Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Condemning the Hiroshima Bombing

And the Nagasaki bombing.  From another POV.  Scott Eric Alt publishes a condemnation of not only the decision to use the bombs, but of those Americans and Catholics who disagree.  OK, from the top.  As I've said before, some of the arguments Mr. Alt uses are no longer seen as credible, at least to some.  As for the oft referenced MacArthur/Eisenhower quotes, see here.

Of course if you are a Catholic, you are at a disadvantage argument-wise, since the Church's official position as stated by bishops and popes has been to condemn the decision to use the atomic weapons.  Perhaps not condemning with the same lack of mercy or understanding one sees on the blogosphere, but condemning nonetheless.

I already mentioned where I believe Fulton Sheen's famed rebuff was wrong, and in fact Kirk's referenced opposition to the decision also bespeaks of that sort of soft-exceptionalism, a back handed ethnocentrism, that still dominates American dialogue when speaking about the decision to drop the bombs.  August 6 was not some freakish event.  We were not in a time of peace and love.  Japan was not some humbled, peace loving nation wanting to chant John Lennon songs.

Tens of millions had died in the war, and we have no way of knowing how many continued to suffer under the boot of Imperial Japan; how many would continue to suffer, would be tortured, would be killed.  They are not topical dodges or incidental facts in the more important issue of us bombing Japan.  They might not change the verdict from a Catholic view, but they would up the ante.  If all of what we know at this point - not what we knew in 1952, or 1961, or 1985 - but what we know now is compiled, then there is no reason to believe that the war was done and finished.

There certainly was no reason for the high command to think so.  And unless you believe that after years of mass suicide and hundreds of thousands killed rather than surrender, that the entire nation would collapse because the Soviets issued a piece of paper saying they declared war, then you're stuck with the fact that as of August, 1945, there was little to suggest anything short of an invasion would stop the ongoing slaughter and genocide of Imperial Japan.

And that's fine.  As Catholics, especially today, it appears we are fine with twisting our answer to Caiaphas.  It's not better that an innocent man die so a nation not perish, but it is better that endless innocents die rather than a guilty murderer bent on more killing be executed.  A lofty moral goal to be sure; but we're Christians.  We're about lofty moral goals.

Any other conclusion is simply trying to twist and turn history through the prism of a crystal ball in order to validate a moral view.  An approach to history not unlike most today, in the manner of Hitler's Pope.  Just accept that in 1945 there was nothing to suggest the killing and death would stop any other way.  Accept that innocents would continue to die, even eventually equaling the number killed by the bombs.  And if that's a price you're willing to pay, then by all means, condemn the world, condemn Japan, condemn the US, but condemn them all.  Or simply state that it was wrong, but understandable given the state of the world at that time, and be forgiving of those who are not to that level of grasping all of what the position against the bombs should entail.

I you just prefer to judge and condemn, however, then by all means judge and condemn.  But make sure you then go out, sell everything you have, give it all to the poor, and live a life completely devoted to God with only the clothes on your back.  For if you are willing to allow for the torture and deaths of endless innocents at the hands of a xenophobic, imperialist nation, and condemn those who haven't come around to seeing it might have been necessary to avoid bombing cities within that nation, then certainly you should be prepared to give up a few creature comforts in this little life.


  1. I would be interested in your take on my own comments on this -

  2. I found a comment by TM Lutas elsewhere pretty thought provoking.

    Reading the transcript, I see a terrible lost opportunity but the competition, even in recent times, of one of the most terrible speeches of a public figure is stiff. Ultimately, we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima because since the 1920s the Japanese had been killing off their own statesman who we could have talked peace to and had terrified those remaining into continuing a war the Empire of Japan knew could not be won. The pro Japanese genocide statements that Japanese high government officials up to and including the Emperor of Japan were making in 1945 are virtually unprecedented and in modern times are only matched by similar statements among the muslims (who have a similar problem of killing off their liberals and pro-peace people). Not talking about Japan's government by assassination and connecting the bomb to the history that inevitably led us to such a radical solution is a tremendous disappointment. But it is nowhere near as bad as the pro-slavery speeches coming out of ISIS. That's another category of bad entirely.

    Japan does not, in any special way, honor the victims of their government by assassination period. Obama, by mentioning the problem and releasing the death roll after the speech, could have jump started a conversation inside Japan to integrate two phenomena that the Japanese have not had the courage to properly examine their historical connection. He could also jumpstart a global conversation to ask whether any countries today are painting themselves into that same corner that risks nuclear destruction by destroying their own capability to forge peace. Hint: there are.

  3. Hey Sardonicus,

    I tried to post on your site, but it kept giving me an error. So I put together a reply in a new post. Look for it tomorrow.


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