Start with a video clip of Michelle Bachmann’s cringemaking speech where she claims that the recent earthquake in Virginia, so close to Washington, was an act of God, a warning to politicians to sit up and take note. And, of course, don’t forget the hurricane — now, if only that had been named Michele!
Now cut to the past, 10th December 1944. President Roosevelt is writing to his ally, Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain. The Wedemeyer mentioned in the text is General Albert Coady Wedemeyer, Chief of Staff to Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia, and subsequently, in October 1944, Chief of Staff to Generalissimo Chiag Kai-Shek. President Roosevelt wrote:
From the long-range point of view, other than the measures Wedemeyer is now taking, we can do very little to prepare China to conduct a worth-while defence, but Japan is suffering lossses in men and ships and materials in the Pacific area that are many times greater than ours., and they too cannot keep this up. Even the Almighty is helping. This magnificent earthquake and tidal wave [tsunami] is a proof. [Triumph and Tragedy, 271-72, my italics]
The earthquake in question — the Tōnankai earthquake – is one that struck southern Japan in the Wakayama Prefecture and the Tokai region on 7th December 1944. There were, in all, 1223 casualties. Not given the gift of prophetic foresight, President Roosevelt could not know that the Almighty had other things in store. Just six days later the Germans made their last desperate bid for success on the Western Front, and attacked in great strength through the Ardennes (Belgium) in a battle now known as the Battle of the Bulge. The Germans drove a salient deep into territory held by American forces, coming within a few miles of the Meuse river. Although a strategic reverse, the fighting quality of the American troops ensured that it would not remain so, and Rundstedt, the German commander, lost far more in manpower and equipment than he gained in military advantage. There were, roughly, 100,000 casualties on both sides in the Battle of the Bulge. While fierce fighting was still to follow, Hitler had, by his bold gamble, fatally weakened the forces available for the defence of the Reich. What message from God, I wonder, would Michele Bachmann have seen in these events? Bachmann’s managers are now trying to weasel out of this faux pas; couldn’t they just say, “Well, that’s what Roosevelt thought”? But it does show just how far we’ve come.