Posted 23 January 2008 - 09:12 PM
I have been following the rather extraordinary 30-odd posts of the last few days. I had a court date yesterday afternoon, and could not participate, and now I am hesitant to do so, but am tempted to do so at great length, which I think that I will come to regret. So I will slip into this a bit, and perhaps even ask what others feel that I should respond to. Perhaps I will make a brief statement on what I believe, and perhaps only list two or three topics that I am tempted to address. The bulk of this thread has been very interesting and useful, truly deserving the designation of a "Classic Thread". My comments only relate to the portion of the thread that verged into "the Belgian Question".
I have been repeatedly treated to assertions that I am a "denier" on the events, in particular the death of civilians during the invasion of Belgium, the so-called "Rape of Belgium". I deny that I deny anything. (Boy, is that a silly phrase!) It is apparent that a good number of Belgian civilians died. I have not studied the matter systematically, but a Pal posted a quote from a German official who supposedly admitted that 6000 died, while I have seen an extimate of 6500 in a very anti-German source. I have no independent information or study, but this sort of range seems to be consistant with my sketchy readings in this area. It seems that some people have an odd definition of "denier", or perhaps automatically switch into attack mode when they see that I have posted, without bothering to read what I have written.
Topics I am considering:
1. The absolute lack of scholarly method or intellectual honesty in so many of the posts. For example, the posting of lurid atrocity accounts, without attribution, but suggestions that they were from a post-war judicial process. When repeatedly asked for a source, it took days for it to be admitted that it was from a war-time propaganda piece, ground out by an academic who spent the whole war grinding out a series of such books, published in multiple countries and languages. A most cursury reading of the posted passages made it clear that at least some of the posts were fabricated and untrue, including the familiar and complex "incenderary tablet" hoax, which already has been exploded. The complete reliance on a few war-time products of the massive Belgian-UK-French propaganda effort. The total reliance on such "sources" is equivilent to writing a history of the US effort in WW II based soley on a collection of Captain America super-hero comic books, or a definative history of the German occupation of France in WW II based soley on the back issues of the Nazi publication Der Sturmer.
2. The question of the moral responsibility for civilian deaths in war, and the question of how, if at all, does the circumstances of those deaths affect moral responsibility. My excessively intelligent wife feels that the study of military history as it relates to moral responsibility is silly, that all war is criminal, all participation in war is criminal. The question that does the responsibility of every of the 6000-odd civilian deaths in Belgium lie on the Germans, since they illegially invaded Belgium, or should each death be evaluated on the circumstances, on the actions, if any, of the dead civilians; if they fired on uniformed troops, etc. In other words, the question of if any possible franc-tiratuer (sp?) activity makes a difference.
3. The posts of the last two days have ranged all over the temporal map from the mid 1800s to, seemingly, 2008, or at least to 1945. Given this scope established by these posts, and in relation to question #2 above, I would want to raise the second obsession in my life today, the illegal invasion of Iraq. I follow the Brit media about 3 hours a day; I watch 25 minutes of BBC news TV a day, I listen to about 2 hours of BBC news radio a day, and I read the Guardian every day, and excerpts from the Observer. (I read about 2 German news articles a month.) I recently heard several reports on the BBC about a recent British study of civilian deaths in Iraq, which used survey techniques that I am familiar with, methods whose output that I frequently used in my former professional work. Using an unusually large sample size that gve a statistical error range of 2.4%, the study found that, up to mid-2007, 1,200,000 civilians have died in Iraq. This is consistent with an earlier study by leading US acadenics. Both studies had internal sub-totals that allow one to roughly allocate these deaths to the probable "agents of demise", and very roughly it seems that the deaths can be attributed to the "insurgents" and the Coalition Forces in about 50-50 proportions.
This raises the following questions: Are the Bush and Blair officials responsible for about 600,000 deaths? Are they responsible for all 1,200,000 deaths? Are they excused from responsiblity for the deaths of people in bed-sheets firing AK-47s at Coalition troops? Additionally, should the blame spread further to the American and the British people?
The extent to which many of the posts simply reflect deep and instinctive anti-German bias? (Let me assert that I am an intellectual libertarian, and feel that one should have the right to dislike people, or groups of people, even though a lot of that stuff is personally repugnant to me.) As I said, I read the Guardian, and about a year ago it had a series of articles which asserted that there is a German phobia in the UK which is unique in its strength in western Europe, and has even had diplomatic repercussions. To be fair, if I were a Brit (I am quite a bit English, but not British), and conservative, patriotic, interested in the military; in other words, fitting the profile of many of the Pals, I would have many reasons to be grumpy, and some of those could easily be focused on Germany, and perhaps on Germans. IMHO, a lot of things simply work better in Germany than in the UK. The UK has a slightly greater average per-capita income, but also, I believe, much greater income inequality, so most Germans probably simply "live better" than most Brits. I have very good "street smarts" and I sense a lot of physical fear on the streets of London. (Personally, I have become a nasty old fart in the US, and usually quite legally carry a tiny aluminum handgun that is loaded with very powerful Police Combat loads, firing an enormous soft lead slug whose use in the military would be a war crime. Alarmingly, my resultant street cockiness bleeds over to times that I am not armed, including visiting your fair land, which may land me in big trouble some day.) Little Germany is the world's leading exporter, even exceeding the US and China in absolute terms, and has eaten the UK's lunch in this area. Additionally, they, and the US and now China, own almost the entire UK auto industry; for example, after BMW kept Rolls Royce on life support for about 20 years, they and VW have taken it over and rejuvinated RR and Bentley; I know Brits who are really p****d about that. There are lots of things to keep Brits grumpy. The realization that, for the third time in 100 years, Germany has pulled past the UK in many ways, raises doubts about who keeps winning the various wars. Were I a Brit, as well as English, I probably would have a bad attitude towards Germany and possibly Germans in general.
But how much of this belongs overtly in the Forum?
Should any of this be discussed? Perhaps in the Skittles area?
With Warmest Regards,