Monday, July 17, 2006


British terrorism?

I've just finished watching a fascinating programme on RTE about Allied air raids on Germany in 1945 during World War 2, specifically the bombing of Dresden.

Historians estimate that between 25,000 - 35,000 people were killed in a raid which took place at a time when the outcome of the war was no longer in doubt.

What particularly caught my eye though on the programme was this comment from Winston Churchill after the raids. Churchill, who had approved of the raids originally, began to distance himself from the attack and in a memo sent by telegram to General Ismay for the British Chiefs of Staff and the Chief of the Air Staff he wrote:

"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. Otherwise we shall come into control of an utterly ruined land."

Increasing the terror? Does that not make the bombing of Dresden and certain other German cities terrorist attacks? How is this any different to tactics applied by groups such as the Provisional IRA in later decades?

There is of course much debate about the definition of 'terrorism' in the modern age but surely at its most basic level, terrorism involves the deliberate murder of civilians in order to strike fear or "terrorise" the general populace. So isn't that what this attack on Dresden was? A terrorist act?

Interestingly, under pressure from the Chiefs of Staff and in response to the views expressed by men such as Arthur "Bomber" Harris among others, Churchill withdrew his memo and issued a new one. His final version read:

"It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of the so called 'area-bombing' of German cities should be reviewed from the point of view of our own interests. If we come into control of an entirely ruined land, there will be a great shortage of accommodation for ourselves and our allies."

I should probably clarify that I am not necessarily for or against the Dresden bombing, however having seen the programme these thoughts did occur to me and I figured I'd let some of you folks offer your two cents on the matter.

Your thoughts?


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