The world was understandably and justifiably outraged at the news earlier this week that a young Jordanian air force pilot had been burnt alive by the murderous group known as ISIS. This was a heinous and horrible action and is rightly condemned by all peoples.
This month, some of us will note the 70th anniversary of the firebombing of Dresden in Germany. On February 14 and 15 in 1945, Dresden, a refugee city at the time with a swollen population, was mercilessly bombed by the Royal Air Force and by the US Army Air Corps. Many civilians were burned alive or were suffocated in the firestorm. Official casualty figures are absurdly low for this Allied war crime. Many other German cities were incinerated during the war causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilian non-combatants. (The irony here is that the British knew that their terror bombing campaign was not hastening the end of the war at the time. This was touched on in the book, Among The Dead Cities: The History and Moral Legacy of the WWII Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japan, by A. C. Grayling, 2007.) In occupied Germany, after the end of hostilities, a punitive program of starvation was imposed on to the conquered Germans. Thus, Allied war crimes continued after the official end of the war. (See our monthly archives for February, 2014 for more on this.)
What of the civilians burnt alive in Japan by American bombings? Tokyo was firebombed during the war as were other cities. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed with atomic bombs. Were these civilian population centers legitimate military targets? Those persons close to ground zero in Hiroshima and Nagasaki when the atomic bombs exploded were vaporized.
If the Allies’ own indictments (with their own definition of war crimes being applied) had been levelled against the victorious Allies, the verdict would have been guilty as charged on numerous counts.
The moral of the story here is: If we in the West do not condemn all war crimes, all heinous atrocities, we do not have the moral “high ground” vis-a-vis others.
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