The letter columns of the more loony tabloid press have been awash this week with swivel eyed rantings about the actions of one Justin Welby, who just happens to be the Archbishop of Canterbury. The correspondents have been frothing at the mouth about their contention that the Most Reverend had been acting as an apologist for the British air raid on Dresden, and the deaths of an estimated 25,000 in the subsequent firestorm. The comments are mostly along the lines of ‘You don’t hear Angela Merkel apologising for Coventry/London/Manchester/ add name of your pet conurbation.’
There are two aspects to this that are worrisome. You cannot apologise for something you weren’t involved in and was the deeds of people you don’t know. Merkel is 60, and Welby is a mere slip of a lad at 59. At the time of the war, neither was even so much as a gleam in their father’s eye. They weren’t there, they couldn’t have been involved, and cannot therefore apologise for the actions of others. Tony Blair fell into this trap when dealing with people wrongly imprisoned for being IRA bombers, when they were jailed at a time he was about 20 years old and had no part in what went on.
The other worrisome aspect to this, and the main one, is that Justin Welby did not apologise for the bombing of Dresden. What he did do was ‘express sorrow and regret’ at the loss of so many lives. That’s seems to me to be a fair comment. At no point did he criticise the government of the time, nor heap opprobrium on the RAF or Bomber Command. He merely stated that he was saddened, and his comments have been shamefully misrepresented and misinterpreted by the right wing nutjobs.
Turning once again to Tony Blair, he suffered a similar fate when he issued a statement about the Irish Potato Famine. He gave the government at that time a good old kicking, and said the events still cause pain today, but he definitely didn’t say sorry. The press and other media ignored the facts and insisted he had apologised for something that happened 110 years before his birth.
The moral of the tale is don’t trust the tabloids. But you already knew that.