Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Letter to the Journal Star: Guernica

Sunday at the Journal Star:

Well, it is a little late, I just found out yesterday and I couldn't post before, but here it is, the letter that I sent to the Journal Star a couple of weeks ago, which by the way, was the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor:

Nazi bombing destroyed cities, killed innocents

December 7, 2003

In the Nov. 30 edition of the Journal Star there was a very interesting Op-Ed piece by Michael Bellesiles, "The limits of shock and awe," in which it is detailed that no matter how superior your war machinery is over that of your enemy, sooner or later you have to meet him face to face. Michael Bellesiles tells us about Italian air power advocate Giulio Douchet, who spoke about the concept of carpet bombing during the 1930s.

Oddly enough, the author goes on to describe how the bombing of Germany by the Allies did nothing to diminish the willingness of Germany to fight the war. I say oddly enough, because it was the Germans who first used carpet bombing against defenseless civilian targets. On April 26, 1937, the German Kondor Legion under the command of Von Richthofen bombed the Basque town of Gernika. The attack lasted over three hours and the Luftwaffe used that opportunity to try its new incendiary bombs and the soon to be infamous Stukas.

At the end of the day the most sacred Basque city was completely destroyed, and 1,600 people had lost their lives, mostly women and children, since the men were on the front lines facing the Spanish, Italian and German troops fighting on behalf of Hitler's forgotten ally, General Francisco Franco. The events were first reported by English journalist George Steer, and soon the international community was outraged by what happened that day in Gernika. Let's not forget that the Nazi war machinery would go on to show a complete lack of tolerance toward other ethnic groups.

This is the background that inspired one of Pablo Picasso's most famous paintings, the "Guernica" (for its spelling in Spanish). Ironically, during the buildup to the war in Iraq, a copy of the "Guernica" on display at United Nations headquarters in New York was concealed behind a blue curtain. Let's not forget the atrocities committed against civilian populations during war time. Gernika would be the first city on a list that today includes Dresden and Hiroshima.

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