Debate Magazine

Hiroshima, Mon Amour (Hiroshima, My Love)

Posted on the 30 July 2014 by Doggone
The title of this post is a reference to the famous 1959 French film of that title, which is about 'failed relationships'.  I believe reviewing Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Dresden offer important insights into the conflict between Gaza and Israel.
Yesterday, Theodore Van Kirk died at 93, the last surviving crew member from the Enola Gay, the plane which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, 69 years ago a week from today, August 6, 1945, at 8:15 a.m.  The second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later, on August 9th.  Both cities were obliterated.
The Japanese surrendered on August 15th, 1945.
Prior to the obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the U.S. had engaged in extensive firebombing of Japanese urban areas in the final year of the war, beginning in late 1944.  It is estimated that as many as 900,000 people were killed, due in part to the lack of effective air defense by the Japanese, and due to the lack of fire-fighting equipment and air raid shelters for civilians.
To quote Wikipedia:
The strategic bombing campaign was greatly expanded from November 1944 when bases in the Mariana Islands became available as a result of the Mariana Islands Campaign. These attacks initially targeted industrial facilities, but from March 1945 were generally directed against urban areas as much of the manufacturing process was carried out in small workshops and private homes. Aircraft flying from Allied aircraft carriers and the Ryukyu Islands also frequently struck targets in Japan during 1945 in preparation for the planned invasion of Japan scheduled for October 1945. During early August 1945, the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were obliterated by atomic bombs.
Japan's military and civil defenses were unable to stop the Allied attacks. The number of fighter aircraft and anti-aircraft guns assigned to defensive duties in the home islands was inadequate, and most of these aircraft and guns had difficulty reaching the high altitudes where B-29s often operated. Fuel shortages, inadequate pilot training and a lack of coordination between units also constrained the effectiveness of the fighter force. Despite the vulnerability of Japanese cities to firebombing attacks, the firefighting services lacked training and equipment, and few air raid shelters were constructed for civilians. As a result, the B-29s were able to inflict severe damage on urban areas while suffering few losses.
The Allied bombing campaign was one of the main factors which influenced the Japanese government's decision to surrender in mid-August 1945. However, there has been a long-running debate over the morality of the attacks on Japanese cities, and the use of atomic weapons is particularly controversial. The most commonly cited estimate of Japanese casualties from the raids is 333,000 killed and 473,000 wounded. There are a number of other estimates of total fatalities, however, which range from 241,000 to 900,000. In addition to the loss of life, the raids caused extensive damage to Japan's cities and contributed to a large decline in industrial production. In contrast, Allied casualties were low.

Japanese cities were highly vulnerable to damage from firebombing due to their design and the weak state of the country's civil defense organization. Urban areas were typically congested, and most buildings were constructed from highly flammable materials such as paper and wood. In addition, industrial and military facilities in urban areas were normally surrounded by densely populated residential buildings.[15][16] Despite this vulnerability, few cities had full-time professional firefighters and most relied on volunteers. Such firefighting forces that did exist lacked modern equipment and used outdated tactics.[17] Air raid drills had been held in Tokyo and Osaka since 1928, however, and from 1937 local governments were required to provide civilians with manuals that explained how to respond to air attacks.[18] Few air-raid shelters and other air defense facilities for civilians and industry were constructed prior to the Pacific War.

A similar firebombing, leading to massive damage from what has been termed a firestorm, occurred in Europe with the joint U.S. and U.K. bombing and obliteration of large parts of the city of Dresden, in Saxony, Germany.  While the allied military claimed this was an essential communications and logistics hub, those who argue against that explanation view this as much more payback for the bombing of civilians in London than a genuine military necessity.
Again, from Wikipedia:
The Bombing of Dresden was an attack on the city of Dresden, the capital of the German state of Saxony, that took place in the final months of the Second World War in the European Theatre. In four raids between 13 and 15 February 1945, 722 heavy bombers of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and 527 of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) dropped more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on the city.[1] The bombing and the resulting firestorm destroyed over 1,600 acres (6.5 km2) of the city centre.[2] Between 22,700 and 25,000 people were killed.[3] Three more USAAF air raids followed, two occurring on 2 March and 17 April aimed at the city's railroad marshaling yard and one small raid on 17 April aimed at industrial areas.
Post-war discussion of whether or not the attacks were justified has led to the bombing becoming one of the moral causes célèbres of the war.[4]
A 1953 United States Air Force report defended the operation as the justified bombing of a military and industrial target, which was a major rail transport and communication centre, housing 110 factories and 50,000 workers in support of the German war effort.[5] Several researchers have claimed that not all of the communications infrastructure, such as the bridges, were targeted, nor were the extensive industrial areas outside the city centre.[6] Critics of the bombing argue that Dresden—sometimes referred to as "Florence on the Elbe" (Elbflorenz)—was a cultural landmark of little or no military significance, and that the attacks were indiscriminate area bombing and not proportionate to the commensurate military gains.[7][8]

The following narrative accompanied the above video; I could not provide better context myself:
By February 1945, the city was filled with refugees -- people moving from east to west in an attempt to escape the advancing Red Army. The Nazi propaganda machine had filled the minds of the Germans with horror stories of what to expect if the Red Army got to Germany. Thousands now fled from this army as it relentlessly advanced to Berlin. No-one knows how many people were in Dresden when the city was bombed. Officially, the city's population was 350,000, but with the number of refugees there, it would have been a lot higher than this. Between February 13th and February 14th 1945, between 35,000 and 135,000 people were killed by Allied bombing in Dresden. Historians still argue over the number of deaths. However, there were so many refugees in the city at the time that the real figure will almost certainly never be known. In all, over three waves of attacks, 3,300 tons of bombs were dropped on the city. Many of the bombs that were dropped were incendiary bombs. These created so much fire that a firestorm developed. The more the city burned, the more oxygen was sucked in -- and the greater the firestorm became. It is thought that the temperature peaked at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. The surface of roads melted and fleeing people found that their feet were burned as they ran. Some jumped into reservoirs built in the city centre to assist firefighters. However, these were ten feet deep, smooth-sided and had no ladders - many drowned. Very few of those in the city centre survived.
This link of contemporaneous news footage is equally candid about the attacks on Dresden as 'carpet bombing' and as reducing the city "to atoms".
If you give credence to the axiom "Those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them", we should be examining the lessons of Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In spite of questionable military ethics in those attacks on what were essentially civilian targets, at least in WW II there can be no dispute that the conflict was symmetrical -- both sides were similarly equipped with large militaries, including air forces and navies.
In the Gaza/Israel conflict, the sides are extremely asymmetrical.
In the cases of WW II, the allies won BOTH the war and the peace; Japan and Germany, and Italy, became our close allies, not continuing enemies.
I don't see Israel winning EITHER war OR peace, in contrast to the resolution of WW II.  Rather, it appears that Israel is only adding injury and death to insult in refusing to address the underlying issues which act as ongoing provocations to those in Gaza and on the West Bank. 
Israel has, for their entire period of existence as a modern nation, reneged on their agreement in 1948 onwards, termed the Right to Return for Palestinians. 
Israel has for their entire existence refused to give Palestinians equal representation in their Knesset, violating their agreement when the nation was established in 1948.  Currently, Palestinians in Israel comprise approximately 20+% of the population; Palestinians have only 10% of the representation in the Knesset, and those individuals are regularly arrested and beaten by government authority - without having done anything illegal to justify that abuse of authority.
Our own REAL Tea Party, as distinct from the pseudo-patriots who have hijacked that name, opposed taxation without representation. IF we truly value that premise, that FOUNDATIONAL premise, we should not only oppose along with the Palestinians their lack of representation in taxation, but in all other areas of government, including the judicial system, where Palestinians are under-represented and where they are treated as second class citizens every bit as much as our own Jim Crow laws made black American second class citizens for decades.
Palestinians have had their land taken from them, as have the Bedouin in Israel, a process that continues to this day, on the West Bank.  For their entire existence, the nation of Israel has engaged in illegal, unethical, and immoral land grabs, often with little or no restitution and no due process for the original Palestinian land owners.
Jews throughout history suffered 'pogroms', 'purgative attacks'; they have also suffered ghettos.
The Russian word pogrom (погром), with stress on the second syllable, is a noun derived from the verb gromit' (громи́ть) meaning "to destroy, to wreak havoc, to demolish violently".[12])

The word 'ghetto' dates back to Jews being confined to a small area, as a disparaged minority, from the Venetian word 'borghetto'.
In some cases, the ghetto was a Jewish quarter with a relatively affluent population (for instance the Jewish ghetto in Venice). In other cases, ghettos were places of terrible poverty and during periods of population growth, ghettos (as that of Rome), had narrow streets and tall, crowded houses. Residents had their own justice system. Around the ghetto stood walls...
A reasonable argument can be made that Gaza has suffered both the experience of both sequential pogrom-like violence and non-violent oppression from larger and stronger Israel, and been turned into an effective walled-in ghetto, and as has the West Bank.
As noted by an Al Jezeera op ed that is directly on point:
Over 80 percent of the population of Gaza are refugees. With another two million Palestinian refugees in various states of desperation in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, the crisis of 60-plus years would hardly be solved by the creation of a Palestinian Authority-type state. Not only has the more than 20 years of peace talks not benefited them at all, the situation for Palestinian refugees wherever they are in the region, has gotten progressively worse during that same period.
If life in Gaza is intolerable under the siege, life in Syria is impossible, life in Iraq is precarious at best, life in Lebanon is as if under a boot and so on. The Arab countries have proven their inhospitableness to Palestinians. If there were a people today in need of their own homeland for their continued security as a people, it is the Palestinians.
And yet, they once had and could have them once again - it is time to go home, time to return to Palestine. Not the Palestine of the occupied territories, but the Palestine of Asqelon, Asdud and Haifa. This will not be easy, and certainly not without risk of many being killed, for the Israeli military will surely be given orders to fire. Yet a population already captive, already under siege, already facing a future dystopia - namely the people of Gaza - have found themselves victims of repeated military assaults leaving thousands of dead and wounded.
The future generations of Gaza - without adequate water, sanitation and food - are traumatised to the point of requiring new studies into the effects of such unprecedented forms of collective punishment and targeting.
So what is the there to lose? There is no political party or faction on the Palestinian scene that is seeking more than a form of apartheid that the two-state "solution" offers. Military confrontations have only allowed Israel to expand its control over Palestinian territory, to displace and dispossess more Palestinians and to make life increasingly intolerable.
Unlike Japan, post the atomic blasts, Gaza has nothing to gain by surrender.  Unlike Germany, post Dresden's destruction,  Gaza has nothing to gain by surrender.  Unlike the ending of WW II and the WINNING of the subsequent peace, so long as there are 2 million to 5 million+ Palestinian refugees outside of Israel, and many others INSIDE Israel, Israel can win NEITHER the war or the peace proceeding along their current course.  They can only create millions upon millions more enemies to their security and continued existence.
Failing to respond to PEACEFUL protests leaves Palestinians without any other recourse.  From the Guardian, earlier this year:

Defiance and sadness as Palestinians forced off West Bank protest site

Ian Black reports from Ein Hijleh, where bulldozers have erased all trace of a camp after a week of peaceful direct action
Only hours later, hundreds of police and troops returned on Friday morning to force some 250 Palestinians off the site, close to Jericho and the Dead Sea, after a week of peaceful direct action designed to dramatise their claim to the land and to protest against peace talks they fear will consolidate rather than end the 46-year occupation by Israel.
Real peace can only occur if Israel honors its original commitment to fair treatment of Palestinians.
The legacy of history does not view this kind of destruction favorably; the violence, oppression and inequity inflicted on Gaza has none of the legitimacy of the bombings of Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- and even that limited legitimacy of warring on civilians back in WWII continues to erode. 
Israel is winning NEITHER the war nor the peace, and cannot do so on its present course.  All they are achieving is to diminish their support in the world, including in America, their closest ally.
We do not condone attacks on civilians.  The Geneva Conventions do not condone attacking civilians.  International law does not condone attacking civilians:
Air warfare must comply with laws and customs of war, including international humanitarian law by protecting the victims of the conflict and refraining from attacks on protected persons.[1]
These restraints on aerial warfare are covered by the general laws of war, because unlike war on land and at sea—which are specifically covered by rules such as the 1907 Hague Convention and Protocol I additional to the Geneva Conventions, which contain pertinent restrictions, prohibitions and guidelines—there are no treaties specific to aerial warfare.[1]
To be legal, aerial operations must comply with the principles of humanitarian law: military necessity, distinction, and proportionality:[1] An attack or action must be intended to help in the military defeat of the enemy; it must be an attack on a military objective, and the harm caused to civilians or civilian property must be proportional and not excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.
In 1977, Protocol I was adopted as an amendment to the Geneva Conventions, prohibiting the deliberate or indiscriminate attack of civilians and civilian objects, even if the area contained military objectives, and the attacking force must take precautions and steps to spare the lives of civilians and civilian objects as possible. However, forces occupying near densely populated areas must avoid locating military objectives near or in densely populated areas and endeavor to remove civilians from the vicinity of military objectives. Failure to do so would cause a higher civilian death toll resulting from bombardment by the attacking force and the defenders would be held responsible, even criminally liable, for these deaths. This issue was addressed because drafters of Protocol I pointed out historical examples such as Japan in World War II who often dispersed legitimate military and industrial targets (almost two-thirds of production was from small factories of thirty or fewer persons or in wooden homes, which were clustered around the factories) throughout urban areas in many of its cities either with the sole purpose of preventing enemy forces from bombing these targets or using its civilian casualties caused by enemy bombardment as propaganda value against the enemy. This move made Japan vulnerable to area bombardment and the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) adopted a policy of carpetbombing which destroyed 69 Japanese cities with either incendiary bombs or atomic bombs, with the deaths of 381,000-500,000 Japanese people.[33][34][35][36]

The International Court of Justice gave an advisory opinion in July 1996 on the Legality of the Threat Or Use Of Nuclear Weapons. The court ruled that "[t]here is in neither customary nor international law any comprehensive and universal prohibition of the threat or use of nuclear weapons." However, by a split vote, it also found that "[t]he threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict." The Court stated that it could not definitively conclude whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defense, in which the very survival of the state would be at stake.[37]
By no stretch of the imagination, when civilian Palestinian casualties are at 300 to every 1 Israeli and rising, can the attacks on Gaza be considered lawful or justified.  To continue, instead of changing course, will be disastrous.

When we do not learn the lessons of history, we are doomed.  It would appear that the Jews in Israel have themselves historically been on the other side of at least some of these lessons. Shame on them for repeating those mistakes.

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