"Every morning when I awake I ask myself whether I should write or blow up a dam," says author Derrick Jensen. "I tell myself I should keep writing, though I'm not sure that's right. I've written books and done activism, but it is neither a lack of words nor activism that is killing salmon here in the Northwest. It's the dams. Anyone who knows anything about salmon knows the dams must go. Anyone who knows anything about politics knows the dams will stay."
Any self-respecting environmentalist understands the damage caused by hydroelectric dams. Thus, it should come as no surprise that some ponder the destruction of such structures. It should also come as no surprise that this brand of contemplation is deemed "terrorism" by the powers-that-be. What might come as a surprise is that those in power have no trouble blowing up a dam if it serves their interests.
During World War II, British scientists invented a spinning cylindrical "dam buster" bomb specifically to blow up German dams. Conversely, of the 185 Nazis indicted at Nuremberg, 24 were singled out for the death penalty. That their crimes merited capital punishment in the eyes of the Nuremberg Tribunal can serve as a measuring stick when we review similar crimes committed by others. Among those two dozen was the German High Commissioner in Holland who ordered the opening of Dutch dikes to slow the advance of Allied troops. Roughly 500,000 acres were flooded and the result was mass starvation.
Less than a decade later, the US Air Force (USAF) bombed the Toksan Dam (among others) during the Korean War in order to flood North Korea's rice farms. Here's how the USAF justified such tactics: "To the Communists the smashing of the dams meant primarily the destruction of their chief sustenance—rice. The Westerner can little conceive the awesome meaning that the loss of this staple food commodity has for an Asian—starvation and slow death."
In a now-declassified memorandum dated April 15, 1969, evangelist Billy Graham urged President Nixon to blow up dikes "which could overnight destroy the economy of North Vietnam." With or without Rev. Graham's sanction, U.S. bombing of dikes in South Vietnam was already a common and uncontroversial tactic.
In other words, dam busters are bad…except when they aren't. Yet another reason why the green movement and anti-war movement have so much in common and so much to gain by working together.