always think that European history is a lie that Americans agree on! And I
am always amused at the way in which Americans "hijack" part of our history,
distort it, and incorporate it into their own national myths. There was indeed
a Christmas truce in 1914. British and German soldiers did indeed sing carols
to each other on the night of the 24th and did indeed climb out of their trenches
the next morning to talk and smoke together, but much of the rest is legend!
Essentially, a lot of soldiers wrote afterwards not about they had seen or
taken part in but about things they had been told happened elsewhere along
the line. The football match, for example, seems to be complete fiction. Equally,
there was no French participation, not because the French didn't want to take
part, but because the event happened way to the north of where the French army
was. As for Hitler's claims in Mein Kampf, they too are probably fiction,
manufactured for his political purposes of the moment.
I suspect that Professor Weintraub may well have been fooled by some of those
accounts as well. Anyone who knows anything about the levels of foreign language
knowledge in Europe in 1914 would be suspicious of the chocolate cake note,
for example. The chances that anyone in the German trenches would have had
such a perfect command of English as to write it are almost zero, and if it
were written in German, the chances that anyone on the British side would have
been able to understand it are also more or less zero.
The film, of course, is a parable, not a documentary, and the French were included
in it in order to get French government subsidies. If you bear that in mind,
all will be well. But I always worry when I see people like Mr. Henderson who
seem to take all this as established historical fact.
~ Michael Kenny
of Mr. Kenny's points are well-taken. As many of the critics of the book pointed
out, Weintraub interweaves truth and fiction. I thought I had been careful enough
to separate them and simply report the factual parts, but I may have erred.
Also, as Mr. Kenny points out, Stanley Weintraub may have erred.
I do take issue,
though, with four other claims that Mr. Kenny made.
First, I don't
find it at all strange that a German would know English enough to write the
note. Many people are unaware of this, but there was a tremendous degree of
what is now called "globalization" in Europe at the time. Many of
the German soldiers had been cab drivers and waiters in London before the war,
and it seems quite reasonable that some of them would have learned English.
Second, he's right
to point out that the movie, Joyeux
Noël, was a parable, something that I certainly did not deny.
Third, I'm sure
that Hitler did make many things up — start with his outrageous claim that
Jews were behind so much of what was wrong with the world — but the idea that
this man who made war on many nations would have been proud of a military medal
he received certainly doesn't seem unlikely.
Fourth and finally,
how exactly did I incorporate European history into my own national American
myth? I didn't even mention the role of Americans. As I'm sure Mr. Kenny is
aware, the U.S. government did not enter the war until April 1917, well after
the events I described took place. Or is Mr. Kenny claiming that because these
things happened in Europe, we Americans shouldn't write about them? I believe
that anyone in the world should be free to write on anything he wants to, even
if those things did not happen in his country.
Ponzi Scheme Presidency
you say: "Madoff, by his own accounting, squandered perhaps $50 billion of
other people's money," this is not entirely correct. He used the inflow of
money to pay returns of 10-15 percent annually to current investors. I'll bet
a lot of the people that were with him for many years would have received multiples
of their investment returned. As an example, 12 percent roughly doubles itself
in six years, and many investors were with him for decades. A 24-year investor
would have received four times his principle back in returns (not compounded),
but lost his principle. Even a six-year investor would have done well — certainly
better than a holder of shares in Lehman Brothers or Washington Mutual, or
many many other "legitimate" "investments."
Come to think
of it, a very high proportion of our "investments" could be characterized
as Ponzi schemes — depending on the future to pay for the present. I'm
not in love with Bernie, but references to him in the press seem to have reached
the "Madoff-mania" stage.
As to the references
in the article about body counts, it was really easy during the Vietnam War.
The official propaganda figures seem to have been arrived at by taking U.S. casualties
and multiplying by 10 to obtain enemy losses.
~ Robert Borland
You wrote how
Obama's silence means that his foreign policy will be the same as our current
Well, you may
be right. But it is fair to imagine what would have happen if McCain were the
I already see
McCain, Lieberman, and his advisers all over the news screaming that Bush does
not support Israel enough. Look at the Senate; there they are not silent.
is very new. What the Lobby wants us to believe is that it is a very simple
problem of evil terrorists against civilization. Silence means at least that
it is a more complex problem. And this is a change.
~ Yves de Montaudouin
hope this great piece by Jerry Salyer represents just the initial salvo by
this gentleman in a war against military waste and fraud on Antiwar.com. Although
I detect a bit of tongue-in-cheek here, there is a great tradition of buying
off your adversaries industry hiring hackers to identify security holes
and plug them, the U.S. financing the "Sons of Iraq," etc. Paying the pirates
to protect shipping in their area (even lavishly paying them) would be so much
more cost-effective than sending in carrier groups or conducting expeditionary
incursions to root out pirate bases. Not to mention investing billions in the
vain hope of "fixing" Somalia itself.
Now this is the
kind of thinking the Obama administration-in-waiting needs, not the hopeless,
recycled, Clintonista neoliberalism we're getting.
~ Brian Schuck