Archive for August, 2017

“Beyond the triumph of the landings accomplished and the enemy
defeated, the D-Day literature has never found complacency easy to come by.
Some of the earliest commentators were scathing. Liddell Hart, J.F.C. Fuller,
Chester Wilmont were all critical of both the generalship and the fighting power
of the Allies. The 1950s and 1960s saw a wave of recrimination amongst the
leading commanders of the invasion forces, divided above all over by the
retrospective posturing of Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery. At stake was
more than Montie’s status as a great commander, in his disagreements with
Bradley and Eisenhower a more fundamental clash between hidebound British
conservatism and the dash and glamour of American modernity was
encapsulated. In 1983 Carlo D’Este’s Decision in Normandy not only adjudicated

this argument, but provided a compelling narrative of how the postwar myth of
Normandy and the controversy around it had taken shape. By then, however,
the currents in the wider historiography had moved on. The argument between
the Allies was displaced by invidious comparisons drawn between all of them
and their Wehrmacht opponents. Whilst the wider historical literature moved in
the 1980s to an ever more determined “othering” of the Nazi regime on account
of its radical racism, amongst the military intelligentsia the reverse tendency
prevailed. For analysts concerned to hone the “military effectiveness” of NATO’s
armies in Cold War Europe, the Germans were not just different. They were
better. As Colonel Trevor N. Dupuy the leader of the new breed of quantitative
battlefield analysts put it: “On a man for man basis, the German ground soldier
consistently inflicted casualties at about a 50% higher rate than they incurred
from the opposing British and American troops UNDER ALL

Inverting the terms of the earlier debate about generalship, Max Hastings
in 1983 arrived at the cruel conclusion that it was not Montgomery who had
failed his troops, but the other way around. As Hastings put it: “Montgomery’s
massive conceit masked the extent to which his own generalship in Normandy
fell victim to the inability of his army to match the performance of their
opponents on the battlefield.” “There was nothing cowardly about the
performance of the British army in Normandy”, Hastings hastened to add. But it
was simply too much to expect a “citizen army in the fifth year of war, with the
certainty of victory in the distance” to match the skill and ferocity of the
Wehrmacht at bay. It is worth remembering that Hastings concluded his D-Day
book shortly after participating as an embedded reporter in the Falklands
campaign, in which the highly professional British army humbled a much larger
force of Argentinian conscripts. And he did not hesitate to draw conclusions
from D-Day for NATO in the 1980s. Given the overwhelming conventional
superiority of the Warsaw Pact, the “armies of democracy” needed critically to
examine their own history: “If a Soviet invasion force swept across Europe from
the east, it would be unhelpful if contemporary British or American soldiers
were trained and conditioned to believe that the level of endurance and sacrifice
displayed by the Allies in Normandy would suffice to defeat the invaders. For an
example to follow in the event of a future European battle, it will be necessary to
look to the German army; and to the extraordinary defence that its men

conducted in Europe in the face of all the odds against them, and in spite of their
own demented Führer.”

In the 1980s, whilst for liberal intellectuals Holocaust consciousness
served to buttress a complacent identification with the “values of the West”, the
military intelligentsia were both far less sanguine about a dawning end of
history, in which their role seemed far less self-evident, and far more ambiguous
in the use the made of the history of Nazi Germany. The most striking instance of
this kind of militarist cultural critic was the Israeli military historian Martin van
Creveld, who was not then the marginal figure that he was to become in the
2000s. His Fighting Power published in 1982 was at the center of the “military
effectiveness” debates that were convulsing the American army in the wake of
Vietnam.  Why van Creveld asked had the German army not only fought better
but held together in the face of overwhelming odds, why did it not “run”, why
did it not “disintegrate” and why did it not “frag its officers.” Creveld’s answer
was simple. The Germans fought well because they were members of a “well
integrated well led team whose structure administration and functioning were
perceived to be …. Equitable and just.” Their leaders were first rate and despite
the totalitarian regime they served were empowered to employ their freedom
and initiative wherever possible. By contrast the social segregation in America’s
army was extreme. “American democracy” Creveld opined “fought world war II
primarily at the expense of the tired, the poor the huddled masses” “between
America’s second rate junior officers “ and their German opposite numbers there
simply is no comparison possible.” On the battlefield Nazi Volksgemeinschaft
trumped Western class society.

If despite these devastating deficiencies, the allies had nevertheless
prevailed, the reason was not military but economic. Overwhelming material
superiority decided the outcome. Brute Force was the title chosen by John Ellis for
his powerful summation. It was a conclusion backed up by economic histories
that began to be published at the time. The Allies waged a “rich man’s war”
against a vastly inferior enemy. In the mayhem of the Falaise Gap, the Allies
were shocked to find the grisly carcasses of thousands of dead horses mingled
with the Wehrmacht’s abandoned armor and burned-out soft-skinned vehicles.

What hope did the half-starved slave economy of Nazi-occupied Europe have of
competing with the Allies’ oil-fuelled, globe-spanning war machine?

But it was not just the battlefield contest and its material background that
were being reexamined from the 1970s onwards. So too was the methodology of
military history and its mode of story telling. The juxtaposition of Carlo D’Este’s
Decision in Normandy and Max Hasting’s Overlord published within months of
each in 1983-1984 marks a moment of transition. D’Este offers a classic view from
the top, focusing on the high command. Hastings assembles his history from the
bottom up. His was, one is tempted to say, a social history of combat – organized
around the category of experience, intimate, personal and graphically violent. In
this respect Hastings followed in the deep footprints left by John Keegan’s pathbreaking,
The Face of Battle (1976). The image that Hastings painted was savage.
The struggle waged in Normandy was no “clean war”. Appalling death and
destruction scarred the battlefield. Casualty rates in the frontline spearhead units
of the Allied units ran well above 100 percent by the end of 1944. Hastings did
not deny the atrocities committed by the German soldiers he recommended as an
example for NATO. But he leveled the score by pointing out how frequently the
Allies armies shot both prisoners and men trying to surrender. Savagery began
savagery in a loop that was more anthropological than political.

And if violence was no longer taboo then this went for the civilians as
much as the soldiers. Since the early 2000s, a powerful new strand of literature
has sought to address the enormous collateral damaged produced in the course
of the landings and the way in which “liberated” France struggled to come to
terms with its profoundly ambiguous experience. Ground and naval artillery,
but above all air power wrecked French cities and claimed tens of thousands of
lives. Tellingly this research took place in the context of a wider and highly
critical investigation of the Allied strategic air war directed by Richard Overy. It
was flanked by a more wide-ranging inter-disciplinary enquiry into liberal
societies and war. In the aftermath of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the
legal questions posed by a new era of long-range and remote killing, the question
hung in the air. Was the use of force by the Allied forces in Normandy
proportionate? Did it constitute a crime against the French civilian population?
The ambiguity of liberation is brought home most recently by Mary Louise

Roberts What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II (Chicago, 2014).
She describes how the bodies of French women were made the eroticized booty
of the soldiers of the “Great Crusade.”

In World War II, there was nothing like the conscientious objection
movement on the Allied side that there had been in World War I. But given the
scale of the violence that they were dealing out in the final stages of the war, it is
not surprising that at least some people spoke out in protest. Opposition to the
destruction being wrought ranged from outraged ethical criticism in the House
of Lords to the shock of a corporal in the 4th Dorsets who later recalled the
incongruity of bursting into a French home during house to house fighting:
‘There we were, wrecking this house, and I suddenly thought – “How would I
feel if this was mine?” In 1940 the British Expeditionary Force in France had
been under strict instructions to avoid all damage to French property, including
a prohibition on knocking loopholes in brick walls so as to create firing positions.
Now the Allied forces were reducing entire cities to rubble. But horrific as the
bombardments clearly were, research on the British side does not suggest that
revulsion was the general response. The war had to be won and if firepower kept
Allied soldiers out of harms way, so be it. Few allied soldiers apologize for the
material preponderance they commanded. Many of them clearly relished the
spectacle. For the commanders the war might be an end in itself, an opportunity
to write their names into the annals of military history. For the vast majority of
their troops it was a job to be accomplished. The Germans were to be defeated
with whatever means and manpower was available to crush them. In so doing,
the Allies may not have matched the military skill of the Wehrmacht. But it was
not merely brute force. The Allied war effort had its own logic – political,
strategic, operational, tactical and technical. Rescuing this logic from the
damning but tightly circumscribed judgments of the “military effectiveness”
literature, has been the purpose of two decades of revisionist scholarship.”

– Adam Tooze, “Blitzkrieg manqué or a new kind of war?: Interpreting the Allied Victory in the Normandy campaign.” Working paper, Columia, 2016.  


Read Full Post »

course, the problem of the younger prisoner was hardly a discovery of
New Deal-era New Yorkers. The reformatory movement of the
nineteenth-century had first brought attention to the problems of the
young first-time offender, and the juvenile court movement had
focused attention on the judicial handling of delinquent and
incorrigible children. But a newer element in the reformist language
of the 1930s was the growing focus on ‘youth’ or ‘adolescence’
as a formally defined period of transition between childhood and
adulthood, as to use this period as a meaningful concept in criminal
justice practice. The problem of the adolescent in the thirties was
largely defined by the growing gap between the end of formal
schooling and the start of full-time productive labor, a concern made
more pressing with each pssing year of the Great Depression. Efforts
to bridge this period of enforced idleness gave rise to two
significant New Deal programs, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)
and the National Youth Administration (NYA), both of which focused on
the problem of employment for adolescents after they left
public schooling. The American Youth Commission, organized by the
American Council on Education in 1935 to consider the needs of youth
(defined as between the ages of 16 and 24), concluded, ‘All aspects
of a health transition from youth to adult life depended’ on
successful employment and work experiences following school.

MacCormick would come to embrace the CCC model and the transformative
power of work experiences. He observed the CCC youth ‘didn’t want
to go at first, they were pretty pale when they went, they didn’t
look much like workers, but when they came back they had esprit de
corps, their muscles had begun to develop, they stood up straight,
they were brown and a great many of them weathered some terrible
years in which they would have otherwise got into trouble.’ For
MacCormick, the CCC was one model of what the state could do to fill
the gap between youth and adulthood.

1936, MacCormick partnered with the Osborne Association in developing
a vocational demonstration project, for the purpose of placing youth
prisoners ‘in worth-while jobs, preferably on the basis of their
interests and their training.’ He recruited Viola Ilma, former head
of the American Youth Congress and author of And Now, Youth!, to
direct the demonstration. But the problem of enforced idleness was
not simply a concern after release, but a condition of
confinement as well. Here, the problem of youth idleness was linked
to the more general problems of prisoner idleness related to the long
campaign against for-profit prison industries. For the reformers, the
lack of productive labor produced a throwback to retrograde
conditions. MacCormick seconded the criticism writing that ‘nothing
has been more harmful and shameful in our recent penal history than
the idleness in our prisons for all age groups…the young prisoner,
particularly, needs to have his day full to the brim with work and
training, balanced by recreation and a variety of character-building
activities that use up his energies to the limit.’

push for engaging the energies of the delinquent adolescent was
coupled with an important, though little-remembered, effort to extend
the concept of the juvenile court upward into the realm of the
adolescent offender. Harry M. Shulman’s 1931 study of the
sixteen-to-twenty-year-old offender in New York City bluntly stated
that it was ‘without logical or scientific foundation’ to handle
young men in this age range in the same fashion as adult offenders.
MacCormick summarized the argument in favor of such an

Too many youths who should be given probation
are committed to an institution for  punitive reasons, while youths
who required institutional training are put on probation as an act of
misguided leniency…The surest way to reduce the margin of error is
by a thorough pre-sentence investigation. This should not only include
the complete information on the current offense and the offender’s
previous criminal record, but also his family history, his personal
history and community background, pertinent data from medical,
psychiatric and psychological examination, and so forth. The judge
should give careful consideration to all this material before passing

a coherent process, MacCormick argued, ‘the hapless delinquent is
passed from one to another like lumber through various processing
plants. Almost inevitably the mass-produced end result proves a
perverse failure, for unfortunately the delinquent boy is not
lumber.’ The cure for mass processing was to embrace the
individualized model of the juvenile court and dispense with the
patterns of routine characteristic of the criminal courts.”

– Joseph F. Spillane, Coxsackie: The Life and Death of Prison Reform. Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 2014. pp. 27-28

Read Full Post »

Ben Shahn, “Cotton checker, Pulaski County, Arkansas.” 

Gelatin silver print photograph, 1935. 

Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Transfer from the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, 2011. #2.2002.3104.

Read Full Post »

“Rustler Suspect Has Fled County – Gordon Calvert Believed Heading North,” Toronto Globe. August 27, 1936. Page 10

“Belleville, Aug. 26 (CP) – Inspector Frank Gardner of the Provincial Police said today he believed Gordon Calvert, for whom a warrant has been issued charging with theft of forty-five head of cattle, is not in Hastings County.

‘We have not seen Calvert since he escaped Monday noon into the bush after he was seen driving the cattle from Crookston to Ivanhoe. The department is handicapped by lack of constables, many of whom are on duty at Cornwall, but I have called in two officers from Minden and Bancroft, and an active search will be made for the wanted,’ he said.

He believes Calvert hid on Monday night, and then made his way north. He is said to know the district well.

The cattle stolen from Northumberland County farmers were recovered by a police officer who had heard reports of a herd being rushed through Ivanhoe at night, and investigated.”

Read Full Post »

“Camp Borden Sees Battle,” Ottawa Evening Citizen, August 27, 1937. Page 03.

“Camp Borden resounded to the sound of battle as the Royal Canadian Regiment staged maneuvers.  On one side of the sandy dunes were the ‘enemy’ (above) waiting for the attack.  The onslaught came with tanks (below).  But the sounds of fighting were limited to the rumble of war machines and barked commands of officers.  Rifle, artillery and anti-tank fire were imaginary and no cases of shellshock were reported.”

Read Full Post »


August 26, 2017: a new episode of The Anatomy Lesson at 11pm EST on CFRC 101.9 FM Deconstructed dance. Music by Ciarra Black, Wetware, Karen Gwyer, german-army, Marie Davidson, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, Punctum (Caterina Barbieri + Carlo Maria), Sanctums, E-Saggila + more. Check out the setlist below, tune in at 101.9 on your FM dial, stream at http://audio.cfrc.ca:8000/listen.pls or download the finished show after airing at cfrc.ca or on mixcloud here: https://www.mixcloud.com/cameronwillis1232/the-anatomy-lesson-august-26-2017/

Wetware – “When You Respond” Salpinx (2017)
Rosin-Handel – “Aural Excitement” Define By Example (1987)
German Army – “Oecussi” Pacific Plastic (2017)
Bellows – “Untitled #6” Strand (2017)
Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe – “Mirrors and Assassins” Two Orb Reel (2017)
Sanctums – “A Thousand Mile Stare” Migrant Workers (2016)
Dillon – “Nowhere” The Unknown (2014)
Hanz – “Count” Reducer (2014)
E-Saggila – “Oil Vapour Rises” Old Orders of Beauty (2016)
Punctum – “Glory Bitch” Punctum (2017)
Marie Davidson – “La Femme Écarlate” Adieux Au Dancefloor (2016)
Karen Gwyer – “Did You Hear the Owls Last Night?” Rembo (2017)
Ciarra Black – “Translation None” Pendulum (2016)

Read Full Post »

“During the more than two decades that Joe Arpaio served as sheriff of Maricopa County, overseeing the jail system, millions of dollars would be paid out in lawsuits over the deaths of inmates. In 1996, Scott Norberg died after being suffocated in one of Arpaio’s “restraint chairs,” after being descended on by “fourteen guards beating, shocking, and suffocating [him].” They were, said an eyewitness inmate, “like a pack of dogs.” After the Sheriff’s Office was accused of discarding evidence in the case, including the deceased’s crushed larynx, his family received an $8 million settlement. In 2015, Felix Torres was pulled over on his bicycle for riding the wrong way up the street, and found to be in possession of drug paraphernalia. While in jail awaiting trial, he was taken to the County Medical Center for severe stomach pain. Though Torres said he had a history of ulcers, doctors decided he had a hernia, and gave him a drug not recommended for people with ulcers. After being returned to jail, Torres, “spent the next few days crying, writhing in pain, and begging guards to help him or take him to the hospital.” Torres began “banging on his cell door and asking for help,” but an officer told him “You’re bullshitting… go to sleep.” On the night he died, Torres asked multiple officers for help, telling them he was dying. “You’re fucking faking it,” one replied. Torres’s family would receive $1 million. (And while it should make no difference, we might bear in mind that at the time of his death, Felix Torres was an innocent man.)

Felix Torres was the latest in what the Phoenix New-Times had begun calling Joe Arpaio’s “parade of corpses,” with “endless” numbers of court cases over “needless deaths and injuries in the jails.” Arpaio refused to disclose the number of deaths in his facility, despite evidence that inmates were committing suicide at a rate that “dwarfed” other county jails.

But it was not just those who died in Arpaio’s jails that suffered. Everyone did, because Arpaio made clear he wanted them to. Even though most of the inmates were legally innocent, Arpaio called them “criminals” and thought up ever-more sadistic treatments for them. First, of course, were the infamous tents: inmates would be forced to live without air conditioning in the Arizona heat, which reached well above 110 degrees. (At one point it reached 145 within the tents, causing the inmates’ shoes to melt.) Even the showers provided no relief; they were kept near boiling temperature. Winter was somehow even worse: the tents were unheated, but Arpaio would not permit warm clothing, not even a jacket. A former inmate wrote in the Washington Post that it was “freezing, achingly cold,” and that detainees wrapped their extremities with plastic bags. “I was in so much pain,” he said, that even now he cannot be cold without being reminded of it. 

Arpaio instituted chain gangs, and boasted that he had the first all-female chain gangs, soon to be followed by juvenile chain gangs. He took away every small comfort that could possibly make life in such conditions tolerable: no coffee, no cigarettes, no newspapers, no television. (Sometimes he permitted The Weather Channel “so these morons will know how hot it’s going to be while they are working on my chain gangs.”) He fed inmates meals that cost as little as 15 cents each, and was proud of the fact that the food was rotten and contaminated. Only two meals were provided per day, leading some inmates to lose unhealthy amounts of weight (a federal court eventually ordered Arpaio to meet USDA requirements), and Arpaio imposed a bread-and-water diet on any detainee found committing an “unpatriotic act.”

Medical care for those who suffered from mental illness was “dangerously inadequate.” Arpaio “tortured inmates who were on psychotropic medication by locking them in unbearably hot solitary confinement cells.” Those with physical vulnerabilities were mistreated, too; a paraplegic had his neck broken by guards and a pregnant woman lost her baby after officers left her in her cell instead of taking her to the hospital. It even took a federal court order to ensure “functional and sanitary toilets and sinks, with toilet paper and soap.” (Take a moment to visualize what happens when an overcrowded group of people does not have access to any of these things.) Arpaio introduced a policy that only those who could prove they were U.S. citizens could visit family in jail, meaning detained immigrants could not see their spouses or children. (At one point, an interpreter and U.S. citizen who worked for the county was also prohibited from entering the facility, because he was a Latino who could not instantly produce paperwork showing his citizenship.) 

None of this served any purpose other than furthering Arpaio’s attempts to build a brand out of callousness. “Jails are intended to be punishment,” Arpaio said (although jail aren’t intended to be punishment, because most people in them haven’t been convicted of a crime yet), and he joked that the facility was his own personal “concentration camp,” dismissing all concerns as “civil rights crap.”

– Nathan J. Robinson, “WAIT, DO PEOPLE ACTUALLY KNOW JUST HOW EVIL THIS MAN IS?Current Affairs. August 26, 2017.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »