BY JEFF ROBBINS
Mark Shields is off. The following is a column by Jeff Robbins.
On the morning of Dec. 22, 1944, German soldiers waving white flags approached American troops defending the Belgian city of Bastogne against the Nazi counterattack known as the Battle of the Bulge. The German army had the American defenders completely surrounded and outnumbered, and the Americans were rapidly running out of supplies by five to one.
The Germans had a message from their general to the American commander, Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe: Surrender immediately or face “total annihilation.” Their note was explicit. “In order to think it over,” it stated, “a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note. If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy battalions are ready to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne.”
McAuliffe was awakened with this news and initially misunderstood it. “They want to surrender?” he asked his operations officer. “No, sir,” the officer replied, “they want us to surrender.” Informed that the Germans demanded a written response, McAuliffe instructed that the following reply be delivered: “To the German commander: NUTS! The American commander.”
McAuliffe and his troops were far from “losers” or “suckers,” the terms reportedly used for our military men and women by a president who dodged the draft by making a phony claim that he had bone spurs to avoid serving his country. The Atlantic has detailed President Donald Trump’s derision of those who served instead of ducking service, and the story, consistent with so many accounts by those who have observed Trump firsthand and through recordings of his public statements, is based on multiple sources. It has been backed by Fox News itself, not exactly central command of The Deep State Conspiracy. Americans have sacrificed their own lives to protect the rest of us since the nation’s founding. Those who serve are not losers, and they are not suckers. They are our heroes.
One such individual was Capt. Eugene Rabinowitz of Brooklyn, New York, who was flying bombing missions over Germany at the same time McAuliffe was telling his German counterpart to stick it. The son of two Russian Jews who had come to America in the early 1900s to escape czarist pogroms, Rabinowitz went to work at an aircraft parts factory after graduating high school in 1942. Because the job was considered essential to the war effort, Rabinowitz could have used it to avoid putting his life on the line. He did not do so. He also did not claim to have bone spurs. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps and soon was given the command of a squadron of B-17s based in southeast England, charged with taking it to the Nazis.
Rabinowitz became close friends with a young man named Joe Scarpullo, the son of Italian immigrants, and Scarpullo became his wingman, flying a plane next to him in their bombing formation. After unloading their bombs on German targets during an early 1945 mission, Rabinowitz’s plane was hit by German anti-aircraft fire, and his B-17, an easy target in the best of circumstances, could not keep up with the rest of the squadron. He radioed Scarpullo to leave him behind and head back across the English Channel to their base. “I’ve been hit,” he told Scarpullo. “Don’t wait for me!” Scarpullo radioed back, “I can’t hear you.” Rabinowitz repeated himself, only louder. “I can’t hear you,” said Scarpullo again. This went on until Rabinowitz realized that Scarpullo could hear him loud and clear but was not going to leave him behind. Scarpullo’s plane accompanied Rabinowitz’s all the way home.
The president has denied mocking the armed forces and our veterans, but you’d have to be quite a consumer of snake oil to believe him about that or anything else. If ever a more demonstrable liar has walked our Earth, it would be surprising. If these last four years have shown anything, it is that Donald Trump is profoundly unfit for service, and the reasons have nothing to do with bone spurs.
Jeff Robbins, a former assistant United States attorney and United States delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, was chief counsel for the minority of the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. An attorney specializing in the First Amendment, he is a longtime columnist for the Boston Herald, writing on politics, national security, human rights and the Mideast. To find out more about Jeff Robbins, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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