Conspiracies are awesome. Who doesn’t love an intricate web of deceit and lies and blind alleys that end with a broken bottle, three yellow tulips, and five drops of blood. The obvious explanation? A conspiracy. Conspiracies are the province of mystery story writers and science fiction authors and the media. We all love a good conspiracy.
And we certainly have had our share of them in recent times. Just check the internet. Global warming is a conspiracy by those against big oil. The horrible tragedy of the Twin Towers was a conspiracy by the Government to curtail individual freedoms. The mysterious loss of Malaysian Flight 370 was a conspiracy to cover up that it was shot down by [blank] government for [blank] reason. Oh, and let’s not forget that Obamacare is a conspiracy to bring us under the thumb of Russian Socialism. And on and on and on.
Conspiracy theorists, however, are in no way limited to grand tragedies and health care. When we receive two parking tickets in a row, it is obviously a conspiracy by the Des Moines Police Department. Offering year-round school for Des Moines Schools is a conspiracy to undermine the family. Your boss asking you to train a new employee — duh — conspiracy to phase you out of a job. When I was a prosecutor with the Polk County Attorney’s Office, I was constantly accused of being involved in some kind of grand conspiracy against someone for some ill-gotten purpose. Please. As my wife would gladly tell you, I’m just not that clever.
But even though all conspiracies have a menacing component, something dangerous to our wellbeing, we still cling to their rosy light. This might be because conspiracies require the existence of a higher being, a clear purpose, an explanation for the inexplicable. If every accident, every mistake, every tragedy, every stupidity, can be explained away as the result of some Machiavelian madman, wow, we are free and clear. Something bigger and smarter and more evil than mere ignorance is causing it all to happen. Absolution complete.
I ran across a new conspiracy the other day in, of all places, Colmar, France. Colmar is this fairytale city that has a markedly unfairytale past. First, the fairytale. It is one of the most funky, beautiful little places in the world. It sits comfortably on tributaries of the Rhine River at the foot of the Vosges Mountains in north-east France — the Alsace region. Yup, you heard me correctly, I said wine. Riesling in particular. Although the vines are just beginning to sprout, they are something to behold.
And the town is a delight of rich-pastel colored houses, timbered windows and doors, and cobblestone streets that wind and curve and wax and wane.
Sure, this place is the home of the guy that designed the Statute of Liberty and it has a museum with a work of art that is such a big deal no museum outside of Paris is more visited in France. But it is these amazing homes that cause you to stand in the middle of the street with your mouth open and eyes wide.
Now imagine tanks and soldiers and machine gun fire on these streets. Yup, Colmar was conquered by France in 1673, made part of the newly-formed Germany in 1871, then back to the French after the First World War, then retaken by Germany during the Second World War, then back to the French in 1945. As you can see, none of pretty Colmar’s history was very pretty. How it survived is a mystery to me.
But to the conspiracy. As you World War II buffs know, by January of 1945 the Germans were almost pushed back to the Rhine River. Not quite, however. There was a pocket around Colmar still held by the Germans. The Battle of the Bulge was over, but there was real concern about this small area in the Alsace region. The French and the Americans mounted an offensive. At the end of the day, it is estimated 8000 Americans lost their lives at the Colmar Pocket. And twice that many French. As for the Germans, they still don’t know how many died. A lot. An unbelievable cost for a battle that has disappeared in history.
But, again, back to the conspiracy. Just after Colmar was taken by the Americans and French, the Americans arrived with a truck that contained two safes. In those safes was special super-secret cryptography equipment used only for the highest level of communications among the Allies. And, even more amazing, in those safes were the Allied plans for the spring invasion of Germany. Yup, the entire plans drawn up by Eisenhower and his buddies. All sitting in a truck in Colmar, France. Parked on a side street. And since it was nighttime, everyone was tucked into bed. Sound asleep.
Well, not quite everyone.
That night the truck disappeared.
So what happened? Did the Germans sneak back into town (they were four miles out), find the side street, hot-wire the truck, and scoot back out of town? Did Hitler order a cunning infiltration? Was the truck really stolen by the Russians in preparation for the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962? Or was it aliens? You can pay your money and make your choice, but, clearly, a conspiracy of the highest order.
Of course, I’d never heard of the “Colmar Incident.” I suspect you hadn’t either. In researching Colmar, I came across a secret report, written years earlier, released by the National Security Agency in 2008. It told of the loss of the truck and how it was a potential disaster for the invasion of Germany. It catalogued the unlimited resources thrown at the pending catastrophe. Even Eisenhower was personally involved, according to the NSA document.
After an intense hunt for several days, the truth did come to light about the stolen truck — and it wasn’t Hitler, it wasn’t the Russians, and it wasn’t aliens. A French farmer was the culprit. Fortunately, all the top-secret information and equipment was found untouched. Germany could be invaded in the spring. World War II was soon to be history. The end of the Colmar Incident.
Oh, and one more tidbit, according to the NSA report, the French farmer did not steal the truck to sell the information to the highest bidder for world domination. Nope, that darn French farmer took the truck because he had some furniture to move. Yup, furniture. So, being a practical farmer, he swiped the truck, threw the safes in the river, and moved his furniture. Period.
A typical conspiracy.