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If only Le Pen had been in Dresden ...

February 22, 2007 ~ 9:05 p.m.

This month marked the 62nd anniversary of the Bombing of Dresden by the British Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Forces in 1945. Not that there's anything particularly special about the number 62, but I bring it up because Jean-Marie Le Pen, the perennial campaigner for the French presidency and certifiable Far Right lunatic, compared the Allied bombing to the 9/11 attacks.

Le Pen asserted that 9/11 was a mere "incident" and that, like Dresden, it was an act of terrorism designed to force the capitulation of a military leadership—essentially likening the World War II Allies to Al-Qaeda. Now, we all know that Le Pen is a great example of what is wrong with France, of the paranoia and despair prevalent in a nation that still thinks it is an influential world power. So this isn't so much about him.

So what about the Dresden bombings? Were they justified or not?

After the bombings, Winston Churchill—who authorized the Dresden air raids—distanced himself from them. But the US Military pressed home the argument in favor of the bombing and denied that it was a war crime. The Americans concluded that: 1. the raid was legitimate because of the military ends achieved, 2. there was nothing extraordinary about the bombings as the methods used were comparable to previous raids, and 3. the raid was legitimized by the normal chain of command.

Up until 1945, the Allied chain of command had left the city untouched, but Churchill concluded, ultimately, that the incoming Russians should not profit from their invasion into Germany from the east. However, the Allies had also stipulated that Dresden, like Berlin, was strategic because it had oil plants and aircraft factories.

Two important things to remember about Dresden: Firstly, what made the bombing particularly fierce was the weather conditions in Dresden at the time—calm and dry, which encouraged a firestorm of immense proportions. The RAF and USAAF bombed the targets agreed upon and were not aware that such fierce firestorm would result.

Secondly, Dresden was a city loyal to the Nazi regime. The bombing of Hamburg in July 1943 was nearly as fierce as Dresden, creating a similar firestorm and killing 50,000 people, more than the 35,000 casualties in Dresden. Even if the Hamburg raids helped to disable the German war effort, Hamburg was a city whose citizens more or less opposed the Nazi government. Who cries for the victims of the Hamburg bombings?

Consider this: If NATO bombs a community harboring the Taliban in Pakistan or Afghanistan, would you lose any sleep, even if a large number of civilians were among the dead? I wouldn't. War is brutal business and supportive citizenry are just as much a target as the enemy itself. It's all part of the game. So we took out 35,000 "Sieg Heil" chanting civilians in Dresden and some call that a tragedy?

Maybe we could firebomb a few French communities loyal to Le Pen?

– M.E.M.

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