REVIEW / He counted them all out, and counted a few in
'Killing civilians didn't bother Bomber Harris,' the voice-over stated coldly, though the only evidence they offered to support this categorical verdict was a highly ambiguous remark. Stopped for speeding, Harris was rebuked by a policeman: 'You could have killed someone, sir.' 'Young man,' Harris is said to have replied, 'I kill thousands of people every night.' Said casually or with arrogance this would be monstrous; said with melancholy it would be no more than a recognition of a terrible irony, evidence of the burdens of command.
By using an actor to play Harris, though, the film-makers could put their own interpretation on the words. Filmed in threatening close-up, thunder- browed, their version came on like a James Bond villain, urbane and ruthless - Blofeld in blue serge. I don't care much for what little I know of Harris myself, but this seemed to fall just a bit short of a fair trial.
It's true that the moral status of targeting civilians to cause maximum terror isn't very complicated - it was wrong. Indeed people knew it was wrong at the time, which is why the strategy aroused heated debate among military planners and why it was the subject of psychological denial during and after the war. But the question of whether it seemed effective, at a time when weariness and fear had altered moral perspectives, is crucially different, and one which can only be addressed with humility.
To airmen distressed by those who now question the propriety of their actions, one can only offer some consoling paradoxes. That, in this case, it is an honourable thing to have a bad conscience and that you fought precisely so that people would be free, among other things, to question the legitimacy of your fight. In one of the more terrible moments in 'Death by Moonlight', a survivor of the Hamburg firestorms recalled seeing a road turned to flypaper by the heat. A young child and her mother were trapped by the molten tar, unable to reach each other, unable to escape. Both burned alive. If we can't, 50 years on, simply acknowledge that that was a terrible thing to have done, what exactly was the victory for?
Sunday Best (ITV), or 'The Neil and Glenys Show', was hugely enjoyable, if only for the surreal disjunction of style and content. The Kinnocks began with Article One of the Declaration of Human Rights and continued with A Midsummer Night's Dream ('directed by our friend Adrian Noble'), post-modernism, and the plight of the Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin. Larry Adler made a brave stab at GMTV normality, appearing in a black silk coffin-lining to drop celebrity names, but regular viewers will have been in the ambulance by then.
film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
- 2 City traders pay £200 for a quick hangover cure
- 3 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 4 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 5 Ball pool for adults opens in London
Gorillaz Phase 4: Cartoon supergroup is back as new artwork is unveiled
Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
As Better Call Saul launches, here are the other spin-off shows we need to see
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
Hard line on immigration could cost Tories the election