Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Confronting the Latter-Day Reich: When Insubordination is a Moral Duty

This was a man: Helmuth Hubner was executed on October 27, 1942, at the age of 16, by the Hitler regime. His "crime" -- for which he was excommunicated from the Mormon Church -- was circulating anti-Reich leaflets with the help of two young friends.

One of the noblest moral examples I was taught as youngster was that of an insubordinate officer in the Missouri Militia.

Principled insubordination: Alexander William "Will" Doniphan, seen in this primitive portrait, refused to carry out the execution of a civilian convicted of being an "unlawful enemy combatant" by a military tribunal in Missouri.

Alexander William Doniphan served under Maj. Gen. Samuel D. Lucas during Missouri's “Mormon War” of 1838. The conflict was a grace note (perhaps “graceless” note would be a better description) to decades of bloodshed. (By the end of the War Between the States," "Missouri" was a proverb alluding to the bestial violence of unrestricted guerrilla warfare.) The Missouri civil war grew out of an irreconcilable cultural dissonance between the Mormon settlers – who arrived in Jackson County in 1831 and announced that God had given them the land to build “Zion” -- and the state's established settlers.

(The most comprehensive, even-handed, and nuanced treatment of this conflict, in my view, is Stephen LeSeur's book The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri.)

By 1838, following numerous incidents of mob violence and persecution, some Mormon leaders organized a covert force commonly called the “Danites,” an oath-bound proto-terrorist group intended to plunder the church's enemies and intimidate its internal dissenters. This followed a July 4 oration (.pdf) by Sidney Rigdon, the Mormon Church's second-in-command, in which he spoke of a “war of extermination” between the Mormons and their enemies (including internal dissenters).

Over the next several months the conflict waxed bloody, with the Mormons getting the worst of it -- particularly in the abominable mass murder committed at Haun's Mill. That atrocity followed the Mormon attack on Missouri militiamen at Crooked River, which prompted Governor Lilburn Boggs to issue an executive order designating the Mormon population en toto as (in effect) unlawful enemy combatants to be “exterminated or driven from the state.”

After the massacre at Haun's Mill, which demonstrated that literal extermination of the Mormons was an acute possibility, Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith and his top associates were forced to surrender to the state militia at the town of Far West. They were arrested, run through a burlesque of a trial under Maj. Gen Gen. Lucas, and sentenced to be shot at dawn.

Lucas issued a written order to Colonel Doniphan commanding him to carry out the execution:

"Sir: You will take Joseph Smith and the other prisoners into the public square at Far West, and shoot them at 9 o'clock tomorrow morning."

Doniphan, to his eternal credit, refused the order and more or less gave Lucas anatomically explicit instructions regarding its proper disposal.

"It is cold-blooded murder,” Doniphan wrote to Lucas. “I will not obey your order. My brigade shall march for Liberty [Missouri] tomorrow morning, at 8 o'clock; and if you execute these men, I will hold you responsible before an earthly tribunal, so help me God!"

Consider how this situation – additional relevant details of which I'll share – appears today, in the sixth year of an open-ended “war on terrorism”:

Joseph Smith, as the civilian leader of an armed insurgency, had been arrested and tried by a military commission in the midst of a literal war. His closest aide had threatened to “exterminate” those who didn't belong to his sect; his movement included an oath-bound, violent secret society, some members of which had killed state militiamen. And defectors from Smith's movement had testified, under oath, that Smith had promised “he would yet tread down his enemies, and walk over their dead bodies; and if he was not let alone, he would be a second Mohammed to this generation, and that he would make it one gore of blood from the Rocky mountains to the Atlantic ocean; that, like Mohammed, [his] motto in treating for peace was `the [Koran] or the Sword.'”

Alexander Doniphan, by contemporary conservative sensibilities, would have to be considered a traitor for insisting that the sectarian extremist named Joseph Smith was entitled to due process of law, rather than being summarily executed after a perfunctory trial before a military commission.

As a youngster raised in a Mormon home, I was taught to revere Doniphan as a man of principle – not just because he had saved Joseph Smith's life (or at least deferred his death for nearly six years), but because he defended the rule of law at considerable risk to himself. I hold that view now as an adult who has left Mormonism and – much more importantly – come to trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.

My opinion of Doniphan has been shared by others outside the Mormon faith, among them the producers of the television serial based on Profiles in Courage, adapted from the book of the same title ghost-written for John F. Kennedy by Theodore Sorenson.

I have no reason to doubt that Doniphan's story was well known to Jay Bybee, Timothy C. Flanigan, and Kyle Sampson – all of whom are Mormon attorneys who served in key positions under George W. Bush, and all of whom played critical roles in the creation of a Leader State in which the rule of law is subordinate to the will of The Decider.

Jay Bybee, as I've pointed out elsewhere, signed the notorious 2002 torture brief commonly called the “Yoo Memorandum” after its chief author, John C. Yoo – proponent of totalitarian presidential power and defender of the president's supposed right to order the sexual mutilation of innocent children ( children as innocent as those murdered and mutilated at Haun's Mill, Mr. Bybee). After putting his imprimatur on a memo claiming broad discretionary power on the part of the president, and his designated agents, to commit acts of torture and even homicide, Bybee was rewarded with a post as a federal appellate judge.

Timothy E. Flanigan, who served both Bushes, was one of the Republican litigators deployed to Florida just hours after the Bush-Gore deadlock was announced in November 2000. Appointed as a deputy to Alberto Gonzalez when the latter was Chief White House Counsel, Flanigan was reportedly the first to propose the creation of “military commissions” for accused terrorists (military commissions like the one that ordered Joseph Smith's execution, Mr. Flanigan).

Military commissions, [Flanigan] thought, would give the government wide latitude to hold, interrogate, and prosecute the sort of suspects who might be silenced by lawyers in criminal courts,” reported the New York Times on October 24, 2004. More importantly: “[The commissions] would put the control over prosecutions squarely in the hands of the president. To act pre-emptively against al-Qaeda, the authorities would need information that defense lawyers and due-process rules would discourage suspects from giving up. Flanigan framed the choice starkly: `Are we going to go with a system that is really guaranteed to prevent us from getting information in every case or are we going to go another route?'”

In defiance of his oath to uphold the Constitution – which, as a Mormon, he was taught was a divinely inspired document – Flanigan helped the Bush regime find “another route,” albeit one well-trod by its predecessors in Moscow, Baghdad, and Berlin.

(Flanigan, incidentally, would likely be Alberto Gonzalez's deputy AG today were it not for his connections to Jack Abramoff.)

A bespectacled young man of unexceptional stature, Kyle Sampson is saddled with an ironic surname. But his unprepossessing appearance belies his ambition and cynicism he revealed by facilitating the White House scheme to purge from the ranks of federal prosecutors those US Attorneys deemed inadequately loyal to The Decider and insufficiently submissive to his will. This plan would exploit a provision in the updated version of the so-called Patriot Act permitting the Attorney General to replace US Attorneys without Senate approval.

Prior to his resignation two days ago, Sampson was chief of staff for Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. Last December 7, as recently revealed e-mails document, Sampson composed a “Plan for Replacing Certain United States Attorneys,” which instructed Justice Department officials in how to evaluate prosecutors and how to justify the firing of those deemed unsatisfactory.

The criteria outlined by Sampson (or by Bush and Gonzalez by way of Sampson) included a positive answer to the question of whether a given prosecutor had “exhibited loyalty to the president and attorney general.” That “loyalty,” it is now clear, would be displayed by using prosecutorial power in the service of Republican partisan interests by pursuing politically useful investigations of Democratic politicians (or by refraining from pursuing Republicans – the supposed offense that led to the termination of Carol C. Lam).

In a section entitled “Prepare to Withstand Political Upheaval,” Sampson provided talking points to placate elected representatives and others who would be angered by the summary and unjust termination of the federal prosecutors.

As Paul Craig Roberts and others have pointed out, federal prosecutors have become a besetting plague to our nation. Had the Bush White House implemented its original plan and fired the entire lot of them, our nation would be better off – provided that they were not replaced. But the objective was to make the entire prosecutor corp an instrument of The Decider's will and a partisan asset of the Republican Party – and Sampson eagerly abetted that criminal undertaking.

Bybee, Flanigan, and Sampson each had opportunities to emulate Alexander Doniphan's admirable example: They could have refused to participate in the Bush Regime's assault on the rule of law, due process, and separation of powers; they could have acted as whistleblowers; they should have been true to their constitutional oath.

Because the leader they served was destroying the rule of law, insubordination was a moral duty. Instead, they consecrated their time and talents to the building up of the Leader State and the establishment of a latter-day Reich.

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rick said...


correct me if i'm worng. didn't bill clinton fire all of the US attorneys? this came to mind when sen clinton called for an inquiry into what bush was doing. maybe she wanted to know his secret?

dixiedog said...

Hey Will, if I understand your take on a part of this post as in reference to the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys by the Bushevik regime, why would this be surprising given that the Clintler regime fired all 93 attorneys back in 1993 after he ascended the throne? And those firings occurred at the behest of the President alone with no Senate involvement.

Did the WP, by chance, make any noise back then?

In any event, I'm not a Bush cheerleader in any sense, but nevertheless, let's refrain from "tunnel vision" on the Bushevik regime and keep the panoramic in view. I'm reasonably certain that you're well-aware that the mainstream press is STILL not to be regarded as a suddenly reliable and steadfast "watchdog" now, instead of a "lapdog," simply because we have a Bushevik sitting on the throne rather than a Clintler as the reigning imperial Decider.

In fact, the press is really Bushevik's bosom buddy, concerning policies at least, but it's that they'd simply prefer that their side of the bi-factional ruling clique fill any of the "stately" positions, naturally including U.S. attorney positions. After all, it's not like the WP and other press organs have suddenly become worried about constitutional issues.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I didn't know you had left the LDS organization. A friend sent me your article about the "Reich". I read it and your letter of resignation that linked to it.
I'm thrilled to know that you have been saved out of Mormonism. My family doctor is a Mormon and she is such a lovely person that I feel so bad about her believing the LDS lies.

DrFix said...

I find it truly ironic that Federal prosecutors are being tasked to investigate the "organs" of the state. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black and all that! That they suckle the teat of government and then when it snaps back at them they're surprised? There is a disconnect here.

Anonymous said...

Clinton's replacement of the 93 US attorneys upon the start of his administration was as routine as Bush's replacements in 2001. From what I understand it's common for a new administration to replace them all, but those replacements are normally routed through the process of congressional approval.

These were not.

Anonymous said...

Clinton and Reagan both put their own attorneys in place at the start of their administrations, all of whom remained through each president's second term.

dixiedog said...

This site's posting How U.S. attorneys get appointed really describes (inadvertently I'm sure) how politically centric and completely arbitrary the entire process is, anonymous. The post's author, for instance, says the following:

The Administration should have decided in 2004, following Bush’s re-election, which U.S. Attorneys it wanted to replace. In 2005, all U.S. Attorneys were subject to replacement. In fact, all of them are expected to submit their letters of resignation and either be retained or have their resignation letters accepted.

In 2007, there should be no replacements, except for any U.S. Attorneys who proved to be unqualified. The fact that the Bush Administration is trashing the reputations of U.S. Attorneys it once endorsed for the job, in a non-election year raises considerable questions.

Why should they draft letters of resignation when a new Decider is elected? Why should there be no replacements, if the Great Decider so decides?? Who says there even has to be a reason?? This poster is talking out of both sides of his mouth in essence. It's fine to hack and slash after an election, but it's not to hack and slash during a term? Pure nonsense. The issue, if there is one to be raised, should center upon the arbitrary hacking and slashing not the mere timing of the arbitrary hacking and slashing.

Therefore, why should it be any more alarming, foul, or questionable when political hacking and slashing is perpetrated during the Decider's term vs. immediately following his election?

It's obvious that the prosecutors, like just about any other political appointees, are not hired, fired, and otherwise evaluated by either party as to whether they promote the rule of law in their respective positions. They are instead hired, fired, and evaluated on whether they follow the dictates of the empowered Regime in question to its satisfaction. If not, they're tossed. Whether tossed immediately after an election or during the Decider's term doesn't make the action any more or less a political hack job.

In my mind, it's ALL foul and corrupt.

UnIrWe said...

The three German kids running against the Reich were discussed on the Glenn Beck show this morning...but of course, his take was definitely not quite as prescient in tying today's parallels together as yours, Gregg. Keep up the great work!!

anti-bush said...

"The three German kids running against the Reich were discussed on the Glenn Beck show this morning..."

Did Glenn Beck bother to mention that at least one of these kids was excommunicated from the Mormon Church for circulating the anti-Reich leaflets?

CQuirk said...

What's sad is your prejudiced and inaccurate take on the LDS faith.

First Off, Helmuth Hubner's excommunication was incorrectly done by a Pro-Nazi Stake President (many religious leaders of different Churches at the time were Nazi cooperators), and his excommunication was eventually overturned by the First Presidency and his membership restored.

Also, Helmuth never renouced his Faith in the Gospel of the Church.

BTW If you want to debate 'Mormonism' with me Will, indicate so on this blog and we'll do so via email.

William N. Grigg said...

CQuirk, if you'd like to discuss the subject of Mormonism with me, please contact me at

I can understand why you would regard my view of Mormonism as "inaccurate," but the term "prejudiced" simply doesn't apply.

As someone adopted by a wonderful Mormon couple in infancy, raised in that church, and active in it for decades, I can hardly be guilty of of pre-judging it. I served a mission (Mexico and Guatemala), taught in the Institute Program, served in a bishopric, and was a High Priest at the time my family left Mormonism.

My perceptions are not the product of prejudice, but of long and diligent study trying to reconcile the doctrine and history of the church in which I was raised with the gospel of the Lord I came to know through the Bible and the painful but necessary process of conviction.

Helmuth Hubner, as I think the essay makes clear, is someone for whom I have great respect. He forgave the Mormon leader who excommunicated him, which is something I could not have done.

In his final hours on earth Helmuth took some wine to settle his nerves, just as Joseph Smith did at Carthage. (While Helmuth was entirely innocent, Joseph Smith belonged in jail -- although his death at the hands of a mob was a terrible crime.) I earnestly hope that Helmuth, in the waning hours of his tragically short life, came to know the real Jesus,. not the cynical counterfeit offered by Mormonism.

Helmuth was posthumously re-instated in the LDS Church by its leaders; the same is true, interestingly, of John D. Lee, the scapegoat for the Mountain Meadows Massacre. That latter fact is interesting, given that Lee was convicted of murder, which Mormonism teaches is an unforgivable sin. So apparently it was the conclusion of the Mormon leadership that Lee's role in the slaughter of more than 120 innocent people -- including children -- was something other than murder.

Anonymous said...

I ran into your website while trying to find more information on Helmuth Hübener. While disappointed in your scant assessment and often lopsided view of several points made I can agree with you on one thing. Helmuth was a real man who deserves respect.
The facts:
-Helmuth Hübener was never properly excommunicated. The branch president, a Nazi supporter, wrote “excommunicated” on Helmuth’s membership record. This was not upheld by the district president (the office above branch president) nor by the LDS church - EVER. No church disciplinary council was EVER held with regards to Helmuth’s membership. The supposed excommunication was the work of one man, who never gave a reason for doing this. Although it has been speculated he did it to try to save himself and the branch from repercussions of the Nazi’s (because Helmuth was using a church typewriter to produce his leaflets).
-Hübener vs. Hitler by Richard Dewey
-Family interviews with Karl Schnibbe. My wife grew up in the same ward as Karl Schnibbe. (Karl was one of two boys that was friends with Helmuth and helped him in his cause).
-The Price: The True Story of a Mormon who Defied Hitler
By Karl-Heinz Schnibbe

-“His "crime" -- for which he was excommunicated from the Mormon Church -- was circulating anti-Reich leaflets with the help of two young friends.”

Why your quote is false:
-No “crime” was ever mentioned by anyone, not even the branch president.
-The church never excommunicated Helmuth.

The thoughts of a self proclaimed ex-mormon is portrayed here, why not see the other side of things at or ?

Grigg Family said...

I'm gratified to see that Helmuth is fondly remembered and properly honored for his heroism.

The technical details of Helmuth's excommunication aside, it's clear that he considered himself cut off during the cruel, lonely hours preceding his execution. I can't imagine the torment he must have felt, nor could I, under similar circumstances, summon the composure he displayed or render the forgiveness he offered to the Branch President who fed him to the wolves.

My understanding is that Helmuth's membership was posthumously reinstated after the war.

I read "When Truth Was Treason" a little more than a decade ago, so my memory is a bit spotty about the specifics. I seem to recall that the Branch President's correspondence, which was excerpted in that book, made it pretty clear that he considered Helmuth to be endangering the congregation through his rebellion against the Nazi regime's "legitimate" authority.

The same Branch President wrote a purportedly moving testimony about the Church's genealogy program: Using his personal pedigree chart, he was able to document, to the Gestapo's satisfaction, his Aryan ancestry back four generations.

The blessings never end for those who are "white and delightsome," apparently....