Sunday, July 23, 2006

On bombing civilians

As I've mentioned previously, I'm working my way through A.C. Grayling's Among the Dead Cities: The History and Moral Legacy of the WWII Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japan. The book could not be of more importance given the state of affairs the world still finds itself in.

When I'm done I'll do a review, but until then, I would direct your attention to an editorial that Grayling wrote in The Guardian on this topic. In light of the previous post, and the Ben Stein article which can be found in the Jesus General link, it may be of some benefit to read.

One other thing, in Stein's article he writes, "we were killing 30,000 in a few hours in World War II and glorying in it."

Well, no. Not everyone was. Some people recognized it for the atrocity that it was.

As Grayling states

The second world war bombing story is clouded by misunderstandings, largely because the victor nations, rightly condemning the far greater crimes committed by nazism, have yet to inquire properly into aspects of their own behaviour.

Confessing to a tactic which for decades before 1939 had been universally condemned as immoral, and which from early in the war was recognised as having little military value (and indeed perhaps the opposite), would have invited awkward questions about why it was done, and seemed unfair to the airmen whose extraordinary courage and sacrifice was called upon to carry it out.
What people like Stein would have us do is continue to avoid proper inquiry into aspects of our own behavior, for the sake of our conscience. But to do so is unfair to ourselves, and to the people who die as a result of our actions. We owe it to them, at the least, to engage the ethics of our actions, to struggle to make sure we are doing everything possible to protect the innocent from harm.

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