Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

What Constitutes Terrorism?

Acts of terrorism are despicable. All too often the victims are women, children, infants, the elderly. Killing them does nothing to advance a cause. Terrorism never discourages an enemy, it just makes him fight all the harder. It leads others to rally to his side.
We brand those who oppose us as terrorists, yet we all bear that title. We may not have committed the acts, but we support those who did. It has always been that way and likely always will be that way. We learn nothing from history. We like to believe we do, but it isn't true. We always find an enemy, always find someone to hate, someone to kill. If infants and children and their mothers happen to get in the way. . .well, that's not our fault is it?
Yes, it is. The Germans, Japanese, British and Americans raised terrorism to a new and horrible level during the Second World War. Death camps and the terror bombing of civilians obliterated countless millions. Nothing granted a person immunity. Not being an infant, not being a schoolgirl, not being a mother, not being a grandmother, not anything. All were fair game and all of us were guilty.
I had seen the devastation caused by air raids in London and Liverpool. I had seen villages and small towns leveled during the fighting. I had seen massive destruction in Germany, but nothing prepared me for what I saw in Bremen and Hamburg. In Bremen I stared across vast open space that had been block after block of residences. Nothing was left that stood as tall as I did. It was even worse in Hamburg. We were told more than 200,000 homes had been destroyed, more than a million left homeless by the firebombing. Incendiary bombs dropped on innocents. Not on soldiers, they were off somewhere on battlefields.
The British General called "Bomber" Harris objected when Churchill used the word terror while discussing the firebombing of Dresden. It was worth it, Harris said, if it saved the life of one British soldier. The same thing was said when an American bombing raid killed close to a hundred thousand in Tokyo and then when atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They said it saved the lives of American soldiers but rarely mentioned that the Russians, the traditional enemy of the Japanese, had just entered the war in the east and were rolling back some of Japan's best troops 25 miles a day. Regardless of that, do you save the lives of soldiers by killing infants and young girls walking to school?
In a Focke-Wulf aircraft factory where not a bomb had fallen although across the river residential areas had been devastated, a former German paratrooper named Muller told me, "We hate the Americans and British for killing our women and children. We hate the Russians for destroying our army."
I sometimes think back to a day when some of us were pinned down in a ditch during a driving rain. At a thick dirt hedgerow 25 yards away, German soldiers fired at us with rifles and machine guns. The door of a farmhouse opened and three French girls came out. They were the age of most of the soldiers on both sides of the line. They went along the ditch, each of them bending down to shake the hand of every one of us, then turned and went back inside. Not a shot had been fired. As soon as the door closed behind them the Germans opened up on us again. Two groups of honorable men fighting each other, but not willing to kill civilians.
On a smaller scale, all that goes on today. They have come up with a new phrase for killing civilians: collateral damage. Sounds better than women and children, torn flesh and spilt blood. But do the air strikes save American lives or merely make more men join the fight against our soldiers?
Humans didn't learn a thing from either World War. They didn't learn a thing from Korea or Vietnam. They don't remember that two wrongs don't make a right. Our heroes are their terrorists. Their heroes are our terrorists. No matter how you do it or why you do it, killing children, babies, their mothers, is always wrong. The only difference between people today and those in the darkest periods of history is that we have more sophisticated methods of killing. The outcome of the 21st century conflicts won't mean a thing. There always will be another reason to hate and to kill and no one will be immune. The innocent will go on dying. There isn't much cause for being proud of the human species.


Blogger STAG said...

Strategic terrorism really does not work. I do not believe that Bomber Harris was right to do what he did...nor did he come to think of it. He committed suicide after the war rather than face himself in the mirror. Nor do I believe that Hirosima and Nagasaki shortened the war in the pacific by much...the political situation in Tokyo was becoming untenable long before the Anola Gay launched.

Tactical terrorism, usually manifested by resistance against an occupying force is not really "terrorism" in the same sense however. It is reasonably effective though. The Spanish terrorized the occupying French (Goya made those disturbing drawings about that) and Vlad held up the army which was invading his Borgo Pass. The Iriquois stopped the Americans from crossing the St. Lawrence on many occasions, and the Nazi "wolves" were very effective in sending Patton's army off into the prepared killing grounds of the Sigfried line.

Those who are desperate will see the success of these rear guard actions and may well feel that such terrorist tactics may work as strategy. Then things get nasty, and more reprehensible.

Then there are situations like, say, the bombing of Flushing in the Netherlands in 1944. Leaflets were dropped on the city in order to let the civilians (and the German occupying forces) know that they could not stay on the high ground... But its not like they had anywhere to go. The rest of North Beaveland and Walchern Island was totally flooded. A Dutch citizen told me (when I was there last year) that his father would ceremonially curse the Canadians every year on the anniversary of that bombing raid.

I have scoured that area, walked all over it myself, and examined as much as can find of the battle, and honestly, I don't think there was any other way.
I wish they hadn't bombed Flushing though.

2:40 PM  

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