Friday, July 28, 2006

Hitchens on Dresden

In a tedious article in the Weekly Standard that contradicts itself at the very end, somewhat reformed leftist Christopher Hitchens tackles issue of the WWII Allied bombings of Dresden and other German cities and surprisingly comes out in its favor. He writes:

On the other hand, once the battle had eventually been joined, one has little choice but to regard it as an anti-Nazi war at last. And to me, this involves viewing it from the standpoint of a German antifascist, or a non-German slave laborer or other victim of German racism. And here, atheist though I am, I have to invoke something like the biblical. It was important not just that the Hitler system be defeated, but that it be totally and unsentimentally destroyed. The Nazis had claimed to be invincible and invulnerable: Very well, then, they must be visited by utter humiliation. No more nonsense and delusion, as with the German Right after 1918 and its myth of a stab in the back. Here comes a verdict with which you cannot argue. I choose to quote Thomas Mann, a non-Jewish German who had to decide the matter in great personal anguish. In his Doctor Faustus, the narrator calls the ruin of Munich by the bombers "a Last Judgment" and then goes on to say:

Granted, the destruction of our cities from the air has long since turned Germany into an arena of war; and yet we find it inconceivable, impermissible, to think that Germany could ever become such an arena in the true sense, and our propaganda has a curious way of warning the foe against incursion on our soil, our sacred German soil, as if that would be some grisly atrocity. . . . Our sacred German soil! As if anything were sacred about it, as if it had not long ago been desecrated again and again by the immensity of our rape of justice and did not lie naked, both morally and in fact, before the power of divine judgment. Let it come!

"Let it come!" Good grief; it is hard to think even of any non-German wishing to go that far. (Mann used to broadcast on American radio to Germany.) But anything less than the apocalyptic seems inadequate. Eva Klemperer, a staunch and principled German Lutheran, told her husband that, after what she had experienced under Hitler, she could not find it in herself to truly regret the firestorm of Dresden. And what of the Slav and Balkan and Polish and Jewish slaves in Speer's underground hell holes, forced to dig out pits for the rocket-bombs that were being directed at London? Did they not cheer silently every time the very earth shook with revenge? [emphasis added]

In this instance Hitchens gets it exactly right (unfortunately, later in the article he gets it exactly wrong with respect to Nagasaki -- for a defense of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings see John Lewis's recent piece in the Undercurrent). A socio-political system such a Nazism deserves utter destruction and, yes, that almost inevitably means destroying substantial portions of the source enemy nation that maintains and sustains the regime. As for "innocents" caught in the war, I refer readers to Onkar Ghate's excellent article on this very subject. One wishes both Israel and the United States would draw the appropriate conclusions for the present conflict in which both countries are facing forces that demonstrate a great deal of sympathy with Nazi goals in their own way.

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