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A dozen Guernicas: western war crimes

Richard Neville features a striking and sobering photo-poem entitled Merciless Savagery From The Sky: The Future of Bombing.

Behold western war crimes: Neville enumerates the trail of death and destruction caused by air strikes on civilian areas throughout the last century by various “powers”, including France and Spain. These strikes usually serve little military purpose (eg Japan’s peaceful surrender was imminent before the dropping of the bombs on Japanese cities Nagasaki and Hiroshima by the US during WWII) and are conducted on defenseless civilians—innocents.

It is sad to note that the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have practically been bookended by Anglo-American military savagery in Iraq. In 1920, the British killed 9000 Iraqis by dropping 90 tons of bombs. In 2004 the US military dropped 26 tons of ordnance in the siege of Falluja alone.

This history matters and it matters enormously: lest we forget our own crimes, and for much else besides.


Neville writes:

In this flag waving age, we suppress the history of Western war crimes.
In 1923, in order to exterminate a troublesome sheik, the British bombed a crowded market in Baghdad. A newly arrived British staff officer, Lionel Charlton, was so horrified by the carnage inflicted on women and children, that he asked to be relieved of his post.

Air Commodore Lionel Charlton
Charlton’s request for an official enquiry into the slaughter was refused on the grounds that matters of conscience were irrelevant.
The Iraqi rebellion continued for a decade, as did the punitive bombing raids,
under the command of Arthur “Bomber” Harris, one of the most
sadistic figures in British military history.

He pioneered the heavy bomber as well as night “terror” raids:
“Within 45 minutes a full-sized village can be wiped out, and a third of its inhabitants killed or injured”.

Harris normalized the aerial slaughter of innocents and
paved the way for a century of unpunished atrocities to come.


In 1925, French and Spanish forces dropped thousands of tons of bombs and poison gas on the totally undefended holy town of Sheshuan, in Morocco,
at a time when every male adult was known to be absent.
Countless women and children were massacred. The survivors were maimed and/or blinded.

It was an act of imperial revenge arising from a humiliating defeat the previous year at the hands of Moroccan guerrillas.

Strangely, the assault on Sheshuan, was directed by volunteers attached to the French Flying Corps – a squadron of American pilots.

Observing the bombardment was a Spanish soldier serving in Africa, Francisco Franco, the future dictator of Spain. It became the blueprint for Franco’s 1937 destruction of the Basque city of Guernica, assisted by the Nazis.


The RAF dropped three quarters of a million incendiary bombs on Dresden, creating an artificial tornado which sucked people into its heart. It was a city without capital industry or strategic infrastructure,sustained in peacetime by its theatres, museums, cultural institutions.

The ruins of Dresden, bombed by Allied forces in February 1945
Reputed to “like destruction for its own sake” Bomber Harris was the only man who ever frightened Winston Churchill.

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On March 9, shortly after the bombing of Dresden, 325 US planes dropped napalm over seventeen square miles of Tokyo, burning alive 100,000 civilians. Hit by strings of incendiaries, the city became a holocaust. Temperatures reached over 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. Water boiled in the canals.

Over the next five months, 66 cities Japanese cities were annihilated, along with about a million residents

“There are no innocent civilians”, Major General Curtis LeMay told Time,
“so it doesn’t bother me to be killing innocent bystanders”

Most Westerners still believe that dropping the bomb was strategically justified, despite evidence to the contrary. This is the US Strategic Bombing Survey’s official report on the result of the air war against Japan, July 1946:

“Japan would have surrendered even if Atomic bombs had not been dropped …[nor] did they persuade Japan to accept unconditional surrender” –
According to a 2005 report in the New Scientist, President Truman agreed at a meeting three days prior to dropping the bomb, that Japan was “looking for peace”. He was told by army generals, Douglas Macarthur and Dwight Eisenhower, and his naval chief of staff, William Leahy,
that there was no military need to unleash Little Boy.

The real motive was to “impress the Soviet Union”.

In 1963 President Eisenhower re-iterated his view to Time:
“First, the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing. Second, I hated to see our country be the first to use such a weapon.”

After Little Boy, everything changed. Instead of relying on pitched battles, a key object of war became the extermination civilians.
Read the entire piece here

Meanwhile, Jim Lobe reports in IPS that Iraqis Are Increasingly Pessimistic, Anti-US

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2 comments on “A dozen Guernicas: western war crimes

  1. Curtis
    23 March, 2007

    It’s always perturbed me that so many have such trouble understanding that the atomic bombing of Japan was quite indisputably not a prerequisite to Japanese surrender. It was clearly a demonstration pointed at Moscow, at a time in which U.S. intelligence drastically underestimated Soviet progress on their own atomic weapons, and overestimated Stalin’s aims for furthering a bloc in Europe (for instance, many military bosses in Washington were disseminating rumors as late as 1948 that Stalin was actively planning to invade as far west as Paris or even London.) I’ve probably mentioned this before, but Sidney Lens wrote an amazingly thorough account of the arms race from Roosevelt through Carter and he discusses the years 1945-49 in particular detail.

    Similarly, the military occupation of Iraq was in no way necessary to unseat the Hussein regime. Of course, that objective was merely an unpleasant prerequisite for the true objectives of Operation “Iraqi Freedom” or whatever they dare to call it.

    In reading about “Bomber” Harris I was instantly reminded of Curtis LeMay. And then I scrolled down.

    Thanks for reposting this.

  2. Pingback: War in the Air at Congregation of Muslim Bloggers

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