Sunday, February 13, 2005

A Fragment of Dresden China

Today is the 60th anniversary of the fire-bombing of Dresden. Thirty-five thousand people died in that action, most of them civilians.

Hmmm....Not that I'm taking sides, mind you. This is pretty much the only event of WWII in which Germans can say they were victimised. I can't help but notice that the number is about ten times larger than those who died in 9-11.

Yes, this was an act of war taking place during a declared war. It differs in that respect from the events of 9-11, although Muslim terrorists might dispute this. They might see 9-11 as either the official declaration of war or just another skirmish in the ongoing guerrilla struggle.

But the fact that so many of the Dresden dead were civilians shouts one word to me: terrorism. I doubt the allies had any goal in this bombing other than to demoralise the population. (What was left of it after the bombing.)

Not much different with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nagasaki, I believe, had some strategic or military importance because of its industrial base. (Or wasn't there a military installation nearby? I can't remember.....(not having been there lately...)). But come on, really the purpose was two-fold: 1. to play with the new ultra-destructive toy; and 2. to beat hell out of the Japs. Both aims accomplished admirably.

What a strange world, eh? They say history is written by the victors. The winners define the vocabulary. When we think of Pearl Harbour and the less often mentioned destruction of the US fleet in the Phillipines the next day, even as Canadians, we think of the treachery of the Japanese. Even though, with just a little checking, we can easily discover that neither attack was any sort of real surprise. And both were, after all, legitimate military targets. (This assumes that you think anything about war is legitimate.)

Proof, once again, as if we need it, that no one is innocent. The Japanese were brutal in Hong Kong and China, inhumane to prisoners. The Germans brutal all over Europe. The Soviets brutal even to their own. The Americans now brutal in Iraq and Guantanamo. Canadians brutal in Somalia. The British brutal in so many of their colonies. And the Belgians...victimisers in the Congo and victims in Rwanda...The Israelis, the Palestinians. Everyone takes their turn.

On a sad level, this is an argument for the oneness of humanity. We are equal in our brutality. Do 6 million in the Holocaust outweigh 3 million in the Soviet Union during the 1930's? Do 35,000 in Dresden outweigh 3,000 in New York? Does the average of 3 Palestinians dead to 1 Israeli constitute an imbalance?

Not if we think of each life as infinitely precious.

How wonderful it would be if we all managed to do this now and then.

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