February 22, 2007

Le Pen: Dresden = 9/11

French right-wing extremist Jean Le Pen raised the ire of British veterans of World War II when the presidential candidate said that the bombing of Dresden was the equivalent of the 9/11 attacks. Le Pen called both attacks the work of terrorists, which might come as a shock to the Allied pilots who lived through the London Blitz:

The French presidential candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen provoked outrage among British veterans yesterday when he compared the September 11 attacks on the United States to RAF-led bombing raids during the Second World War.

The National Front leader said both were "terrorist acts as they expressly targeted civilians to force military leaders to capitulate". Mr Le Pen, 79, also dismissed the al-Qa'eda atrocities in 2001 as a mere "incident".

He told the Roman Catholic newspaper La Croix: "Three thousand dead — that is how many die in Iraq in a month and it's far less than the deaths in the Marseille or Dresden bombings at the end of the Second World War."

Praising those Muslims who condemned the attacks on New York and Washington, Mr Le Pen said: "The September 11 event, or one could say incident, prompted a certain number of people to distance themselves [from Islamic extremism] to avoid falling under the barrage of accusations that was unleashed."

Funny how the nationalists in France suddenly feel so much concern for the Muslims, a subset of France for which they have no use otherwise, when it comes to scoring points off the Americans and Brits. Le Pen heads an anti-immigrant, far-right fringe political group that would be happy to see an ethnic cleansing of France under most circumstances. He has influenced the last couple of national elections in France, but has not won office himself, mostly because of his extremist policy views.

The British are outraged, and rightly so. While the indiscriminate bombing campaigns of WWII have come under some historical criticism, the context of Dresden and other bombing operations includes plenty of provocation from the Germans, a fact Le Pen somehow fails to mention, perhaps out of sympathy to the fascists. The Germans opened their war against the British by indiscriminately bombing London and other cities to soften up the British for an expected invasion. When the British managed to embarrass Adolf Hitler (and especially the arrogant Hermann Goering) by bombing Berlin in reprisal, Hitler insisted on escalating the scale of German bombing to insane levels, breaking his Luftwaffe on the grit and courage of the Royal Air Force.

Dresden, in fact, followed the deployment of Hitler's V-bomb attacks. By the time of the February 1945 attack, Hitler had launched thousands of V-1 buzzbombs at British civilian centers and hundreds of the V-2 ballistic missiles as well. Dresden was no mere residential suburb, either. It held a vital railway center that the Allies wanted destroyed to cut off German movement of arms to the Eastern Front. It also was an important industrial center that manufactured critical parts for the Nazi war machine.

In comparison, the people of the World Trade Center had built no bombs, nor had they oppressed the Muslim extremists that attacked them. Neither had the people on the airplanes they used as guided missiles. The Pentagon would be considered a legitimate military target for anyone wishing to make war on the United States -- but again, they used civilian airliners with civilian passengers to conduct the attacks.

Any comparison between Dresden and 9/11 is the sign of a deranged and inadequate mind. Jean Le Pen has certainly made the case for that in the past, and in comparing British and American WWII pilots to Mohammed Atta and his band of terrorists, he has done so again.

UPDATE: Er, the British bombed Berlin and not Britain. Thanks to CQ reader Ross H for that correction. (Must ... have ... coffee!)


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