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Saturday, February 12, 2005


Crimes against humanity - then and now

Because British forces were involved, the BBC has been reminding readers and viewers about the 60th anniversary of the firebombing of Dresden by the RAF, with at least 35,000 civilians (and probably many more) killed in the process. It's not in the online story linked above, but at the end of the BBC World report on the subject last night, the anchor was quick to remind us that this action was "not against the laws of war at that time, although today it would be unacceptable" (quoting from memory). Strangely enough, however, recent events in Fallujah, without any question comparable (although obviously not an exact parallel) to those in Dresden, went unremarked in this report, as they have gone uncondemned by the British government and the world community.

One of the things that was striking about the report was the aerial footage of Dresden, showing the extent of the destruction. Strange how film from 60 years ago is available, but no such film of the destruction of Fallujah has yet been broadcast (it almost certainly exists somewhere in the files of the U.S. military). Of course U.S. (or other) media outlets don't have their own planes flying over Fallujah, so they're at the mercy of the U.S. military in this regard. But overflying planes are hardly the only source of such footage these days. Within days of the recent tsunami, TV was repeatedly broadcasting before and after satellite photos of Banda Aceh, showing the extent of damage that had occured there. Surely similar images exist of Fallujah before and after. When will the world get to see them?

Dresden, thanks in part to Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five", and thanks also to it being a European city filled with "white" people, is probably the best-known such incident from World War II, but it was hardly the worst. For that we have to look to the firebombing of Tokyo and 67 (!) other Japanese cities by Curtis LeMay and his bombers with the able assistance of Robert McNamara and the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese civilians. Coincidentally, although you are hard-pressed to find any references to those events in the American press, and I think it's safe to say that 99% or greater of Americans under the age of 50 have never heard of them, the firebombing of Tokyo actually made the news just a few days ago, thanks to Ward Churchill mentioning it during his recent speech in Boulder, Colorado. The firebombing of Tokyo occured on March 10, 1945. Let's see if the BBC, or any of the American networks, reminds their viewers of its 60th anniversary come next month.

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