February 13th, 2015, St Valentine’s eve, Japan. I stumble out of bed and flick the internet on. What has the world got to tell me today? Scientists at SETI think the time is right to go beyond listening for signs of intelligent alien life and start actively seeking it out. A new theory of the Universe maintains that there was no Big Bang and that the Universe has existed forever. President Obama is silent about the murder of three Muslims at Chapel Hill. US drones continue to kill children. Dresden was bombed 70 years ago to the day. The BBC said so.
I will admit to being surprised to see the anniversary of the bombing of Dresden mentioned on the BBC World News. Every year I watch out for what is said about Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Dresden usually passes by without a murmur. This time they mentioned refugees fleeing the Russian advance, slave workers and POWs . This time they had a graphic interview with a British prisoner of war. He saw people sucked into the air and burnt alive. People stuck in roads that were rivers of melting tar. Bodies that became so hot they exploded. The BBC then went on to assure me that there is no moral equivalence between the war records of the Allies and those of the Nazis. I wonder why. Noam Chomsky is under no illusions:
Moral equivalence is a term of propaganda that was invented to try to prevent us from looking at the acts for which we are responsible.
The BBC prove his point. The word firestorm is quickly linked to the Nazis’ deliberate murder of civilians. The term area bombing remains mute. No indication that the creation of the inferno was a deliberate plan and scientifically worked out in advance. Little to no historical context except to suggest that the bombing was done to aid the Soviet advance. No mention of the reasons given to the RAF crews at the time:
The intentions of the attack are to hit the enemy where he will feel it most, behind an already partially collapsed front… and incidentally to show the Russians when they arrive what Bomber Command can do.
No mention either about the British obsession with bombing from the air. Almost from the beginning of air warfare the British were interested in heavy bombers. While the Germans were developing their theories of blitzkrieg with the air-force working to sustain the rapid advance of ground troops the British were developing ideas about strategic bombing and bombing at night. There is no co-incidence that the British were the dominant World empire at the time. Empires always look to technological means to control their subjugates. Back in 1932 three times Prime-Minister Stanly Baldwin could say “The Bomber will always get through”. Nowadays the USA military have their “Full Spectrum Superiority”. Dominance remains the goal. Death the result.
After the raid on Dresden Winston Churchill decided to distance himself from the policy of deliberately destroying cities. He rewrote a memo initially sent out on March 28th to remove the word terror and the suggestion that the attack was repugnant. His sanitized memo was sent out on April Fool’s Day:
It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of the so called ‘area-bombing’ of German cities should be reviewed from the point of view of our own interests. If we come into control of an entirely ruined land, there will be a great shortage of accommodation for ourselves and our allies. … We must see to it that our attacks do no more harm to ourselves in the long run than they do to the enemy’s war effort.
In other words bombing is OK until it starts to interfere with our own National Interests. And that is still the case today. The scientists at SETI are mad to think that now is the time to seek out intelligent life. To pinch from Gandhi who replied when asked what he thought about Western Civilization that it thought it would be a good idea before we start to seek out intelligence we better get some. According to a recent ZNet Commentary by Vincent Emanuele we will have created autonomous battlefield robot by the year 2025. That is robots that make the choice to kill themselves. This is far beyond the horrendous weaponisation of drones where pilots kill by remote control. The British bomber crews risked life and limb to kill. Flying at night they were far removed from the human beings below. Not like The Third Man’s Harry Lime and his moving dots below the Ferris Wheel in 1949 Vienna. They didn’t see their victims. This can’t be said for drone strikes where targeted individuals can be stalked for weeks. Children like 13 year old Pakistani boy Zubair ur Rehman nowadays prefer grey skies to blue ones:
I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer grey skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are grey.
According to Michael Albert (Do Not Drone Me) drones are close to being able to stay in the air for weeks on end. They can fly 3.5 miles high and take photographs covering 15 square miles with pictures able to show detail down to around 6 inches. Of course the data recorded can be stored for ever. Forget Orwell’s Big Brother and those wall monitors spying on party members indoors. How about total surveillance by machines that can be programmed to kill according to specific criteria? Machines don’t suffer from PTSD.
We need real participatory democracy now. We need to reduce hierarchies of power and distance and wealth. We need democracy in schools and democracy in the work place. Otherwise it won’t matter whether the Universe is expanding, contracting, everlasting or flat. We are flying on the wings of bombers towards oblivion and we are close enough to hit the target.