George Washington: Corrupt Regimes Crumble When the Foot Soldiers Refuse to Carry Out The Tyrant’s Draconian Orders

By George Washington. Cross posted from Washington’s Blog.

“Its Always When The Foot Soldiers of the Elite Won’t Carry Out the Forms of Draconian Control that These Dead Regimes Crumble”

Pulitzer prize winning reporter Chris Hedges pointed out recently (starting at 5:05):

I was in Leipzig on November 9, 1989 with leaders of East German opposition and they told me that – perhaps within a year – there would be free passes back and forth across the Berlin wall.

Within a few hours, the Berlin Wall, at least as far as an impediment to human traffic, did not exist.

Week after week, month after month, these clergy in Leipzig held these candlelit vigils. And it was slow at first … people forget. Just like the Egyptian revolution has been percolating for many many months, and even years.

And suddenly, it began to grow. [Indeed, a study of history shows over and over that people don’t realize how close they may be to a positive turning point … if they just persist.]

And Honecker – who had been in ruling East Germany since the time of the dinosaurs – sent down a paratroop division to Leipzig .. . and they won’t attack the demonstrators.

It’s always when the foot soldiers of the elite won’t carry out the forms of draconian control that these dead regimes crumble.

And that’s why its so important not to respond to police provocation.


No wonder veterans appear to have been targeted. See this and this.


No wonder returning veterans are treated as suspected terrorists.

No wonder images such as this, this and this are so powerful.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


    1. Chip

      Heard about Romney’s 11-11-11 plan?

      The Socialistic V.A. will be replaced with Massachusetts style private insurance. Veterans will get a certain number of vouchers to use at for profit private sick care covered hospitals. That way the corporate sector gets the money previously wasted on the publicly funded V.A.

      Of course when the vouchers run out then they can just go curl up and die some where like the rest of America’s citizens.

      1. blueanthrax

        more drones and robocops i guess. this system need more profits and less comments. i saw the video of the ron paul vet supporter got cut on cnn. how many us vets have seen the wtc7 video and how many got its meaning?

        1. mac

          Whatever sort of story gets around in this election year from or about either side; ignore it as it is most likely untrue.
          It is just like the “soap commercials” or the device that makes cars run on water!

  1. Jim

    Should the military in Italy and Greece

    (i) support the Brussels-appointed Viceroys, or

    (ii) refuse to carry out their orders and join the rank-and-file in a revolt against the Brussels-appointed Viceroys?

    1. Lyle

      Note that in East Germany at the time conscription was in place. Its harder to get a conscript army to do mass casualties than an all volunteer army as the service men are in the army for a generally shorter period and so have not been as acculturated as in an all volunteer army (for example I believe the minimum enlistment today is like 4 years while during vietnam the draft period was 2 years)

      1. blueanthrax

        i see voluntier means voluntier for fed notes not volunteer to die like their enemies. yes you are correct as far as the values of those notes hold water. in another not so distant future the amount of note need to be printed will explode when the complication of keeping the value of those note rising. for example to fight for control of iranian oil is thought to be as least three to four times harder than for kuweitee or iraqi. the masters would probably do a swot analysis now and decide soon.

  2. psychohistorian

    I see the military as less conflicted than the American populace in general around who the enemy is within our society. TV is a very effective drug.

    So does this story apply to the coming war in Iran or just to the war on folks trying to save the American safety net?

    The American empire led by the global inherited rich cannot collapse soon enough, IMO.

    1. blueanthrax

      tv comercials are effective for the lesser educated than for the professional enchelon of the army. the scenario that is most dangerous for the existing order is the upper middle class in the army will exploit the discontent of the population to do a bloodless coup like in any otherbananas replublic.

    2. rafael bolero

      Totally agree. US police/military far more violent potential than anywhere else. This spring will bring non-lethal acoustic cannons and microwaves, but these brainwashed men and women will pull the trigger on command, and many of them enjoy it. They have been socialized to be violent: I call the USA pop. ‘violence on tap.’ It takes blood, even a little of it, to make people see what is really happening. After Kent State, the revulsion rightly was directed at the shooters; this time, don’t be so sure: the media machine has used years of episodic framing to depict protestors as poor stupid union loser parasites sprinkled with vain celebrities with commie leanings; the mass audience may think we need to shoot some more. Maybe there will even be a futures betting market on how many at a given venue–if there isn’t already a game on.

      1. nowhereman

        With the proliferation of “cop” shows on TV the population has been acclimatized to the violence that is coming, and the police have been desensitized to the rights of their fellow citizens

  3. Historicaecon

    WND? Talk about Bircher nonsense. And does anyone remember Timothy McVeigh? The worries aren’t as crazy or OWS-centric as you imply. On the other hand, Occupy Everywhere!

  4. Jack M.Hoff

    Ha Ha, thanks for the laugher. Do you really think or imagine that one of the mercenaries who so dutifully are defending your freedom everyfucking day would think twice about pulling the trigger on you if the order came to do so? Don’t bet your life that they would’nt… BTW, I’m still waiting for someone to tell me just what freedoms they’re protecting. The only one I recognize is corporate america’s freedom to rape and pillage resources worldwide.

    1. blueanthrax

      who would have the courage to order killing of ows protesters? first they must made them violent via provocateurs and media outlet. that take time to infiltrate the movement. pulling the trigger is the last step of the first wave. how to remove the banner i support the occupy movement in the sites like this one is another matter.

      1. ambrit

        Dear blueanthrax;
        Just look at the faces of the White Shirts, who did most of the ‘provocations’ at the #OWS venues in NYC, and you have your answer.

  5. Paul Tioxon

    Howard Unruh, US Army vet of the Battle of the bulge, killed 13 with his souvenir luger pistol in the streets of Camden NJ, including a 2 year old. He said he’d kill a thousand if he had the bullets.

    Charles Whitman, former Marine, killed 16, wounded 32 from UofTexas tower in Austin in 1966.

    In the middle of this past summer’s hurricane Irene, an Army captain murders 4 and then himself, while traveling from Virginia to Pennsylvania with his young daughter who was not harmed in the shootings. He also shot two Bucks County cops.

    Many returning vets are showing up in the news not for their political activity on the right or the left, but because they are broken human beings truamatized beyond human endurance or tolerance for inhumane warfare that they carried out under orders while in military service. They are showing up as rampaging killers in the neighborhoods and townships of America, killing in numbers and ferocity equal to and exceeding the Manson family. The Ft Hood killer, a psychiatrist, presumably not insane by virtue of office and title, is an example of someone faced with the certainty of entering into the horrors of war, going on a killing spree, before even seeing any combat or death.

    Before we worry too much about the tanks rolling out to create an authoritarian state under military enforcement, let’s deal with some of the real threats that water carriers provide, like their recreation of combat free fire zones back in the real world of civilians, shopping malls and day to day family responsibilities.

  6. wunsacon

    My guess is that “mostly autonomous” drones / robots (Skynet) will appear within 30 years. If we have not made governments (around the world) fully transparent and democratic by that time, then the theocrats and gangsters at the top will be freer to issue any orders they want — because implementation of these orders will no longer depend on similarly-minded or acquiescent foot soldiers.

    Because their irrational fears might lead them “in good conscience” to issue terrible orders to “protect” the rest of the country, empowering our own theocratic leaders with these weapons might lead to…even worse outcomes than we’ve seen thus far and this time on the home front.

    And I think we’re pretty much powerless to stop it from happening, because too many voters will likely remain blind to the risks until it’s too late. (So, while it lasts, remember to have a good time out there! ;-))

  7. Norman

    I believe that the last time the military was used in this country,was during the free speech movement during the 60’s. Yes, some overactive[s] killed a student, but, like that one in New Orleans that the General berated on the tube for all to see about running around like Rambo, that was an exception. Consider why the military doesn’t bring all those combat vets home now? Get beyond the armchairs and see the reality of what is taking place in “your country” by the charlatans who would betray you. In essence, you are giving them a free hand to do as they please. Food for thought.

  8. Paul walker

    Keep digging George.

    Folks tend to forget a military is drawn from broad society, not elite society. Transference is alive and well for all the Freudian inspired to research to their hearts delight throughout society, to include elite society, and all its different dimensions.

    I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half – Jay Gould

  9. Dan G

    Paul has his lagest contributions from the military and defense. perhaps the military would uphold the constitution and liberty rather than turn on its citizens. I have also included Romneys largest contributors.From:
    US Army $24,503
    US Air Force $23,335
    US Navy $17,432
    Mason Capital Management $14,000
    Microsoft Corp $13,398
    Boeing Co $10,620
    Google Inc $10,390
    Overland Sheepskin $10,350
    IBM Corp $8,294
    US Government $7,756
    DUNN Capital Management $7,500
    Corriente Advisors $7,500
    Greenstreet Co $7,500
    Northrop Grumman $7,272
    Lockheed Martin $7,208
    Intel Corp $6,855
    US Dept of Defense $6,524
    United Technologies $6,316
    Federal Express Corp $6,255
    Entergy Corp $5,950

    Goldman Sachs $367,200
    Credit Suisse Group $203,750
    Morgan Stanley $199,800
    HIG Capital $186,500
    Barclays $157,750
    Kirkland & Ellis $132,100
    Bank of America $126,500
    PriceWaterhouseCoopers $118,250
    EMC Corp $117,300
    JPMorgan Chase & Co $112,250
    The Villages $97,500
    Vivint Inc $80,750
    Marriott International $79,837
    Sullivan & Cromwell $79,250
    Bain Capital $74,500
    UBS AG $73,750
    Wells Fargo $61,500
    Blackstone Group $59,800
    Citigroup Inc $57,050
    Bain & Co $52,500

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      “perhaps the military would uphold the constitution and liberty rather than turn on its citizens.”

      That may be. It may also be that we should act on the assumption that it is true. Rather like Pascal’s wager.

      1. different clue

        The Cossacks worked for the Czar and remained loyal unto the very last day. Whereas the Army did not.

        Perhaps the police are the Cossacks and the Army is the Army here in America.

        About the Austin tower shooter, didn’t I remember reading that before he went up there he left a suicide note saying somebody should please study his brain because he felt something was not right with it? And autopsy revealed that he had a cancer-tumor pressing on the rage-and-hate center inside his brain. If I remember correctly, that example is not relevant to this argument.

      2. LeonovaBalletRusse

        If is doubtful the armed forces will side with the citizens, since the former have been conned into seeing themselves as among the Global Elite. This is made patently clear in the book: “NOBILITY and Analogous Traditional Elites in the Allocutions of Pius XII: A Theme Illuminating American Social History” by Correa de Oliveira (York, PA, 1993), with Foreword by Morton C. Blackwell (Reagan’s minister of propaganda).

        The armed forces were exalted into the *NOBILITY* sphere, and they took it seriously. From that point on, the *civilians* were, ipso facto, separate *rabble*.

    2. LeonovaBalletRusse

      The Mormon “Marriott International” is neck and neck with “Sullivan and Cromwell.” Maybe they settled the tab over lunch.

    3. taxpayer

      Thanks for that opensecrets link, Dan G. I had been aware of that site but had no idea how interesting it now is. At least until Goldman et al will find new ways to hide their “contributions.”

  10. Petey B.

    >>> Corrupt Regimes Cruble When the foot soldiers refuse to carry out the tyrant’s draconian orders

    We’re still a very long way from that.

    Probably the best strategy for Occupy is to have a steady stream of modest (couple of hundred people) but sometimes loud, sometimes silent marches, several times a day, in prominent touristy places- intended to make the Powers That Be fear for their *image*, rather than their safety. Start picking apart the illusion that the PTB are in control.

    Times square is perfect. The ferry to the statue of liberty. In front of Macy’s on 34th street. near the Capitol / national lawn in DC. You get the idea.

  11. groo

    know your history, friends.

    Perestroika and Glasnost started in the Soviet Union ca 1985 under Gorbatschow.
    Hungary 1987/88
    Solidarnosc Poland June 1989.

    –fall of the Berlin Wall: November 7 1989–

    Velvet revolution Czechoslovakia November 15 1989
    start of the dissolutionh of the Soviet Union: March 1990

    With a strong Soviet Union 1968 ‘Socialism with a human face’ in Czechoslovakia was doomed to fail.

  12. jochen

    groo point is important indeed. I saw a documentary a few month ago on german tv. It was about the days before the wall fell. Don’t have detailed memory but I remember my conclusion.

    The policical chief in Leipzig wanted to reconfirm with Berlin about going against the demonstrators. He simply didn’t want the responsibilty end with him. But Berlin didn’t answer the phone (quite literally) because they (in my conclusion) wanted him to be responsible. This means the system was at a point where those in power were not confident enough that their regime will *definitely* survive. Hence directly ordering the shooting of people was risky.

    IMHO only once the regime lacks confidence can the crumbling from the bottom up begin. For East Germany it was the fact that they couldn’t count on the soviets anymore. In Syria Assad knows that he’ll have to stay brutal or perish. Only once something or somewhat can creditably challenge is monopoly of violence (ie. his henchmen have to consider who will be in power in three moths time, and what that will mean to their chance of survival) will the system loose coherence as the East German did.

    1. Dan B

      I interviewed a STASI member in 1990 who told me he began destroying documents on November 3 rd, 1989 because he “was young and knew the old men running the government could not hear” what he and other young STASI were telling them: “The numbers of people fed up with the system is too large to control with the old tactics. The system will fall.” The move to allow East Germans to “visit” west Germany that weekend on November 10-12 was thought to be a solution to the problem. The leaders thought East Germans would immediately see the decadence of the West and realize that they lived in a workers’ paradise. The West was decadent, but that did not change the rancid reality of East Germany. And a lot of East Germans coveted some of that decadence.

  13. Alexandra Lomakin

    On a tangent: Chris Hedges mentions students walking out on Greg Mankiw, to protest that his teaching of Econ 10 teaches too much of Adam Smith’s invisible hand. I read the students’ open letter with great surprise, to begin with, because Greg Mankiw is a respectable neo-keynessian with broad applied macro research testing the limits of markets. For example, he is particularly well known for his hypothesis of “menu costs” to explain why in a recession prices do not adjust making monetary policy effective (a neo-keysian critic to neoclassical economists like Milton Friedman and Robert Lucas). I attach a good article, which addresses the confusion of the Econ 10 students, by Jeff Sachs, a former colleague of Professor Mankiw which appeared today in the FT “Self-interest without morals leads to capitalist self-destruction”:

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