Monday, August 06, 2007

Revisionist bullshit

This article about a film on atomic bombing survivors dishonors the memories of Holocaust victims and survivors with this line:

The uncomfortable footage of cities reduced to rubble and grotesquely deformed survivors has received relatively little circulation because -- unlike the well-recorded Holocaust -- this was something done by Americans, Sheila Nevins, head of HBO's documentary unit, said.

As well as dishonoring victims of the Holocaust, it insults the Americans who fought World War II. The bombings are on the moral level with the unfathomable acts of genocide perpetrated by the Nazis? Anyone who thinks that either had terrible education or is simply a complete moron.

The Holocaust was genocide, carried out on a previously unimaginable scale. It was inflicted upon people because of their minority status, not because they were combatants or even residents of an enemy city. It was a systematic effort to murder people of certain religion, ethnicity, etc., wiping out whole peoples forever.

The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were attacks against enemy cities designed to bring the Empire of Japan to its knees (a nation known for fine accomplishments like the Rape of Nanking, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the enslavement and murder of countless civilians in the countries it invaded, the brutal murder of POWs... the list goes on and on). Were civilians killed? Certainly. Civilians also were killed in the bombings of London, Tokyo, Dresden, Hamburg, Stalingrad and many, many other cities. War is a nasty, horrible thing, and the warring countries bombed each other's cities in an effort to do sufficient damage to shift the balance in their favor.

Think Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bad? Take a look at the death toll from the fire bombings of Tokyo not long before (by one estimate, 83,000 dead in one night, and that number may be conservative). That was a higher number than each of the atomic bomb blasts killed, and those people often died slower, more agonizing deaths than the people in the cities hit by atomic bombs. Of course, being on the receiving end of any of this isn't a good thing. The point is that it all was done with the same goal: to win the war.

That's not what the Nazi Germans were doing to the Jews and others. Those acts had nothing to do with winning the war. They were simply barbaric mass murders.

I'm just glad the Japanese didn't call our bluff and wait to see if we had any more atomic bombs, because we didn't. We would have made more, of course, but that would have taken a while. For right then, when we were trying to avoid the need to invade Japan, we were out of them. If they had called our bluff, it would have meant many more American casualties, and, in all probability, many more Japanese casualties as we went on bombing their cities to ash.

HBO's Sheila Nevins and the CNN people who put her assertion in the story should be ashamed of themselves. What a slander on the people who brought that horrific war to an end! I just hope the film that led to the article is more sensible in its view.


Verlon said...

Well said. Of course, the author of said article is on shakey ground. Hiroshima was not the first atomic bomb. That was New Mexico (the test site). Nagasaki was the last one used in a war (so far), but far from the last bomb.

War is ugly business, but the holocaust wasn't war. It wasn't to defeat an enemy. It was just murder.

Meanwhile, since the bombs flat ended the war and prevented the need for an invasion of the Japanese mainland, the bombs actually SAVED lives on both sides of the war. An invasion of the mainland would have killed millions on both sides and pretty much ruined many of the Japanese cities.

Yes, it sucked to be underneath one, but the end result was a lot less loss of life than a conventional invasion.

Eric said...

Ugh. I hate to be such a pacifist whanker, but man it'd be nice if the bombs had never been used. I mean, the alternatives seem, if anything, worse if that's believable, but I'm kind of curious about this documentary just to see if they really pull out all the stops on the distortion meter.

Dantallion said...

I struggle with this one a great deal. I understand your reaction. The article itself doesn't really strike me as particularly offensive, other than the quote by HBO's documentary unit head that you cite. It's Ms Nevins comment, and not the article itself that might be taken as offensive.

Making comparisons to the Holocaust is always problematic because, as you indicate, it was a genocide (slaughter) of unimaginable proportions. As such, making comparisons to other horrific events in human history is nearly impossible to rationalize - how CAN you really rationalize things on that scale? Furthermore, because of the scope of the holocaust and it's effects on humanity (individuals and cultures), there is invariably (and understandably)a massive emotional response whenever any such comparisons are made.

That being said, I think I understand why some people use the holocaust as a benchmark for the horrid things humans have done (and continue to do) to each other - because let's face it the holocaust is the recognized standard for how horrific humans can be to one another. I don't believe people like Ms Nevins make the comparison with any malicious intention of diminishing or dishonouring the tragedy of the 12 million murders that took place under Hitler. I do believe they make the comparison to raise awareness of the scope of other human tragedies that either get swept under the rug or the memory of which fades prematurely over time - Tragedy is tragedy - and one horrific event should NEVER trump another. Lest we forget. That includes the two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, Darfur, a million dead Iraqis over the past couple of decades, and yes, even Truman's decision to use the bomb to end WWII, among many, many others.

Despite my rambling on about this, I don't think I've done an adequate job explaining what I really mean. Suffice it to say, this is one of those things that I hope we get to sit down and chat about over a good bottle of wine one day, when we finally meet, Jess.