History

Hiroshima, moral purity and moral blindness

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A thoughtful, poignant post by Shaun Mullen at The Moderate Voice (and in a longer version on his own blog) commemorates yesterday's anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. Mullen opens with a heartbreaking image of human suffering—the death of a three-year-old boy who was outside riding his tricycle when the bomb hit. Then, he examines the arguments for and against the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and concludes that Harry Truman made the right call.

Oliver Kamm, British commentator and liberal hawk, makes the same argument in The Guardian, challenging the "alternative history" which claims that Japan was on the brink of surrender and the nuclear bombs were dropped in order to intimidate Stalin's Soviet Union.  Says Kamm:

Hiroshima and Nagasaki are often used as a shorthand term for war crimes. That is not how they were judged at the time. Our side did terrible things to avoid a more terrible outcome. The bomb was a deliverance for American troops, for prisoners and slave labourers, for those dying of hunger and maltreatment throughout the Japanese empire—and for Japan itself. One of Japan's highest wartime officials, Kido Koichi, later testified that in his view the August surrender prevented 20 million Japanese casualties. The destruction of two cities, and the suffering it caused for decades afterwards, cannot but temper our view of the Pacific war. Yet we can conclude with a high degree of probability that abjuring the bomb would have caused greater suffering still.

Here, I will say that my knowledge of World War II is limited. I don't know who is factually correct about the situation in the Pacific theater at the end of the war. (The revisionist case is made here by the Hoover Institution's David Henderson.) The argument that the primary goal of dropping the bombs was to intimidate the Soviets doesn't make much sense, given that we allowed the Soviet Union to keep all of Eastern Europe, half of Germany, and the Baltics as part of its empire.

On a purely instinctive level, I am of course appalled by justifications for the killing of about 150,000 civilians, many of them children. One cannot, if one is a normal person, justify such an act without doing violence to one's moral sense. But are there times when the unspeakable is the lesser of two evils? Obviously, arguments that noble ends can justify terrible means can lead to some dark places, and such arguments have also served countless tyrants as excuses for barbarism. The danger of becoming "as bad as the enemy" is real.

But at the opposite extreme, the view that all use of terrible means is equal represents a kind of moral laziness, an abdication of critical distinctions and context. When some have the will and the power to do evil things—to enslave and murder—there is generally no way to stop them except by force; and when we choose to use force, terrible choices must sometimes be made.  Yes, even necessary violence, particularly when it kills innocents, damages the soul. I will agree that we should all find it a little harder to live with ourselves knowing that the victory over evil in World War II was bought with the lives of so many innocents, not only at Hiroshima but in Dresden or in Tokyo, where the men, women and children killed by "conventional" firebombing were as dead as the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.   Nonetheless, it was as clearcut a victory over evil as there has ever been in history.

And that's why what truly shocked me was the responses to Oliver Kamm on the Guardian website, where many of the anti-Kamm posts were truly striking in their venom and their strident moral equivalency:

What a disgusting article. For me, the dropping of an atomic bomb on any town anywhere is entirely despicable. In my opinion it proves beyond a shadow of doubt that whilst Americans may be lovely people when they are getting their way, they will stoop to any depths to ensure their personal gain in the face of opposition. They will also, always hide behind "holier than thou" reasons for their contemptible behaviour.

Wow. Americans are just shocking in their denial. By this sick logic the jihadis are completely justified when they attack American civilians in massive acts of terror—which I might add are mere blips in comparison to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We live in a sick culture, where 60 years have passed, and there isnt even a shred of shame with regards to this heinous crime. For the sake of our species—Boycott America.

"Our side did terrible things to avoid a more terrible outcome."
The other side also did similar terrible things to avoid a more terrible outcome which became war crimes.
It is the winner who decides what is or is not a war crime.

America has ever been a psychopathic bully ever since it's (sic) first days and the genocide against the indiginous Americans. Why all these attempts to justify what was clearly a war crime greater than all others?

The US has never learned the lesson of treating one's enemies with grace and magnanimity once those enemies have lost–it is always vindictive, always demands unconditional surrender, complete acquiescence to US subjugation. 

What is absent from these comments (and many others like them) is any awareness of things like the Rape of Nanking or the Bataan Death March, or the Holocaust for that matter; or of the fact that America's supposed determination to crush her enemies manifested itself in rebuilding postwar Germany and leaving Japan with a political system that allowed it to become a strong economic rival to America herself. A few commenters suggest that America should have allowed the Soviets to end the war by invading Japan, blithely unaware of the hell on earth that would have awaited the Japanese under Soviet occupation. This isn't mere ignorance; it's a profound conviction that only evil done by the West, and above all by "psychopathic bully" America, truly matters. Meanwhile, posters who point out Japanese atrocities in World War II are rebuffed with accusations of "the implicitly racist overtone [of] recounting the endless 'savagery' of the Japanese."

When anti-Americanism becomes so extreme that it turns the U.S. into the bad guy of World War II, that's truly frightening and depressing. As for whether the bombing was indeed the least evil of all available options: again, I don't know. I'm sure there is room for legitimate debate on this issue. But that debate is almost entirely drowned out by hate and self-righteousness. The insistence on moral purity has turned to moral blindness.

See more at The Y-Files.

 

 

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  1. IM ON UR ISLANDZ, SCORCHIN UR EARTH!

  2. Nagasaki was a bit much. That was more of a “well we built two bombs, why the fuck not?” kinda deal.

    I semi seriously think we should have blown the top off of mount fuji and asked for surrender. Longshot, but why not put the ball in their court?

  3. Many discussions on the issue neglect that the other intermediate option between dropping the bomb on civilian targets and invading the Japanese isles was dropping a bomb in Toyko Bay as a demonstration. This was the option favored by Eisenhower and most of the rest of the military brass (notable exception: LeMay). It was explicitly rejected by Truman. Seeing no compelling military reason for his decision (seeing how the military experts by and large disagreed) one is left with not much other than political reasons.

  4. I think in a way, people needed to see how terrible the bombs really were so they would never be used lightly.

  5. BTW, the Japanese government refused to believe Hiroshima was from a bomb, they at first said it was from a typhoon (!!) until Nagasaki.

  6. I reckon I am entitled to feel more than a bit self righteous since I have never dropped an atomic bomb on anyone AND I have never tried to justify other people’s doing so. I also don’t think that the issue is as “nuanced” as some apparently do. I always go with the “Don’t murder innocent civilians” rule no matter what country is thinking of doing it and to whom. I’m not at all shocked that people are appalled at attempts to justify incinerating the denizens of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and I can understand why someone would feel hatred for mass murderers.

    I don’t understand how you can argue for a cool and dispassionate approach to the subject.

  7. I forgot to mention that bringing up the Holocaust or the Rape of Nanking is nonsensical. How did killing the denizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki redress either atrocity? It did not.

  8. As to the racism canard, the Chinese, Koreans, and others who lived under the boot of Japanese imperialism I’m sure would have been more than happy to drop dozens of atom bombs on Japan.

  9. Cesar, I think you have it right. Remember, we had just taken Iwo Jima, where NO Japanese surrendered. As horrible as these two bombs were, I think it was necessary.

  10. Elemenope,

    Judging by the fact that the Japanese refused to surrender even after the Hiroshima bomb, it appears Truman was right; they almost certainly wouldn’t have surrendered after a painless demo over Tokyo Bay.

    Also, you have to keep in mind that there were only four A-bombs in existence at the time; wasting them would not have appeared a good idea.

  11. Nonetheless, it was as clearcut a victory over evil as there has ever been in history.

    I have to take issue with this. The big winner of the war was Stalin.

  12. I think the revisionist version fails simply because even low estimates of the casualties on both sides of a conventional ground assault would have vastly outstripped the bomb deaths, and that would have included civilians just like the bombs did. And Truman must have known that if he let hundreds of thousands of Marines, soldiers, and sailors die in an invasion when had a possible “scare them into submission” weapon at his disposal, he would have been impeached (if still President) and vilified no matter what, conceivably even criminally charged for letting that many Americans die.

  13. I reckon I am entitled to feel more than a bit self righteous since I have never dropped an atomic bomb on anyone AND I have never tried to justify other people’s doing so.

    You also never had to fight Imperial Japan. Our ability to lead morally upstanding lives is protected by morally questionable actions such as Truman’s.

    As Winston Churchill said, “We sleep safe knowing there are rough men ready to visit violence in the night on a moment’s notice”

  14. vache folle:

    The bombs didn’t do anything to redress the injustices of the Rape of Nanking or the Holocaust, but they made it clear that that type of aggression would not stand, had no chance of standing, against that technology, and therefore the aggression was stopped.

  15. “And that’s why what truly shocked me was the responses to Oliver Kamm on the Guardian website, where many of the anti-Kamm posts were truly striking in their venom and their strident moral equivalency”

    This is proof positive Young has never read a thread on Hit and Run.

  16. When you consider the horror of WWII as a whole prior to the dropping of the A-bombs the latter doesn’t seem like much. War is hell…ending WWII, also hellish.

  17. Most discussions totally ignore the fact of how nasty most of the warfare of WWII was. The Allies engaged in massive firebombing of civilians that killed millions of people, even more people where starved to death from destroyed infrastructure. The Allies even intentionally bombed neutral countries. The Allies, knowingly killed millions of civiliansm, and intended to kill millions more as part of their strategy.

    If you want to argue that all the Allies were pretty damn evil and immoral during WWII, and the atomic bomb was just one in a huge list of horrendus acts, then yes, I would probably agree. The Allies commited willful mass-murder, and it was sickening.

    But the people who focus on the atomic bombing of Heroshima and Nagasaki as a unique act of WWII, somehow different and more evil and destructive than other mass-murder of civilians carried out by the Allies during WWII, are typically ideologically anti-American. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was completly consistant with the type of warfare widely practiced by all nations at the time.

    Those who try to single out the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks, as somehow being worse and less nessicary than say British bombers dropping incidiaries on schools and hospitals and civil housing in Germany, typically do so as part of an anti-American agenda… otherwise they would be equally disgusted with the mass-murder of civilians being done by all the Allies.

  18. vache folle: I think that to refer to the bombing of Hiroshima as “a war crime greater than all others” displays a rather shocking lack of awareness of the Holocaust and the Rape of Nanking.

  19. vache folle:

    The purpose of mentioning the other atrocities committed during WWII, by countries other than the Great Satan, was to point out as Cathy Young does towards the end of the article that you can’t pour the hate on the A-bomb and let all the other countries off without becoming a hypocrite.

  20. The reflexively anti-American comments also forget what a rich, prosperous country JApan is today. At least half of Japan wouldn’t be so lucky if it had been under Soviet occupation.

    We would have ended up with a North Japan and South Japan, just like a divided Germany and a divided Korea. I don’t think I have to tell you how much worse off the Communist Japan would be.

  21. Killing civilians is bad. But what is often forgotten in talks about the a-bomb is that no one knew about radiation poisoning back then. The Los Alamos scientists, on their way to the first test explosion, all touched a plutonium sphere for good luck.

    In the eyes of everyone at the time, it was just a more-efficient variant of conventional saturation bombing. So anyone who complains about Hiroshima+Nagasaki louder than they do about Tokyo+Dresden is using wishful hindsight rather than actual logic.

  22. There were a few problems with the demonstration blast idea: 1) they weren’t sure the bomb would work when actually dropped from a plane, and an announced demonstration that did not work would have been counterproductive, 2) it is hard to gauge the devastation the bomb would cause on land if it is exploded offshore, thus lessening the effect, 3) the Japanese might have concluded that we did not have the will to use it against them, 4) the shock & horror of blasting a city would be more effective at pursuading them to surrender.

    There were only materials for two bombs, they had to go for maximum effect.

    “the Japanese agreed to surrender only after the second bomb was dropped, when it was evident that the first was not an isolated event, and future prospects were for a continuing rain of such bombs. Actually, the U.S. did not have another atomic bomb ready after the bombing of Nagasaki due the difficulty of producing fissile material. Regarding the suggestion of a demonstration, they maintain that, given the mind-set of the Japanese at the time, it is unlikely that any conceivable benign demonstration would have induced surrender.”

  23. If you only have four bombs, a still very hot – if lopsided – war with Japan and a potential two front war with the Soviet Union, you’re not going to waste any weapons for a demonstration.

  24. Considering the scale and mobilization during WWII you cant exactly say that civilian centers were innocent/bystanders casualties. When all means of production like factories, farms, etc were actively producing for the war effort, you cant say that fire bombing food silos, factories, machine shops which usually happened to be in the middle of population centers is just targeting civilians.

  25. I will agree that we should all find it a little harder to live with ourselves knowing that the victory over evil in World War II was bought with the lives of so many innocents, not only at Hiroshima but in Dresden or in Tokyo, where the men, women and children killed by “conventional” firebombing were as dead as the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nonetheless, it was as clearcut a victory over evil as there has ever been in history.

    I have a vague recollection that things didn’t work out perfectly for Eastern Europe.

  26. The problem with the civilians argument, as I see it, is that World War II was essentially “Total War”. It wasn’t just soldiers on the front, it was civilians working in factories. It was civilians collecting scrap metal and growing Victory Gardens. Every level of society on several continents was involved in making war. And that made civilians into legitimate targets.

  27. Consider the results on Iwo Jima where we literally had to kill everyone, civilian and military that did not commit suicide. There was a real possibility that had we invaded instead of nuking we would have had to kill every person in the Japanese archipelago to defeat them.

    As to the people who find us evil, there is no reasoning with that kind of hate. When people spew that drivel at me, I agree with them and suggest they should be on their best behavior as individuals and as a people so that the worst doesn’t happen to them.

  28. I just love how the people who brought us the Armistar Massacre, among other lovely products of British Imperialism, are saying how brutal Americans have been.

  29. I would go further than Rex, and say that Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the whole reason the West rejected ‘total war’ doctrine. It is for the best that we did. If we hadn’t, consider ‘first use’ being in the early fifties, instead, when China was busily routing our army in Korea. Total war doctrine says, essentially, ‘use the weapons available to as great effect as possible on the enemy’s military and industrial facilities’. A couple of hours later, China may well have been a radioactive desert.

  30. Most of the people who hate America for dropping the A-bombs, would hate America even if it didn’t drop the A-bombs. We could give out candy apples and cupcakes (with sprinkles, mind you) to everyone on the earth and it would make those same people hate us even more.

    Innocent people die in war. That’s what makes war so heinous as to be avoided. What’s truly barbaric, are these modern “clean” wars with “measured retaliation” that draw out the suffering indefinitely.

    Does anyone doubt that Japan is an all around better nation for having lost WWII? Could they have lost to any better enemy than the U.S.?

  31. When anti-Americanism becomes so extreme that it turns the U.S. into the bad guy of World War II, that’s truly frightening and depressing.

    It’s also pretty frightening that we’ve lost the ability to self-examine ourselves.

    Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki basically ruined any claim of moral superiority we might have formerly posessed. Civilized people don’t wipe out cities full of civillians, period, and no argument about how the enemy is fighting “total war” is sufficient to justify shit like that.

  32. I managed to catch The Fog of War on cable last night. If you don’t know as I didn’t, it’s basically an interview with Robert McNamara about the big conflicts starting with WWII. Fascinating to watch.

    He argues, correctly I think, that the issue of morality in WWII was not related to the big bombs at all. The firebombs did as much or more damage. The question is, is it ever legitimate in war to attempt to end it by killing that many people all at once? McNamara argues that a moral principal of proportionality was violated, that by the time we did it, there was no conceivable way that the end of a total Japanese surrender was worth the total cost in life of the firebombs and both atomic bombs.

    I don’t know that I agree, but it was interesting to hear him say it.

  33. In addition to the defenses given above I would have to ask what was wrong with sending the Soviets a message? Conventional forces wise the Soviets could have continued west and the non-Soviet allies would have been hard pressed to stop them.

    Difficult decision but dropping the bombs probably saved lives and from the 1945 perspective stopped the possibility of Soviet expansion.

  34. ‘When anti-Americanism becomes so extreme that it turns the U.S. into the bad guy of World War II, that’s truly frightening and depressing.’

    Yeh. It makes me think the isolationists had a pointand that we should have left the fuckers to become Germany’s bitches.

  35. Perhaps I’ve missed it, but why is this argument always presented in the “drop the bomb” versus “1-million US casualties invading.” Why limit it only this Hobson’s choice; the B-29 raids on Tokyo and elsewhere, unrestricted submarine warfare on Japanese shipping, the wasteful, futile Kamikaze program all contributed to a completely crippled Japanese war machine with no ability to rebuild their infrastructure and no source of natural resources to continue waging war or projecting power (the lack of oil supply being one of the common reasons cited for the attack on Pearl Harbor). Could they still have mounted a violent, costly resistance? Sure, if the US foolishly chose to invade, ala Normandy.

    So, if that much is true, then why not try a complete blockade? Just wait them out; if they chose not to surrender, they would have all starved where they stood, and the US wouldn’t have had to bear the perpetual stain of this dreadful atrocity, which continues to allow any of America’s enemies to make this painful but accurate “moral equivalency” argument…

  36. When anti-Americanism becomes so extreme that it turns the U.S. into the bad guy of World War II, that’s truly frightening and depressing.

    Oh, for the love of God. If the best defense you can offer is that America wasn’t the worst government in WWII, THAT’s moral equivalence.


  37. So, if that much is true, then why not try a complete blockade? Just wait them out; if they chose not to surrender, they would have all starved where they stood

    Our Chinese allies still had half their country occupied by Japan, and they desired a speedy end for obvious reasons. Waiting it out would have left them out in the cold. Not to mention it would have handed over East Asia on a platter to the Soviets.

  38. just wait them out; if they chose not to surrender, they would have all starved where they stood, and the US wouldn’t have had to bear the perpetual stain of this dreadful atrocity

    It frequently took many months for a siege of a fort to be successful. Lay a siege on a whole country? Ummm….no.

  39. I had a Phillipino friend growing up – he said his Grandparents endured the Japanese occupation of the Phillipines, and that it was a pity we didn’t drop more atomic bombs on the Japanese. Phillipinos really don’t like the Japanese. Not that this justifies the bombings in anyway, but I’ve alwyas thought it was rather unique viewpoint.

  40. We could give out candy apples and cupcakes (with sprinkles, mind you) to everyone on the earth and it would make those same people hate us even more.

    Well, duh! Trans-fats are caloric a-bombs.

  41. …then why not try a complete blockade? Just wait them out; if they chose not to surrender, they would have all starved where they stood, and the US wouldn’t have had to bear the perpetual stain of this dreadful atrocity…

    Because then we’d be bearing the perpetual stain of having starved millions of Japanese children and women and doggies and kittens. You think radiation was rough? Try starving children, cannibalistic acts, you name it, going on for months or even years. That’s seriously prolonged suffering.

    It’s fucking simple: Truman did in one shot what would have happened over either days or weeks or months or years of conventional bombing, fire bombing, invasion, blockade or some other horrible thing.

    He limited the overall suffering and death by doing so. He made the right decision for saving the greatest number of people overall, the greatest number of his own countrymen, and the least amount of overall (total) suffering.

    Yeah, a shitty choice to have to make, but he had to do it and he did.

  42. How about discussion of the administration’s insistence on “unconditional surrender” for Japan.

  43. I’m not convinced that there is a really meaningful distinction being made in attempts to assign untouchable status to ‘civilians’. You can see the problem as soon as you fight someone who doesn’t wear uniforms. The rise of nontraditional combatants highlighted the artificiality of this distinction as it already existed moreso than creating a new problem.

  44. I ve had several WW II vets as clients and I ask about that.The hate felt for the Japanese after Pearl harbor was intense.Add the fact they refused to surrender and the common thought was better them than us.

  45. “But at the opposite extreme, the view that all use of terrible means is equal represents a kind of moral laziness, an abdication of critical distinctions and context.”

    Oh, please. This is the you-have-to-break-a-few-eggs-to-make-an-omelette argument, and the problem with it is that you are subordinating the lives of innocent people to your own ends. The people who died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki had interests and goals of their own; they weren’t dominoes to be knocked over to achieve some moral triumph of good over evil.

  46. I almost got into fist fights in college arguing over the morality of the decision to drop nuclear weapons on Japanese civilians. I think people need some context and background on this issue.

    Check out Gar Alperovit’z tome on the subject, The Decision To Use The Atomic bomb.

    I wrote a paper on the subject in school (said paper is now gone), and Alperovitz provides an exhaustive review of the matter. His arguments are very clearly stated and in my mind pretty hard to refute. He documents how the number of so-called lives saved by the use of nuclear weapons was consciously manipulated and inflated after the fact as justification for dropping the bomb, from at first a hundred thousand or so to eventually a million.

    Two weeks before the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan offered surrender with terms, including that they keep their emperor. Roosevelt wanted unconditional surrender, and the U.S. policy was to reject any offer unless it was for unconditional surrender. Truman, after dropping the bombs, eventually accepted the Japanese surrender, but with the same terms they had offered before he dropped the bombs. It is argued that Truman was unaware of these surrender offers before he made his decision.

    For a look at the human cost of the nuclear bombs, I suggest you check out Grave of the Fireflies.

  47. just wait them out; if they chose not to surrender, they would have all starved where they stood, and the US wouldn’t have had to bear the perpetual stain of this dreadful atrocity

    As I recall, prior to a certain American warship steaming into Tokyo bay, the entire country had deliberately cut itself off from the outside world for hundreds of years. Blockade wouldn’t have caused their country to collapse, any more than it has caused Cuba to do so.

  48. I. At the end of the day, war is about force against other human beings.

    A. Distinctions about what level of force is justified are usually heard only from those who have the luxury of 20/20 hindsight and have never had to fight for their own lives or the lives of those around them.

    B. Wars are usually won by those willing to do whatever is necessary, no matter the cost to the enemy or one’s “immortal soul/conscience/etc.”

    C. The best salve for a wounded conscience is surviving to a ripe old age, enjoying each day of one’s life and taking a moment each day to be glad that it is not you, but your enemy, who became worm-fodder first.

    Questions?

  49. “It’s fucking simple: Truman did in one shot what would have happened over either days or weeks or months or years of conventional bombing, fire bombing, invasion, blockade or some other horrible thing.”

    Yes, that is fucking simple. And fucking misguided. If we had invaded Japan, many American and Japanese soldiers would have died, but if the invasion were carried out properly, we could have at least been sure that the vast majority of casualties were combatants. At Hiroshima and Nagasaki that obviously wasn’t the case.

    A lot of people on this thread seem to think that the good consequences of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki make up for any dubious principles on which the bombings were based. But there are any number of policies that might have good consequences but are still wrong because they violate basic ethical principles of individual rights; one would think libertarians, perhaps more than any other group, would be able to understand and apply that principle.

  50. Good post, Cathy. I enjoyed your citings and arguments.

    As for the morality of the bombs, I can never get past the “they attacked us first” argument. If this situation were taking place in an alternate universe where India first developed the a-bomb and was surprise-attacked in a global war by, say, New Zealand, I don’t think I would consider India to be a global satan-monger if they’d used the bombs to end an ongoing conflict with an aggressive power after a brutal and protracted two-theater war.

    Especially if they never used them again.

  51. Ashish George,

    Why does a conscripted soldier forced into combat have some sort of moral disadvantage that makes killing them (or even killing a lot more of them) somehow more acceptable than killing factory workers? Factories are probably more important than the soldiers to the actual war effort of a country — what’s the difference?

  52. “The bombs didn’t do anything to redress the injustices of the Rape of Nanking or the Holocaust, but they made it clear that that type of aggression would not stand, had no chance of standing, against that technology, and therefore the aggression was stopped.”

    Bravo! Which is why Iran needs a demonstration.

  53. but if the invasion were carried out properly, we could have at least been sure that the vast majority of casualties were combatants.

    Silly. First off, that’s a very big ‘if’. Secondly, if you’re coerced into being a combatant, you’re basically a civilian.

    Get the bullshit over with as fast as possible.

  54. The people who died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki had interests and goals of their own; they weren’t dominoes to be knocked over to achieve some moral triumph of good over evil.

    I wonder if anyone tried explaining that to Hirohito and Tojo in 1941.

  55. I had heard recently on the History Channel that the invasion of the Japanese home islands was expected to be so incredibly bloody that we are still using the Purple Hearts which were made in anticipation of that battle. The order placed back then has taken us through Korea, Vietnam, the Lebanon barracks, Grenada, Gulf War, Iraq, etc.
    That should give some insight as to what we were really expecting.

  56. “Blockade wouldn’t have caused their country to collapse, any more than it has caused Cuba to do so.”

    What we have against Cuba is not a blockade; it is an embargo. There is a difference between refusing to trade with a country and physically preventing anything from coming in or out of that country. That said, it is incredibly dubious that slowly starving Japan would have been somehow morally preferable to dropping the bombs.

  57. “Why does a conscripted soldier forced into combat have some sort of moral disadvantage that makes killing them (or even killing a lot more of them) somehow more acceptable than killing factory workers? Factories are probably more important than the soldiers to the actual war effort of a country — what’s the difference?”

    Conscripted soldiers are still clearly marked hostiles and as such they are trying to shoot at American forces. This means they pose a direct threat to American lives. Therefore they are appropriate targets.

    Factory workers also threaten American lives, albeit less directly. And you’re right, factories are pretty damn important. But the obvious response to the importance of Japanese factories would be to…bomb Japanese factories. And keeping bombing them until the factories can’t be rebuilt. Bombing entire cities, a significant percentage of whose residents have no direct contribution to the war effort (children, for example), is simply mass murder.

  58. Tammy, what aggression has Iran committed, exactly?

  59. A lot of people on this thread seem to think that the good consequences of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki make up for any dubious principles on which the bombings were based. But there are any number of policies that might have good consequences but are still wrong because they violate basic ethical principles of individual rights; one would think libertarians, perhaps more than any other group, would be able to understand and apply that principle.

    Ashish for the win.

  60. Ashish George,
    “but if the invasion were carried out properly…”

    Have you read your histories of WWII? Overlord required bombing French infrastructure and the French still bitch about all the civilians killed. The Italian campaign required flattening little picturesque villiages with railroad tracks running though them. Don’t even ask about the East Front campaigns.

    There was no such thing as surgical strikes or smart bombs.

    There were no such thing as proper invasions.

    There was murder and slaughter on an unimaginable scale.

  61. Ashish George – You seem confused. What ever gave you the idea that war wasn’t mass murder if it only kills massive numbers of human beings that you personally consider to be acceptable targets?

    Bottom line: In war the people of the nation/tribe/group are killed. It doesn’t really matter how you categorize them once you’ve decided they are the enemy, they are all the enemy, and the only route to victory is to kill them all or force those you haven’t killed to surrender. That’s war, and chivalric nonsense to the contrary – like the idea of proportionality and all of the other Western Civ-specific Laws Of Armed Conflict intended to make wars less bloody – is one of the primary reasons people fight needless wars. Deciding to go to war is always the decision to kill noncombatants, there’s simply no way to avoid it. Pretending otherwise is just plain delusional.

  62. D. Greene,

    Sorry Gar Alperovitz is an idiot. After reading about 30 books on the dropping of the Atomic Bomb and its relation to the foundation of the Cold War, it has become evident to me that the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the natural extension of U.S. policy at the end of the war. The US policy was under the misguided notion that air power could accomplish the following: 1) reduce a nations will to fight 2) reduce a nations capability to fight, and 3) shorten the war. In fact the US expended far more resources building bombers that did little to reduce the effectiveness of German or Japan’s war machine.

    Alperovitz and his cronies wish to rewrite history so that it seems as though there was a serious discussion about whether to drop the bomb or not. No such high level discussion ever took place. Once Roosevelt began the Manhattan project it was assumed by all decision makers that if the bomb were developed it would be used. The old myth that there was serious discussion as to whether to have a demonstration is just that a myth. There was a discussion, but it was held only between scientists who worked at Los Alamos and who directly witnessed the test bomb. (They were the first to understand the true significance of the weapon) Following the discussion they sent a letter to Truman which was completely ignored.

    Think about this,let’s say that Truman decides not to use the bomb and the war drags on another six months, during that time an additional 10,000 service men are killed. (not an unreasonable number) Japan finally surrenders in December of 1945 and people are ecstatic, six months later news of a super bomb is leaked to the press. What would America’s reaction have been? Would Truman have been impeached? After all he needlessly sacrificed 10K American lives?

    As far as the tired argument, that we wouldn’t have used it on the Germans my research indicates that those familiar with the project were deeply disappointed that it would not be able to hasten the surrender of Germany.

    The reality of the end of WWII was that it was a COMBINATION of dropping the atomic bomb AND Russia’s entrance into the war, AND the US agreeing secretly to allow Japan to retain the emperor that caused Japan to surrender. Up until Russia’s entrance into the war Japan was hoping to use back channel negotiations to negotiate a surrender that was conditional.

    While leaders in both the US and UK understood that the atomic bomb was important, and thought it might hasten the defeat of both Germany and Japan. Leaders of both countries saw the bomb as nothing more than a really big bomb. The true significance of the Bomb was not fully understood until the development of ICBMs and the Hydrogen bomb that truly made the destruction of civilization a clear reality. This did not occur until the late 1940s or 1950s nearly a full decade after Hiroshima.

    The better historical questions are, Why did it become acceptable to drop bombs on civilian populations at all? and Why has it now become unacceptable?

    In my view it is understandable but lamentable that the U.S. engaged in the whole sale destruction of civilian populations. I think far more interestingly is that technology has made bombing so much more accurate that it is now a spectator sport. During the 2003 invasion Iraqi civilians would gather on roof tops to watch American bombs fall on Iraqi defense positions.

    Regards

    Joe Dokes

  63. I have ants in my house. They just keep coming. I kill them with chemicals and shoe rubber. I spotted an ant hill in the yard. I watch the hill and I kill all the soldier ants that come out. I leave the workers alone of course. Killing them would be wrong. They are not combatants after all. I figure to kill several billion of the soldiers over the next 20 years. That’s a lot of death but at least I will be able to sleep nights because only combatants have been killed.

  64. I was curious enough about the Purple Heart thing to track it down. Our original supply from WWII started getting low around 2000

    http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/ah/2000/8/2000_8_81.shtml

  65. Civilian women and children were being drilled in armed defense of a land invasion of Japan.
    (we didn’t know this at the time)

    American soldier lives saved in victory is justification enough. Japanese soldier and civilian lives saved(as well as any deterrent effect of using the bomb) were positive secondary outcomes.

  66. The vituperation in this thread is very inappropiate on this day, August 7, when we should all be quietly commemorating the landing of the Marines on Guadalcanal in 1942.

  67. I semi seriously think we should have blown the top off of mount fuji and asked for surrender. Longshot, but why not put the ball in their court?

    We blew away the city of Hiroshima and asked for their surrender. Answer came there none.

    Also, may I remind everyone that we firebombed Tokyo and killed more civilians than the thermo-nuclear device did.

    Does this make either act soundly moral? No. But it does provide some context. The strategic purpose of such acts were to undermine the Japanese will to continue to fight the war. It failed. The first nuclear bomb on Hiroshima was to undermine the Japanese will to continue to fight the war. It failed. The second nuclear bomb was to undermine the Japanese will to continue the war. It succeded, only after an attempted coup and interception of said surrender by a Japanese military brass intent on continuing the war.

  68. “As Winston Churchill said, “We sleep safe knowing there are rough men ready to visit violence in the night on a moment’s notice”

    I don’t feel like reading through all of the comments to determine if anyone else has corrected you but the above quote is from George Orwell, not Winston Churchill.

  69. The worst part of the whole question of the so-called moral rightness of the bombings is the nauseating fact that the Japanese use it to portray themselves as victims in WWII, never mind the fact they slaughtered their way across Asia prior to the bombings. And every August 6th and 8th, the pompous, self-righteous mayors in the bombed cities use the incidents to lecture the US about how horrible we are for maintaining a nuclear arsenal. Evidently they are ignorant of the fact that our nuclear umbrella is one of the reasons they have been able to keep the pacifism clause in their Constitution, which, by the way, we pretty much wrote.

  70. I can imagine that a Japanese surrender may have seemed very far away without the atomics, and that Operation Downfall would have appeared hideously expensive in all ways. However, I also can imagine how powerful a pull there was in the government and the military to use them. The nation built them to be used. This was before the age of nuclear deterrent.

    It seems most likely to me that the choice Truman made was the one that saved more lives on both sides and made the world a better place. (The warm relations between Japan and America ever since then suggest that the Japanese feel similarly.) He may have made his decision believing that it was the best choice for mankind. Or he may have submitted to the allure of the weapon.

    There never has been a calculus that can integrate variables like these. All one can do is deliberate, and choose.

  71. I find the whole “good and evil” thing pretty academic when it comes to WWII. Germany and Japan did quite alot of horrific things but the U.S. did not enter the war to end the Holocaust or stop Japan’s torture of Asia. We were attacked and we fought back according to our interests. In fact, the U.S. government knew quite a lot about what was happening to the Jews in Europe and avoided the topic (never mind using it as a rallying point).

  72. This is an enlightening string; from the ridiculous anti-American rant about the role of the U.S. in WWII to the many posts above offering water-tight justification for terrorism.

  73. Chavez is a thug,

    no one corrected me…I’d heard it before, and a quick google search led me to a page where it was attributed to Sir Winston. I’ll be more careful in the future!

  74. As I recall, prior to a certain American warship steaming into Tokyo bay, the entire country had deliberately cut itself off from the outside world for hundreds of years. Blockade wouldn’t have caused their country to collapse, any more than it has caused Cuba to do so.

    To be fair, Japan’s population was much larger in the 1940s then it had been during their era of isolation. They were a massive importer of food and still barely kept their population fed. Indeed, one of the reasons they attacked Pearl Harbor was because of the various embargoes we had set up against them in the 1930s.

  75. War is awful. Civilized, decent people avoid whenever they can. If backed into a corner and there is absolutely no other options, they go grimly, not joyously.

  76. Rather than anti-Americanism, I think the treatment of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a unique evil is a consequence of contemporary viewers looking at the use of atomic bombs through the goggles of the Cold War.

    In 1945, it is true, the dropping of Fat Man and Little Boy were hardly unique acts of destruction. Dresden, Nanking, Stalingrad – there were much worse acts of city-busting.

    But what nuclear weapons from the 50s-00s can wreak is several hundred times worse. When a modern student looks at the use of an atomic weapon on a city, he can think of the 30 megaton monsters that our B-52s used to carry, or the multiple warhead monsters in our silos.

  77. A curse on both houses.

    On the one hand, the moral opinion that the ends justify the means holds no merit, but it also holds no practical merit.

    The civilian strategic bombing was militarily counterproductive. The resources spent bombing civilian targets were resources not directed at military targets. (See The Battle of Britain for a stark illustration of this.)

    The civilian strategic bombing was morale-wise counterproductive. Postwar analysis found that local resistance efforts grew, even in Germany, until civilian bombings occurred nearby, at which point resistance movements promptly shrank.

    The argument that the Allies were the real villains in WWII doesn’t stand up by any measure. Not only did the Axis powers initiate hostilities by all but the most tortured arguments, they systematically slaughtered and dehumanized their occupied civilian populations, unlike the Allies. (See Final solution and Unit 731.)

    Yes, the Allies did awful things (see Japanese internment, Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and any number of other morally flawed actions). In terms of scale and in terms of malicious intent, these actions all pale in comparison to the actions of the Axis nations. To argue otherwise is nothing less than apologism.

  78. You can thank Edward Teller for the development of a weapon too scary to be used in anger(so far,fingers crossed,knock on wood)
    smeared by most leftists and pacifists, Tellers bomb has resulted in no nuclear combat and no deaths-excepting a handful of unlucky jap fishermen.The threat of the weapon kept the Cold war at a simmer until the collapse of Soviet Communism.

  79. There’s always a tendency to review and judge the acts of the past by the standards of the present. Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not occur in isolation – they were the culmination of 14 years of escalating barbarity, from the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and its far more brutal “China Incident” to German bombings of civilian centers, the “Final Solution,” the unimaginable horrors of the Russo-German War, the vicious racialism underlying the attitudes and motivations of both Japanese and Western forces in the Pacific, and finally the mass bombings of German and Japanese cities. Freeman Dyson had a brilliant passage in his book Weapons and Hope, describing the “moral creep” he experienced working for the RAF in WWII as the strategic bombing campaign steadily escalated from 1940 to 1945.

    It’s true that civilized nations shouldn’t annihilate cities full of civilians, but there was nothing “civilized” about WWII other than the technologies used to wage it. I agree with the earlier posters who claimed that if any good came from city-bombing, it was that it filled the Western world with such revulsion after the fact that it was never again considered a justifiable strategy. We didn’t bomb Pyongyang or Hanoi out of existence, nor did we destroy Baghdad (we may be doing that indirectly now, but that’s another story).

    Let’s not kid ourselves – the Pacific War wasn’t going to end without a lot of dead people, one way or another. Starving the Japanese into surrender might have taken another 6 – 12 months, and millions of Japanese civilians would have died of disease and malnutrition – they were already living on less than 900 calories a day by the summer of 1945. An invasion would have been incredibly costly – the only guy who thought it might be cheap was McArthur, and he was a grandstanding bozo who was pressing for one. As for “limiting civilian casualties” in an invasion, as many Okinawans as Japanese soldiers died during that campaign (~100,000), and the number of Japanese civilians who died on Saipan was close to the number of military dead. The Japanese Army and Navy had over 4,000 aircraft stationed on Kyushu alone for kamikaze attacks on the Third Fleet, and they wouldn’t have hesitated in mobilizing the civilian population to resist – they were issuing bamboo spears to civilians in the summer of 1945!

    I have mixed feelings about Hiroshima and Nagasaki – my mother was ~100 miles outside Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and I can easily imagine her taking the wrong train trip at the wrong time. OTOH, my dad was in the 8th Army in the Philippines on that same day training for the invasion of Japan that fall, and as he freely admits, he was pissing his pants at the idea. For purely selfish reasons (i.e. my current existence), I’m kinda glad things worked out the way they did.

  80. joe has a good pointm but I rhink ir carries farther:

    Nuclear weapons were the first weapons that really made “the end of the world” a self-evident possibility. We finally terrified ourselves. The horror of nukes was applied retrospectively to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    At the time, however, there was only the desire to end the war, by any means possible. I remember my father telling me that his reaction to the dropping of the fission bombs on Japan was one of relief: He was scheduled to go to the Pacific in September/45; dropping the bomb meant he didn’t have to go.

    The justifications for dropping the bomb may be ex post facto rationalizations, but the likelihood is that, had an invasion of the home islands been necessary, the death toll for Allied Military and Japanese Civilians would have been vastly greater than the death toll from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs. This is obvious to anyone who has any knowledge of what happened on Iwo Jima.

    And finally, if I may add one more ex post facto rationalization: If Hiroshima and Nagasaki had not scared the hell out of us, it is probable that we would have had an all out nuclear war – with hundreds of millions dead – in th 50s or 60s.

  81. I have ants in my house. They just keep coming. I kill them with chemicals and shoe rubber. I spotted an ant hill in the yard. I watch the hill and I kill all the soldier ants that come out. I leave the workers alone of course. Killing them would be wrong. They are not combatants after all. I figure to kill several billion of the soldiers over the next 20 years. That’s a lot of death but at least I will be able to sleep nights because only combatants have been killed.

    Could you please start telling people you’re canadian? Thxbai.

  82. I think the big difference between the United States and terrorists like Osama bin Laden may be stated simply as:

    Terrorists kill civilians in countries where the civilians are part of an enlightened, rational civilization. By contrast, the United States kills civilians only in countries like Iraq and Japan, where there is no other choice: where those civilians are part of an alien, irrational civilizations that know only force and violence as tools of persuasion.

  83. D. Greene wrote:

    For a look at the human cost of the nuclear bombs, I suggest you check out Grave of the Fireflies.

    The animated film Hotaru no Haka (usually translated as “Grave of the Fireflies” is not about nuclear war. It is based on Nosaka Akiyuki’s dramatized autobiography, telling of life in Japan during 1945.

    The only military action seen are B-29 raids on Kobe (Nosaka’s hometown). One firebomb raid on Tokyo ignited a firestorm, killing between 80,000 and 100,000 (the same at Hiroshima). This devastation of the nation’s capital took place in February, and the Empire continued fighting until August — less than a week after the second nuclear bomb.

    The reason for bombing Nagasaki was that Hiroshima could have been seen as a one-off. The Japanese knew about the potential for atomic weaponry, but scientific opinion of the time was that there was not enough fissionable material in the world for a single bomb. To drop two of them, days apart, not only destroyed conventional wisdom, but implied that we had developed a source that would allow us to make a significant number of nuclear bombs, and were replacing (fire) canister bombing with this new weapon.

    All of the Hate America First crowd seem to forget that, for quite some time, the United States was the only nuclear power in the world. I can’t think of too many countries which wouldn’t have taken advantage of that fact, but we didn’t.

  84. SIV wrote:

    Civilian women and children were being drilled in armed defense of a land invasion of Japan.
    (we didn’t know this at the time)

    Yes, we did. It was in Japanese newsreel footage, which we obtained through neutral sources (mostly Spain) the same way the Japanese got out newsreels.

  85. Oops, make that “the same way the Japanese got OUR newsreels.”

  86. The revisionist case is made here by the Hoover Institution’s David Henderson.

    My only comment is that I have always found it odd that case against the dropping of the atomic bomb is so often called “revisionist.” Why? Because we’ve been having this argument at some level since the bombs were dropped.

  87. And when I say “since the bombs were dropped” I mean that in a very literal sense. Protests, arguments, etc. against their use appeared in print within days of the bombings from many different corners.

  88. “Yes, that is fucking simple. And fucking misguided. If we had invaded Japan, many American and Japanese soldiers would have died, but if the invasion were carried out properly, we could have at least been sure that the vast majority of casualties were combatants. At Hiroshima and Nagasaki that obviously wasn’t the case.”

    Assish, I am glad you weren’t in charge. If you had been and had come to talk to your troops to tell them that many of them would be sacrificed to sooth you PC conscious, I expect you would have received a well-deserved bayonet up your ass.

  89. er… “your” and “conscience”

  90. “Have you read your histories of WWII? Overlord required bombing French infrastructure and the French still bitch about all the civilians killed. The Italian campaign required flattening little picturesque villiages with railroad tracks running though them. Don’t even ask about the East Front campaigns.

    There was no such thing as surgical strikes or smart bombs.

    There were no such thing as proper invasions.

    There was murder and slaughter on an unimaginable scale.”

    Um, okay. But there is still a huge difference between targeting bases, factories, etc. and inadvertently killing civilians in the process on the one hand and going after entire cities–infrastructure and residents alike–on the other.

    And crude smart bombs were developed during WWII.

    “The first successful experiments with guided bombs were conducted during World War II when television-guided bombs, flare-sighted bombs and other steerable munitions, such as the 1000-lb-class (450 kg) AZON bomb, were developed.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precision-guided_munition

  91. I think what really galls people is that some of us can look at the numbers; hundreds of thousands of dead on both sides, or hundreds of thousands of dead on just their side and make a carefully thought out decision based on reason and rationality. We are supposed to base our decision entirely on emotion. Killin’s wrong, umkay?

    As to the people who think America is psychopathic and barbaric; with the amount of power we have, especially since WWII, we have been remarkably restrained.

  92. War is such horror. The terrible things we do to each other. Perhaps it’s worth reminding ourselves that even the hatred generated by such deeds can be overcome in the end.

    http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/sailors-lost-on-midget-sub-honoured/2007/08/06/1186252600945.html

  93. Those responses on the CiF website are sadly typical of many many people here in the UK.

    It thoroughly depresses me. My American wife has to put up with a consistent anti-American sentiment.

    I can only reassure you that not all of us are like that, some of us admire the traditions of freedom and liberty in the US and wish to praise where praise is due and criticise where criticism is merited.

    (BTW: Kamm is no liberal – please don’t give him more reason to believe he is. He’s a social democrat or a socialist – Reason is a liberal publication)

  94. On a related note, as an Australian, I thank the United States for saving us from Japanese invasion. Equivocate away if you see fit.

  95. we allowed the Soviet Union to keep all of Eastern Europe, half of Germany, and the Baltics as part of its empire.

    Perhaps “we acquisced” would be better than “we allowed,” seeing as how the Soviets had massive, battle hardened armies occupying those places.

    Hmm…”we didn’t contest something that we really had no ability to change” is better still, I think.

  96. Actually Marty, the US purposefully allowed the Rooskies to occupy a large part of eastern Europe by stepping aside to let them move in, so “allowed” is a fairly accurate description.

  97. “The bombs didn’t do anything to redress the injustices of the Rape of Nanking or the Holocaust, but they made it clear that that type of aggression would not stand, had no chance of standing, against that technology, and therefore the aggression was stopped.”

    Bravo! Which is why Iran needs a demonstration.

    Of course, such a demonstration would constitute an act of aggression. Are you saying that the Iranians would then be justified in nuking our cities?

  98. I have a vague recollection that things didn’t work out perfectly for Eastern Europe.

    Oh, come on, Poland was liberated a mere 50 years after Britain and France went to war for its sake.

  99. The problem with the civilians argument, as I see it, is that World War II was essentially “Total War”. It wasn’t just soldiers on the front, it was civilians working in factories. It was civilians collecting scrap metal and growing Victory Gardens. Every level of society on several continents was involved in making war. And that made civilians into legitimate targets.

    The same argument could have been made to justify massacring whole villages of American Indian “civilians.” Oh, wait . . . that argument *was* made.

  100. I too can can make the right decision given mountains of historical records and 60+ years to make a decision.

  101. “I too can can make the right decision given mountains of historical records and 60+ years to make a decision.”

    Well said.

  102. War is awful. Civilized, decent people avoid whenever they can.

    And uncivilized, indecent people lie their asses off to start wars.

  103. “And uncivilized, indecent people lie their asses off to start wars.”

    Who are you referring to, Joe?

  104. Did joe lie his ass off to start a war?

  105. Civilized, decent people also feel genuine regret at even the most necessary killing, and respect that emotion even when it isn’t expressed in the most sophisticated manner.

  106. Everyone on both sides of the debate just needs to read more Paul Fussell, especially “Wartime.”

  107. Killing civilians is bad. But what is often forgotten in talks about the a-bomb is that no one knew about radiation poisoning back then. The Los Alamos scientists, on their way to the first test explosion, all touched a plutonium sphere for good luck.

    A late pedantic post.
    Those in Los Alamos knew about radiation poisoning having watched one of their own die from it during the bombs development. My wife’s aunt was one of his nurses.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Slotin

  108. Cesar | August 7, 2007, 4:03pm | #
    I think in a way, people needed to see how terrible the bombs really were so they would never be used lightly.

    I think this is largely true.

    I think that a bomb made but unused would have been too tempting not to use later. Either the US or the Russians would have used it in Europe after stocks of such bombs were built up so that two cities would be replaced by twenty or more, with a death toll ten or even 100 times greater.

    As for a war crime, it’s possible that it was, but it was at least arguably strategically valueable, in a way that the rape of Nanking or the Holocaust were not. We can argue whether it brought the war to an end faster.

    Also Brits giving the US shit? Night bombing of civilian targets was their schtick.

  109. Make that two of their own.

  110. Jah, NM.

    Besides, knowing about radiation now, I’d have no qualms about touching a sphere of plutonium for good luck. Pu is an alpha-emitter, meaning the form of radiation it produces is composed of high-energy helium nuclei, called alpha particles. This radiation can be stopped by a sheet of paper our the outer layer of your skin. It’s only dangerous if it is in very very close proximity to living cells (ie, the plutonium absorbed into your tissue). Also plutonium is very very toxic, so it’ll kill you faster from chemical poisoning than by radiation poisoning.

    What is less clear is whether they understood the LINGERING effects of radiation. I mean, direct radiation poisoning would be a gruesome death, but not significantly more so than 3rd degree burns. It’s the cancers and so forth that may not have been understood. Not saying they weren’t – the Curies died of radiation poisoning years before Hiroshima.

  111. As for the larger question of morality in wwII.

    I will take the forthcoming abuse by saying that Howard Zinn has the appropriate take on the “good war.” And Kurt Vonnegut.

    I have a good friend whose brother was killed in Hiroshima on his way to school. The family had just moved there a few months earlier to get away from the bombing in Tokyo.

    The term “War Crime” is pleonastic.

  112. HOWARD ZINN: Yeah. Well, we thought bombing missions were over. The war was about to come to an end. This was in April of 1945, and remember the war ended in early May 1945. This was a few weeks before the war was going to be over, and everybody knew it was going to be over, and our armies were past France into Germany, but there was a little pocket of German soldiers hanging around this little town of Royan on the Atlantic coast of France, and the Air Force decided to bomb them. 1,200 heavy bombers, and I was in one of them, flew over this little town of Royan and dropped napalm — first use of napalm in the European theater. And we didn’t know how many people were killed, how many people were terribly burned as a result of what we did. But I did it like most soldiers do, unthinkingly, mechanically, thinking we’re on the right side, they’re on the wrong side, and therefore we can do whatever we want, and it’s okay. And only afterward, only really after the war when I was reading about Hiroshima from John Hersey and reading the stories of the survivors of Hiroshima and what they went through, only then did I begin to think about the human effects of bombing. Only then did I begin to think about what it meant to human beings on the ground when bombs were dropped on them, because as a bombardier, I was flying at 30,000 feet, six miles high, couldn’t hear screams, couldn’t see blood. And this is modern warfare.

    In modern warfare, soldiers fire, they drop bombs, and they have no notion, really, of what is happening to the human beings that they’re firing on. Everything is done at a distance. This enables terrible atrocities to take place. And I think reflecting back on that bombing raid, and thinking of that in Hiroshima and all of the other raids on civilian cities and the killing of huge numbers of civilians in German and Japanese cities, the killing of a hundred thousand people in Tokyo in one night of fire-bombing, all of that made me realize war, even so-called good wars against fascism like World War II, wars don’t solve any fundamental problems, and they always poison everybody on both sides. They poison the minds and souls of everybody on both sides. We are seeing that now in Iraq, where the minds of our soldiers are being poisoned by being an occupying army in a land where they are not wanted. And the results are terrible.

  113. The proper way to remember World War Two is as the greatest tragedy ever to befall mankind.

    That we came out of that tragedy less wounded than other countries is of secondary concern.

    For six years, an average of 761 people died violently every single hour. A 9/11 every four hours for six years.

  114. “The proper way to remember World War Two is as the greatest tragedy ever to befall mankind.” – joe

    Really? Ranking mankind’s tragedies strikes me as being an exercise in futility that is almost completely devoid of meaning. It’s like saying that dying a long, painful death from emphesyma is worse than dying a long, painful death from tuberculosis. (Worst. Disease. Ever: http://www.forbes.com/columnists/columnists/global/2006/0109/035A.html)

    Wouldn’t you agree – if you really consider the subject – that the human race is pretty much spoiled for choice when it comes to picking the “greatest tragedy?” It just seems a pretty myopic view to look at WW2 as the absolute worst when you have the genocidal authoritarian-inspired body-counts of communism on the books (China, Russia, etc.) as well as WW1 to consider – and that’s just in the last century. (How about the destruction of the Roayl Library at Alexandria? That’s always been one of the most regretful occurences in history, IMO.)

    “That we came out of that tragedy less wounded than other countries is of secondary concern.” – joe

    Spoken like a true armchair general… Many of your previous points made a lot of sense, but you really can’t help yourself sometimes, I guess. I’d say that the primary concern of fighting any war should always be to come out of the tragedy of having to fight a war in better shape (or “less wounded” as you put it) than the other countries.

    (Disclosure: My favorite comment joe has probably ever written occurred on this thread: “War is awful. Civilized, decent people avoid [it] whenever they can. If backed into a corner and there is absolutely no other options, they go grimly, not joyously.”)

  115. Really? Ranking mankind’s tragedies strikes me as being an exercise in futility that is almost completely devoid of meaning.

    The numbers don’t lie here. There were more intense periods of slaughter that didn’t last as long, and more lengthy periods of killing that weren’t as intense, but you’re not going to find the two combined in such a horrible manner as 1939-1945. By the criteria of lives ended and destroyed, World War 2 really stands out.

    Spoken like a true armchair general

    Go piss on yourself, you wanna-be Prussian asshole. You don’t gain special status in understanding history because you obeyed orders during a military catastrophe, rob.

    I’d say that the primary concern of fighting any war should always be to come out of the tragedy of having to fight a war in better shape (or “less wounded” as you put it) than the other countries.

    I’d say that the lives lost are no less of a tragedy for our victory. Sure, from a military perspective, winning is the only thing that matters. A complete human being doesn’t only look at things from that perspective.

  116. I have lived in Tokyo for a while now and I have come to accept the utter impossibility of discussing this rationally with Japanese people. I understand how they feel; they are an island nation, Japan is their homeland and such misery and destruction was wrought by those bombs. My girlfriend and I argue about it sometimes (she’s Japanese) and I’ve basically given up.

    A common flaw in the arguments used by those who think the bombs were unnecessary is the idea of “innocent” civilians during war. There are few truly innocent civilians, aside from children who are not really citizens but rather the responsibility of guilty adults. Our governments do violence and commit murder in OUR name with OUR support. It cannot be otherwise. We have to care about the leaders we elect and the policies they enact because we are held accountable by OTHER governments.

    The Japanese who were ignorant or indifferent, men or women, those who simply tried to avoid what was going on and just go about their lives were NOT innocent. They helped make the war possible by keeping the economy going, not complaining and paying taxes. Those who speak out are arguably innocent. Those who resist, who fight back or leave also can be considered innocent. But it is false to suggest that only the government and its instruments (the military) are responsible for war and its consequences. The civilian population is arguably MORE responsible because armies and governments cannot exist but for the material support of a productive and compliant citizenry.

    Would that we could live in such a world. We wouldn’t have to care about our political leaders. Governments and militaries could go play in one sandbox, and all the “innocent” civilians could just hang out and trade and do whatever they want somewhere else.

  117. JQC,

    the leaders we elect and the policies they enact because we are held accountable by OTHER governments.

    Elect? The Emperor? You mean by not rising up against him?

    The civilian population is arguably MORE responsible because armies and governments cannot exist but for the material support of a productive and compliant citizenry.

    While I see your argument. This is pretty close to a paraphrase of the Bin Ladin position justifying 9/11. It forgets that the men with the guns get to decide in many societies. That is why the 2nd amendment is important in our country.

  118. “The numbers don’t lie here. There were more intense periods of slaughter that didn’t last as long, and more lengthy periods of killing that weren’t as intense, but you’re not going to find the two combined in such a horrible manner as 1939-1945. By the criteria of lives ended and destroyed, World War 2 really stands out.” – joe

    All true statements, more or less, but if the criteria were to include “as a percentage of total population” (which is certainly as reasonable as your criteria) then WW2 suddenly looks like more of the same, on par with the Black Death and other assorted historic tragedies.

    “Go piss on yourself, you wanna-be Prussian asshole.” – joe

    Wow. I can always tell when you’re fresh out of actual arguments because you start spouting profanity. Nice. And Prussian… that’s actually pretty funny, considering Prussian military history. (Extra credit for that joke – I assume it was intentional… but it’s not enough to overcome the fact that an insult isn’t a counter-argument.)

    “You don’t gain special status in understanding history because you obeyed orders during a military catastrophe, rob.” – joe

    Excuse me? Where did I ask for “special status”? Admittedly, I tend to believe that “expertise” isn’t all it’s touted to be. (It has limits, for example, claiming to be an expert on how other people should live because you are or used to be a “city planner.”)

    Actually, you’re the guy who thinks “certified expert” status is so important it should over-ride individual choice, while I’m the guy who thinks “certified expert” status just means they usually know what they’re talking about. (Grain of salt, etc…) By your standard or mine, though, wouldn’t a master’s degree in Military History and actual military experience count for something?

    C’mon… Are you really that angry over the term “armchair general”? (I wouldn’t be mad if you referred to me as an “armchair city planner” – I’m a self-professed layman on the subject!)

    “I’d say that the lives lost are no less of a tragedy for our victory.” – joe

    No argument there. Lost lives are tragic. As much as tragically lost lives are a horrendous consequence of war, however, it’s always better to have that tragedy fall disproportionately on the enemy. (See also: Patton, George.)

    “Sure, from a military perspective, winning is the only thing that matters. A complete human being doesn’t only look at things from that perspective.” – joe

    In a war of the magnitude of say, WW2, I’d argue that victory – the military perspective being all about gaining victory – actually is the only thing that matters. Caveats about a “complete human being’s” perspective just reveals how incredibly asinine and counter to survival such whinging is. Sadly, this is usually carried out by those who deem themselves morally superior to the folks who carry out the distasteful things that make sure that said whingers never have to do for themselves.

    I’m going to assume that you’re not saying that those who view things from the “military perspective” you seem to decry are somehow less “complete humans.” Although I’d love for you to clarify yourself on that one.

    Frankly, joe, you sound like the guy who decries the slaughterhouse while wolfing down a bacon cheeseburger. Or the guy who shows up to the LiveEarth concert in his private jet. Or the guy who shows up to speak at the PETA rally wearing a leather jacket. Or… Well, you get the point, right?

  119. joe and rob,

    an all lower case letter microcosm of the difficulty of international diplomacy…people talking past each other with different value systems…making each other angry…if only we could keep it at the level of blog flames between countries…

  120. Neu – If this was a true microcosm of international diplomacy, the next step would be for joe and I to join forces and attack you. Of course, this alliance would have to allow for joe’s “complete human perspective” approach, so we’d just stick to firebombing your cities without atomic weapons…

    Just kidding! In actuality, under the “Complete Human Perspective Treaty,” we’d actually only be able to send a harshly worded letter to you, threaten an ineffective and pointless embargo (which all parties would find a way around anyway), and maybe hold a press conference or a rock concert or something.

    So… you’d actually still be completely unchecked in your desires as the authoritarian ruler of “Neu Mejicania” to commit genocide, attack our naval bases and kill our civilians and military alike, wipe out our allies, or whatever you felt like doing.

    (For instance, if the treaty had been signed during WW2, the newsreels would talk about FDR writing Tojo a strongly worded letter in response to Pearl Harbor and holding high-level cabinet discussion to consider whether or not to take him off the State Department’s Christmas card list.)

    P.S. Pleonastic… I haven’t heard that in a while! My ESP premonition tells me that you may have written your PhD doctoral dissertation on the topical topic of linguistic tautologies as they relate to libelously defamatory and false statements! Or not. Yeah, most definitely probably not.

  121. Percentage of total population is not as reasonable a figure. A million violent deaths is a million individual human lives being snuffed out, regardless of the overall population.

    I did answer your argument, asshole. You just deserved to be insulted for your militaristic arrogance, as well.

    Excuse me? Where did I ask for “special status”? When you waived away my argument with “Spoken like a true armchair general.” You know, it’s easy to tell when you’re out of arguments, because you pretend that alluding to your profession raises you above the need to utilize reason and facts.

    And since you didn’t get the Prussian reference, it is exactly your habit of waving your military credentials to treat others as second-rate that I was referring to. You know, like when you dismiss the arguments of civilians by referring to careerist military professional as the folks who carry out the distasteful things that make sure that said whingers never have to do for themselves. You’re an elitist asshole who fancies himself part of elite, better and more serious than the rest, because of your background. That’s what makes you a wanna-be Prussian. Glad I could clear that up for you.

    As much as tragically lost lives are a horrendous consequence of war, however, it’s always better to have that tragedy fall disproportionately on the enemy. Sure, but a complete human being can mourn for the lives lost on both sides, even if those killings were necessary.

    I’m going to assume that you’re not saying that those who view things from the “military perspective” you seem to decry are somehow less “complete humans.” Although I’d love for you to clarify yourself on that one. The statement I made was “A complete human being doesn’t only look at things from that perspective.” ONLY, rob. I’m going to assume that you can figure out the additional meaning you stripped out by editting out that word.

    Or… Well, you get the point, right?

    Yes. Unable to actually come to grips with my arguments, you’ve taken to flailing away at a straw man, as usual. In this case, by pretending that *yaaaawwwwwwwwwnnnnnnnn* disagreeing with you in a political discussion is an expression of contempt for Da Troops.

    Spare us all the warmed over Few Good Men speech, asshole. It was a desperate gambit by a cornered man, and wholly inappropriate for his target, in the original, too.

  122. Ha, ha, rob can’t come up with a response to what I’ve actually written, so he’s pretending that I’ve made argued the pacifist case for not getting into World War Two.

    Four and a half years into the catastrophe in Iraq, can there possibly be anything more naive than pretending all statements of concern about the use of military force are arguments for pacifism?

    Hey, rob, if we’d sent Saddam a strongly-worded letter, we wouldn’t have wasted the lives of 3500 better men than yourself on nothing.

    Maybe if you’d spent less time among authoritarians, you’d be less infatuated with your blinders.

  123. Two points I don’t see mentioned that often:

    1) Even after the second bomb was dropped the council was dithering, with half arguing surrender and half arguing to fight on. Suzuki (who should get more credit in history than he is given) then turned to the Emperor and asked for the Emperor’s “personal opinion” on the matter. The Emperor said his opinion was that they should accept surrendering. Suzuki then said “I think we should make the Emperor’s opinion the decision of this cabinet.”

    And after that there was an attempted coup d’etat by a bunch of military officers trying to gain control of the government before the Emperor’s proclamation went out, trying to keep the war going. So the dropping of the atom bombs wasn’t the complete final point, even then.

    2) Lawrence van der Post, who was in a Japanese prisoner of war camp at the time, says he has no doubt but that if the end of the war had come through any other way, there would have been a mass slaughter of all the prisoners at the end. It was the fact that an entire city had been totally destroyed with one bomb that shook up the camp commanders and made them hesistant about any further action. So we may have to add the population of the prison-of-war camps to the number of people inadvertently saved.

  124. rob,

    Neu – If this was a true microcosm of international diplomacy, the next step would be for joe and I to join forces and attack you.

    but can’t we just keep it at the level of emoticons…

    a =) then 😉 then a 😐 then a (;_;) then a 🙁 leading to a harsh /8^[

  125. For the record…

    rob: Spoken like a true armchair general…(insult #1)
    joe: Go piss on yourself, you wanna-be Prussian asshole.(insult #2)
    rob: Wow. I can always tell when you’re fresh out of actual arguments because you start spouting profanity.[ ]… but it’s not enough to overcome the fact that an insult isn’t a counter-argument. (response to insult #2)

    Was your insult a counter-argument? Or an attempt to rile?

  126. The last time I got accused of not being manly enough to understand that force is sometimes necessary, it was in place of answering my arguments about why it was a bad idea to start up the Iraq War.

    FYI, Napoleon, I’d never refer to someone as an “armchair planner,” because the right of the people to play a leading role in the planning of their community, and the expertise they bring to the table by virtue of their membership in civil society, are bedrock principles of my personal beliefs, and of modern planning practice.

    Unlike you, rob, I’m not comfortable in situations that are as top-down and elitist, or where the opinions of the general public are so derided, as the professional military. I guess our opinion of the relationship between experts and regular people are why I went into a profession that gives regular folks a leading role in setting policy, and you didn’t.

  127. “Hey, rob, if we’d sent Saddam a strongly-worded letter, we wouldn’t have wasted the lives of 3500 better men than yourself on nothing.” – joe

    Spare me the Robert Redford impression from “Three Days Of The Condor” where you strain like a constipated anaconda to crap out the idea that the biggest threat to the U.S. and civil liberties comes from the “industrial-military complex.” For the record, I agree that those who have died are better men than I am (by virtue of what they’ve laid down alone), and I’ve never claimed otherwise. Where does that leave you, with your characterization of the military folks I work with? Y’know, this one:

    “Maybe if you’d spent less time among authoritarians, you’d be less infatuated with your blinders.” – joe

    You think that people in the military aren’t more keenly aware of why the “Posse Comitatus Act” exists than most U.S. citizens? You don’t think that those liberty-loving traditions aren’t reflected in generation after generation of military commanders who consider the idea of using the military to seize power anathema – antithetical to the principle of military service in defense of the Constitution? Apparently you think that being in the military is about infatuation with authoritarianism ? that’s just sad.

    (Sarcasm warning) It’s a shame that General MacArthur in Japan and Generals Marshall and Clay in Europe didn’t institute respect for democracy, civil liberties, and the rule of law when they had the chance…. Germany and Japan could be functioning as First World democracies right now! I mean, really, it pains me to see you lump me in with such a tradition of authoritarian-loving, jack-booted thug-type military officers. (Sarcasm ends.)

    When did you become such a pathetic parody of the guy who used to be capable of posting the occasional intelligent, thoughtful comment? You at least used to be on board with the idea that the military has men and women of conscience in its ranks, who value liberty and took an oath to defend the Constitution and didn’t join up because they were either stupid, naive, impoverished or evil authoritarians who just love to wear jackboots. (Not that examples of that don’t exist – though thankfully they are by no means representative of the military as a whole.)

    And BTW?

    “Percentage of total population is not as reasonable a figure. A million violent deaths is a million individual human lives being snuffed out, regardless of the overall population.” – joe

    In terms of “great tragedies” I’d argue that it’s the damage done to the population that can be most crippling and tragic, though. Surely you’d agree that a million lives lost is bad, but a million lives that equates to genocide is worse? (To clarify: I’m not arguing that WW2 wasn’t a great tragedy, simply that the U.S. was justified in taking the horrendous measures it did to ensure victory with as little damage to the U.S. and its people as possible.)

  128. “I did answer your argument, asshole. You just deserved to be insulted for your militaristic arrogance, as well.” – joe

    Really? Where was that response? I don’t see it, maybe you could re-post it? Where is the militaristic arrogance you’re referring to – my claim that my military experience makes my argument the right one? Why do you keep going off on things I haven’t written about on this thread?

    “When you waived away my argument with ‘Spoken like a true armchair general.'”

    I DID characterize your statement as being an “armchair general” – which is an apt description I think. Is that what all this is about? Maybe we have a difference in our definition of the term – I think of an armchair general as a layman who second-guesses strategy and tactics akin to “armchair quarterback: somebody who is certain that he or she can make better calls than the coaches or players while watching a competitive sport on television.” Until I Googled the term and found a Christopher Hitchens’ article about the term “armchair general” I was unfamiliar with this usage: “the ugly idea that civilians have less right to argue for war.” (Why you’d get mad over that definition is unclear to me, since it seems like another variation of the “chickenhawk” term you use to insult people with.)

    “you dismiss the arguments of civilians by referring to careerist military professional as the folks who carry out the distasteful things that make sure that said whingers never have to do for themselves.” – joe

    Not what I did at all. I referred to whingers who fail to see that war will always include vast numbers of civilian casualties and complain about it. It’s the same as claiming that we should have winter, but just without the cold weather!

    joe – seriously! I can’t dismiss the arguments of civilians with an appeal to greater authority without violating my commissioning oath to defend the Constitution – including CIVILIAN CONTROL OF THE MILITARY! My complaint is with people who think that we can win a war without resorting to gruesome and horrible acts that include a depressing number of civilian deaths. It can’t be done, and anyone who thinks it can be done is hopelessly naive/foolish and will certainly lose their nerve when that reality sets in.

  129. “FYI, Napoleon, I’d never refer to someone as an ‘armchair planner,’ because the right of the people to play a leading role in the planning of their community, and the expertise they bring to the table by virtue of their membership in civil society, are bedrock principles of my personal beliefs, and of modern planning practice.” – joe

    Riiii-iiight. Just before you advocated the city plan you think is best for them, regardless of their stated claim to prefer to live in a fashion you don’t approve of. You’ve done it plenty of times on various public transportation, zoning, and eminent domain threads.

    Just because you pay lip service to the “bedrock principle” of “playing a leading role” – by holding an open meeting somewhere before moving ahead as planned to bulldoze people’s homes and businesses according to plan – is not the same as participating in a centuries-old tradition that gives the people THE leading role.

  130. Wayne-the few areas that US forces reached first and then withdrew from, per prior agreement with the USSR, are a pretty small part of the whole area occupied by the USSR post-WWII. (I’ve visited one: Magdeburg, Germany.)

    I suppose we could have violated our treaty obligations, at a time when lots of US and British POWs, freed from German camps, were in Soviet hands, and told the war weary population of the US that there was another job to do, and we needed to knock down the wise heroes that the US public had been told about since June of 1941, who had a larger army than the US and the UK combined did. How that could have been achieved is beyond me, though.

  131. Neu – It actually wasn’t intended as an insult: http://www.armchairgeneral.com/

    joe has written at length about his military history hobby on these threads and all the books he owns on WW2 (I have publicly wondered if he doesn’t really get most of his info from the History Channel…)

  132. so, let me sum up:

    1. Using the A-bomb (twice) forced the Japanese to surrender in 1945, and ended the war.
    2. Using the A-bomb prevented an invasion of Japan, and saved many thousands of American GI’s lives. Using the experience of various Pacific Island campaigns as a guide, it is likely that a great many Japanese lives were saved also.
    3. The deaths of Japanese citizens in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are regrettable and not to be celebrated. Ending the war, however, was a greater good.
    4. America was not then, nor is it now, an evil empire, though some misguided fools pretend otherwise.
    5. America was the “Arsenal of Democracy”, and a great many European and Asian citizens treated American soldiers as their saviors. The current crop of Europeans and Asians, and even some Americans are not so appreciative.
    6. Europe and Asia are today sanctuaries of prosperity and freedom largely as a result of the actions, principals and spilled blood of the liberating American forces. The current crop of European and Asians prefer to demonize America and to “reinterpret” American actions during WWII.

  133. rob,

    It actually wasn’t intended as an insult

    keep telling yourself that.

    joe’s reaction was exactly the one you were looking for. you were baiting him with an insult. to pretend otherwise is pretty pathetic.

  134. Neu – Wow, it’s amazing that you understand my intent better than I did when I wrote it. I think it’s pretty obvious from some of the other threads I’ve read in the past week or so here that no one needs to “bait” joe into insulting people and posting insults filled with profanity.

    Who is dumber than the guy who sabotages his own arguments with mindless, profanity-filled ignorance? Probably the guy who tries to have a rational discussion/disagreement with him… Which is part of the reason I stopped wasting my time arguing with the guy.

    I truly regret bothering to post here and all of the previous times I’ve wasted arguing with guys like joe and Ken Schultz. joe’s tactics have “won the thread,” and he can have all the other Hit and Run comments threads as well.

    I’m done here – you guys can have it.

  135. rob,

    Too bad. You often have interesting counter-points to add to the discussion.

    As for the issue of insults…you, yourself, say…”I think of an armchair general as a layman who second-guesses strategy and tactics akin to “armchair quarterback: somebody who is certain that he or she can make better calls than the coaches or players while watching a competitive sport on television.”

    For many people, nay I would say most, characterizing their actions this way is a way to undercut their claim to a valid point of view (aka, an insult). If your intention was to characterize joe’s comments this way, then you were insulting him, intentionally.

    But given the history of interaction btw you and joe, I am going to stick with the “baiting to get a reaction” story…given that you have admitted to it in the past, and jumped right on it with the whole “can’t argue so you use profanity” schtick that we have seen so much in your discourse.

    Am I insulting you by pointing this out?

  136. Neu – The actual comment was in reference to the idea that joe seemed far less concerned about the number of casualties taken by the side fighting for him than he seemed about the losses suffered by all sides. That’s the kind of crap that gets under my skin – and he knows it – so was he baiting me?

    Unlike the folks who actually lived through WW2 and had to make some of the hardest decisions in human history, we have the luxury of knowing how it all turned out. Second-guessing the decisions that ensured Allied victory certainly qualifies joe for promotion to “armchair general!” I referred to him as speaking “like a true armchair general” because that’s EXACTLY what he was doing: second-guessing decisions about military attacks made during WW2 by civilian and military leadership and whinging on about how mourning the casualties overall is more important than it was for the Allies to win.

    I think there’s a significant difference in accurately calling someone out on their BS than the slew of vile, profane, and untrue insults he responded with:

    1.) He calls me a “Prussian asshole” (code for “Nazi”).
    2.) He refers to me as someone who shouldn’t “gain special status in understanding history because you obeyed orders during a military catastrophe” (alluding that I’m a “Nazi only following orders”). Let’s not leave out his false claim that my armchair general statement was somehow an appeal to authority – as though I was in a position of leadership in WW2 or that my military experience makes me better qualified to judge (something he infers but which obviously never occurred.)
    3. And finally alludes to me as less than “a complete human being” (basically as a “subhuman Nazi” by his reckoning).

    All because I realize that fighting and winning wars requires bloody singlemindedness that polite society would consider horrifying, and for accurately describing what he was doing. Apparently, I’m less of a human being because I don’t fault WW2-era leaders for making decisions that were certainly a “necessary evil” – even if guys like joe consider them “evil.” “Necessary evil” is a perfect description of even the most justifiable war, and the fact that it’s necessary doesn’t make war any less evil.

    When joe starts whinging on about the overall casualties from all sides, as though his faux-angst makes him a better (more “complete”) person, it makes him an armchair general by revealing him as the sort of person who not only shows a profound lack of understanding of the realities of WW2, but of human warfare throughout history.

    Like I said, my real problem is with people who (like joe) delusionally believe that wars can be fought without killing noncombatants (or that victory can be achieved with a minimum of noncombatant deaths). The reality of war is that there’s simply no way to avoid such horrors, and history bears this out repeatedly.

    The self-delusional belief of those such as joe dramatically demonstrates that people who hold to that belief have never really contemplated the true nature of war – most likely because they’ve never actually seen it. (There are guys like Howard Zinn who actually committed the horrifying actions required by war who don’t fully understand it.)
    Armchair generals often fail to realize that the war is naturally the worst part of humanity and that war is ALWAYS worst on civilian populations – because the only route to victory is to kill all of your enemies (civilian and military alike) or force those you haven’t killed to surrender. That includes guys like Howard Zinn, who dropped bombs while never contemplating their real effects and now whinges on in order to salve his conscience instead of facing up to the reality that he callously killed people and yet still can’t make the next step to comprehension that this is a tragic but also inescapable element of war – including the most justifiable of wars.

    War is either you or your enemy horribly dead and the survivors often horrifyingly physically ruined. It’s the ultimate zero-sum situation, and anyone who worries as much about what the enemy lost as they do about their own losses are probably doing so from a position of complete safety (say 60 years into the future and using hindsight that keeps them nearly-blind to the horrendous realities of war). That’s what an armchair general does – and that’s why joe is one.

    FWIW, joe is on record as a big cheerleader for the war in Afghanistan – he feels it to be just and proper (though he second-guesses how it has been carried out). I’m curious? How does he salve his conscience about supporting a conflict that has killed numerous civilian, noncombatant Afghans? His tune changes considerably when war is being conducted against people he perceives as an actual threat, even if that threat will never actually come to his door and he’ll never have to fight it himself. (joe’s quick to call other people bedwetters for exactly the same sort of support of the Iraq war and support for the PATRIOT Act – a guy who calls other people “bedwetters” and “chickenhawks” should have a thicker skin when someone accurately refers to him as an “armchair general”).

    War is atrocity. Complaining about atrocities of war is like complaining that fire burns – it’s delusional to think you can have one without the other and its sad that so many people try to salve their consciences with such nonsense rather than simply face the reality. Facing that reality might prevent a lot of the horrors of war, too bad so few have the courage to do it.

  137. Disgusting rationalization for mass murder and terrorism

  138. Mass murder civilians to achieve your goals.
    This is, by the way, what bin Laden did.

  139. a controversial decision,which following by so many love and hate.i just think everything have two side,the positive and negative ,the good and evil.so we can not only justify by one facet, have to consider the others’ interest.

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