American Views Abroad

Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Secret US camps in Europe is a hot issue in the news here. The leading headline in today's IHT reads: EU warns members on secret US camps at The article quotes the director of Europe Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations:

'The broader question of US treatment of prisoners has been one of the most politically volatile issues affecting trans-Atlantic relations. Most Europeans were against the war to begin with, and then adding fuel to the flames has been Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and now the alleged prison camps in EU countries.'

An interesting analysis of this is Black Sites or Red Herring - Is news of black sites in Eastern Europe nothing more than a smoke screen? by John Horvath at in English. He writes:

.....'What is worrying about all this is not only the extent to which the CIA operates clandestine flights, but the fact that these flights have been making regular stopovers in Europe....'

....'Ironically, the EU's action of now looking into these flights comes a little late, as do the actions of individual member states.... Whether or not these flights were connected to secret CIA prisons within Europe or not is beside the point. According to international law, nations are obliged to investigate any substantiated human rights violations committed on their territory or using their airspace.....'

.....'Instead, media speculation over where the black sites are seem to be covering up the real issue at hand, which is the fact that some EU member states are already guilty of aiding and abetting the US in its use of torture, an act which contravenes the UN Convention Against Torture.'

Thursday, November 24, 2005
Germans celebrate Thanksgiving in October on a Sunday, which is also their selected day for voting. It is more a thanks-for-the-harvest fest which mainly takes place in the countryside or in churches. There is no particular tradition of family sitting down for a special dinner. Most people here know of the US tradition of turkey day. It is, as far as I can tell from abroad, still the only US holiday that remains non-commercial, except for all the sales and Christmas shopping which start the next day. The only way to explain what Thanksgiving means to a German is to say it is similar to the Holy Evening of December 24, but without the gifts.

This week has been particularly eventful here with Germany electing its first woman chancellor and it has been extraordinarily interesting watching her take office. I never voice my opinions on German politics since I am not a German citizen, but as a woman, I am delighted to see more of my gender in high office. More about this in another post. My husband suffered a mild stroke last Friday, his 60th birthday was yesterday, and US Thanksgiving gives this week an emotional tug. However, world politics doesn't take a break and war, killings and hardships go on. A day like today is a day to stop and give thanks, but also to think about where and who we are. It's more than just turkey. It's about people. It's about US.

Sunday, November 20, 2005
In one of the most bizarre stories to date on (mis) information about WMD and the lead up to the war in Iraq, read the lead article in today's LATimes -- How US Fell under the Spell of 'Curveball': The Iraqi informant's German handlers say they had told US officials that his info was 'not proven' and were shocked when President Bush and Colin Powell used it in key prewar speeches at,0,2053900,full.story?coll=la-home-headlines.

Basically in a nutshell, the motive of a Baghdad-born chemical engineer in exile was not to start a war, but to seek a German visa. Things were 'analyzed and translated and reanalyzed and retranslated and comments got added, it could have gotten sexed up by accident.'

.....'But the CIA and the White House overlooked the holes in the story'......

.....'Curveball's reports were highly valued in Washington because the CIA had no Iraqi spies with access to weapons programs at the time.....'

This could be slapstick comedy at its best, were the results not so tragic. It leaves you speechless.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Once again George Monbiot digs down to the very heart of whether US troops use chemical weapons in Falluja. The answer is yes and the proof is damning in War Without Rules at It is the US Army and a staff reporter from California embedded with the Marines during the siege of that city in April 2004 that reveal the use of white phosphorus. It is crucial to understand what happens when this substance is set free. Monbiot writes: 'White phosphorus is fat-soluble and burns spontaneously on contact with the air. ....If service members are hit by pieces of white phosphorus, it could burn right down to the bone.'

Now imagine children and pregnant women caught up in the siege. There isn't anyway they couldn't be caught up in it.

Riverbend's recent post dated November 6th talks about the agonies her country went through in the Iraq/Iran War. 'There isn't a single Iraqi family, I believe, that didn't lose a loved one, or several, to the war. ....In our family alone, we lost four men to that war - three were confirmed dead - and the fourth has been missing since 1983.' Further she writes: 'The agony of the long war with Iran is what makes the current situation in Iraq so difficult to bear especially this last year. The occupation has ceased to be American. It is American in face, and militarily, but in essence it has metamorphosed slowly but surely into an Iranian one.' It is very interesting reading. In her post of September 23rd she lists four links to other interesting Iraqi blogs, including an Iraqi blogger abroad.

Saturday, November 12, 2005
News has come out in Europe this week that US forces may have used phosphorus bombs in Fallujah. The letter below is from an American who resides in Frankfurt, Germany and who lost her cousin, a Marine sniper, in Iraq this year. It was sent to U.S. Senators Hagel, McCain, Kerry, Kennedy and Levin. It should be passed around to all concerned citizens, hometown newspapers or to members of Congress.

Dear Sen. Hagel,

I am writing as a very distraught American resident citizen abroad
regarding an admission made about the weapons used in the war in Iraq.
My cousin, Jeffrey Boskovitch, was captured, tortured, and killed in
Haditha, Iraq 1. August 2005. An insurgent video was made of him, his
body and removal of his dog tags available for all to see on the
Internet. To honor a beautiful, loving human being, I have made it my
life's work to honor his memory, work on behalf of the
internationalization of the Iraq conflict, and issues relating to human
rights in Iraq and care for military veterans. It is Jeff's passion
that provides me with the courage and strength to speak out and write
to you today.

Today while logging onto to RAI Italian news I saw something almost as
disturbing as watching the video of Jeffrey, dragged and tortured. It
is confirmed in British Reports that the Pentagon authorized the use of
white phosphorus, chemical weapons in Fallujah.

The documentary may be watched in English or Italian. The formal
documentation of British reports may be found online as well. (This is in

This coverage has now made it to the German, British and Swiss media,
although I have not yet seen it on CNN. This war has taken Jeffrey's
life forever while the government of which I am a citizen used chemical
weapons against innocent people, burning children to death while in
their beds. These children did not attack America on Sept. 11. To
honor the sacrifice of fallen servicemen and women, the Bush
administration must drastically change everything it is doing in Iraq
immediately. An investigation needs to be made into any Napalm-like
weapons used, which are clear violations of international and human
rights law. Please, on behalf of Jeffrey and more than 2,000 dead
Americans and their families, seek the truth about any chemical weapons
use in Fallujah or elsewhere. America's image in the world has been
soiled beyond recognition by an administration bent on its destruction
for personal gain.

Such atrocities only aggravate the insurgency and contribute to the
likelihood of torture of American troops. We must represent the change
for which we are advocating in Iraq. Certainly, Saddam Hussein's
chemical weaponry arsenal should never have been replaced by atrocities
of our own.

Angela Boskovitch,
Frankfurt, Germany

In War Blurs Lines Between Good, Evil at, Andrew Greely calls the raid on Dresden which occurred two months before the end of WW II unconscionable. 'The lesson of raids in such places as Lubeck and Dresden is that even in just wars, the side that has justice on its side is likely to do many evil things. War sucks everyone and everything into its vortex of wickedness.'

Friday, November 11, 2005
The Literary Lynching of Brad Vice

This week the online e-zine StorySouth has been covering the story of Brad Vice, a debut author whose award winning and critically acclaimed short story collection "The Bear Bryant Funeral Train" was stripped of its award and recalled from the bookstores by its publisher, the University of Georgia Press. This appears to be an extreme reaction to questionable charges of plagiarism. As it stands, Vice could lose his position at Mississippi State - a review is currently in progress.

The relevant articles about this in StorySouth:

The literary lynching of Brad Vice (by Jason Sanford)
Support for Brad Vice and a few words on sampling (by Jason Sanford)
Fell In Alabama: Brad Vice's Tuscaloosa Night (by Jake Adam York)

These articles convince me that a gross injustice has been committed against Brad Vice. The mistake he did make and has acknowledged was to omit an explicit credit to the source work. The main points in his favor:

1) The source is implicitly named by the similarity in titles. His story is named "Tuscaloosa Knights" which is based on the chapter "Tuscaloosa Nights" out of Carl Carmer's "Stars Fell on Alabama" (1934).

2) Brad Vice acknowledged publicly on several occasions his debt to Carl Carmer.

3) The story "Tuscaloosa Knights" and the relevant excerpt from Carmer's work were published side by side intentionally at another e-zine some time ago.

4) An established tradition of literary allusion.

I have read the short story in question "Tuscaloosa Knights" as well as the chapter which is alluded to by the similar dialogue and description. Mr. York in his article makes a case for an interpretation of the story in which the allusion to Carmer's work makes the statement that times have not changed at all in Alabama. I have similar impressions of the short story. I quote in part my comment to York's article:

I do think that Mr. Vice has done himself a disservice in giving only implicit acknowledgement to Carmer (through the title), because a reading of his story with explicit knowledge of the allusions adds immensely to the power of the work. I get a sense of the message of hate and how it has remained unchanged throughout the decades. It is a chilling, almost surrealistic feeling of time standing still, though time has passed. This is a theme one encounters in masterpieces such as Rod Serling's Twilight Zone episode "He's Alive", in which a phantom Hitler visits the present to impart upon another his eternal message of hate. In this case it is Hitler's image that is the allusion establishing continuity with the past. That in itself was remarkable for the Twilight Zone series as it seldom made direct references to actual personalities. On a meta-level I think this is analogous to what Mr. Vice intended with his displacement of Carmer's passages.

I think I would add an additional point to the items in Vice's favor:

5) A completely new vision arises out of the incorporation of passages from Carmer's work.

This is far from over for Brad Vice. His employment at Mississippi State is currently under review because of this incident. If you would like to help him, please send your letters of support to the university administration:

Richard Raymond
316 Lee Hall
English Department
Mississippi State, MS 39762

Update Dec. 2nd, 2005: I have written a followup to this article here.

Thursday, November 10, 2005
'.....Around this great city yesterday, the day went into the heart of the night without excitement. There was an election for the mayor and the streets should have been loud with the shrieks of people crying for your vote. Bloomberg last night finished spending at least $70 million to get re-elected. That is not democracy. Everyone of those dollars should form the seeds of revolt.' From War Must Be a Local Issue by Jimmy Breslin in

Breslin is a New Yorker's New Yorker, the old-fashioned kind I can identify with. It is simply distressing to see how these days getting elected to office in the US is based on money, real big money, irregardless of whether it is self-made or not, and, very often, family and elite, or so-called, elite colleges. Back when Schroeder got re-elected and sent George W. Bush into an outrage because he made it by the skin of his teeth by campaigning against the war in Iraq (something that struck a cord with his German voters) little to no comment was made anywhere, least of all in the US press, on how Schroeder comes from blue collar roots and is indeed a self-made man. Not a big money self-made man, but one who made his way through an apprenticeship, than on to university where he became a lawyer. He, Merkel, and most of the others up for election here last time didn't have to, nor could they, throw millions of euros around. Does this make them any less suitable for office? Of course not. The role of money plays in US elections, however, keeps very suitable citizens out of the race. Three cheers for Breslin for pointing this out.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005
There has to be a link somewhere. Trying to get the bigger picture, any idea for that matter, on how many Iraqis --- civilians mainly --- have been killed in the ongoing war and how the media are minimising US and British war crimes there at In Bringing Out the Dead, Monbiot begins with the obvious: 'We were told that the Iraqis don't count.'
This article demands to be read in its entirety.

In today's IHT in an article discussing if France's riots could possibly start off something similar in other parts of Europe, the following is written:

'.....In general, Europe, which has never developed an immigration culture, seems to have been less successful than the U.S. at integrating foreign communities and giving them a stake in a new national identity. And, at the same time, immigrant communities themselves have been less eager than traditional immigrants to the U.S. to take on a new identity, continuing to adhere to their traditional identities, languages and customs.

While at the New York Daily News: Racial Divide Evident in Military can be read at Here the Pentagon's 'records track military recruitment by state, county, zip code and racial and ethnic group...... The national figures show what you might expect: Youth from low-income areas are far more likely to end up in the military.....a ghastly dividing line between rich and poor and black, Latino and white.'

There is no easy way to sum this up except for the obvious: if you are non-white, your chances of not being counted or of being trapped in a war are very good indeed.

Friday, November 04, 2005
Roy McGovern, a former CIA analyst, has written The Torture Test, his comment on how the idea for and use of torture took hold in the White House immediately after 9/11 and if Congress will now go down the slippery slope of approving torture.

'....Seldom have moral lines been so clearly drawn. The issue is whether American armed forces and intelligence personnel should be permitted or forbidden to torture detainees.'

Remember how at the trials in Nuremberg after WW II, US military police wore white gloves to show how they were above all this? But that was a long time ago.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005
There was a ninety minute documentary on the Berlin Air Lift of 1948/49 on German public TV, ZDF, yesterday. Three points stood out when viewed from today's perspective. First was the relationship between the American pilots and the German citizens of Berlin. Both viewed each other as former enemies. One US pilot spoke about how, at first, he didn't think he could like the Germans after all that had happened during WW II. A German woman who was a child during the operation declared how merely hearing planes flying over Berlin brought up dreaded memories of the bombings during the war. The last thing the civilians wanted back then was to be reminded of that. However, the logistics of the operation forced both sides to work with each other. Everything, but everything, had to be flown in since the Soviets blocked all transport into the city. Not only food, basically in powered form, but particularly coal for heating had to arrive by air. This was accomplished by a finely tuned operation with planes landing every three minutes and where Germans from all walks of life found work by immediately unloading them. Added to that was the fact that the civilians could have gone into East Berlin to cash in their ration cards for food. However, only 5% chose to do this. The mayor of Berlin, Ernst Reuter of the SPD, told the US military governor that he should take care of the airlift and he, the mayor, would get the support of the people of Berlin for it. Thus, through bonds forged by working together, former enemies began, grudgingly, to take another look at each other. This is so important to remember in light of what neo-cons were proclaiming before the start of the present war in Iraq--- US troops would be greeted with flowers and how they used Germany as an example.

The second point was the life of the civilians during that blockade. They had just begun to return to a sort of normalcy among the ruins when suddenly they were confronted with the possibility of being cut off from food, electricity, and heating. The role of the media (as we put it today) did its part in leaving impressions of that time. The newsreels from the eastern part of the city showed a dark, gloomy West Berlin where factories had to close down. RIAS -- Radio In the American Sector -- used a megaphone on a truck to keep the people informed of the news or public speeches. The pilots' stories of their lives in the US stood in stark contrast to what people of Berlin were going through.

Last, but not least, was the enormous precision that went into the military planning. You couldn't help but be impressed with how they managed to accomplish an almost impossible feat. Why then is the present situation for the civilians in Iraq so appalling in light of all this?

Summaries and videos of this documentary can be viewed in German at,1872,1020192,00.html

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