Thursday, February 12, 2009

We see your Guernica and raise you Dresden

While the US continues to wage two wars and threatens two more countries with hostilities, I thought it would a timely reminder to bring to your attention the 64th Anniversary of Dresden Fire Bombing. (February 13/14, 1945)

You may know of it from Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five." Kurt Vonnegut in interviews:
On Shrove Tuesday, February 13, 1945, a flood of refugees fleeing the Red Army 60 miles away had swollen the city's population to well over a million. Each new refugee brought fearful accounts of Soviet atrocities. Little did those refugees retreating from the Red terror imagine that they were about to die in a horror worse than anything Stalin could devise.
Howard Zinn, the noted historian, participated on a Dresden-lite bombing in the south of France. The awfulness of what he participated in led to his unflagging pursuit of America's hidden history.

There is no agreement on the number of victims. The CBC in October 2008 reported:
"A special commission in Germany says the Allied firebombing of Dresden in 1945 killed no more than 25,000 people — far fewer than scholars' previous estimates running as high as 135,000."
[Editor's note: Just 25,000 people.]

[Historian Tami Davis] Biddle makes the case that one of the Allied objectives for the Dresden raids was to create an obstacle, through the use of refugees, to hinder the German Wehrmacht’s attempts to reinforce the Eastern Front against the approaching Soviet offensive. She also notes that, unlike what one might have expected to happen at the beginning of the war, no debate occurred amongst Allied war leaders about the use of civilian refugees for this purpose. Biddle attributes this lack of debate to “hardened attitudes” among the war leaders at this stage of a long and exhausting war, as well as their anxiety about the conflict’s future direction in the immediate aftermath of the Ardennes offensive. Donald Bloxham contends that the bombing of Dresden was, in fact, a war crime: “

This is the underlying theme to remember: the United States has systematically targeted and killed large numbers of civilians to achieve strategic ends throughout its history, and continues to this day.

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