Colin Powell’s Advice to Graduates (and all Americans) Rings True

An imperfect American hero died yesterday – Colin Powell. After hearing him speak at my son’s graduation seven years ago, I posted the following. Powell was a good man, but in my view he was used to be the face on a non-righteous cause by his superiors That tarnished his reputation some, but he still had an exemplary career.

My oldest son graduated yesterday from college (a big yay!) and we attended his outdoors graduation on a beautiful, sunny and pleasant morning. We also looked forward to the commencement speaker, former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell. Powell’s speech was humble, poignant and inspiring. The part that resonated with many of the graduates was his academic record, which did not hinder his success.

Powell attended City College of New York (CCNY), as that was the only college he could afford to attend. He said he was not a great student and, in fact, the only way he was permitted to graduate was when CCNY’s leaders decided to add his ROTC straight A’s into the mix. He said his GPA increased to a 2.0, to which the graduates laughed heartily. His point was meaningful. First, he said they have named all of these buildings for me due to my success and my old professors are probably rolling over in their graves.

Second, he said just because you did not graduate with a 3.5 GPA does not mean you cannot be successful. Find your path and work hard. This meant a lot to my son who would be among the significant majority in the beneath 3.5 crowd. It resonated with him to hear words of encouragement that yes, if you work hard, you can succeed. The fact that any graduate can remember portions of a commencement speech, is pretty telling. Powell humorously mentioned that when you think back on this day, remember it was C-O-L-I-N P-O-W-E-L-L that spoke at your graduation spelling it out for everyone.

Powell had other words of advice. Get involved with your community and know the issues of import. And, go vote. He said if you are not registered to vote come see me afterwards. You are the people who must keep politicians honest. And, if you don’t like what they do, vote them out. Our is a great country, but you have to be engaged.

He also noted the beauty of compromise. He said our founding fathers came together and passionately argued over how to govern. The Articles of Confederation were insufficient and they argued over its replacement, our constitution. He said from the outset, we have benefitted from the ability of different points of view to compromise. He encouraged people to use their passion and knowledge to influence others, but be in a position to understand the opposing arguments and compromise.

Finally, he said take care of the environment. He said I am not a climate change expert, but it does not take a scientist to recognize we need to stop putting bad stuff into the air and in our water. We have to be better stewards of our earth. An article in “Stars and Stripes” about his commencement speech can be read with the following link: http://www.stripes.com/news/us/colin-powell-urges-grads-to-work-hard-give-back-1.281445

Let me close with two final comments. First, Powell agreed to shake the hand of every student, all 940 who graduated that day. Some shakes came with hugs from more demonstrative folks and he took it all in with a great sense if humor. This meant a lot to the graduates and parents.

Second, I am so proud of my son and proud for his achievement. He worked hard to make it and he did. He will be a better citizen, a better employee and a better person because of his education. The esteem of accomplishing such a great task is significant. He is closing this chapter with equal parts excitement, trepidation and melancholy before moving on to a new one. The sadness is he is leaving his home for four years before making a new one. He is leaving friends, but will stay in touch and make new ones. But, the future is in front of him. Places to go and things to see and do. Well done, son. I love you very much.

Good faith dealings – a needed reprise

I wrote the following post following the death of the 41st president. While an imperfect man, with whom I did not always agree, he lived an exemplary life. There are several lessons for us courtesy of George H.W. Bush.

The passing of former President George H.W. Bush has highlighted the many positive attributes of the imperfect 41st President. Of course, we are all “fixer uppers,” and our willingness to know this about ourselves keeps us humble and in a constant state of self-improvement.

Many positive things have been highlighted about the elder Bush this past week, with many of us nostalgic to how we all should conduct ourselves, especially our leaders. Here are a few things I took away:

– a communication advisor to an early campaign noted he made a big mistake from which he could not hide. Thinking he would be fired, he recalled Bush telling him “I know you will knock the next opportunity out of the park.”

– a friend noted he played golf often with Bush when he was President. He noted the clubs Bush played would invariably try to “comp” his green and cart fees. Bush insisted that he pay for his and his friends fees. He noted it would not be right for a golf club to not expect him to pay.

– a Democrat Senator noted that it was not unusual for Bush to invite a handful of Senators or Congressional representatives to the White House on late Friday afternoons for martinis, which Bush made. He would also give them a tour of the White House, if any had not seen it before.

– many noted that Bush was a voracious note writer and they took pride in words of encouragement, support, sympathy or thanks; these notes were received by media, foreign and domestic leaders, public servants, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters.

– after he retired, the son of one of his secret service guards was struggling with Leukemia and losing his hair due to the Chemotherapy. Bush shaved his head in solidarity with the son to lift his spirits,

– many leaders and public servants noted that Bush had many relationships around the world and here in the states, which benefited him and our country in troubling or challenging times. His ability to tap these resources to build coalitions to do things is paramount to several successful endeavors.

– relationships matter at home too, with a lovely marriage to Barbara for 73 years and a beautiful family of children and grandchildren. Marriage is hard work – this speaks volumes about the Bushes.

– Finally, in today’s times it is hard to convince some that perception is not reality. We seem to spend an inordinate amount of time polishing our own apple or thinking those that do it well rate more highly as a result. One magazine defined Bush as a wimp when he ran for President, primarily because he was an obsequious Vice-President. Here was a man who flew 58 combat missions in WWII and was shot down. He was not raised to brag on himself. It would not have been false bravado for him to do so. False bravado seems to be mistaken for actually bravery these days. But, the reason he was called a wimp due to being obsequious is while he offered criticism to  President Reagan in private, it would have been detrimental to call him out in public.

Each of us could be better people. Our leaders should be among our better angels. Character matters. Dealing with people in a good faith manner matters. Telling the truth to the media, colleagues and the American people matter. Being accountable matters. Real courage is usual quietly borne and not bragged about. We should remember these truths. We should do our best to emulate them.

The Flowers of War – a movie that belies its criticism

I have written recently about the wonderful video store in my city that continues on as a non-profit with its 30,000 plus movies. Recently, a movie that caught my attention from previews is “The Flowers of War,” with Christian Bale, a Chinese actress named Ni Ni and a mostly Chinese and Japanese cast. The movie was written by Geling Yan and Heng Liu based on Geling’s fictional story the “Flowers of Nanjing,” which was based on the diary of a missionary named Minnie Vautrin during the 1937 Sino-Japanese War.

Per IMDb, “An American mortician, John Miller (Bale), arrives in Nanjing in order to bury the foreign head priest of a convent for Catholic girls, just after the city was bombed and invaded by the Japanese forces. A short time after his arrival at the convent, a group of flamboyant prostitutes from the local red-light district find their way to the compound looking for shelter, as foreigners and foreign institutions seem to be left alone by the marauding Japanese soldiers.

While the prostitutes hide out in the cellar, Miller struggles with and finally gives in to his feelings of responsibility to protect the teenage schoolgirls, and poses as the convent’s priest when the compound is repeatedly visited by Japanese soldiers looking for girls to rape. With the help of Chinese collaborator Mr. Meng (Kefan), who is the father of one of the girls, he starts to repair the convent’s truck in case there should be an opportunity to bring the girls out of Nanjing.”

The author and screenwriters pushed back on criticism the movie was anti-Japanese as that was not their intent. This may be a reason it did not get the foreign film accolades it otherwise deserved. The Japanese soldiers overran the city during a war and some of the soldiers took advantage of others. But, the movie is much more than that context. The movie offers a compelling story of disparate groups who learn their preconceived notions of one another can be melted away through mutual beneficial interaction. It offers a story of a western man who finds his better nature in the strangest of places. As I make these observations, I am doing my best not to give away the story.

The movie was directed by Zhang Yimou and also starred Tong Danei as a Chinese major who survived to help the convent early on and Atsuro Watabi as a Japanese colonel who loved music and apologized for the actions of some soldiers offering some temporary protections while he could. The story is narrated by Ling, one the girls in the convent played by Doudou Zhang. A young boy named George (played by Huang Tianyuan), who helped the priest and now Miller, plays the conscience of the movie.

The movie is in English for the interactions between Miller and George, the young students, and Yu Mo, the prostitute played by Ni Ni. Yu Mo had been a young school girl like these girls before she was raped and forced into being a prostitute. Her evolving relationship with Miller is a key part of the movie. The other parts of the movie are in Chinese and Japanese with good subtitles. The Japanese colonel also speaks English to Miller.

My wife and I enjoyed the movie. It is funny, of the four movies we rented, the ones with the highest critical ratings did not lend themselves to the highest enjoyment level.

Water problems have been around for ages – a revisit

The following post was written five years ago, but still is relevant. Since that time, the city of Cape Town, South Africa came perilously close to running out of water, being saved by severe rationing. And, climate change continues to make the water crisis is even worse.*

The water issues that have been plaguing Flint, Michigan residents are not new. Our planet has had water (and sewage) issues dating back to when people gathered together in villages. In Steven Solomon’s book called “Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization” he describes how the mastery over water resources kept leaders of civilizations in power. The needed mastery revolved around water to drink and bathe in, water to carry sewage away, water for transportation and trade and water for naval control.

Here are a few examples to illustrate this point.

  • Every major city has had water/ sewage issues. In London in the 1850s, a  major problem came to a head which was called the Big Stink. The planners had sewage lines dropping waste into the Thames. When cholera and dysentery epidemics broke out, initially, the planners thought these were air borne diseases. But, when they realized a brewery, where employees drank free beer, had only minimal breakout, they realized the diseases were water borne. It turned out the sewage line was perilously close to the line that pulled water from the Thames to drink. Once that was remedied, the breakouts subsided.
  • In Edinburgh, the Scots had an unusual way have handling sewage. It turns out, the city dwellers would throw sewage out of their homes around 10 pm, which is the reason people smoked after meals to mitigate the smell. This made foot traffic very perilous and less than sanitary.
  • In Chicago, when the city got so crowded and filthy, city leaders realized they needed to carry sewage away, but they could not figure out how to do it. An engineer had an idea that they should lift the buildings using railroad car heavy duty jacks and build the sewage and water lines beneath the buildings.This actually worked too well, as Lake Michigan began to get filthy and fish would be coming up through the water lines into bath tubs. So, they had to remedy where the sewage was dumped.
  • It is thought that the greatest Chinese achievement is the Great Wall. Yet, a more monumental achievement per Solomon was to build a canal between the two major rivers in the country – the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers. This was a massive undertaking, but led to transportation and trade across the country.
  • Solomon also advocates the two greatest achievements in US History that made us a world power is the building of the Erie and Panama Canals. The former linked the east coast with trade of goods with the Midwest, making Chicago a very important port. The latter gave us access to two oceans and helped with global trade and naval might. He also credits the two Roosevelts as our greatest water presidents, with Teddy building the Panama Canal and buying watershed rights in the west. FDR built many dams to create hydro-power.

I mention this now, as Solomon has been a staunch advocate for addressing our water problems before it is too late. Flint-like problems exist in several cities right now. Yet, this goes beyond Flint, as our planet is drying up our water resources and it is noticeable by satellite pictures. It is also being made worse by climate change, which the Department of Defense says is one of the greatest threats to our planet. And, The World Economic Forum echoes these concerns with the global water crisis being the number one risk in their 2015 Global Risks report followed by climate change inaction. Solomon is adamantly against fracking as the amount of water wasted is huge per frack. He also notes that not only climate change will make the water crisis worse, but so will over-population.

Finally, the man who predicted the housing crisis two years before it happened, who is featured in the movie “The Big Short,” has only one investment right now. He is buying up water rights. Yet, outside of the Flint issue which is being spoken to by Clinton and Sanders, no candidate is addressing our water concerns and only one Republican candidate admits that climate change is a problem, John Kasich, with both Democrats being vocal about it. These might be questions we want to ask our candidates about, especially with Department of Defense and World Economic Forum noting their concerns.

*In Duke Energy’s own reports, it noted that climate change would worsen expected levels of water evaporation from their reservoirs by 11%. One of the drawbacks of less water not often thought of is the power companies need adequate water to convert into steam to turn turbines to power the generators for electricity. It mattes not whether the steam is being heated by nuclear, coal, or natural gas, the process needs water.

A Call to Action – another book on the maltreatment of women and girls

Yesterday, I provided a reprise of a post on the book “Half the Sky” by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn about the global maltreatment of women and girls. This difficult read speaks of how women and girls are treated as second class citizens or even possession in many parts of the world.

An additional book worth reading on this subject is penned by former President Jimmy Carter called “A Call to Action.” It leverages further the work of Kristof and WuDunn, but brings the arguments home to America as well as speaking to the global problem.

While we are still only beginning to give notoriety to sexual abuse in the US military and on our college campuses after long ignoring the problems, while we are finally highlighting the impact and prevalence of domestic violence toward women that occurs in our society, we are still largely unaware that we have a non-inconsequential sex trafficking industry within America. We have sex slaves being brought in from other countries in addition to the women stolen from within our own communities.

I have read Carter’s book as well and find his arguments and anecdotes compelling. It is also a difficult, but must read. Carter has been one of the best ex-Presidents we have ever had. He has done more good for humanitarian causes and his voice is a powerful one and full of substance. We should heed his, Kristof and WuDunn’s messages and begin to better address the maltreatment of women.

And, since Carter is one of the more learned people about the Christian bible having taught Sunday school for many decades, he offers many good examples of how religious text can be taken out of context to diminish women. This is not restricted to the bible as other religious texts have been similar misapplied. It is obvious from the reading Carter is offended by such, as he sees the role of women in the church as a key. My family was no different, as my mother was the religious leader in the family who got us up and to church for both Sunday school and the service.

Our world and country need stronger positioning of women. I am delighted to see more women running for office in the US. At long last, the US has a female Vice-President. And, what I am also witnessing is the more courageous politicians are not necessarily the men. The example of Liz Cheney is a good one as she stood her ground in the eyes of death threats from people in her own party. I will never forget ten female Senators in 2013 told Ted Cruz and other male Senators at impasse to get out of the pool at the very last minute to avoid the US defaulting on its debts.

The US has long known of the corruption in Afghanistan leadership

Last night on PBS Newshour, William Brangham interviewed Sarah Chayes in a piece entitled “The U.S. ignored corruption within the Afghan government. Did that lead to its fall?” Who is Chayes and why does her opinion matter?

Per PBS Newshour, “Sarah Chayes covered the fall of the Taliban after 9/11 for NPR. She then started and ran several NGOs in the country. She served as adviser to several senior U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan and then to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

She is the author of several books. The most recent is ‘On Corruption in America: And What Is at Stake.’ And she joins us now from Paris.”

I encourage you to read the entire piece per the link below. But, the gist can be gleaned from the following:

Sarah Chayes:In simple terms, why would a population take risks to fight the Taliban on behalf of a government that is treating them almost as badly as the Taliban do? So, Afghan government officials would shake people down at every interaction. The massive international funding that was arriving in the country was being siphoned off or captured by government officials and their cronies. And from Afghans’ perspective, it almost looked like the United States was in favor of this system, because our officials were always seen partnering with these venal Afghan leaders. And no matter how much the population complained, they really couldn’t get us to address the serious — the issues seriously.”

But, she goes further. Pakistan, with the help of the eventual Afghani president Hamid Karzai, established the Taliban foothold in Afghanistan in 1994. The US favored as a president a man who was double dealing with Pakistan. Here is what she adds:

“Again, it’s very counterintuitive, but it was Karzai who initially negotiated the entry of the Taliban into Kandahar back in 1994.

He was basically operating on behalf to have the Pakistani military intelligence agency. Karzai got into a fight with his father about it. Others disagreed with him about it. But that was the role he played. And so, again, it stunned me when I learned this, that our choice to be the first president of Afghanistan was the very one who had ushered the Taliban into power in the first place.”

In essence, the US has known of the corrupt leadership in Afghanistan and actually enabled it per Chayes. This is a key reason citizens welcome in others like the Taliban. What we were less aware of is the double dealing of Karzai with Pakistan. She notes the happiest people right now are the Pakistanis, as they have a friend in power in their neighboring country.

And, we wonder why we cannot get things straight in the middle east?

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/the-u-s-ignored-corruption-within-the-afghan-government-did-that-lead-to-its-fall

Thursday thunderbolts

What is happening in Afghanistan is awful, but it is not a surprise. The Taliban taking over was bound to happen no matter when the allies pulled out. Truly, the only surprise is the haste of the change. Afghanistan has long been called the “graveyard of empires” because no invading nation has ever been successful.

The US failed to heed that lesson, even after a reminder of the USSR failure in the 1980s. The opposing force is too distributed and the terrain too mountainous and arid-like. And, the Taliban carries through on its threats against locals who favor the enemy. As a result, the locals are scared to cross them.

Sadly, this failure falls on many presidents, even dating back to Ronald Reagan when Congressman Charlie Wilson helped secretly fund and supply the Mujahideen to drive out the Soviets in the 1980s. What we failed to do is help the country after the Soviets left and the US became more mistrusted and things deteriorated.

But, with George W. Bush authoring the invasion after 9/11, Barack Obama’s continuing push, Donald Trump’s acquiescence to the Taliban and Joe Biden’s decision to honor the agreement to leave, we have shown an inability to solve problems, leaving behind more. Since we dove in, leaving entirely should not have been the answer, as it is like the husband leaving the wife when times got hard. They needed to stay together to make it work. So, now our trustworthiness is even lower than if we never invaded.

Yet, this is not the only problem we let fester because of lack of focus or courage to analyze, discuss and try to solve problems. Reasonable immigration efforts have moved forward on a bipartisan basis, but they fell flat. A pretty good bill passed the Senate in 2013 under the tutelage of a “Gang of Eight,” but the House would not take it up. This led to the Obama DACA executive order which is not the way to govern hard issues.

Both parties talk about the debt and deficit when they are not in the White House, but show little appetite to do things when their party gets there. George W. Bush was actually handed a balanced budget by Bill Clinton and he proceeded to make a tax cut that his Treasury Secretary adamantly said was unneeded (and was fired). Outside of a sequestration approach (which said if we don’t make changes, these cuts will go in place), nothing substantive has come out of Congress to deal with the deficit and debt since Clinton. The debt will soar past $40 trillion by the end of the decade.

Then there is climate change. The naysaying mandate pushed by the fossil fuel industry which has known for several decades about the climate change risks, is appalling. Many do not realize that Dick Cheney, the second Bush VP, came out of the oil industry. Cheney and his old colleagues wrote key language in the 2005 Energy Act to give frackers a hall pass on scrutiny by the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Air Act. In my view, we lost twelve years of more demonstrative action in the past twenty years.

We have other big problems that we have let fester under multiple presidents. But, the above shows what happens when we do not address them. They do not go away. They just build steam like a pressure cooker. We need to do something before they explode.

Leadership can happen

In Ken Burns’ seven part documentary on “The Roosevelts” which focuses on Teddy, Franklin and Eleanor, conservative pundit and author George Will gives FDR high praise for galvanizing American industry toward building planes, jeeps, trucks, ships, tanks, guns, equipment, etc. for World War II. What may be less known, is FDR knew he had to allow the companies to make a profit to gain their full support. It also effectively ended the depression era as it got people back to work.

In this same documentary, Eleanor was asked to travel to the Pacific during the war to help the troops. Admiral Bull Halsey did not want her to come, as he saw it as a waste of time he could use planning. In her first twelve hours, he changed his mind entirely. Halsey noted she worked her fanny off visiting several hospitals, bases and going to several events. He noted the first lady visited every soldier and sailor in the hospital at bed side, asking their name, where they were from and if she could do something for them. As Halsey pointed out, these badly wounded combatants needed a mother to stop by and talk with them..

Dwight Eisenhower was getting all kinds of lessons from people about how to be a leader as president. Here was a man who led the Allied command and had to work with many countries and a variety of egos. Eisenhower told them leadership is not beating on your chest and using fear. Anyone can do that. It is gaining consensus toward a common goal. It is sharing your ideas and listening to theirs. They have to buy into the change or it will not be successful.

Although, LBJ can rightfully be criticized for our failures in Vietnam, along with JFK and Richard Nixon, he used his entire political capital and bully pulpit to get the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act passed. He knew the time was now as well as knowing the Democrats would lose the south if they passed. But, he got them done noting if the presidency is not used for doing big things, what is it for?

Even Nixon with his Watergate scandal, made two significant changes that helped America. He broke the ice on relations with China starting much needed conversations between two world powers. The significance of this move cannot be overstated. And, in reaction to the pollution of Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River causing it to catch fire along with Rachel Carson’s book and earlier Congressional testimony on “Silent Spring,” Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency.

Ronald Reagan was not perfect as no president is and the Iran-Contra affair is his albatross, but he made an ad lib during a speech in Berlin in 1987 that led to major change. He said “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” The Berlin wall would come down a few years later. Reagan almost did not say it, but knew instinctively the time was right.

Let me close with a story about a president of a company that I have used before. Paul O’Neill was made the new CEO of Alcoa, a company that was falling short of expectations. At his first press conference, O’Neill did not say the normal buzz word type things. He said he was going to make Alcoa the safest place to work. A financial analyst called his investors and told them to sell Alcoa stock. He later said that was the worst advice he ever gave.

O’Neill knew the only thing the unions and management could agree on was employee safety. Two weeks into his tenure a worker died in a tragic accident on the floor. He called in his direct reports and said “we killed this man.” I want to know in twenty-four hours why he died and how we can prevent future deaths. With that signal, communication up and down the lines improved, empowered employees starting sharing productivity and revenue enhancing ideas and the company took off.

Leadership can happen. Often it takes courage to stick your neck out and do something. All of the above folks also failed to lead on occasion and made some poor decisions. So, even today when we see leadership, we need to let them know we appreciate what they did.

A brief thought – err on the side of caution

I am off to a doctor’s appointment in a few minutes, but wanted to capture a brief thought. I am reading several school boards in Florida will be ignoring Governor DeSantis’ rule that there will be no mask or vaccine mandates. In response, the governor has said he will hold back pay of superintendents who violate his rules.

The lesson that continues to be failed to learn by governors like DeSantis and Abbott over in Texas among others, is with respect to community health, we must err on the side of caution. With respect to children’s health, we must err on the side of caution.

Of course, they took their lead from the former president who put people in danger after he knew of COVID-19 danger inviting them to events, calling it a hoax, and naysaying its severity. And, these were his biggest fans.

Now, we have a rising COVID Delta variant that is plaguing the unvaccinated, primarily. The risk of exposure exists now as much as ever. We must be mindful of these risks.

The military is mandating vaccines, but over 1 million military members have already been vaccinated, which us a huge start. Speaking of military, I have quoted my veteran US Air Force brother-in-law who simply said, “You are not being asked to storm the beach at Normandy. Wear a mask. Get a vaccine.”

This is not a civil liberties issue, this is a public health issue. We must err on the side of caution. It is only your health and that of your family.

Breaker Morant – a terrific Aussie film about a true story

The following post was written a few years ago. My wife and I re-watched another great film from Australia yesterday called “The Man for Snowy River.” It reminded me of this movie, which remains a favorite of mine.

When I am asked to list my favorite movies, I will usually include a film made in 1980 in Australia called “Breaker Morant.” The movie did not get enough airplay here in the US, so if you missed seeing it, that would not have been a difficult task. The movie was directed by Bruce Beresford, but starred several terrific actors who would go on to fame – Edward Woodward (an English actor), Bryan Brown and Jack Thompson. A key role was also played by a younger actor, Lewis Fitz-Gerald. Woodward would play in the US television series called “The Equalizer” while Brown would appear in a number of films like “Fx” and “Australia.” Thompson would also appear in “The Man from Snowy River,” another favorite of mine from Australia, as well as “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”

The movie is about three men who were convicted as scapegoats for committing war crimes they had been authorized to perform during the Boer Wars in South Africa. The men were part of a guerilla team called the Bushveldt Carbineers, who had to resort to unusual tactics to remain safe and be effective. It is based on a true story from the novel “Scapegoats of the Empire” by George Witton. Lt. Harry Morant, played by Woodward was a former horse-breaker on which the title is based. He is a former Englishman of society who is forelorned over a lost love, so he has devoted his career to helping the military fight in faraway places. He is also an acclaimed poet, which is part of his fabric and the movie.

Brown plays Lt. Peter Hancock, who is Morant’s trusted friend, but a man with faults and desires which make him less than perfect like everyone else. Fitz-Gerald plays a more naïve young soldier who gets caught up with the others just doing as he is told. Thompson plays the second lead character as Major J.F, Thomas, an unprepared, but eventually very capable and practical attorney who defends the three in a court-martial trial. He was picked because the leaders wanted someone not to defend them well, but the opposite occurred.

The three are on trial as the British leadership wanted to distance themselves from the Bushveldt Carbineers’ tactics, which were successful. They also were on trial for killing a priest who was a Boer spy before he could get back to share his reconnaissance. The tactics included placing the captured military leaders in the front of returning horse soldiers from battle, as it dissuaded the Boers from attacking them. This was a guerilla type war, where new practices were being done and confirmed at the higher ranks.

Yet, as the war was winding down, the British leadership needed to provide a peace-offering, so the three were put on trial as scapegoats. I will hold off on the conclusion, although some of it is obvious from the title of the book. If you do watch it, know that the movie shows the horror of war, the lack of humanity that can be all-encompassing and how soldiers just doing their job often pay for the sins of their leaders. I also like the fact that they do not promote the three on trial as better men than they are, especially Hancock and Morant. These are cynical and worldly men who realize what they are up against.

If you have seen it or take the chance to do so, I would love to hear your feedback and thoughts.