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Imagine for a moment that the neighbours are threatening your garden - and windows - with rubbish thrown over the garden wall. The familiar background is that the man of the house is a bully and a tyrant who makes life a misery for the wife and their children.

... firestorms destroyed most of the city and killed between 22,700 and 25,000 who certainly were not voters. Had we sent some clever 007 over there to zap Hitler, it might be that they'd send one to call on Churchill.
Would your first reaction be to make life even more difficult, unbearable, for the wife and her brood? I suspect not.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Destruction of a city ... Dresden after the bombing in February 1945. Photograph by Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1994-041-07 / Unknown / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5483604, and borrowed with thanks from Wikipedia.

We'd ask the man of the house to modify his behaviour. If he ignores us, or shouts belligerently over the garden wall, it wouldn't make sense, wouldn't be fair, to make the family suffer more.

We hear today that the heat is to be turned up on North Korea. We'll starve the population even more, deprive of them of even more of the meagre funds they might earn from exports.

It's not fair

Is it just me who believes that it's not fair and justified to make a suffering population, which has no say whatsoever in their choice of dictator, suffer even more?

From the many North Korean refugees I have helped to speak English, the picture they paint of life at home is tragic. Their families and friends at home have just about nothing - but a life of misery.

In our neighbour scenario, we might leap over the fence, shake the bully by the collar, and show him that it would be wise to improve. We wouldn't want to add suffering to the suffering family, would we?

And yet we - the Western world - aren't going to collar the apparent tyrant. We are going to punish the people.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Bowing to the almighties ... And it's those who suffer yet have no say who will feel the Western anger. Photograph by J.A. de Roo - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21244159, and borrowed with thanks from Wikipedia.

That raises the question of why. Surely it couldn't be that leaders, the elected and the self-electing tyrants, are automatically untouchable, through the notion that if we don't punch that leader, he won't send secret agents over here to thump our leader.

Leaders go unmolested

Of course, international politics can't be like that, even if in recent history, the leader almost always goes unmolested while we bomb hell out of the people who can't do anything about the dictator nor change their misery.

Perhaps like many Britons, I have a conscience over the bombing of Dresden in February 1945. I was a toddler at the time, so I couldn't have offered much of an objection. But I have never understood the rational. And when I read Wikipedia's account of that attrocity, the guilt certainly does not lessen.

The bare facts, though: In four raids between 13 and 15 February 1945, 722 heavy RAF bombers and 527 US aircraft dropped more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices. The bombing and its firestorms destroyed most of the city and killed between 22,700 and 25,000 who certainly were not voters.

Of course, if we sent some clever 007 over there to zap Hitler, it might be that they'd send one over here to call on Churchill. But surely that can't be the reason why we keep up this appalling philosophy that it's best - and the right thing - to punish those who are already suffering.

Wikipedia on the Dresden bombing
North Korea

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