American Views Abroad

Monday, February 27, 2006

Cindy Sheehan's comments on Camp Casey and Germany:

'In the frenzy and excitement of my trip to Germany, some well meaning pacifists in the area have scheduled me to set up a Camp Casey outside of Landsthul in front of the military hospital. I won't agree to do that. The Camp Casey movement is pro-peace and pro-soldier. We love our troops so much that we want them to come home alive from the fiasco in the Middle East. .... The Camp Casey in Germany could be moved to a place where people with decision making power can see it. Let's leave our soldiers out of our protests.'

The entire article can be read at

Elsa Rassbach, one of the oranizers of this event, responds to this article:

I am writing in response to Cindy Sheehan's comment today about 'Camp Casey in Germany.' I am one of the organizers of this event, and I also was involved in writing the resolution that will be considered by the European Parliament delegates when Cindy speaks there on March 14th.

First, there is no plan to put a 'camp' in front of or anywhere near the Landstuhl hospital, nor has there ever been such a plan. (I imagine that Cindy's comment was in response to criticism by someone telling her that we are planning such a camp, and that is just not true.) There is also no plan to demonstrate in Landstuhl or to go as a group anywhere near the hospital facilities.

The peace activities planned for Landstuhl will be solely inside a German Protestant church there. The pastor of the church, Detlev Besier, is the leader of the local German peace group in the region, the Friedensinitiative Westpfalz ('Peace Initiative West Pfalz'), which is hosting the events in Landstuhl and in Ramstein with Cindy on March 11th and 12th.

On Saturday, March 11th, there will be a discussion with Cindy and other European Parliament witnesses inside the church in Landstuhl, and then we will walk together from the church three kilometers to the parking lot not far from the entrance of Ramstein air base and hold a vigil, led by spiritual leaders from many different faiths, as was often done in Crawford, Texas.

There is nothing shocking or unusual about this plan. Indeed, on the first Saturday of each month, the Friedensinitiative Westpfalz traditionally holds this same march from Landstuhl to Ramstein air base and holds a vigil there. Because of Cindy's visit, the Landstuhl/Ramstein march has this time been scheduled for the second Saturday of the month.

We also have received special permission from the local German authorities to set up crosses and half moons (representing the Iraqi dead) along the road leading towards Ramstein air base when we go there on Saturday, and this will be somewhat reminiscent of Camp One in Crawford. We also have permission to set up three tents to symbolize Camp Casey, even though no one will actually sleep in them.

We have permission to leave up the crosses, half moons, and tents on the road near Ramstein until the next morning. After church on Sunday, we will ceremoniously gather up the crosses and half-moons. These may be used again if our little 'Camp Casey in Germany' is ever again set up outside Ramstein, for example for the traditional peace demo on Easter weekend, when people will also be gathering at Camp Casey in Crawford.

So our only 'camp' will be outside Ramstein, which is the air base from which soldiers, weapons, and supplies are sent to Iraq. Ramstein also has nuclear weapons. It is most certainly part of the 'war machine.' There have been larger demonstrations there led by Physicians Against Atomic War.

Given the emotions understandably surrounding Landstuhl, we are considering renaming this event as simply 'Camp Casey Ramstein.'

However, if Cindy wants to make other suggestions, we will of course take her lead. She just needs to let us know. There are other 'seats of power' a couple of hours from Ramstein, such as the US high military commands in Heidelberg and in Stuttgart, and if Cindy would prefer that we try to make plans to go there, we will endeavor to get the necessary permits, etc.

We feel the objections to Cindy coming to Landstuhl and Ramstein have solely to do with the fact that her presence will bring public attention to this key logistical hub of the entire US war effort in Iraq, now also threatening Iran. Her presence will also bring attention to the German government's complicity with the US war effort, through allowing the use of the US bases here for an illegal war which is not supported by the German people.

Cindy is apparently is being criticized for coming anywhere near Landstuhl, where her son's remains were brought from Iraq before being sent to the US. Just as the U.S. Military forbade photographing coffins, it is certain that the Bush administration would prefer that there be no publicity whatsoever about Landstuhl, where so many tragically wounded soldiers are being brought every day, as well as those who have died.

In peace,
Elsa Rassbach
Member of American Voices Abroad in Germany

Friday, February 24, 2006
Stars and Stripes, a newspaper read by military personnel and their families, reports the planned Sheehan protests in Germany in March at

Hart Viges fought in Iraq and successfully applied for CO status. Here his speech at the American University on Wednesday September 21 on his experiences since 9/11, in Iraq, on why he decided to apply for CO status and how all this has affected him afterwards.

Thursday, February 23, 2006
German-Turkish politician Cem Ozdemir who is a Green Party member of the European Parliament reviews the Turkish film Valley of the Wolves in Der Spiegel. This film has received wide attention in the German media and in movie theatres. Ozdemir claims the movie's goal is to divide and provoke. He writes:

'The criticism I levelled at Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten --- that it consciously published the Muhammed caricatures to provoke and divide --- is the same criticism I have for the person who made Valley of the Wolves. Even thought the film uses images and events that happened under the watch of the Americans, it is not about justified criticism of the United States or even education. It would be easy to ignore the film as a run-of-the-mill, cliched action movie and just move on. But anyone who produces this kind of film is trying to do more than just entertain --- they are trying to echo and bolster racist ideas while clouding dialogue.'

His complete review can be read in English at,1518,401565,00.html.

The World Council of Churches issued a sharp statement denouncing the US-led war in Iraq and accused Washington of 'raining down terror' and apologizing to other nations for 'the violence, degradation and poverty our nation has sown.' reports the Associated Press. The Council ---- more than 350 mainstream Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox churches ---- said they had 'grown heavy with guilt' for not doing enough to speak out against the Iraq war and other issues. The complete report can be read at

'So, war, which is about rape and murder, is an act of hatred and aggression towards women. It's Mother Murder,' writes Jennifer van Bergen at

Friday, February 17, 2006
Reports are mixed on reactions around the world to the latest photos just released on the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib. German public TV evening news claimed some photos are so alarming and harsh that not even Arab stations were allowing them to be shown. There were interviews with Iraqi citizens whose comments ran along the line of how to place these photos in context with the US mission of bringing democracy to Iraq. What, they are asking, have torture and humiliation to do with democracy? Other news reports state that most of the people in the Middle East seem to be taking their release in stride. Perhaps it is best to look under the surface of immediate raw emotions. Perhaps things need to linger before they come to a head. One example here is the latest Turkish movie, Kurtlar Vadisi or Valley of the Wolves Iraq, which has become one of the most successful films among the Turkish or Turkish-German population here in Germany, not to mention a top hit in Turkey. Based on a Turkish TV series, the film deals with a real event which happened on 4 July 2003 when US forces stormed a Turkish base in northern Iraq and took Turkish soldiers captive with hoods over their heads to interrogate them. Turkey is a NATO partner. According to an article in today's Der Tagesspiegel, a Berlin newspaper, this seared into the Turkish consciousness. Der Tagesspiegel reports that over 5500 attended this film in Wedding in the first week, in Neukoelln 8000. Wedding and Neukoelln are neighborhoods in Berlin. There has never been such a successful Turkish film shown here before. It is also the most expensive film ever produced in Turkey.

To put it mildly, the Americans are not the good guys in this film. Not by any stretch of the imagination. The Berlin paper describes how when the lights go out the film tells the tale of the Turkish soldiers being led away by the Americans 'with the sad bitterness of a disappointed lover.' The movie-goers sit in silence watching it all, and according to most media reports, believing it as well. Is the movie too one-sided is a common and immediate reaction. The response is no since the Turks have done nothing more or less than what any Hollywood film does. Rambo style action films, whether based on real events or not, seldom, if ever, color any side in shades other than black and white.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Join Cindy Sheehan help set up Camp Casey Landstuhl/Ramstein Germany on March 11 and 12. Just Say NO---Where Resistance Counts.

Sheehan will hold a press conference in Frankfurt and take part in a panel discussion in Aachen on March 9. The following day there will be the mayor's reception and a press conference in Aachen. On Monday, March 15 Sheehan will be in Paris. On March 14 she will be present at a hearing in the European Parliament in Strasbourg and on the 15 in Berlin.

Information in English and German including contact persons under Important Links -- Sidebar left on this page.

Postscript: You may also download the information (in English and German) directly at these links:

Cindy Sheehan is coming to Europe! (rtf file)
Cindy Sheehan kommt nach Deutschland! (rtf file)

Monday, February 13, 2006
Another editorial cartoonist, Patrick Chappatte of the International Herald Tribune, has written a commentary on what his profession is all about.

Many people on both sides have spoken on behalf of grand principles. The banner of Democracy has been raised opposite the banner of Religion. But I want to speak for my profession. The aim of a political cartoon is not in itself ---- and should not be --- to hurt. The aim is to make a point.

What Kurt Tucholsky had to say about satire in 1919 has just been translated by Indeterminacy
Does satire exaggerate? Satire has to exaggerate and is, in its deepest nature, unjust. It inflates the truth to make it clearer, and it can do nothing more than work according to the bible verse: the just will suffer with the unjust.

Thursday, February 09, 2006
Ted Rall's take on the cartoon provocation is essential reading.
As the only syndicated political cartoonist who also writes a syndicated column, my living depends on freedom of the press. I can't decide who's a bigger threat: the deluded Islamists who hope to impose Sharia law on Western democracies or the right-wing clash-of-civilization crusaders waving the banner of 'free speech'.....Most reasonable people reject both --- but neither is as dangerous to liberty as America's self-censoring newspaper editors and broadcast producers.

....Editors and producers decide not only what's fit to print but also what's not: flag-draped coffins and body bags arriving from Iraq, photographs of Afghan civilians, their bodies reduced to blobs of blood and protoplasm, all purged from our national consciousness.

...Europeans and Arabs see the horror wreaked in our name on their airwaves, assume that we see the same imagery and hate us for not giving a damn. America's self-censors make anti-Americanism worse. or

Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Those good old days in Europe? A Tiny Paradise Slips Away, an article in the IHT about Rome's non-Catholic cemetery, widely known as the Protestant Cemetery, where Shelley, Keats and Goethe's only son (among very many others) are buried is fascinating reading. Founded in 1734 it was the only place in Rome where non-Catholics could be legally buried. 'The Vatican assigned it land outside the city walls since non-believers could not be buried on Rome's consecrated ground.' Towards the end of the article it reveals the following: 'A wall that divides the cemetery --- built by foreign embassies in the 19th century to keep Catholic fanatics from desecrating the non-Catholic graves --- should probably be removed.... Until 1870, gravestones in the cemetery were not allowed to carry religious symbols or references to redemption, since that was the path for Catholics only.'

Tuesday, February 07, 2006
The English Theatre of Hamburg celebrated its 30th anniversary with an excellent production of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams which will be running till April 8th. Information on the cast, production, booking tickets, address and parking can be found at

This is Williams' most lyrical play and many Americans in the audience were discussing how they remember it fondly from school days, though few had actually read it. Would the play disappoint these memories? Absolutely not and most of us were struck with the language that is simply beautiful and poignant to listen to and, yes, read again. Is the mood, setting, statements about society as gripping today as it was when it premiered in 1945? Definitely. From Tom's first appearance where he informs us:

Yes, I have tricks in my pockets, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion. To begin with, I turn back time. I reverse it to that quaint period, the thirties, when the huge middle class of America was matriculating in a school for the blind. Their eyes had failed them, or they had failed their eyes, and so they were having their fingers pressed forcibly down on the fiery Braille alphabet of a dissolving economy.

To later in Scene VI where he has the following to say about Americans and movies:

Yes, movies! ...All of those glamorous people --- having adventures --- hogging it all, gobbling the whole thing up! You know what happens? People go to the movies instead of moving! Hollywood characters are supposed to have all the adventures for everybody in America, while everybody in America sits in a dark room and watches them have them! Yes, until there's a war. That's when adventure becomes available to the masses! Everyone's dish, not just Gable's! Then the people in the dark room come out of the dark room to have some adventures themselves --- Goody, goody.

The dialogue hits you and perhaps more so now than when it was read in college years ago. There's an honesty and directness in its critical view of society that seemed more accepted in 1945 than today. Of course, it is not the masses that are seeking adventures in war today, just those looking for a job, a way to pay for college, health insurance. Blindness, illusion, the looming affect movies and popular culture have on the masses understanding of the wider world still stands. It is a play very worth seeing today, particularly when it is as well done as this production.

Friday, February 03, 2006
In light of the harsh reaction to the Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed --- the lines seem to be drawn in black and white --- it might be a good idea to read how it all actually came to this. Who's Afraid of Mohammed? by Joerg Lau at gives the complete story. Take a pebble, throw it into a pool and watch the ripples it creates.

Is there another way of dealing with this issue other than the political? By coincidence, I have just finished reading Karen Armstrong's The Spiral Staircase this week. Armstrong is a former Catholic nun who has written many books on the world's religions, on her own path of believing/not believing, and on the essence of religion and God. Her ideas need to be read and discussed. For example, on page 328 she writes on if we could think what we liked about God and states: 'Here again, the religious traditions were in unanimous agreement. The one and only test of a valid religious idea, doctrinal statement, spiritual experience or devotional practice was that it must lead directly to practical compassion. If your understanding of the divine made you kinder, more empathetic and impelled you to express sympathy in concrete acts of loving-kindness, this was good theology. But if your notion of God made you unkind, belligerent, cruel, or self-righteous, or if it led you to kill in God's name, it was bad theology. Compassion was the litmus test for the prophets of Israel, the rabbis of the Talmud, for Jesus, for Paul and for Muhammad, not to mention Confucius, Lao tzu, the Buddha or the sages of the Upanishads.'

A few pages back on 305-6 she comes to the following, rather inspiring conclusion:
'All the world faiths put suffering at the top of their agenda, because it is an inescapable fact of human life, and unless you see things as they really are, you cannot live correctly. But even more important, if we deny our own pain, it is all too easy to dismiss the suffering of others. Every single one of the major traditions --- Confucianism, Buddhism and Hinduism, as well as the monotheisms --- teaches a spirituality of empathy, by means of which you relate your own suffering to that of others. Hyam had quoted Hillel's Golden Rule, which tells you to look into your own heart, find out what distresses you, and then refrain from inflicting similar pain on other people. That, Hillel had insisted, was the Torah, and everything else was commentary. This, I was to discover, was the essence of the religious life.'

Having compassion, and not only for those who consider themselves religious, is as important to a civilized society as freedom of expression.

The Spiral Staircase by Karen Armstrong was published by HarperCollins in 2004.

In the Saturday-Sunday edition of the International Herald Tribune, Zsofia Szilagyi writes on media responsibility in Publishing Those Cartoons was a Mistake. She writes: 'There is no doubt that freedom of speech is an essential foundation of any democracy. But when newspapers insist on this right, they have to understand that they do not -- alone --- create the context and lifespan of their messages.' Further she addes: '.....once messages are out in public, they develop a life of their own and become subject to multiple interpretations, and often manipulation that serves political agendas.'

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