Victor's Justice Vs.
The Hitchens Conundrum
By Patrick J. Buchanan
25/06/08 " Post Chronicle" -- -
-Did Hitler's crimes justify the Allies' terror-bombing of Germany? Indeed
they did, answers Christopher Hitchens in his Newsweek response to my new book,
"Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War":
"The stark evidence of the Final Solution has ever since been enough to
dispel most doubts about, say, the wisdom or morality of carpet-bombing German
Atheist, Trotskyite and newborn neocon, Hitchens embraces the morality of 'lex
talionis' - an eye for an eye. If Germans murdered women and children, the
British were morally justified in killing German women and children.
According to British historians, however, Churchill ordered the initial bombing
of German cities on his first day in office, the very first day of the Battle
of France, on May 10, 1940.
After the fall of France, Churchill wrote Lord Beaverbrook, minister of air
production: "When I look round to see how we can win the war, I see that
there is only one sure path ... an absolutely devastating, exterminating attack
by very heavy bombers from this country upon the Nazi homeland."
"Exterminating attack," said Churchill. By late 1940, writes
historian Paul Johnson, "British bombers were being used on a great and
increasing scale to kill and frighten the German civilian population in their
"The adoption of terror bombing was a measure of Britain's
desperation," writes Johnson. "So far as air strategy was
concerned," adds British historian A.J.P. Taylor, "the British outdid
German frightfulness first in theory, later in practice, and a nation which
claimed to be fighting for a moral cause gloried in the extent of its immoral
The chronology is crucial to Hitchens' case.
Late 1940 was a full year before the mass deportations from the Polish ghettos
to Treblinka and Sobibor began. Churchill had ordered the indiscriminate
bombing of German cities and civilians before the Nazis had begun to execute
the Final Solution.
By Hitchens' morality and logic, Germans at Nuremberg might have asserted a
right to kill women and children because that is what the British were doing to
their women and children.
After the fire-bombing of Dresden in 1945, Churchill memoed his air chiefs:
"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, should be reviewed."
Churchill concedes here what the British had been about in Dresden.
Under Christian and 'just war' theory, the deliberate killing of civilians in
wartime is forbidden. Nazis were hanged for such war crimes.
Did the Allies commit acts of war for which we hanged Germans?
When we recall that Josef Stalin's judges sat beside American and British
judges at Nuremberg, and one of the prosecutors there was Andrei Vishinsky,
chief prosecutor in Stalin's show trails, the answer has to be yes.
While Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were surely guilty of waging aggressive war in
September 1939, Stalin and his comrades had joined the Nazis in the rape of
Poland, and had raped Finland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, as well. Scores
of thousands of civilians in the three Baltic countries were murdered.
Yet, at Nuremberg, Soviets sat in judgment of their Nazi accomplices, and had
the temerity to accuse the Nazis of the Katyn Forest massacre of the Polish
officer corps that the Soviets themselves had committed.
Americans fought alongside British soldiers in a just and moral war from 1941
to 1945. But we had as allies a Bolshevik monster whose hands dripped with the
blood of millions of innocents murdered in peacetime. And to have Stalin's
judges sit beside Americans at Nuremberg gave those trials an aspect of
hypocrisy that can never be erased.
At Nuremberg, Adm. Erich Raeder was sentenced to prison for life for the
invasion of neutral Norway. Yet Raeder's ships arrived 24 hours before British
ships and marines of an operation championed by Winston Churchill.
The British had planned to violate Norwegian neutrality first and seize
Norwegian ports to deny Germany access to the Swedish iron ore being
transshipped through them. For succeeding where Churchill failed, Raeder was
condemned as a war criminal and sent to prison.
The London Charter of the International Military Tribunal decided that at
Nuremberg only the crimes of Axis powers would be prosecuted and that among
those crimes would be a newly invented "crimes against humanity."
This decree was issued Aug. 8, 1945, 48 hours after we dropped the first atom
bomb on Hiroshima and 24 hours before we dropped the second on Nagasaki.
We and the British judiciously decided not to prosecute the Nazis for the
bombing of London and Coventry.
It was an understandable decision, and one that surely Gen. Curtis LeMay
concurred in, as LeMay had boasted at war's end, "We scorched and boiled
and baked to death more people in Tokyo that night of March 9-10 than went up
in vapor in Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined."
After the war, a lone Senate voice arose to decry what was taking place at
Nuremberg as "victor's justice." Ten years later, a young colleague
would declare the late Robert A. Taft "A Profile in Courage" for
having spoken up against ex post facto justice. The young senator was John F.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of Churchill, Hitler and The Unnecessary
War: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World