note to students, Oct. 6, 2003: I'm sorry I haven't been able to finish up with more than these 2 entries, plus 2 more from a student in this course during Fall 2002. Perhaps this way they are more representative of the unpolished versions you will be submitting.
"White House Likens Iraq to Postwar Germany to Retain Support," LA Times, Sept. 1, 2003, p. A6
Four months have gone by since our war against Iraq ended, and violence is mounting. It is clear that the costs of occupying the country are going to be much more than President Bush had led the country to believe. In August the administration started promoting a new strategy to prepare the public for such higher costs. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said that we had to make a "generational commitment" to the middle East. She compared the occupation and rebuilding of Iraq to the occupation and rebuilding of West Germany after World War II, in particular to the Marshall Plan. The article says that this comparison sends several messages: 1) the Iraq war was a noble as fighting the Nazis; 2) "the rebuilding will be lengthy, costly and complicated;" and 3) despite the difficulties, we will ultimately succeed. Converting the Marshall Plan figures to today's prices, that would mean $88 billion. By another measure, the MP cost 2.5-5% of GDP, which would mean about $200 billion today. [168 words]
I'm writing this on Sept. 8, the day after President Bush announced that he will request $87 billion in next year's budget to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan into stable democracies. This amount is truly mind-boggling. Germany received only a fraction of the 1948-51 aid package, whose real name was the European Recovery Plan namely about 11% of the $13 billion, in fourth place after Great Britain [25%], France [21%] and Italy [12%]. Adjusting for population, each person in GB received 53, F 71, I 30 and West Germany $18. Countries such as Norway and Greece received well over $100 per capita (data from the German council on Foreign Relations: http://www.dgap.org/texte/marshallplan.html). Using NASA GDP deflation calculator (http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/bu2/inflateGDP.html), today that those per capita figures would be about 6.5 times greater, or $342, 459, 193, and $116, or over $650 per person for the less populous countries.
Now the population of Iraq is about 22.5 million and Afghanistan 28 million, so Pres. Bush's figure would be about $1700 per Iraqi/Afghani. This doesn't seem like a very promising investment to me. In Germany in 1945 millions of working age people (mostly men) were dead or injured (3.5 mio soldiers dead, 7.2 mio. injured, 1.6 mio. civilians dead), 25% of the housing stock was destroyed, and infrastructure (factories, bridges) was devastated by Allied bombing and Nazi scorched earth retreating. So, I ask myself after this little exercize in researching the historical comparison, what consequences can I draw? The first thing that comes to my mind is that after the long and costly war most (many?) Germans were chagrined and KNEW that what they had had under Hitler was not better than what they might face afterwards. They were thankful that they wouldn't be punished by a "Morgenthau Plan" that would have reduced the country to an agricultural backwater. They were willing to devote long hours of hard work to regain what they had lost, and many of them were probably grateful to be under United States' administration, and not in East Germany and subject to the harsher policies (and later collectivization of farms and factories) mandated by the Soviet Union. "Fraternization," not guerilla activity, was the US Army's biggest problem, namely US soldiers "dating" German women, with gifts of cigarettes, chocolate and nylon stockings. (I bet THAT would go over big with fundamentalist Iraqis!) None of that applies to Iraq. In fact, in most cases the exact opposite applies. Very few people are grateful to the US, even if they are glad Saddam Hussein is gone. So what will all this money buy? I think it will probably be squandered. I don't even want to compare it to the situation in war-ravaged Liberia, which is begging for our help and reconstruction aid, and where a pittance would go so much further. I guess I conclude that our government has lost all sense of proportion. [473 words]
PS. 9/9: Today's paper had a detailed breakdown of the $87 mio., and comparison figures with some items on our US national budget. "Only" $20 billion are intended for Iraq directly, but that figure still dwarfs the budgets for many of our US programs.
"The Race Factor: Thousands of African Americans will donate gene samples to a unique research project that will explore the link between ethnicity and disease," LA Times, Sept. 8, 2003, Health section p. F1.
The Howard University School of Medicine is going to collect DNA samples from 25,000 people who identify themselves as African-American, in order to study how genetics, race and disease interact. It has long been known that certain diseases are more prevalent among specific ethnic groups, and that social and environmental factors alone do not account for the disparity. Although 99.9% of DNA is the same between races, the remaining part of the genome contains 30 million sites among the base pairs of DNA where differences might be found. The article gives many examples of research into race, disease and genes that have yielded important results, for example a so-called "thrifty gene" that helps the body store carbohydrates as fat. This gene was found in the population of Sierra Leone, where over the centuries it has helped people cope with famine, but it is not found among other ethnic groups. It is found among the former slave Gullah population on islands off the coast of South Carolina, which is descended primarily from Sierra Leonians, and probably accounts for some of the obesity that is prevalent there. Diabetes is another case where genetics plays a major role. The journalist notes that linking race and genetics is a potentially explosive topic, and the leading role of a traditionally Black university could cut either way: it would allay suspicion among the Black community, but it might feed the claims of racists about superiority or inferiority of different races. [244 words]
There are two reasons I selected this article. First, because it does not address the problem of defining a person's race in a country where different ethnicities (and races, a term I'm not comfortable using, since it confuses genotype and phenotype) have intermixed over many generations. Then, at the very end of the article, the Tuskegee experiments, which ran from 1932 to 1972, are mentioned. They come up in the course textbook as an example of the widespread racist disregard for medical ethics in using human subjects OUTSIDE of Nazi Germany. In the Tuskegee experiment, 399 male sharecroppers with venereal disease were studied, but they were not offered or informed about treatments, even though many treatments became available during the course of the study (such as antibiotics). Some recruits for the Howard University study, who began participating once they were diagnosed with an illness such as diabetes, are still suspicious today because of the racist and unethical exploitation of Blacks in the Tuskegee study. This shows how long and difficult to overcome the legacies of institutional abuse can be. On the one hand there is the (Nazi and US race definition) notion that "blood" (i.e. genetics) determines not only skin color, but a host of other factors that are in fact determined much more by environment or an interaction between environment and genetics. On the other hand there is the tendency of societies to prey on poorer and marginalized groups who wield little or no political power. Both of these phenomena make it hard to pursue what sounds like a very promising research project. [264 words]
Journal #5: Maus and the "Gray Zone" Grid [with professor’s comments in brackets]
Like George Orwell did in Animal Farm, Art Spiegelman uses animals to represent human counterparts in the comic-book of his father’s struggle through the Holocaust. Maus allows audiences that may have felt too intimidated to read stories with photographs to delve into the horrors of concentration and death camps through the safe distance of cartoon depictions. Through these drawings he is also able to create visual distinctions between the various groups involved in the Holocaust, from the SS to the kapos and inmates, that other works about the Holocaust cannot. In this book, Spiegelman’s story of Vladek reflects the ideas in lecture, most recently the "Gray Zone" grid. [three thesis sentences in a row!]
In this story there are the cats, from the Aryan category in class. Within this section, though, there are varying levels of involvement. In an appropriate analogy, the reactive soldier cats beat the inmate mice. Also true to reality, Vladek, speaking from the inmate point of view, has minimal contact, if any, with proactive Aryan cats. He does come across bystander cats after the war is over, though, and in the end is saved by GI retriever dogs.
Despite the seemingly simple depictions, Spiegelman’s story and symbolism seem to effectively represent the complexity of Holocaust life. Pigs are the symbol for kapos in the camps [many of whom were Polish], different from the mice, but also different from the cats. Reacting to their own plight, pigs are harsh and cruel to lower inmates in order to better their own lot. The pigs’ motivations are like those of Perechodnik [whose memoir Am I a Murderer? we read], who reacted to his situation by becoming a Jewish policeman and putting his own family on the train, thinking the Nazis would reward such obedience. In the panic of shootings and gassings, though, both policeman and resident, kapo and inmate, are seen as equal in the eyes of the Nazis.
However, reaction was the best means of survival. Vladek, too, is able to fit into the system. He fakes skills and offers services to his superiors in order to get better food and clothes. His wife, too, reacts to her harsh treatment and offers an exchange to the guard: if Vladek fixes her shoes, Anja receives better treatment.
Outside the camp, too, personal gain dictated life even after the war. Seeking solace in the German countryside among bystander cats, the cat family offers the inmates the pit in the back yard. However, upon approach of soldiers, the bystanders quickly reveal the mice hiding place. They are an example of anticipatory obedience. Seeing the soldiers as a possible threat, the cats quickly try to improve their own standing by exposing the mice, even though the soldiers didn’t ask, and were in fact just seeking directions. It is likely that during the war, this family was in passive participation; living so close to the camp they did or could have known what was occurring, but actively sought ignorance.
Maus makes abstract ideas concrete. Looking at documentary footage, audiences do not notice differently shaped or colored triangles on the clothes of the living skeletons. In the book, though, different species explain different relationships. All the animals in the book fall into the "Gray Zone," but because of the animals and their symbolism, it is easier to see where they fit.
Laura Byrne, Journal # 6
Final Journal Entry: Why functionalism seems to be the main path on the "twisted road to Auschwitz"
As part of a cursory analysis of the Holocaust and Nazi Germany, this class has explored and explained it in terms of various categories and influences. In readings and in lecture it seems that some academics attribute the Holocaust in its epic proportions to a largely single cause based in either intentionalist or structuralist theory. I do not think that functionalism alone could have propelled the Holocaust to its end proportions, but even if intentionalism and structuralism had both existed, the Nazi regime could not have been carried out without human agency.
In class and text readings we have read suggestions that Hitler had a vendetta against the Jews from the first words in Mein Kampf. Although he does hate them from the beginning, there is strong evidence from meeting transcripts with officials that he did not dream of actually being able to exterminate them en masse from the beginning. Even in terms of ghettoization, Goering initially stated plainly that grouping Jews together in a single locale could breed Jewish conspiracies, and excluding them from commerce could hurt the greater German economy.
In terms of the Holocaust being carried out by the structure that created it, the very degeneration and chaos within it refutes this theory. Part of the problem with maintaining public support for the regime stemmed from the public’s confusion over its official standpoints and policies against the Jews. Massaquoi tells of the frustration in his neighborhood on the official stance concerning mandatory Nazi flag posting. The fact that Massaquoi, as an Aryan "undesirable," was even allowed to remain in public schools, or even the community, for so long is a reflection of the non-uniform policies within the Party. Even though Nazis kept meticulous records of death counts, giving the façade of a smooth bureaucratic machine, many members of the Party itself were often unclear on their actual orders, responsibilities, or jurisdictions.
Despite annoyance and confusion about the structure and official intentions of the Nazis, enough Germans supported them to create the Holocaust. This support was not generally derived from the indoctrination of ideology, however. Most Germans, both civilian and soldiers, saw the Jewish situation as a means for personal gain. Like those taking inventory of Jewish homes before being asked, anticipatory obedience propelled the Holocaust, while active denial allowed it to go forth. Warsaw citizens passing the ghetto may not have put them there, but they had to work hard to ignore the sanitary conditions within. As the German unemployed took the jobs vacated by deported Jews, they indirectly offered their support for the Jewish fate. Architects of crematoria took lucrative contracts from the SS for profit, and builders on site built the death camps as part of their paycheck. Soldiers overseeing the construction and maintenance of the camps enjoyed fast promotions in exchange for ready obedience. Even Hoess himself rose via obedience from a simple foot soldier to the most efficient commandant of Auschwitz.
Without the masses the Holocaust could not have existed on the scale that it did. Especially given the disorganization within the central bureaucracy, people willing to enact Nazi will in exchange for personal gain were critical. Everyone knew that they could get a leg up in life by aiding the Nazis, at least in the early years. Many who did not actively aid them did quietly accept the extra rations and shut their ears to the rumors that they taken from dead Jews.
prepared for web by H. Marcuse, Oct. 6, 2003
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