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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: February 15, 2009 @ 9:37 pm

    Rating the Presidents

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    This only just came to my attention although published a few months ago. It is a rating of all the US presidents in terms of best, worst, etc. It was a link on my AOL email homepage today. See what you think by clicking here.

    My initial reaction is that they are too easy on Reagan by putting him in eighth place. His policies of freeing up the market contributed to today’s recession. The panel are perhaps a little hard on Nixon (37th out of a total of 42 holders of the office) who opened up relations with China and finally brought the troops home from Vietnam. The more Watergate recedes into history, the more it resembles a series of outrageous party-political pranks that got completely out of control.

    Bill Clinton at 23 and Jimmy Carter at 32 both deserved better. Clinton was very good for the Irish peace process and if that makes me provincial, so be it; all politics is local. Carter was an unlucky president but has been a very active campaigner for human rights since he left the White House and should get credit for that. 

    They are about right on JFK at No.11. He did not achieve that much in his own all-too-short period in office but he restored the magic to politics and to the White House. Would he have had the sense to pull back from the Vietnam quagmire if he had lived? We’ll never really know.

    It was to be expected that George W. Bush would be way down the list. I predict that, with time, his legacy may seem slightly less negative than it does now. He protected the US from another terrorist attack after 9/11. Iraq was a disaster in the short-term but if the place stabilises – as it seems to be doing – then his expedition there might look less ill-advised than at present. I would have put him about No. 30 for now.

    I’m not comfortable with the choice of Harry Truman at No. 7. He was the common man par excellence but the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a terrible thing to do and even now I cannot excuse it.

    FDR at No. 3 is hard to argue with,  in the current economic climate. Lincoln comes in at No. 1. Hard to argue with that either. He was such a wonderful speaker (at least on the page) and a sincere man who gave his life for his beliefs. He fought a cataclysmic war that ended slavery. One cannot help wondering if maybe, just maybe, there was a better way, but he was definitely an inspiring leader and marvellous human being.

    Now we have Barack Obama as head of the world’s major superpower (Lincoln’s work finally coming to fruition in political terms). It’s a case of so far, so good. Let’s wish him luck but no doubt there will be a certain amount of disillusionment after a while. You can’t please all the people all the time. Irish people still love him, I think, but may grow cool if he adopts protectionist policies that affect US investment and employment-creation here.

    • Steve K says:

      The panel are perhaps a little hard on Nixon (37th out of a total of 42 holders of the office) who opened up relations with China and finally brought the troops home from Vietnam. The more Watergate recedes into history, the more it resembles a series of outrageous party-political pranks that got completely out of control.

      I think they have Nixon right on. Nixon may have “brought the troops home from Vietnam”, but this is an easy summary that ignores the illegal bombing of Cambodia and Laos, and the instability that led to the years of Khmer rule. No Nixon and Kissinger, no Pol Pot.

      His political legacy is the popularisation of Realpolitik, the centralisation of executive power, and most damagingly the creation of cultural “wedge” issues, engagement and encouragement of fundamentalist Christian groups as a political constituency, and an active encouragement of anti-intellectualism in American cultural life.

      Nixon also gave several notorious public figures their first opening in politics, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, for instance, cut their teeth in a Nixon administration.

      Then of course there is his deployment of Operation Condor in South America, carried on by Kissinger, that effectively defeated the democratic developmental nations of the southern continent and replaced them with right-wing dictatorial experiments in extreme free-market orthodoxy.

      Guy was a bit of a monster.

      Iraq was a disaster in the short-term but if the place stabilises – as it seems to be doing – then his expedition there might look less ill-advised than at present.

      In the short-term? Without sounding dramatic, in the long-term 100,000 – 1,000,000 people are unnecessarily dead because of his false and vicious ideology. We don’t know exact figures because it is administration policy not to keep figures of civilian deaths.

      Looks like Kissinger’s influence is alive and well!

    • Conor says:

      An apologist for Nixon? I suppose, at least he did something. For me the guy right below him in the Times’ list (39th) has to be the worst politician of all time, not simply the worst US President.
      William Harrison – elected at 68 and mocked because of it. The ageism had him a bit miffed. He was inaugurated in the freezing cold and, to prove his might, refused to wear a coat. Harrison rode horse-back to the White House and was dead from pneumonia 38-days later.
      Say what you will about staging the Civil War, dropping the A-Bomb, Watergate, arming the Taliban or lining the pockets of your friends after World War One at least that rogues’ gallery gave us something to talk about.

      PS. Teddy would have been third in my list. He made 20th Century America and developed the policies FDR honed for the Depression. The world would have been smaller and the world wars would have turned out differently were it not for Teddy thinking ahead. I would even argue for number two but this is boring enough already.

    • Deaglán says:

      Oh dear! I knew I would pay for my little dabble in political incorrectness. I still insist that ending the Vietnam War and opening links with mainland China were historic moves that stand to Nixon’s credit for all his many flaws and personal unattractiveness. As for Bush and Iraq – I wish he hadn’t done it. The cost in blood and treasure was very high and the invasion was justified on the false basis of Saddam’s WMD. But let’s not forget what type of person Saddam was — executions, torture, etc. I interviewed a fair number of his victims. He had a very clear line in labour incentives: guy I met in Lebanon said his father was building a bridge for Saddam but maintained the job could not be done on time. Saddam said if it weren’t done, then everyone concerned would be hanged. The job got done. Despite the awfulness of the Iraqi invasion and its aftermath you cannot ignore the fact that the place seems to be stabilising.

    • Steve K says:

      Oh dear! I knew I would pay for my little dabble in political incorrectness. I still insist that ending the Vietnam War and opening links with mainland China were historic moves that stand to Nixon’s credit for all his many flaws and personal unattractiveness.

      That may be true, but they do not begin to offset the negative legacy I outlined above.

      As I also put forward above, “bringing the troops home” as a statement within itself paints an adequate veneer on Nixon’s Vietnam escapades that simply does not stand up to closer inspection.

      But let’s not forget what type of person Saddam was….

      Deaglán, after six years of reading this identical argument and corresponding rebuttals, I’m a little exhausted at being presented with this false choice between Saddam and the Iraq war.

      Despite the awfulness of the Iraqi invasion and its aftermath you cannot ignore the fact that the place seems to be stabilising.

      I may be misinterpreting you and apologies if I am, but are you suggesting that the ends justified the means?

      They just didn’t, and it ignores that errors made by the Bush administration, mostly through blinkered ideology and silly military theories, that led to the death of up to 1 million Iraqis.

      When you consider this and the more direct crimes of aerially bombing at least 10,000 Iraqi civilians to death (the inclusion of automatic drones that blow up men for carrying shovels is another worrying and seemingly acceptable development in warfare), the assault on Fallujah and Haditha, the use of torture against the Iraqi population, the use of white phosphorous chemical weapons against civilian populations, the American-backed Iraqi government running Shiite militias that routinely punished its own population through repression and summary execution…

      Maybe it is politically correct to take the human toll into account when judging the legacy of Nixon and Bush, and personally I hope it stays that way.

      Like “bringing the troops home” is a blithe statement that sanitises Nixon’s cataclysmic influence on South-East Asia, “place seems to be stabilising” makes it seems like the end has in some way justified the means; like no matter how much devastation has been inflicted it doesn’t really matter because now we have a happy ending of sorts; because now there’s no Saddam and the makings of a nice Western-compatible state. With all due respect, this is a simplification of the history.

    • Deaglán says:

      Like yourself, perhaps, I wish history came gift-wrapped. I am aware of Nixon’s shenanigans over Cambodia etc. but he ended the war. Period.

      Likewise, I regret the slaughter in Iraq but Saddam is gone and good riddance to him. Iraq looks like becoming semi-normal.

      I am sorry the US got involved in Vietnam and Iraq but I am glad the former had a more or less happy ending and the latter maybe will have one too.

      In a dream-world, Saddam would have been overthrown by democratic forces inside his own country. Unfortunately the level of repression made that impossible. The war was an obscenity that should never have happened. But we are where we are and the fact is that Iraq now looks reasonably stable. Facts are stubborn things.

    • Stephen says:

      A few brief comments:

      Reagan – deserves to be so high because he effectively brought about an end to the Cold War, a conflict that would have blown us all up if it had gone wrong. He was also widely underestimated and misunderstood by European commentators during his time in office, something that should give us all pause for thought before we condemn our current leaders out of hand.

      Bill Clinton – 23 seems about right to me – no great disasters but few big achievements either. The 1990s was actually a fairly quiet time compared to the decades immediately preceding and succeeding it, so he wasn’t all that important a president one way or the other.

      Carter – he may have done some good work for human rights, but your place on the list surely rests on your record in office, which in his case was catastrophic. He also combines a grating piousness with a tendency to go soft on dictators – and his promise to “never tell a lie” was broken on several occasions.

      JFK – only that high for sentimental reasons, I suspect. His greatest achievement was the Cuban Missile Crisis, and that required a fair amount of luck – also, he arguably should never have allowed the situation to escalate that much in the first place. A highly attractive and intelligent man, but his inexperience really showed – which I suspect might turn out to be the same for Obama, too.

      Truman – all depends what you think about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I suppose. Isn’t there a legitimate argument that they actually saved lives in the long run by ending the war more or less instantly?

      George W Bush – Deaglan, full credit to you for not taking the easy option. Bush certainly deserves to be way down on the list due to his incompetence and intellectual laziness, but he’s far from the monster that some people like to imagine – and he has a few solid achievements to his name as well (AIDS relief in Africa, for a start).

      Stephen

    • Deaglán says:

      That’s a good, thoughful summary. I would like to know what exactly it was Reagan did? Having worked in Russia myself back in 1994 when I reported for The Irish Times for five months, it was clear to me that the Soviet system was collapsing from its own internal contradictions. All Reagan did was claim the credit. He wasn’t able to do much for Gorbachev who was cast aside very quickly by the Russians themselves.
      RE: Clinton. Does he not deserve credit for keeping things quiet during his eight years in the White House? He didn’t pull off any stunts like Iraq. Also, the economy ticked over quite nicely. Was this entirely accidental? I would have reservations about his policy on Welfare.
      Carter: An unlucky president. But he used the authority of the office later in life to good effect.
      Kennedy: What’s wrong with a bit of sentiment? Wouldn’t it be useful if people today believed in their leaders the way they did then? Leadership includes the ability to inspire.
      Bush: Thanks for noting my refusal to take the easy way out and join the casual consensus. But don’t anyone paint me as a Bushite! I would have very sharp criticisms of W. and the whole Neo-Con project. But, taking the long view, I think he might not fare too badly in the history books. I stress that I’m adopting an historian’s rather than a journalistic commentator’s perspective. For example, in the appalling eventuality that there were a terrorist attack in the US – and I pray God there won’t be – people would be screaming for him to come back. Ironically, although you will find it very hard to hear a good word about him in Ireland, he was better from an Irish policy viewpoint than Obama is likely to be. He was less protectionist and took a positive approach on immigration reform -Obama turned off the Irish immigration lobby in the recent election, from what I understand. But like Kennedy he is inspirational, at least so far.

    • John says:

      All this ranking of presidents has to be quite subjective, but it needs at least some basis in reason. How does Jimmy Carter’s activities after his presidency, whether on behalf of human rights or building homes for Habitat for Humanity, affect how his term in the presidency should be viewed? Rating Carter as a man continues to this day; rating Carter as a president ended on January 20, 1981 — a few minutes before Iran released the American hostages.

    • Deaglán says:

      I don’t think it’s possible to separate Carter as President from Carter as former President. He would not have the authority that he does were he not an ex-inhabitant of the White House. That’s why I think the judgment must be made on the basis, not only of a president’s term of office but what he or she does thereafter.

    • Steve K says:

      But, taking the long view, I think he might not fare too badly in the history books. I stress that I’m adopting an historian’s rather than a journalistic commentator’s perspective.

      The kind of history that lionised Rome and forever forgot Carthage.

    • Deaglán says:

      A nice line, Steve K.! I prefer to think of it as the kind of history that looks at the long-term result rather than the short-term impact.
      RE Harry Truman. He dropped the A-bombs to avoid American loss of life which would have been massive in any attempted invasion of Japan. But innocent civilians died in vast numbers and it was contrary to any notion about the rules of warfare. Would it have happened if they were white? Answering my own question, the bombing of Dresden seems to say it would.

    • Joanna Tuffy T.D. says:

      It is of note that Lincoln was placed no. 1. Paul Johnson in his book Heroes makes a point about Lincoln that I think is relevant to what is happening in our own political system today. Johnson says Lincoln was not one of those leaders that through his will forced things to happen (The type of leader many commentators seem to think is the best type of leader nowadays). Rather, he reacted to events, but that what distinguished him as a leader were his truly democratic instincts. I think it is a problem with politics and political discourse today that many of those at the top (and many commentators) don’t have a lot of time for democracy. If you voice public discontent you are described as populist etc. Of course a good leader must be prepared to take the unpopular viewpoint and approach but a good leader starts with respect for the other viewpoint and using persuasion and negotiation brings the majority on side. Interesting that the Kerry FF councillors today are kicking up about the FF way of picking candidates. This procedure has been lauded by some media commentators as a key to their success in the last election. But the councillors say according to the Times article (which is about their disagreement with the pension levy) that this approach to democracy within the party has meant the leadership are out of touch because they are not even consulting their own grassroots. On a bigger scale the Taoiseach’s approach to the Pension Levy (pay cut) for public service workers was totally undemocratic. As he promised a week previously it was his way or the highway. The negotiations was missing a partner – the Government. There was no allowance for democratic input by the Oireachtas. I think FF will rue the day this type of attitude to democracy and the people was adopted by their party.

    • Steve K says:

      RE Harry Truman. He dropped the A-bombs to avoid American loss of life which would have been massive in any attempted invasion of Japan.

      Haha, I guess we will be forever destined to interpret history differently.

      Again, like your lines of redemption for Nixon and Bush they ring false to me. The nuclear bomb, once developed, was going to be used. I’ve no doubt that preventing American military loss of life was a serious consideration to Truman but it was by no means the only one.

      But innocent civilians died in vast numbers and it was contrary to any notion about the rules of warfare. Would it have happened if they were white? Answering my own question, the bombing of Dresden seems to say it would.

      Yes the history of these incidents has been twisted beyond all recognition. If only we could force Slaughterhouse Five onto every English and History course in the Western World. I remember visiting the Churchill Museum in London and hearing Churchill’s speech about the barbarity of the Blitz; a sentiment he quickly lost.

      How we got there is as important as how we ended up. You allude to that here, and WWII is a perfect example of how a generally good outcome (defeating the Nazis) was achieved with the use of industrialised destruction of civilians and their infrastructure, that has made acceptable the drone bombing of innocent civilians on computer screens today.

      It is not, and it is a legacy that leaves the seemingly-intelligent unable to recognise Shock and Awe as the terrorist doctrine that it so clearly is.

      I appreciate what you said above about inconvenient facts, and I assure you that I don’t find them convenient, but sometimes it is important to vilify, to put a mark as to what actions put a person beyond the pale. Weighing Bush’s negative legacy against a modicum of stability in Iraq is, for me at least, a little obscene in consideration of his crimes.

      As a side-note, I don’t think it’s relevant here whether defending Bush is unpopular or bashing Nixon is popular. I don’t watch Pop Idol or Big Brother but I think both Bush and Nixon were dicks.

    • Deaglán says:

      I don’t accept that use of the nuclear bomb was inevitable. Why hasn’t it been used since? Your use of the phrase “beyond the pale” is interesting, given its provenance in this country. It looks as if Obama intends to do to Afghanistan what Bush did to Iraq – the job having been done in the latter country apparently. But he may well get away with it because he looks and sounds good whereas Bush was regarded as a hick in this part of the world. I really believe it is as superficial as that sometimes. But whether it is Churchill, Goering, Truman, Bin Laden, the ‘Ra or the UVF, killing civilians is wrong.

    • DHF5811 says:

      Steve K,

      I believe I have asked you this in previous blogs, but where do you come up with one million dead in Iraq? I served two tours there and your statement simply cannot be backed up. Second, let’s talk torture, no US serviceman captured since March 2003 has lived. All have been brutally tortured, beheaded, and left to rot alongside a road or a shallow grave, while those who claim we are torturing those folks in GITMO (which for the record is a better situation than nearly all American prisons) have lived a fairly decent life. Even Abu Grah after processing well over 50000 detainees saw only a dozen die in captivity, most of these from wounds suffered in battle. I realize you are anti-Bush, anti republican, likely a daily reader of Huffington, and anti-military, but let’s stick to the facts and please do not insult me by providing facts from some left-wing blog. If you wish to know what’s happening in Iraq, Afgan, etc. ask someone who has spent quite a bit of time there. It wasn’t pretty, mistakes were made, but nobody ever claimed war was easy, quick, and most of all fair!!

    • Steve K says:

      DHF5811 you say:

      I believe I have asked you this in previous blogs, but where do you come up with one million dead in Iraq?

      If you read my posts carefully, I have stated that casualty figures in Iraq range from 100,000 to 1,000,000 Iraqis.

      In my first post I said, if you read it:

      Without sounding dramatic, in the long-term 100,000 – 1,000,000 people are unnecessarily dead because of his false and vicious ideology.

      Sources for this are:

      The Iraqi Health Ministry (2006): (151,000 violent deaths out of 400,000 excess deaths due to the war)

      The Lancet Survery (2006): 601,027 violent deaths out of 654,965 excess deaths.

      Opinion Research Business Survey (2007): 1,033,000 violent deaths as a result of the conflict.

      These are the only estimates we have for the Iraq war, unfortunately, because the Bush administration made it official policy not to keep civilian death counts, as they are required by international law. Perhaps 1 million is too high an estimate, I honestly don’t know, but since the three studies state 100,000 to 1,000,000 that’s what I have stated here.

      please do not insult me by providing facts from some left-wing blog

      I’ve no intention of insulting you, we’re just having a discussion…

    • Deaglán says:

      I’m not taking sides in this but it seems to me that 100,000-1,000,000 is too wide a margin of error. Surely there are more reliable figures somewhere?

    • Steve K says:

      I’m not taking sides in this but it seems to me that 100,000-1,000,000 is too wide a margin of error. Surely there are more reliable figures somewhere?

      There’s not. They are the only three comprehensive surveys available on Iraq casualties.

      There is, of course, http://www.iraqbodycount.org, which figures of confirmed deaths are at just under 100,000. I’m not sure how reliable they are.

      But because official figures of civilian deaths were never kept, we are pretty much left to the statistical Lancet study for estimating civilian casualties. That is, unless, there is another prominent study that I’m unaware of.

    • Eoin Lynch says:

      I find your opposition to the bombing of Germany and Japan during World War Two puzzling.

      Both nations had gambled upon launching ruthless wars of conquest.The gamble had failed and the consequence was a bombing offensive.This was the only way Britain could strike against German-occupied Europe and it would have been implausible not to have done so. Dresden was a legitimate military target as it was a functioning enemy administrative, industrial, and communications centre that by February 1945 lay close to the Soviet front line.

      There is little doubt that the strategic bombing campaign played a major role in the defeat of Germany. Also more officers of Bomber Command died than the total number of British Army officers did during the First World War.Their treatment in post-war Britain, a refusal to award them a campaign medal was a disgrace.I wonder why it is rarely mentioned that almost exactly the same number of Soviet citizens died as a result of bombing during the war as Germans.

      Japan had done nothing in China and South East Asia to make any plausible moral claim upon terms less rigorous than those imposed upon Germany.The Japanese leadership stupidly refused any notion of surrender as dictated by the Americans. They are responsible for the catastrophic loss of life and the military even attempted a coup after the dropping of the second bomb.Truman did not give a Presidential order to drop the bombs but he could have prevented their dropping, but he was right not to do so. The alternative was the continued fire-bombing of Japan and the starvation of the Japanese population by the blockade.The dropping of the atomic bombs also took into account Soviet expansion as let us not forget that Soviet forces were systemically murdering any Pole who professed support for his country’s right to independence and democracy.

      I can’t see how Germany and Japan could have been defeated under the time frame of World War Two without bombing.

    • Steve K says:

      I can’t see how Germany and Japan could have been defeated under the time frame of World War Two without bombing.

      I don’t know whether this is directed at myself or Deaglán.

      I certainly don’t disagree with the main thrust of your argument, and I don’t explicitly disagree with the bombing campaigns against Germany and Japan.

      I certainly have reservations with the severity of those campaigns, and the ample evidence at the time that they were not effective enough to warrant the civilian loss of life.

      If you take Robert McNamara’s testimony, for instance, in The Fog of War; he consistently states that the severity of bombing campaigns, such as the fire-bombing of Tokyo or the destruction of Dresden and Cologne, was not effective in terms of what they achieved. He claims that General Curtis LeMay, in command of some of the bombing campaigns, was aware the civilian bombing was having little effect but continued the policy. Is this not an area where blame can reasonably be applied?

      Dresden may have had legitimate targets, but the entire city was obliterated in one night of fire-bombing, which I think can reasonably be considered overkill. But what of Cologne? That bombing was simply intended to sap civilian morale. They destroyed the entire city (except, kindly, for the Cathedral).

      I just don’t agree with the manner in which these cities and their civilians were destroyed.

      I also don’t explicitly disagree with the dropping of the bomb on Japan, I just think it’s important to recognise (as you have) the motivation of using the bomb to warn the Soviet Union. Perhaps this motivation was justified, perhaps not.

      It’s just lamentable that this industrialised warfare has become so popular and now, in wars like Iraq and Afghanistan, for instance, where there is little excuse to target civilians, it is so popular and indiscriminate. See the perverse language around the bombing of North Vietnam for more evidence of this…

    • Deaglán says:

      That’s one of the things I like about blogging, you never know where the discussion will lead. I did not expect this topic to come up but then as soon as you start rating Harry Truman, it is unavoidable. I am glad we stayed neutral in the second World War despite guilt-feelings about not doing our bit to halt the march of Nazism etc. There is a book by Nicholson Baker which caused a stir because it suggested there could have been another way. I will give the link at the end of this comment. The liberal theologian Enda McDonagh once gave a talk about the need for a worldwide campaign to outlaw war, just as there had been one in the past to outlaw slavery. Struck me as a good idea but it hasn’t really caught on. Here is the Baker link: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/04/books/04bake.html?8dpc=&_r=3&oref=slogin&pagewanted=print

    • Stephen says:

      Hope you don’t mind if I add these links – a few reviews that suggest Baker’s argument is, with all due respect, a bit barmy.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/12/books/12grim.html?_r=1

      http://www.nysun.com/arts/war-games/72723/

      http://www.tnr.com/story_print.html?id=0afcee53-5860-48b8-9065-bd7ac4945254

    • Deaglán says:

      I am sure one could just as easily dig out some pro-Baker pieces. I think his ideas should not be dismissed too airily. The New York Sun is a well-written and produced newspaper but it doesn’t “do” pacifism I think! Can I say that I’m really enjoying this debate (if one can “enjoy” discussing such a sombre topic). P.S. I’ve just discovered that the N.Y. Sun ceased publication on 30 September last year. I used to read it on occasional visits to the Big Apple. I am very sorry to hear it has folded; I did not always agree with the content but found it invariably lively and stimulating. It’s a tough time in our industry.

    • Eoin Lynch says:

      Steve K,

      Dresden was the raid which went horribly right.The unseasonably good weather,an unexpected absence of opposition,a lack of the usual cock ups and the local Nazi’s appalling neglect of air raid protection all led to the devastation of the city.Recent German research have claimed that no more than 25,000 people died during the raid and it certainly was not the 500,000 that the Nazis claimed or even the 50,000 that some people still claim.
      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/onthefrontline/3123512/Dresden-bombing-death-toll-lower-than-thought.html

      Could the Allied alliance have survived if the British flatly told the Americans and Soviets that their army could not fight until 1944 at the earliest?Churchill had to convince Stalin that the bombing offensive was the second front.Max Hastings certainly argues against certain strategic decisions and he believes that by 1944 the area bombing campaign of German cities should have ended but Germany had lost the war by 1943 but it still continued to fight.When the Anglo Americans landed in France they struggled against 50 German divisions while the Soviets faced 240 divisions.According to a book review I read at the weekend more French civilians were killed by allied bombing then British people during the Blitz.The allied bombing in France was certainly not to terrorise the population but the bombing still killed an awful lot of people.

    • Stephen says:

      For the benefit of readers who don’t know, Baker’s argument is that the Allies should have stood back and let the Nazis do whatever they wanted in continental Europe. Full marks for bravery – but sorry, I’ve read his book and found it utterly unconvincing.

    • Deaglán says:

      It’s a good way of winning an argument: oversimplify the other side’s case and then dismiss it. I would draw attention to a passage from the Baker interview mentioned in my last comment:-

      “Human Smoke” deliberately has no argument, but Churchill appears as more of a warmonger than he is usually portrayed, and there is far more than in most textbooks about pacifist opposition to the war in the United States and Britain and to Britain’s pre-Blitz bombing campaign of German cities.

      “I came to the Second World War with a typically inadequate American education.” Mr. Baker said, “and I was surprised to discover that Churchill had this crazy, late-night side. He was obviously thrilled to be in the midst of this escalating war. This is a man who wanted Europe to starve — he wanted to starve it into a state of revolt.”

      He added: “I’ve always had pacifist leanings, and so one of the things I wanted to learn was how do you react to the Second World War if you’re a pacifist. That war is always held up as the great counterexample, the one that was justified. And I got hungrier and hungrier to answer the question: Did the Allies’ response to Hitler really help anyone who needed help? One of the things I discovered, for example, was that the most impressive opponents of the war were also the people most actively arguing that we had to help the refugees. There was a complete overlap.”

    • Steve K says:

      Eoin, as I said already I don’t disagree explicitly with the bombing campaigns. I have never thought or claimed that the bombing campaigns were purely “terrorist”. I think you are talking past me.

      I do, however, find the prosaic explanations of the deaths of 24,000-40,000 almost sardonic. To blame these deaths on warm weather and poor air-defence as opposed to an act of unprecedented fire-bombing is something I find difficult to digest. Churchill himself described it as “an act of terror” in a belated attempt to distance himself from the acts.

      The Tokyo fire-bombings killed 125,000 civilians. I just find this unforgivable. If you believe McCarthy this was unnecessary. Curtis LeMay gave the vague justification that “if the war is shortened by a single day, the attack will have served its purpose.”

    • Eoin Lynch says:

      Deaglán,

      I’m unsure why you are highlighting Nicholson Baker’s book.I understand he is coming from a pacifist position but his conclusions are not new.David Irving like Baker has attacked Churchill as a war monger,as an anti-Semite and that Dresden was a war crime.Pat Buchanan is of the same opinion that the US should have not got involved in the war.


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