Tjebbe van Tijen on Tue, 10 Feb 2004 00:19:13 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Unbombing the World 1911-2011 project seeks support

5 years ago the Unbombing the World Project was launched.
I have been working on it on and off during the last years. A first 
stage of inventory of all use of aerial bombing between 1911 and 2003 
has been reached and a short overview of 815 towns.areas is now 
available in PDF format from my website.

In the coming period I will try to find financial and technical support 
to realize parts of the Unbombing Project. It is clear that the scope 
of such a project is far beyond the capabilities of one person. From 
the beginning the idea has been to gather the content in a 
collaborative way, using the knowledge and insight of many people. The 
Internet offers opportunities to realize such a collective work on an 
international level.

Opportunities for financial support from the cultural and scientific 
sector will be used. Applications for support will be posted as 
down-loadable files in Acrobat PDF format:

2004/02 Proposal for German phase, blanco application (putting the 
German "Bombenkrieg" discussion in a global perspective, 14 pages)

2004/02 Overview of content of global Unbombing database (1911-2003 
overview of all bombed towns/areas 815 records, 36 pages)

This is a short introductionary text putting, again, the Unbombing 
project in its actual conetxt:


one century of bombing of humans and human habitat
a way to both remember and forget - a way to reconcile
a project proposal by Tjebbe van Tijen

The idea for the Umbombing Project came after I visited Tokyo in 1995. 
At first I could not understand why only such a few older buildings and 
landmarks could be seen, and I was shocked to discover that a great 
part of this huge city had been torched and burnt down during aerial 
bombing campaigns of the USA Air Force in March-July 1945. I was 
ashamed not to know that over a hundred thousand people died, probably 
more than the death toll taken by the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima 
and Nagasaki in August 1945. As 1995 was the 50 years anniversary of 
the dropping of the atom bombs, an international debate arose. A 
discussion partly triggered by a proposed exhibition in the American 
Smithsonian Institute of Technology of the airplane that dropped the 
atom bombs, the Enola Gay. A discussion about whether it had been right 
or wrong to drop the A-bombs; if it had "saved lives" of American 
soldiers and, possibly, many sections of the Japanese population that 
would have resisted a traditional sea-born invasion; if "the aggressive 
and murderous" Japanese nation deserved to be strafed in such a way; if 
the sea blockade had not already brought Japan on its knees, and so on. 
1995 was also the year in which discussion lists on the Internet 
started booming and many people from the USA, Japan, the world over, 
used this new discussion medium.

The discussion was marked by an obvious split between right and wrong, 
victors and defeated, aggressor and counter-aggressor. It did not 
sufficiently address the wider problem of the use of aerial bombing: 
ways of waging war whereby civilians run even more risk to be killed 
than soldiers.

The Unbombing Project is an attempt to go beyond the dichotomized way 
of discussing war. It raises questions on the massive use of air power 
during World War II as a means to defeat Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, 
and imperial Japan (it certainly does not fail to document the 
indiscriminate and vicious attacks by the air forces of these Axis 
countries); it raises questions on the practice of "terror-bombing", 
not aimed at military or economic targets, but at the morale of the 
population, and thus at their lives. A military strategy that has not 
sufficiently been put in question, and even continued during the Korean 
and Vietnam/Indochina wars. The post World War II international 
tribunals of Nuremberg and Tokyo failed to address the issue of aerial 
bombing and the hundred thousands of victims it caused. This has left a 
moral-vacuum, especially on the side of the British, the Americans and 
allied countries that had a major involvement in the air war (Canada, 
South Africa, Australia). This moral-vacuum is easily filled with 
anti-Western, anti-American, sentiments. International justice comes to 
be seen as a justice which exempts the victors.The debate about the 
throwing of the atom bombs on Japan, the bombing of Dresden, the 
Hamburg fire storm, the merciless pounding of Indochina (to mention 
only a few major cases), smoulders and keeps flaring up at unexpected 
Air power (aerial bombing and missile attack) continues to be used in 
the last decades. Not just by 'First World', "Western powers" like the 
United States or Great Britain but also by 'Second World' powers like 
the Soviet Union and its offspring, the Russian Federation, as in the 
case of Afghanistan and Chechnya. 'Thirds World' nations have joined 
in, as in the cases of Eritrea, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Congo, Angola, and 
Columbia. Air power is a tool both for internal repression in civil war 
like situations (Nicaragua, Columbia, Congo, Sierra Leone, Sudan and 
Sri Lanka) and old fashioned inter-state wars like the one between Iran 
and Irak. There certainly is a decline in the number of bombing 
victims, massive and indiscriminate targeting of urban areas is not 
anymore on the military agenda, as public opinion and its management 
has become part of 'the military operation'. Nevertheless Gulf, Balkan 
and Afghanistan Wars saw "unintentional" killing, in spite of the 
praised "precision" of modern weapons. There may be almost "zero 
casualties" for the perpetrators, the ones flying, throwing, or merely 
plotting and pushing a button, human bodies, human lives on the ground 
are fragile, victims continue to occur, whereby one may also doubt 
whether the death of demonized adversaries (be they labeled soldiers or 
terrorists) by explosion or fire is the best solution for solving a 

A historical reconciliation process, of bombing humans and human 
habitat, is still needed, a process that starts with attempts at "truth 
finding" and "truth telling", which will reveal that there is more than 
one truth, which will give some understanding of the 
military-industrial-complex and the weakness of political 
decision-makers dealing with it; a process which lets us listen to 
those from the past who spoke against massive bombing and torching of 
cities and villages, against the spraying of poison, the casting of 
cluster bomb; a process in which the voices of the aircrews that risked 
and often gave their lives, must be heard as well. For many fighters of 
the air war it has been more than just following orders, it was a fight 
against totalitarian and murderous regimes, or a defense of the own 
nation, putting at risk their own lives. Of course this is raising 
questions in hindsight, but still they need to be posed. Evading them 
and rigidly continue to foster historical self-righteousness will be 
impossible. The present is changing and the past will be reappraised.

Tjebbe van Tijen 9/2/2004

Imaginary Museum Projects (IMP), Amsterdam

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