PBS SHOW TO ARGUE ALLIES AS BAD AS NAZIS
US Marines led by a tank towards the last strongpoint of the Japanese resistance in WWII.
Last updated: 3:42 am
June 26, 2008
MEMBERS of the Greatest Generation - especially those with weak hearts - might want to steer clear of an upcoming PBS documentary that suggests the Allied victory in World War II was "tainted" and questions whether it can even be called a victory.
Moreover, the documentary, titled "The War of the World: A New History of the 20th Century," asserts that the war could only be won by forming an unholy alliance with a dictator - Joseph Stalin, who was as brutal as the one they were fighting, Adolf Hitler - and by adopting the same "pitiless" and "remorseless" tactics practiced by the enemy.
The three-part documentary is a companion to the best-selling book, "The War of the World: Twentieth Century Conflict and the Descent of the West" by Harvard and Oxford historian Niall Ferguson. The one-hour Part One of the documentary premieres Monday night at 10 on Ch. 13. The other two parts air the following two Mondays. World War II is the focus of Part Two.
His thesis: Instead of looking at the 20th century as having been disrupted by two world wars with periods of relative peace before, between and after them, it is more appropriate to view much of the history of the century as a continuous bloody conflict that was interrupted occasionally for a few short, exhausted catnaps of relative calm.
It is an illuminating viewpoint, and Ferguson does an effective job tying all of the century's mass deportations, enslavements, ethnic cleansings and genocides together so that you can't help being won over to his view that the violence of the 20th century was virtually never-ending.
But it is Ferguson's revisionist view of the tactics applied by the Allies in World War II that is likely to raise the hackles of those who have always believed in the "necessity" of bombing German and Japanese civilians, culminating in the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to end a war we did not start.
"I think it's very hard for those who have imbibed the idea of a 'great generation' that what the Allies did to defeat the Axis was in some measure to adopt totalitarian tactics," Ferguson says in a Q&A on PBS's Web site.
"The aim of strategic bombing was . . . in large measure to kill German civilians by destroying the most densely populated parts of the country. And it only really worked when the level of destruction reached apocalyptic levels. It behooves us all to stare this reality in the face, by trying to understand what it was like to be on the receiving end of firestorms like the ones that engulfed Hamburg or Dresden."
And once again, it is demonstrated that nothing is sacred - not even World War II.