Abu Ghraib and American Culture in the Light of Nazi Germany

Sandy Lambrecht

May 3, 2004

Dear Sir,

Although I am not familiar with your work or your web page, I came to the same conclusions. My interest stems from the Nazi occupation that my family endured, and the dynamics that made the whole Nazi ideology possible. When I saw this horrific mindset evolving right before my eyes, it was at first extremely terrifying. It didn't help that the first time I spoke out about it, I was threatened with hate mail, phone calls, and my computer was hacked. That's when I realized things had gone too far already. I did know what to expect from the invasion and occupation by an arrogant, self-righteous, self-deluded, egomaniacal self-congratulating military sent by a deluded, messianic, ignorant leader. I'd seen the use of lies and propaganda before - behold the new Master Race, following the Nazi playbook almost to the letter. And I'm a conservative.

The one thing that eluded me for so many years after the war was how the German people - our neighbors only a few kilometres away - could turn into such horrific monsters. Group dynamics doesn't explain it quite as well as actually experiencing the phenomena, but your analysis should be required reading for every single person in any alleged 'democracy'. I still can't see how so many people can be so blind - not my (former) friends and neighbors, at least. I can understand the cognitive dissonance - how soldiers compartmentalize and obey orders - but not the people safe here at home going along with it - the denial is so pervasive that it boggles the mind. Maybe it's because the issue was never settled over the Vietnam War - everyone just tried to bury the atrocities under the rug - but that just allowed it all to fester and grow. I think Iraq was revenge by people who didn't want to admit they were wrong in Vietnam - not that the US couldn't win, but that it had committed horrific war crimes on a scale never before seen. Maybe that's why Vietnam is being discussed again.

I think confession is good for the soul - and that's something too many Americans have avoided. Even now, there is no outrage - no call to investigate the armed forces and their training and leadership. That's been at the top of my list for decades - I object to brainwashing techniques used to break down recruits and then indoctrinate them with hatred, misogyny, and racism - and that's exactly what's been done, at least since Korea. There never was the viciousness - the torture - of so many combat troops to turn them into killers during WWII. I've had old soldiers turn away in disgust when they hear about how combat troops and special forces are now indoctrinated. Something has changed - and it goes beyond discipline - it borders on perversion. My understanding is that most any soldier will fight to defend his own country - but to send troops around the world as occupiers, you need a different kind of soldier - an imperial soldier who sees everyone else as inferior. And that's exactly what the US has done - new bases expanding all the time. That our own Constitution prohibits that doesn't seem to bother anyone - perhaps it should. Maybe those Founders knew something about all this.

I knew what our soldiers would do to the Iraqi people - after all, look what they did in Vietnam, and then Afghanistan. Look what our own police do right here at home. Brutality is so commonplace here - it might as well be a police state. Just this weekend there was another protest march in the Twin Cities against police brutality. If people do that to their own citizens - what should we expect when they go abroad, bringing 'liberation' to the poor souls suffering under Saddam - the new 'evil' demonized by this irresponsible administration. I'd swear people here think Iraqis live in caves! And I'm disgusted by the way national grief was appropriated to build careers and develop long-hidden agendas of global domination. I'm sick of the propaganda, sick of the lies, sick of the character assassination - and sick of the apathy and elitism.

I did send an e-mail to Riverbend, trying to explain exactly what you said in this article - that people who do such terrible things are often no different than your or I - that we can't call them 'perverted' or 'evil' or 'beasts' - or it will happen again. That they have allowed themselves to be manipulated, and although they must be held responsible, they must not be demonized. I hope she understands what I tried to tell her - that it might help coming from one victim of war to another.

I guess my parents did a pretty good job of explaining how atrocities happen - but it's been traumatic for me these last few years - childhood fears, the ghosts of Nazis, haunt me - these wars have been devastating. I've tried to talk to others without such experience - but you can't tell them about the atrocities - nobody can, really. They wouldn't believe it anyway. How many parents now believe their children have partaken of such brutality in Iraq and Afghanistan? They're all in denial, of course. Not their kids. Denial is the American way. That's why Americans are so cruel - it's so easy to hide in self-righteousness. I was never allowed to do that - maybe that's why I read all the same reports you did - and I knew what wasn't being reported. Besides, I'd heard all that before - and I've stared into those shell-shocked gaunt empty faces, and watched them stumbling through the rubble, mumbling to themselves and searching for what I don't know. It's too easy to feel sorry for those people - my family among them. To think less of them - to believe you'd be stronger. I thought that's what turned me against these wars - but now I think it was the way wars and atrocities were explained to me by my parents - because now I have a new question. Why are some of us not taken in by this siren song of conquering heroes? Why do some of us refuse to see others as lesser beings? Why don't we take advantage? Why are we unwilling to trade our souls for whatever the Master Race gets out of this? We're not the losers that the fanatics claim - after all, we've survived and prospered through war after war after war - all the endless wars that plagued Europe. None of our families were protected as Americans think they are - even soldiers know it's just dumb luck. Imagine how civilians feel without heavy arms and armor - but then, Americans don't worry about civilians - they just get in the way. Civilians cause problems - they had to stop the war in Fallujah because of those damned civilians! Bet that really got them PO'd. At least they leveled part of the city first - got their revenge. The Nazis used to do that too - murdered everybody in Stavelot for collaborating. Nobody likes to think of themselves as the new Nazis - but that's just what they are - and they ought to be just as ashamed of their disgraceful behavior - but they aren't. A lot of Nazis weren't either - they were outraged at being accused. And the SS thought of themselves as 'Knights' - defending ??? I forgot what they were defending in their twisted madness. But they did feel that they were sacrificing for their country - Heynrich and Himmler - their messianic madness. Lord of the Flies.

I'm sorry this got to be so long, but like you, I suppose, I want someone to remember - someone to know - someone to tell the real story, just like those who told the truth about the Nazis. It isn't anti-American to remind people that US soldiers commit atrocities too - that our police are brutal and violate human rights every day. That if we are not all vigilant - if we don't talk about this - it will never end. I was so angry when Saddam was being demonized - it was outrageous, the pot calling the kettle black. And now this. For once, I wish I could be wrong. Now the military is threatening to attack Fallujah again - Americans are always trying to 'teach them a lesson' whoever 'them' happens to be this time. Sometimes it's just their wives or kids. I'm so glad they left Europe after a very short occupation - it didn't take long to wear out their welcome. At least my family is safe this time.

My greatest fear about the American invasions was liberation - who was going to free all those people enslaved by the US? I really was afraid it would become another Vietnam, with the country bombed flat and many millions killed. It's looking a little more hopeful - but how does anyone defeat an enemy who occupies your own country? How do we defeat these fascists that have taken over our government? Doesn't anyone else here care? I find it frightening to live in a country so deep in denial - I don't want to make the mistake the Jews made in Europe - I don't want to think it won't happen here - I don't want to wait too long to get out. But it is so hard now - no one wants American citizens. We're a liability - a target for retribution. Even my own family raises hell with me - why don't we do something about these crazy people in government? What the hell is the matter with Americans? I just don't know what to say. I just couldn't face them anymore - it's so shameful. I'm beginning to hate Americans - and I never even hated the Nazis. But then, I wasn't one of them.

Thanks for letting me get some of this burden off my soul. I'm glad there are others who understand - and care.

Sandy Lambrecht,
Menomonie, WI