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Recommended by our Readers

The Atlantic Review's sidebar feature "Tips from our Readers" is a great success. There are constantly plenty of interesting articles:

• Don recommended the Guardian's "Hamburgers or foie gras," which argues: "Don't exaggerate the extent of anti-American feeling. The US should identify its real enemies."

• David recommended two very different articles in the New York Times: German Army Recruit Given Racist Orders in Training as well as Germany’s Export-Led Economy Finds Global Niche:
Germany’s transformation from Europe’s sick man to its most stalwart performer is by now well entrenched. So sanguine are German executives about their future that many brush aside fears that a slowdown in the United States could knock their export-led recovery off track.
The American consumer may still be the main engine that drives the global economy, but Germany’s advance — it has been the world’s largest exporter of goods for the last four years — is propelled by other sources. It is one more sign that the rest of the world does not depend as much on the American economy as it once did.
• David also found this article in Politico: German Ambassador Attends Obama Fundraiser. Does that mean the ambassador violated diplomatic rules and reached out to the Democrats? Last year, David has written in his blog: Advice for Chancellor Merkel: Reach Out to US Democrats.

Our sidebar contains a list of the latest links to articles on transatlantic issues recommended by our readers. If you are interested in contributing to our little web 2.0 project, please read more information here.

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Zyme on :

"Mr. von Witzleben said that Germany now exports more to Russia and the former Soviet satellites than it does to the United States. It ships nearly as much to Britain as to America, and its total exports within Europe are five times its shipments to the United States." Hmmm I didn´t know we are already exporting more to eastern Europe than to the USA ? But if this is the case, it can be expected to enhance a shift in foreign policy priorities.

Bill on :

Surely, surely you are not going to ignore this incident at the Kaserne in Schleswig-Holstein where a German Bundeswehr NCO has been telling his trainees to "imagine you are in the Bronx and there are some African-American guys in front of you" during automatic weapons training? German national TV news (ARD & ZDF) gave exactly 10 seconds airtime to the story last evening: no details, no video. I hear that the German independent news network N-TV has a copy of the 90-second personal video on their website that captures the incident that was shared by German soldiers online for months. Have you seen any footage from this video, Jörg? Forbes.com ran a feature story about the incident today: Racist German Army Tape Stirs Outrage, AP 04/15/07 http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2007/04/15/ap3613363.html Excerpt from the AP article published at Forbes: The Defense Ministry said the video was shot in July 2006 at barracks in the northern town of Rendsburg and that the army has been aware of it since January. "We are currently investigating the incident," said Florian Naggies, a spokesman for the army and Defense Ministry. He did not identify the instructor or the soldier. The clip shows an instructor and a soldier in camouflage uniforms in a forest. The instructor tells the soldier, "You are in the Bronx. A black van is stopping in front of you. Three African-Americans are getting out and they are insulting your mother in the worst ways. ... Act." The soldier fires his machine gun several times and yells an obscenity several times in English. The instructor then tells the soldier to curse even louder. In New York, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr. said whoever was responsible for the video should be disciplined. "We need to put to rest the prejudices and the hate that is allowed ... to be perpetuated so easily and cheaply," said Carrion, who is of Puerto Rican descent. End excerpt___ Why is the taxpayer-funded national German TV news networks downplaying this important and embarrassing story about the blatant racism and growing Neo-Nazi elements in the German military today? Why has this Bundeswehr instructor been transferred pending an investigation of the matter (the incident occured more than 6 months ago) and NOT relieved of duty and dishonorably discharged from the German Heer (Army) in disgrace as he deserves? Why hasn't some high-ranking German political figure (i.e. Chancellor Angela Merkell or Defence Minister Jung) made a public apology to the people of the Bronx, African-Americans in the United States, and black people everywhere about this extremely stupid and disturbing incident? "Maybe if we just wait a few weeks and say nothing, the problem will go away and people will forget about it." Perhaps your Finance Minister Steinbruck can say a few words from his holiday in Namibia since he couldn't make the important meeting in Washington D.C.? I mean, Steinbruck's vacation in Africa is what making the frontpage headlines in that rag of a newspaper BILD instead of this outrageous situation with your Army. Makes you wonder what (some) German soldiers who participated in the EUFOR-RDC (DR Congo Mission) or the ongoing East Africa mission are being taught during automatic weapons training and target practice before they deploy. Makes me wonder what kind of transatlantic relations the Germans are trying to foster and with whom?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"Surely, surely you are not going to ignore this incident at the Kaserne" This post included a link. "Makes me wonder what kind of transatlantic relations the Germans are trying to foster and with whom?" This single incident about a single NCO makes you wonder all that?

Bill on :

Looks like the story is picking up steam in the blogosphere as well as the MSM. I noted a link back to our BHM-Europe series this morning that was used to support a post over at the Likelihood of Success. The post also includes a link to another video hosting site with the 90-minute clip: Media tricks on Bundeswehr racism story? http://likelihoodofsuccess.com/2007/04/15/media-tricks-on-bundeswehr-racism-story/ Zyme (and others), there is NOTHING funny or minor about this incident as it points out a serious problem within the German military. I'm speaking from the experience of an American who has worked together with both your highest ranking military officers as well as enlisted men in various departments of the Bundeswehr. The problem was there more than 20 years ago and it hasn't gone away. Jörg: I have yet to see on national TV news here in Germany any substantial coverage of this story that exceeds 10 seconds. Therefore, I will ask you again. Why is this incident being downplayed by not only German government officials but also by the various media networks here? If the situation were reversed and an American military instructor (black, white, or whatever) was caught on videotape giving weapons instruction to U.S. troops and made a statement to the effect "...imagine you are in downtown Berlin and a group of nazis (neo-nazis) and skinheads jump out of a white van and start insulting your mother...". I think that you get my drift here, such an incident would be frontpage news in several German newspapers, all over the TV and radio, and the Web. What does it have to do with transatlantic relations? Simple, my country is called the United States of America and our relationships with foreign nations affect all Americans regardless of race, creed, or color. There was a time, not so long ago, when such an incident wouldn't have even made the press because such behavior was the norm and acceptable. Those days are gone, and as you can plainly see this incident is causing an outrage in the U.S. not only from African-Americans and residents of the Bronx but nationwide. If that is something that German government officials, German media and the press, and the German people do not need to be concerned about, then I don't understand why not. In addition, I personally don't want to see this instructor or his trainees on active duty together with any military personnel from the U.S. Armed Forces. How could any U.S. soldier of color "trust" his or her German colleague during a joint military operation knowing that people like this may be scattered throughout the Bundeswehr without any real concern from their superiors and a total lack of oversight from the government itself. It's a big deal and I want to see the issue addressed by the proper German military authorities and German government officials... and Americans want to know that the problem is being fixed...quick! Damn, talk about double standards and lack of moral authority.

Zyme on :

" I'm speaking from the experience of an American who has worked together with both your highest ranking military officers as well as enlisted men in various departments of the Bundeswehr. The problem was there more than 20 years ago and it hasn't gone away." Would you please be so kind as to enlighten us what kind of problem you are talking about? The problems of cultural differences and a different humor maybe?

Bill on :

Zyme: Cultural differences between Germans and Americans should be obvious to you by now and is well documented in all kinds of research, news stories, the Atlantic Review blog, and so forth. The problem with racism within the German military (and the society at large) is nothing new and has been a matter-of-fact for hundreds of years. Of course Germany doesn't stand alone with such problems as you can find racism and prejuidice all around the world, the U.S.A. included. When military personnel from many nations serve alongside one another a certain amount of mutual respect and trust and knowledge of one another's customs and traditions and history should be an integral part of the training. I'm certain that Germany for example has made great efforts to do just that with its military personnel over the past 5 decades, particularly as Germany is an important and active member of military alliances i.e. NATO. Of course you cannot weedout all of the bad apples in one go as fighting against racism and prejuidice within the military and elsewhere in society is a constant challenge. After the "Wende" of 1989-91 and the collapse of the Soviet Union which included the former DDR (East Germany) thousands of former Soviet Bloc military personnel were integrated into the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany. This of course posed a number of new challenges and problems for education and training of German troops. It is no secret that the new German states have some serious problems with racial issues and prejuidices in comparison to the progress made since the end of WWII in West German states. I can't say that this particular "military trainer" hails from the east or the west of Germany, but what I am trying to layout here for you Zyme and for the Atlantic Review's readers is that the situation with race sensitivities and respect for all nationalities and racial groups within the German society as a whole (including the Bundeswehr) became even more complicated with the addition of approximately 18-20 million new citizens after 1990. To ignore the racial sensitivities of any people, especially black Americans and other members of the African diaspora spread throughout the Americas and Europe for hundreds of years, would be a serious mistake on the part of the leaders of Germany today. I'm not sure if a public apology would change anything in the minds of people who take this to heart, but it would be a step in the right direction. If you have learned anything from the joint project on black and African history that I have managed together with Jörg of the Atlantic Review, it should be that black people have earned and deserve your respect and that their issues are not some backburner matter that your leaders can attend to later, if at all. For the past few days the lead story in the German TV news has been about the public apology that was forced from the Ministerpräsident of Baden-Wuttemberg, Günther Öttinger re: inappropriate remarks he made in support of the recently deceased former Ministerpräsident of Baden-Wuttemberg, Hans Filbinger, a well known and popular German political figure who had a questionable background as a "hanging judge" during the Hitler regime of Nazi Germany. Your Chancellor Angela Merkel was beaming with satisfaction last night on the TV news after forcing her powerful male CDU political party counterpart to "eat his words" in an attempt to save face (for the German government at least) in front of the Jewish community worldwide. In other words German political leaders wanted to show that they care about the sensitivities of Jews and are anxious to stampout any sign of anti-Semitism within German society no matter how high-ranking and powerful the perpetrator might be. The African-American community in the United States and I suspect black people worldwide will be watching very closely to see how the German government and especially Chancellor Angela Merkel deals with this disgusting display of blatant racism within Germany's military. We don't expect much considering your country's history and much of your society's present-day attitudes toward these types of issues that are of such great concern to black people, but we will be expecting something...very soon. I hope that this response has helped to "enlighten you" about how I personally feel about this as you requested. Perhaps you would like to hear the opinion of a black German academic about this matter, someone who has served in conflict zones (Kosovo) as a member of the German Army? Of course Jörg or I would have to translate what he has written to me "auf Deutsch" so as to share it with Atlantic Reivew readers who do not have good German language skills. Related news articles: Bloomberg News Network Merkel's CDU Welcomes Necessary Apology for Nazi Remarks http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601100&sid=apXEpuY.jSs0&refer=germany Spiegel International (Germany) Target Practice in the Bronx - German Army to Investigate Racist Incident http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,477530,00.html

Bill on :

Jörg, to demonstrate that I try to be fair in my criticisms of such "incidents" within the BRD you may want to check my "smackdown" of an article that was published to the brand new online news and blog platform African Path on April 15th. Check the comment thread and particularly my brief comment at the end. African Path Latest German disaster validated "black paranoia" http://www.africanpath.com/p_blogentry.cfm?blogentryid=604 I like the Swastika image appearing in the upper right-hand corner of the page as confirmation that this article and its author is going "over the top". Racism is an ugly thing no matter what color the perp, black or white.

Zyme on :

Bill - please hold your breath and calm down will you? :) This incident surely was nothing but a private joke of the instructor and you can tell by the video it was never expected to reach a broad audience. here is a link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGY11XvRZcE It is quite common that soldiers get relocated among such incidents, so nothing special here. You do not really expect leading politicians to comment on misbehavior of every lower rank soldier, do you ? :)

Don S on :

I thought this was the custome in Germany, Zyme! After all there was quite a bit of comment (from German politicians and media figures) about the actions of 'lower-ranking' US soldiers at Abu Ghraib, amongst others. But that's different, eh? Two countires - one full of evil fascists and the other the Land of the Virtuous. Snicker....

Zyme on :

Don - please tell me: Do you seriously consider both incidents comparable?

David on :

I happen to be in New York City tonight and the German video of the racist drill instructor is all over the local television here. Local TV news has been interviewing African-Americans in the Bronx. You can be sure that New Yorkers will not let this story rest until there is an apology from someone high up in Berlin.

Zyme on :

Really? I mean they must have a pretty boring society if there is nothing more important to report about than an amateur video of 90 secs shot with a cell phone thousands of miles away. Alternatively, something is very wrong with their self-esteem. You could expect an apology from someone high up if this "high up" had behaved like this. We usually don´t apologize for others misbehavior, you know. Americans sure are a funny people. Always trying to be tough ones, while easily starting to cry because of "discrimination" at the smallest incident.

Bill L on :

Zyme, quit insulting my society unless you are prepared for a dose of your own medicine. I take offense at your anti-American remarks characterizing American society as boring, laughable, crybabies, hollow, and thinking badly of ourselves. And since you are talking mainly about the black people of NY, your remarks are racist as well. Black Americans aren't boring, laughable, crybabies, hollow, and don't think badly of themselves, either. You are an example of the nationalistic anti-American and racist bigotry pervasive throughout YOUR society. Like the editor of that Berlin paper last year who said that American soldiers are basically beasts, because they're mostly non-white and white trash. Then she looks suprized and goes "Huh?" when somebody points out the racism in that attitude. Not too smart. Not too smart to always see your faults in others.

Zyme on :

Bill I can tell you what proves self esteem among a society: When ordinary americans speak badly of germans, you would have to look hard to find someone as devoted to transatlantic relations as Jorg is and might give a f*** about it. And what shows us that some people lack self esteem? "Oh good Lord (err President)! Help us! Someguy who lives somewhere in the world made a bad joke about black people in the Bronx! Condemn this scandal as fast as you can or we will be forced to ... err... make jokes about them as well! We mean it!" :D

Bill L on :

You asked for it. You don't get a different set of rules to play by. I told you to be prepared for a dose of your own medicine. Yes I know what proves low self-esteem in a person or a society: having to tear others down to feel good about yourselves, that's what. The supriority act is compensatory for low self esteem. That's because people who feel good about themselves don't have to go around tearing others down off "that pedestal" like a rapist does. Too complex? Well then, just consider it a kind of baptism, to cleanse yourselves by giving others a mudbath. You know, smearing your stains off on the shiny spots of others that put you to shame. Still too hard for you to understand? It's just projection - projecting your own character flaws and sins off onto the images of others and trashing them to look good by comparisson. So, the low self-esteem of German society is deplorable and pathetic. Indistinguiashable from malignant narcissism as far as I can see. What a bunch of losers. Such people we do not want close relations with. Every time they need to shake themselves off, we're gonna get another mudbath, so it's best to stay out of range. I mean, after all, you trash-talkers detest us. So, bye.

Zyme on :

Maybe we don´t have to tear others down - maybe we are just more critical and more aware of misdevelopments because of a longer historical background? "Well then, just consider it a kind of baptism, to cleanse yourselves by giving others a mudbath. You know, smearing your stains off on the shiny spots of others that put you to shame." Oh Bill - don´t you realize that this would only possibly work if our societies belonged to the same culture? "I mean, after all, you trash-talkers detest us. So, bye." Ok - goodbye :)

Volker on :

I'm with Zyme, this is so ridiculous. Next time I want an apology from your president, when Steve Carrell does the "German Guy Who Says Nice Things" routine on TV again.

Bill L on :

I had to read this twice: "Don't exaggerate the extent of anti-American feeling. The US should identify its real enemies." How twisted one must be to twist that thought a full 180 degrees like that! Who are the ones identifying others as the enemy? The anti-Americans, that's who! The anti-Americans are the ones who should identify their real enemies. Sheesh. This gobbdygook reminds me of the sorcerers Dante described with their heads twisted all the way around to face off their backsides. Do Euros not see what the propagandists doing to your brains? (Oh, I forgot, WE'RE the ones who are supposed to be brainwashed.) What makes you think that continued close relations between America and Europe would be a good thing? What makes you think Europe can do what it has done and then just act like it didn't happen to bring things back to the way they were before? Let's get real.

Don S on :

Despite the somewhat misleading headling, Bill, there was a fair bit of good sense in that piece. I would extend it further and say that the US should also identify it's real allies - and those who are not. Policy should change appropriately. I think this may already be occuring. The number of US bases in Germany seem to be shrinking. A number were closed in 2006 and an even larger number will close in 2007 and again in 2008. Against that is the fact that two bases are expanding (no new bases however). This may be rationalisation but I suspect that the US presense in Germany is shrinking rather quickly. They aren't publicising it however.

Pat Patterson on :

This base closing issue was discussed here a few weeks ago and the total number of servicemen stationed in Germany has increased slightly but many of those are serving a tour of duty in Iraq. Some small bases have been closed and the personnel transferred to the bigger bases and a sizeable number of dependents have been sent back to the US. But only if they want to go and housing is available. Lots of arm waving and hand wringing but the status quo ante remains essentially the same. Now about all those German, Polish and Romanian pilots in Arizona?

Fuchur on :

This incident is the most ridiculous non-story I've seen in a long time. The only scandal here is that the poor instructor got in trouble for this!

Mona Sax on :

US soldiers routinely referring to the Vietnamese as "gooks" and the Iraqis as "sand niggers" is altogether a different subject, isn`t it ? http://www.mindsay.com/comments/news/mccain_still_calls_asians_gooks_do_you_care.mws

Joe Noory on :

How would you know? [i]Of course, McCain, a former Navy pilot, was held captive in a Vietnamese prison for 5 years, so he has plenty of reason to be upset. But, is it appropriate for a Presidential candidate to still use a racial slur so publicly?[/i] Never mind that in 2000, he had already stopped being a Presidential candidate. Andrew Cantor, who does not have any sort of citation for the story, can't seem to see the [url=http://www.kantor.com/blog/2008/05/mccain-on-gooks-and-torture/#comments]bigot[/url]ry in his own hatred though: [i]Which begs the question: If you hate them so much because they beat and tortured your friends, how the hell can you support the United States continuing to use and support torture, you hypocritical, [b]senile, flip-flopping un-American jerk[/b]?[/i] Hatred, of course doesn't count when you're a leftist.

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