Werewolves of blundering
Local columnist James Goldsborough has been thinking about the Condoleeza Rice and her references to the post WWII German “werewolves”:
Last August, Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, gave her “werewolf” speech. At the time, the Iraq occupation was losing public support because of continued attacks on U.S. troops three months after President Bush declared the war over. Rice sought to calm fears.
Not to worry, she said. The violence in Iraq was “normal” postwar chaos that soon would pass. Just as Hitler’s “werewolves” had attacked U.S. occupying forces in Germany in 1945, she said, Iraqi diehards were attacking U.S. forces today. As in Germany, it would come to nothing.
Rice gave her speech the first week of August, when 58 U.S. troops had been killed since Bush declared the war over in May. Today that figure is 356, for a total U.S. Iraq death figure of at least 495.
Rice’s reference to Germany surprised me. History barely mentions the werewolves, who never posed a security problem. Antony Beevor, in his “The Fall of Berlin, 1945,” mentions werewolves only as a demented idea in the mind of propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels and dying with him in Hitler’s bunker on May 1, 1945.
My column on Rice’s werewolf speech drew angry responses. Several readers sent me a Reuters dispatch from 1945 to prove I was wrong and demand a retraction. Because I had consulted with several German experts (including Alfons Heck, a German leader of the Hitler Youth in 1945), I declined the correction.
I dug out the Reuters dispatch, reread it, and called historian Fritz Stern, professor emeritus at Columbia and an expert on Germany.
“They didn’t amount to much at all,” said Stern.
“I found it absurd,” said Stern.
I read him some of the dispatch.
“It sounds fraudulent,” said Stern.
I called Reuters in London. No help.
I called Washington, dateline of the dispatch. Shunted around, I finally came to Bernd Debusmann, news editor at Reuters America.
“Yes, I know about that,” he said, “and it isn’t ours. We’re as puzzled about it as you are, but can’t find where it came from. It’s been on the Internet for about nine months.”
Nine months? That would be April, four months before Rice made her speech. She never identified her source. Could she have used the bogus Reuters story from the Internet?
I called the NSC, and was referred to speech-writer Michael Anton. I left messages asking for Rice’s source on werewolves. That’s not too tough a request for a public servant.
I’m still waiting for an answer.