October 27, 2011

Dept. of Wishful Thinking

From the NYT:
Dictators Get the Deaths They Deserve
by Simon Sebag Montefiore

How about Mao? Died at 82.

How about Stalin? I read a book about Stalin once. He lived his three score and ten and died on his beloved couch, unchallenged master of the world's largest land empire. Most of his henchmen who survived the 1930s lived into old age, too.* The book was called The Court of the Red Czar and it was by ... let me check ... Simon Sebag Montefiore. (He's got some explanation for why Stalin got the death he deserved, but I think it shows a certain lack of imagination.)

In my experience, most people's deaths aren't that much fun. Do they get the deaths they deserve, too?

------------
* The one henchman who got done in was Stalin's fellow Georgian, Beria, who took command upon Stalin's death. The odd thing about Beria that nobody remembers these days is, vicious as he was, his policy upon taking power was proto-Gorbachevian. He figured on letting East Germany go, negotiating a strategic peace with the U.S., and de-Bolshevizing the Soviet Union. But then he got cocky and forgot to bring his pistol to a Politburo meeting ... 

58 comments:

Anonymous said...

We should add Castro (if he ever dies) and Franco to the list. If Hitler had defeated the USSR in 1941, he probably would've been visiting Disneyland in 1957, instead of Khrushchev.

It should be noted that two of Stalin's bloodiest Henchman lived long and comfortable lives - Molotov and Kaganovich lived till the 1980s. Not to mention the East German Dictator that died at a ripe old age.

And whatever happened to Pol Pot?

Doc Evil said...

Heheh, the "outliers" of dictatorship. They put in their 10,000 hours I suppose. Was kind of amused to read the line "controversial but often perspicacious British politician" in an NYT op-ed (in the fullness of time everybody still being referenced by us comes to be seen as perspicacious)

Anonymous said...

The Khmer Rouge were driven into the hinterlands before long but Mr. Pot (Mr. Pol?) still managed getting to his 72 candles.

I wonder if Hussein is such a great example of what the op-ed'er is arguing. I could easily see him lasting into Hosni Mubarak senility if not for the 9/11-W fluke convergence. And his sons weren't exactly planning their screenwriting careers as a fail-safe.

Anonymous said...

I read that Stalin's Jewish doctor killed him after Stalin was about to turn on the Jews.

NOTA said...

For that matter, the dictator formerly known as Qadaffi had a bad last few weeks, and a really bad last few hours. But he died an old man, having held power for a hell of a long time. Would it have been that much better an end if he'd spent his last few months in a top hospital in Switzerland or Paris, dying of inoperable cancer?

guy who turns every comment section into ZOG talk said...

I swear that was not me who made the "Stalin's Jewish doctor" remark above. But it's an interesting tangent!

Anonymous said...

10/27/11 8:02 PM


By that date he had NO JEWISH doctors.

Luke Lea said...

"In my experience, most people's deaths aren't that much fun. Do they get the deaths they deserve, too?"

Good question. But hard to tell from the outside looking in.

Noah172 said...

That story about Stalin's alleged poisoning by his doctor came from "The Wolf of the Kremlin," a biography of Jewish Communist mass-murderer Lazar Kaganovich, written by his nephew (?). The tale has never been substantiated. Kaganovich, as a commenter noted above, lived to ripe old age and died peacefully.

More names for the old, peacefully deceased despots' list:

Lenin, Tito, Brezhnev, Idi Amin (luxurious exile in Saudi Arabia), Matyas Rakosi (Jewish Communist dictator of Hungary), Shah Reza Pahlevi (Iran), Suharto (Indonesia), Hafiz al-Assad (Syria), Ayatollah Khomeini, Ho Chi Minh...

Anonymous said...

More names for the old, peacefully deceased despots' list:

Lenin...

What are you talking about? Lenin died at 53 and was disabled by a stroke for his last two years. His health problems were worsened by injuries from assassination attempts.

Cennbeorc

Georgia Resident said...

Dictators who don't have nuclear programs, or give them up under pressure, get what they deserve.

SFG said...

My recollection was that Stalin was assassinated by Beria, who fed him warfarin, because he was planning to invade...the USA. As in, land troops in California. Who was it who said this?

Noah172 said...

Cennbeorc,

The post was about tyrants getting or not getting "the deaths they deserve." Ok, so Lenin wasn't very old, but he still died of natural causes in bed -- as opposed to, say, being torn limb by limb by an angry mob, or facing trial for his crimes and seeing the inside of a prison cell in his last moments. He wasn't prevented from working until his second stroke of December 1922, barely more than a year before his death.

Anonymous said...

..Kim Il-sung, Pinochet, Hoxha, Ne Win...

Steve Sailer said...

Enver Hoxha of Albania, died of various old-age related troubles in 1985.

Anonymous said...

Enver Hoxha of Albania, died of various old-age related troubles in 1985.

I'm almost disappointed that the jew-baiters haven't made something of Albania once having been ruled by a King Zog. (Is that the real reason Mussolini invaded? What else aren't they telling us?)

Silver

Anonymous said...

Far more good or innocent people die horrific deaths.
Also, Hitler's end was pretty painless compared to that visited upon million of innocent German women and children. World is unfair.

Noah172 said...

Got some more:

Alfredo Stroessner (Paraguay), Saparmurat Niyazov (Turkmenistan), Mobutu Sese Seko (Zaire), Todor Zhivkov (Bulgaria)

Anonymous said...

Stroessner was a favorite of mine since reading the Paraguay chapter in P.J. O'Rourke's "Give War A Chance." He went out in a sudden yet expected military coup which was handled ineptly even by Latin American standards. True, he lingered on for another 16 years but unlike the shrewder sub-Saharan thugs he had to while it away in Brasilia rather than Paris. Anybody ever seen "Moon Over Parador?" Terrible film

EYE OF HORUS said...

Yeah, but unlike all you atheists, we God-fearing folk believe these scumbags are now in Hotel Hell getting a heaping helping of ironic and eternal payback at the hands of a Just God.
There are benefits to Theism. As in an overriding belief in Justice and a refutation of the idea that criminals sometimes get away with it.
In a way, I pity the Atheists...

Reg C├Žsar said...

Stroessner... went out in a sudden yet expected military coup which was handled ineptly even by Latin American standards

It failed the Stroess test?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, fantasy retribution would be a nice delusion to believe in.

Anonymous said...

Stalin had a lot of his henchmen killed. The big two you missed were Genrikh Yagoda and Nikolai Yezhov -- Beria's two predecessors as NKVD chief.

Peter A said...

Gengis Khan must have murdered more people, as a % of the existing world population, than anyone who ever lived. His reward was sex with more women than anyone can count and a genetic legacy that few can match.

Anonymous said...

"Yeah, fantasy retribution would be a nice delusion to believe in."

Theology can be tough for people to figure out.

Here is a ball. Perhaps you would like to bounce it.

Anonymous said...

Simon Sebag Montefiore... shows a certain lack of imagination...

Although Montefiore is Sephardim, his Stalin books are so bland & sterile that you come away with the distinct impression that he's peddling revisionist historiography as cover for his Ashkenazic brethren and their role in bringing about the downfall of the Romanovs and in starving the Ukraine.

Anonymous said...

lots of ex-NKVD living in cushy retirement in israel.

Anonymous said...

Going further back, you can add Ghengis Khan, who caused the death of tens of millions but got his compeuppance by...living to 65 and fathering a considerable share of the world's population - at least 1 in 200 men are believed to carry his Y chromosome.

Payback is a bitch.

Anonymous said...

Also, Hitler's end was pretty painless compared to that visited upon million of innocent German women and children. World is unfair.
and not one communist ever stood trial for any war crime.. like Solem Morel, living in retirement in Israel, who, in show of astounding hypocrisy, refused to allow his extradition to poland because, they claimed, the statute of limitations ran out for his war crimes..

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

..Kim Il-sung, Pinochet, Hoxha, Ne Win..."

I wouldn't place Pinochet in with the likes of Kim Il-Sung or Hoxha. As the leading member of a military junta (and one which did eventually return power to civilian authority) he was a mere dictator, rather than an insane tyrant.

Sgt. Joe Friday said...

Lenin is reported to have had syphylis related dementia too.

Anonymous said...

Montefiore's article is actually very good and true:

"But the political lives of tyrants play out human affairs with a special intensity: the death of a democratic leader long after his retirement is a private matter, but the death of a tyrant is always a political act that reflects the character of his power. If a tyrant dies peacefully in bed in the full resplendence of his rule, his death is a theater of that power; if a tyrant is executed while crying for mercy in the dust, then that, too, is a reflection of the nature of a fallen regime and the reaction of an oppressed people...
Unlike monarchs, who pass power to their heirs at the moment of death to ensure the survival of the regime, tyrants must simply survive as long as possible. Hence inhumane struggles by indefatigable doctors to keep ailing dictators — Chairman Mao, Leonid I. Brezhnev, Marshal Tito, General Franco — alive. Only the ingenious North Koreans have solved this problem by declaring Kim Il-sung immortal, perpetual president."

Anonymous said...

When animal rights people talk about how terrible it is that animals in factory farms are made to live their entire lives in miserable conditions, I actually have some sympathy for the argument. But when the same people complain about the fear and pain of animals at the slaughterhouse I have no sympathy, because few creatures, human or nonhuman, get to die without fear and suffering. On the whole, I don't think that dictators do much worse than the norm.

David said...

>If Hitler had defeated the USSR in 1941, he probably would've been visiting Disneyland in 1957<

Hitler was significantly ill by the early 1940s (probably Parkinsons and hardening arteries, not to mention any psychopathogies). My guess is that he wouldn't have survived the war, no matter how things were going.

David said...

s/b psychopathologies, sorry

Anonymous said...

Stalin wasn't killed by a Jewish doctor, but maybe just maybe the Doctor's Plot wasn't entirely a paranoid fabrication.
After all, Zionists did pull off the Lavon affair against US, their closest ally.

Anonymous said...

"By that date he had NO JEWISH doctors."

Maybe that's why he died. Jews make the best doctors. Michael Jackson would be still alive if he had a Jewish doctor.

Anonymous said...

How about Idi Amin? Didn't he live out his days in a luxurious estate in Saudi Arabia?

NLF or Neanderthal Liberation Front said...

The relation between a tyrant and the people can be very complex.
'Tyrant' in ancient Greece didn't necessarily mean 'oppressor' but 'stronghanded man of the people'.

There's a funny paradox. In many cases, the most powerless people support the most ruthless tyrant. One would think powerless people would want freedom and oppose tyrants. But feeling powerless, lacking in collective pride, envious of their social betters, and feeling insecure, they find a kind of spiritual sense of empowerment through the tyrant. Because the tyrant is an icon of strength, confidence, awesomeness, and vision, they too share in that magic(even if much of it is only illusory). Ironically, the powerless masses feel more equal through the mighty tyrant. Since he towers over all--rich and poor--and is said to be the man of the people, everyone--even the lowliest--feel empowered through him. Mussolini had this appeal among poor Italians. Putin has it among Russians who own little or nothing. He's a powerful Russian leader, so all Russians feel the power through him. Power is as much a psychological as physical entity. Cubans have long supported Castro because he made them FEEL powerful even if they had no power of any kind.
There is a kind of covenant between the tyrant and the masses. He has the power over the people but must wield it in a way that allows the people to feel empowered through him. This may explain why tyrants are often supported by the have-nots than the haves. The middle class might challenge the tyrant while the poor masses may support him. Middle class has some power and wealth of its own--and wants more--whereas the poor masses feel resentful of the middle class. Having little or nothing, they feel empowered through the tyrant that keeps the middle class in check in the 'name of the people'. But there is some of this in democracies too. Poor people support statism because they see the government going after the rich and middle class in the name of 'fairness and justice'.

Anonymous said...

If you can't overthrow your immediate oppressors, you might hope that bigger oppressors will oppress your immediate oppressors(and put them in their place).

Anonymous said...

"Not to mention the East German Dictator that died at a ripe old age."

Walter Ulbricht or Erich Honecker?

Anonymous said...

The fall of Gaddafi reminded me of the death of Mishima. Both men were shamless exhibitionists, vain narcissists, mystical irrationalists, and death-cultists.
Of course, Gaddafi held political power while Mishima only got to play toy soldier.

But here's the similarity: the distance between their self-imagined myths and their end.
Mishima's hope for the revival of emperor-worship was met with derision; soldiers jeered at him. Maybe he expected as much, which is why he had planned an elaborate suicide ritual. It was something he had fantasized, idealized, and aestheticized many times over the years in novels, short stories, movies, etc. It was going to be a beautiful and honorable act, the fusion of art, politics, and spirituality. But in fact, it was ugly and putrid. Overcome with pain, he bent forward(dishonorable in seppuku)while ripping his belly. Worse, his second repeatedly failed to decapitate him, and another had to step in to finish the job. Then, the terrified second only managed to scratch his tummy with the blade before being decapitated. It was nothing like what Mishima has idealized, dreamed, and prepared all those yrs. It was an ugly mess.

Well, same with Gaddafi. His end was just putrid, ugly, and humiliating. It was nothing like the romantic deaths we see in BONNIE AND CLYUDE, WILD BUNCH, or even VIVA ZAPATA. It wasn't even tragic. Not even tragi-comic. Just hideous(like Jim Jeffries athletic-rape at the hands of Jack Johnson).

But reality is good medicine, and we should never forget it.

Black Death said...

Molotov, one of Stalin's chief henchmen, lived to 96. My favorite Molotov quote - "Compared to Lenin, Stalin was a mere lamb." And speaking of Stalin, his death may have not been from natural causes - some think he was poisoned with warfarin. There's even a book about it - "Stalin's Last Crime," by Naumov and Brent (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/05/world/new-study-supports-idea-stalin-was-poisoned.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm).

And how delightful that you mentioned Beria, the head of Stalin's NKVD. He was arrested at a Politburo meeting in 1953, tortured and then shot. The other members of the Politburo mostly hated Beria because he had files on all of them and had imprisoned or killed their relatives. Interestingly, the "Pravda" report of his downfall was fairly accurate, stating that he was plotting to abolish Communism, allow German reunification and reach an understanding with the West. This was sort of true. During WW II, Beria came to realize the enormous economic power of the western nations, especially the USA. He thought that the USSR would never be able to compete and would eventually collapse, which is exactly what happened. Beria had many charming attributes, including sexual predation. He liked to have his NKVD bodyguards snatch women off the streets for him to rape. If they resisted, he sent them to the Gulag, often accompanied by their families. Another nice touch was to tell women that he would have their relatives in the Gulag released if they had sex with him, but usually the relatives in question had already been killed.

Anonymous said...

"I read that Stalin's Jewish doctor killed him after Stalin was about to turn on the Jews."



Regardless of what may have happened with Stalin, the medical treatment following the shooting of President McKinley is pretty outrageous. From NYRB: "McKinely suffered two woundsd, one of them trivial. The other, in the abdomen, would prove fatal when, after nearly a week of apparent healing, gangrene appeared in the affected tissue. Miller's account of the emergency surgery that followed the shooting suggests that the medical treatment may have been as lethal as anarchism... The best surgeon who could be found in a hurry had an excellent reputation as a gynecologist but no 'substantial experience' in upper-abdominal surgery or gunshot wounds. The area in which he worked was not a proper hospital but an ill-equipped temporary facility... The lighting in which he worked was so bad... that an assistant used a mirror to reflect sunlight onto the wound for the surgeon to see what he was doing..."

Steve Sailer said...

Yes, Beria's personal crimes disgusted even the other Politburo members, but Beria's ideology evolved in a Gorbachevian direction. Montefiore describes him as, like Stalin, having been influenced by Persian history. Stalin saw himself as a Sultan/Shah, while Beria saw himself as the Sultan's wily and ruthless Grand Vizier.

Another Anon said...

"Then, the terrified second only managed to scratch his tummy with the blade before being decapitated."

He's not even supposed to touch his belly with they blade. Check Wikipedia on that. The ritual evolved over hundreds of years to the point where the samurai would be decapitated by his second as soon as he reached for his blade. Even the Japanese realized it was too gruesome.

Anonymous said...

"Beria's personal crimes disgusted even the other Politburo members, but Beria's ideology evolved in a Gorbachevian direction."

But did he really have an ideology? Or was his 'ideology' a kind of ruthless pragmatism? When Stalin had the power, he understood he had to be the loyal sycophant to survive. After Stalin died, he thought the best path would be for peaceful co-existence with the West. But he miscalculated the power and feelings of his peers.

In a way, he was like Zhou Enlai. Loyally devoted to Mao yet laying the groundwork for what later came to be Dengism.

Or was Beria a true believer--a genuine communist--who thought the East simply could not compete with the West after the horrible war? Though USSR won the war, it was also in an exhausted state in comparison to the US.
Or maybe eyeing Mao and the Asian brand of communism, Beria thought communism was turning into a Third World ideology and had no future for an advanced nation.

It's interesting that Himmler, the most fanatical top Nazi, was willing to cut a deal with the Western Allies in a conditional surrender.
Sometimes, the greatest fanatics understand the nature of power best: that no matter what you believe, you are nothing without power. If you can't win, it's better to work with the winning side. If you can't attack, attach.

Anonymous said...

Great post.

Religion has its upsides and downsides in fighting "injustice"

It can help you become fearless of death or pain but it can also make you passive and willing to wit for the "next world" to enact justice.

Paul Mendez said...

Well, same with Gaddafi. His end was just putrid, ugly, and humiliating.

I might have had a little sympathy for Mo if he had gone out standing on his own two feet on that highway, a blazing Kalashnikov "Suchka" in each hand, instead of crawling into a drainage culvert like a sewer rat.

Maya said...

" Would it have been that much better an end if he'd spent his last few months in a top hospital in Switzerland or Paris, dying of inoperable cancer?"

Yes, a comfortable bed, family and hospital-grade heroin would have been much better than experiencing deaths of children and grandchildren, and then being mutilated and raped with an army knife. Regardless of who he was, how is it possible that Gaddaffi's last hour doesn't rise bile in everyone's throat?

Anonymous said...

Noah172,

Fair enough. As for the death Lenin deserved, a summary execution beside the Zurich-Stockholm rail line in April 1917 sounds about right.

Cennbeorc

Claverhouse said...

Regarding an Anonymous's reffing Mr. McKinley, the doctors weren't that much more helpful when Garfield was shot.


In all, some fifteen doctors had their fingers in Garfield's side over the course of the evening.

Garfield had the additional difficulties of dealing with two warring factions of doctors. In the nineteenth century most physicians could be pigeonholed into two categories: allopaths and homeopaths. Allopaths relied on what they called "heroic" measures, which usually meant invasive, drastic, and infection-begetting surgery. Homeopaths included phrenologists (who subscribed to the belief that one's personality and health could be determined by feeling bumps on the head), mesmerists, and the like.

...

Some days after the President's shooting, his personal physician, one Dr. Baxter, arrived. Baxter was a homeopath, and Bliss was an allopath. They promptly initiated a fistfight over the patient.

Which is something to think about when rationalists suggest Science has all the answers...

http://www.historyhouse.com/c/in_history/?garfield


There's more there of curiosity, but the Wisdom of the Commons was sought:

Telegrams poured into the White House offering suggestions:

One suggested hanging the president upside down and allowing the bullet to fall out.



Those who live by Democracy, die by Democracy.

Anonymous said...

"I might have had a little sympathy for Mo if he had gone out standing on his own two feet on that highway, a blazing Kalashnikov "Suchka" in each hand, instead of crawling into a drainage culvert like a sewer rat."

True, but reality took over. He probably saw himself going out like that too when he said he would fight to the end. But after months of non-stop bombing, sleepless nights, demoralization, sight of his men horribly falling all over him, hunger, and thirst... he found out he's not a god, not a hero, not a star but just a human. In fact he was most human when surrounded by most inhuman circumstances. At the end, he got cold feet. Some would say he turned into a coward. I would say he discovered his limits as a human being, but it was too late to do any good.
A human is a scared animal in the face of horror.
Germans hyped their greatness as invincible Aryan supermen, but when Soviet barbarians went about mass-raping German women, German husbands just stood around and watched. A terrifying and terrible but precious lesson on what being human really is.
I also read many Kamikaze pilots, when diving into american ships, didn't yell 'Long live the emperor' but 'mom!!!!'

Anonymous said...

I thought some of you history buffs would relate Khadaffi's particular brand of demise back to the ancient history of such rites. Eastern orthodox countries were known for tearing their deposed rulers apart even skewering them Shaka Zulu style on occasion.

Anonymous said...

Beria also ordered the Katyn Massacre of 22,000 Polish officers and elites. A nasty, ruthless SOB. His "Gorbachevian" direction may have ultimately been no better than the direction the USSR eventually took.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

It was nothing like what Mishima has idealized, dreamed, and prepared all those yrs. It was an ugly mess."

I guess Seppuko is one of those things it's difficult to get a lot of practical experience in.

Fred said...

"True, but reality took over. He probably saw himself going out like that too when he said he would fight to the end. But after months of non-stop bombing, sleepless nights, demoralization, sight of his men horribly falling all over him, hunger, and thirst... he found out he's not a god, not a hero, not a star but just a human. In fact he was most human when surrounded by most inhuman circumstances. At the end, he got cold feet. Some would say he turned into a coward. I would say he discovered his limits as a human being, but it was too late to do any good."

He was in a convoy that was bombed. He was probably too dazed to even think straight, let alone imitate Rambo at that point.

"Germans hyped their greatness as invincible Aryan supermen, but when Soviet barbarians went about mass-raping German women, German husbands just stood around and watched."

Eh, most of the German husbands who weren't dead were in POW camps by that point. But feelings of impotence at their wives being raped were a major issue after the war. Instead of being comforted by their husbands, the women had to keep their mouths shut about what happened, for the sake of their husbands' mental health.

If you were a German teenage boy though, and had somehow escaped the Volkssturm, or being blown up by an air raid, you could get laid pretty easily toward the end of the war. German girls were desperate to lose their virginity consensually rather than to a Soviet rape.

Anonymous said...

"He was in a convoy that was bombed. He was probably too dazed to even think straight, let alone imitate Rambo at that point."

Could be. But even if he hadn't been dazed, I think it would have been just the same. Like Mishima, Gaddafi was a drama queen. He needed audience. So, he probably thought his death would be a great performance, a ritual sacrifice, that would shake his country and the world. But along the way, he probably began to realize... no one gives a shit about him. When Tripoli fell, most people didn't resist. They just welcomed the rebels. He found out he has no audience. He was yesterday's paper. Indeed, his death was almost an afterthought.

And the power of reality is real. I call it the Rollercoaster Syndrome. You look at the thing and you think, 'sure it's scary, but you know it's just a ride so there's no need to freak out'. But when I went on that thing, I just flipped out and began screaming my head off like I was gonna die. I was a complete nervous wreck.