A Slippage in Language

Mark Perry

Bitterlemons, September 7, 2006

Since talk of “Islamofascism” is so much in vogue these days, it might be useful to return to those years when the inventors of the ideology (let’s call them “Christofascists”) took their show on the road. If George Bush thinks that “the terrorists” hate our values now, he should getta-loada-these-guys. From 1933 to 1945, Germany, Italy and Japan (the latter, I suppose, “Shintofascists”) and their freedom-hating friends put 21 million men and women in uniform. By the time they were finished they had killed ten million soldiers, sailors and airmen and another 22 million civilians. The Allies responded by fielding 50 million men and women who killed just over seven million soldiers and about two million civilians. The total butcher’s bill was a whopping 41 million dead, give or take a million. Still–thank God–at the end of this “wargasm” our “Judeo-Christian values” had prevailed.

Among the more interesting statistics from this recent madness is this: at the height of the war, the Soviet Army executed more men each week for desertion than died at the World Trade Center on 9/11, a grand total of 157,000 executions. And that was just for desertion. Or this: that nearly five million tons of bombs were dropped on Germany and Japan in nearly three million bombing missions. In Hamburg, on three nights in late July and early August of 1943, Allied bombers killed nearly 100,000 people. In Japan, the “terror bombings” (as they were called) were so devastating that Japanese officials ripped down entire parts of their cities to create firebreaks. The American bomber command bombed Japanese cities anyway–a program called “dehousing.” Approximately ten million Japanese were “dehoused” in 1945.

In the wake of this stupidity, the US and its allies created study groups to determine how to enhance their military prowess so as to more effectively kill people the next time our values were endangered. A team of Americans was appointed to pick through Germany’s rubble to find out whether the bombing of Hamburg and 65 other cities had a significant impact on the German capacity to wage war. This “Strategic Bombing Survey” produced alarming results, especially for those air power advocates who believed that aerial bombardment could prove decisive in any future conflict. The survey blew a hole in that supposition and stated that, “the speed and ingenuity with which [the Germans] rebuilt and maintained essential war industries in operation clearly surpassed Allied expectations.”

Germany’s ability to produce tanks and guns lasted nearly to the end and while the German people were “terrorized”, the regime that had started the war was never endangered by its own people. The survey team also knew the unalterable truth of the European war: that the Germans only surrendered when the last German soldier was killed, in the last room of the top floor of the last building left in central Berlin–the Reichstag. The study concluded: “The great lesson to be learned in the battered towns of England and the ruined cities of Germany is that the best way to win a war is to prevent it from occurring.”

The US military was so stunned by the results of the Strategic Bombing Survey of World War II that its conclusions were retested in Vietnam, where 6.5 million tons of bombs were dropped on hamlets, villages, towns and cities against people who, being non-western, not only did not have our values but, as we said at the time, had absolutely no regard for human life. The results of the bombing were far different in Vietnam than in Germany or Japan. German and Japanese civilians were demoralized in World War II, but the Vietnamese people’s morale soared with every bomb we dropped. In the end, it was our morale that was endangered and we were forced from the country in a humiliating retreat that left our Vietnamese allies clambering to climb aboard our departing helicopters.

It is with this sordid history in mind that, as the American press has recently reported, US strategists are developing a plan for the bombing of Iranian nuclear sites. We should not take such plans too seriously: the US military has a plan handy for any contingency. Then too, while there has been a great deal of technological progress in the art of aerial bombardment since the end of World War II (the US Air Force can deliver its precision munitions on target with a minimum of civilian casualties, it is said), even the most precisely targeted weapon can go astray–as was recently shown by the Israel Air Force when they “accidentally” killed dozens of Lebanese civilians being used as “human shields” at Qana. So the world should be reassured: we only bomb those people who hate our freedoms and do not have our values.

There is also this: the United States has 138,000 men and women in uniform in Iraq and the day that we bomb Iran will be the day that they are taken hostage, or overrun, by an enraged Shi’ite populace. Then too, if there is a reason not to mount such a campaign against Iran beyond self interest (doing so would so endanger our own troops as to be counter-productive) and beyond principle (we have reached the ends of this incessant talk of values), it is because our past experience has shown that such action simply will not work. A US bombing campaign against Iran will not constrain its program, but reinforce it, invigorating a national initiative to build a bomb that, next time (and there would most assuredly be, in the wake of our actions, a next time) will be used against us. In the words of the Japanese admiral who launched the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, we will only have “awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve”. Is our insistence that Iran not be allowed to pursue nuclear technology worth this price?

The truth is simply this: while our president and his crew might irresponsibly compare Islamists with fascists, the rest of us do not. And if their slippage in language leads to irrationality of thought, they will be held to account. And they know it.

This article first appeared in bitterlemons-international.

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