Short Memories: Once Upon a Time, Killing Civilians was Kosher for the Brits
While British Prime Minister David Cameron several times called for a cease-fire in Gaza, and described a strike that hit a school as “appalling,” and his new Foreign Minister, Phillip Hammond, characterized the situation as “simply intolerable,” the P.M. has stoutly resisted pressure to condemn Israel during Operation Protective Edge.
On Tuesday, Sayeed Hussain Warsi, a pudgy Pakistani solicitor who never held office and was wafted to the House of Lords and made “Minister of State for Faith and Minorities” to show just what humane multiculturalists the Tories are, resigned from the Cabinet.
And though ground operations have ended, Cameron’s coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, and Tory backbenchers are now calling for a suspension of arms export licenses. The vilification of Cameron by the Left has meanwhile reached new depths.
In the middle of July, 45,000 people demonstrated in front of the Israeli Embassy west of Kensington Park. The Palestinian flag has flown over the Glasgow and other town halls. More disturbing are the boycotts. The Edinburgh Festival canceled performances by Israeli companies. Lancet banned articles by Israeli researchers. The National Union of Students endorsed BDS.
The British had a different attitude not so very long ago. When missiles were raining down on the country, no one questioned its right to go after those who were attacking it.
By the end of spring 1941 the Battle of Britain was over. English cities were no longer menaced by German bombers. But rockets were being fired at the U.K. from bases in northern France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, first the V1 “buzzbombs” and then the V2s.
The British were naturally not content with hitting the missile sites, difficult in any case, as the missiles were moved repeatedly. After a brief and largely unsuccessful campaign of strategic bombing, where military facilities and munitions plants were targeted, the British switched to area bombing—incinerating civilians
It was a lot easier to hit a city center than an arms factory, weapons depot, hydroelectric dam, or railhead, and the switch was quickly rationalized. Workers would be “dehoused” and so war work would be disrupted. Furthermore, German morale would be broken, and people would turn against the regime. As an Air Force Staff paper put it
The ultimate aim of an attack on a town area is to break the morale of the population which occupies it. To ensure this, we must achieve two things: first, we must make the town physically uninhabitable and, secondly, we must make the people conscious of constant personal danger. The immediate aim, is therefore, twofold, namely, to produce (i) destruction and (ii) fear of death.
The Americans took another tack. Convinced of the effectiveness of the Norden bombsight and the 13 machine guns mounted in 8 positions on the B-17s—the Flying Fortresses—the U.S. 8th Air Force continued to bomb strategic targets by daylight. German fighters proved effective against the F17s, but the Air Force continued the daylight runs in order to enable the new Mustangs and Thunderbolts to take down the Luftwaffe fighters. Before long, the Germans lost air superiority.
The British, meanwhile, went after civilians, largely women, children, and the elderly. Cities without any military importance were hit, like Lübeck and Rostow. The most devastating attack was on Hamburg in July 1943, which killed nearly 45,000 civilians. Late in the war, in February 1944, Dresden was firebombed at Stalin’s behest, killing about 25,000, with the Americans joining in. (Goebbels’ exaggerated figures were repeated for decades, but the real death toll was bad enough.)
In the end, well over 600,000 German civilians lost their lives in air attacks, about ten times the number of British killed by German bombs and rockets.
No one talked about “proportionality.”
Missiles were being fired at the British by an enemy determined to conquer—though not annihilate—them. Hitler did threaten to drive the British into the sea.
But it was self-evident to the British public that they had a right to crush Germany, especially as Whitehall had tried so hard to appease the national socialist regime. The government had traded land—though not its own—for peace.
Unlike the British in the Second World War, and unlike its enemy, the IDF does not target civilians, and goes to great lengths to avoid casualties among non-combatants.
But if you’re of the wrong ethnicity—or, in the case of George Zimmerman, the wrong race—defending yourself is crime. Civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria barely register. Muslims are doing the killing.
In Orwell’s 1984, the innocents in “Airstrip One” (Great Britain) celebrated an annual “Hate Week” in the late summer. Now it seems to be a year-round event.