at this time anywhere in the ancient world, especially in China, whose astronomers were detailed, meticulous record keepers.

Jesus was presumed to have been born in 6 BC based on a book by the ancient Jewish historian Josephus, whose book, Antiquities, says that Herod died in 4 BC. Since clearly Jesus was born in the time of Herod, Jesus had to have been born before 4 BC, a year or two before.

But in fact, Herod did not die until 1 BC. This date is in fact what Josephus wrote, and is so stated in manuscripts of his book dated earlier than 1544. It was in 1544 that Antiquities was first set to the printing press. In that first edition, the typesetter erroneously set the wrong year of Herod’s death, and this edition became the standard from which all subsequent editions were made, including the one Kepler used.

Computers today solve Kepler’s equations in a snap. And what astronomers now know is that in September, 3 BC, the planet Jupiter came into conjunction with the star Regulus. That is, when viewed from the earth, Jupiter and Regulus appeared to touch or come very close together.

Jupiter is the largest planet. The ancients called it the king of planets. Regulus was called Rex by the Romans, Latin for king. In Persian its name was Sharu, which also meant king. To an ancient astronomer, for the king of planets and the king of stars to come together would have been weighted with portents. But Jupiter and Regulus did this not merely once, but three times over the course of the next year.

After appearing to touch Regulus, Jupiter’s path moved beyond. But after a few months, earth caught up with and passed Jupiter in its orbit. Jupiter then appeared to move backwards in the sky. This movement is called retrograde. All planets’ paths retrograde when seen from earth, that’s why they are called planets, which is Greek for “wanderer.” So Jupiter went back and touched Regulus again. Then the earth moved on and by September of 2 BC, Jupiter had retrograded once more and had touched Regulus a third time.

To astronomers as skilled as those of Babylonia heritage and learning, which the wise men almost certainly were, this three-time conjunction of the king of planets with the king of stars would have started them packing. But why did they decide that the Jews had anything to do with it?

All three conjunctions took place within the backdrop of the constellation Leo, the lion. The lion is the symbol of the Jewish tribe of Judah, which takes it name from a son of Jacob named Judah. In Genesis chapter 49, Jacob gives his son, Judah, the lion as his symbol and then dictates that only Judah’s descendants shall provide the rulers for subsequent generations. King David was a member of the tribe of Judah and so was Jesus’ father, Joseph, according to Matthew chapter one.

The wise men were obviously conversant with the relationship of lions with the tribe of Judah and Judah’s parentage of all the kings of Israel. The wise men may well have been (though probably weren't) Jews themselves, since a thriving Jewish colony remained in Iraq until a generation ago even though the Jews’ captivity in Babylon was ended in 538 BC. The kingly conjunctions of Jupiter and Regulus within the constellation of the lion were all the wise men needed to start heading toward the Roman province of Judea, which we know as Israel.

But what they did not know was just where the new king was born. So they stopped at the palace of the Roman vassal, King Herod, to inquire. Herod’s counselors quoted a prophecy from Micah that said the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.

At Herod’s deceitful urging, the wise men went to Bethlehem, only five miles from Jerusalem. In the sky, Jupiter had just begun a third retrograde, this one, however, not to be followed by a conjunction. The thing about planetary retrogrades is this: just as a planet appears to reverse direction, it seems to stand still in the sky.

Here is what computers using Kepler’s equations show. Jupiter’s full stop for this retrograde took place on December 25, 2 BC. If you had been in Jerusalem on that evening, you would have seen the kingly planet Jupiter motionless in the sky almost due south, directly above Bethlehem. And better yet, its stationary position was in the middle of the Constellation Virgo, the Virgin.

However, many of the detailed explanations of these planetary and stellar phenomena, such as this one, do not seem to account for the fact that Dec. 25 on our calendar today is an altogether different date in the ancient world, as I briefly referenced above. December 25 on our calendar is 13 days further along than on the Roman Julian calendar used at the time the Pope officially designated Dec. 25 as Christmas Day. The original Dec. 25 date then corresponds (as above) to Jan. 7 on our calendar. So to be historically picky about it, the Russian church, for example is celebrating the date correctly on Jan. 7.

But wait! There's more! When modern astronomers say that Jupiter's "full stop" occurred on Dec. 25, 2 BC, which Dec. 25 do they mean, Gregorian (modern) or Julian (ancient)? They mean modern. If Jupiter's progression/retrogression transition was in process on Dec. 25 Gregorian, that means that the Magi arrived in Bethlehem on Dec. 12 Julian.

They did not get there the day Jesus was born. We know from Matthew that Jesus was born in a barn and laid by his parents in a manger, or feeding trough, after birth. Yet Matthew 2 clearly states, "On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, .. ."

How old was Jesus by then? We have insufficient information to know. Presumably, Joseph, Mary and Jesus could have moved from the barn to the house the day after Jesus was born. It's not far fetched to imagine that room for a newborn and parents was made somehow. 
One clue, however, lies in that Herod directed the Magi to come back and report to him once they found the one whom the Magi had referred to as the "one who has been born king of the Jews."

The Magi did not go back to Herod. Herod, never one to countenance potential rivals to his throne (he had even executed his own sons), ordered soldiers to Bethlehem:

[H]e was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
In my view, the best interpretation of this narrative is that the Magi had no idea specifically when Jesus was born, but based on the sequence of astronomical observations, above, concluded it had to have been within the two years prior to their arrival at Herod's court. Another key may be that Matthew quotes the Magi as referring to Jesus as "born king of the Jews," not "newborn" king of the Jews. Hence, Herod's order to slaughter boys up to the age of two.

It is important, from an historical and biblical perspective, though not necessarily from a practical one for the Church, to confirm Dec. 25 (Julian, anyway) as the date the Wise Men got to Bethlehem, not the date Jesus was born. That date, I'm afraid, will likely forever remain unknown.

End note: David A Weintraub, Professor of Astronomy, Vanderbilt University, explains how Matthew's account makes use of some ancient astronomical and astrological (not very separate disciplines back then) terms that help us understand what the star narrative means; "Can astronomy explain the biblical Star of Bethlehem?"

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Advent Downsizing

I am learning anew that transition times can be very hard. During the first week of December, my brother and I moved our dad from the independent-living section of Blakeford retirement center to the nursing-home wing. Dad has no use of his legs any more and is wholly dependent on someone else even to get up from a chair.

I know many readers have dealt with such transitions already. And I cannot overlook that since last Advent, some families of our church coped with transitions more severe than that as they have committed loved ones to God's eternity.

I have learned that these kinds of transitions mean “downsizing.” When mom and dad moved from their house to a Blakeford apartment in 2009, they downsized. When we moved dad from the apartment to a single room, downsizing again. But not only of things. When my mother died in 2015, it was a different, but very real, kind of downsizing also.

And you know what? Downsizing is not appealing. It is not fun. It means saying goodbye to things and sometimes persons loved.

And yet . . .

Downsizing can also make us focus on essentials. Downsizing can bring clarity. When our eldest, a U.S. Marine lance corporal, spent 2005’s Christmas in combat service in Iraq, Cathy and I had a clear picture of what Christmas meant for us. It was not the stuff. Of course, we gave and received gifts and celebrated with our other two children and family, but it was crystal clear to us — and has remained so 13 years hence — that all we really have in this life is one another, not things.

The book of Job tells of his fabulous wealth — all lost, his children killed, even his health ruined, his body wracked with pain. Yet he merely says, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart.” It took me years to see that Job was only half right. Naked we are born, but we die clothed in the love we gave away.

To move on to Christian perfection in this life is to downsize. Downsize habits that block us from holiness. Downsize that which inhibits our love of God and our neighbors. Downsize our egos to make room for God. Downsize the falsehood that getting our way is all it takes to make us happy.

Thankfully, the upsizing is greater than the down. We upsize in gratitude. We upsize in meaningfulness. We upsize in patience, in peacefulness, in joyfulness, in kindness, self-control, gentleness, and so many other ways.

But first comes the downsizing, so let Advent be a time to downsize for the sake of the Gospel!

Merry Christmas to all, and God bless us, every one!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Can we endure the refinery?

Malachi 3.1-4, a passage for the second Sunday of Advent
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight--indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.

But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the LORD in righteousness.

Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.
Are we willing to take the refining?

And silver, while we are at it.

To move on to Christian perfection in this life, to attain holiness of life, is not painless or easy.
Malachi uses the metaphor of refining because it illustrates the process of moving on to perfection and righteousness: the dross (impurities in the raw material) must be removed, but it takes intention, planning, and effort. We have to yield to the process. And as even Jesus himself found out, some number of people will try it out and just say no -- see, for example, John 6.66, "After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him."

While the process of spiritual refinement is important, it is only a means to an end, not the end itself. As Paul said, we should keep our eyes upon the goal: "... forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3.13b-14).

Yes, it is worth it!

2009 U.S. Mint Ultra High Relief, $20 Double Eagle,
.9999 fine gold coin, Saint-Gaudens design.
Can we imagine the discipleship equivalent to such a work?

Friday, November 2, 2018

No, rocks are not the same as rifles

As a retired US Army combat officer (I began seminary three weeks after I retired), I am disturbed by what the military's commander in chief said about use of force by the military when the "caravan" arrives at our southern border.

The president's quote, as I have heard it several times in news reports, is:
They want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back. I told them to consider it a rifle. When they throw rocks like what they did to the Mexican military and police, I say: Consider it a rifle.
Fortunately and thankfully, we do not have a politician as secretary of defense but a retired four-star general who knows that what the president said is total idiocy. Secretary Mattis just can't say so publicly.

As someone who both wrote and received operations orders for combat operations, here is what the troops will be told. Every OPORD, as we called them, has a section entitled Rules of Engagement, or ROE (although for non-warfare operations it is usually referred to as RUF - Rules of Use of Force).

The staff proponent for ROE or RUF is the staff judge advocate, or chief military lawyer for whatever authority is issuing the order. It is the SJA's responsibility to ensure that the ROE accord with relevant federal laws (of which there are many even for overseas, active warfare), while also protecting the lives and safety of our own troops. Willful violation of the RUF is a chargeable offense.

I cannot imagine any RUF for this deployment that fails to include the following:

1. Prohibition on use of any force that extends across the border, into Mexico.

2. Prohibition of use of deadly force except actually to protect life or injury of the troops or border patrol. Does this mean that US troops (for the very few that may be near the caravan) will be authorized to shoot someone throwing rocks at them? Yes, it may mean that because thrown rocks can be grievously injuring or even lethal, but even so, troops cannot violate No. 1, above, and deadly force would have to be in extremis.

But I have no crystal ball and I hope no one gets harmed no matter who they are. No matter what one advocates I hope we can agree to unite in prayer for the grace of God to descend upon all concerned.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Sheriff of Nottingham plan: rob the poor, give to the rich

The greatest financial scam ever perpetuated on the American public.
How much do Americans spend on lottery tickets?
Billions of dollars thrown away  
Americans spent $70 billion on lottery games in 2014. That's more than $300 per adult in the 43 states where lotteries are legal. In fact, Americans spent more on lottery tickets that year than they did on sporting events, movie tickets, books, video games, and recorded music.
Americans spent more than $73 billion buying lottery tickets in 2016, the latest year for which I could find figures. The odds of a ticket winning the PowerBall's jackpot is one in 292 million. Quick, how many people do you know personally who have been struck by lightning twice (even if the second time killed them)?
Your odds of being struck by lightning this year are 1 in 960,000.  In your lifetime those odds drop to about 1 in 12,000.  Your odds of being struck by lightning twice in your lifetime are 1 in 9 million, which is still a higher chance than winning the Powerball.
What about getting struck by lightning while drowning?  Those odds are 1 in 183 million which 63 percent higher than hitting the Powerball.
And the odds against winning the Mega-Millions jackpot are 302 million to one. Yeah, good luck with that. You are 159 times more likely to be killed by a falling meteorite than winning Mega-Millions. 

Who buys lottery tickets? Well, this kind of guy (men are far more likely to buy tickets than women):

But ticket buyers have been studied probably more than any other customer base in the country. Who buys? The answer reveals why for many years lottery critics have called lotteries the Sheriff of  Nottingham plan, robbing from the poor and giving to the rich. By far, lower income and net worth persons buy more lottery tickets and by far the middle and upper classes are more likely to use non-payout benefits, such as lottery-sales-funded college scholarships. Lotteries are literally a wealth-transfer program from the poor to the relatively wealthy.
An even broader look at the dynamics between demographics and lottery purchases is the subject of a 2012 study from researchers at the University of Buffalo, also published in the Journal of Gambling Studies. That study, titled  “Gambling on the Lottery: Sociodemographic Correlates Across the Lifespan,” analyzes telephone survey data from a random sampling of nearly 5,000 Americans; the data were compiled from two surveys conducted at different times, one with persons ages 14-21 (though 18 is technically the legal age to play) and the other survey with those 18 and older. The survey asked respondents about all forms of lottery play in the past 12 months, “including instant scratch tickets, daily numbers or Lotto….”

The study’s findings include:
  • “With regard to lottery play for respondents of various racial/ethnic groups, non-Hispanic whites and Native Americans had the highest proportion of gambling on the lottery (51% for each group); however, with regard to mean levels of gambling on the lottery, blacks and Native Americans had the highest averages (20.6 and 25 days, respectively).” 
  • Those in the lowest fifth in terms of socioeconomic status (SES) had the “highest rate of lottery gambling (61%) and the highest mean level of days gambled in the past year (26.1 days).” Moreover, there were “very few observed differences in lottery gambling for those in the three upper SES groups — 42–43% gambled on the lottery and the three upper groups averaged about 10 days of gambling on the lottery in the past year.” 
  • The data show that “blacks have lower rates of gambling on the lottery than whites, but blacks have a higher average number of days gambled on the lottery than whites. However, in the analysis containing all of the sociodemographic variables, including socioeconomic status and neighborhood disadvantage, black and Hispanic groups are not significantly different from the white reference group in number of days gambled on the lottery.” 
  • The tendency to play the lottery in a given year increases for people in their twenties and thirties — the proportion hovers around 70% in those age groups. It dips slightly to about two-thirds for people in their forties, fifties and sixties; and then declines to 45% for people 70 and older. 
  • Men play more frequently than women do — 18.7 days over the past year for men, versus 11.3 for females.
See also this article in The Atlantic. When the PowerBall lottery first went before the voters here in Tennessee, I was a member of the anti-lottery task force (we lost) and was cited in the post-referendum book, Lottery Wars: Case Studies in Bible Belt Politics, 1986-2005.

Lotteries are here to stay, that's for sure. But it is simply impossible to find the slightest shred of social good in them.

Monday, October 1, 2018

A pastoral reflection on last week's politics

In the beginning of Matthew 19, " Some Pharisees came to Jesus, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?”

Jesus did not respond directly, as he often didn't to such questions, but his paragraph-long answer was, "No."
They said to him, “Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?”

He said to them, “It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not what God intended."
But this reflection is not about divorce, but last Thursday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, featuring Dr. Christine Ford in the morning and Judge Brett Kavanaugh in the afternoon. This nomination generally and that day's hearing specifically have become a defining day in our country. Some commentators have said that it may become a generational "moment," much like the assassination of JFK was for Boomers or the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger was for the next generation.

"Where were you when watched the Ford-Kavanaugh hearing?" one might be asked in 2040 or 2045, to answer, "I was streaming it over my phone at work listening on my Bluetooth earpiece."

Whether you are Right or Left, no matter whom you believed or didn't, I think we surely can all agree that what we saw last week was not what our country was intended to be. And we should remember that as Jesus pointed out, we are at this point because of the hardness of our hearts -- all  our hearts, not just the hearts of those who happen to disagree with us.

This controversy is not between angels on one side and demons on the other. It is not between the Children of Light and the Children of Darkness. As Reinhold Niebuhr pointed out in a (slightly) different context, political conflicts are exclusively between sinners, not between the righteous and the unrighteous.

I am presently preaching a series on Jesus' parables, and yesterday's was the Good Samaritan, in which Jesus pointedly tells us to consider, "Who is my neighbor?" Even as hard as the politics are in our country today - and they are very hard -- even as strongly as we believe what is right in this controversy - and I do believe about it very strongly - when we lose sight that we are, in God's eyes, still neighbors with one another, especially those we may detest because of this issue, then we all stand condemned.

Nowhere do the Jewish Scriptures or the New Testament tell us, "Love your neighbor as yourself - unless they vote differently than you. Pray for one another - unless you despise their politics." The commandments of Christ are simple but also absolute:
“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. ... If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. ... Can the blind guide the blind?  person? Will not both fall into a pit? ... Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye." Luke 6.27-42, excerpted
"If all men were angels," said Thomas Jefferson, "no government would be necessary." We certainly are not angels. But neither are we demons.We are a fallen people who can still be redeemed by our Lord and who can still move on to perfection. But our country will not change unless we change. America cannot become different unless Americans become different.

That, I fear, is what we will not accept. We want "change for thee but not for me." Are our politics leading our culture (which means leading us personally) or following our culture? I do not know which case is worse. But this is our culture: "As another prep official quits, a call for crazy parents to dial it back."
A few days ago, a northwest Ohio man took his job and shoved it, citing the poor working conditions.

Which made us wonder: What, was he a sword-swallowing birthday party clown? A candy-coated beekeeper? A sword-swallowing beekeeper?

Turns out, it was worse. He was a high school ref.

The Northern Lakes League announced that it “lost another soccer official” because of the “constant verbal harassment from players, coaches, and spectators.”

It was a midseason walkout as unsurprising as it is alarming, and if that’s not enough of a wake-up call, consider what another official told me this week: “I wouldn’t be surprised if high school sports are a thing of the past in 20 years.”
And this is our culture:

The report is from USA Today last June, that almost a third of Americans believe the United States is heading toward another, literal, Civil War. Not a metaphorical one, but one with Americans actually killing one another.

We are all alike the blind leading the blind, and unless we do change, we will all fall into the pit. My present fear is not that we know what we have to do but simply refuse to do it, which would be bad enough. It is that we are progressively losing sight of what we have to do.

It is really quite simple, but as Carl von Clausewitz observed about simple concepts, "Even the simplest things can be very difficult."

Thursday, September 27, 2018

PTSD, trauma, and memory distortion

Several years ago I started attending Veterans Affairs seminars and workshops relating to pastoral care of veterans, especially combat veterans. The emphasis has been on reservists who come home from deployments to their hometowns, not to a military base with a built-in professional support structure as regular service members do.
On of the things we learned is that PTSD is a real psychological and emotional condition, but that a veteran's recollections of the trauma(s) initiating it are not fully reliable. So when a veteran says "this happened" he is certainly relating what he truly remembers, but what he truly remembers is often a odds with, even contradictory, to:
  • His/her prior statements of the trauma, and
  • The accounts given by other veterans also present
The veteran is not lying. One of the unfortunate effects of PTSD is "memory distortion." It is well  established in medical and mental health science that the memory of PTSD sufferers is flawed, often  seriously so, and that this distortion of memories of the traumatic events worsens over time. 

Here is an excerpt from, "Trauma, PTSD, and Memory Distortion," in Psychology Today from May 23, 2016 (italics added):
In fact, converging evidence demonstrates that experiences of trauma, whether a single event (e.g., a sexual assault) or a sustained stressful experience that might involve multiple trauma types (e.g., experiences at war) are also vulnerable to memory distortion. In fact, traumatic memory distortion appears to follow a particular pattern: people tend to remember experiencing even more trauma than they actually did. This usually translates into greater severity of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms over time, as the remembered trauma "grows."
During my prior career, I escaped being violently killed a few times. I recall finding a written account of one such event that I wrote very soon afterward, and that I later forgot about. Many years later I came across the account and was quite taken aback that it differed from my years-later memory significantly. 

But that is wholly unsurprising. The article relates that when Desert Storm veterans, asked to relate "certain events ... (e.g., experiencing sniper fire, sitting with a dying colleague)" over two years after their return home, 
 ... 88% of veterans changed their response to at least one event and 61% changed more than one. Importantly, the majority of those changes were from “no, that did not happen to me” to “yes, that happened to me.” Not surprisingly, this ‘over-remembering’ was associated with an increase in PTSD symptoms.
I have never been diagnosed with PTSD and I do not relive traumatic events over and over. But I know first hand that memory distortion is real even among those of us not suffering from PTSD. 
Critically, post-event processing—such as actively imagining new details or experiencing unwanted intrusive thoughts—can increase the familiarity of new details enough that people may mistakenly claim those new details as genuine memory traces. This is memory distortion.
In 2014, James Hopper, Ph.D., Instructor in Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, who trains investigators, prosecutors, judges and military commanders on the neurobiology of sexual assault, and David Lisak, Ph.D. a forensic consultant, wrote, "Why Rape and Trauma Survivors Have Fragmented and Incomplete Memories," in Time Magazine after the proven-false charges of rape and other sexual offenses at Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia. Their concluding paragraphs:
... Victims may remember in exquisite detail what was happening just before and after they realized they were being attacked, including context and the sequence of events. However, they are likely to have very fragmented and incomplete memories for much of what happens after that.

These advances in our understanding of the impact of trauma on the brain have enormous implications for the criminal justice system. It is not reasonable to expect a trauma survivor – whether a rape victim, a police officer or a soldier – to recall traumatic events the way they would recall their wedding day. They will remember some aspects of the experience in exquisitely painful detail. Indeed, they may spend decades trying to forget them. They will remember other aspects not at all, or only in jumbled and confused fragments. Such is the nature of terrifying experiences, and it is a nature that we cannot ignore.
The Psychologist, the journal of British Psychological Society, published in June 2006, "Recovered and false memories," which is lengthy and not easily excerpted, but basically, the authors conclude that false memories are genuine and that memories of trauma are usually fragmentary and subject to being affected by external stimuli over time after the traumatic event. 

Then we have, "Memory Distortion for Traumatic Events: The Role of Mental Imagery," by the National Institutes of Health, which begins, 
Trauma memories – like all memories – are malleable and prone to distortion. Indeed, there is growing evidence – from both field and lab-based studies – to suggest that the memory distortion follows a particular pattern. People tend to remember more trauma than they experienced, and those who do, tend to exhibit more of the “re-experiencing” symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Here are some key points I have learned in ministry with veterans, especially when I served a church near Fort Campbell, Ky., during some of the intense years of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars:
  1. Persons who relate  recollections of personal trauma are not lying to you. Which is to say, they are not telling you things they know to be false. They are not attempting to deceive you. 
  2. However, that does not mean that their recollections are corresponding closely or even very well to what actually occurred (which unless it happened to have had contemporaneous documentation, such as at-the-time video or other accounts, may never be known). 
  3. Even so, as a confidant or a minister, your job is not to uncover "the truth" about the event, which may be decades in the past, anyway. It is to help the person through this difficult time or to cope with reactions, memories and relived emotions that may include helplessness, a grievous sense of loss, and usually incomprehension why the event and its aftermath remains so powerful.
  4. Therefore, listen compassionately, support the person with prayers and other assistance as may be needed, but do not try to become a PTSD or trauma counselor unless you are actually trained and certified in that. The VA has truly excellent PTSD therapies it has initiated in the recent past and I personally encourage veterans to talk with the VA about them. For non-veterans, such therapy may be more difficult to find. The nearest VA hospital may be able to advise you where to find counselors.
If someone you know suffers trauma (say, an severe auto accident) then it may be helpful to share ABC Science's article with them, "Reliving trauma could ward off PTSD."
Reliving a traumatic event may prevent the onset of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Australian researchers. ...

They were divided into three groups. One received five weekly 90-minute sessions of prolonged exposure therapy, another getting the same amount of a different therapy called cognitive restructuring, and a third getting neither therapy.

In prolonged exposure therapy, a therapist helps a person vividly relive the trauma in a controlled environment, imaging it in detail and facing objects involved in the event. The idea is to expose people to the very thing that causes them distress to help them learn to better cope with it.

In cognitive restructuring, a therapist helps a person to try to alter negative thinking patterns related to a trauma.
Shortly after the therapy, 33% of the prolonged exposure group developed PTSD, compared to 63% of the cognitive restructuring therapy group and 77% of the untreated patients. The untreated patients were offered therapy at that point.
Again, these are therapies for trained counselors to conduct. But the point is that PTSD or other emotional/psychological disorders from trauma is not an inevitable outcome. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

About FBI Investigations

Updated Sept. 30.

This is a non-partisan essay about the status of the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh (BK henceforth), focusing narrowly upon the renewed FBI investigation.

I am writing this because I have some familiarity with such investigations. I was investigated a number of times during my military career regarding security clearances (the checks for top secret were extremely thorough) and regarding my clearances for nuclear-weapons operations. The FBI did not do them because DOD had the assets to do them itself. But the procedures are are same.

Logo of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, somewhat stylized
I checked this essay in draft with special agents of US Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID), where I served as my final assignment in the Army. I was not an investigator, however, which is why I ran this through federal law-enforcement agents who actually performed such investigations.

These investigations are usually known as "vetting" or "background" investigations. For most non-DOD civil service, they are carried out by the Office of Personnel Management and frequently then by contracted private companies. However, the FBI conducts them for White House appointees and usually for certain Senate or House staff members.

Key point: Key fact: Background investigations are NOT criminal investigations. The FBI receives and reports information relative to the subject's fitness for office or clearance or whatever reason it was requested. That is all it does.

Hence, the FBI collects information and provides a report with statements and summaries and provides it to the requester, in Kavanaugh's case, the White House. An retired special agent who conducted such investigations told me,
An FBI BI [background investigation] is conducted by fully qualified [active] and retired criminal investigators who have many years experience conducting investigations. It is the investigator's job to identify disqualifying information and immediately report that information to BICS, the FBI unit responsible for BIs. They then make the determination on what action takes place next. 
This agent went on to explain that the vast majority of BI investigations are conducted by retired special agents, although, "BIs of people holding or nominated for certain very high positions are conducted by active FBI agents." Also, the BI is not a rubber-stamp operation; it is substantive and inquiring. Having endured them myself, I can attest they are not casual or "by the numbers" at all. However, the final decision of qualification or disqualification does not rest with the FBI. It is the responsibility of the requesting agency.

In this case, Senator Diane Feinstein sent a copy of Christine Ford's letter to the FBI. The FBI took the proper step of turning it over to the White House for their consideration regarding Kavanaugh's nomination. Job done, as far as the FBI is concerned.

That is why this renewed FBI "investigation" is (at best) misguided. There is no investigation left for the FBI to do, and people who think there is do not understand how such investigations are conducted and what happens at the end.

In background investigations, all the FBI does is take statements. It does not grill witnesses, it does not pick statements apart and try to find "the truth" or "what really happened." The FBI, one of the world's premier detective agencies, actually does not do any detective work in background investigations. It simply takes statements and passes them on to the requesting agency for their review and assessment. As Joe Biden said in 1991, the FBI does not draw conclusions in these investigations. The FBI report at the end of this week will not say, "Ford is lying" or "Kavanaugh is lying." Neither will it say, "Kavanaugh did what Ford alleges" nor "Kavanaugh did not do what Ford alleges."

What it will say is that these persons say this, these persons say that, and these persons say the other thing. The FBI will not determine who is telling the truth or not. What it will do is present the White House yet again with a sheaf of papers of statements and walk away. Only is there is a truly serious allegation related to the FBI does it get further review inside the FBI, as one the special agents explained to me. But the "serious allegation" is already out there, so what's left?

I will leave the last word on the investigation to retired Special Agent Johnny T., who told me,
I did FBI Backgrounds for FBI for 16-17 yrs and you're absolutely correct.... FBI would have nothing to investigate plus no Federal Crime....
Again: This is not a criminal investigation. Ford has never made any criminal complaint to any law enforcement agency. If she really does want an investigation, all she has to do is contact the police department of the Maryland municipality concerned and swear the complaint.

As a matter of criminal law, the FBI has no jurisdiction anyway because the allegations do not fall under federal purview. If there is a statutory violation, it is of the laws of law of Maryland. The FBI investigates only offenses against federal laws and does not itself decide whether to prosecute. That is the decision of the US Attorney's office. As one agent told me, with no statutory federal violation at hand, the chance of a US attorney directing a FBI criminal investigation is extremely remote for this (or any other incident). No one from the Maryland attorney general's office has even identified what Maryland law(s) might have been violated, but then, they wouldn't do so because Ford has not made a criminal complaint to them.

Bottom line: There is literally nothing else for the FBI to do here. This week-long renewed "investigation" is starting now because the US Senate is so dysfunctional that it hopes the FBI will pull it out of a hole that it dug itself.

Here is then-Senator Joe Biden in 1991, referring to calls for an FBI investigation of claims made by Anita Hill against SCOTUS nominee Clarence Thomas.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Nazism's Marxist Roots

Over at the UM Clergy Facebook page there has been an ongoing thread about the virtues or lack thereof of socialism, especially so-called "democratic" socialism. So here is a basic, beginning read for people interested in contemporary American politics, since many surveys show that young Americans are substantially positive toward implementing socialism in the US. 

First, there is no real usefulness in speaking of our political divisions as between the Left and the Right. They are convenient labels but not very informative. In particular, to say that socialists are on the Left while neo-Nazis are on the Right is grievously misinformed. Marx and his theoretical successors were the political ancestors of socialism and communism, as all acknowledge - but Marxist theory was the ancestor also of both Fascism and Nazism. And the founders of those two parties said so.

When the media and others characterize the conflicts between Antifa (supposedly on the Left) and the "alt-Right" as clashes between groups at opposite ends of the political spectrum, they do us no service. They are both authoritarian-supremacist groups with deep Marxist roots, and each wants to rule over the other. (What did you think they would do, hold hands and sing kum-bah-ya?)

We are calling one side the "alt-right" for no other reason than it's easier to keep score, I guess, like we call one team a home team and the other visitors, but they're both baseball teams. What we really have is two Marxist-born groups having at each other because neither will countenance a competitor.

Yes, some demonstrators here or there carried Nazi flags, just as some of the counter-demos carried hammer-and-sickle Soviet flags. In fact, those flags are almost interchangeable. Everyone knows and acknowledges that Soviet Communism was based on Marxism, hence Marxism and its spawn today are "Left," but everyone also apparently thinks that Fascism and Nazism apparently just sprang up out of thin air with no relation to political theories and contexts that came before, and that Fascism and Nazism were and are "Right."

Untrue. Both Fascism and Nazism were founded on Marxist theory and belonged firmly on the Left side of the spectrum, according to their founders. In the 1930s, Adolf Hitler gave a series of interviews to a trusted party member named Hermann Rauschning, in which Hitler explained Nazi theory, founding and outlook. By the end of the decade, Rauschning had left the party and fled to the United States. There he published a book entitled The Voice of Destruction, also known as Hitler Speaks, summarizing his interviews (New York, NY, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1940).

Below is a set of quotes in which Hitler himself explains Nazism's Marxist roots. Note that Hitler even invited German Communists to join the Nazi party, saying he would welcome them.

"I have learned a great deal from Marxism as I do not hesitate to admit… The whole of National Socialism is based on it… National Socialism is what Marxism might have been if it could have broken its absurd and artificial ties with a democratic order."

"It is not Germany that will turn Bolshevist but Bolshevism that will become a sort of National Socialism. Besides, there is more that binds us to Bolshevism than separates us from it…. I have always made allowance for this circumstance, and given orders that former Communists are to be admitted to the party at once. The petit bourgeois Social-Democrat and the trade union boss will never make a National Socialist, but the Communist always will."
Hitler was clear in his conversations that Nazism was Left-Socialist and that even Communists were urged to join with him:
"But we National Socialists wish precisely to attract all socialists, even the Communists; we wish to win them over from their international camp to the national one."
Otto Wagener, in Hitler—Memoirs of a Confidant, editor, Henry Ashby Turner, Jr., Yale University Press (1985) p. 26

"After all, that’s exactly why we call ourselves National Socialists! We want to start by implementing socialism in our nation among our Volk! It is not until the individual nations are socialist that they can address themselves to international socialism."
Otto Wagener in Hitler—Memoirs of a Confidant, editor, Henry Ashby Turner, Jr., Yale University Press (1985) p. 288
As for Fascism, it was the name of the political party founded by Benito Mussolini in Italy. Mussolini, the century's preeminent fascist, invented the word to describe his national political system. As a young man, Mussolini was politically groomed and nurtured by Marxists. He became an active member the Communist International. He corresponded with Vladimir Lenin almost until Lenin died. Mussolini broke from the Comintern for two main reasons. First, he saw little chance of it succeeding in bringing forth international communist revolutions. Second, he rejected the "international" part because he realized that what that really meant was "Russian controlled." Benito was an ardent Italian nationalist and opposed subordinating Italian socialism to Russian oversight.

In 1932, Mussolini wrote this definition of fascism:

The foundation of Fascism is the conception of the State, its character, its duty, and its aim. Fascism conceives of the State as an absolute, in comparison with which all individuals or groups are relative, only to be conceived of in their relation to the State. The conception of the Liberal State is not that of a directing force, guiding the play and development, both material and spiritual, of a collective body, but merely a force limited to the function of recording results: on the other hand, the Fascist State is itself conscious and has itself a will and a personality -- thus it may be called the "ethic" State....

..The Fascist State organizes the nation, but leaves a sufficient margin of liberty to the individual; the latter is deprived of all useless and possibly harmful freedom, but retains what is essential; the deciding power in this question cannot be the individual, but the State alone ... .
That is practically the template of today's extremes of both "Left" and "Right."
The symbol of the Italian fascisti party, using a bundle of reeds and an ax
copied from an ancient symbol of the Roman imperium.
Jeff Goldstein on FB:
I told you all before and I’ll repeat it now: the alt right is not conservative, and it is every bit as driven by identity politics and blood essentialism as the prog left.

Antifa, BLM, CAIR, the New Black Panthers, La Raza, the Pussy Hatters, the KKK — these are all identity movements and all formed and animated by the kind of identity politics championed by the left, and legitimated by the likes of Edward Said and other academic cultural Marxists who recognized the way to power was to divide, and then control, particular identity groups, whose narratives they seek to create and police.

The alt-right is only “right wing” in the continental sense. The American conservative is classically liberal, while the American progressive is Fabian socialist.

Don’t listen to labels; follow the assumptions made by each movement — the alt right, the prog left — and you’ll soon recognize that they are the same. This is tribalism, no more and no less. What we are witnessing is an attempt to corrupt the ideals of a propositional nation based on individualism and individual universal rights (and that’s how our Constitutional republic is designed to operate) — a lesson Google’s pillorying of a software engineer as “anti-diversity” should have made clear.

You should reject this archaic collectivism from whatever group espouses it, because in the end it is simply anti-individualism dressed in mob attire to bolster cowardice and bigotry in numbers.
As a clarification, I am not saying that Nazism was founded on nothing but Marxism. Of course there were other influences, and Nazism's antisemitism did not spring directly from Marxism. However, Marxism did and still does carry with it its own strain of Jew-hatred. Much modern Jew-hatred has sprung from the Left, not the least of which has been the Nazis. Dennis Prager's book about antisemitism, Why The Jews?, has an entire chapter on leftist Jew-hatred. Marx himself was no friend to the Jews and he was the venue by which a lot of old tropes about Jews and money got turned into bankers and capitalists manipulating the world.

Even so, antisemitism was endemic across most of western Europe and went all the way back to the Black Plague years, centuries before, when the Jews got blamed for the plague.

And it's been pretty well covered how German Teutonic mythicism shaped a lot of Hitler's ideology on the supremacy of Aryan blood and German destiny. But as for the political workings of Nazi government and economic structuring, there was not a lot of daylight between what the Soviet communists did and what Hitler did. Unlike the Soviets, Hitler did not outright seize and nationalize industries and businesses, but he did wholly dictate terms of business to them, what they could manufacture, how much they could charge, who would get first claim on output, whom they could hire. German industry remained private really in name only. And if they were smart, business owners joined the Nazi party, just as Soviets knew that to become plant managers and plan supervisors proven reliability as a party member was a basic requirement.

Here is an excellent question:

See also, "Why Nazism Was Socialism and Why Socialism Is Totalitarian," at the Mises Institute site, and Encyclopedia Britannica's explanation of the theoretical foundations of National Socialism, which included but was not limited to ordinary political socialism.

There is a lot more about what the top Nazis said about their Marxist foundation.

From an essay by John J. Ray, Ph.D., who describes himself as a "former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society" and "former anarcho-capitalist."

The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)
So why did Hitler and Stalin war upon each other? It was not over ideology per se. It was basically much as if James and Jesse had fought each other over who would run the James gang: no matter who won, it would have been still the same outlaw gang as before. There was a deep racist and Aryan supremacist strain to Germany's contempt for most of the peoples east of them, too.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A 9/11 Memorial

I made this in 2011 for the 10th anniversary.

Best viewed full screen.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Dieppe Raid and blown intelligence

German photo of Allied dead at Dieppe
British intelligence told the Germans in advance of the Dieppe raid

On this day in 1942, a force of 4,963 Canadian troops, accompanied by just over a thousand British soldiers, 50 US Rangers and 15 Frenchmen, conducted the catastrophe of Operation Jubilee.

Known to history as the Dieppe Raid, the outcome of the brief assault against the French, German-held port of Dieppe was a decisive, bloody defeat of the Allied forces.
At Dieppe, 907 Canadians, including 56 officers, lost their lives in a battle that lasted for only nine hours. A total of 3,369 men were killed or wounded. At Dieppe, the Canadian Army lost more prisoners than in the whole eleven months of the later campaign in North-West Europe, or the twenty months during which Canadians fought in Italy.
Why did the raid take place?


Allied planners had agreed that an actual second-front invasion of occupied France could not be undertaken without substantially more experience. Though successful, the landings against Vichy French forces in northern Africa were certainly no rehearsal for operations against Nazi forces on the French coast.

So the Dieppe raid was born. The raid had no long-term tactical objective; even had the raid been entirely successful., Dieppe was to have been abandoned and troops withdrawn to Britain after a short time. The raid's goals were entirely strategic, oriented toward the future invasion of France from the sea.

Jubilee's main objectives were to train leaders at all level to conduct large-scale amphibious, combined and joint operations against the coast of France, to seize the port and hold it for a short time, to take prisoners and gather intelligence, and to demolish certain German fortifications.

It was in short meant to form the basis of an extensive set of lessons learned that could be applied toward invasion when invasion came, and to boost home-front morale at a time of the war when little could be cheered in European fighting.

The Raid

Carried by 240 Allied vessels, the raid was late in getting started, a day late in fact, having originally been scheduled for Aug. 18. The first troops to land had to advance in dawn's light rather than darkness as planned. Consequent loss of surprise is still held to be a primary reason that the raid was repulsed so bloodily. In fact, the Allies had utterly lost the advantage of surprise, but the loss was not because of daylight; it was because of the postponement. German forces were fully alerted and aware of the coming raid before the first ships appeared over the horizon.

There were two supporting, prior attacks on the east and west of the main line of advance, commencing at 0500 hours. Both were thrown back quickly with great loss. Because of this, the Germans were able to bring fierce, effective fire directly upon the main force when it landed opposite Dieppe.

Landing at 0530 hours, the main force was immediately taken under intense small arms, mortar and artillery fire. Despite the heroism of the attacking troops, a bare few made it off the beach. Twelve of 27 Canadian tanks were knocked out before getting off the sand. Only six reached the beach's esplanade, where they were stopped by antitank ditches and then destroyed.

Six hundred Canadian reserve troops were landed when commanders mistakenly thought that the initial troops had taken a foothold in Dieppe. They suffered all the way onto land and 475 of them never made it back to England.

Hardly anywhere did Allied troops make it much more than a few dozen yards away from the waterline. Only Number 4 Commando of the Royal Marines achieved all its objectives of the day, and those were very limited, though difficult to be sure. At 1050 the order to abandon the attack was given.

Why the attack failed

Loss of surprise on the morning of the attack is usually attributed as a main reason the raid failed. Yet the real reason the attack failed was revealed in 1963 by Stanley Lovell, chief of research and development of the American Office of Strategic Services during the war. The reason was very simple: Britain's Secret Intelligence Service ("Broadway") told the Germans about the raid a day ahead of time, on purpose.

In chapter 15 of his book, Of Spies and Stratagems, Lovell relates the story of a German spy captured in Britain on Aug. 31, 1939, who under interrogation claimed that his lineage was of "almost nobility." Before long, the SIS and the German came to agreement: he would be doubled to work for the SIS and after the war was won Britain would make him a knight of the realm.

Lovell says he personally read many of the messages to the German espionage service that the would-be knight sent, many of which critically misinformed the Germans of Britain's readiness to repulse invasion or of the combat depth of the Royal Air Force.

A precursor to the misfired Dieppe stratagem was a commando raid against the island of Lofoten, where German occupiers produced large quantities of fish oil used in explosives. The doubled agent radioed the Abwehr that the islands would be attacked on March 6, 1941. Germany rushed forces to the scene only to find two-day old, charred ruins and a sign poked into the sand that said, "We'll smoke your fish for you!"

Three months later a similarly accurate-but-late message was sent warning of a commando raid against the French port of St. Nazaire, where the destroyer Campbelltown, loaded with explosives, was remotely crashed into the only drydock along that coast large enough to handle German U-boats.

The SIS was given permission to send just such a too-late-but-true message to the Germans about the Dieppe raid. The message was to be sent Monday evening the 18th of August, about 12 hours after the Allied forces had landed.

The SIS was not told that the landing was postponed until Tuesday. The Germans received the message Monday evening, alerted their forces at Dieppe and were waiting before dawn on the 19th.

Lovell writes that a director of Britain's Special Operation, Executive told him that the SIS operation escaped being closed down by the thinnest of margins, surviving only when a Briton pointed out that the doubled agent's standing with the Abwehr could not possibly be higher, and that the Germans would now believe anything he told them.

Claiming to have very highly-placed sources deep within General Dwight D. Eisenhower's headquarters, the agent became deeply involved in deception operations covering Operation Overlord, the invasion of France in 1944. Most important was to deceive the Germans of the place and time of the invasion. I'll let Lovell finish the story (click for larger image):

The aftermath The raid was a disaster for the Allies and a propaganda triumph for the Germans. Lovell writes of the sickening feeling Allied commanders had when viewing captured German reels of the battle.

As you may imagine, finger pointing among British commanders and the imperial staff began almost immediately. Lord Louis Mountbatten, the attack's main advocate, maintained the rest of his life that lessons learned from the raid were invaluable for later Allied successes. These arguments are weak, according to the BBC:
The disaster did point up the need for much heavier firepower in future raids. It was recognised that this should include aerial bombardment, special arrangements to be made for land armour, and intimate fire support right up to the moment when troops crossed the waterline (the most dangerous place on the beach) and closed with their objectives. 
However, it did not need a debacle like Dieppe to learn these lessons. As judged by General Sir Leslie Hollis - secretary to the Chiefs of Staff Committee and deputy head of the Military Wing of the War Cabinet with direct access to Churchill - the operation was a complete failure, and the many lives that were sacrificed in attempting it were lost with no tangible result.
Canada at War disagrees with the BBC's assessment that nothing worthwhile was learned at Dieppe.
The Dieppe fiasco demonstrated that it was imperative to improve communications at all levels: on the battlefield, between the HQs of each unit, between air, naval and ground forces. The idea of capturing a well-defended seaport to use as a bridgehead was dropped after August 19th, 1942. In addition, the raid on Dieppe showed how important it was to use prior air bombings to destroy enemy defences as much as possible, to support assault troops with artillery fire from ships and landing crafts, to improve techniques and equipment to remove obstacles to men and tanks. 
The true meaning of the sacrifices made at Dieppe was made obvious two years after this ill-fated date, when on D-Day the Allies gained a foothold in Europe to free the continent from Nazi aggression. 
Canadian General H.D.G. Crerar says D-Day would have been a disaster were it not for the lessons of Dieppe. Among those lessons: don’t assault a fortified fort; rather, attack on the beaches, give infantry support and plan it all down to the last hand grenade.
This seems a better assessment to me. Perhaps these lessons would have been learned otherwise, but perhaps not. For sure they were learned that day. Just as importantly, the British and other Allies took to heart that there had to be a seamless integration between military, intelligence and counterintelligence operations. This was just as valuable a lesson as any of the military ones.

Finally, Global News Canada says that raid's magnitude was a deception operation aimed to mask the raid's true purpose: to "pinch" (capture) a new version of the Nazi Enigma encryption machine.
According to O’Keefe’s research, British naval officers used Operation Jubilee to target the German-made Enigma code machine, an electro-mechanical piece of equipment that used a series of rotors for the encryption and decryption of secret messages. ... 
While the British were successful breaking into the three-rotor Enigma machines, everything changed on February 1, 1942, when the Germans introduced the four-rotor Enigma device — instantly blacking out Bletchley Park. 
According to files, British naval intelligence believed that in order to crack the four-rotor Enigma machine, a pinch raid was necessary. A successful pinch would mean secretly stealing parts of the machine, code books and setting sheets.
This may well be true, with the other objectives listed above being also true, but of lesser strategic importance. It doesn't change the fact that the SIS blew the secrecy of the whole show.

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