I really don’t have the words necessary to explain how dumbfounded I am by this.

A teary-eyed President Bush stopped in front of an aerial photo of Auschwitz on Friday at Israel’s Holocaust memorial and said the U.S. should have sent bombers to prevent the extermination of Jews there.

Yad Vashem’s chairman, Avner Shalev, quoted Bush as saying the U.S. should have “bombed it.” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Bush referred to the train tracks leading to Auschwitz, not the camp itself, where between 1.1 million and 1.5 million people were killed by Nazi Germany.

The rest of the article doesn’t seem to paint Bush in a very good light. He sounds like a third grader in it.

For starters, our bombing technology was not nearly as precise during WWII as compared to now. Something like 20% of dropped bombs hit within 1000 feet of their intended targets. That’s why we carpet bombed to begin with – we didn’t have the accuracy necessary to drop a bomb on a factory, but not on the school next door.

Of course, it’s debatable that bombing the rail lines to Auschwitz would have had much positive effect, if any. There were lots of other camps, and the Germans had already shown how determined they were to enacting the “Final Solution”; they had diverted resources away from the war effort to kill Jews, to the detriment of the war effort. Not to mention diverting the resources away from the battle field to try and take out the infrastructure for one concentration camp might have potentially prolonged the war. Let’s not forget, the US was still very preoccupied with German forces in Western Europe; the Battle of the Bulge was over less than a month before the Soviets liberated Auschwitz. Additionally, US documents explaining why bombing Auschwitz was not feasible were created just two months after D-Day, and before Operation Market Garden.

It’s a nice sentiment to think “gee, it would have been great to have been able to knock Auschwitz out of commission”, but frankly I just don’t think it possible or reasonable to think we should (or could) have done differently. This kind of navel-gazing is ultimately pointless.

  • I lived in Germany for almost three years. In Munich, actually- right down the street from Dachau.

    And every time someone came to visit they wanted to see the concentration camp.

    I must have visited Dachau 5 times. And yes- it was a horrible place. Very disturbing, but less-so each time I visited.

    But right before I left Europe and moved back to the states I visited Poland and took a side trip to see Auschwitz.

    There really was no comparison between the two.

    For starters- it was in the middle of nowhere. Over an hour taxi ride through the woods. Whereas Dachau was right in the city.

    But it was the size of the Auschwitz that was really overwhelming.

    I don’t think any person left the tour without tears streaming down their face.

    They had a room filled from ceiling to floor with nothing but eyeglasses taken from people who were killed there. And another room filling with just shoes.

    It really showed you the scope of the killing that occured at Auschwitz.

    And while I have no desire to defend George Bush- I do kind of understand how he felt after he visited the place.

  • Man, believe me – I do get it. I found the Holocaust exhibit at the USAF Museum overwhelming, and I’m certain I’d walk out weeping if I visited Auschwitz. (Jesus, I cried when Sam died in I Am Legend.) But essentially, if you believe our own government reports from 1944, we’re talking about diverting resources from a quite-occupied war effort that may well have ended up prolonging the war. And for what? To make it a little harder to get people into the camp? Does anyone really think that the Nazis wouldn’t have just force-marched them? The Japanese did it to American soldiers, after all. And they weren’t necessarily trying to kill us.

    And again – it’s not like you could send a single high-altitude bomber in, drop a precision munition on the rail lines, and be done with it, even if the site is relatively remote. Air missions were incredibly low-survivability, and to make this one even have a chance you’re going to need multiple bombers plus all the associated support and escort craft, who are all now unable to directly support combat missions or capability reduction missions.

    I think what’s most disturbing to me is the fact that he was unprepared, and had a discussion with Condi about why the US didn’t bomb the site in public, essentially. Do your homework, man, or at least hold the Q&A with your SoS until when you’re back on Air Force One. A simple “it’s tragic/unfortunate/too-bad we couldn’t do anything about it sooner” would have passed without comment from anyone.

    I suppose it’s a good thing he had the conversation with Condi, who while incompetent at her job is quite educated on historical matters, instead of Dana Perino. And I’m still giving him the benefit of the doubt that he said what Condi said he said, and not what Shalev said he said.

  • Bush is always unprepared and misinformed and pretty much stupefied by the failures that follow his decisions. It’s kind of the feature that defines his presidency: from the crappy economy to the failed war on terror.

  • I wrote about this on my blog. Bombing was a basic impossibility until near the end of the war. Bush is slandering his country with this stupid suggestion that “we didn’t do enough” to stop the Holocaust. We were fighting to win a war, first of all. Second, we lost half a million guys. What more could we do?

    I’ve been to Auschwitz too, and I read about it extensively. I didn’t cry. It was just like I’d seen in pictures, but the weather was nice, the sun was shining, and that nightmare place looked little different than an old overgrown warehouse district.

  • What can I say? Joe and I get all emo.

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