June 8, 2008 - June 1, 2008
Friday, June 06, 2008
A D-Day Coincidence?
This morning, the AP
reporting that a very real souvenir of the Second World War is
attracting serious interest in the U.K., which has lately been doing an
excellent job of papering over the lessons of that fracas.
LONDON -- Military engineers were
working Friday to defuse a giant bomb from World War II that was
discovered in east London during construction for the Olympic Games,
but the work was not going as quickly as hoped, a military spokesman
Service on two nearby subway lines was suspended Friday as a precaution.
A team of Royal Engineers, from the British Army, had hoped to render
the 2,200 pound bomb safe by 9 a.m Friday, but the operation was
expected to continue into the afternoon, said spokesman Simon Saunders.
He would not give details of the difficulty that delayed the work.
The bomb, which Metropolitan Police said was the largest found in
London in three decades, was discovered Monday by construction workers
preparing a site for the 2012 Olympic Games.
Saunders confirmed that at one point the bomb had started to tick but
said engineers dealt with the problem. He said he could not recall when
the ticking was noticed.
Thousands of bombs fell on east London during World War II and
unexploded devices are found from time to time, particularly at
With writers on both sides of the Atlantic exercising eagle-eyed
hindsight about the unnecessary and even criminal nature of Churchill's
War (or Roosevelt's, depending on the vector of your flapping), it
might be educational if the Royal Engineers asked Pat
or Christopher Hitchens's brother Peter
to comment on the fact "that at one point the bomb had started to
Believers in the new "blame the Allies first" argument summarize it
thus, with the helpful additional context of why it's so convenient in
contemporary political terms:
Buchanan cites such British notables as
F.J.P. Veale, B.H. Liddell Hart and C.P. Snow to document that it was
Winston Churchill who committed, in Veale's words, "the first
deliberate breach of the fundamental rule of civilized warfare that
hostilities must only be waged against the enemy combatant forces." It
was Churchill, not Hitler, who first targeted civilian populations in
World War II and caused the structure of civilized warfare to collapse
The Americans quickly adopted Churchill's criminal policy of attacking
civilians, culminating in the outrageous use of nuclear weapons against
two Japanese cities, the slaughter of Vietnamese civilians, and the
ongoing slaughter of Afghan and Iraqi civilians.
Slick, huh? Churchill would no doubt be surprised, at least slightly,
to discover that he's responsible for imaginary atrocities committed
close to a half century after his death. On the other hand, he was no
stranger to the concept of being smeared by the high-toned sort of
politician who excels at causing impossible moral dilemmas whose
consequences he runs from like a frightened deer. Here's a reasonably
of how Churchill "first targeted civilian
populations" in World War II:
The United Kingdom had a policy of
using aerial bombing only against military targets and against
infrastructure such as ports and railways which were of direct military
importance. While it was acknowledged that the aerial bombing of
Germany would cause civilian casualties, the British government
renounced the deliberate bombing of civilian property, outside combat
zones, as a military tactic. This policy was abandoned on May 15,
1940, two days after the German air attack on Rotterdam, when the RAF
was given permission to attack targets in the Ruhr, including oil
plants and other civilian industrial targets which aided the German war
effort, such as blast furnaces that at night were self illuminating.
The first RAF raid on the interior of Germany took place on the night
of 15 May - 16 May.
Between 1939 and 1942 the policy of bombing only targets of direct
military significance was gradually abandoned in favour of a policy of
"area bombing" - the large-scale bombing of German cities in order to
destroy housing and civilian infrastructure. Although killing German
civilians was never explicitly adopted as a policy, it was obvious that
area bombing must lead to large-scale civilian casualties.
There were a number of reasons for this policy change... [including]...
The free use of indiscriminate bombing of cities by Germany - Warsaw in
1939, Rotterdam in 1940, Belgrade in 1941 and above all the bombing of
British cities ("the Blitz") in 1940-41 - hardened British attitudes
towards bombing Germany.
Now. Back to that "ticking" in the Year 2008. Yes, it's hard to believe
that a nearly 70-year-old mechanical/chemical device could start ticking upon
being disturbed, and perhaps (hopefully) it didn't. What's important is
that ticking is something the Royal Engineers would be listening for.
Why? Because during the Blitz, Germany didn't just drop bombs
indiscriminately on residential sections of London that had no
conceivable role in aiding the British "war effort." They also employed
the cleverness of their munitions engineers to transform a certain
percentage of their bombs into terror weapons.
These bombs were never intended to explode on impact. They were
designed to explode later on, if moved or even touched by those who
might be picking through the ruins of a bombed neighborhood. Some
contained intricate timing devices that were set to begin ticking when
disturbed and explode seconds or days after the fatal sequence had been
set in motion. (The fun was in the not knowing when
.) The fuses that governed
these devices were also
booby-trapped, so that those charged with rendering them safe would be
routinely blown up in full sight of the women, children, and other
civilians into whose homes and schools the bombs had fallen.
They were, in this respect, the first civilian-targeted IEDs. Although
German 'improvisation' is probably more systematic and mass-produced
than what we've seen from Iran and al qaeda Iraq.
Does bombing the German military-industrial complex in the Ruhr seem as
"criminal" as this calculated effort to wreak as much physical and
psychological damage as possible in the civilian population of London?
Well, sure. If your only use for history is to rewrite it as propaganda
for your current political posturings. But if you're prepared to think
about it in somewhat more depth, there was a Brit television series
that explored these antique beginnings of modern terrorism in a
typically (or what
used to be) understated British fashion.
The show was called "Danger
." It followed not the exploits, but the
ups and downs of a unit of Royal Engineers responsible for defusing the
unexploded bombs that fell on London during the Blitz. They weren't
volunteers. They were simply assigned based on some officer's read of
their mechanical aptitude and, more importantly, lack of family
It's rather a sad show in two different ways. First, major characters
die with some regularity, almost matter-of-factly, in the same way that
the Brits of the time endured the Blitz and suffered myriad privations,
large and small, to
win a monstrous war. Second, the show is a period piece,
excruciatingly correct about the details of wartime life and things
military and ironically (almost 30 years after its production)
indicative in a score of ways that the Britain which survived the
darkest days of the war to join us in the D-Day invasion
no longer exists. Here's a taste:
The whole series is available on DVD and can be rented through Netflix.
If you need show biz type credentials to give it a look, the star is
Anthony Andrews, who became famous for his extraordinary performance in
another Brit drama, Brideshead Revisited
And there's also the MG
I think it's a TA, the precursor of the MGTC which helped inaugurate
the sports car craze in America. It was slow as molasses but cooler
than most anything on the road today.
Which seems a fitting way to wrap up this oblique memorial to what
(almost) none of you remember about the Sixth of June, 1944. Except,
maybe, for one last irony. Individual days of the Blitz were certainly
worse than the 7/7 terror attack, and this old bomb is probably bigger
than anything al qaeda set on that day. But when you've trampled on
your own triumphant past to come up with acceptable excuses for
quitting today, you wind up trading your future away. Running away from
Iraq wasn't just a sorry episode in Brit history. It was the last
episode in Brit history.
From now on it's about fashion, gossip, sex (fading), and death
But today let us all remember that there were Brit beaches at Normandy as
well as American beaches. And hope we won't miss them too much when it
comes time to storm the next beaches alone.
fairness, Buchanan deserves a second slap that even American liberals
should be remembering on a day when all are delighted to condemn the
flying of the biggest
Confederate flag ever constructed
. Destroying the enemy's ability
to make war against you by decimating their industrial and agricultural
productivity as well as their military was a strategic innovation of
Union Generals Grant and Sherman in the American Civil War. Sherman's
March to the Sea was the Ruhr-bombing of its day, and for Buchanan in
particular to concoct a case against Churchill for it is hypocrisy of
the grossest sort. By the same token, I'd be delighted to hear from
"progressives" any defense they might offer of the human rights of
southerners to pursue their war for slavery without having their
slave-dependent plantations burned to the ground. But their customary
silence on such moral quandaries will probably stand them in good stead
this time. Pat will probably make that argument in his next
book, The Unnecessariliness of the Civil War
I tend to stand on the admittedly reactionary cliche of Mr. Sherman,
who declared that war is hell. The same Sherman who knew that some wars
have to be fought anyway because some outcomes are even worse than
hell. Meaning you'd be willing to spend an eternity in hell yourself
rather than be an accomplice in such outcomes. Slavery comes to mind in
this context. And rape rooms. And fanatical enemies who interpret your
attempts at reasoning with them as invitations to wanton murder.
But that's just me. I'm sure Pat -- and probably Peter, too -- have it
all worked out differently. In their wisdom.
. Everybody's so
fired up about this, from the MSM to the
rightwing talk radio hosts. So we paid off our sources big time and got
you the actual footage. PLEASE don't express your gratitude in any way.
Ever. We really really don't want to know any more about it.
Yeah, I know you find all this depressing and I'm supposed to make it
better somehow, but McCain believes in five-buck-an-hour illegal labor
to "do the jobs Americans won't do," like, say, picking oranges or, er, cotton, which
is pretty much the same argument Jeff Davis had about the
indispensability of slavery. Obama can't bring himself to disagree. McCain believes in the simplistically
rigged computer models of Global Warming and its $45 TRILLION
price tag, which doesn't
even count the extinction of all
human liberties forever. Obama thinks that's part of necessary change. And McCain has developed an old man's idee fixe
about the inviolability of the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge, which could
give us 27 million gallons of gasoline a day and an absolutely KILLER
campaign issue. Obama wants us to die on the vine, the way we deserve. But McCain's a damned old bastard who's too rigid to change
his mind about anything, especially if it means pleasing evil, free-market
conservatives. Obama thinks the mere idea of CHANGE is enough to solve all the problems of the world. While McCain wants us all to sign up for basic training. Rachel is sure it's dumber than f___ to resist the McCain imperative. I
So all I can do is aim you at the bright
shining light of right now. Here she is. On the subject of Clint
always believed that's who he really was.*
I think it's called being a romantic. I still am.
Feel better? Funny. I kind of do. too. But I don't think it will last
all the way to 3 am, which as everyone knows is the dark night of the
soul. Still, I think it's going to work great till about bedtime.
That's when I'm going to start thinking about who exactly I'd face down
if the nannies hadn't eliminated all poetic justice from the face of
our poor poor planet.
* Yes. It was, by far, the longest movie gunfight in history. A
seven-minute foregone conclusion. But it's possibly the only Hollywood
gunfight that wasn't some kind of a political statement. The Man with
No Name was open to all kinds of symbolism -- libertarian,
anarchist, capitalist, marxist. But he was so archetypal that he
subverted the fake ones and exemplified the valid ones. He became the,
gasp, Man with No Allegiance. Which is quickly and easily reducible to
the man who just doesn't want to be
told what to do.
It's an unwelcome idea anymore. That many of us might not be evil but
still don't want to be told what to do.
That's why some of us climb on our motorcycles and howl.
But if you object, be content. No one will ever see this. All the well
schooled conservatives have learned never to reference this blog again.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
You Want Hillary
to quit. Don't you?
. We just love America. And the Seventies
too. We can't wait for the utter destruction of our country by
Michelle Obama, the ultimate henpecker-in-chief.
Funny that we never figured we'd be rooting for Hillary as a saner
alternative. Now that's life in these United States.