Steven C. Neill
July 12, 2013
"It Was As Bad As the War" – Earnest Hemingway
FDR's gratitude to the vets disappeared after he was elected and no longer needed them. Most of them, by this time, had become outcasts. Some were drunks, and some suffered from shell shock. Some were hardened misfits. All were an embarrassment and a shame to the country that had conscripted them to fight and then had abandoned them. In order to dispose of the remaining vets, he created the "veterans' rehabilitation camps" in South Carolina and Florida. In Florida, 700 men filled three work camps in Islamorada and Lower Matecumbe in the Florida Keys, building bridges for a highway that would extend from Miami to Key West.
Unfortunately for those sent to the Florida Keys, an inhuman monster was ready to finish what FDR had started. A hurricane that was first recorded on August 31, 1935 just northeast of Turks Island was thundering towards the Keys. Though small in size, as hurricanes go -- merely 10 miles across, it was already a giant in force and growing exponentially. Northeast storm warnings were posted from Fort Pierce - to Fort Myers, and caution was advised for the Florida Keys.
By Labor Day on September 2, the storm had transformed itself into a lethal killing machine packing winds from 150 to 200 MPH with gusts up to 250 MPH headed straight towards the unsuspecting veterans at Camp 5.
The morning started off with strong northerly winds that were gaining speed with each passing minute. By noon, Camp Commander Eddie Parker telephoned the Florida East Coast Railroad to send down the evacuation train that was supposed to be ready at Homestead in case of such a storm. Only the train wasn't there, no one had even bothered to get it ready. With all the speed of a turtle, the train finally departed Miami at 4:25, arriving in Homestead after 5PM. From there, it slowly backed down the track to evacuate the veterans, who by now had abandoned Camp Number 5 and were huddling along the railway embankment seeking any shelter from the winds they could find.
Storm waves began to crash over the banks. The wind blew the sand hard enough to change the granules of sand into tiny missiles that blasted flesh from human faces. As night began to fall and the train still didn't arrive, some of the men went back to the camp.
Sometime after 8 P.M., J. A. Duncan, the keeper of the Alligator Reef Lighthouse, went out onto the observation platform to check the light. A wall of black water suddenly loomed over the lighthouse. In a frenzied attempt to survive, he jumped for the ladder and held fast as tons of sea water crashed over him, shattering the glass and the lenses. Duncan later reported that the wave seemed to be 90 feet high. In reality, it was 20 feet high and powered by 250-MPH gusts of wind.
The wave rumbled over the Keys, ripping roofs off houses, and homes from their foundations as it pushed homes and beds along with their inhabitants out to sea. The rescue train finally arrived at Camp 5 at 8:30 only to be obliterated by the mass of water crushing everything in its path. Uprooting the track and twisting the trestles, it tore nine of the ten cars off the track leaving only the engine stranded on the wreckage. Crashing into Camp 5, the wave leveled every building, sending timbers and bodies out to sea.
When the eye passed over Lower Matecumbe Key, the barometer plummeted to 26.35 inches, the lowest reading ever recorded for a Western Hemisphere hurricane.
In the 10-mile wide swath cut by the storm, hardly anyone was left alive to greet the new day's sun. Everything was destroyed--buildings, docks, roads, viaducts, trees, the railroad and its bridges. Many of the dead would forever disappear as they were washed out to sea. Draping like Spanish moss, bodies were found hanging among overturned and stripped mangroves, as well as buried in sand and debris, or in sunken wrecks of boats. Few survivors were without injury.
With communication cut off with the Keys, help was slow to arrive. Some of the injured died of thirst while stranded in trees. When they did arrive, the rescuers were appalled at the devastation they saw. The National Guard command ordered all of the bodies to be cremated. Though the count will never be known, somewhere between 400 – 600 people died that night and among those were 265 WWI veterans. Those that survived were quietly shuffled off to other locations.
Outraged over the government irresponsibility and having been on one of the first rescue boats, Earnest Hemmingway wrote a scathing account called ""Who Murdered the Vets? A First-Hand Report on the Florida Hurricane," published on September 17, 1935, just weeks after the event. Although billed as a personal account, in reality it was an outraged demand for accountability for the needless death of the veterans. In it Hemingway brought out that the Roosevelt administration had deliberately put them in harm's way by having them work on the Florida Keys during hurricane season and then leaving them to their fate when the storm did arrive.
He asked these volatile questions: "Whom did they annoy and to whom was their possible presences a political danger?"; "Who sent them down to the Florida Keys and left them there in hurricane months?" and closed with "Who left you there? And what's the punishment for manslaughter now?"
Finally, in 1936, the bonus was paid to the remaining vets, closing one of America's most tragic examples abusing American citizens.
These events clearly show that brute force was a US government option to control things they didn't like. The current US government policy is to take the word "option" out of that last statement.
"Our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution, I think, have to change" – Michael Bloomberg
Since 2009, four American citizens have been killed in drone attacks abroad, Attorney General Eric Holder disclosed in a letter on May 22nd, 2013. Three of the men "were not specifically targeted" for death, the letter says. It also publicly admits to a list of people the administration has determined, to be a "continuing and imminent threat" that could not feasibly be captured, in other words, a Presidential "kill list."
Holder confirmed that the US government had targeted and killed Anwar al-Awlaki in September 2011 by a drone strike in Yemen. U.S. citizen Samir Khan, a writer for the al-Qaida magazine "Inspire", was killed alongside al-Awlaki in the drone attack.
A month later, Al-Awlaki's 16-year-old son Abdulrahman was also killed by a U.S. drone, the letter admits. Holder said the teenager was not targeted, but did not provide more details. Not targeted yet still assassinated?
Journalist Tom Junod had this to say about Abdulrahman: "But Abdulrahman al-Awlaki wasn't on an American kill list. Nor was he a member of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Nor was he "an inspiration," as his father styled himself, for those determined to draw American blood; nor had he gone "operational," as American authorities said his father had, in drawing up plots against Americans and American interests. He was a boy who hadn't seen his father in two years. "
The official explanations of the event are anything but reassuring to those who have an issue with being killed by a Presidential order because they might pose a "threat." The first explanation was that killing the teenager was simply a "bad mistake." The second was from John Brennan at the time President Obama's senior adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security, who "suspected that the kid had been killed intentionally and ordered a review. I don't know what happened with the review."
America received further insight into the attitude of the Obama administration towards assassinating American children with this cold blooded statement by former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, when asked about the murder of the 16-year-old: "I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well-being of their children." Is that that is a reasonable explanation for murder?
We are assured by the most "accountable and transparent" administration in American history that it conducts copious reviews after each drone strike and supplies all relevant information to congressional oversight. Yet the limited information given to the public concerning the murder of Abdulrahman is conflicting and limited. What do they have to hide from us?
Rounding out the four US citizens killed was Jude Kenan Mohammed, who was briefly on the FBI's "most wanted" list.
Holder's letter says that under John Brennan, director of the CIA, Obama formalized recently the process of selecting targets abroad for drone attacks and legal justification for killing U.S. citizens abroad without trial. It also promises that "there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured" in a strike.
Since May, there has been little information forthcoming from either Obama or his administration on exactly how this illegal and unconstitutional program is operated. So in early June, the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights opened up law suits against the US government for the murder of three Americans killed by drone strikes.
The government responded that the strikes against American was constitutional because the government performed "exceptionally rigorous interagency legal review' which they determined to be lawful -- along with the President's statement that those actions were legal -- only support the conclusion that those actions were lawful, so said Paul E. Werner, a trial lawyer in the Justice Department's Civil Division. In other words; they are legal because President Obama says they are." Now, isn't that comforting?
The law suit states "two years after the fact, the president declassified what the entire world knew to be true -- that the government killed three American citizens, including a 16-year-old boy," the Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union said in a joint statement. "Now, the government continues to insist that the courts have no role in evaluating the legality of its actions. But the executive branch cannot simply declare the killings lawful and attempt to close the book on that basis. A federal judge, not executive officials examining their own conduct, must determine the constitutionality of the government's actions."
The lawsuit was brought on behalf of the estates of three American citizens killed in drone strikes. The suit alleges the killings violated the constitutional rights to due process of the slain Americans. One American killed by a drone, Anwar al Awlaki, was specifically targeted by the U.S. government. Awlaki's 16-year-old son and another American, Samir Khan, were killed in strikes that didn't specifically target them.
The filing also stated that the "fact that the government has now declassified its use of lethal force against the decedents -- after its long-standing argument that such disclosure would present grave risks to national security" -- suggested the blanket concerns about classified information were "speculative."
In the midst of defending drone strikes as constitutional and legal, it was discovered that on June, a U.S. drone fired on a vehicle in a remote province of Yemen and killed several militants. Among the casualties was a ten year old boy named Abdulaziz, whose elder brother, Saleh Hassan Huraydan, was believed to be the target of the strike. The official government response to killing another civilian by drone strike was silence.
Responding to a thirteen hour filibuster by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul on the government "right" to kill Americans on American soil, Attorney General Eric Holder said in a letter to Paul that "it is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States."
In order to "dismiss some of the outlandish claims" surrounding drones." Obama stated "For the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen – with a drone, or a shotgun – without due process. Nor should any president deploy armed drones over U.S. soil," he said. "Believe" and "should" are neither legally enforceable nor constitutionally supported terms meant to provide escape routes from the legally absolutes Americans need to hear when concerning government "kill lists."
In spite of the horrific outcome, Hoover's intentions were only to move the Bonus Army out of abandoned buildings and back into their camp. MacArthur was a glory hound who went beyond his orders but still never gave the order to kill unarmed American. While FDR just used the Bonus Army to gain the White House and pushed them out of public sight when no longer needed. But none of them deliberately killed their fellow Americans.
America is well along the path of tyrannies past with the unlimited invasion of our privacy via NSA; the punishing of political opponents via the IRS; the destruction of a vital but presidentially unpopular coal industry via executive order; and now, the allowance of foreign troops to be used with FEMA forces on American soil in case of civil unrest. And we are led by a man who ultimately believes he needs to "fundamentally change America." Does part of that change include the presidential right to kill Americans?
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