Saturday, August 06, 2005

Today is Hiroshima Day

Today we commemorate the "just" bombing of civilians because - hey - it was for the greater good, you know? (Well, greater good for the Allies at any rate. But if you wanted to see an Imperial Japan stretching over the whole of Southern Asia, it was a bit of a pisser really.)

Sixty years ago this morning thousands of people were obliterated in less than a second. By the end of 1945 140,000 were dead out of a population of 350,000 - and thousands more died of radiation sickness over the following years. The official figure now stands at 242,437. From one bomb. Makes the Iraq death toll look like nothing. And in three days time we'll remember Nagasaki, nuked basically for the hell of it, as Japan was already in negotiations for surrender.

These days, of course, the Japanese would probably be called quislings and be accused of giving in to terror. But hey, that's probably moral equivalence or something, right? Because - you know - killing loads of innocent civilians to achieve your own political ends and defeat an ideology to which you are opposed, that's NOTHING like what our terrorist chums are doing, is it?

Hardly an original thought, and likely to piss off a few people to boot, but I'm genuinely finding it very, very hard to see the difference. Can someone explain why it's not simply because we did it to someone else and we won that Hirosima and Nagasaki are OK? If it's a means to an end and to prevent greater loss of life through invasion, wouldn't the same be said of the London terror attacks by an Islamic government if the Caliphate is established here, and of 9/11 if they managed to take over America? Wouldn't they then be able to point to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and say "hey - we managed to do it with far less loss of life"?

How many deaths does it take before it becomes unacceptable?

Either way, you'd have thought the US could have spared SOMEONE to go to the ceremony.

Wikipedia has a good page on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Anonymous -ronnie in new orleans- said...


Go back to the bar.

Defending moral equivalence between the Allies in WWII and the terrorists of today puts you in the Michael Moore/ George Galloway club.

And where did you get the idea that Japan was going to surrender after Hiroshima. They damned near didn't surrender after Nagasaki, and wouldn't have if a last minute coup to isolate the Emperor had worked. Don't let historical fact bugger up your fantasies.

Do you really need the differences explained? Get a grip. I had two Uncles on islands in the Pacific waiting for the invasion and my father's unit was about to be transferred from the ETO to the Pacific also. After Iwo and Okinawa, and Saipan, and Guam, and Tinian, and the Phillipines do you think that the invasion of Japan was going to be some sort of social experiment. There were enormous casualties amoung the Phillipinos during that invasion, and they were friendlies. What do you think would have happened to the Japanese.

Right now Japan has recovered from the darkest period of their history to become one of the leading nations of the modern world. For all of this they are the only Axis country which refuses to acknowledge the horrors they created during the war, and they use the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to portray themselves as victims of aggression. The Chinese in particular have a different view.

As has been often stated, if Harry Truman had not used the bomb, invaded Japan and sustained the losses on both sides that were anticipated he'd have been impeached.

But I'm sure you know better.

8/06/2005 02:20:00 pm  
Blogger Devil's Kitchen said...

Yum yum, a good start! I understand where you are coming from, Nosemonkey, and I'll just throw these tid bits at you for your consideration, although I do bear in mind that old saying about history being written by the winners.

Firstly, Nosemonkey, you have to understand the legal implications. Proper war, as in WWII, or the Falklands or the Gulf Wars, is a legally sanctioned thing. There are legal rules of war; you can find more information here. Amongst the regulations for conducting a war are these:

It is a violation of the laws of war to engage in combat without meeting certain requirements, among them the wearing of a distinctive uniform or other easily identifiable badge and the carrying of weapons openly. Impersonating soldiers of the other side by wearing the enemy's uniform and fighting in that uniform, is forbidden, as is the taking of hostages.

Thus, the terrorists break all of these rules. This is also why "Irish Republican Army is a misnomer. Terrorists are not bound by the rules of law. Further laws include:

That wars should be limited to achieving the political goals that started the war (e.g., territorial control) and should not include unnecessary destruction.

That wars should be brought to an end as quickly as possible.

That people and property that do not contribute to the war effort be protected against unnecessary destruction and hardship.

Now, you've already pointed to the Wikipedia article, but you don't seem to have read all of it. So, here are a few salient points. Firstly, Hiroshima.

At the time of its bombing, Hiroshima was a city of considerable military significance. It contained the headquarters of the Fifth Division and Field Marshal Hata's 2nd General Army Headquarters, which commanded the defense of all of southern Japan. The city was a communications center, a storage point, and an assembly area for troops.


The city was mobilized for "all-out" war, with thousands of conscripted women, children and Koreans working in military offices, military factories and building demolition and with women and children training to resist any invading force.

Now Nagasaki.

The city of Nagasaki had been one of the largest sea ports in southern Japan and was of great wartime importance because of its wide-ranging industrial activity, including the production of ordnance, ships, military equipment, and other war materials.

Some other points to note:

The population of Hiroshima had reached a peak of over 380,000 earlier in the war but prior to the atomic bombing the population had steadily decreased because of a systematic evacuation ordered by the Japanese government. At the time of the attack the population was approximately 255,000. This figure is based on the registered population, used by the Japanese in computing ration quantities, and the estimates of additional workers and troops who were brought into the city may not be highly accurate.

The majority of people in Hiroshima were those involved in the Japanese war effort. There were active in producing, managing and Assembling weaponry and troops that were being used to kill the Allied forces.

On August 1, 1945, however, a number of high-explosive bombs were dropped on [Nagasaki]. A few of these bombs hit in the shipyards and dock areas in the southwest portion of the city. Several of the bombs hit the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works and six bombs landed at the Nagasaki Medical School and Hospital, with three direct hits on buildings there. While the damage from these few bombs were relatively small, it created considerable concern in Nagasaki and a number of people - principally school children - were evacuated to rural areas for safety, thus reducing the population in the city at the time of the nuclear attack.

So, again, Nagasaki was populated, in the main, by those working on the Japanese war effort and thus they were legitimate targets under this law:

That people and property that do not contribute to the war effort be protected against unnecessary destruction and hardship.

The decision to bomb the cities, since the Japanese military refused to allow the Emperor to publically surrender (the only thing that would have stopped the Japanese troops fighting) even though he offered to even before the Hiroshima bombing, was taken under this law:

That wars should be brought to an end as quickly as possible.

As I have blogged, legal war can only be carried out between two legal entities (i.e. legal states), which neither AQ nor "the Muslim world" are. Amongst other things, the objectives of AQ's "war" against us have not been defined, and thus violate this law:

That wars should be limited to achieving the political goals that started the war (e.g., territorial control) and should not include unnecessary destruction.

So, in establishing the legitimacy of the bombings, and the illegitimacy of the terrorists, we have already gone some way to answering your question.

ronnie in new orleans has essentially stated the numbers argument. he also points out that the Japanese command (of whom the Emperor was essentially a puppet) were still slow to offer their unconditional surrender. Hiroshima was bombed on the 6th, Nagasaki on the 9th: the formal surrender was not handed over until the 15th (my birthday, yay!).

Morally, there is, of course, no difference between the H&N bombings and the London Blitz or, indeed, the Dresden "firestorm". You could say that all of these are wrong, but that would be a slightly liberalistic, modernist approach and would fail to take in the many other circumstances that influenced decisions at the time.

On a side note, and not used in justification (since that would be rather playground, wouldn't it), you might want to look up the Japanese definition of morality: the Nanking Massacre. I particularly recommend Iris Chang's book on the subject. It also throws a Nazi, who saved many Chinese and repeatedly wrote to Hitler urging him to end the massacre, in a good light...

8/06/2005 04:11:00 pm  
Blogger sean said...

Oh fer fuck's sake. Nosemonkey, after your sterling and excellent efforts liveblogging the bombs (and I remain a big admirer of what you did then), you have now written several posts that are either ludicrous, naff, jejune, or just plain stupid.
This one takes the biscuit. Are you so mired in that left-liberal, multicultural, moral equivalence bullshit that you can't see the error in your views?
We were the good guys. The liberal democracies. The lands of freedom. Japan was a fascist dictatorship bent on taking over the Pacific.
For proof, look what happened at the end of the war. America took over Japan, reorganised it, rebuilt it, and then handed it back to the Japanese people.
Can't quite see imperial Japan of the 40s doing that with any of its colonies, can you?
One can argue over the precise morality of the H bombs, how many lives they saved - both Japanese and Allied - in obviating a terrible invasion of the Japanese homeland, but your post just sails right through that serious question, out into the Sea of Crass Stupidity.
I'm starting to think you're just posting these remarks cause you can't think of anything else to say. And you haven't got time to think them through. The alternative is even worse.
Get back to the bombs, or back to the EU, or.. just blog about your blooming goldfish.
Either way - think before you post.

8/06/2005 04:32:00 pm  
Anonymous Colman said...

You know, I can't work out if Sean is writing parody or not.

Personally, I sympathise will Nosemonkey's view. It was a terrible, terrible thing to do and the necessity is pretty debatable looking back.

Did they know that at the time? I don't know. To pretend that anyone who destroyed a city and killed tens of thousands of people can possibly be the "good guys" is bollocks. I'm just not sure they're the bad guys either. It was a war.

8/06/2005 05:05:00 pm  
Blogger janinsanfran said...

Even over here in the States it is possible to argue, persuasively, that dropping the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs was unneccesary. Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin write persuasively in the LA Times that "The hard truth is that the atomic bombings were unnecessary. A million lives were not saved. Indeed, McGeorge Bundy, the man who first popularized this figure, later confessed that he had pulled it out of thin air in order to justify the bombings in a 1947 Harper's magazine essay he had ghostwritten for Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson."

The parallel to contemporary US government conduct, making up "facts" to win political points, is awful to contemplate.

8/06/2005 06:27:00 pm  
Blogger sean said...

Colman, and the other guy, the invasion of Okinawa was seen as a precursor to the expected invasion of Japan.
It cost many thousands of lives. The invasion of Japan would have been incalculably..
Oh fuck it. I can't be arsed. People as mind-numbingly self-regarding and morally pantyhose-wearing as yourselves don't deserve a proper rebuttal.
Read more.

8/06/2005 06:46:00 pm  
Anonymous -ronnie in new orleans- said...

Here's a suggestion for Nosey and Janinsanfran...

There are numerous veterans groups for WWII that hold yearly meetings to keep in touch and honor the departed. I'm sure there would be some meeting annually in San Fran and London. Take the opportunity to find one of these, preferably of combat vets who were Japaneses POW's, and use this opportunity to inform these warmongering bastards that they are morally equivalent to the Japanese.

Nosey... the British have had many men captured in Singapore that the Japanese tried to retrain as bridge and road builders in Burma. I'm sure they appreciated the new skills. US troops captured at Bataan might be a good target for you Nan.

You could add that any relief and happiness at being spared due to the dropping of the atomic bombs shows them to be the inhuman monsters that they are. Make sure you add that this opinion comes as an intellectual and moral determination by a far more enlightened and realistic generation than theirs.

Try to find a meeting held in a nursing home, since if any of the old codgers are ambulatory you might be in trouble.


The idea that the Japanese were going to surrender as a result of knowing we had the bomb is pure bullshit. There was a serious attempt to grab the Emperor to prevent him from making the surrender speech even after the second bomb. People who believe this crap are just useless to talk to. They just emote and regurgitate the pop and easy answer of the group they run with, and that does not necessarily mean liberal. Just historically ignorant.

8/06/2005 11:23:00 pm  
Blogger 1911Tactical said...

As commented on previously, I read your posts in the wake of the 7/7 bombings with interest, but don't understand where you are coming from with this post. Did you forget that the US was pulled into WWII because of a gutless sneak attack by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor?

War is a horrible thing, but when you go to war, go all out. Massive overwhelming force with all of the weapons that you can bring to bear on the enemy. Do you think the Japanese or the Germans would have refrained from using "the bomb" if they had the opportunity? Germany came close to developing the weapon, but the US beat them to it. The Japanese were not on the verge of giving up, and an invasion of the islands would have brought massive casualties to both sides. I'm glad Truman had the stones to make the right decision. God knows the weakass leaders we have today would not have the nerve.

For what it's worth, IMHO the biggest probelm with our current situation in Iraq is the "PC" mentality that we are applying to its conduct. Bring all of your weapons to bear, and minimize the casualties on your side.

To paraphrase Gen. Patton, the objective is not for you to die for your country, but to have the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.

8/07/2005 12:02:00 am  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

Hmmm... Somewhat disappointed by these responses, it must be said. Most seem to have missed the point, and no one seems to have answered the "how many deaths does it take before it becomes unacceptable?" question. All there's been - bar DK's first post - is rehashes of the usual justifications of those bombings.

I understand these justifications. I really do. And I know full well that this post was simplistic: it was intended as a devil's advocate type thing. But no one has yet provided a real reason why the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were substantively different from the terrorists' attacks we've suffered. We felt that the Japanese regime was not good (although it was not fascist, or a dictatorship - as I don't know who said - it was an absolutist monarchy, which is subtly different); the terrorists feel our regime is not good. What makes our actions against people we disagree with OK, but the actions of those who disagree with us against us not OK?

And again, to make it very clear, I am playing devil's advocate. Oh, and drunk.

8/07/2005 12:36:00 am  
Blogger sean said...

I still don't understand what's the problem. When you say you've been drinking, what was it, absinthe?
I shall try and spell it out for you nice & easy.
WE ARE THE GOOD GUYS. We wear the WHITE HATS. We fight for freedom and stuff like that. We are the heirs, however flawed, to Athenian Democracy, Roman Law, Magna Carta, The Putney Debates, the Rights of Man, the Enlightenment and the Gettysburg Address.
We are the WEST. The nice ones. You know?
Other political systems, like Nazism, Fascism, Stalinism, Maoism, and Japanese Shinto-Militarism, are inferior. That is one of the reasons why we fight them, why we try to stop them taking over the world.
Islamism, with its stoning of gays, slaughter of apostates, its subjugation of women, its female genital mutliation, its intellectual aridity, its scientific backwardness, its artistic deadliness, its economic anomie, and its general medievalism, is most definitely inferior to our political system (however flawed our system may be).
You following this?
OK. So given that you now accept that NOT ALL POLITICAL SYSTEMS ARE EQUALLY VALID, that the WEST IS SUPERIOR to many others if not ALL that have been so far invented, it therefore means that our military endeavours, even atom bombs, have no moral equivalence to the acts of Nazis, Fascists, Japanese Imperialists, or Medieval Islamists. Particularly when they start the fucking wars in the first place.

Lesson over. That will be five pounds.

8/07/2005 01:22:00 am  
Anonymous -ronnie in new orleans- said...

Well Nosey.... evidently you took my advice and went back to the bar.

Sean is essentially right; can't disagree with him. No awards for tact though, and he charges. This will be free, and the recollection of history learned in grammar school helps to ward off Alzheimer's (I'm quite a bit older than you old boy). So here goes.

So what are the differences.

"- it was an absolutist monarchy, which is subtly different"

Wrong Nosey.

Tsar Nicolas was an absolutist monarch in Russia. Louis XIV was an absolutist monarch in France. Hirohito wasn't a king, he was God. You know.. that guy you don't like. Well in Japan he was it; the whole enchilada. He was a divinity that could not even be viewed by his subjects for fear of eh.. I dunno, but you just didn't do it. The first time the Japanese ever heard his divine voice was his radio broadcast speech announcing Japan's surrender. The second time was when he announced he wasn't divine. I wouldn't represent that as a "subtle difference." The Shinto religion had been force fed to the population and replaced Buddhism throughout Japan because it was favored by the ruling militarist elite. You see Japan was an intensely regimented and racist nation, and Shinto was uniquely Japanese. It was the basis of Hirohito's divinity. He was descended from the Sun. Don't ask me how but he was. Like those 72 virgins some things have to be taken on faith. This would seem to make him a relative of Louis XIV, though his direct descent made him obviously superior to the Frenchman. Louis wasn't God you see. Understand that the big red circle on the flag represents Hirohito's family tree. It was not, as many of your generation think, a meatball in deference to the alliance with Italy.

Taking this side doesn't make you a devil's advocate Nosey, it makes you the spokesman of God. The religious right welcomes you.

"the terrorists feel our regime is not good"

The US and Britain, and most of the rest of the world, really didn't give a damn about the Japanese regime. Japan was actually viewed as a rather plucky and progressive nation for a period after WWI. As long as Hirohito was only God in Japan the rest of the world was OK with it. But why be satisfied with just Japan when you have God on your side, or living down the street, communing with the Sun.

And since all other races are essentially inferior, why should they have the land and resources that Japan lacked. This is where things went sort of wrong. Evidently Hirohito was one of those limited Gods, like the Greek gods though he sure didn't look like one. He couldn't just produce it for them. He could use the God given army and navy though, and suffused with Shintoism and the Bushido code they could seize it from others, particularly China.

After that the meatball just rolled downhill, from Korea, to Manchuris, to China itself, to the rape of Nanking, etc. Got to give it to them though, they didn't do the killing from 20,000 feet. They did it up close and personal; with bayonets, Samurai swords, rifles, pistols, and penises. Don't have time to explain, just Google "Rape of Nanking." Some think it was worse than Abu Gharaib.

Over 2 million troops were sent into China, not to prevent aggression against Japan, defend free trade, or reform the economic system. It was a vicious and racist assault on not just the territory of China but on the people themselves. It seemed a good way to get about half a billion slaves, to serve God of course.

So after Pearl Harbor, Singapore, and the Phillipines the US and UK decided the Japanese regime was not good. How did we come to that conclusion? Let me guess. Racism?

White bastards!

"What makes our actions against people we disagree with OK, but the actions of those who disagree with us against us not OK?" and "how many deaths does it take before it becomes unacceptable?"

I've never realized that WWII was a simple disagreement. Looking at it in a really modern, multiculti, caring way I guess I can see where you're coming from Nosey. I'll have to do a refresher for my sensitivity training. Where's my Starbuck's card?

With my older Neandertal attitudes I always viewed it as a life or death struggle of nations, one group on the side of greater freedom and self determination, aside from self preservation, opposing two xenophobic, racist, dogmatic militarist nations, with poor Italy foolishly getting in over their heads.

Germany was utterly destroyed before they surrendered. No nuclear option was needed. Okinawa had been a preview of the invasion of Japan. Even the civilian population had killed themselves in large numbers. Not as many as on Saipan, but significant. You could hardly expect it to be different on the mainland. where utter desperation would take hold. So how many Japanese deaths to avoid invasion?

Answer: As many as it takes. As often as it takes.

Japan had to be not only defeated, but defeated utterly. Beaten and kicked, so there was no chance of an explainable peace or limited treaty of accommodation, which is what they hoped to gain from producing a bloodbath of an invasion. Japan would survive as it was. That was not acceptable, a repeat of the failed policies of Versailles. The defeat was so total that the military was discredited. They could keep the Mikado, the symbol of national identity, but Hirohito was obviously not God, and Japan was thrown on the mercy of the Allies. A better result from this could hardly be hoped for. Read "Embracing Defeat" by John Dower of M.I.T. for more perspective.


We've done just fine with the Japanese since the end of the war. The same cannot be said for China. The Japanese so repudiated the war and the militarism that caused it that they have purged it from their history, even from their schoolbooks. It was a favorite topic of Steven Ambrose, who taught history here at UNO, that unlike the Germans, the Japanese have never faced up to the bestiality their forces displayed during the war. Due to the raging, Ebola like qualities of GWMS (guilty white man syndrome) they have been allowed to use Hiroshima and Nagasaki to establish a version of history where they are among the victims of WWII. There are those in the West dim-witted and ignorant enough to believe this. The Chinese won't, and this will be a continuing and ever larger problem for Japan, and one they will eventually be forced to resolve. It is probably because the tens of million that died in China did not get the press and attention given to the Nazi genocide of the Jews and Slavs. You want racism? That's racism.

8/07/2005 03:46:00 am  
Anonymous Paul Davies said...

I wish I was educated in America ;)

You must've known this was coming NM, if you wanted some fun responses, you should've just posted something up about the fact that we're about to level the Ashes :)

8/07/2005 09:24:00 am  
Blogger Quinn said...

Sean, you seem to be suggesting that, because we are "the good guys", we therefore have carte blanche to do what the fuck we like. Have I misunderstood you?

The problem as I see it with people arguing that our acts have no moral equivalence with the acts of fascists and despots is that it can be used to excuse and justify the dark chapters in our own chequered history.

8/07/2005 10:04:00 am  
Blogger sean said...

Me? Tactless? Cuh?!
I stand by every word I said, though it is true that I had had a bottle of (very nice) Rioja just before I wrote it.
Perhaps charging £5 was a bit out of order. £3 maybe.
I agree with most of what Ronnie says, even if he was a bit too tactful. But I take issue with his remarks about Japan.
I lived in Japan for a few months in the 90s. There I met loads of Japanese people. Being of an (evidently!) argumentative nature I got into lots of debates with them about the war and stuff - and I have to say I didn't meet a single one, not a single Japanese person, who didn't have a regretful and sober attitude to the war. They were the most pacifist people I have ever met, and this was precisely because of the way they had been educated about their own actions in the war. Far from being students in victimology, the Japanese have it drummed into them at school that imperial aggression is bad, that militarism is a sin, that their country should learn from its mistakes.
And one of the reasons for this is/was... Hiroshima. If ever there was a comeuppance, that was it. The H bombs made Japan think about itself, and hard. So Ronnie i think you are being unfair on the Japs. There may be a few mad rightwing nutters, but the vast majority of them are bright thoughtful people, incredibly polite and hospitable, who are well aware of the price of war, and the moral disgrace of their country's defeat.
As for the argument that my stance gives the West carte blanche, far from it. I just resent NM's strange and disturbing desire to see an equivalence between our difficult military decisions, and the nihilism of hateful Islamists.
Good morning!

8/07/2005 11:01:00 am  
Anonymous Mike Cunningham said...

So, Nosey,

Still happy that you were doing the Devil's Advocate bit? Even if under the influence of a dubious bottle of fermented grape juice? Stick to English wine, you'll never drink enough of the crap to aneasthetize your little finger!

On the subject of the 'bomb', as I wrote myself, Truman chose well, and the world is a better place for his decision!, and your other readers comments, which in the main were expansions of my statement, demonstrate that my old friend, who fought against the Japanese, and suffered along with thousands of others was right in his forthright view:- "Never forgive, Never forget!"

8/07/2005 11:54:00 am  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...


Despite the simplicity I am, believe it or not, fully aware of the complexities of the war. (Can't say I'd read discredited plagiarist Stephen Ambrose to find out about it, but some of his earlier stuff was alright, I suppose.)

Alternate takes on whether Hiroshima was necessary to ensure a swift defeat can be found all over the shop, by the by, and it does remain disputed whether or not Japan would have surrendered without dropping the two bombs. I also remember reading somewhere (years ago, can't remember where) that Japan had entered informal negotiations to surrender on August 8th - the day before Nagasaki - prompted in part by the USSR declaring war on them. Which, if true, would make Nagasaki considerably less justifiable, I reckon.

I also, believe it or not, am fully aware of the difference between western democracy and fascism. Don't assume that a simplistic post means a simplistic knowledge. (And Ronnie, dearest, lay off the patronising bullshit - my next door neighbour's quite a bit older than me, but as he's got Alzheimers I'm pretty certain his age is not an indication that he knows more.)

The question is not about the relative moral worth of the people using the tactics - it's about the tactics themselves, an end/means thing. If you can categorically state that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were both vital to end the war, you are rather more certain than the Allied leadership was. And I consider Dresden and Coventry, the Blitz and the firebombing of Tokyo similarly horrific. Such total war tactics are, you must surely admit, fucking unpleasant no matter who's using them.

I know the arguments for bombing civilians (here, for example). I know that many claim that they worked - both against Germany and against Japan. But I fail to see why the fact that they worked makes it OK to use this kind of approach. Surely by the same logic it would make Mengele's experiments OK because of the medical knowledge we gained out of his tortures?

So, what I'm asking is for a justification of the tactic of killing civilians which doesn't bring in "it's OK because we're a democracy and morally superior" arguments. Because all those are merely subjective - our enemies would doubtless think that they are morally superior to us, thus justifying their killing of our civilians.

What my opinions are on the moral worth of either side matter not for shit - this is a rhetorical thing. The only thing is, once you start killing innocent civilians I'm not sure anyone has the right to claim moral superiority any more.

8/07/2005 12:33:00 pm  
Blogger Devil's Kitchen said...

NM, I thought that I had, at least attempted to, address this. They were civilians, in that they were not in army uniform.

However, they were civilians who were working, in industrial cities, to support their army, who was at war (with a number of nations) and could therefore be justified as military targets. We, and they, were at war (a war that caused the deaths of something like 60 million people; 243,000 is a drop in the ocean).

The people on the London Underground were not working directly to support an army on a war footing. There is no official war; there cannot be because AQ is not a legal entity. Neither is the "Muslim world".

8/07/2005 04:02:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People keep mentioning the Japanese surrender initiatives.

Strangely the following doesn't get mentioned - it was Japanese civilians doing the asking. The Allies were well aware that it was the military who were running Japan at this point. One is reminded of the Geramn peace offers which were being made for 1938 all the way until the Russians made it to the bunker in Berlin.....

The terms of surrender were interesting to - they seemed to think that the status quo as of 1941 was something they coud get. No appology for Pearl Harbour et al, of course. And they could keep on conquering China & keep Korea as their pet slave state....

The proposal they made to the Russians was interesting - protect us from the Americans and we'll join in an attack on them in a few years!

The Russians had to take Berlin house by house. Is anyone here saying that the Tojoite Japanse militaristic loons were more rational than the Nazis?

8/07/2005 05:49:00 pm  
Anonymous -ronnie in new orleans- said...

Me!! Patronizing? Maybe. Bullshit. No. What I said is true.

Anonymous answered your question again, Nosey.

How's about hearing from a rational Japanese.

Wnen I have time I will try to explain better what I mean about the inability to take responsibility. Especially regarding China. We have no essential disagreement.

Oh... Steven Ambrose does not need any defense I can make for his integrity.

8/07/2005 10:04:00 pm  
Anonymous soru said...

_so, what I'm asking is for a justification of the tactic of killing civilians which doesn't bring in "it's OK because we're a democracy and morally superior" arguments._

The short answer is that in isolation, out of context, they are not so very different. The difference between the west and the non-west is certainly not that individuals in the west are personally morally superior to non-westerners.

However, morality and ethics is about choice, and on the standard version of the facts (revisionists will disagree), the choice made was certainly defensible when compared to the alternatives. Ultimately, nobody can really point to a comparable situation and say 'that way of dealng with it was clearly better'.

When you look at the successes achieved by non-violent political campaigns, that's not true for almost all terrorists,

If you want to free your people, Mandela is a better role model than Arafat, Martin Luther King than the IRA council.

If you want to make your nation great, China or France are better role models than Saddam.

If you want to promote your religion, then Billy Graham is a better role model than Osama bin Laden.

Terrrorism is rather like rape - while not actually in absolute terms any worse than other comparable things, it just happens to be the case that there is no plausible scenario where it could be a justifiable choice. So if you know someone is a rapist, you know they are a bad person, not just one caught in unfortunate circumstances.


8/07/2005 10:34:00 pm  
Anonymous Mike Power said...

How about a little something from the horse's mouth? Robert McNamara:

'LeMay* said, "If we'd lost the war, we'd all have been prosecuted as war criminals." And I think he's right. He—and, I'd say, I—were behaving as war criminals. LeMay recognized that what he was doing would be thought immoral if his side had lost. But what makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?'

And a few who opposed the bombing:

Dwight Eisenhower; Admiral William D. Leahy (Chief of Staff to Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman); Herbert Hoover; General Douglas MacArthur; Joseph Grew (Under Sec. of State); John McLoy (Assistant Sec. of War); Ralph Bard (Under Sec. of the Navy); Lewis Strauss (Special Assistant to the Sec. of the Navy); Paul Nitze (Vice Chairman, U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey); Albert Einstein; Leo Szilard (The first scientist to conceive of how an atomic bomb might be made - 1933); Ellis Zacharias (Deputy Director of the Office of Naval Intelligence); General Carl "Tooey" Spaatz (In charge of Air Force operations in the Pacific); Brigadier General Carter Clarke (The military intelligence officer in charge of preparing intercepted Japanese cables - the MAGIC summaries - for Truman and his advisors)

8/07/2005 11:24:00 pm  
Anonymous -ronnie in new orleans- said...

OK Mike...

Such original news...

Maybe "Something from the horse's ass" would be more appropriate regarding McNamara. We all know his strategic credentials.

Here's Hanson with some perspective.

"Later generals Hap Arnold, Dwight Eisenhower, Curtis LeMay, Douglas Macarthur, and Admirals William Leahy and William Halsey all reportedly felt the bomb was unnecessary, being either militarily redundant or unnecessarily punitive to an essentially defeated populace.

Yet such opponents of the decision shied away from providing a rough estimate of how many more would have died in the aggregate — Americans, British, Australians, Asians, Japanese, and Russians — through conventional bombing, continuous fighting in the Pacific, amphibious invasion of the mainland, or the ongoing onslaught of the Red Army had the conflict not come to an abrupt halt nine days later and only after a second nuclear drop on Nagasaki."

and of course

"These are the debates that matured in the relative peace of the postwar era. But in August 1945 most Americans had a much different take on Hiroshima, a decision that cannot be fathomed without appreciation of the recently concluded Okinawa campaign (April 1-July 2) that had cost 50,000 American casualties and 200,000 Japanese and Okinawa dead. Okinawa saw the worst losses in the history of the U.S. Navy. Over 300 ships were damaged, more than 30 sunk, as about 5,000 sailors perished under a barrage of some 2,000 Kamikaze attacks."

"And it was believed at least 10,000 more suicide planes were waiting on Kyushu and Honshu. Those who were asked to continue such fighting on the Japanese mainland — as we learn from the memoirs of Paul Fussell, William Manchester, and E. B. Sledge — were relieved at the idea of encountering a shell-shocked defeated enemy rather than a defiant Japanese nation in arms."

I was born in '46 and the raw reality of the war was still felt in my younger years. Nobody I knew as I grew up, and my experiences here do not include Generals, Admirals, and career diplomats, but did include a lot of soldiers, sailors, and marines, had any question that Truman made the right choice. They were the ones who would have suffered from the other option, not guys sitting on their butts in map rooms or worrying what to write in their memoirs. Think you might have had a different feeling if your rear was on one of the amphibs in Ulithi?

Read the whole article. Many of your other points are dealt with also.

It's easy to kibbitz from a range of 50 years, especially when you have nothing at risk.

8/08/2005 12:09:00 am  
Anonymous -ronnie in new orleans- said...

The link above is broken.

Here is the correction.

Read the whole article. Many of your other points are dealt with also.


8/08/2005 12:49:00 am  
Anonymous Mike Power said...


McNamara's credentials are irrelevant here, unless you believe he is lying about what LeMay said. I made two statements of fact intended to show clearly (if unoriginally) what some of those at the time thought of the bombing. The fact that many others took a different view is not challenged and goes without saying (obvious, really as the bombs were indeed dropped)

You choose to quote a piece supporting your views (again, fair enough) but you call it 'perspective' when it is no more than a particular point of view.
(BTW: The use of the word perspective in my blog post refers to the events in Japan as compared the recent events in London)

In terms of the war with Japan, I do not believe that Hiroshima and Nagasaki present particular moral questions. When LeMay referred to being thought of as a 'war criminal' he was talking largely about the massive fire-bombing carried out on Japanese cities
which would have continued in the absence of the bombs, with just as many or even more casualties.

The question as whether dropping the bombs was stategically necessary is debatable, and this is part of that debate. You make your position clear, as do others with opposing views.

Reiteration doesn't make you, or anyone else, right.

Not an original thought, I know, but there you go.

8/08/2005 10:26:00 am  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

Soru - cheers. Much more the sort of thing I was after.

Other buggers: there's a good, if naturally simplistic, article on the decisions over the bombings from Der Spiegel here.

8/08/2005 12:27:00 pm  
Blogger The Pedant-General in Ordinary said...


To follow on from Soru and others, there is one absolutely crucial difference between leaders of states (possibly even fascist ones) and random loons of the AQ persuasion.

It is this: states are not moral in the same way as individuals. They are required to act according to law, but a state is not an individual and therefore has no individual morality.

In this context, consider the following example:
A nutcase hijacks an airliner. Post 9/11 the assumption is no longer that he wants to negotiate and has demands that could be met. The assumption is that the hijacked airliner will be used as a weapon to cause further death on the ground. Hence, international law now permits that airliner to be shot down, if the airliner does not follow the (new) course required by air traffic control.

The PM or whoever it is that gives the order acts on behalf of the state when he gives the order to shoot down the airliner. He does so in the knowledge that 1) those on board were going to die 2) fewer will die if he does than if he does not and 3) it is the hijacker that condemned the passengers to death - it is the hijacker that is the primary cause.

Are the lives of the people on board worth less than those on the ground? Not at all. But that is not the calculation being made.

Equally - and vitally - the PM has a legal - and probably even a moral - legitimacy which terrorists do not. You or I could not shoot down the airliner. I will go further: the PM probably does have a MORAL OBLIGATION to order the the airliner to be shoot down. This is because he is faced with the choice between 100 people dying (the passengers and crew) on the hand, or 100 + lots more (the people on the ground). The "neither of the above/Thou shalt not kill" option simply does not exist.

In this context, it is clear that one simply cannot make acomparison between terrorists (who are individuals formed into a group) and the actions of a properly constituted state (especially when the debate concerns the actions of two properly constituted states which are at war with one another).

So, to answer your question "How many deaths does it take before it becomes unacceptable?", we can get to some form of answer: if the view was the 1 million would die if the allies required to mount an invasion of mainland Japan, then that gives you - IN THIS EXCLUSIVE CONTEXT OF TWO PROPERLY CONSTITUTED/RECOGNISED STATES ENGAGED IN WAR - a pretty clear absolute maximum upper limit. Clearly the greater the degree of uncertainty (either in the numbers that would be likely to die from the invasion or from the numbers you would have to kill in order to secure the unconditional surrender) the more caution you have to employ.

But on the "moral equivalence" argument you are still way, way, way off. There is no equivalence between the actions of terrorists and those of states engaged in war.

"If it's a means to an end and to prevent greater loss of life through invasion, wouldn't the same be said of the London terror attacks by an Islamic government if the Caliphate is established here, and of 9/11 if they managed to take over America?"

This is where your "all lives are equal" stance falls down. We can all agree that this is true. But it is not the essence of the argument. The difference is that we REALLY DO believe that "all lives are equal". The terrorists don't.

Or to put it another way, when a President or a PM wages war, his calculation is "how to stop or minimise the killing". The terrorist is the total opposite: his calculation is how to MAXIMISE the killing. That, I suggest, makes us better and more moral than them in absolute and undeniable terms.

Toodle Pip!

8/08/2005 01:27:00 pm  

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