Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Peter Hitchens Reviews Some Good War Revisionism

The New Beginning links to the man Mark in Spokane rightly calls "Christopher's younger and wiser brother" looking at a "book [that] comes tantalisingly close to being right" — All Hell Let Loose – Max Hastings on the ‘Good War’. Noting that "Sir Max’s treatment of the Anglo-French ‘guarantee’ to Poland is properly contemptuous," Mr. Hitchens quotes,
    France promised the military leadership in Warsaw that its army would attack Hitler’s Siegfried Line within thirteen days of mobilisation. Britain pledged an immediate bomber offensive against Germany. Both powers’ assurances reflected cynicism, for neither had the smallest intention of fulfilling them: the guarantees were designed to deter Hitler, rather than to provide credible military assistance to Poland. They were gestures without substance, yet the Poles chose to believe them.
The reviewer says, "I might add that the Germans, more sensibly, treated them as the worthless rubbish they were. A pity it wasn’t the other way round, really."

Later, Mr. Hitchens takes issue with "the ‘We Won the War’ cult" over an even more obviously clear but somehow contentious point:
    Sir Max also addresses the question of the bombing of German civilians, fairly realistically. But he makes two classic mistakes, commonly made by defenders of this action. He accuses those, like me, who think the bombing was morally wrong, of arguing that it was *as bad as* and in some way equivalent to the mass-murder of Jews by the Hitler state.

    But most rational critics of the Arthur Harris bombing campaign do not think this at all. They think that the bombing was morally wrong on its own account.

    It was not remotely comparable to the mass-murder of Jews (and others), a unique crime whose culprits probably caused the excavation of a new pit in the deepest parts of Hell to hold them.

    But it was still utterly wrong.

    As for the supposed military argument for it, that it diverted artillery and men from the Eastern Front, this wasn’t its intention.

    And it must be stressed that a campaign of bombing properly directed at military targets would also have caused this diversion. I doubt very much whether the appalling losses inflicted on his men by Harris would have been much greater if he had followed this course. But, as we know, Harris hated to be distracted from his attacks on civilians and was most reluctant to allow his bombers to be used for anything else.

    Such properly targeted bombing might also have done far greater damage to the Reich’s war effort than incinerating, suffocating, roasting and dismembering lots of innocent women and children, who cannot conceivably be blamed for Hitler.
Mr. Hitchens concludes that "the overwhelming message from this book is that the comforting fantasy of the ‘Good War’, with which British people have sustained themselves for so long, is insupportable." Tolle, lege.

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Blogger Mark in Spokane said...

The great trick is to make any discussion of Allied war crimes during WWII seem like an effort to excuse the barbarity of the Nazis or Japanese fascists. It appears to defenders of the Allied war effort that one cannot hold two truths at once: that the Germans and Japanese committed atrocities, and that the Soviets and the Western Allies also committed atrocities. That the Holocaust and the Rape of China are different than the firebombing of Dresden, the slaughter of the Polish officer corps on Stalin's orders, or the firebombing of Japanese civillians doesn't make the Allied atrocities any less atrocities. And saying so doesn't in the least amount to an attempt to excuse the barbarism carried out by the Axis powers.

BTW, thanks for the link!

November 15, 2011 at 11:57 PM  

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