American Views Abroad

Tuesday, March 28, 2006
War Without End, a series at, describes in minute detail the lives of two US soldiers out of the almost 400 who have been very seriously wounded and have lost arms, legs, hands and feet in Iraq. To date more than 16,000 US soldiers have been wounded in the war in Iraq.

'Each injury ripples through lives with its own pattern and force. And as two soldiers and their families are discovering, the war will be with them forever.'

Monday, March 27, 2006
A German movie released this past week, Das Leben der Anderen, is a compelling drama, a combined love story/political thriller of life in the former East Germany in 1984 ---- five years before the fall of the Berlin wall. The acting is superb, the street scenes of East Berlin --- run down, slightly decaying old houses vs. sterile lifeless post war Communist buildings in streets mostly devoid of traffic save for cars only the selected few had --- brought back eerie memories. The prison/interrogation room scenes give a glimpse into what made the system so terrifying for those lost in it. It is a film, as one German commented, that should be dubbed into English for a wider audience. Why? It brings close to home what happens when the system trains a handful of selected citizens to spy on and pry into the lives of other citizens without any protection of the law. It shows how political power that considers itself the law corrupts. It also sublimely details how an individual who is part of the system can, in this case through utter loneliness, become its victim.

A strict conformist to the regime, a captain in the East German secret police known as the Stasis is ordered to find the dirt on a successful play-writer/actress couple. The reason is neither political nor ideological: a minister with power lusts for the sexy actress. The machinery starts rolling and the captain, at first deeply suspicious of artists types just by looking at them, settles himself into a 12 hours routine secretly invading their lives in their wired up apartment. Strangely enough, the system, at least in this film, doesn't use taping machines. Instead, the captain listens to the conversations and makes notes of them, often presuming what is taking place. Slowly without realizing what's happening to himself, he begins to relate to them, a sort of Stockholm syndrome in reverse. He finds himself censuring what they are saying. He decides at the last minute not to relate important information to the border guards about a set-up smuggling that actually is a test to see if they are in a wired apartment. He finds himself crying when the writer plays the Good People's Sonata on the piano after a friend who opposed the regime kills himself. This death pushes the writer to take the step and write up a report, anonymously for Der Spiegel in the west, about how the East Germans are not releasing suicide statistics which are quite high. He does this on a smuggled-in-from-the-west typewriter so as not to be identified as the author. The captain knows where the typewriter is hidden in the apartment but does not reveal it to his bosses and, in the end, even manages to get it out of the apartment before its discovery. He loses his position and is condemned to unsealing letters for the next 20 years. The fall of the Berlin wall releases him into a world where, as a Stasis member, he can only find work dragging a shopping cart through Berlin handing out flyers. Years past and the writer happens to run into the minister and finally finds out that his intimate life was very well-known to him.

Here is where modern, open, democratic Germany shows its best side. The writer has the opportunity to take a very close look at all the files the Stasis had on him. To his utter amazement he is practically congratulated on having so many files. There, for the first time, he realizes just what happened and is even able to find out who the captain is. He tracks him down, but decides not to approach him. Instead, he writes a book. Title: The Good People's Sonata. Dedication: HGW XX/7, the captain's code name.

Germany has produced some very good films recently. This, however, is the first one that confronts the past as it was in East Germany and it is well-worth viewing. More information in German at

Tuesday, March 21, 2006
The War Prayer
by Mark Twain
March 1905

Editor's note: Outraged by American military intervention in thePhillipines, Mark Twain wrote this and sent it to Harper's Bazaar. This women's magazine rejected it for being too radical, and it wasn't published until after Mark Twain's death, when World War I made it even more timely. It appeared in Harper's Monthly, November 1916.

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism;the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came -- next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams -- visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation:

God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest! Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!

Then came the 'long' prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory --

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, 'Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!'

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside -- which the startled minister did -- and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

'I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!' The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. 'He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause and think.

'God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this -- keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

'You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory -- must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen! 'O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(After a pause.) 'Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!'

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

This story was retrieved from

Sunday, March 19, 2006
An English language blog on the French protests is at Up-to-date reports at It writes: 'In any case, it was as successful a day across France as it was in Nice with between 500,000 and 1,500,000 demonstrating. It is patently obvious that the French do not agree with their government and they are showing it.'

An eyewitness report by an American in Paris: We were only a small group of Americans protesting the third anniversary of the war in Iraq because of the huge French demonstrations. A grand total of 9 persons linked up with a French anti-war group. Two were dressed as Grantanamo prisoners which attracted attention. The French leader reminded everyone via loudspeaker that here were Americans demonstrating the third anniversary of the war. The cheers were spiritied enough to encourage us to carry on. Throughout people walked up to take our leaflets and to chat. Effectively we were able to remind 800,000 of the war in Iraq and how it must be opposed and stopped. More importantly, we communicated with less politicized people who were strolling through to watch the demonstrations. When we went there, we were prepared to be drowned out and maybe humiliated. But just the opposite happened. There were few of us, but it was certainly better than nothing.

Friday, March 17, 2006
Congress raises the ceiling on the national debt according to the lead article in today's online Washington Post. More to the point it reports: 'Most of the House spending package, nearly $68 billion, would pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The legislation would push total war costs since September 11, 2001 to nearly $400 billion. Before the Iraq invasion in 2003, administration officials predicted that costs related to the war would total less than $100 billion.'

Der Spiegel's International Site reports On Death and Taxes -- A visual look at where your taxes go at Spiegel notes that according to the diagram $399 billion was spent on defense in 2004 compared to $383 billion for non-military needs. - English site -- Spiegel Surfs the Web.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006
An email received today read: 'There was a maximum of 10 (!!!) counter protesters supporting the troops. The peace march had about 40 participants. So much for numbers.'

The Stars and Stripes report which this blog linked to on Monday stated in the article that there were 30 protestors, yet, in the caption under the photo, it claims 20. It rounded the number of counter protesters to 15. You would think that anything under 50 participants could be counted correctly. So much for numbers.

A closer look at the logistics is in order here. Landstuhl/Ramstein and K-town are very close to each other and in the center of a rather large US military community, not to mention many retired veterans. Stars and Stripes reported on the upcoming demonstrations and yet, few, very few, chose to participate in the counter protests. Those attending the peace march had for the most part to travel from afar. This winter has been harsh and train tickets are not cheap. When people decide on their own free will to attend a demonstration, there are many issues they grapple with. First is the bread and butter one of how to get down there, how much is this going to cost and second, the more important one, is it going to accomplish anything, is it going to be heard and seen, who is behind it all. Demonstrations are not something you go to lightly because you haven't got anything else to do. You go because you have a sense of outrage at what's being done in your name by your government. Unfortunately, many of us today feel numb from being outraged for too long now. There is a sense as an old friend told me recently of being very reluctant to pick up a newspaper or turn on the news. As she said: 'Just when you think things can't get any worse, up pops the next unbelievable news and there isn't any end in sight.' Precisely, no end in sight and, even worse, the feeling of being caught in a trap, in quicksand.

In one of the photos sent with this email there is a bumper sticker which reads: Our Troops Need Support: Not Pity. Interesting that last word and in the dictionary it's defined as sympathetic sorrow for one suffering, distressed or unhappy: compassion. What conclusion should one draw from this-----to have no compassion for a soldier who has been critically wounded in a war based on lies and distorted facts??? To knee-jerk a support for the troops and ignore the results of what happens in war?

No easy and quick answers here. No black and white. Just a trap.

Monday, March 13, 2006
Anti-war march - Ramstein - 1

According to Stars and Stripes Sheehan's absence and rainy weather dilute Ramstein protest. It claims only about 30 protesters marched with crosses and rainbow peace flags. The event's counter protest drew about 15.

Keeping an ear to the ground through reports in daily papers gives the bigger picture of how people feel about the war in Iraq. Today's IHT reports Bush's approval rating of 34% in February in a CBS poll and quotes a leading Republican pollster:

'Roughly one out of three people say that the country is on the wrong track, and the reason they give is the Iraq war. How will that situation be changed unless Iraq is resolved in the next few months?'

Before the war in Iraq started three years ago, millions upon millions of citizens around the world spent a Saturday on their feet distinctly, loudly, clearly saying no to the horror of war, in particular this preventive war. It's a chorus waiting in the wings.

Is This War Worth the Price? by Sally Kalson tells the story of the American group No More Victims who in this one case is trying to help a 7-year-old Iraqi boy get reconstructive facial surgery in Pittsburgh. She writes:

'...... bomb dropped on a child does the same damage accidentally as it does on purpose, and that, by definition, hundreds of bombs dropped on hundreds of villages have created countless Abdul Hakims already and are going to keep creating more. .....The question for the American public is how much more hell we are willing to inflict in the name of this particular war.'

Saturday, March 11, 2006
Last Thurday's post on this site received several anonymous comments about the events in Landstuhl/Ramstein taking place this weekend. One comment using Elsa Rassbach's name claimed the march has been cancelled. Since Elsa sends me information directly, I wrote her if she did post this message or if it is a hoax. Her reply:

'Sorry that I only now saw this. I did NOT write it. It is clearly a deliberate attempt to disrupt and discourage. The march is definitely ON.'

It is one thing to post comments anonymously, though I have always felt if I have something to say, I say it openly and stand by it. It is despicable, however, to post things under another person's name.

Friday, March 10, 2006
Kurt Tucholsky Quote

This is a repost, with kind permission from blogger Indeterminacy, of his recent post at the English language Kurt Tucholsky blog:

A recent editorial "The Case for Impeachment" in Harper's Magazine, written by Lewis H. Lapham quotes in the beginning Kurt Tucholsky:
A country is not only what it does - it is also what it puts up with, what it tolerates.
I've located the original of this:
Aber ein Land ist nicht nur das, was es tut - es ist auch das, was es verträgt, was es duldet.
The passage originates from a letter by Kurt Tucholsky to the German-Jewish author Arnold Zweig. I don't think the translation can be improved upon.
For those who can read German, the entire letter is posted at the Sudelblog.

Thursday, March 09, 2006
More news reports on Cindy Sheehan this week:

Cindy Sheehan arrested at the US Mission to the UN at

Sheehan says she won’t join protests at Ramstein, Landstuhl at

Unfortunately, word has just arrived that Cindy Sheehan's physical condition following her arrest earlier this week in New York City prevents her from being able to travel to Europe for the next three weeks.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Cindy Sheehan and a contingent of women were arrested outside the US mission to the United Nations in New York on March 6. They spent the night under arrest for attempting to deliver the Women Say No to War petition to the US mission. Dede Miller, Sheehan's sister, writes a passionate plea in Lets Go Gandhi:

'What will it take for the majority of you who don't support the occupation of Iraq or the Bush regime to rise up? Polls tell us that 59% of you believe the occupation is wrong and we are being lied to by Bush. I do not see 160 million of you out in the streets. Again, what will it take? ...... I was having this conversation with a dear friend of mine. Someone on our side. But a person comfortable in life and as yet untouched by the last 5 years. When I asked her to speak out, call her congressman, newspaper, etc. She said to me 'who would listen?' my answer to her, no one if you don't do anything. I can't stress enough to you. At some point your life is going to be impacted by this administration of evil and greed. I implore you, I beg you, don't wait until it is too late. The time is now to take our country back. The time is now to make our elected official do our will. Non Violent Civil Disobedience is a time tested and proven tool to effect change.'

Her complete message is at

Sheehan is to arrive in Germany tomorrow. Activities planned for this weekend in Ramstein are listed on the sidebar left under Important Links. Reports are in that counter demonstrations are being planned. On March 14 witnesses will be testifying at a special hearing of the Intergroup for Peace Initiatives at the European Parliament in Strasbourg regarding asylum rights in Europe for soldiers. For What Noble Cause?-- German and US Witnesses about the War on Iraq and Germany's Role will take place in Berlin on March 15 at 19:30 at the St. Bartholomaeuskirche, Friedenstrasse 1, corner of Otto-Braun-Strasse, near the Maerchenbrunnen and Haus der Demokratie -- S-Bahn and U-Bahn Alexanderplatz, Bus nos. 100, 200, 240, tram M4. The witnesses are Sheehan, Hart Viges, Florian Pfaff and Ikram Al-Moien, who fled Iraq and obtained asylum and citizenship in Germany. Wolfgang Kaleck, Attorney, is the moderator.

An historical note: in Freedom from Fear -- the American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945, David M. Kennedy writes on page 89 on the year 1932:

'These cries of impending revolution were largely empty-rhetorical posturings. True, some Communists and others on the far left thought they heard the knell of capitalism and cried for action in the streets. But what struck most observers, and mystified them, was the eery docility of the American people, their stoic passivity as the depression grindstone rolled over them. There might be some nervous stirring on Capitol Hill in the winter of 1931-32, Anne O'Hare McCormick wrote, but'beyond the Potomac there is silence .... a vacuum; no life-giving breath of popular enthusiasm or popular indignation, no current of that famous energy that propels the American dynamo.....Is American growing old? Have we......slumped into that sad maturity which submits to events?' Like Mr. Micawber, she concluded, 'we are all waiting for something to turn up.'

Monday, March 06, 2006
Another review of In the Valley of the Wolves from the Neue Zuericher Zeitung at

Friday, March 03, 2006
This could be a turning point. Garrison Keillor, author of A Prairie Home Companion, has declared: Impeach Bush: When the emperor has no clothes at

'The peaceful lagoon that is the White House is designed for the comfort of a vulnerable man. Perfectly understandable, but not what is needed now. The Constitution provides a simple ultimate way to hold him to account for war crimes and the failure to attend to the country's defense. Impeach him and let the Senate hear the evidence.'

At Tomgram, George's Inferno: And other images from a no-name war gives a more detailed, piercing review of how we are being manipulated, verbally and otherwise, by the government and the press.

Thursday, March 02, 2006
The complete Actions with Cindy Sheehan starting Friday, March 10 in Mannheim, Germany through Sunday, March 12 in Ramstein-Kaiserslautern can be viewed under Important Links at Sidebar Left on this page.

US Troops in Iraq: 72% say End War in Iraq in 2006 according to Zogby International

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