American Views Abroad

Monday, May 29, 2006
A Memorial Day Statement by U.S. CITIZENS AGAINST WAR -- FLORENCE, Italy

Representatives of U.S. Citizens Against War will be participating at the Memorial Day commemoration on Monday 29 May at the Florence American Cemetery for the thousands of women and men buried there or missing in action or buried at sea. It will be an important occasion for us as anti-war U.S. Citizens to show our deep respect for our compatriots who sacrificed their lives to help the Italian people and partisans defeat Nazi-Fascism in this country during World War II. At the same time, we will bear witness to the vast movement back home in our own country and around the world for peace and justice and against the wars of aggression and violation of human rights currently being perpetrated by the U.S. government.

We remember that the launching of wars of aggression was considered to be a crime against humanity at the Nuremberg Trials after the tragedy and Holocaust of World War II. The illegal, immoral U.S. war against Iraq and the subsequent occupation have resulted in the deaths of over 100,000 Iraqis and over 4,000 U.S. servicemen and women, as well as the destruction of much of the country's infrastructure and of entire cities such as Fallujah, and the detention of thousands of Iraqi prisoners without charge. Amnesty International, the United Nations and other human rights organizations have condemned the U.S. Government's prison camps at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq, at Guantanamo Bay, in Afghanistan and the network of secret detention centres around the world, the systematic use of torture, prisoner disappearances, and the hundreds of illegal CIA 'rendition' flights.

As part of the international movement for peace and social justice we are here today to affirm that the ultimate sacrifice made by our sisters and brothers in the struggle against Nazi-Fascism, those thousands buried here in the Florence American Cemetery, is in clear contradiction with the U.S. Government's restriction of the freedoms of U.S. citizens at home and its immoral policy of permanent preventive war abroad, and what Amnesty International has condemned as 'grave human rights violations, including torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary detention without charge or trial, and excessive use of force resulting in civilian deaths.' A great American, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., taught us that 'To accept passively an unjust system is to cooperate with that system. Noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.'

As U.S. Citizens Against War we remember and honor the sacrifice of our military dead in the struggle against Nazi-Fascism during World War II, while at the same time affirming that the current U.S. wars and occupations, violation of human rights abroad and attacks on democratic rights at home are a shameful repudiation of that sacrifice. According to opinion polls the majority of U.S. troops in Iraq, as well as the vast majority of U.S. citizens, believe the U.S. should end its occupation and withdraw all troops. The U.S. peace movement says: Support our troops; bring them home now! Withdraw all foreign troops and mercenaries from Iraq now! U.S. reparations for the people of Iraq! Another world is possible -- and necessary.

U.S Citizens Against WarFlorence

May 29, 2006
Tel: 338 8871251

Saturday, May 27, 2006
West Point Graduates Against the War cofounders Jim Ryan and Bill Cross will be interviewed on ABC World News Tonight today at 6:30 pm (ET) and on CNN News Hour at 6 - 7pm (ET).

Net Neutrality
The current issue about to be decided by the Senate is "net neutrality". Traffic on the Internet today in America is completely open. Isp's are obligated to direct all traffic they receive. If this is no longer the case, they will be allowed to decide on a content basis, what they show users and what they don't. Competitor's Websites could then be blocked, or sites with an undesired political opinion.

This post at Seeing the Forest describes what will very likely be the result.

Thursday, May 25, 2006
Criminal Intent, a US series, was highlighted as a tip last Monday in a TV magazine. The theme listed was a justice scandal in NYC: were prisoners unaccounted for and were they being tortured? There were three US crime shows on that particular channel that evening: CSI New York, Criminal Intent and Crossing Jordon. Only Criminal Intent got special attention and it was an episode indeed worth watching for many reasons, but mainly because it was so blatantly political.

A prison officer was found murdered, but his neighbors thought he was actually a police officer. The victim had decided to cover up his real job because he was very troubled by what was happening there and even declined to reveal any facts to his wife. Slowly, intricate police work done by well drawn and played characters reveal a secret prison within the official prison system, behind locked doors, where Arabs or Arab-Americans were being held and tortured. The language describing the torture was vivid and sickening. The leading detective said it all, shaking his head at the end: our own people and in our own country.

Of course, that episode like everything on German TV was dubbed into German. Dubbing has been perfected to an art form here. Actors take on the voice of an actor and so face and voice are one and the same irregardless of the film or series. Attention is paid to lip movements but the language is high German without any noticeable regional dialect and little to no mumblings, slurring, slang or blue language. I find myself paying far more attention to what is actually being said since things just sound more serious, at any rate clear and distinct. When returning to the US, I make a habit of looking up certain series to see how they actually sound. Often, it's a let down, strange to say.

Here though the German title, Hinter Gittern, literally Behind Prison Bars, was not quite up to par with the English title, Stress Position. Google in these two words and what comes up is a lot about torture, in particular, a certain half-standing position. It aired in the US in February 2005 and though I was impressed and astound that the popular media was taking up torture and secret, illegal prisons, I could find little to no comments about it. Recently on Without a Trace which airs on Friday evenings here, there was a case where a more than likely innocent person was to be executed by the state within minutes. All legal options about bringing in new evidence were closed. The clock ticked and the agents sat motionless, silently acknowledging a system which isn't flawless.

Outside the US, torture, secret detention centers/prisons, and capital punishment are now inescapably connected to the US's reputation. Yesterday in Spiegel: Almost a Kind of Mental Torture: A European Politican Visits Guantanamo at,1518,417941,00.html. They are building a new prison there for $34 billion without a single window and no end in sight for those prisoners. None of whom has any chance of a legal, fair trial. All just presumed guilty.

Monday, May 22, 2006
The news on immigrants has turned dark and ugly. Two vicious, brutal attacks on German citizens of color since April, one in Potsdam and the other this past weekend in Berlin, have kicked off a debate among politicians and in the media on whether or not there should be lists of 'no go' areas for people of color in the eastern part of the country and just how much will these incidents harm Germany's reputation before the World Cup starts in June. Richard Bernstein analyzed how safe Germany is for the games in his column in last Friday's IHT. He wrote:

'The Africa Council and others are talking somewhat about Berlin but more about the small towns in Brandenburg or Mecklenburg-Pomerania that are more troubled. In those places, the heritage of Nazism and of four decades of Stalinism combined with unemployment rates of up to 25 percent have left a heavy residue of unreason.'

He claims, correctly, that Germany is a lot safer than the United States but, in the end it depends on what you look like, and where you are.

A very troubling aspect in both the debate and the media coverage is how one essential point often gets ignored. The usual knee jerk response on immigrants calls for their integration and their willingness to learn the language and adapt to the local norms and culture. Yet, in both these attacks, the victims are very well integrated into German society. The victim in Potsdam, born in Ethiopia, is working on his PhD, married with children, and the Turkish born victim in Berlin is a member of the Left Party in Parliament. In the Sunday edition of the FAZ there is a page long article on The Perfect Immigrant - Die Perfekten Einwanderer in the Gesellschaft section. The author, Julia Schaaf, discusses the Chinese in Germany and poses the ultimate question: since they work very hard, are devoted to getting the best education and create no problems are they a model of integration or do they represent a parallel society that no one has noticed yet?

The area I reside in has one of the lowest percents of foreigners compared to the rest of Hamburg. Yet, the local Catholic Church has an unusually large number of other nationalities among its members. There are many Iranian and Chinese families living right in my immediate area. One Iranian family actually has German passports, though they never say: We are German, but, instead, we have German passports. Not uncommon here is the number of German born, now US citizens who have returned to Germany, very often for family reasons after retiring. They lost their German citizenship upon obtaining their US passports and are thus, legally, foreigners in the country of their birth. They look German, they certainly sound German, but they are not German. They too are caught up between two worlds. Perhaps an argument can be made that in any given society there are unlimited, albeit small, parallel societies.

On the other side of the Elbe in the Williamsburg section of Hamburg where the population is about 80% non-German born, a re-ntegration is taking place. Students have found out that apartment rents there are far cheaper and thus younger Germans are now moving back in.

Sunday, May 21, 2006
An important new site is up at Big Brother is obviously upset about the use of West Point here and the weapon of choice is the copyright West Point Academy has since 2000 on the name West Point. A New York Times Select/ New York area article which can only be read for a fee in today's NYT describes in a rather tongue-in-cheek tone how the Academy is going after this group as well as motels, wine shops and others who have used West Point in their names, some for years now. The chances, however, seem slim for the Academy. Those who run the above mentioned site are indeed graduates of West Point and have every right to identify themselves as such. We salute them.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Early next month the World Cup kicks off in Germany. It's splendid being in Germany whenever a World Cup is on because it is the one time you have the shops, public transportation and most of all parking for yourself. When you arrive somewhere in the middle of the day and are not confronted with the usual crowds, you realize Germany is probably playing. It is quite literally the only thing people talk about. Even salespeople will chirp in with small talk on who might be winning or complain about being stuck in an empty shop when there is something more important to do. This Bud's Not for the World Cup at brings together Germany, the world's most loved game, beer and corporate America. It's a hoot.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Richard Cohen is a columnist for The Washington Post and the New York Daily News. About two years ago he spoke at the American Club of Hamburg and appeared badly shaken by his experience of being rather roughly treated, verbally, by some American guests at a speech he had given the previous day in Berlin. He seemed astonished that there were people, more to the point, other Americans, who did not share his opinion that the war in Iraq was the right thing to do. He was so taken aback by criticism directed at him that he found the appropriate response was to explain to his Hamburg audience how it felt to be in New York City on that dreadful day, Sept. 11, 2001. This audience was a good mixture of Germans, in particular some very prominent German journalists who had taken a few hours off in the middle of the day to hear a Washington Post columnist, business people, German and US military and a scattering of private US citizens. It was embarrassing to hear him try to explain to Europeans how it feels to be attacked, to be bombed. It was embarrassing that a US columnist for a leading US paper obviously had no idea who his audience was or the history of the town he was speaking in. He acted as if he and he alone had invented the wheel, at least as far as being attacked goes. The major part of his speech was trying to explain how it feels not knowing if you are going to survive it all or not, the terror one feels at the randomness bombings tend to provoke. He did on that day post a column with the dateline Hamburg. Reading that column one would never have had the feeling he supported the war (at least back then).

On May 6 this site wrote about the Colbert speech presented at the White House Press Corps Dinner with the President in attendance and sitting only a few feet away from Colbert. Cohen, who had not attended the dinner but watched it on C-Span, wrote a damning article on Colbert's speech. In Harper's News Update which appears once a week, there is a reference to an article about Cohen and this speech in Washington as well as a general appraisal of Cohen's columns. It is worth reading at Richard Cohen: a Scientific Inquiry.

Friday, May 12, 2006
Das Leben der Anderen (The Life of Others), a German film about Communist East Germany was reviewed here on March 27 at

The Lasting Damage of East German Rule, a review of this film in the IHT, can be read at

Brooklyn Bridge voices his disgust at the latest news about the huge spy effort on US citizens in his post yesterday at in Impeaching Time:

Impeach them both, fire the rest, then arrest and try them all.

Molly Ivins takes on the Washington press corps in A Capital Full of Shih Tzu Reporters at

Monday, May 08, 2006
The Most Powerless Man in the World is an opinion piece by the Berlin bureau chief of Spiegel Online on an interview Bush gave to a German TV presenter.

'.....For some time now, the president has become an observer of his own political decline. .....Bush is running out of time, and not just because the end of his term is approaching. He knows it as well as anyone. .....For many of these people (in Iraq), tyranny has simply been replaced by terrorism. That's something Bush can't deny and that's what makes him seem so powerless.',1518,414973,00.html

Saturday, May 06, 2006
Stephen Colbert, We Salute You!

If I want to show the consequences of alcohol addiction, in other words, fight against it, I cannot do so with pious bible quotes. The most effective way is with the gripping representation of a man who is hopelessly drunk. I lift the curtain protectively spread over the decay, and say: "Look!" - Kurt Tucholsky, from "What May Satire Do?" (1919)

Last weekend at the White House Correspondents Dinner the comedian Stephen Colbert delivered a monologue ten feet away from Bush, before the entire Washington press corp. What was to have been the evening's main entertainment turned into a scathing attack on Bush and the complacent American press. Overnight, Colbert turned into a folk hero. Although this has been story number one in the Internet, the newspapers and television news ignored the incident for three days. Finally the media reported on the Internet activity and explained their silence with the premise that Colbert wasn't funny.

In my opinion Colbert was funny, brave and set a stellar example for patriotism and protest in these times. But I urge you to decide for yourself. A transcript and videos may be found at Dailykos. You may say thank you to Stephen Colbert at If you still wish to read something after watching or reading Colbert's monologue, we offer this theoretical dialogue between an Editor in Chief and a Columnist of a generic newspaper, occurring a few hours after the dinner...

Office of the Chief Editor, Anytown, USA

Editor in Chief: Have the phones stopped ringing?
Columnist: Yes, we've unplugged them.
Editor in Chief: Good, because we need to talk now.
Columnist: Yes?
Editor in Chief: We need to talk now and we can't have interruptions. We need to work out something definitive. Turn your cell phone off, please.
Columnist: OK, got it.
Editor in Chief: It's about Stephen Colbert.
Columnist: Yes sir.
Editor in Chief: We must be prepared for every contingency.
Columnist: How bad is it?
Editor in Chief: Bad. That man just delivered a State of the Union address!
Columnist: Look, let's just ignore the performance. I mean, who watches C-Span? We forget. They forget.
Editor in Chief: That's actually what we plan to do, but just in case it does come up, we need, we'll need arguments. We need reasons why we hushed it.
Columnist: Look, who's the idiot that hired him? That's what I want to know. He should be fired!
Editor in Chief: Probably will be.
Columnist: I mean, that guy put us all in danger.
Editor in Chief: I understand that steps are being taken to avoid a recurrence next year - they're looking at Ann Coulter. But back to the point, how do we pick it apart.
Columnist: I was thinking. His points were good. Too good. All the spin in the world won't unravel them. But I looked up the definition of satire and --
Editor in Chief: Yes.
Columnist: It's not satire!
Editor in Chief: It's not? But of course it was! What do I remember from my school days? Satire's a mirror, hold it up to the targets, reflect the truth at them, they feel uncomfortable. Seems likes satire to me. Certainly made me feel uncomfortable. How dare he!
Columnist: But that's just it! We got him! Satire doesn't only reflect the truth, it exaggerates it! Not once did he exaggerate! We got him! We could even accuse him of plagiarism!
Editor in Chief: No we can't sue him. It's nothing we wrote.
Columnist: Then we say it's bad satire!
Editor in Chief: We can't argue that. In the first place, it's too abstract. "It's not satire." "So what," they'll say. People don't know what satire is. They think it's: "Someone should go kill him." And then they all laugh. Like Coulter and her ilk always do. Satire.
Columnist: He did have that "bump him" bit.
Editor in Chief: Yeah, maybe. But don't you see we can't argue that. "It was terrible satire because it didn't exaggerate the truth." That's a subtle admission that we know that it was true. We can't print that!
Columnist: Oh yeah, I see.
Editor in Chief: We really gotta get this guy, I mean when he said, "I would have made a fabulous press secretary. I have nothing but contempt for these people." I could have punched him. Who does he think he is telling us that! We'll show him contempt.
Columnist: Isn't there an official statement from the White House?
Editor in Chief: No and there won't be - we're on our own with this one.
Columnist: Let's just say it wasn't funny.
Editor in Chief: You know, I think that just might work. Funny's subjective. And a lot of people didn't laugh. Bush didn't laugh. We didn't laugh. The right didn't laugh. Even some of the left - the ones still living in the world we write for them, hoping that it might be true. I mean, people want this to be a good world, want America to be the ideals it's built on. Left and right, they all want to believe that. They didn't laugh. They might have cried.
Columnist: I get it. I'll go back and work out why it wasn't funny. Hard to do though, so many points, impeccably delivered. Except for the one flub he admitted to, the half empty glass. Maybe I'll pick up on that. I have nothing but contempt for idiots who can't express themselves properly. And what else is there to say? There's no arguing with those truths.
Editor in Chief: All right! That's what we do. As a back-up, in case that doesn't pull, maybe you can work in that the humor was European. "Ewwww" everyone will say.
Columnist: I get it! High comedy, irony, political cabaret, thinking. European. Great!
Editor in Chief: OK! Let's go. Oh, and, by the way, how's the book coming along?
Columnist: Wonderful! Almost finished! Just ended the chapter on impeachment. Has quite a few twists to it.
Editor in Chief: Such a great imagination! That's why I hired you! Please let me read it when you're done.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006
On 19 April 2005 this site reported on Army Specialist Agustin Aguayo's pursuit to obtain CO status after having served a year as an Army Medic in Iraq. Unfortunately, the Army denied him a CO discharge for the second time in January though he was not informed of its decision until March 6. His unit is now preparing for a second deployment to Iraq sometime in May or June. Two lawyers in Philadelphia have agreed to take up his case but a minimum commitment of $12,500 investment for court expenses need to be found. The total amount raised so far is $9100. Information on Aguayo' case can be found at

Eyes Wide Open across Pennsylvania is an exhibition of 117 pairs of combat boots, representing those soldiers from that state who have been killed in Iraq. It also has civilian shoes including baby and children ones representing the Iraqi civilians who have also perished in the present war there. Combat Boots Honor Troops -- Pointing to war's human toll in Pa. at

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