Was the Allied bombing of German cities a war crime? - U2 Feedback

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Old 08-10-2012, 02:46 PM   #1
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Was the Allied bombing of German cities a war crime?

No, argues this columnist, because the phrase "war crime" has no objective meaning - but it was still morally wrong.

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The football crowds who crudely chant his name to tease modern Germans call him ‘Bomber Harris’. His aircrews had another name for him. To them, he was ‘Butcher Harris’ because he was so ready to sacrifice their lives.

And for what? The bomber boys did what they believed was their duty and asked few questions. They had enough to worry about, not knowing if they would live until morning. They hoped that the War Cabinet and the Air Marshals knew what they were doing.

Arthur Harris had no such excuse. Nor did the architects of the deliberate bombing of German civilians in their homes. That, by the way, is what we did. As Harris himself said, the aim of his offensive should be unambiguously described as ‘the destruction of the German cities, the killing of German workers, and the disruption of civilised life throughout Germany’.

To remove all doubt (and Harris was annoyed that Winston Churchill wouldn’t admit the truth in public), it was aimed at ‘the destruction of houses, public utilities, transport and lives, the creation of a refugee problem on an unprecedented scale, and the breakdown of morale at home and on the battle fronts by fear of extended and intensified bombing’. He stated ‘these are not by-products of attempts to hit factories’.

Harris actively preferred this form of warfare to the more difficult but immensely more militarily effective targeting of oil refineries, railway marshalling yards and warlike installations which many experts believe would have been far more damaging to Hitler, and would have drawn away just as many guns and planes from the Russian front (the lame excuse for the bombing of homes).

To this day, few British people know what we actually did to Germany. We know of and are rightly angered by the Luftwaffe attack on Coventry and by the London Blitz. But these wretched events were tiny compared with the ruin we inflicted on Germany.
PETER HITCHENS: The heroes of Bomber Command deserve their memorial... unlike the butcher who led them | Mail Online
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Old 08-10-2012, 04:10 PM   #2
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A little off topic, but fascinating none the less. These statues (called the Tell Halaf Statues) were destroyed during the allied bombings of Germany. At the time, whatever fragments they could find were kept and in 2003, a group of archaeologists decided to try and piece everything back together with only photographs of the intact statues to go by. It ended up taking them 9 years to to sort through thousands of fragments and fit them back together. It still blows my mind that they were able to do it







And a shot of the warehouse where they pieced everything back together

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Old 08-10-2012, 04:37 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by financeguy View Post
No, argues this columnist, because the phrase "war crime" has no objective meaning - but it was still morally wrong.
I'm not sure what his point is - there are a number of possible indictments under the broad umbrella of war crimes (the phrase usually being used by the media and journalists, not lawyers or judges), such as, for example, crimes against humanity, violations of the laws and customs of wars, and various violations of the Geneva convention, which in fairness were not enacted until after WW2. And these types of violations do have their legal/objective definitions.
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Old 08-10-2012, 05:04 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by anitram View Post
Geneva convention, which in fairness were not enacted until after WW2.
What rules of war were followed before the Geneva Conventions? Was it not a sort of war-to-war set of agreements between warring factions? Was anything in place during the second World War? It's funny, I had never considered the bombings of cities in WW2 could be seen as war crimes. It seemed to me in a time of all out war, before any internationally agreed upon rules, the destruction of civilian infrastructure was just the nature of the beast. Certainly none of the big players were innocent of that.
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Old 08-10-2012, 05:20 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by anitram View Post
I'm not sure what his point is - there are a number of possible indictments under the broad umbrella of war crimes (the phrase usually being used by the media and journalists, not lawyers or judges), such as, for example, crimes against humanity, violations of the laws and customs of wars, and various violations of the Geneva convention, which in fairness were not enacted until after WW2. And these types of violations do have their legal/objective definitions.
Peter Hitchens is an irregular traditional conservative. By which I mean he takes at times unpredictable stances on issues, but they are usually reasonably logically argued from a set of core traditional conservative principles, as opposed to anything deriving from neo-conservatism/neo-liberalism.

Having some familarity with Hitchen's writings, I would guess he views phrases like "war crimes" or for that matter "hate crimes" as smacking of internationalism or unnecessary legal interventionism. I would guess that his view is more or less that assigning a legal definition to "war crimes" does not ascribe it a moral definition. Or alternatively he is critiquing over-use of the phrase by the media for sensationalist value, as you've alluded to.

But really I only picked out that quote to hang a point on the article, which I think is rather good overall.
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Old 08-10-2012, 06:03 PM   #6
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Ah, cool - thanks for the context. I have to admit I am not really familiar with him (aside from the obvious family connection).
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Old 08-10-2012, 11:48 PM   #7
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I would imagine the bombing of German cities would be no more or less a war crime than the use of the atomic bomb on Japan.
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Old 08-11-2012, 05:32 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by maycocksean View Post
I would imagine the bombing of German cities would be no more or less a war crime than the use of the atomic bomb on Japan.
That's pretty much what I was getting at
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Old 08-11-2012, 06:49 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Jive Turkey View Post
A little off topic, but fascinating none the less. These statues (called the Tell Halaf Statues) were destroyed during the allied bombings of Germany. At the time, whatever fragments they could find were kept and in 2003, a group of archaeologists decided to try and piece everything back together with only photographs of the intact statues to go by. It ended up taking them 9 years to to sort through thousands of fragments and fit them back together. It still blows my mind that they were able to do it

http://digitalcosmonaut.com/wp-conte...2/DSCF0048.jpg

http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6128/5...3b6504e3_z.jpg

http://digitalcosmonaut.com/wp-conte...55-600x400.jpg

And a shot of the warehouse where they pieced everything back together
http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/image..._bright224.jpg
I have seen the exhibition. It's a huge collection. Some pieces they had to use fake parts, but most are pretty much complete. They also had a couple more large scale pictures of the reconstruction process. Quite impressive how they could piece together those torn apart statues, especially when all the parts were mixed with a bunch of other parts or debris from the storehouse they were found in.
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Old 08-11-2012, 11:25 AM   #10
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^ I'm jealous. I can't wrap my head around the patience it would have taken. It's sad that they were destroyed in the first place, but now they have another interesting layer of history that adds to the interest is a way.

Is the museum that they're in the one that was also destroyed in the war, but when they rebuilt it, they kept many of the bullet ridden concrete pillars and walls? That in itself is an amazing building
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Old 08-11-2012, 12:39 PM   #11
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Yes, pretty much. It was in the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pergamon_Museum, which is one of the museums on the Museum Island. The museum was partly destroyed and you can still see the bullet holes, but they have started to cover them up which I think is pretty sad. You can still see as those patches are darker than the stones, but nonetheless, it had this sense of living history when it was still without any patches. But there are still a great many buildings with bullet holes, where you can sort of imagine how in '45 a soldier or another person might have stood in the corner and taking the bullets. I think it's important to keep it like this in some places.
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Old 08-12-2012, 05:04 PM   #12
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I agree about the bullet holes. They're a part of history. We can't only be privy to the positive history of places, we need to know about the horrors that occurred there, too.

That is really cool about the statues, though. I'm glad people were able to salvage them and took the time to try and restore them.

As for the bombings, well, it's true that the idea of rules in war is kind of pointless, because war by its very nature isn't a "play nice and fair" action. It's dirty, it's cruel, it's deadly. I know why people in WW2 did what they did by destroying countries at large and everything.

However, I will always maintain that killing innocent people as punishment for the evil actions of some is never justifiable. Destroying entire swaths of countries doesn't solve anything. It's not worth stooping to the level of your enemies.
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Old 08-12-2012, 08:05 PM   #13
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Bombing of german cities did not occur as a sadistic punishment, unlike what the Axis Powers did many times to their enemies and to the Allied forces. It occured as a demonstration of force and as one of the attempts for Germany to finally surrender.
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Old 08-12-2012, 11:29 PM   #14
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Death, destruction, disease, horror. That's what war is all about, Anan. That's what makes it a thing to be avoided.

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We can admit that we're killers, but we're not going to kill today. That's all it takes.

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Old 08-12-2012, 11:44 PM   #15
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Bombing of german cities did not occur as a sadistic punishment, unlike what the Axis Powers did many times to their enemies and to the Allied forces. It occured as a demonstration of force and as one of the attempts for Germany to finally surrender.
That seems like a very biased opinion. You don't think the Germans had similar objectives as the allies had? Granted, they were the aggressors, but it's way oversimplified to say they had no military motivation in mind and were just in it to punish. The idea that some people have that the Germans were all just evil war mongers is a very shallow one
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