October 30, 2002



Professor Bunyip joins the Dyer pile-on, and makes another objectionable statement.

The RAF (and the US Army Air Corps) fought a war whose rules were established by the enemy. If you wish, for example to lament the firebombing of Dresden, then you must also regret the Nazis' destruction of Rotterdam or, going even further back, of Guernica. Not to have responded in kind would have been to hand an implacable and demonic enemy a tactical advantage. Were Londoners to sleep in the Tube while Berliners left the lights on? Dyer -- and the Age -- is stretching the doctrine of moral equivalence to include Nazis. That's the only conclusion, and it's an obscene one. [Likewise] The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were neccessary [sic], and morally justified...

Bunyip argues that to defeat evil, one must become evil. Well, then we're basically screwed regardless, aren't we? Explain the difference between the Professor's statement above, and say, this one:

"The Germans killed their Jews. We only imprisoned our Japanese. Not to have responded in kind handed our implacable and demonic enemy a tactical advantage."

I don't see a difference. Do you see a difference?

I'm more worried about two other things there, though. You can argue the morality of Nagasaki if you want, but few historians now consider it "necessary," having had little impact on the Japanese decision to end the war. And there is a strong difference in relative morality between the British Bomber Command night bombing offensive against cities (which Dyer is referring to), and the daylight bombing by the American Army Air Corps, which was in general terms more targeted, and far less destructive of German civilian life. Dyer doesn't condemn all Allied bombing, but Bunyip pretends he does to make his point stronger. That's misleading and dishonest. I have my quibbles with the piece in question, too, but it's not a true "Fisking" if you're only attacking your own distortions of what's really being said.

Posted by BruceR at 06:06 PM



Norwegian Blogger takes an ill-aimed swipe at Gwynne Dyer, today. (Everyone's piling on old Gwynne, which is a shame: his predictive capacity last fall from Sept. 11 to the fall of Kabul was so amazingly spot-on I'm still ashamed I doubted him; Penny, his fellow Newfie, is wrong to compare him to Robert Fisk, of only because Dyer has consistently gone out on a limb and been proven right).

Nothing about why Russian nursery rhymes call the Chechens the Evil Ones, nothing about Michael Lermontov.

Here NB openly sides with the Russians in their repression of Chechnya, citing a classic example of dehumanization and an imperialist Russian poet analogous to Kipling as his evidence. It's the equivalent of saying "Kipling was right about those bloody Afghans all along," which among civilized people tends to end any argument worth having on the subject. The fact Russians have been apparently poisoning children's minds for centuries certainly does not make an intelligent person more inclined to accept the Russian point of view out of hand.

In the mean time they will kill us, rape us, and generally terrorise us.

The Chechens will? Us?

[Quoting Dyer] "Hardly anybody mentioned the fact that more than 4000 Russian soldiers and at least 12,000 Chechen "terrorists" (anybody resisting Russian occupation) have been killed since President Vladimir Putin sent the army back in to the Chechen republic in 1999." Of course this was done by Yeltsin, who was the president you know in 1999, but I guess that all Russians look alike to you, and of course this mistake does SO enhance the credibility of the rest of your post.

Um, no. During Yeltsin's final days, the Russian army was only involved in fighting a Chechen incursion into Dagestan. The Russians did not re-invade Chechnya proper until after Putin had solidified his control on the country, after some suspicious "terrorist" bombings in Moscow that year. Dyer is right here, while NB is wrong. What does that do to "enhance the credibility" of NB?

The increase in TV violence in the US of A has allowed Russia to wage war in Chechnya without interference? Lady, I play Illuminati: The New World Order but that theory is too far fetched even for them!

This is clearly out of context. Dyer quite clearly states that "the way terrorism is now being covered [by the media]... has enabled the Russian government to smear [Chechnya.]" Which is undeniable, and extends to more than just the media: in fact a Russian free rein in Chechnya was basically understood as their quid pro quo for staying out of the Americans' way in Afghanistan last year. That is one of those costs of the war on terror that frequently gets left off the balance sheet.

[About the Allied WW2 bombings which Dyer mentions] Act of war, does not apply, aimed at the war making potential of Germany, and always aimed at defended cities which are legitimate targets. This is by definition not terrorism, since terrorism involves the illigitimate [sic] use of force.

It's a lot more complex than that. Whether the German cities bombed by the British met the strict Geneva definition of "defended cities" was questionable even in 1945... they would certainly not be considered so today. Which is Dyer's point, in fact... that our standards as a society were once somewhat more brutish than they are now.

And [Dyer is] obviously NOT a graduate student of history, but she does demonstrate very nicely the fact that authors are almost invariably wrong when they comment on political issues.

Actually, from his CV, you can tell that Dyer has a Ph.D in history from King's College, London, and lectured for four years at Sandhurst. Oh yeah, he's also a former member of the Canadian Forces, and definitely not a "she." It's so hard to do one's research when one is foaming at the mouth...

What bloggers from overseas won't automatically know is the Dyer's column was written in part as a response to this piece in Canada's Globe and Mail by Marcus Gee, which posits some kind of connection between Moscow, Bali, and other recent terrorist acts in an "October Crisis." (Quoting my old colleague John Thompson to build his case, I should mention... I should also add that Dyer and I have corresponded over the years, as well.) Dyer is not alone in believing that case remains unproven... certainly in the Moscow case, which even if wildly successful could hardly have helped the global aims of any shadowy Islamic terror conspiracy. There can be no doubt that Moscow attack was the latest chapter in the ongoing local Russian-Chechen fight, not another Islamicist strike at the west... and if that struggle has become increasingly defined as a Christian-Muslim fight it's only because we in the West have allowed it to be polarized that way... supporting the Russians because we value their compliance in the Middle East right now over and above the demand for independence of that unruly would-be nation, however legitimate. There are no saints in Chechnya. But I see no evidence that this recent attack was the product of some global master terror plot... and if the Chechens are becoming more extremist, it's only because when Bush declared "you are either with us or with the terrorists" his government had already placed the Chechens in the opposing column regardless of their wishes.

Posted by BruceR at 04:19 PM