By Chris Floyd -
January 9, 2004.
Entertain conjecture of a national leader, in the midst of a ferocious war, plotting to drop tens of thousands of anthrax "superbombs" on the civilian population of his enemy. At his order, his generals draw up a detailed plan for a chemical attack on six major cities: they estimate that millions will die immediately "by inhalation," with millions more succumbing later through skin absorption of the poisons.
In the end, the leader is thwarte
d by objections from his aides and allies. To assuage his frustration, he launches another pet i
dea: "Operation Thunderclap," a massive conventional bombing raid on the enemy's capital, also aimed
at civilians, designed to "castrate" the enemy population. In a single night, allied forces kill 25,000
people, almost all of them from the city's working class and poorest districts.
"The rule of law is dead.
Emboldened, he presses for yet another feast of fire and death. He gets it: a bombing raid on a non-military target, a cultural center, a city glutted with refugees, slave laborers and prisoners of war -- his own soldiers and those of his allies. The raid kills 35,000 people or more; no one knows for sure, because the city is completely pulverized -- and is bombed again immediately afterward, with special high explosives, in an attempt to kill any survivors hiding in the ruins.
A portrait of Saddam Hussein, at the height of the murderous Iran-Iraq war? No, it's Winston Churchill, whose shadow looms so large over the carnage being conducted by his historically ignorant successors in the Anglo-American "coalition." Churchill has long been anointed a secular saint by the chewed cud of received wisdom, especially in America, although those who knew him best seemed to like him least -- he was booted out of office by his own people not once but twice: the first time before the end of World War II (which we are now told he won almost single-handedly).
As journalist Mike Davis reports in his book, "Dead Cities," Churchill's plan to blanket Germany with 40,000 anthrax bombs was narrowly averted by Franklin Roosevelt. But Winston was allowed to wield his more conventional "thunderclaps" on the civilians of Berlin and then Dresden. Finally, the once-reluctant Americans succumbed to his policy of "terror bombing" and launched "Operation Meetinghouse," the firebombing of Tokyo that killed more than 100,000 civilians in a single night. Although American war planners called the raid "nothing short of wonderful," it was, in some respects, a disappointment: they had originally planned a six-city extravaganza with the carefully calibrated target of 584,000 civilian fatalities.
Oddly enough, these attacks were launched over the strenuous objections of some of America's most battle-hardened military brass, Davis notes. Air Force General George McDonald railed against "indiscriminate homicide and destruction," which "repudiates our past purposes and practices." War Secretary Henry Stimson warned, "We don't want the United States to get the reputation of outdoing Hitler in atrocities." Major General Laurence Kuter declared "it is contrary to our national ideals to wage war against civilians."
These honorable stances cut no ice with Churchill (or Roosevelt, in the end). Of course, the pendulously jowled prime minister was a mass-destruction fan from way back. In 1919, Churchill called for airborne chemical assaults on "uncooperative Arabs" (actually Kurds and Afghans, but your great men need not make such petty distinctions). "I do not understand the squeamishness about the use of gas," he declared. "I am strongly in favor of using poison gas against uncivilized tribes." Some years later, a certain A. Hitler would apply this gaseous philosophy to another troublesome "tribe."
The two Teutonically-derived statesmen also shared a loathing for the lesser breeds. As Churchill put it with customary eloquence in 1937: "I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race, has come in and taken their place." Hear! Hear! cried Hitler, as he sent his "higher-grade" hordes swarming eastward into the vast Slavic manger.
Churchill's understandable thirst for revenge against the Nazis who had bombed English cities took a curious turn, however. The mass British counter-raids aimed at "breaking the enemy's morale" were targeted almost exclusively against the "lower orders," who died by the hundreds of thousands in the "area bombing" that neither broke civilian morale nor substantially hampered German war production (although it did waste the lives of thousands of allied airmen). Yet the sumptuous, undefended villas of Nazi leaders (the very men who had ordered the blitz on English cities) and major Nazi industrialists (who, along with their American partners like Prescott Bush, had built Hitler's war machine) were specifically excluded from the attacks. What stirring chivalry among the warrior elite!
Today, Churchill's bust adorns the office of George W. Bush -- a gift from his loyal tributary, Tony Blair. Churchill is their lodestar, their magic totem, the mythic foundation of their "moral authority" as war leaders. But as history shows, there is no "moral authority" in war, even in a "good war": There is only "indiscriminate homicide and destruction," the unleashing of the beast within all of us -- even the "great ones," made drunk with power and terror.
"Dead Cities: And Other Tales,"
Mike Davis, New Press Paperback, October 2003
"GoodBye to Berlin,"
The Guardian, May 12, 2003
"History Forgave Churchill,"
Dissident Voice, July 19, 2003
"Firebombs Over Tokyo,"
Atlantic Monthly, July/August 2001
Top of Page.
"Heir to the Holocaust,"
Clamor Magazine, May/June 2002