On the evening of February 13, 1945, an orgy of genocide and barbarism began against a defenseless German city, one of the greatest cultural centers of northern Europe. Within less than 14 hours not only was it reduced to flaming ruins, but an estimated one-third of its inhabitants, possibly as many as a half a million, had perished in what was the worst single event massacre of all time.
Toward the end of World War II, as Allied planes rained death and destruction over Germany, the old Saxon city of Dresden lay like an island of tranquillity amid desolation. Famous as a cultural center and possessing no military value, Dresden had been spared the terror that descended from the skies over the rest of the country.
In fact, little had been done to provide the ancient city of artists and craftsmen with anti-aircraft defenses. One squadron of planes had been stationed in Dresden for awhile, but the Luftwaffe decided to move the aircraft to another area where they would be of use. A gentlemen’s agreement seemed to prevail, designating Dresden an “open city.”
February 13/14 1945: Holocaust over Dresden, known as the Florence of the North. Dresden was a hospital city for wounded soldiers. Not one military unit, not one anti-aircraft battery was deployed in the city. Together with the 600.000 refugees from Breslau, Dresden was filled with nearly 1.2 million people. Churchill had asked for “suggestions how to blaze 600.000 refugees”. He wasn’t interested how to target military installations 60 miles outside of Dresden. More than 700.000 phosphorus bombs were dropped on 1.2 million people. One bomb for every 2 people. The temperature in the centre of the city reached 1600 o centigrade. More than 260.000 bodies and residues of bodies were counted. But those who perished in the centre of the city can’t be traced. Approximately 500.000 children, women, the elderly, wounded soldiers and the animals of the zoo were slaughtered in one night.
On Shrove Tuesday, February 13, 1945, a flood of refugees fleeing the Red Army 60 miles away had swollen the city’s population to well over a million. Each new refugee brought fearful accounts of Soviet atrocities. Little did those refugees retreating from the Red terror imagine that they were about to die in a horror worse than anything Stalin could devise.
Normally, a carnival atmosphere prevailed in Dresden on Shrove Tuesday. In 1945, however, the outlook was rather dismal. Houses everywhere overflowed with refugees, and thousands were forced to camp out in the streets shivering in the bitter cold.
However, the people felt relatively safe; and although the mood was grim, the circus played to a full house that night as thousands came to forget for a moment the horrors of war. Bands of little girls paraded about in carnival dress in an effort to bolster warning spirits. Half-sad smiles greeted the laughing girls, but spirits were lifted.
No one realized that in less than 24 hours those same innocent children would die screaming in Churchill’s firestorms. But, of course, no one could know that then. The Russians, to be sure, were savages, but at least the Americans and British were “honorable.”
So, when those first alarms signaled the start of 14 hours of hell, Dresden’s people streamed dutifully into their shelters. But they did so without much enthusiasm, believing the alarms to be false, since their city had never been threatened from the air. Many would never come out alive, for that “great democratic statesman,” Winston Churchill–in collusion with that other “great democratic statesman,” Franklin Delano Roosevelt–had decided that the city of Dresden was to be obliterated by saturation bombing.
What where Churchill’s motives? They appear to have been political, rather than military. Historians unanimously agree that Dresden had no military value. What industry it did have produced only cigarettes and china.
But the Yalta Conference was coming up, in which the Soviets and their Western allies would sit down like ghouls to carve up the shattered corpse of Europe. Churchill wanted a trump card–a devastating “thunderclap of Anglo-American annihilation”–with which to “impress” Stalin.
That card, however, was never played at Yalta, because bad weather delayed the originally scheduled raid. Yet Churchill insisted that the raid be carried out–to “disrupt and confuse” the German civilian population behind the lines.
Dresden’s citizens barely had time to reach their shelters. The first bomb fell at 10:09 p.m. The attack lasted 24 minutes, leaving the inner city a raging sea of fire. “Precision saturation bombing” had created the desired firestorm.
A firestorm is caused when hundreds of smaller fires join in one vast conflagration. Huge masses of air are sucked in to feed the inferno, causing an artificial tornado. Those persons unlucky enough to be caught in the rush of wind are hurled down entire streets into the flames. Those who seek refuge underground often suffocate as oxygen is pulled from the air to feed the blaze, or they perish in a blast of white heat–heat intense enough to melt human flesh.
One eyewitness who survived told of seeing “young women carrying babies running up and down the streets, their dresses and hair on fire, screaming until they fell down, or the collapsing buildings fell on top of them.”
There was a three-hour pause between the first and second raids. The lull had been calculated to lure civilians from their shelters into the open again. To escape the flames, tens of thousands of civilians had crowded into the Grosser Garten, a magnificent park nearly one and a half miles square.
The second raid came at 1:22 a.m. with no warning. Twice as many bombers returned with a massive load of incendiary bombs. The second wave was designed to spread the raging firestorm into the Grosser Garten.
It was a complete “success.” Within a few minutes a sheet of flame ripped across the grass, uprooting trees and littering the branches of others with everything from bicycles to human limbs. For days afterward, they remained bizarrely strewn about as grim reminders of Allied sadism.
At the start of the second air assault, many were still huddled in tunnels and cellars, waiting for the fires of the first attack to die down. At 1:30 a.m. an ominous rumble reached the ears of the commander of a Labor Service convoy sent into the city on a rescue mission. He described it this way:
“The detonation shook the cellar walls. The sound of the explosions mingled with a new, stranger sound which seemed to come closer and closer, the sound of a thundering waterfall; it was the sound of the mighty tornado howling in the inner city.”
MELTING HUMAN FLESH
Others hiding below ground died. But they died painlessly–they simply glowed bright orange and blue in the darkness. As the heat intensified, they either disintegrated into cinders or melted into a thick liquid–often three or four feet deep in spots.
Shortly after 10:30 on the morning of February 14, the last raid swept over the city. American bombers pounded the rubble that had been Dresden for a steady 38 minutes. But this attack was not nearly as heavy as the first two.
However, what distinguished this raid was the cold-blooded ruthlessness with which it was carried out. U.S. Mustangs appeared low over the city, strafing anything that moved, including a column of rescue vehicles rushing to the city to evacuate survivors. One assault was aimed at the banks of the Elbe River, where refugees had huddled during the horrible night.
In the last year of the war, Dresden had become a hospital town. During the previous night’s massacre, heroic nurses had dragged thousands of crippled patients to the Elbe. The low-flying Mustangs machine-gunned those helpless patients, as well as thousands of old men, women and children who had escaped the city.
When the last plane left the sky, Dresden was a scorched ruin, its blackened streets filled with corpses. The city was spared no horror. A flock of vultures escaped from the zoo and fattened on the carnage. Rats swarmed over the piles of corpses.
A Swiss citizen described his visit to Dresden two weeks after the raid: “I could see torn-off arms and legs, mutilated torsos and heads which had been wrenched from their bodies and rolled away. In places the corpses were still lying so densely that I had to clear a path through them in order not to tread on arms and legs.”
“An international cabal of pan-African and global imperialist interests are combining forces to destabilise Africa”
Once again, the spotlight is on Africa as four Kenyans – three political leaders and a journalist – have been indicted at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Once again, the question that has never been answered is, why Africa? And why the speed? In Anglo-Saxon parts of the world, some leaders are treated with kid gloves when they commit ‘crimes against humanity’. Others, like the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former US President George Bush, go on to write memoirs defending their abuse of international laws.
Let us put this in context, in Ivory Coast, ex-President Laurent Gbagbo was ‘abducted’ (the words used by Jerry John Rawlings, former President of Ghana) at midnight and carted off to The Hague. In my view, his crimes remain unknown except to the French and his Ivorian adversaries. Charles Taylor (Liberia) remains in The Hague incarcerated. Now we learn that all along, the former President of Liberia may have been a CIA agent. So we can guess why the leadership of the United States would like to see him remain in The Hague. He knows too much. In the case of Libya, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and his sons were even indicted before the ICC could establish whether they had committed crimes ‘against humanity.’ Other Africans from the Democratic Republic of the Congo are also facing charges in The Hague. In the Sudan, a sitting head of state, President Omar Bashir, has also been indicted. The queue of Africans waiting to be hanged by this international court is endless.
Yet, a cursory glance at the world also tells of many crimes committed against ordinary citizens – from Palestine to Afghanistan, to Libya and, of course, Iraq. Who bears responsibility for these crimes? Are we suggesting that the lives of Iraqi, Libyan and Palestanian children and women do not matter? How come no one is facing so-called justice in The Hague?
This raises serious questions about the selective justice and double standards of the international systems of justice that is selectively applied to Africa and especially African leaders by the so-called ‘international community’. It leaves me with no option but to conclude that the ICC has become a vehicle for enforcing neocolonial interest in Africa, which members of the UN Security Council can exploit. What is even more worrying is that the ICC has become a tool in the hands of vicious African elite/politicians fighting for the national cake. All it takes is to convince the so-called international community that your opponent needs to go to The Hague. I will suggest in all seriousness that serious crimes against humanity have been committed in Libya by NATO forces, and by both sides in the post-election crisis in the Ivory Coast. But we are yet to see some action on that front. The work of the ICC will make sense, and justice will be served, if the leaders who authorised the bombing of Tripoli under the guise of UN resolutions also face the same justice that the Kenyans are supposedly going to face.
In the case of Kenya, the facts should be separated from the chaff. There was post-election violence in which over 1,000 citizens died, some under gruesome conditions. Someone or some groups bear responsibility for this. As usual, the international community, and a flaking Kenyan leadership, abdicated responsibility for punishing those responsible to a horde of international experts and UN rapporteurs with lengthy reports.
Maybe, these people did some good, but these reports are now gathering dust while all attention is paid to the antics of the chief prosecutor of the ICC Luis Moreno-Ocampo. The man now thinks he is a celebrity in Kenya. ‘Kenyans love me’, he is reported to have said. Second, the Kenyan ruling class failed to set up a local tribunal to address cases of post-election violence and historical injustices, thereby fuelling the feeling among ordinary Kenyans that the ICC route was the only way to seek justice. Third, the Kenyan elite, especially those in civil society, seem united in their view that to end ‘impunity’, they need the intervention of some foreign ‘knight in armour’ who should descend in Kenya to take out the bad guys (their leaders who are responsible for impunity). I suggest that impunity is deep-seated in Africa, and its historical and structural causes should be addressed. Impunity has colonial and neo colonial roots. The ICC can only deal with the symptoms.
In Kenya, the ICC debate, like most debates, has become a lawyers’ paradise where people talk of ‘the Rome statute’ and similar words with arrogant recklessness and self-satisfaction. That African heads of states signed up to this is ‘Rome statute’ is not in doubt, but for good reasons. Others refused. But this does not constitute a blood oath to which we are bound for life, as the juju takers in Nollywood movies suggest.
The debate about how to seek justice for the victims of the post-election violence in Kenya seems to have been relegated to a few campaigners. The internally displaced people (citizens) of Kenya are still living in IDP camps. Women who were abused have not been offered counseling or financial compensation or support to deal with the consequences of the abuse. Children of IDP families are not receiving quality primary education as their families are on the move and lack stability. Kenya is yet to heal, as the ruling elite and the so-called international community engages in futile and sometimes endless debates about ‘impunity’ and the ICC. The nongovernmental organisations and civil society have been caught up in this maze as some seek publicity for themselves and their organisations at the expense of real justice for victims. Playing to the international gallery has become the endgame in Nairobi. Who speaks for the IDPs? Who speaks for the women who were abused?
This reminds me of Sierra Leone. When I visited Freetown after the civil war, there was a lot of talk about ‘impunity’ and justice, as we are hearing today. The UN Tribunal for Sierra Leone was set up in a huge compound in Freetown as a justice centre of some sort to deal with so-called perpetrators of the civil war, nothing about the victims. It was full of young European and American lawyers recruited as ‘investigators’, with their fanciful laptops and mobile phones. All was set for justice. Down the road was an amputee camp, where amputees, real victims of the savage civil war, lived in unimaginable abject poverty. So the question I asked myself was: where is our sense of priority? Are we condemning the living, young as they are, to a life of penury, so that some octogenerian leaders can be put on trial, and for what purpose? Millions of dollars were spent on this illusive justice while the youthful victims of the civil war – ex-combatants and their families – were abandoned by the same international system which has ripped off Sierra Leone for its diamonds. Is that the African sense of justice? Many Sierra Leoneans and other West Africans had the same feeling; we could only shake our heads in disbelief. In the case of Sierra Leone, most of the so-called perpetrators died in jail awaiting trials.
I would suggest that Kenya is headed in that same direction. The broad sense of seeking social justice for victims has been pushed to the dustbin of history as people seek retribution, and settle petty political scores of a different nature. Whether the four indicted individuals deserve to be indicted by the ICC or not is for Kenyans to answer. But some of us will never know, as only those with voices and access to Kenya’s media which is embedded with powerful interests, and positions that appeal to or support the marginalisation of Africa, and the abuse of African leaders in the international system get heard. But it would be churlish and ahistorical to separate what is happening to the Kenyan four. It is part of a broader cat and mouse game of humiliating African leaders to serve the global imperialist interests of some countries, and to justify their continued plunder of the continent and its resources, a game in which Africa will always emerge as the loser.
In the case of the Kenyan four, I cannot help but feel that this is more about the impending election (2012 0or 2013), than about justice for victims. Some in the international community and their minions have suggested that some ethnic groups should be sidelined. A dangerous proposition for a country seeking to build a cohesive society.
In a contribution to Pambazuka News last year, I suggested that an international cabal of pan-African and global imperialist interests are combining forces to destabilise Africa. This is a continuation of this debate. The idea that shipping four Kenyans (Africans) to join the already high number in The Hague is somehow the best way to achieve justice does not appeal to me. My position will be the same if these four were Libyan, Nigerian, Ghanaian or Ugandan. I believe that Africa has come of age to settle its own problems. I believe that neither the US nor British governments will subject their citizens, especially, young, intelligent and committed politicians, to the sort of humiliation that the four Kenyans are being subjected to in the name of fighting impunity.
The ICC has time and time again proven that it is beholden to countries that are not even signatories to the Rome statute (for example the United States, as in the case of President Charles Taylor). Ocampo has proven that he is anti-African, that his interest is only in persecuting and prosecuting Africans because we have made ourselves vulnerable to this process. This same court which acknowledges that African countries are signatories ignores the voice of the African Union leadership – those we have elected to represent our interest as Africans. Will the ICC ignore the leaders of France, the UK, the European Union and the United States? Yet, the ICC ignored the AU in the case of Sudan, and ignored the pleas of Kenya’s Vice President who had the support of the majority of progressive thinking African leaders in the Africa Union. This underlies the contemptuous attitude towards African leaders by lower officials in international organisations. Why do we allow this to happen?
In the case of Kenya, what is even more worrying is the impact of this process on the national psyche. It destabilises the country, creates unnecessary anxiety and fuels rumours of the dangerous type. Kenyans need closure to the post-election violence if they are to build a cohesive and progressive society based on the ethic of the 2010 constitution. The intelligentsia is supposed to lead this struggle, but it is failing as they are devoid of any ideological leanings or clarity. ‘Human rights’ is treated as if it is value-free, with no ideological underpinnings. The debate about political transition in Kenya is being sidelined and made to look moribund as the country frets and is on tenterhooks awaiting decisions from the ICC. In Kenya, the ICC has been elevated to a ‘god’ with the prosecutor as some sort of deity. Dissenting voices are silenced or seen as irrelevant to this debate.
However, it is important for Africans to realise that there is no alternative to nation-building and to local processes. Neither the US nor France will abdicate such awesome responsibilities to a foreign court or subject the whole nation to such unnecessary anxiety. Africans must have the courage and steadfast belief in our ability to change the continent, to deal with abuses and seek justice on our own terms. For me, the ICC will always remain an imperialist-led institution set up to hold back the forces of progress, while undermining African institutions and our ability to deal with forces of retrogression and ‘impunity’. It is time for African leaders to take charge and not hand over the continent to some faceless ‘judges’ of the international system.
- ICC’s Kenya decision is no cause for celebration (nation.com.pk)
Moscow has called for an immediate ban on adoption of Russian children by American citizens amid the increasing number of child cruelty cases by the US adoptive parents.
In a statement issued on Saturday, Russian foreign ministry said that the adoption by US families should be suspended until the international adoption agreement signed by the two countries on July 13, 2011 comes into force.
“Against the backdrop of an unending series of crimes in the United States against Russian children, the Russian foreign ministry believes … it expedient to suspend the adoptions procedure for US citizens in the Russian Federation,” the statement said.
According to Russian authorities at least 17 Russian children have died in domestic violence incidents in their American families.
The ministry also condemned a ‘too mild’ prison sentence given to an American woman charged with brutally abusing her adopted Russian daughter. Theresa McNulty was sentenced to 23 months in prison with possibility of release within 8 months. The girl was eventually hospitalized after suffering burns to 10 percent of her body.
In 2010, a woman in the US city of Tennessee put her adopted Russian son on a plane back to Moscow alone, saying she could no longer cope with his violent behavior.
The United States has the world’s most adoptive parents and Russia has long been one of its biggest providers. US citizens have adopted nearly 50,000 Russian children since the early 1990s.
NBC reported two days ago that Israel teams up with terror group to kill Iran’s nuclear scientists.
The attacks, which have killed five Iranian nuclear scientists since 2007 and may have destroyed a missile research and development site, have been carried out in dramatic fashion, with motorcycle-borne assailants often attaching small magnetic bombs to the exterior of the victims’ cars.
Both Iranian, Israeli and Western commentators tend to believe that Israel and the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, known as the MEK are behind the terror campaign.
In 1997, the State Department listed the MEK as a terrorist group, justifying it with an unclassified 40-page summary of the organization’s activities going back more than 25 years.
But in the last few weeks the Jewish Lobby in the USA is going out of its way to support the terrorist MEK.
Watch Zionist Alan Dershowitz advocating the immediate delisting of an active terror organisation.
In the video above Zionist Dershowitz urges the U.S. government to protect the 3,400 MEK members and their families at Camp Ashraf in Iraq, about 35 miles north of Baghdad. With the departure of U.S. troops, the MEK feared that Iraqi forces, with encouragement from Iran, would attack the camp, leading to a bloodbath. One may be naïve enough to believe that Dershowitz’call is nothing but noble, yet, embarrassingly enough, the same Dershowitz, has never been caught trying to stop his beloved Jewish State from murdering Palestinians in Gaza, in the West Bank or anywhere else.
This discrepancy is far from being a coincidence. Apparently killing civilians in the name of the Jewish State must be a ‘kosher endeavour’.
Massive protest demonstrations have broken out in the Indian-administered Kashmir over the death of a young man allegedly killed by Indian army soldiers.
Protesters on Saturday blocked the main highway to Baramullah district, situated 75 kilometers (46 miles) northwest of Srinagar, the main city of Indian-administered Kashmir, and said they will not bury the body of the slain individual — identified as 22-year-old Ashiq Hussain Rather — until the soldiers involved in his killing were arrested.
Police resorted to baton charges and used teargas to try to disperse the protesters.
Hussain was killed on Friday outside his home in the Lasser village of Baramulla district.
“The (Indian) troopers shot Ashiq without any provocation,” said Muddasir Ahhamd, a relative of Rather’s, adding that, “After the incident, they tried to keep us indoors but ultimately they ran away when we raised hue and cry.”
Meanwhile, normal life was paralyzed in the Muslim-dominated areas of Indian-administered Kashmir on Saturday after a pro-freedom group called for a shutdown. The strike call was issued by the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) on the 28th execution anniversary of its founder, Mohammed Maqbool Bhat.
Hundreds of paramilitary troopers and policemen were deployed to Srinagar to impose restrictions and prevent protest rallies.
Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in full and have fought two wars over the region since 1947. New Delhi has been repeatedly criticized for resorting to force rather than finding a diplomatic solution to the dispute.
In 2010, the Kashmir Valley was rocked by a series of protests in which at least 110 people were reported killed. The protest rallies were sparked when Indian forces shot dead a student in June of that year.
- Protests erupt in IHK after youth slain by Indian army (nation.com.pk)
Bill Clinton’s bombing of Serbia should serve as an inspiration, Fouad Ajami opines in the Wall Street Journal:
In this Syrian ordeal, President Obama has a similar opportunity to stop “the killing of innocents” in Homs, Hama and Deraa. The Damascus regime is living on bluster, running out of money, and relying on an army that has no faith in the mission given it or in the man at the helm. It could be brought down without a massive American commitment.
We could, with some moral clarity, recognize the Syrian National Council as the country’s legitimate government, impose a no-fly zone in the many besieged areas, help train and equip the Free Syrian Army, prompt Turkey to give greater support to defectors from Syrian units, and rally the wealthy Arab states to finance the effort.
There are risks to be run, no doubt. But at present we have only the shame of averting our eyes from Syrian massacres. If we act now, President Obama, when he pens his memoirs, could still claim vindication, or at least that he gave Homs and Hama and Deraa his best.
This is the same Middle East expert who predicted in 2002 that “after liberation in Basra and Baghdad, the streets are sure to erupt in joy.”
Like his friend Paul Wolfowitz, Ajami’s being so wrong about the consequences of the U.S. invasion of Israel’s then-enemy du jour appears not to have done his career any harm. A 2003 profile in The Nation noted that the Lebanese-born American
attached himself to such powerful patrons as Laurence Tisch, former chairman of CBS; Mort Zuckerman, the owner of US News & World Report; Martin Peretz, a co-owner of The New Republic; and Leslie Gelb, head of the Council on Foreign Relations.
No doubt Ajami’s “powerful patrons” are just as concerned as he is about the “the killing of innocents” in Syria.
- Foolishly Ignoring the Arab League Report on Syria (alethonews.wordpress.com)