American Views Abroad

Thursday, April 28, 2005
Both Spiegel Online and TomDispatch report on a new website Watching America at Here you can discover what the world thinks about the U.S. and it has translated foreign news not otherwise available in English. Scroll down its homepage and you can find, for example, Corriere della Sera and Le Monde Diplomatique in English versions. It's a gem of a site.

Sunday, April 24, 2005
Daniel J. Goldhagen, author of A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair discusses the new Pope's past and his theology in this LATimes commentary.,0,806339.story.

Thursday, April 21, 2005
In a commentary in the LATimes, Charles E Curran, whose license to teach theology was revoked by the leaders of the Catholic Church in 1986, writes A Catholic Call for Dissent at,0,3555423.story.

In today's Boston Globe there is an article on the reaction of the people in the new Pope's town in Germany. It reveals how a Mass to celebrate his election is thinly attended and how no one under the age of 40 is there. The article interviews a priest who studied, was ordained and celebrated his 50th anniversary with the Ratzinger brothers. The difference was that this parish priest refused to become a member of the Hitler youth mainly because his father was imprisoned by the Nazis. Yet they never talked about this. A not uncommon story at all for those times here.

Humanitarian worker Maria Ruzicka who was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq this week uncovered the fact that the U.S. military does keep records of Iraqi civilians killed by U.S. forces according to a report in the British newspaper The Independent. This stands in stark contrast to the oft-reported quote that the US army 'don't do body counts.' The article reveals she obtained figures of those civilians killed in firefights involving US forces and insurgents in Baghdad between 28 February and 5 April. The number dead were 29 which was four times the number of Iraqi police killed. The Independent article also reports:

'A peer-reviewed report published last year in The Lancet and based on an extrapolation of data suggested that 100,000 civilians may have been killed during the invasion and its aftermath. One of the report's author, Dr. Richard Garfield, professor of nursing at Columbia University, said: 'Of course they keep records and of course they pretend they don't. Why is it important to keep the numbers of those killed? Well, why was it important to record the names of those people killed in the World Trade Center? It would have been inconceivable not to. These people have lives of value. We are still fighting to record the Armenian genocide. Until people have names and are counted they don't exist in a policy sense.'

Further, the article states:

'In her report, she wrote from Iraq: 'In my dealings with the US military officials here, they have shown regret and remorse for the deaths and injuries of civilians. Systematically recording and publicly releasing civilian casualty numbers would assist in helping the victims who survive to piece their lives back together.'
The article can be read at:

Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Save Our Soldiers under Important Links on this page takes up the case of U.S. soldier Agustin Aguayo who is currently based in Germany and recently served a year in Iraq as an army medic. Aguayo is seeking a conscientious objection discharge from the U.S. Army but was refused despite support from his commanding officer. American Voices Abroad (AVA) is working to raise $12,000 for a legal defense fund on his behalf. Details in Save Our Soldiers include how to donate in dollars, pound sterling or euros.

Aguayo's case was rejected and the period for appealing lapsed before he was even informed his case had been declined. His wife, Helga Aguayo, contacted two expert U.S. lawyers specializing in conscientious objection. They claim Aguayo has excellent grounds for legal action and are willing to take the case for reduced fees.

What is needed are 480 people willing to give $25 each. Please make a donation and pass this on to friends and colleagues. Any excess money will go into a general legal defense fund to help other soldiers in similar circumstances. Complete details on how to donate can be found on page four of Save Our Soldiers.

Friday, April 15, 2005
It has been a traumatic week as far as looking back to events of sixty year ago and the German media has been covering every aspect of it. Last Monday it was Buchenwald that was remembered for being liberated by US forces and today memory recalls Bergen-Belsen and its liberation. On April 10, 1945 Dieter Bonhoeffer, a very prominent German theologian, was executed by the Nazi regime and the FAZ, a leading newspaper, had a photo of his statue in Westminster Abbey under martyrs of the 20th century. Die Zeit, a weekly newspaper, has a special supplement each week devoted the The Hour Zero as May 8, 1945 is referred to here.

So much has been written, discussed and analyzed about why and how Nazi dogma managed to take hold and blind an entire society that little remains to add to it. The one thing that still jolts me, though it seems so trivial on one hand, is how Buchenwald is not far from Weimar, and Bergen-Belsen not far from Celle. These concentration camps were set up deep in nature, yet close to centers of culture. Here in Hamburg and right in the neighborhood I live in, you can't take a walk without stumbling over remains of camps set up for mainly Jewish women who lived under harsh, horrible conditions and were forced to slave away in factories. Signs very carefully point them out. School classes, usually the seventh grade, spend that year taking care of simple stone memorials where no camp remains are left and learning about what went on right in the middle of normal everyday life. A book reviewed on this site, Where She Came From by Helen Epstein, recalls how her mother ended up in such a camp in Hamburg at the end of WWII.

In the most recent New York Review of Books, Freeman Dyson discusses a The End: Hamburg 1943 by Hans Erich Nossack and just recently translated into English. Nossack was a well-known German writer who was living in Hamburg when the city was destroyed by fire bombs that July and four months later he wrote a longer work titled Interview mit dem Tode (Interview with Death) and The End is that part of it where after the firestorm, Nossack walked through the city and recorded what he saw. Dyson writes:

'The book is a work of art, distilling into sixty-three short pages the German experience of total destruction, just as John Hersey's Hiroshima distilled the Japanese experience three years later... But Nossack was not so much concerned with physical horrors as with the state of mind of the survivors. According to his testimony, the survivors mostly returned to live in the cellars of their ruined homes and started as soon as possible to resume their accustomed routines. They preferred to live in caves among friends rather than in houses among strangers. The struggle to survive kept them busy and gave them little time for grieving. Since they had lost everything, all they had left was each other. They shared what little they had, and worked together to bring the city back to life.'
This article is not available online but an excerpt of The End can be read at

To go further back in time but remain in the 20th century, Not a Living Soul Around - A tour of WW I battlefields and burial grounds in Eastern Europe by Polish writer Andrzej Stasiuk can be read at

Monday, April 11, 2005
The Orphans of War (Die Waisen des Krieges), a report on how four US teenagers who lost a parent in the war in Iraq are coping in Ford Hood, Texas, was on Weltspiegel, a weekly Sundy evening program that covers the world beyond Germany on ARD, one of two national public TV stations yesterday. Jessica was 14 when she lost her father in October 2003 and she still writes him letters though his urn is there in her room on her book shelves. The day she learned of his death was the worst one of her life. She recalled how she and her mother were driving down the street and saw three soldiers standing in front of their house. Then and there she started crying and screaming that they not be there for them. Since then she cannot attend church because she is so angry at having her father taken away from her so early.

Ursula, German widow of Heath Pirtle, who died at age 27 in October 2003 and who wanted to leave the military as soon as possible, constantly thinks of what his last thoughts might have been. She was eight months pregnant when he was killed and she uses his last taped messages from Iraq so his daughter and step sons remember his voice.

Rohan lost his mom and Leeza her dad in the same month half a year ago. Since then they feel as if their emotions are on a roller coaster and they have formed a support group at school with other students --- there are six of them now --- who have to learn to live with their mourning. They would rather speak with their peers than with adults who, they feel, really do not understand what they are going through.

The last one interviewed was 12 year old Lance. His dad, Shane Colton, died when his Apache helicopter was shot down. Through his immediate actions at that moment, he saved the lives of 50 other soldiers. Lance said his life has been changed forever and he has now decided he no longer wants to join the military later on. Was it because of being afraid of dying he was asked. No, he answered, he doesn't want to kill. He and his mother often visit his father's grave where he openly shows his emotions and very often reads aloud the poem he wrote his father two days after his death.

Sunday, April 10, 2005
At, thanks to the kindness of the editors of the New York Review of Books, Mark Danner's Iraq: The Real Election appears online. It will appear in that magazine's April 28th issue. Tom finds this piece 'the single clearest-eyed, best reported piece todate on Iraq's January election.

Thursday, April 07, 2005
This site has gotten a tremendous amount of traffic these last few days. Fred and I were wondering why. Was there something so radical in our support of Blake Lemoine? Well I hadn't realized - and it is entirely my oversight at not reading every single line in his Easter message - that he signed it Priest of the Cabal of Free Thought. To tell the truth I haven't got an inkling what this is supposed to be. As someone brought up as a Greek Catholic of the Slavic Byzantine Rite United with Rome and a product of a Roman Catholic education, I have always straddled between two worlds. I can still remember the fights between various Roman Catholic nuns of my grade school and my mother over the fact of whether or not I had to be baptized again. In the end I didn't, but it left scars. It has taken me years to grasp what Greek Catholic is. As a matter of fact, yesterday's IHT ( had a most interesting op-ed piece Bringing East and West Closer by Jaroslav Pelikan which I read with great interest. He writes (about John Paul's legacy I):

'The least progress toward reconciliation has occurred in relations with the Orthodox Church of Russia. The end of Communist rule has brought with it a rebirth of the rivalry and mutual recrimination that have been tearing Slavic Europe apart ever since its conversion to Christianity more than a millennium ago by St. Cyril and St. Methodius of Thessalonica. The Venerable Bede gave the Gospel credit for unifying the peoples of Britain, but we Slavs are the only people to have been divided by the Gospel: whether to follow Cyril and Methodius in their affiliation with Constantinople (and therefore a Slavonic liturgy and autonomous national churches), or to follow them in their appeal to the authority of the bishop of Rome (and therefore a Latin liturgy and the centralized authority of the papacy).... The most ambitious attempt to heal that schism came in 1596, with the Union of Brest, in which several dioceses of the Church of the Ukraine accepted the authority of the papacy while retaining their own liturgy and canon law. But the adherents of this union (disparagingly named 'Uniats') have also been a major source of hostility between East and West.'

Just take a look at some of the words used to describe a tension going on for over a thousand years about religion----rivalry, mutual recrimination, tearing apart, divided, hostility. It's no wonder I feel very strongly that religion should be a deeply private matter and there should be a separation of church and state. It's a thin line and it takes a lot of balance to walk it. As I stated at the beginning of this post, I haven't a clue what Cabal of Free Thought is or means nor can I emotionally connect to the use of word Priest in this case. However, anyone, including Blake Lemoine, who has moral secular arguments for not wanting to go back to Iraq or fight a pre-emptive war, has my support

Tuesday, April 05, 2005
An update on Blake Lemoine - a GI who served a year in Iraq before seeking conscientious objector status and now serving seven months in a stockade in Mannheim, Germany. A file of press reports on his case can be found on this page under Important Links -- Blake Lemoine in the News.

Lemoine began serving his sentence immediately on March 28th. His wife, Alayna Lemoine, tried repeatedly without success to visit him last weekend. She was informed by guards that he had not made out a visitors' list and 'he is not allowed visitors.' However, his military attorney had left a message on her answering machine claiming she is on the approved visitors' list. Further, Elsa Rassbach from American Voices Abroad Miliary Project received an email from Lemoine asking her to visit soon and adding she is on the list. When Rassbach called the prison on April 1st to confirm her planned visit, Sergeant Monte Boyd told her that no visitors' list had been made up by Lemoine and that no one would be allowed to visit him -- possibly for weeks -- because 'We don't know who you are.' He also told her no one is allowed to call Lemoine.

Immediately after speaking with Boyd, Rassbach called Bruce Anderson of the Army Public Affairs Office in Wiesbaden to express her concern. Anderson called her back to say that Lemoine's attorney had been contacted and would call Lemoine to give him instructions regarding the list. Anderson also told Rassbach that Alayna would definitely be allowed to visit on April 2-3, but that Rassbach and Lemoine's friends, including fellow soldiers and his sergeant on the Darmstadt base, would not be able to visit until they passed security checks.

Rassbach is very concerned. 'Blake has been on a hunger strike and needs to be examined by an indpendent physician and he needs legal conseling. We are worried that the Army may be trying to break his will and demoralize him because he has been so honest in talking about what he saw about US conduct in Iraq. It does not seem credible that he did not even put his wife on a visitors' list.'

Sunday, April 03, 2005
Trip to Cincinnati, USA - Part 2

Every journey begins with a departure, and ours was no different. We left for Cincinnati from Hamburg International Airport with changing in Paris and in Atlanta. The security at German (European?) airports seemed reasonable. As you go to check in and before you give up your luggage bags are x-rayed and marked with a sticker. We checked one suitcase for each of us and we each had one carry one (a back pack).

A little while later we had to go through the security check to get to the boarding area. All was well except for one thing. We had one of the forbidden items. I knew enough to leave my Swiss Army knife at home. There was no way I wanted to lose that, although I anticpated problems in America and not on the European side. My wife, however, had packed some paper, crayons, and a pair of child's safety scissors to cut things out, for our son (age 7 going on 8). They confiscated those. The man was very friendly and asked if we could give the scissors to someone waiting outside, or check them. Unfortunately no one was waiting outside, and I never yet tried to recover a piece of luggage I had checked.

So we had to give up the scissors. The gentleman told us we could reclaim it within 5 weeks at the luggage office. There would be a fee of 2.50 Euro, but we could get it back. These were special left-handed scissors and we did want to get them back, as they cost more than 2.50 Euro.

I got to thinking about this. These were safety scissors. There are no points. The edge is rounded. I don't think it's possible for children to hurt themselves with one of these scissors, even if they tried. In fact, I never heard of such a thing happen. I've heard of children throwing pencils in the classroom and poking out someone's eye, but scissors are not the problem. They perform tracheotomies with pens or Swiss Army knives, but I have yet to hear of a pair child's safety scissors as the instrument of choice. I had a few ball point pens in my jacket pocket with extremely sharp, metal points. These were certainly more dangerous than those scissors would have been.

Child's safety scissors would also not be a practical choice for a terrorist for the simple reason that they are not terrifying. It would look rather ridiculous to see a grown man trying to hijack a plane with child's safety scissors. They'd take the thing away from him, put him in a straitjacket and give him crayons to play with. On the other hand, maybe we looked suspicious, though I doubt whether a man and woman traveling with a child, and a pair of safety scissors packed in with the crayons should be expected to arouse more suspicion in this circumstance than three Arab businessmen found with Kindergarden paraphernalia. But terrorism is no joke. The security people have their rules, and they don't make exceptions, which is fair in a way. It's just a shame we didn't think of it earlier.

The security coming into America was much more thorough but they had it down to an assembly line thing with lots of signs to tell everyone what to do to make things go faster. Keys and wallets and other metal items go into the carry-on cases, laptops and video camera go through separately, as do jackets and sometimes belts and shoes, depending on how strict they are that day. They did not ask us to take our shoes or belts off going through the Atlanta check, but many people already had. I asked them if our son's scissors would have been confiscated be U.S. security, and he assured me they would have been.

These people were just doing their jobs, and everybody was very good about it. I think the line moved faster than it used to in the old days. Yes, it's an added nuisance, all these checks, but one does feel safe afterwards. Security before 9/11 was certainly a joke in many aspects, but now it is taken very seriously, and it should be. But we should never forget, a terrorist trained in martial arts can be just as deadly as a fanatic with a ball point pen or child's safety scissors.

So now we were in America and soon we would be in Cincinnati. I'll continue my report in a few days. Incidentally, we never saw the scissors again. When we inquired upon our return at the luggage office in Hamburg they told us the objects that are collected in that manner are destroyed. But we picked up a new pair in Cincinatti, and brought it back in one of the checked suitcases.

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