REED BONADONNA: Welcome to the Carnegie Council. For the last year or so I've been helping to manage and working with the fellows for "The Living Legacy of the First World War" project. Five of the nine fellows are here to speak to us today and I'm going to introduce them shortly, but before I do that I do want to thank the Carnegie Council, Joel Rosenthal, my program assistant Billy Pickett—taking pictures in the back—I absolutely couldn't have done it without him—the rest of the Carnegie Council staff, the people who've done the podcast and the PR, done the web publishing, and I also wanted to give a shout-out to the catering staff.
So next I want to introduce the fellows in the order of which they will be speaking.
Tanisha Fazal is all the way to the right, a professor at the University of Minnesota, author of the recent book, Wars of Law: Unintended Consequences in the Regulation of Armed Conflict, about the laws governing war and armed conflict.
Next is Chris Capozzola. He is from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a professor of history.
Next is Katherine Akey. She is on the World War I Commission and is also a teacher at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at George Washington University.
Charles Sorrie is a former teacher at Trent University, and he is now living in California and is going to be teaching most likely someplace out there in San Francisco.
Last but not least, Seiko Mimaki, all the way from Takasaki City University of Economics.
They will be talking about a variety of topics.
I just want to kick this off by saying, as a former military professional, I've considered it my professional obligation, in a sense, to try to understand war, or to understand armed conflict. Since war is such a vast and protean topic, this is in fact almost impossible, but nevertheless I think the effort still needs to be made.
On the occasion of a centennial like this one, we have a nice round number, and also an occasion for trying to reach back in the historical record and understand a long departed war.
In a sense, every centennial occurs at the point when the occasion of a centennial has just moved over the horizon of living memory. So, in a sense, this is a test of the historical record, of scholarship—the excellent job done by all these scholars will be of great help today—and of our own imagination and empathy to picture things, to imagine things, which occurred long before we were born.
Probably many of the people on the planet right now—most people on the planet right now—have never spoken to anyone who had an experience of the First World War.
This is all now in the historical record, and these scholars have all done a superb job of recapturing various aspects of the First World War.
We are going to hear today about wounds and weapons, about the causes and recovery from war. We're still far from a cure for war, but, like some other intractable diseases, perhaps war can be managed, it can be controlled, even if we don't fully understand it, even if we're still far away from a complete understanding of this vast and historical and tragic subject of armed conflict.
Starting with Tanisha Fazal, who will lead us off, we are going to try to understand more about this long-ago war.
TANISHA FAZAL: I want to start by thanking the Council, also especially to Reed and to Billy, for their support of this project. It has been a really fruitful year for me.
This project that I'm going to be talking about today is part of a larger book project that argues that in the United States the dramatic improvements that we've seen in military medicine alongside the historic expansion of the veterans benefit system have increased the long-term downstream costs of war in ways that we tend not to appreciate.
While most of the book that I'm writing is structured around specific wars—so looking at developments in military medicine, also veterans benefits in the Civil War; the World Wars; and the counterinsurgency wars of the 21st century—there is also a chapter in the book on war-induced psychological trauma, something along the lines of what we would call today posttraumatic stress (PTS) disorder. This is by far the most challenging chapter of the book to write, and this is what I've been focusing on during my fellowship at the Carnegie Council.
World War I I have found to be an extremely useful entry point into this particular set of issues because it's a turning point for a lot of these questions. Medicine as a profession actually becomes professionalized around the turn of the 20th century, so right before World War I, and psychiatry is in its infancy around the time of World War I. This is the first time, both during and in the immediate aftermath of World War I, when U.S. society has the opportunity to start to address war-induced psychological trauma in a systematic way.
At the same time, there is an overhaul of the veterans benefit system that happens around World War I. Famously, there is a Civil War pension system that was set up after the Civil War that is threatening the fiscal health of the nation because it gets to be so unwieldy financially by the turn of the 20th century, and the United States was reluctant to enter World War I in part because there was this concern of creating a whole new generation of pensioners.
So there was a switch in the way that benefits were going to be delivered to veterans from pensions to rehabilitation, and how this was dealt with in terms of dealing with veterans who had been psychologically traumatized also is something that World War I gives us some interesting purchase on.
What I want to talk about for the rest of my time today is a series of ethical dilemmas that military physicians, and in particular military psychiatrists, have to deal with, and certainly had to deal with, in World War I, dealing with what were then called "neurasthenic" or "shell-shocked" patients.
But before I do that—and we're not going to resolve these ethical dilemmas; I'll give you a sense of how they resolved it, but I think that they are still outstanding in the sense that they are not resolved, but maybe we'll have a framework for discussion.
But before I go into those dilemmas, I need to give you a little bit of background on the history of war-induced psychological trauma and how it has been dealt with in the U.S. military.
Posttraumatic stress disorder—and I'll come back to this in a moment—doesn't appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association until 1980. But war-induced psychological trauma, of course, is as old as war itself.
In the Civil War it was called "soldier's heart" or "nostalgia" or "irritable heart syndrome" sometimes. In World War I, of course, it was called "shell shock" or "neurasthenia." In World War II there was a strategic renaming of shell shock to either "combat exhaustion" or "battle fatigue," and I'm happy to talk about that in Q&A. Then, after the Vietnam War, we had posttraumatic stress disorder. Today there's a new set of diagnoses emerging around something called "moral injury."
One of the really challenging things about looking at war-induced psychological trauma over time is that not only have the names changed, but also it's quite possible that the illness itself changes over time. There is no way clinically to say that somebody who had a diagnosis of soldier's heart in 1863 would have gotten a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder today. We just can't tell; we don't know.
But also it's quite possible that the presentation of these kinds of illnesses, the symptoms, are going to vary as wars change, as theaters of conflict change, and also as society changes, and that's part of the reason it's so hard to look at this historically, but I think also really rewarding.
One of the interesting entry points for me is thinking about the military medical ethical piece of this set of questions. Military physicians are in a position of what's sometimes called "mixed agency," which is to say that they have a duty to their patients—they take the Hippocratic Oath; they're supposed to do what's beneficial for their patients—but they're also military officers, and so they have to do what's good for the military unit, and they have to obey orders, and if they don't, they could be court-martialed.
This creates a clear conflict. In fact, the motto or the aim of the military medical corps is "to preserve the fighting strength of the nation." But, of course, if you're treating somebody in a war, then you're treating them with the purpose of returning them to duty where there's a very good likelihood that they're going to be injured. So, just from the get-go we can see that there are some conflicts here. But there is a specific set of conflicts around war-induced psychological trauma, and I want to talk about them in terms of what's best for the patient in diagnosing and treating war-induced psychological trauma and what might be best for the unit, and I'll give you a sense of how these were resolved as well.
In thinking about what's best for the patient, military psychiatrists in World War I knew that their field was a very new field, and so one of their ethical dilemmas was: "Can I actually give this person good care? What's the standard of care? What's the quality of care?"
This was also at a time when understandings of shell shock were very dynamic; they were changing on a monthly basis. There was also a concern that if you gave somebody a shell shock diagnosis, then you might be stigmatizing that person.
But really the main concern that a lot of these physicians were dealing with was how to sort out potential malingerers. They were convinced that shell shock was a legitimate illness, but they were very concerned because this is a class of what is sometimes called "invisible injuries," that people were essentially faking their symptoms in order to get out of the war, to be discharged or to be evacuated. My read of the history here is that most of these military psychiatrists didn't believe that there were a lot of people who were outright malingering, but they were concerned that there were people who were subconsciously malingering, that their symptoms were psychosomatic essentially; or that someone might legitimately have a less acute form of shell shock and be incentivized to exaggerate those symptoms.
A related concern was that if you treated that person, if you evacuated them to the rear, then they would be even less incentivized to recover. But if you treat them to the front and you do send them back to their unit and you're thinking about what's best for your patient, not only are you sending them back in harm's way, but if you send them back too quickly, they might relapse. On the other hand, if you remove them from their unit, you might be removing them from the support that they need in order to actually recover. For a lot of these issues we can think about a similar set of issues in the context of what's best for the military unit, because they had to think about the military efficacy as well.
The reason that there were psychiatrists at all in the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in World War I was because the Americans had looked at the British and French and seen they had surprising rates of force depletion as a result of shell shock. They trained very quickly and then hired these psychiatrists for the explicit purpose of maintaining U.S. force strength. This was the bottom line for these particular doctors.
But they were concerned that if they diagnosed somebody with shell shock and they sent them back to the unit, that this might actually undermine the morale of the unit and that that person might not be seen as someone who you wanted to have next to you, having your back. So there was a separate set of ethical concerns about what's best for the unit when we're dealing with the diagnosis of shell shock.
On balance, in dealing with the imperatives of what a doctor is supposed to do as opposed to what a military officer is supposed to do, most military psychiatrists in both World War I and World War II tended to the latter. They focused more on military efficacy than on the health of their patients.
We see this in the kinds of practices that they developed to make as expedient as possible the return of people to duty. They would sometimes return them to a lesser duty, so they'd be doing logistics instead of being directly at the front.
There were, of course, exceptions. There were many cases of both physicians and patients being court-martialed for not adhering to the military imperative. But the standards for evacuation, and for evacuating somebody with shell shock in particular, increased over time. So you again see this military imperative really taking over.
One of the things that they did—and again, I'm happy to talk about this in Q&A—when we think about the legacy of World War I is that they renamed shell shock "combat stress fatigue" or "battle fatigue" in World War II in order to make it easier to get people to come back to the front after a diagnosis and a few weeks of rest and relaxation.
But this balance that military psychiatrists struck in favor of military efficacy changed in future wars, and particularly changed when the United States started to become engaged in wars where the morality of the war, the purpose of the war, was much more contested, for example, Vietnam. We also see that the incidence of war-induced psychological trauma may actually increase in these kinds of conflicts.
This goes back to the point I was making, that PTS or what we call PTS today, or war-induced psychological trauma in general, may express itself differently in different wars. It took a long time for military psychiatrists to actually figure this out.
Let me wrap up by making two quick points.
The first is that this of course continues to be an issue today, not just in U.S. deployments in Afghanistan and also Iraq, but I would predict that there may actually be a fairly high incidence of posttraumatic stress, or even moral injury, among U.S. troops currently deployed at the southern border of the United States, if in fact that situation becomes more acute.
But really the main takeaway point I want to leave you with is that what the history of war-induced psychological trauma underlines for us is that the costs of war are always higher than we anticipate and also always greater than what we can put a dollar amount on.
With that, I am going to turn it over to Chris, who is going to talk to you about The Merchants of Death.
CHRISTOPHER CAPOZZOLA: All right. Thank you, Tanisha, and thank you to Reed and Billy and to my fellow Fellows.
I also want to just take a second and thank you all for coming and taking this lunch to mark and remember the centennial of the First World War. I think as a country we have not done enough in this moment to mark and honor that, but also to reflect on it, and so I'm glad that everyone is here today.
As Tanisha said, I'm going to talk to you about The Merchants of Death, so that hopefully will get you at the edge of your seat, at least a little bit.
This is a book that I am just beginning to write that's a history of the Nye Committee, which was a series of investigations in the 1930s into the U.S. defense industry. My story begins not actually during the First World War but an entire generation later, when the U.S. Senate convened hearings of the Special Committee Investigating the Munitions Industry, chaired by North Dakota Senator Gerald Nye. By 1934, in books and articles, barrooms, and barber shops, Americans learned, or were told, that inscrutable financial arrangements and profit motives had dragged the United States into the World War to serve the interests of munitions makers and bankers, and they worried in 1934 that this was going to happen again.
There were exposés of the munitions industry splashed across the pages of mainstream magazines, from "Arms and the Men" in Fortune in March 1934; to "Slaughter for Sale" in Harper's magazine; and even between the staid gray covers of Foreign Affairs, which more genteelly inquired into "Arms Manufacturers and the Public."
No book captured the public imagination more than Helmut Engelbrecht and Frank Hanighen's book Merchants of Death: A Study of the International Armament Industry. That is a bit of a sleeper if you actually read it, but it nevertheless became the official selection of the Book of the Month Club in April of 1934.
Put quite simply—and this is what motivates my project both historically and civically—a viewpoint, a political opinion, as well as a political question, that in 2018 is largely off the table was in 1934 completely commonplace. So my task is not necessarily to redo the work of the Nye Committee—they published 39 volumes; I encourage you to read them.
My task is also not necessarily to recover or to validate the Nye Committee; I don't necessarily seek to agree or disagree with it in the end. In the years particularly after the Second World War, the Nye Committee was sort of written out of history as an impulse of isolation, conspiracy theory, and xenophobia, which was all part of the mix, and I don't want to erase that.
But my task instead is to recovery the fundamental question that the Nye Committee was asking, which is: What is the impact of the defense industry on the making of U.S. foreign policy? That's a question that I think we all want to know the answer to and we don't ask it as aggressively and as urgently as we did in the 1930s.
What I want in the book to do is basically use the Nye Committee as a story, its personalities, its key figures—Gerald Nye, a loud-talking, media-hungry, brash isolationist who later goes on to found a group called America First (no relevance to the present); his colleague, Dorothy Detzer, the head of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, a passionate devotee of using the League of Nations and international organizations to bring the arms trade and arms industry under international control, but also personally motivated by the fact that her brother had been killed in a chemical gas attack during the First World War; and a series of other figures, including Franklin Roosevelt, the DuPont industries that mobilized in defense against these inquiries—in order to tell this story to get readers of today interested in the questions of a century ago.
What I'm seeking to do is to point out among other things that this argument, the "merchants of death" theory that there is a profit motive in war and that it distorts foreign policy decision making, was there even before the First World War began, that the first Congress of the Women's International League, which met in The Hague in 1915, thought that: "In the private profits accruing from the great arms factories are 'a powerful hindrance to the abolition of war.'"
The Chicago Federation of Labor called for the public ownership of war industries. The Socialist Party of America folded this into the larger critique of the capitalist system of production, which they wanted to replace with industrial democracy. But this was not solely an argument on the left either during the war or after.
Notice Article 8 of the Covenant of the League of Nations: "The Members of the League agree that the manufacture by private enterprise of munitions and implements of war is open to grave objections. The Council shall advise how the evil effects attendant upon such manufacture can be prevented." In fact, much of the League's work on disarmament in the 1920s and into 1932 is devoted to precisely the question of managing the trade.
But it was not even just an internationalist enterprise. The American Legion in the early 1930s called for the government to take profit out of war. And even President Warren Harding, not particularly known as a progressive, insisted that in future war, "There should be no swollen fortunes."
Now, all of this led to the appointment in 1934 of a special Senate inquiry, which was set up and ran from 1934 to 1936 [editor's note; i.e. the Nye Committee, formally known as the Special Committee on Investigation of the Munitions Industry], seeking to investigate a series of industries—munitions, shipbuilding, taxation policies, financial arrangements, and so forth.
There were 93 hearings over the space from September 1934 to February 1936 that led to an unclear outcome. When they finally issued their report in February 1936, they were concerned about corruption and bribery in the arms industry and the ways in which arms manufacturers violated arms embargoes and contributed to regional instability, which in the 1930s was of special concern. In their conclusion they recommended a national monopoly of defense manufacturing by the U.S. government. In this they were not alone or outside the mainstream of public opinion. A March 1936 Gallup poll asked, "Should the manufacture and sale of war munitions for private profit be prohibited?" and 82 percent of Americans who answered the poll said yes. This is the mainstream opinion in 1936.
Nor is the United States the only country considering this question. In the United Kingdom, in almost the exact same period, the British established a Royal Commission on the Manufacture and Trade in Armaments that in fact recommended greater oversight over, although not outright nationalization of, the munitions industry.
And the French, following the Popular Front government of 1936, in fact experimented with the nationalization of some sectors of the arms industry.
I have the Carnegie Council to thank for slowing my research down, and this encouraged me to do actually more research on the British and French cases and the League of Nations' efforts to realize that this was in fact a global moment between 1934 and 1936 that is trying to address the question of war and profit.
In the end, one of the things that I'm trying to do with the book is also conclude and provide lessons from history in maybe a more explicit way than historians are generally trained to do. One of the things that I do is I draw lessons, in particular, about what would make for effective oversight and investigation into the defense industry.
That certainly in any of these national contexts depends on the existence of an empowerment of experienced investigators, and I can talk in greater detail about why the American effort has enormous power—it has subpoena power to bring corporations before the U.S. Senate—and the British Royal Commission in fact has none and, therefore, can only get friendly witnesses to testify in front of it. So the framing of a commission, the scope of its remit, are key aspects.
It also requires a political culture attuned to oversight, what we might call "cultures of investigation," which in the 1930s were just coming into Congress's realm of capability.
It also requires a healthy relationship between the legislature and the press. This is of course an issue, particularly for Nye—he needs the press in order to make sure that his committee gets attention out to the American public—but also that leads to concerns about media-hungry behavior by investigators and concerns about leaks, particularly of national security material. That relationship between the legislature and the press is important.
And then, of course, it also requires an ability to ask these fundamental questions about our relationship to profit and war. This is where I want to bring a couple of final questions.
Nye's committee comes to a very quick end in 1936 after it issues its report. By this point the mobilization for the Second World War has begun. The Royal Commission, in fact, actually specifically is ignored by the British government as it launches into rearmament after the Rhineland crisis of 1936.
The Committee's report languished on the shelf until Pearl Harbor, when War Department officials realized that in fact investigation and oversight were not bad ideas at all. By the time the Second World War came, the U.S. government had a far better sense of the munitions industry's capacity and of its supply chain than it would have had if the Nye Committee had not done its work. So I'm also arguing that congressional oversight is good for the armed services and it's good for national security, but it also raises empirical and ethical questions that remain on the table.
At a meeting of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in 1937, an obscure Louisiana state senator by the name of Ernest Clements, now completely forgotten, reflected that the Great War had led to "100,000 soldiers dead to make a bunch of skunks American millionaires." The decades since have done a great deal to ridicule such an empirical claim, dismissed as the rantings of an isolationist or of an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist, of a long-haired hippie raving about the military-industrial complex, of a latte-drinking leftist urging "no blood for oil."
But as a society Americans have not accounted for the Nye Committee's fundamental question. They have not answered it in an empirical sense: What was the causal relationship between those 100,000 soldiers dead and those American millionaires? Nor have they grappled with it in a political, philosophical, or ethical sense, to think through the relationship between profit, national interest, and civic duty.
Is profit an obstacle to peace, as we were told at The Hague; or is it a weapon in the arsenal of democracy, as the DuPonts told us? Will wars be better fought if citizens have an economic interest in their outcome; or will they be better fought if they do not have an economic interest in their outcome? Who should set the terms of defense priorities and expenditures: Government, business, or the Army, meaning the people, the market, or the Army?
Those are big questions between 1934 and 1936, debates that were less about the war that was on the horizon than they were about the war that those Americans had lived through a generation before. I think we have done an insufficient job in remembering the contours of that debate and honoring the legacy of the First World War by in fact actually continuing that debate a century later.
Names like Gerald Nye and Dorothy Detzer have faded completely from memory, except perhaps for a few people in this room. The longest lingering shadow of that moment, in fact, is the cartoon story of a red-haired girl by the name of Little Orphan Annie, if you think carefully about her millionaire stepfather, a personification of villainy in the 1930s and remember his name: Daddy Warbucks.
KATHERINE AKEY: I also would like to start by thanking my fellow Fellows and the Carnegie Council for the opportunity, as well as the National Library of Medicine, where the collection I was studying is housed. They were incredibly supportive of some artist walking in and wanting to research a collection of theirs out of the blue. I also want to thank my husband, who has been unbelievably tolerant of the clutter that has been going on in our house for the last year as I doubled the amount of books in our house while working on this.
Just as a warning, my presentation contains imagery. Some of it is extremely graphic. I hope you will engage with it, but feel free to close your eyes, to turn away. I will not be insulted. I will understand. But just as a fair warning, some of the images are difficult.
My interest in the war started about a decade ago when I was a teenager as a hobby. I read whatever books I could about the war. Then, as I proceeded through my MFA in photography here in New York at the International Center of Photography, I started to bring my interest in the war into my art practice. As I did so I encountered these images, incredibly striking images, and I thought they were beautiful and troubling and curious.
Like many people, my first encounter with these portrait photographs of the so-called gueules cassées, which is how I'll refer to them—which is the French term for these kinds of patients, "the broken maw," maxillofacial patients from World War I—my first encounter with them was in Ernst Friedrich's pacifist book, Krieg dem Krieg (War Against War), which was published in 1919 [Editor's note: first published in 1924], where he places images of the cruelty of war with quotes that make them absurd or highlight their absurdity.
[Slide] Like this man here on the left-hand side of your screen has a quote from German General Hindenburg that says, "War agrees with me like a stay at a health resort." Put in context with that man with his lower jaw blown apart.
So, some very difficult images, but they have stuck with me for a really long time, and I wanted to learn more about them, and I wanted to bring them into my art practice. So I sought out a collection local to me after moving to Washington, D.C. a couple of years ago, and I found one at the National Library of Medicine in Maryland.
My initial intent was to research the collection — it was recently donated; no one had researched it before — and produce some sort of artist's book, or something akin to that. Then the fellowship presented itself as an opportunity, so I used it as the launching point for my research.
The collection belonged to this man, Roy Bard Sheetz, a young man from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, who had no medical training but served as a dental assistant during the war, both at the Battle of Saint-Mihiel and at the American Red Cross Hospital in Paris, also known as the American Hospital of Paris. It's where the American Field Service and the modern ambulance got started. It's also the site of some of the most important medical advancements of the war, and American doctors had been there since 1914 serving soldiers and wounded people from the conflict. He assisted a young dentist including routine checkups and helping with these maxillofacial reconstructions to the best of his ability.
What is so interesting about the collection is that in his possession are a bunch of these medical portraits, which would have been military property and kept very, very controlled and hidden away. Tucked amongst all of his snapshots and his personal photos are these medical portraits.
I started to think about these parallel photographic narratives produced during the war: the public ones that were being controlled by governments; these hidden ones that were being produced by the medical facilities and other means; and then the personal ones that were being produced by the soldiers, which I'll talk about a little bit more in a second. The fact that he had these images tucked in amongst his photo album is unusual, and the fact that he brought these home to the United States, it turns out, is also unusual.
I had expected that the gueules cassées would be well represented in American newspapers and media. But it turns out they are not. They're almost nonexistent. Images like this are few and far between in United States' collections. There are none at the National Archives or at the Library of Congress, which I was really surprised by. I did find some at Walter Reed.
I was looking into that and questioning this censorship or lack of presence of images of disfigurement, and these particular disfigurements that were incredibly common, especially amongst the French, British, and German soldiers. And it's not that Americans hadn't been treating these patients or living amongst these soldiers in France during the course of the war. So I was very curious about that absence and trying to make some sense of that.
[Slide] Here I just have one more example of one the pictures Sheetz brought home with him. On the other side of the screen is the most graphic image of a wounded American that was shown to the American public during the course of the war. [Editor's note: one photo is of a man with a severely disfigured face. The other is of a man on a stretcher in a trench, with no visible wounds.] You'll note that the comparison is a little bit Ernst Friedrich-y in its absurdity, but that is the most graphic image. They actually argued a bit about publishing that one there of the man on the stretcher. What mentions there are of the gueules cassées or these kinds of wounds in American media of the era tend to either be in hyperbolic praise of the surgeons and how they transformed twisted flesh into perfect facsimiles of their former selves—which basically never happened—or their apocryphal mentions of men with these disfigurements disappearing, running away from their horrified families, sometimes to live alone or to return to France, where they could find some sort of refuge.
It's very interesting to me to think about that public sphere of remembering these kinds of conflicts, or these kinds of traumas and disfigurements, and comparing again this hidden narrative of medical portraits that now we have access to, and placing them next to the censored or the approved images that did make it into the public sphere, and then looking at this whole new group of images that we are just getting access to, which are the personal photographs taken by soldiers.
In about 1912 to 1914, the Vest Pocket Kodak was invented. That is about the size of an iPhone, a bit thicker, but about the size of an iPhone. It took roll film. It allowed soldiers to take pictures. It's the first time that everyman could make images. They were not supposed to—you'd get court-martialed if you had a camera in most armies—but people made a lot of images.
What makes it into a family album, what pictures they actually took, are different things, and then that narrative that's being produced compared to these other narratives of the war—I think putting those three things side by side can tell us a lot about how the public made sense of conflict and disfigurement, how the private individual made sense of conflict and disfigurement, and I think we can learn a lot of lessons from them.
Again, what makes this collection at the National Library of Medicine so unique is that he happened to bring home some of these military photographs that he probably wasn't supposed to grab. But the hospital was pulled apart, dismantled extremely quickly, in February 1919. The extension of the hospital was pulled down. A lot of stuff was just thrown out, and I can imagine him grabbing a stack of these photographs of men that he spent months taking care of, not wanting them to be thrown out. That's how I imagine it would go, anyways.
I mentioned just a minute ago this safe haven in France for disfigured veterans. I think France is a great example of how these individuals taking photographs can impact culture at large. That safe haven in France continues to this day.
[Slide] It was founded in the aftermath of the war by these men pictured here. It's the Union de Blessés de la Face et de la Tête, so the Union of Wounds to the Face and Head. It was part hospital and medical research fund, part sociological and psychological support group, where disfigured veterans in France had somewhere to go. They had a public presence. They supported one another, and there are stories of British, American, and even German, people with these wounds seeking out solace in this public-facing group in France.
Of course, France had probably the highest number of individuals with these kinds of wounds out of the combatants, so it makes sense that this kind of group might spring up there. But I think their longstanding exposure to graphic images helped.
[Slide] You'll see here the cover of Le Miroir, which was a contemporary newspaper. The Miroir would buy graphic images off of soldiers who were taking them with their little Vest Pocket cameras. These kinds of graphic images, like this dead body in a tree, might not make it into their family photo album, but they would take them, and then they would become public by way of the newspapers.
So not only was France literally the site of a lot of the fighting, but they saw a lot of these graphic images during the war, and I wonder if that didn't make enough of an opening for a group like the Union to exist to publicly support these individuals who had these kinds of traumas and disfigurements rather than hiding the images and then hiding the individuals after the fact.
[Slide] This is one of my favorite snapshots from Roy Sheetz. It's mealtime in the jaw ward, all the patients getting fed by the nursing staff.
The hardest thing about this line of inquiry is that inherently talking about conflict photography is Sisyphean at best. I'm not convinced there will ever be a certain or universal answer to the questions that conflict photography kicks up: What's shown and what's left out? Who took the picture, and who kept it? Is it a cry for peace or for revenge? What do these images have to give us, and what do they in turn ask of us? What's the point of exhibiting them? Do they help us mourn? Do they teach us anything beyond shock? I don't know. But just because we can't answer the questions doesn't mean they're not important to ask.
Susan Sontag, that lodestar of photographic inquiry, has said that narratives can help us understand but photographs cannot; instead, what they do is they haunt.
Memory, especially at a collective level, is deeply informed by images. I think as Americans, when I say "World War II," you see the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima like that. It's a very, very ingrained reaction to think of images when we think of memory. It's also one of the best ways we have to relate back to people who came before us. So Sontag says: "The belief that remembering is an ethical act is deep in our natures as humans."
But it's a deeply painful thing to take on the haunting presence of images like some of the ones I've shown you today. It's even harder to take that on voluntarily, knowing how painful it will be to live with them in your mind, how futile our grief is for those individuals now.
It's true, those of us who have not seen conflict, war, or cruelty first-person will never fully understand it. Sontag points this out as well. She says: "We can't imagine how dreadful, how terrifying war is and how normal it becomes.Can't understand. Can't imagine. That's what every soldier, every journalist and aid worker and independent observer who has put in time under fire and had the luck to elude the death that struck down others nearby stubbornly feels. And they are right." I think she's right. I think they are right.
But you and I have the chance to rewrite our understanding of this conflict a hundred years later. We have a chance to redefine what parts of this experience of this experience of this conflict are important, not only by retelling stories or remembering important dates, but by choosing to look at these photographs, by choosing to be haunted.
CHARLES SORRIE: I would like to begin by thanking the Carnegie Council as well for helping fund my research into the legacy and history of American press censorship during the First World War, which will form part of a larger project I'm currently turning into a book on the censorship of American newspapers during the war. I'd also like to thank the other Fellows and the audience.
The legacy of American press censorship during the First World War is highly complex. Censorship in 1917 and 1918 was a powerful tool used as part of Washington's first large-scale wartime information management campaign.
In April 1917, recent developments—Germany's resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare in February and the Zimmerman Telegram crisis in March—had hardened popular opinion in favor of war.
Before 1917, however, Americans had only gradually shifted from indifference in 1914 toward acceptance of an uncomfortable neutrality in 1916. Woodrow Wilson, who ran his successful 1916 presidential reelection campaign as "the man who kept us out of the war," understood the fragility of American war enthusiasm.
Immediately upon America's war declaration, Wilson simultaneously established the Committee on Public Information, an official propaganda agency, and pressed Congress for strict legislation to punish dissenters.
Congress in 1917 and 1918 passed the most repressive series of laws against freedom of expression in American history.
As war hysteria quickly spread, federal legislation was accompanied by even more draconian laws passed at the state level. Powers officially designed to punish espionage and sedition were used to monitor German-American communities—other "hyphenated Americans" in the parlance of the day—and immigrants, as well as to silence and intimidate "radicals," a contemporary code word for socialists, unionists, anarchists, pacifists, and internationalists.
Whereas the mainstream media operated under a system of arbitrarily enforced self-censorship, socialist or radical publications, the Negro press, and foreign-language papers were much more closely monitored. Publishers and journalists were routinely given unprecedentedly stiff legal penalties for minor violations. Many newspapers were permanently forced out of business.
Vigilantism was overlooked by the authorities and often went unreported in the press.
The legal precedence and culture of wartime hysteria, fostered by the Wilson Administration in 1917 and 1918, precipitated the first "Red Scare" of 1919 and 1920 and influenced the rise of far-right groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. Although the first Red Scare resulted in a temporary backlash against red-baiting during the interwar period, it set a precedent for the House Un-American Activities Committee during the 10 years following the Second World War.
Propaganda during the First World War worked to embed the popular American sentiment—still in existence—that patriotism and dissent are mutually exclusive.
The domestic censorship system established during the First World War created a new frame of reference for future administrations in approaching state-media relations in wartime. During the Second World War, the Office of Censorship was careful not to repeat the excesses of the Wilson Administration but largely replicated its system of monitored editorial self-censorship. Cold War administrations often reverted to overt intimidation of the press but adopted many of the red-baiting tactics developed during the First World War.
Another enduring legacy of World War I press censorship was the establishment of America's first bureaucratic infrastructure to monitor and censor war correspondents. A distinguished group of journalists accompanied the AEF (American Expeditionary Forces) to France in June 1917. During the following six months, the AEF Censorship Division worked with the British and French to rapidly organize a system to monitor and censor journalistic activities at the front. By early 1918 the AEF had developed the mechanisms needed to both record and filter war news and to incorporate journalists into its ranks.
Press censorship in First World War America, therefore, has a two-sided legacy. One side is related to state-media relations within the United States during times of crisis. The other centers on America's handling of war correspondents. The two, however, are related to some extent. The bureaucratization of information management, wartime infringements on First Amendment rights, and the abuse of power to repress African Americans are common themes to both.
Historians are regularly presented with new comparisons and legacies to explore. Historical comparisons and legacies by nature, however, are imperfect and are usually indirect. It is tempting to compare the populist tendencies and lackadaisical approaches to First Amendment rights of the Wilson and Trump administrations. Both have shared a reluctance to publicly condemn irresponsible or immoral behavior inspired by racism; both men were populists, albeit with highly contrasting personalities and political backgrounds; both have promoted nativism using slogans such as "100 Percent Americanism" or "Make America Great Again"; both have incited suspicion of immigrants; both have reacted badly to criticism; and finally, both were often at war with elements of the mainstream media.
These comparisons, however, should be advanced with caution. Whereas President Trump's emphases have often focused on long-term external hazards to the United States, both real and imagined, Wilson's advocation of a strict information-management system in April 1917 was largely a response to legitimate immediate threats to the American war effort. The need to combat espionage and foreign propaganda, to protect the escort of American troops across the Atlantic, to prevent industrial sabotage, to enforce the draft, and to sell war bonds all weighed deeply on the president.
It is the abuse of the Espionage Act for political purposes, particularly after the passage during a state of war hysteria of its 1918 Sedition Act Amendment, which made it a felony with a punishment of up to 20 years in prison to criticize the government, that has been most heavily criticized by historians.
Among the greatest fans of the Wilsonian approach to media management was Joseph Goebbels, who used Washington's propaganda campaign during the First World War as a model for his own later propaganda efforts in Nazi Germany.
Changes in popular concepts of morality and evolving stages of technological development prevent comparative obstacles for media historians. Wilson was a Southerner who governed with a majority Southern cabinet at a time when the segregated South was the backbone of the Democratic Party. Wilson once said that the South was the only place where, for him, nothing ever needed to be explained.
Over the past 20 years the news industry has been revolutionized by the globalizing effects of the Internet and social media. The mechanics and practicalities of censorship in 1917 bear little resemblance to today's. The distribution of access to information no longer resembles a pyramid but rather a straight line.
Today, as opposed to censoring news at its source, the media is often delegitimized by those whom it criticizes. Facts are often distorted, and both biased and unbiased reporting is labeled "fake news." This trend is bound to continue as America's major television news networks, in particular, become increasingly partisan.
Finally, the most recent presidential administration which provides the best comparison to the domestic policies of the Wilson Administration is not the one currently in office. The Trump presidency has not, and hopefully will not yet, have to respond to a major international crisis or wartime situation.
Indeed, the presidency which provides the best comparative examples here is that of George W. Bush. That administration's penchant for secrecy, its ramming through Congress of the Patriot Act six weeks after the terror attacks of September 11th, and its cynical manipulation of the mainstream media to advocate for war against Iraq, are all reminiscent of various moments from American history when civil liberties were withdrawn in times of crisis.
Wilson's infringement on the First Amendment during the First World War was a watershed moment in the development of this trend throughout the 20th century. Though the legacy of press censorship in First World War America is significant, however, there are very few straight lines of causality that can be drawn historically.
SEIKO MIMAKI: I will also start my talk by expressing my gratitude to the Carnegie Council and you. I am very happy to be here all the way from Tokyo to join this very stimulating conversation, so I hope that my talk will be short to have enough time for discussion.
My project's title is "World War I as a Key Moment in the History of Humanitarianism." My project highlights Jane Addams, a social worker who was well-known for her lifelong work to empower the poor immigrants at Hull House in Chicago. As my project will show, Addams' humanitarianism was not confined to domestic society. Especially during World War I her scope of care was expanded globally.
First, I want to emphasize Addams was a very ardent opponent of war. She never endorsed World War I.
In April 1917 President Woodrow Wilson decided to enter the war, regarding the war as "the war to make the world safe for democracy." Wilson believed that the war participated in by the United States became something sacred. Wilson applauded departed soldiers as those who died for higher purposes.
The leading progressive intellectuals, such as John Dewey, also endorsed World War I. For example, in an article entitled, "The Social Possibilities of War," Dewey emphasized that the participation by the United States transformed the war from an imperialistic struggle to a global democratic crusade. Also, some suffragists supported the war, expecting it would help women win the right to vote.
By contrast, Addams denied the idea that there was something sacred or meaningful in warfare, insisting that violence would destroy mutual tolerance, willingness to cooperate, without which democracy was impossible. Thus, war in the interests of democracy was a contradiction in terms. This is Addams' emphasis.
For Addams, democracy is not just a form of the government. For Addams, democracy is a way of living together in community life and, thus could never be imposed by authority, both domestic or foreign.
Also, Addams' opposition to war was supported by her strong belief that in a war in the industrial age there is no victor or defeated, so war would destroy everything, including the victor and the defeated. Addams emphasized that, unlike labor, "war is not a natural activity of mankind." This conviction was strengthened through her journey to Europe during World War I.
In April 1915 Addams visited European capitals to have a dialogue about a peace proposal with government officials. There Addams heard similar statements in every country she visited in regard to the necessity for the use of a stimulant before men would engage in violent charges.
Addams also visited hospitals and had interviews with nurses and hospitalized soldiers, many of whom showed symptoms of what was later called PTSD, that Tanisha introduced. Some soldiers who were even cured committed suicide because they were afraid of being sent back to the trenches and forced to kill against their will.
Through the tour Addams realized how high-sounding ideals, like "a war to make the world safe for democracy," had made people blind to the harsh realities of the battlefield. When she argued about peace, Addams always let the real experience of the real victims for some of the soldiers and the mothers who lost their sons be a starting point in her reflections.
In Europe Addams also saw that those most affected by the war rarely considered the meaning of war, while those people who were far away from the battlefield still justified the war by appealing to high-sounding ideals.
From these stories we could know that Addams regarded the concrete experiences of the people rather than the abstract ideas as a crucial part of her peace theory. She always began from the concrete experience of the people.
Certainly, of course, Addams got many inspirations from past great philosophers, like Immanuel Kant, but Addams was not interested in the articulated words, great theories, or grand designs of world governments or international organizations, because it was Addams' fundamental belief that world peace could not be realized through creating a hierarchical control structure to enforce peace.
Let me introduce her book, Newer Ideals of Peace, published in 1907. In this book Addams criticized 18th-century pacifism, which, according to Addams, "loves a people without knowing the reality of them." Addams called for establishing new 20th-century pacifism through dissolving abstract ideas of humanity into the concrete components like man, woman, children, and dealing with real people. Addams criticized the past 18th-century pacifism for its almost sole attention to human rights, and Addams emphasized not only rights but that humans' needs are really necessary for attention.
Let's go back to the story of World War I. After the U.S. entry into World War I, Addams was recruited by Herbert Hoover to his Department of Food Administration, established with the purpose to assist in feeding the Allied countries.
However, Hoover and Addams faced popular resentment when they tried to aid Germany after the armistice. Still haunted by the memory of German atrocities during the war, American politicians and people were not ready to extend their credit or necessities to their former enemies.
In 1919, with the American Friends Service Committee, Addams entered Germany believing that food relief could bring reconciliation between Germany and the Allied countries. There Addams found the devastating influence on German civilians, especially children, of the Allies' continued blockade after the armistice. In her joint report on the German situation, subtitled "Appeal to the Heart of Generous Americans," Addams bitterly criticized the sustained Allies' hostile policy toward Germany.
Expecting the newly created League of Nations would be the bedrock of world peace, Addams demanded that the League should never be a purely security organization, but the League should be a functional one, whose primary role should be helping and feeding all those affected by the war.
Also, Addams stressed that the League's humanitarian activities should be expanded universally to include the former enemy, which would be crucially important, Addams said, to restore peaceful relations in the divided Europe. Addams hoped that if food needs would be successfully addressed through the activities of the League of Nations, people would develop sympathy toward each other
across borders and it would strengthen their natural habit of mutual cooperation needed for dealing with other pressing issues.
Finally, let me mention a little bit the contemporary meaning of Addams' cosmopolitan ethics.
Today, sadly, cosmopolitanism is not positively regarded. Cosmopolitanism has been increasingly actually criticized as a kind of luxury which only affluent and educated urban elites could enjoy. Indeed, contemporary self-styled cosmopolitans often have similar educational and professional backgrounds, similar cultural tastes, and live in similar urban districts. So why do they advocate tolerance and universal love but they are often ignorant of the reality of the poor Americans?
Considering the current situation of cosmopolitanism, Addams' sort of cosmopolitan ethics opens up new possibilities of this concept, I think.
Addams' cosmopolitan visions, which was developed through her daily experience working with the poor immigrants at Hull House and her devoted contribution to humanitarian activities during World War I, were never intellectually abstract but aimed at fulfilling people's concrete needs.
Addams' attention to daily concrete practices of the marginalized people, I want to emphasize, should be a good starting point for us to envision the new cosmopolitan ethic for the future world.
Thank you for listening.
QUESTION: Hi. My name is Jeanne D'Onofrio. I'm chief of staff at Carnegie Corporation in New York.
This is for Charles. I need you to help me debunk my question or poke holes in it. The Sedition Act: Do we need to worry about that today? Considering that journalists being so far left and so far right, could the president use that to stop any journalist from their freedom of speech or sharing a news story?
I worry about that there is going to be some turning point where this could happen. We didn't see it happening in the First World War. It certainly happened in the Revolutionary War. I just don't hear that conversation happening. Should we be worried about it?
CHARLES SORRIE: Impossible to say it could never happen, but it would be very unlikely to happen under the current political climate, whereby you have a Republican president and a Democratic Congress, because it would have to pass through Congress.
But of course it's possible. It's impossible to predict the future. It would have to come about during a time of crisis.
CHRISTOPHER CAPOZZOLA: Can I just add to that, though? It is happening. The Sedition Act expired and that is no longer on the books. The Espionage Act is still on the books, and there have been more prosecutions in the 21st century under the Espionage Act, almost as there were under the Wilson Administration itself, including Edward Snowden. So that is still an issue.
QUESTION: Peter Russell is my name.
Ms. Fazal, you used the expression "downstream costs." You talked about that a little bit, but I think it came up in some way in almost the presentations. Would you expand on the downstream costs you mentioned?
TANISHA FAZAL: Oftentimes when we think about and talk about the costs of war in public discourse we think about them in terms of human costs and financial costs. When we talk about the human costs of war, they are almost always framed in terms of casualties.
While the dictionary definition of a "casualty" is someone who can no longer fight, the popular definition of casualty has come to be almost exactly equated with fatalities.
But when you're thinking about casualties in the U.S. context, it's, I think, really important to stick to the dictionary definition of casualties.
Historically, the ratio of those wounded to those killed in battle was 3:1. You could almost set your clock by this, and there are a lot of people who have set their clock by this. But for the United States today, especially in its most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that ratio has more than tripled. Depending on who you talk to, it's actually somewhere between 10:1 and 17:1.
So when we think about the downstream costs of war we have to think in human terms, not just about people killed and the effect on their families, but also about people who are surviving injuries that they would not have been able to survive in previous conflicts. So they're coming home very severely injured, and of course they're feeling the costs of war on their person, and their families and caregivers and loved ones are feeling this cost of war as well.
This also, of course, speaks to the financial costs of war because the veterans benefit system in the United States has expanded dramatically. There have been ups and downs, but especially since World War II it has expanded dramatically.
Because you have as a percentage of those deployed more people coming home with more serious injuries and living longer, just because of better health and nutrition and medical care in general, we see more financial downstream costs of war. They are not limited to in-theater costs of war.
REED BONADONNA: Are there other answers to that question from the other panelists? The gentleman made the statement that he thought it was a common theme. No?
QUESTION: David Musher.
You all thanked us. I would like to thank all five of you. This is a real treat, five different talks from real scholars, so thank you very much.
Professor Fazal, my question has to do with morality in war. Is there morality in war? Can a war be moral? Can it not be moral?
You made a statement suggesting that there is a relationship between posttraumatic stress syndrome and immorality or immoral war. Do you have any data to show that? Do you have any data to suggest that perhaps there might be something coming up at the Mexican border? You suggested a prediction of what might happen.
I ask this because I'm personally—I served in Vietnam and found it very, very problematic before going and while there. I thought you summarized the issues very well, in a very well-balanced manner, talking about conserving the fighting strength. That is the motto of the United States Army Medical Corps, and I'm a doctor. Thank you.
TANISHA FAZAL: Thank you for asking that question.
I don't think that we are going to be able to resolve the question of morality of war in the time that we have remaining, or even if we had a lot more time.
I will say that it's difficult to bring systematic evidence to bear on this question of whether war-induced psychological trauma is going to be more likely in cases where there are more questions about the morality of the war.
Part of the reason for that is because what we call it and what it might be and how it is expressed change over time. So really you might not even be comparing apples and oranges; you might be comparing apples and broccoli. It's really difficult to know.
But what we can say, and where there is some data—of course, we don't have data on what's going on in the southern border right now on the United States because that's still unfolding—but there is some data that suggest that PTSD, or rates of PTSD, may be higher in counterinsurgency campaigns than in conventional wars.
The way that this has been looked at is in the 2003 Iraq War, comparing the incidence of PTSD in the conventional phase versus the counterinsurgency phase. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it, because if you're fighting a counterinsurgency campaign, by definition one of the defining features of a counterinsurgency campaign is that you can't necessarily distinguish civilians from combatants. That's very psychologically taxing, I would imagine, to those actually in the fight.
That's where we actually have some data that we can bring to bear systematically on a single conflict, but it's very difficult to do that in a very long historical arc because the terms and the diagnoses, and maybe even the illnesses, have changed over time.
But thank you for that question. It's a terrific question.
QUESTION: Ron Berenbeim.
I read almost everything I can find about World War I, and I am especially interested, as I guess a lot of people here are, in how many people were actually killed.
When I read I see two different numbers that pop out that are very, very different. One is 50,000 and the other is 107,000. Now, one of the reasons for this may be—and of course I'd like your comment on that—is that sometimes these larger figures include victims of the Spanish influenza, which occurred approximately at the same time.
But, of course, I would also add that one of my interests is that my grandfather served in the World War I American Navy, and when he was discharged he had tuberculosis. He was sick for most of the rest of his life and he died about 23 years later. He could hardly be called a casualty of the war.
But, on the other hand, we get into what economists call "negative externalities," the long-term impacts of war and the casualties that imposes on society. I would like to hear your thoughts on that, anybody on the panel. You seem to be right on top of it, but I'd love to hear from anybody who wants to talk.
TANISHA FAZAL: Can I ask, did your grandfather receive healthcare from the United States Public Health Service or later from the Veterans Bureau?
QUESTIONER [Mr. Berenbeim]: Boy, to a fare-thee-well. That defined his life. He was born in New York City. He enlisted there. He migrated all around the country looking for veterans' healthcare. He started with Denver. He went to Phoenix. He went to Los Angeles. That seemed fine, except my grandmother was scared of earthquakes, so she said: "Let's go back to Denver instead of Phoenix. It's a one-horse town, but at least it has one horse."
So they settled in Denver, and he was treated there very well for the rest of his life, which sadly did not last very long, at Fitzsimons Army Hospital. It defined his life, basically.
TANISHA FAZAL: Part of the reason I asked is that along with war-induced psychological trauma, shell shock or neurasthenia, tuberculosis was one of the illnesses where there was a lot of controversy about whether you could claim a service-connected disability because it might present itself many years after discharge.
I don't have the numbers off the top of my head in terms of fatalities in World War I. I actually do think that the Spanish flu accounts for a great deal of that discrepancy, especially when you're talking about U.S. participation and the fact that the United States was in the war for a relatively short period of time.
From the accounts that I've read, oral histories of nurses, just people in ships on their way to and from Europe, the fatalities from the Spanish flu were remarkable, as well as even stateside for people who were in the military but who died from the flu.
I will say that it's really difficult to use these government numbers because they are not necessarily consistent across conflicts as well. If you want to say that someone was killed in action, are they in the "killed in action" category or in the "died of wounds" category? So when you dig into it it's hard.
When you look at nonfatal casualties, you even see variation, just again looking at the U.S. case, across services in terms of who gets placed in the category of being wounded.
So I don't have a clear answer for you. My best guess is that the Spanish flu is actually accounting for a large amount of this discrepancy.
KATHERINE AKEY: I was going to bring up this issue of categorization as well. I spend a lot of time in the National Archives looking at hospital records trying to track down information about these jaw ward cases, and what patient got ticked under what column is all over the place. It seems to depend on what nurse is on duty and the discrepancies of that day or the whims of the month and this sort of thing.
Even a lot of the Spanish flu cases aren't marked as flu cases; they're marked as pneumonia or any of the incidentals that you get by way of having the flu.
This is why even influenza numbers from 1918 can range by a couple of million. Maybe it's 8 million; maybe it's 15 million. It's absolutely all over the shop because the records were not kept consistently, and this issue of semantics and terminology is really complicated.
Even if you go straight to the source and you look at the handwritten charts day to day of who is in the ward, who died, who was discharged, there are discrepancies because people re-categorized patients on whims. So it's complicated and it's murky. We can just make our best guess.
QUESTION: This question is for Katherine. I wanted to say that the images were moving and need to be seen and really let people know how profound war can be and what it can cause.
I was wondering. There must be other artists who have used these images and integrated them into their work. Are there some notable examples of that maybe you could share?
Also, how has it affected your own work? It is clearly very powerful for you. How have you used it?
KATHERINE AKEY: Really good questions.
There was a lot of, ironically, "art" being produced at the time because medical sketching and painting was a very common tool at the time, and some of those drawings and sketches in particular were made for Harold Gillies, one of the British maxillofacial surgeons, by a man called Henry Tonks, an amazing watercolorist. I think he was using gouache and other materials. Some of his paintings and drawings of the patients have been exhibited. They were made as medical references and then they've been exhibited since, so they have transformed over time in an interesting way.
There is also a number of French artists who have used that kind of disfigurement in painted portraits to allude to this era of these kinds of facial wounds, which happened in World War II and other wars as well. We still get people with maxillofacial wounds, just not to the same extent.
In fact, there was a video piece at the Whitney here—I saw it in July—that included images of these gueules cassées individuals and compared them to African art pieces. I hated it. I thought it was really gauche and poorly done.
But there are examples of it. Especially as we've gotten closer to the centennial, there's a lot of work being made about the war right now and a lot of support for artists making work about the war.
I have not seen anything contemporary made with these images that I feel really comfortable with, and I think that has been a real moment for me in my own practice. I was like, "I want to find some way to use these," and everything I made using the images felt bad. I would look at it across my studio and say: "This is icky. I can't show this. It doesn't feel like it honors or respects those people."
What I've found is that the images are really beautiful, and they really draw you in, and you want to get close, and you want to think about them, but it's so hard to integrate them into artwork in a direct way, and it has forced me to circumnavigate and think more about the lives and the experiences of the men.
One of my favorite facts on the French jaw wards is that the men would play "Who's the ugliest?" They weren't allowed any reflective surfaces to try to mitigate the psychological trauma of seeing your own face, and so they would each rank each other by who was ugliest. So going for these little human stories and trying to use those to talk about this experience, rather than going straight for the image, because the image is a talisman and it's shiny and it's easy to want to just use the image, but I think that it's a little bit of kryptonite for an artist to go straight for an image like that. That has been my experience.
QUESTION: I love what you had to say there, and it's a little bit behind my question.
My name is Jim Hammond. I'm also very interested in World War I and read everything I can about it, which leads me to this from left field.
How about Russia? Did any of you have dealings with the Russian participation in the First World War? It seems to be left out of almost everything, for obvious reasons, but I feel it must be something more than that.
CHARLES SORRIE: I dealt with Russia a little bit in my PhD thesis work, which was on censorship of the press in France during the First World War.
With Russia, in terms of press censorship, what I'm focusing on—Russia had more or less a similar press censorship system to the rest of Europe until the revolution, in which time the media in Russia was highly politicized and all material, coming out of Russia at least, was censored very heavily.
One of the first things that they did was shut down the telegraph station in Petrograd, which sent out all the information related to the revolution, and then eventually they reoccupied it using commissars. So the revolution, when it was going on, was very poorly reported in the rest of Europe because it was heavily censored within Communist Russia.
That's pretty much all I've done on Russia, though. Press censorship becomes a lot heavier under communism than under the tsar.
CHRISTOPHER CAPOZZOLA: I might add just a little bit. There has been an enormous burst of research and historiography about the Eastern Front in the last few years. This is part of a broader effort to displace the Western Front in 1914-18 as the only questions around the war and really see the war globally and its impact on other regions.
But also, just practically, many of the archival materials related to the First World War were in disarray during the interwar period, behind the Iron Curtain, not translated into English. So it is really only in the last ten years or so that World War I historians in conjunction with Central European historians have been able to really dig into this in a big way. So, more for you to read.
QUESTION: I'm Vincent McGee.
A lot of the learning about the First World War can be from popular writing and art. I think of Pat Barker's Regeneration Trilogy and so forth. But it seems to me that in terms of learning from history several of you touched on the costs of the First World War, not only in financial terms but in the residual physical and psychological effects of combatants, but also their families and others.
I think particularly, at a time when we're not in a huge crisis, war —we've got a lot of little crisis wars around—there should be an opportunity around this centenary to try to highlight and document the real costs of that war to give people who are looking at later wars, including the Iraq War, what really is the financial cost of the Iraq War and Afghanistan, and isn't the cost of dealing with casualties, military and civilian, what haunts a proper and a just medical treatment for casualties?
The Veterans Administration is a joke in modern society and it's a stain on our country. I say that as an antiwar person in any context. But if, as a country that is sending people, we need to take care of them, to say nothing then also of our responsibility for civilian casualties and so forth.
We've learned in the criminal justice system that governors and state legislatures facing the costs of incarceration have begun to change the rules of incarceration, maybe even achieving some things in the next Congress.
I think as a motivation and learning from the First World War we could do more to heighten the understanding of the real costs of war—trillions—that will distort the living conditions of the world and open up possibilities of military warfare when we ought to be dealing with hunger and poverty and other things.
SEIKO MIMAKI: Several of us mentioned President Woodrow Wilson. Before Wilson, I think the war was not justified by ideology; but after Wilson's "I want to make the world safe for democracy," this justification by ideology, people can't easily know the real cost of the war. Of course, without the U.S. participation—it was necessary—but even without this part, we have to look at the justification of the war and what it cost.
After that, the Iraq War was justified by ideology. So Wilsonianism is very controversial. It has definitely good aspects but also some negative aspects, so I think it's quite controversial.
TANISHA FAZAL: Just to add to your point, I wanted to add a few points.
One is that there is some research on the costs of the Iraq War. There is a book that Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes wrote [The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict], and there is an associated project on the costs of war at Brown University. One of the things that they keep having to do is to adjust the costs up because of nonfatal casualties.
Your point about the Veterans Administration is really interesting, I think, because I think it points to maybe one thing we've forgotten, an interesting paradox I suppose. For all the problem the Veterans Administration has today, it's a lot better than the Veterans Bureau was in the 1920s, which was this incredibly corrupt institution.
One of the things that I find interesting that I haven't quite figured out is that there is this fetishization in some ways of the military today. You go to the airport, and if you're active duty you get to board first, you get your 10-percent discount at Home Depot or Lowe's, or something like that. That didn't even used to happen 20 years ago.
I haven't quite squared how you reconcile that with the current state of the Veterans Administration. But I also think that there is a bias in the reporting about the VA. We tend to hear about the bad things that are happening; we don't tend to hear what's going right in the VA.
The last point I want to make with respect to costs is that I think part of the reason that we don't talk about the costs very much is because most of us don't feel them directly. Less than one-half of 1 percent of the U.S. population currently serves in the military, and wars today are financed via debt and not taxes. This is from a recent book by Sarah Kreps at Cornell University, called Taxing Wars: The American Way of War Finance and the Decline of Democracy, which I would recommend to everybody.
So I think you're right that we don't have a really good understanding of the costs of war.
REED BONADONNA: We are out of time. I am going to take a minute just to wrap things up.
To conclude, I'd like to say that one thing that I got out of hearing all this is that wars are fought and experienced by extraordinary, complex, fragile people just like us, and I think that was part of the burden of the remarks made by President Macron the other day, which Joel and I have been talking about, which means among other things that the future of mankind is, presumably at least, in our hands, whether we choose war or not.
I also want to address the question of—a couple of years ago Phil Klay wrote an article in The Wall Street Journal [Editor's note: The New York Times] called "After War, a Failure of the Imagination," and this business of "you can't understand the soldier's service, the soldier's experiences unless you've been there." I want to push back on that a little bit.
There is nothing unique in a lot of ways about that. We have all experienced pain and fear and grief, and for that matter pride and exaltation. It does require an act of empathy and imagination to put yourself in the wartime mentality, even if you've never actually been there yourself, but I think that it can be done. Nothing human is strange to us.
If this were impossible, in a sense, the whole humanities project, the whole collective memory of humankind, would be impossible if we cannot understand things we haven't experienced ourselves on the ground.
I think the panel today certainly brought us a couple of steps closer to that kind of remote understanding of things that happened a long time before any of us were born.
Thank you for coming.