THE WISDOM FUND: News & Views
September 1, 2004
Thomas Dunne Books

Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki: Terror on a Monumental Scale

by Patrick J. Buchanan

IN WORLD WAR II, perhaps the greatest single act of Allied war terror was the fire-bombing of "the Florence of the Elbe." An undefended city of 630,000, in February of 1945, Dresden was packed with hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees fleeing the Red Army.

As the Washington Post's Ken Ringle wrote on the fiftieth anniversary of the raid, "if any one person can be blamed for the tragedy at Dresden, it appears to have been Churchill."

Before leaving for Yalta, Churchill ordered Operation Thunderclap, the use of Allied air power to "de-house" German civilians to make them refugees so they would clog the roads over which German soldiers had to move to stop the winter offensive of the Red Army. It was British Air Marshal Arthur "Bomber" Harris who put Dresden on the target list. As Ringle describes the first night of the raid, 770 Lancaster bombers arrived over Dresden around ten p.m. In two waves three hours apart, 650,000 incendiary bombs rained down on Dresden's narrow streets and baroque buildings, together with another 1,474 tons of high explosives.

The morning after the Lancasters struck, five hundred American B-17s arrived over Dresden in two waves, with three hundred fighter escorts to strafe fleeing survivors.

The fires burned for seven days. More than 1,600 acres of the city were devastated (compared to 100 acres burned in the German raid on Coventry) and melting streets burned the shoes off those attempting to flee. Cars untouched by fire burst into flames just from the heat. Thousands sought refuge in cellars where they died, robbed of oxygen by the flames, before the buildings above them collapsed.

Novelist Kurt Vonnegut, one of twenty-six thousand Allied prison ers of war in Dresden who helped clean up after the attack, remembers tunneling into the ruins to find the dead sitting upright in what he would describe in Slaughterhouse-Five as "corpse mines." Floating in the static water tanks were the boiled bodies of hundreds more.

Estimates of the dead in the Dresden firestorm run from 35,000 to 250,000. Even Churchill acknowledged what it had all been about: "It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of bombing of German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, though under other pretexts, should be reviewed."

BEGUN BY THE British, air terror was perfected by the Americans. A few weeks after Dresden, General Curtis LeMay's B-29s went into action over Tokyo. Nicholas von Hoffman describes what happened:

On March 9, 1945, 179 American bombers, armed with incendiary bombs intended to torch the wood-and-paper Japanese capital appeared over Tokyo, a city with population density of 135,000 per square mile. All went according to plan. Tokyo was consumed by fire so ferocious that the heat boiled the water in the lakes and ponds, cooking those who fled to safety there like human lobsters. Official American figures put the death toll for that night's raid at 87,000 people. Nobody knows what the true number is.
What is the moral difference between burning alive 87,000 people with incendiary bombs from five miles up-and burning to death 187 Czechs in a barn at Lidice?

In the documentary Fog of War, former Defense Secrefary Robert McNamara, who worked with LeMay on the plans to incinerate Japanese cities, says the general came to the conclusion that "if we'd lost, we'd be prosecuted as war criminals; and I think he was right. LeMay, and I, were acting like war criminals."

Six months after Tokyo, Harry Truman ordered atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing an estimated eighty thousand in the first strike on August 6 and forty thousand in the second on August 9. Truman dropped the bombs to force Japan to surrender. Had we not, it is said, half a million U.S. soldiers, sailors, and airmen might have died in the planned invasion of the Home Islands. Asked if he agonized over the decision to burn alive a hundred thousand Japanese civilians, Truman replied: "I never gave it a second thought."

If war terror is the deliberate slaughter of noncombatants, to break the will of an enemy, were not Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki war terror on a monumental scale?

BUY BOOK



[Excerpted from "Where the Right Went Wrong: How Neoconservatives Subverted the Reagan Revolution and Hijacked the Bush Presidency," by Patrick J. Buchanan -- pages 119 to 121. Mr. Buchanan writes: Muslims "worship a different God," and that the "soaring Muslim population is a Fifth Column inside Europe."]

Herbert P. Bix, "From Nanjing 1937 to Fallujah 2004," History News Network, May 17, 2004

Tony Kevin, "Fallujah: All the Makings of a War Crime," Sydney Morning Herald, November 6, 2004

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