Your daily sunshine

Regardless of people’s views on Iraq or whatever else, it is generally taken for granted, everywhere and not just in the U.S., that the finest moment ever in American foreign policy was World War II. Maybe, but I feel that there has been an insignificant amount of sobriety, let alone contrition, among Americans about the incineration of Dresden, Tokyo, Hamburg and the other cities in Germany and Japan that were devastated in 1945, not to speak of the atomic bombs, long after any doubts as the outcome of the war had been decided. That’s why it is always good to read articles like this one (by a German). I don’t know why I was so struck by it, since it does not present any general information of which I was previously unaware. But I think it is sentences like this one, which are always chilling especially when they involve popular figures who are generally considered quite admirable:

“Churchill and Roosevelt unleashed with their 3,000 aeroplanes an “around-the-clock-bombing”, which Basil Liddell Hart, the greatest British military historian of his day, termed “the Mongol devastations”. Two thirds of the bomb tonnage of the five year air war fell in February, March and April of 1945, most of it on militarily insignificant targets. The tiniest part of this tonnage, the precision strikes on the 16 major train routes connecting the Ruhr region with the rest of Germany, had the greatest effect.”

This is not to negate the legitimate reasons which were alleged at the time and since to justify these actions; in the eyes of the author, and mine, the primary, and the most justifiable motivation was the idea that these were really the first military actions of the Cold War rather than the last of WWII, and even that they may have stopped the Russian army dead in its tracks, rather than continuing to advance until it ran into the possibly still-inferior (at that time) Allied armies. They may paradoxically have saved both Germany and Japan from Soviet occupation. But even if that, the most favorable and generous interpretation possible, is correct, it still seems that more Americans should acknowledge that the war was far from being an unmitigated moral triumph, especially considering that the military planners of these bombings seem to have had a near-total disregard for the relative military value of their targets. The simple fact is that between 50,000 and 100,000 died in each one of these raids, almost all civilians. We’ve been arguing for decades about whether the rape of Nanking constitutes genocide, and that involved about 300,000. Of course, it probably doesn’t help that the major documentation of these slaughters in the American cultural consciousness is Slaughterhouse Five. Apparently W.G. Sebald wrote a book about the subject before he died that made quite a stir in Germany, so maybe things will change, but I doubt it, at least until such a book is written by an American. And, a point that the author leaves implicit, if Churchill and Roosevelt were willing to authorize that kind of slaughter, the situation becomes even dicier when lunatics like Curtis LeMay are in leadership positions. And it’s pretty hard to disagree with the conclusion regarding the use of the nuclear bombs:

“Its first deployment went without a hitch. The know-how was there, and there was no alternative. Some people are probably still saying that.”

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