By David Sole
One of the most widely known political works of art of modern times is Pablo Picasso’s massive painting titled “Guernica.” This is the name of a town in northern Spanish Basque country where one of the earliest aerial bombing of a civilian population during wartime occurred.
On April 26, 1937, the air force of Hitler’s Nazi German regime along with planes from Mussolini’s fascist Italian government attacked Guernica with bombs and machine gun fire. The aircraft, pilots and bombs were helping the fascist uprising of Spanish generals led by Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939). Guernica was in the territory of the Republican, anti-fascist forces.
It was only one day of bombing against the 7,000 residents of Guernica. Estimates of the number of killed vary widely – from a low of 126 to a high of 1,654. But the horror of this “new form of warfare” sent shock waves around the world. Picasso, then living in Paris, immediately began work on his huge masterpiece that captures the horror, agony and brutality of the attack.
The bombing of Guernica was not to be the last of mass slaughter of civilian populations in war. The United States and its allies made use of this tactic, multiplied a hundred, a thousand fold, in World War II. The firebombing of Dresden, Germany, spread over four raids from February 13 to March 2, 1945 killed an estimated 25,000 civilians.
On March 9 – 10, 1945 the U.S. Army Air Force targeted the city of Tokyo in what has been described as “the single most destructive bombing raid in human history. 16 square miles of central Tokyo were destroyed, leaving an estimated 100,000 civilians dead and over one million homeless.”
Then on August 6 and August 9, 1945, the U.S. ordered the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. The Japanese government was trying to surrender already, but the U.S. wanted to test out its two different atomic bomb prototypes. The goal was really to threaten the socialist Soviet Union – a U.S. ally in the war but soon to become “enemy number one.” The civilian death toll from the two nuclear detonations is probably more than 214,000.
U.S. imperialism went on to kill over three million Korean people in the Korean War (1950-53) and another three million Vietnamese died in the unsuccessful U.S. war to subjugate Vietnam. Most of the casualties were civilians. The U.S. perfected “carpet bombing” to inflict as much damage and to demoralize the national liberation fighters in those countries.
Today the whole world has been out in the streets over the past two months as the settler colonial state of Israel, armed and directed by the United States has taken on the mass genocidal slaughter of the Palestinian people concentrated in the small Gaza Strip.
A number of countries have recalled their ambassadors or broken off diplomatic relations with Israel to protest this slaughter of civilians in Gaza. These include Bahrain, Belize, Bolivia, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Jordan, South Africa and Turkey.
Massive protests have rocked countries around the world including in the U.K., France, Germany and the United States.
Seeing support slipping for the Zionist settler regime, the Western mass media began, on December 6, to spread wild stories designed to garner support for the Gaza slaughter. An earlier attempt to demonize the Palestinian fighters claimed that during their October 7 offensive they “beheaded babies.” Even President Joe Biden went on TV claiming to have seen “photographic proof.” Later the White House had to admit this was not true.
Now the subservient imperialist media is reporting that the Palestinian fighters had raped and brutalized “Jewish women” during and after October 7.
The true horror is the targeted bombing of Palestinian hospitals, schools, mosques and churches, including facilities run by the United Nations. Tens of thousands of Palestinians, mainly women and children have been killed, many tens of thousands wounded and probably more than a million driven from their homes.
But Gaza doesn’t need another dramatic painting. The people of Palestine need an immediate ceasefire, massive aid shipments and an end to Zionist occupation “from the river to the sea.”