Like a rotting corpse exhumed from its grave, the horror of war - with its seemingly insoluble ethical conundrums - has once again risen into full view on European soil. In response, the British ruling class and its various media mouthpieces have orchestrated a chorus of moral outrage at the undeniable barbarities committed by their former friend in the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin. For good measure, they have even questioned Washington’s decision to supply Ukraine with cluster bombs which, they knowingly claim, are intrinsically indiscriminate.
This feeble attempt to occupy the moral high ground would be almost plausible were it not for the fact that Westminster itself has been a pioneer in both the development and deployment of these and other weapons of indiscriminate mass slaughter of civilian populations. However, this is no mere case of the standard hypocrisy which we come to expect from a British establishment steeped in a long history of colonial and imperial conquest.
Hidden behind their smokescreen of moral indignation lies a more monstrous history of crimes against humanity: a chronicle of genocide comprising a holocaust from hell, committed under the same narrative of defending democracy against authoritarian or tyrannical regimes.
The world is more than familiar with the Nazi holocaust resulting in the murder of 6 million Jews. The images of the concentration camps and gas chambers will forever be a reminder of the most horrific consequences of fascism in power. Surely, we are led to believe, Britain and the USA fought World War II precisely against such horrors.
The term holocaust derives from the Greek word holokaustos, meaning "burnt offering". The Cambridge Dictionary defines it this way: "a large amount of destruction, esp. by fire or heat, or the killing of large numbers of people”. This dictionary definition is useful, but still deficient as it lacks the qualifying description – fashioned by a long history bloodletting - of a deliberate and calculated campaign of slaughter of a defenceless civilian population.
It is this which was at the dark heart of Allied war policy in what was officially described as “strategic bombing” against the people of Germany, Japan and Korea. While it may have lacked the Nazi ideology of “the final solution”, its “democratic” rationale made it no less of a holocaust. Indeed, the incendiary element which was central to this campaign aligns it even more closely to its original meaning.
From the time of the celebrated Dam Busters assault on German dams during WW2, through to the Korean War, both Westminster and Washington used tens of thousands of tons of mass incendiary explosives, resulting in the obliteration of dozens of cities and the extermination of millions of unarmed civilians. It was a holocaust in every respect, a genocidal campaign of deliberate mass slaughter rained down from the skies.
Our “democratic” rulers try to escape the moral consequences of this genocide most frequently through the time-honoured methods of concealment, denial and blurring of the issues. Whenever this curtain of obfuscation is lifted, up pops a new line of defence: in short, the means - no matter how foul and debased - are said to be justified or overridden by an allegedly nobler end. ‘Democracy’ apparently could only survive the fascist onslaught by aping the methods of its adversaries.
The British holocaust: made in Berlin
From the time of the Nazi blitz on British cities in 1940, the Tory-Labour coalition government began a gradual shift in its aerial warfare policy, a shift which explicitly copied the Nazi blitzkrieg model and developed it on a far greater scale. A War Cabinet paper in October 1939 had already prepared a risk assessment for this eventuality:
“Germany’s weakest spot is the Rhur [sic], the heart of which is about the size of Greater London, and in which is concentrated approximately 60% of Germany’s vital industry. It contains, moreover, a population which might be expected to crack under intensive air attack. Such attacks would involve a heavy casualty roll among civilians, including women and children.”
However, it was the blitz that paved the way for the escalation of the RAF campaign during 1941 and 1942 into full-scale city bombing.
The architect responsible for drafting this new strategy was none other than Frederick Lindemann. As a close confidant of Churchill and an adherent of eugenics, he was renowned for holding , homosexuals, and black people in utter contempt. Unsurprisingly, he was also an advocate of sterilising people classified as mentally incompetent. When it came to the working class he was equally contemptuous:
"Somebody must perform dull, dreary tasks, tend machines, count units in repetition work;” he argued, “is it not incumbent on us, if we have the means, to produce individuals without a distaste for such work, types that are as happy in their monotonous occupation as a cow chewing the cud?"
It was an outlook that dovetailed perfectly with his designs for a genocidal bombing campaign.
Lindermann, known as Baron Berlin due to his place of birth and haughty aristoctratic manners, was recruited by Churchill to form a special unit known as the Statistical Section, or S-Branch as it came to be known. Following the Blitz this unit began to produce accurate figures on the damage inflicted by German bombs and to cross reference those figures to the density of urban population in different city zones. These figures were then applied to German cities to try to determine the areas where the highest damage could be done in terms of lives lost and houses destroyed. It was an algorithm for genocide, on a par with the Nazis’ use of IBM technology for generating data used to round up and massacre Jews.
Damage would clearly be heaviest in the congested working-class districts, which suggested that these were optimum targets. A draft directive from the Directorate of Bomber Operations in the Air Ministry in June 1941 drew heavily from this research on the Blitz:
“The output of the German heavy industry depends almost exclusively on the workers. Continuous and relentless bombing of these workers and their utility services, over a period of time, will inevitably lower their morale, kill a number of them, and thus appreciably reduce their industrial output.”
In May 1941 the Ministry of Economic Warfare had already issued a memorandum with the following observation:
“British experience [of the Blitz] leads us to believe that loss of output . . . through absenteeism and other dislocation consequent upon the destruction of workers’ dwellings and shopping centres is likely to be as great as, if not greater than the production loss which we can expect to inflict by heavy damage.”
Henceforward, notes produced in the Directorate of Bomber Operations in the Air Ministry a month later stressed the need for “continuous blitz attacks on the densely populated workers [sic] and industrial areas.”
In May 1941 the director of Air Intelligence, Group Captain F W Winterbotham, urged a bombing campaign that would target,
“the livelihood, the homes, the cooking, heating, lighting and family life of that section of the population which, in any country, is least mobile and most vulnerable to a general air attack—the working class.”
In late November 1941, Sir Richard Peirse, the then commander in chief of Bomber Command, addressing a sympathetic audience of the highly exclusive Thirty Club, explained that for almost a year his force had been attacking “the people themselves” intentionally.
“I mention this,” he continued, “because, for a long time, the Government for excellent reasons has preferred the world to think that we still held some scruples and attacked only what the humanitarians are pleased to call Military Targets. . . . I can assure you, Gentlemen, that we tolerate no such scruples.”
Peirse had previously distinguished himself as Air Officer Commanding Palestine during the 1936–1939 Arab revolt.
The Nazi modeling of this cold, calculated genocide was also measured on a specific scale of destruction provided by the blitzkrieg of 1940 when the city of Coventry was hit by 515 German bombers carrying a variety of heavy-duty incendiary bombs dropped indiscriminately over the city. The raid accomplished such a scale of destruction that Joseph Goebbels later used the term coventrieren ("coventried") when describing similar levels of destruction of other enemy towns.
In addition to applying the same murderous tactics, and on a far wider scale, British Bomber Command also aped the Nazi terminology. When calculations were made of the ratio between weight of bombs and expected deaths among German workers, the measurements were given as “1 Coventry,” “2 Coventries,” and so on; an attack on the scale of “4 Coventries” was expected to yield 22,515 German deaths.
When Arthur “Bomber” Harris took over Bomber Command in May 1942, he was the final piece in the puzzle that codified the policy of terror bombing of the German working class. Harris was well equipped for the task. As squadron leader of the British air force in Iraq, he had already piloted the use of this policy to quell the 1920 uprising which had united Sunni and Shia people against British rule over what was then known as Mesopotamia. In justification of this, Harris remarked that "the only thing the Arab understands is the heavy hand." - something that the state of Israel has fully concurred with since then.
This was not an isolated remark. During his post to the Middle East Command as Senior Air Staff Officer alongside Richard Peirse in Palestine in 1936, Harris commented that “one 250 lb. or 500 lb. bomb in each village that speaks out of turn" would satisfactorily solve the problem.
In many ways, the Middle East bombing campaign became the crucible for the emerging RAF and helped steel the WW2 monster known as Bomber Command. As the historian AJP Taylor put it:
"Here was an independent strategy of the air. From this moment, it was accepted that bombs could not only quell tribal revolts but could win a great war."
Once Harris was at the helm of Bomber Command, he became quite explicit about its genocidal intentions. The terror bombing he argued,
“should be unambiguously stated” as “the destruction of German cities, the killing of German workers, and the disruption of civilised life throughout Germany ... the destruction of houses, public utilities, transport and lives, the creation of a refugee problem on an unprecedented scale”.
The more sinister intentions behind this were noted by the right-wing historian, Max Hastings who wrote:
“He [Bomber Harris] believed there were no shortcuts to victory. It was necessary to concentrate all available forces for the progressive, systematic destruction of the urban areas of the Reich, city block by city block, factory by factory, until the enemy became a nation of troglodytes, scratching in the ruins.”
Harris was not a lone operator or some sort of psychopath. The blood lust he evinced was an expression of the collective will of the war cabinet as a whole; a cabinet dominated by upper class Tories but also comprising the Labour deputy PM, Clement Attlee. Whilst Attlee is eulogised as the darling of the welfare state, it was he who became one of the main protagonists of targeting densely populated civilian areas.
The apocalyptic intent of this was certainly known to everyone within the wartime coalition and is illustrated by Richard Overy in his superb book The Bombing War:
“This had allowed [Air Chief Marshall] Portal in November 1942 to present the chiefs of staff with the grisly prediction that Bomber Command in 18 months could kill 900,000 Germans, seriously injure another 1 million, destroy 6 million homes and dehouse 25 million people.”
It was a prediction that, in most respects, was uncannily accurate. Unavoidably, a prime casualty of this terror bombing would be the 12 million workers abducted from almost 20 European countries, two thirds of whom came from Central and Eastern Europe.
Of course, the fact that these workers occupied a lowly place in the Nazi racial hierarchy, was of no concern to the Allied war machine. The majority of Eastern European forced laborers worked in the industrial sector and as such, when it came to British bombing targets, they were treated quite equally.
Operation ‘Chastise’ 1943: dam the Ukranians
In probably the most celebrated episode of this terror bombing, the RAF carried out an aerial assault on two German dams in the Ruhr valley. Codenamed Operation Chastise, its intent from the outset was to maximise what is colloquially described as collateral damage.
The dams were located in the Ruhr valley, a prime industrial region at the service of the Nazi war industry. Every town and city in the valley was considered a legitimate target, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians, with hundreds of thousands of homes obliterated and more than a million people left homeless.
Due to conscription, the labour shortage in Germany was filled by slave labour, mostly from the Soviet Union. The Ruhr valley was no exception. Special barbed wire camps were set up to house these workers. One such camp, known as the Möhnewiesen, was in the town of Neheim, which was a centre of the German metal industry. Comprising 16 barracks, the Möhnewiesen housed some 1,200 workers, mostly female, living in prison-type conditions.
On the night of the British bombing raid, as with every other evening, the gates of the camp were locked. As the Möhne dam was breached, a gigantic tsunami headed its way. The local pastor, Joseph Hellmann, described what happened next:
"Barracks that had been built in the Möhne valley for a few thousand foreigners were swept away by the waves like toy houses. Some of the residents were also carried away with the barracks. One of these barracks collapsed and all the occupants drowned. More than 30 houses - mostly 2, 3 and multi-storey solid buildings - were swept away by the floods. It was a horrible sight the next morning to see the destruction caused by this terrible water catastrophe......”
The entire valley was flooded, destroying around 1000 houses, 130 farms and claiming the lives of 1600 civilians including 1,000 enslaved labourers, 493 of whom were female workers from Ukraine.
This, however, was just a foretaste of the pure hell that was to be rained down upon the German working class as a whole.
British Terror bombing of the German Working Class
Once Harris was at the helm of Bomber Command, he wanted the world to know the true purpose of the bombing campaign
‘The aim of Bomber Command should be unambiguously and publicly stated,’ Harris wrote. ‘That aim is the destruction of German cities, the killing of German workers and the disruption of civilised life throughout Germany.’
Even in the midst of war, his masters considered this a step to far:
“It is desirable,” ran the reply from the Air Ministry, “to present the bomber offensive in such a light as to provoke the minimum of public controversy.”
However, their internal correspondence on the matter displayed no such caution. In a memo to Lord Beaverbrook, the minister of aircraft production, Churchill wrote:
“But there is one thing that will bring him back and bring him down, and that is an absolutely devastating, exterminating attack by very heavy bombers from this country upon the Nazi homeland.”
In line with the Air Ministry's earlier directive, this was either concealed from the British public or whitewashed as collateral damage resulting from a legitimate military campaign: a fact that was acknowledged by Churchill himself in a memo written towards the end of the war where he stated:
'It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of bombing of German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, though under other pretexts [my emphasis], should be reviewed ... The destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing.'
Apocalypse now: Hamburg and Dresden
Amongst the wholesale slaughter of innocents in Germany, the bombing of Hamburg and Dresden, stood out as the cruelest and most murderous assaults of all.
The incineration of Hamburg was codenamed Operation Gomorrah, invoking the name of the biblical city destroyed with sulphur and fire, rained down by a wrathful God. In this instance the avenging angel appeared in the form of the RAF and, after just one hour,it succeeded in devastating the city and its inhabitants with 2,284 tons of bombs, including an average of 17,000 incendiaries for every square kilometre.
It was July 1943 and the raids continued for 10 days. For their sin of being German, 45,000 people perished in a vast firestorm that destroyed 60 per cent of the city’s houses and apartments; 24 hospitals and 277 schools were also incinerated.
Such was the intensity of the incendiary bombing that large sections of the city became transformed into crematoria where the body count could only be measured by the amount of ash left on the floor.
One of the few survivors, Henni Klank, told how she fled her burning apartment with her husband and baby only when the curtains were on fire and the ceiling began to crack. This is what awaited her outside
"We came out... into a thundering, blazing hell. The streets were burning, the trees were burning and the tops were bent [by the wind] right down to the street. Burning horses out of the Hertz hauling business ran past us. The air was burning; simply everything was burning."
While cheers rang out at Westminster - not least of all in the hallowed grounds of Westminster Abbey - even those who had suffered directly from the Nazi holocaust, were aghast at what happened. Victor Baeyens, one of the hundreds of concentration camp inmates forced to help clear the bodies and bombs from the ruins of Hamburg, described how the scale of destruction stunned even the prisoners.
"When listening to those horror stories we no longer broke into cheers as we did during the air raid itself. We were soberly thinking of the drama of mothers looking for their children and vice versa. What a curse war is."
The bombing of Dresden claimed fewer casualties but was even more shocking for its calculated brutality. Dresden was considered one of the world’s most beautiful cities because of its architectural and art treasures. It had also become a refugee centre providing shelter for hundreds of thousands of civilians fleeing from the Russian offensive in the East. As the war was nearing its end in 1945, few people believed that Dresden could possibly be a target for carpet bombing.
On the night of February 13, the British Bomber Command hit Dresden with a fleet of 800 bomber aircraft, dropping some 2,700 tons of bombs, including large numbers of incendiaries. The U.S. Eighth Air Force followed the next day with another 400 tons of bombs and carried out yet another raid by 210 bombers on February 15.
The number of civilian casualties resulting from this carnage was estimated to be in the region of 25,000 – 35,000, the vast majority being women, children and the elderly.
One witness later recalled the apocalyptic scene:
“There was an indescribable roar in the air ….... The thundering fire reminded me of the biblical catastrophes that I had heard about in my education in the humanities. I was aghast. I can’t describe seeing this city burn in any other way. The color had changed as well. It was no longer pinkish-red. The fire had become a furious white and yellow, and the sky was just one massive mountain of cloud.”
Historian Donald Miller writes vividly of the hell unleashed by Westminster:
“People’s shoes melted into the hot asphalt of the streets, and the fire moved so swiftly that many were reduced to atoms before they had time to remove their shoes. The fire melted iron and steel, turned stone into powder, and caused trees to explode from the heat of their own resin. People running from the fire could feel its heat through their backs, burning their lungs.”
By the end of the raids, the once beautiful city had been transformed into a necropolis, a veritable city of the dead.
The incineration of Dresden appears to be the one foul stain admitted to by British authorities. Even so, those who acknowledge the atrocity do so grudgingly and still try to justify it on the grounds that Dresden was a significant industrial centre housing 110 factories and 50,000 workers in support of the German war effort.
Evidence which has emerged since then demonstrates conclusively that this had absolutely nothing to do with the attack. In addition to later research suggesting that many of the industrial sites and communication infrastructure were not targeted, the objectives of the Dresden assault, as explained by Bomber Command itself, have also come to light.
An RAF memo issued to airmen on the night of the attacks described their intentions as follows:
“Dresden, the seventh largest city in Germany and not much smaller than Manchester is also the largest unbombed built-up area the enemy has got. In the midst of winter with refugees pouring westward and troops to be rested, roofs are at a premium, not only to give shelter to workers, refugees, and troops alike, but to house the administrative services displaced from other areas.......... The intentions of the attack are to hit the enemy where he will feel it most, behind an already partially collapsed front, to prevent the use of the city in the way of further advance, and incidentally to show the Russians when they arrive what Bomber Command can do.”
The bombing of refugees
When the Allied powers signed up to the UN 1951 Refugee Convention, guaranteeing minimum standards of humane treatment for war refugees, they did so having been responsible for creating millions of refugees in the first place. A huge part of the refugee crisis during the war was in East Prussia, an area of Germany that had been ceded to Poland as part of the punitive conditions of the Versailles Treaty following WW1.
In 1940 East Prussia was home to 2.2 million Germans. By the end of the war the population had been decimated and was reduced to just 193,000 people. In the huge civilian exodus that was forced by the advancing Red Army, the numbers of civilian dead and missing was estimated to be 514,176 persons. Of these, more than 9,000 were killed directly by violence. At the time, Dresden was home to 300,000 refugees. However, no count was taken of the numbers killed by the bombing.
Most of the attacks on refugees fleeing East Prussia were carried out by the Red Army but not exclusively so. The RAF was also deployed to attack refugee convoys to disrupt the German evacuation. One such incident was the March 6, RAF bombing of Sassnitz, the fishing town that had become the final transit point for many refugees looking for a boat to take them to safety in Germany.
Now those refugees were caught in the open and were considered fair game for the avenging angels of the RAF. The task force comprising 198 bombers which headed to the port had a calculated division of labour: whilst the northern part of the town was being pummeled by the heavy Lancaster bombers,3 ships were hit by the lighter Mosquitos and were immediately sunk in the harbour. In total, an estimated 800 civilians died, many of them in the freezing waters of the Baltic.
2. Das inferno von Swinemünde
With its magnificent hotels, dedicated resort architecture and the wide sea front promenade, the city of Swinemünde was Germany’s most popular pre-war holiday resort. The famous garden artist Peter Joseph Lenné designed the spa gardens with red oaks, plane trees and magnolias. However, in the spring of 1945, the hotels, schools and cinemas are now packed with women, children and the elderly from amongst the tens of thousands of refugees gathered there seeking transit to the west.
On the morning of March 12, 1945, a gigantic air fleet of 661 heavy bombers and 412 Mustang escort fighters of the US Air Force took off from England towards Germany. Its destination was not the big cities of Hamburg or Berlin, but the normally tranquil seaside resort Swinemünde. To say that this was overkill, would be an understatement.
In the space of an hour, the fleet dropped 1,608 tons of bombs, almost entirely on the city center, igniting about 50 fires which quickly encircled trapped civilians. In a reconstruction of the raid written for Nordmagazin in March 2020, the journalist Dirk Hempel presented the following account:
“But around 12 o'clock the first bombs fall. The city's air raid shelters are not enough for the refugees. A particularly large number of people die on the burning and capsizing refugee ships and in the Kurpark, where they have sought shelter under trees. When the attack by the 661 bombers is over after about an hour, the residents hardly recognize their city. Many houses are destroyed. Fires are blazing everywhere, the Kurpark is littered with bomb craters, with tree stumps towering in between.”
The total number of deaths was estimated to be as much as 23,000 civilians. Of the thousands of refugees who had gathered in the open air, 600 were slain on the spot. In addition, of the 12 fully loaded refugee transport vessels which had put into the port before the attack, 6 of them were bombed into the ocean depths.
Summing up the results of the slaughter, General William E. Kepner, commander of the 2nd Air Division, sent this teletype to the units responsible:
“I consider this to be not only the best day's work this Division has ever done while under my command but also one of the outstanding performances in the history of precision bombing.”
You might think that there could be no earthly reason for attacking civilian refugees. The sheer inhumanity of it is almost inconceivable. However, in the twisted mindset of Allied warfare, targeting the refugees in Sassnitz and Swinemünde had two objectives: firstly, to create further chaos by disrupting the German retreat; secondly, as several military historians have observed, the disproportionate size of the huge bomber fleets were a demonstration of strength against the Russian allies - a harbinger of what would later become the Cold War.
Whatever the reason, these were nothing less than bloody massacres, constituting yet another chapter in the holocaust perpetrated in the name of democracy.
Overall, the Allied holocaust in Germany claimed 600,000 lives, including 76,000 German children. A million people were seriously injured, with millions more suffering “minor” injuries. In the space of 3 years between 1942-1945, 61 German cities, were bombed to smithereens; 3.6 million homes were destroyed and 7.5 million people were made homeless. With an estimated 50–60 percent of the urban area of Germany being completely obliterated, the casualties could have been far higher.
The nightmare did not end there. Far from it. Carpet bombing of civilian targets had now become de rigeur in the Allied war strategy. As Washington became increasingly determined to assert its hegemony, especially in Asia, the physical obliteration of Japanese cities topped its agenda. Moreover, the mighty power of US capitalism had now created an even mightier force to assert its global dominance: the atomic bomb had been 4 years in the making and it was ready to make its entrance into the theatre of war with the slaughter of Japanese innocents.
Slaughterhouse 2: Carpet bombing of Japan
The whole world knows of the shameful mass murder inflicted by Washington’s unprovoked nuclear attack on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. Acting with the direct and unqualified consent of Westminster, and with no advance warning that might have afforded some opportunity for evacuation, the bombs devastated both cities, killing up to an estimated 220,000 civilians in the immediate aftermath of the attack.
As in Germany, these figures included slave labourers, in this case Koreans: out of the 80,000 Korean slave labourers, some 20,000 were slaughtered in Hiroshima and a further 2,000 in Nagasaki.
To this day, the powers that be continue to defend this slaughter on the grounds that it brought the war to a definitive end and prevented tens of thousands of US military casualties that might have resulted from a ground invasion. This, however, has long been contradicted not just by independent historians but by leading military experts and members of the US elite officer corps directly responsible for US war strategy at the time.
One of those was Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe during WW2, who stated:
“Japan was already defeated and ….. dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary”
The same conclusion was reached by the United States Strategic Bombing Survey, a written report created by a board of experts assembled to produce an impartial assessment of the effects of the Anglo-American strategic bombing. The director of this report was Paul Nitze, who went on to become the US Deputy Secretary of Defence.
Its 1946 report stated the following with regard to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki:
“Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.”
Even General Curtis LeMay, the commanding general of the Pacific bombing campaign against the Japanese, and one of the most bloodthirsty men in military history, stated in September 1945:
“The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all.”
LeMay knew what he was talking about, for it was he who planned and executed the carpet bombing of Japan both prior to and following the nuclear obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. By mid-June, two months before the atom bombs were dropped, Japan's six largest cities, including Tokyo, had been devastated and some 40% of the built-up areas of 66 cities had already been destroyed, with civilian casualties well in excess of those who would get nuked in August. It was this butchery which convinced him that Japan was already on its knees.
In what became the most destructive single air attack in human history, 279 Boeing B-29 Superfortress heavy bombers set out on 9 March to obliterate Japan’s capital city. After dropping 1,500 tons of bombs, including napalm type incendiaries, a tidal wave of fire swept across the wooden structures of the city.
“The fire was like a living thing,” recalled one survivor. “It ran, just like a creature, chasing us.”
The conflagration succeeded in destroying 16 square miles of the city and killed between 120,000 - 200,000 civilians, almost the equivalent of the combined total of civilian casualties in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The US Strategic Bombing Survey later concluded that the majority of the casualties were women, children and elderly people, many of whom died while trying to escape. Once such incident occurred when the full bomb load of a B-29 landed in a crowd of civilians crossing the Kototoi Bridge over the Sumida River causing hundreds of people to be burned to death.
Further incendiary attacks were conducted against Tokyo to the extent that by May it was calculated that some some fifty percent of the city had been destroyed with more than 4 million people left homeless. The genocidal intention behind all of this - that is to say, the deliberate slaughter of a large part of the Japanese population – was clearly stated. It was tacitly admitted by General Le May who declared at the time:
“If we lose, we’ll be tried as war criminals.”
Under the guise of fighting Nazi terror, the governments of Churchill and Truman were, both literally and metaphorically, genuine trailblazers of warfare based upon terror and genocide: so much so that, by the end of the war, an estimated 1 million unarmed civilians in Europe and Asia fell victim to this warfare.
As the “democracies” pursued this policy with even greater vigour in Korea, millions more would suffer the same fate.
The Korean Holocaust
In the 1943 Cairo Declaration, issued by the United States, the Republic of China, and Great Britain, the Allied powers railed against “the enslavement of the people of Korea” and stated their determination that “in due course Korea shall become free and independent.” Naturally enough, it contained no reference to the British Empire’s subjugation of the Indian sub-continent, but it did resonate strongly with the Korean masses who suffered under the Japanese colonial boot.
However, the Allied notion of a free and independent Korea held no place for the Korean working class and peasantry as an agency in the liberation of their country. Quite the contrary: the spoils of war dictated by the victors meant that the Korean nation and people be partitioned between the conquering armies of the Soviet Union and the USA.
Under this arrangement, the US occupied Korea south of the 38th parallel and, in the three years that followed partition, the United States Army Military Government in Korea (USAMGIK) became the official ruling body of the Southern half of the Korean peninsula. In effect, it was a military dicatorship, one that outlawed strikes and sought to crush the popular movement that had fought so heroically against Japanese colonial rule.
In 1948 Washington engineered elections to install the rightist government of Syngman Rhee in Seoul. Representing the interests of local capitalists and landlords, the new government leaned heavily upon former members of the Japanese colonial administration and began to systematically attack, kill and torture workers and peasants fighting for a new future.
By July 1950, even before the UN declared war, more than 100,000 workers, peasants, and youth had already been killed by this regime. The repression only served to fuel a greater insurgency. By the time the war officially began, 90 percent of the peninsula - from the far north to the extreme south - had been liberated by the Korean People’s Army.
It almost beggared belief that the previous atrocities inflicted upon Germany and Japan would be replicated against the people of such a poor, underdeveloped country. But extermination was now set to be the modus operandi of the UN forces. Moreover, in this new theatre of war, napalm would now occupy pride of place in creating the “burnt offering” that was to become the Korean apocalypse.
According to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute:
“a total of 32,357 tons of napalm fell on Korea, about double that dropped on Japan in 1945. Not only did the allies drop more bombs on Korea than in the Pacific theater during WWII – 635,000 tons versus 503,000 tons – more of what fell was napalm, in both absolute and relative terms.”
What General Curtis Le May had called the “greatest conflagration of the Western world” represented by the terror bombing of Germany and Japan, was set to be surpassed by the barbarity perpetrated on Korea.
A relatively small, but nevertheless, incredibly significant part of that was the bombing of all dams and hydroelectric generating facilities throughout North Korea. This included the following:
mass aerial assaults on 13 hydro electric generating facilities in and around the Sui-ho Dam. The attacks destroyed 90% of the facilities targeted and completely knocked out power in North Korea for two weeks
The 1953 destruction of the Toksan dam producing a flood that destroyed seven hundred buildings in the capital city of Pyongyang and thousands of acres of rice
The serial bombings of the Chasan, Kuwonga, Namsi and Taechon dams resulting in vast flooding and destruction of rice crops which threatened several million North Koreans with starvation.
Tragically, for the Korean people, these were mere episodes in a bombing campaign, which claimed the lives of an estimated 2-3 million civilians.
The cold-blooded, calculated nature of this campaign was articulated by Le May. Speaking shortly after the war had commenced, the butcher of Japan stated:
“We slipped a note kind of under the door into the Pentagon and said, ‘Let’s go up there and burn down five of the biggest towns in North Korea – and they’re not very big – and that ought to stop it.’ Well, the answer to that was four or five screams - ‘You’ll kill a lot of non-combatants' and ‘It’s too horrible.’ Yet over a period of three years or so..... we burned down every town in North Korea and South Korea too.”
Any initial reluctance by the Pentagon was soon foresworn and, in response to one particular target request, US General Douglas MacArthur, leader of the UN Command in Korea, replied as follows:
“Burn it if you so desire. Not only that, Strat, [General Stratemayer] but burn and destroy as a lesson to any other of those towns that you consider of military value to the enemy."
As a result, napalm soon became the weapon of choice for its sheer ability to incinerate everything in its path. In the space of three months alone, between June and October 1950, B-29 bombers unloaded almost 900,000 gallons of the stuff on Korean targets.
A small fragment of the horror of this was provided in an account by a New York Times correspondent reporting one napalm attack upon a village near Anyang in south Korea:
“The inhabitants thoughout the village and in the fields were caught and killed and kept the exact postures they held when the napalm struck – a man about to get on his bicycle, fifty boys and girls playing in an orphanage, a housewife strangely unmarked, holding in her hand a page torn from a Sears-Roebuck catalogue.”
This unrelenting, barbaric firebombing was as bad as, if not worse than any of the crematoria used in the Nazi extermination camps. It was certainly more terrifying. Any village, town or city suspected of harbouring, or simply being able to harbour, the insurgent forces – be they in the North or South - were automatically targeted as part of a scorched earth policy.
The main targets were in the North and, just three weeks after the firebombing began, a damage assessment report included the following results:
This list includes only those cities which suffered near annihilation. They formed part of an inventory listing eighteen out of twenty-two major cities which had been at least half obliterated.
In answer to a question from US Senator John Stenning on 25 June 1951, General O'Donnell, commander of the Far Eastern Air Force Bomber Command, replied:
"Oh, yes; ... I would say that the entire, almost the entire Korean Peninsula is just a terrible mess. Everything is destroyed. There is nothing standing worthy of the name.”
What was left of the northern population survived mostly in caves;
“The North Koreans,” wrote the historian, Bruce Cumings, “created an entire life underground, in complexes of dwellings, schools, hospitals and factories.”
Since it was clear that the liberation movement enjoyed popular support throughout the country, towns and villages in the south were also targeted with napalm. Cumings included one account of this at the outset of the war:
“One of the first orders to burn towns and villages that I found in the archives occurred in southern-most Korea, during heavy fighting along the Pusan Perimeter in early August 1950, when American soldiers were also bedeviled by thousands of guerrillas in their rear areas. On August 6, 1950, an American officer requested ‘to have the following towns obliterated’ by the Airforce: Chongsong, Chinbo and Kusu-dong. …...On August 16, five groups of B-29s hit a rectangular area ….full of towns and villages, creating an ocean of fire with hundreds of tons of napalm. Another such call went out on August 20. On August 26, we find in this same source the single entry, ‘fired eleven villages’”
Given this history, it is hardly surprising that North Korean invested so heavily in a nuclear weapons program. However, this too poses the same moral questions:
Do the ends justify the means? Does the fight for a more just society, or the defence of such a society in time of war, permit the use of weapons of mass destruction, the killing of innocent civilians and other methods which would ordinarily be considered reprehensible?
The morality of war
Following the experience of the killing fields of the Somme and Flanders during WW1, the Russian revolutionary leader, Leon Trotsky, made the following observation:
“The most “humane” governments, which in peaceful times “detest” war, proclaim during war that the highest duty of their armies is the extermination of the greatest possible number of people.”
It was an observation confirmed publicly during WW2 by the British Liberal MP, Geoffrey Shakespeare, who stated:
“I am all for the bombing of working class areas of German cities. I am Cromwellian - I believe in ‘slaying in the name of the Lord’, because I do not believe you will ever bring
home to the civil population of Germany the horrors of war until they have
been tested in this way.”
All war is a gruesome and violent assault upon our common humanity. Under capitalism, however, it assumes a level of barbarism that seems to develop almost exponentially from one conflict to another. It is rarely portrayed in class terms or expressed so brazenly as per the Right Honourable Sir Geoffrey Hithersay Shakespeare.
In order for such unpalatable truths to be accepted, we are led to believe that war with all its associated horrors is an endemic feature of every society, apparently predating evolution itself. The human species, we are told, is basically indistinguishable from the animal world, where the feral instinct for survival and procreation governs an intrinsic need for territorial gain and dominance.
It is a scenario in which the survival of the fittest is the governing dynamic of progress: a type of social Darwinism that has long been used to justify the extremes of wealth and poverty.
Amongst the many proponents of this antiquated thesis, the most notorious was Desmond Morris in his 1967 treatise called The Naked Ape.
Despite a mountainous surfeit of evidence to the contrary, this treatise was lauded 50 years later by Robin Dunbar, professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Oxford. Writing in a September, 2017 edition of the Sunday Observer. he argued:
“Morris’s central claim, that much of our behaviour can be understood in the context of animal behaviour, has surely stood the test of time...”
Applying this reactionary notion to the field of modern warfare - and saturation bombing of civilian populations in particular - Air Marshal Sir Robert Henry Magnus Spencer Saundby, had earlier come to a similar, albeit less sophisticated, conclusion:
“A study of the ethics of bombing cannot fail to remind one that man is an illogical creature, still far more swayed by emotion than by calm reason............. It is, therefore, no doubt unrealistic to hope for the general acceptance of rational views about such an emotive subject as the ethics of air bombardment.”
Saundby, it should be noted, was Deputy Air Officer to “Bomber” Harris, and a leading proponent of carpet bombing.
Not to be outdone on this moral whitewash, the BBC joined in with a 2011 feature article by the author Detlef Siebert who concluded:
“In war, morality is a luxury - and some rules of engagement can prove impractical.”
The BBC were joined in this endeavour by none other than their former sworn enemy, the Japanese Emperor Hirohito who, when asked in 1975 what he thought of the bombing of Hiroshima, answered:
"It's very regrettable that nuclear bombs were dropped and I feel sorry for the citizens of Hiroshima but it couldn't be helped because that happened in wartime.”
Hirohito’s stance can perhaps be attributed to the gratitude he felt for his palace being spared by the allied bombing. Nevertheless, it does conform to a troubling pattern whereby modern states and their governments - be they divinely appointed emperors, kings and queens, or Oxford educated prime ministers and Harvard university presidents – can apparently be so easily seduced by some animal bestiality kindled by the fever of war.
It's a big pill to swallow, but the truly divine representatives of God on earth have always been on hand to ease its moral passage. Thus it was during WWII: when pacifist sections of the English clergy lobbied the archbishops of Canterbury and York in 1940 to condemn the British use of bombing, they received this rather abrupt reply:
“The moral issue involved in the victory of the allies is of greater importance than the harsh fact of fighting by methods that one deplores.”
Harsh facts are not normally the stock in trade of most theologians, but there you have it: no matter how “deplorable” the holocaust inflicted upon the German, Japanese and Korean working class may have been, it was justified by the seemingly greater moral imperative of defending democracy against totalitarianism
The horrendous holocaust against the Jews is used as the primary focus of this imperative, the sheer scale of it being used to eclipse the genocide perpetrated by the Allied forces.
Where the theologians feared to tread, there was at least one member of the establishment who had the decency to speak out against one part of the hidden holocaust. Describing the nuking of Japan as embodying “an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages”, Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy wrote the following to President Truman:
"I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children."
Internationalism vs patriotism
The fact that the USSR was partner to the Allied bombing campaign and was later instrumental in the nuclear arms race, is used by some to suggest that the international labour movement is just as lacking in any moral scruples when it comes to modern warfare. Add to this the horrific conduct of the Red Army in occupied territories and it would seem as if there is a natural blood lust affecting the working class ranks in all armies.
However, all that this really confirms is the bloody counter-revolution conducted by Stalin against the original politics of the Bolsheviks. Everything that Moscow and its international acolytes fought for, before, during and after the war, ran counter to the working class internationalism of the Bolsheviks.
Out of all the parties claiming to represent the interests of the working class, it was only the Bolsheviks who opposed the First World War from the very outset. The remaining parties (Labour, and Socialist) descended into a pit of patriotic fervour where they justified the impending slaughter of German, French, British and Russian workers who were previously hailed as class brothers and sisters.
Unlike Stalin and his international acolytes, the Bolsheviks never saw German workers as enemies but as potential allies in a common fight against capitalism and imperialism. As such, the first act of the October revolution was to issue its Decree on Peace; announcing its withdrawal from the war and calling for a just and democratic peace without annexations and reparations.
At the same time, the Bolsheviks created a new international organisation of working class parties, the Third International, which urged workers of all nationalities to rise up against the warmakers. Along with its policy of self-determination for all oppressed nationalities, this proletarian internationalism formed the moral bedrock of everything else, including the conduct of the Red Army during the Civil War. At no time and under no circumstances, would it be permissible to deliberately target civilian populations, rape women, torture or execute prisoners captured in battle.
This internationalism was built into the foundations of the Red Army as it was being created and is demonstrated by the Oath of the Red Warrior sworn by everyone who enlisted:
“I, a son of the working people and a citizen of the Soviet Republic, assume the title of a soldier of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army.
“Before the working class of Russia and the whole world I pledge myself to bear this title with honour:
... I pledge myself to respond to the first call from the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government to defend the Soviet Republic against any dangers and attacks from any enemy, and to spare neither my strength nor my life in the fight for the Russian Soviet Republic and for the cause of socialism and the brotherhood of peoples.”
This class differentiation was maintained in the heat of battle. During the ensuing civil war - when the head of the White Army, General Yudenich, armed and financed by Britain, was threatening the very existence of Soviet rule in Petrograd - Trotsky issued a proclamation entitled The Two Britains:
“Red warriors! ...Your hearts are often filled to overflowing with hatred for predatory, lying, hypocritical, bloody Britain, and your hatred is just and holy. It multiplies tenfold your strength in the struggle against the enemy.
"But even today, when we are engaged in a bitter fight against Britain’s hireling, Yudenich, I demand this of you: Never forget that there are two Britains. Besides the Britain of profits, violence, bribery and bloodthirstiness there is the Britain of labour, of spiritual power, of high ideals, of international solidarity ... The Britain of labour ... will soon rise to its full height and put a strait-jacket on the criminals ... Death to the vultures of imperialism! Long live workers’ Britain, the Britain of labour, of the people!”
A further example of this was the appeal issued to Czech workers and peasants at a time when the Czech Legion was being drawn into the camp of the White Army:
“You are all giving your lives for the interests of the rich, the bankers and the kings. They are cheating you. Rub your eyes.......Czechoslovak soldiers! Remember that you yourselves are mostly workers and peasants. Arrest your counter revolutionary officers, unite with the workers and peasants of Soviet Russia -- in this lies your salvation!
Whilst the Red Army was forced to rely upon tens of thousands of former officers of the Czar, it was basically built from scratch upon new revolutionary foundations that Trotsky described as follows on the first anniversary of its creation:
“... we did not doubt that the army would be created, if only it were given a new idea, a new moral foundation. There, comrades, was the whole part of the matter.”
The more that Stalin sacrificed the principles of working class internationalism to curry favour with Washington and Westminster, the more he jettisoned the essential moral foundations of the Red Army. This was reflected in the purge of the Red Army high command and officer corps between 1937-38 when roughly 35,000 army leaders were removed and either executed or imprisoned.
During the war, free reign was given to an anti-German chauvinism leading to the internment or deportation of nearly half a million Germans within Soviet Russia. As the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union was repelled, the advancing Red Army raped multitudes of women within the Soviet zone. Such atrocities had absolutely nothing in common with the Red Army founded by Trotsky. As with the carpet bombing of German cities, the actions of the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet-occupied eastern Germany were monstruous crimes against humanity.
When World War 2 morphed into the Cold War, Stalin’s answer was the monstrosity of the Berlin Wall and an equally grotesque escalation of the nuclear arms race, one in which Cuba was later used as a pawn in a nuclear showdown that was not of their choosing. The Cold War was a different scenario but demonstrated the same abandonment of the Bolsheviks' internationalist foreign policy.
The moral example of the Cuban revolution
The Cuban revolution was a different kettle of fish. Under the leadership of Castro and Guevara, the Cuban rebel army had fought to win the hearts and minds of the farmers and workers. A strict moral code was enforced, not just to prevent the torture or abuse of prisoners but to provide equal care and attention to their wellbeing.
This policy was explained by the Cuban Brigadier General José Ramón Fernández:
“The Rebel Army and the militia never killed a prisoner, tortured a prisoner nor abandoned a single wounded enemy soldier............That is a matter of principle, of ethics in our armed forces, one which Fidel has strictly demanded from the beginning of the revolutionary struggle...........There were soldiers who would be taken prisoner two or three times. They would be taken prisoner, disarmed, turned over to the Red Cross and, a few months later, they would be taken prisoner again........... whenever [these] soldiers were in danger they preferred to put up their hands and turn over their weapons. And that earned the rebel army great authority.”
The Cuban rebels never planted bombs in or launched military attacks upon civilian areas. Their aim was always to build an army and a militia based upon a conscious and sovereign people. Today, more than ever, the defence of the revolution is premised upon a “war of the entire people” It is this – not the deployment of nuclear weapons - which has acted as a constant deterrent to more than half a century of aggression by Washington in its attempt to topple the revolution.
For the Cuban revolution, the thought of slaughtering millions of people in a nuclear exchange was unthinkable.
“What’s the purpose of producing a nuclear weapon when your enemy has thousands of them?” asked Fidel Castro. “Who are you going to use it against? Against the American people? No! That would be unfair and absurd!” he added, “We will never apply methods that sacrifice innocent people.
“We possess a weapon as powerful as nuclear ones, it is the magnitude of the justice we are fighting for,” Castro said. “Our nuclear weapon is the invincible power of moral weapons.”
Over the years, these moral weapons have been put at the service of national liberation struggles all over the world, most notably in the defeat of the army of apartheid South Africa in 1987. Beyond then, despite the loss of 90 percent of its trade with the Soviet bloc, these moral weapons can be seen in the presence of tens of thousands of Cuban nurses and doctors tending to millions of workers and farmers in the most remote regions of the Third World.
Cuba’s global profile - in other words the moral principles governing its internationalist foreign policy - stands in sharp contrast to the fake tears shed by Washington and Westminster over Putin’s barbarism in Ukraine. As the hidden history of the democratic holocaust has indisputably demonstrated, the ruling classes of Britain and the USA are guilty of far greater crimes against humanity.
It is not the intention of this article to deal with the fundamental character of the Second World War. However, the nature of the holocaust perpetrated by the Allied forces most certainly strengthens the view of it being an inter-imperialist conflict rather than a war against fascism. This subject is dealt with in greater depth by three further articles in this journal which readers might wish to refer to:
Why we should not celebrate British victory in World War II
Greece: Who Let the Dogs Out?
The Iron Curtain and the Iron Fist: Cold War and Fascism in Britain