Hiroshima re-enacted with CGI
December 26, 2006 7:11 AM   Subscribe

Hiroshima re-enacted with CGI. Done by the BBC as part of the documentary "Hiroshima". Part 2
posted by empath (206 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when
But I'm sure we'll meet again some sunny day...

posted by slimepuppy at 7:28 AM on December 26, 2006


There are daye when I feel a great hope for humanity, and then there are days when I pray for a comet to come and smash us all.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:33 AM on December 26, 2006


Wow.
posted by The Straightener at 7:33 AM on December 26, 2006


"I'm not emotional, I didn't have the first goddamned thought. I did the job, I was so relieved it was successful that you can't understand it... Despite the number of people we klled, we saved multiple numbers over that from being killed..."

Savior and war hero Paul Tibbets, go fuck yourself.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:41 AM on December 26, 2006


War is Hell.
posted by BeerFilter at 7:45 AM on December 26, 2006


Man, I don't know what's up with me lately, but I was in tears well before Little Boy went up. Maximum kudos to the production team for truly bringing the truth of what happened on that day home - and, as always, thanks for finding and posting this.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:52 AM on December 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm rooting for that comet at the moment too, Devils Rancher. Disgusting.
posted by spitbull at 7:54 AM on December 26, 2006


Keep repeating the "we had to kill these civilians to save our boys" tale until it makes what you did seem noble.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:56 AM on December 26, 2006


This video interview with Tibbets is stunning. The little pieces of popular media they pick out make us out to be a country of Freepers.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 8:03 AM on December 26, 2006


Meatbomb: "Savior and war hero Paul Tibbets, go fuck yourself."

150,000 civilians died in the Battle of Okinawa, more than in the bombing of Hiroshima. It therefore isn't so odd to think that many more Battles of Okinawa were on the horizon if an invasion of Japan was to go through, and that lives were saved. Given the history, it's also not odd to want to end the war and remove the Japanese imperial government as soon as possible.

It may be a little hubristic, what Paul Tibbets says about dropping the bomb. It may reek of an anxiety to justify enormous actions. It might also be right.
posted by koeselitz at 8:07 AM on December 26, 2006


Rooting for a comet, huh?

Weirdos.
posted by the cuban at 8:07 AM on December 26, 2006


Personally, I find the CGI, glib voice over, stirring music, and editorial choices detract from the testimony of the survivors and witnesses. They can't (and shouldn't) depict the worst horrors the survivors describe, and shots of shocked looking survivors wandering around doesn't really cut it.

I dread the day that the BBC decides that the Holocaust could also do with the drama-doc treatment.
posted by Luddite at 8:07 AM on December 26, 2006


It was a WAR. We didn't start it, but we finished it with extraordinary efficiency.

Those of you would sit in judgement have no business doing so; you weren't there at the time. The British were just as vicious in their attacks on Germany, doing their very best to start firestorms, which were every bit as damaging as a nuclear weapon. Look up Dresden and Hamburg sometime, and try to understand the magnitude of those attacks, and just how many people died. They were just as bad as a nuke, and the British were thrilled with how destructive they were, and tried to repeat their success. If they could, they've have started a firestorm in every city in Germany.

Once you're in a war, you WIN. The way to win is by destroying the enemy's will and ability to fight. You can quiver in righteous indignation all you want, but that's how it works. They'd have done it to you if they could.
posted by Malor at 8:08 AM on December 26, 2006


This is a serious, if naive, question:

So if cigarette companies can be sued, why can't we sue the arms manufacturers? Isn't there ample evidence that they create markets, or at least make it in many politicians interest to create these markets?
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 8:09 AM on December 26, 2006


So if cigarette companies can be sued, why can't we sue the arms manufacturers?

For the consumer, either can make an ash of yourself.
posted by hal9k at 8:16 AM on December 26, 2006


.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 8:16 AM on December 26, 2006


Meatbomb - from your link to the wiki article on Paul Tibbets, I ended up at Paul's personal memorial site "theenolagay.com", which runs a permanent text link (non-google ad) advertisement across the bottom for "explosive hot sauce". Whether or not you agree with the decision to drop the bomb on Hiroshima, running an ad for explosive hot sauce on the personal memorial site seems a tad cavalier, I gotta admit.
posted by jonson at 8:20 AM on December 26, 2006


If, as the proponents of the nuclear strikes on Japan say, the bombs were meant to be demonstrative, would not they have been as effective as a demonstration if they had been dropped a few miles off the coast of Tokyo, visible to the military hierarchy of Japan, followed by an immediate promise to be actually used on land targets if there were no surrender? I can see the "quick and efficient" argument, but it could have been made without the needless slaughter of civilians, which obviates the argument, for me.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:22 AM on December 26, 2006


So if cigarette companies can be sued, why can't we sue the arms manufacturers? Isn't there ample evidence that they create markets, or at least make it in many politicians interest to create these markets?

Try taking on these guys (who have lawyers strung together like so many machine gun ammo belts).
posted by Burhanistan at 8:22 AM on December 26, 2006


Those of you would sit in judgement have no business doing so; you weren't there at the time.

So, holding or expressing an opinion on history is only for those who... were there?

The British were just as vicious

So you are at least characterizing the A-bomb attack as vicious, then, yes?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:25 AM on December 26, 2006


Burhanistan: "Keep repeating the "we had to kill these civilians to save our boys" tale until it makes what you did seem noble."

The argument, at least since Truman first made it, has been that we saved Japanese lives. (Furthermore, that we saved the lives of Japanese civilians.) As I indicated above, the evidence seems to support this position.
posted by koeselitz at 8:25 AM on December 26, 2006


The British were just as vicious in their attacks on Germany, doing their very best to start firestorms, which were every bit as damaging as a nuclear weapon. Look up Dresden and Hamburg sometime...

Ooh, thanks, I had never heard of the firebombing of Dresden before. I say "fuck you" to those British pilots, too.

What if the Man tried to start a war, and everyone said "no, thank you, I won't kill"? Sadly, there are always people like Paul Tibbets around.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:26 AM on December 26, 2006


Jude Law bombed Hiroshima?
posted by LexRockhard at 8:27 AM on December 26, 2006


The argument, at least since Truman first made it, has been that we saved Japanese lives. (Furthermore, that we saved the lives of Japanese civilians.) As I indicated above, the evidence seems to support this position.
posted by koeselitz


That's a possibility. But since we're talking about unactualized possibilities, why was there even a need to go and invade mainland Japan? They were thoroughly contained and ruined by the time the US bombers were in range of cities like Tokyo. What point is there in going to the very center of the Imperial Palace with ground troops? Pardon my naivety.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:29 AM on December 26, 2006


Meatbomb: "What if the Man tried to start a war, and everyone said "no, thank you, I won't kill"? Sadly, there are always people like Paul Tibbets around."

And like Emperor Hirohito. You're damned right; as long as those people are around, pacifism just isn't an option, unfortunately, because it means letting more people die.
posted by koeselitz at 8:29 AM on December 26, 2006


We didn't start it, but we finished it with extraordinary efficiency.

It's the use of the word "We" instead of "They" that makes it necessary to justify whatever actions were taken to win.
posted by Loudmax at 8:32 AM on December 26, 2006 [2 favorites]


The "bummer" christmas rolls on...
posted by Artw at 8:36 AM on December 26, 2006


Fascinating reading on the selection of targets:

Minutes of the second meeting of the Target Committee
Los Alamos, May 10-11, 1945


6. Status of Targets

A. Dr. Stearns described the work he had done on target selection. He has surveyed possible targets possessing the following qualification: (1) they be important targets in a large urban area of more than three miles in diameter, (2) they be capable of being damaged effectively by a blast, and (3) they are unlikely to be attacked by next August. Dr. Stearns had a list of five targets which the Air Force would be willing to reserve for our use unless unforeseen circumstances arise. These targets are . . .


read it now and get a bonus sixth target summarized!
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 8:36 AM on December 26, 2006


John Dolan reviewing Tsuyoshi Hasegawa's exhaustive research in exile.ru: The Japanese were more scared of the Russians than the bomb
posted by rogerh at 8:37 AM on December 26, 2006


But since we're talking about unactualized possibilities, why was there even a need to go and invade mainland Japan?

Well, if you hasn't done it the Russians would have. I don't really see that alternate working out too well either...
posted by Artw at 8:38 AM on December 26, 2006


I dread the day that the BBC decides that the Holocaust could also do with the drama-doc treatment.

I'd be shocked if it hasn't been done a dozen times.
posted by Artw at 8:39 AM on December 26, 2006


No matter which side of the "it saved more lives than it took" debate you come down on, it is pretty goddamned hard to watch that. The scene in part 2 of the little girl trapped as her mother stands by helpless made me lose it.
posted by AgentRocket at 8:40 AM on December 26, 2006


So if cigarette companies can be sued, why can't we sue the arms manufacturers? Isn't there ample evidence that they create markets, or at least make it in many politicians interest to create these markets?

The short answer is the so-called government contractor defense. If a private party has contracted with the federal gonvernment to carry out a project on behalf of the government, the that private party, like the federal government, is shielded from liability under the doctrine of sovereign immunity.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:41 AM on December 26, 2006


Burhanistan: "That's a possibility. But since we're talking about unactualized possibilities, why was there even a need to go and invade mainland Japan? They were thoroughly contained and ruined by the time the US bombers were in range of cities like Tokyo. What point is there in going to the very center of the Imperial Palace with ground troops? Pardon my naivety."

Simply occupying the territories around Japan and taking out all the civilians that the imperial government was preparing to throw in uniforms and lob at us, who were legion, would have amounted to the same death toll. People tend to forget that Hirohito's crew were capable of nearly the same brutality as Hitler's was.
posted by koeselitz at 8:41 AM on December 26, 2006


See many previous discussions on MeFi.
posted by lalochezia at 8:42 AM on December 26, 2006


From "their" point of view it was a preemptive attack on a hostile navy. There was some pretty nasty rhetoric and posturing going on in D.C. about the "Japs" in 1941 pre Dec. 7
posted by Burhanistan at 8:42 AM on December 26, 2006


One side of brain make "O" face.
Other: sad and ashame'd.
posted by hal9k at 8:45 AM on December 26, 2006


Once you're in a war, you WIN. The way to win is by destroying the enemy's will and ability to fight.

Yup. Which is why we should work really hard to avoid going to war, because once it happens, ugly things will happen on a large scale.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:47 AM on December 26, 2006


Once you're in a war, you WIN. The way to win is by destroying the enemy's will and ability to fight. You can quiver in righteous indignation all you want, but that's how it works. They'd have done it to you if they could.

And here we find the half-philosophy that will keep us in wars for as long and far as I can see into the future.

WINNING IS EVERYTHING. WHEN SOMEONE HITS YOU, YOU HIT BACK! PACIFISM IS FOR PUSSIES AND QUEERS! IT TAKES A REAL MAN TO KILL ANOTHER MAN!


Here's the thing. Violence perpetuates violence which perpetuates violence. Violence never creates lasting peace.

Peace creates peace. You create Peace through nonviolence.

10-20-50 years is not lasting. 5,000 years to 10,000 years is a lasting peace. The bombing of Hiroshima did nothing to create a lasting peace. It merely ended one generation's war. It solved nothing. It failed to prevent future wars.

Pointing this out to members of the WW2 generation just pisses them off - because it illuminates the fact that much of that sacrifice ended up being pointless. Hiroshima was pointless. Wars themselves are pointless.

While there's no such thing as a good war, there's also no such thing as a productive war. There's no such thing as a "War to end all Wars", unless you're talking about the theoretical one in which we all die.

Wars just beget new wars. You cannot fight a war for peace. It makes about as much logical sense as fucking for celibacy.


Want to know what takes real courage? Try walking unarmed into conflict. Now try it again, this time without anger.

Now try doing it again, this time with your heart full of love for your fellow humans, no matter how wrong they are - no matter how much they wronged you.

It is when this message reaches the world, that true bravery, honor and courage have nothing to do with violence, with murder or death, and that it has everything to do with making the truly hard choices - like possibly choosing dying instead of choosing to perpetuate violence - and absolutely nothing to do with nuking an entire city, or firing a cruise missle from over the horizon, or even sticking a bayonet in someone else's gut - that we may begin to understand peace - and tangentially - war.

Real courage, bravery and honor would be to walk across that battlefield unarmed and actually try loving your enemy.

This would be the hard thing to do, and the right thing to do.

Sure, you might die. It's highly probable, considering how stupid war is. But you'd die untained by murder, and die trying to do the right thing.
posted by loquacious at 8:53 AM on December 26, 2006 [20 favorites]


Also:

Pax Noel, Merry Christmas, happy wintering and Solstice, etc.

Stay in Love, Stay in Peace.
posted by loquacious at 8:54 AM on December 26, 2006


It seems to me that the ire against Paul Tibbetts is misplaced. He clearly believed what he said about doing it again in the same situation. We could argue about that position for a long time. He was an officer given a job in wartime, its almost inconceivable that he would refuse or take some contrary position. He was ordered to fly a mission, he did the job. Any philosophical blame rests above. The use of the atomic bomb clearly unlocked a hell of a Pandora's box, but its certainly not clear that the people at the time fully appreciated that.

Its use almost undoubtedly saved both US military and Japanese civilian lives versus what could have been expected had the US invaded Japan or if the US had just continued their existing tactics, which were killing a very large number of Japanese civilians as it was. The Japanese also rejected a warning and a call to surrender that was given a couple of weeks prior.
posted by sfts2 at 9:06 AM on December 26, 2006


I was just in Hiroshima. The general sentiment seemed to be, we engaged in war, and oh God, look at the price, and never forget.

Those are noble thoughts, loquacious, but the fact of the matter is that human beings are fallible and not all that good at abstract logic. Sometimes we struggle for power, but more often we struggle for survival, and there is no blanket rule of courage that applies.
posted by zennie at 9:07 AM on December 26, 2006


I am sooo tired of the knee-jerk response: "we are the good and righteous guys and all we ever do, is simply defending ourselves".

How convenient: that way we never have to consider complexity or take responsibilty for the consequences of our actions.

And thank you for your idealism, loquacious, it seems to be in short supply these days.
posted by threehundredandsixty at 9:13 AM on December 26, 2006


There was some pretty nasty rhetoric and posturing going on in D.C. about the "Japs" in 1941 pre Dec. 7.

Gee, I can't imagine why.

Violence never creates lasting peace. Peace creates peace. You create Peace through nonviolence. ... 5,000 years to 10,000 years is a lasting peace.

Since, by your definition, a lasting peace has never existed in human history, how can you say with any certainty what would create it?
posted by me & my monkey at 9:17 AM on December 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


On review, it seems to me that there are plenty of opportunities for loquacious to follow his own advice. Nice words. Wars suck. Silly gestures that get you or your family and friends killed suck more. The idea is to survive.

You know, I've never been in war. Been pretty lucky that way, but I have been attacked by persons who looked to hurt or kill me. I don't think his advice is very good. If I had done what he suggests, there would be two dead women and one dead guy. Me. Who knows what other mayhem the guys I fought would have exhibited on other innocents. I fought them and won. They are in jail. Wars CAN be just this situation writ large. Not all wars are unjust. They are stupid and ridiculous, but when the guy with the gun is at your door...
posted by sfts2 at 9:19 AM on December 26, 2006


the debate aside.. what is up with all the nuclear war for Christmas stuff on MeFi the last week? Sheesh.
posted by smoothvirus at 9:20 AM on December 26, 2006


Burhanistan: of course we were saber-rattling; Japan had invaded China and was committing absolute atrocities there. We dealt with it through peaceful means; condemnations and ceasing trade. They were the ones who chose to actually attack, claiming that our refusal to trade with them further (and enable them to torture the Chinese) was casus belli.

The best summation I've heard of the war was this: Japan was terribly afraid of Russia. At the time, warfighting capability was measured in terms of industrial production, and Russia's economic power outstripped Japan's by about 10 to 1. So Japan invaded China to try to build more industry, enough to at least deter the Russians from attacking.

We got very upset with this, condemned them publicly, and stopped trading. Then Japan did an incredibly stupid thing; because they feared Russia, with a 10:1 economic advantage, they attacked America, with a TWENTY to one advantage. Had they hit our fuel dump in Hawaii, it might have worked well enough to keep us out of the Pacific for a couple of years, but it's not likely that they'd have been able to grow fast enough to ever win that war. It was exceptionally stupid thinking on their part.

But you gotta realize, they were aggressive, nasty assholes, already at war with China. Attacking someone for refusing to trade with you is not, you know, generally acceptable.

As far as why we invaded the mainland: we couldn't just leave them there, now could we? We couldn't maintain a blockade, and given their willingness to die for the cause, only complete destruction of their existing government was likely to give good long-term results. We had to completely break that mindset, shatter it irrevocably, and the only way to do that was to invade.

And It's worth pointing out that the invasion and reconstruction turned Japan into a peaceful, prosperous, liberal democracy, and an economic superpower; per capita they are far, far wealthier now than are we. Had we not invaded, that would likely never have come to pass... or, at the very least, they'd be much less far along than they are now.

flapjax at midnite says, "So you are at least characterizing the A-bomb attack as vicious, then, yes?"

Of course it was vicious. You think you win a war by throwing goddamn doilies?
posted by Malor at 9:21 AM on December 26, 2006


You think you win a war by throwing goddamn doilies?

No sir, Gen. Turgidson.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:23 AM on December 26, 2006


threehundredandsixty: I am sooo tired of the knee-jerk response: "we are the good and righteous guys and all we ever do, is simply defending ourselves".

Those who confuse the argument that the bombing of Hiroshima saved lives with a knee-jerk jingoism of the Robert McNamara stripe have not been paying attention; a lot of us are quite willing to admit that the United States has committed numerous atrocities, but don't think Hiroshima was one of them.

The easiest way to respond to history is to believe that your parents and grandparents were holy saints. The second-easiest way to respond to history is to believe that your parents and grandparents were vile demons. Both are knee-jerk reactions. It takes a lot of thought and careful study to see the people of the past as they really were.
posted by koeselitz at 9:24 AM on December 26, 2006


I should have previewed. threehundredandsixty: don't confuse your feelings with modern America, which is a rather nasty, hateful place, with the America of the 1940s... which, while still rather a nasty and hateful place in a lot of ways, was probably better than any other society at the time.

We had actual moral authority back then, which seems completely laughable when you look at Bush's America... but is, nonetheless, the truth.
posted by Malor at 9:25 AM on December 26, 2006


10-20-50 years is not lasting. 5,000 years to 10,000 years is a lasting peace.

Where in the history of man has there ever been a lasting peace of such a number of years? When examining the history of violence between peoples, fifty years is a hell of a long time not to go marching off to war.

Hiroshima was necessary. General estimates of casualties involving the invasion of the home islands, for American troops, numbered from as high as a million to as low as the hundreds of thousands.

American leadership felt at the time that no other measures, other than an atomic bomb, could bring the war to an end and thus destroy the need for invasion. If a city being bombed (on a scale already established by conventional ordinance, like fire bombs) was going to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of soldiers, fathers, sons, husbands and brothers, then it should be done.
posted by Atreides at 9:29 AM on December 26, 2006


I met Paul Tibbets back in the '80's. At a small mall in Ann Arbor, Michgan, there was a display of books set up outside one of the bookstores, with one older fellow sitting behind the table. It was Tibbets selling (iirc) "Mission: Hiroshima".

I spoke with him for a while, my impression was of a man who truly did not know how to deal with his past. Very sad.
posted by HuronBob at 9:32 AM on December 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


Malor: Thanks for the sensible response.

Although, as a complete aside, I think that Gurdjieff's seemingly very nonsensible views about the causes of war are closer to the visceral truth
posted by Burhanistan at 9:33 AM on December 26, 2006


Thank you, Malor.
To clarify, I did not propose the opposite of us being the good guys.
How about a little shades of grey.
I feel strongly that in the mainstream there is a profound lack of looking for the complexities within the narrative of our nation's history.
You might take the Bush administration's easy rise to power (and it's realtively long popularity) as an example for our collectively dried-up capacity for self-criticism and reflection.
posted by threehundredandsixty at 9:52 AM on December 26, 2006


The probable cost, in Japanese civilians, of both dropping the A-bomb and invading the mainland were both very large considerations when deciding what to do to end the war with Japan.

But also under consideration was the U.S.S.R., and that we, the U.S., now owned what would be the biggest possible bargaining chip in the Cold War: atomic weaponry.

And also under consideration was that Stalin had agreed to invade Japan with us 90 days or some such number after the end of the war in Europe. Which FDR, and I suppose later Truman, had bargained for energetically for quite awhile, because it would greatly decrease the difficulty of the operation.

So when the U.S. completed successfully its research on the atomic bomb it saw not only a quick and potentially less deadly (overall) way to finally urge the Japanese government to surrender unconditionally (which we still did not get them to do...only with the provision that they could keep their emperor did they surrender), they also saw a way to impress and frighten the U.S.S.R, for by this time it was clear the next major conflict in the world was going to occur between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. And by making the Russian invasion of Japan unnecessary, the possibility of the Soviets having a sphere of influence in Japan would disappear.

In fact, when Truman let on to Stalin at Potsdam that the U.S. had a new and terrible weapon, Stalin did all he could to rush the Soviet invasion of Japan. Because he knew what was up.

There wasn't so much one great reason to drop the bomb, so much as there was a combination of several pretty compelling ones.

And honestly, the U.S. had burned so many Japanese civilians alive with relentless carpet bombing already that...that whatever. So many.
posted by Darth Fedor at 10:05 AM on December 26, 2006


Without getting involved in the debate, let me just thank you for the fpp, empath. Very sobering.
posted by Doohickie at 10:21 AM on December 26, 2006


Where in the history of man has there ever been a lasting peace of such a number of years? When examining the history of violence between peoples, fifty years is a hell of a long time not to go marching off to war.

When in the history of man have we been able to collectively inspect our motives, access a wealth of communication and information, and otherwise make choices and decisions with the full scope and scale of human history bearing down upon us?

When in the history of man has the very non-intuitive concept of non-violent conflict resolution ever been employed on a global scale?

When have we ever actually tried peace instead of war?

The time to try this is now. The time to try this has always been now, but it's even more imperative the more we know, and more imperative as the world grows ever smaller and we each make friends and family around the world.

In my time on this new-fangled internet thing, I've been fortunate to communicate in real time with a real, live human being on every continent on the planet - including Antarctica.

I wish to go to war with none of them.

People may consider my idealism simplistic. They're welcome to be so short-sighted, but even attempting to love one's worst enemies is an exercise in emotional complexity and turmoil - though a very rewarding exercise.

I consider that the circular arguments in favor of war are exceedingly simplistic. Everyday people don't start wars. Nation-states (or their conceptual analogs from tribes to superpowers) start wars. People don't start wars.

The planetary Joe and Jane Average want nothing to do with wars. They don't want conquest. They don't lust for power. They don't start wars.

Pompous, self-important, impotent windbags start wars. It makes their fragile little egos feel good to see the ant-people milling about doing their violent business. Sadists start wars - for they find cold nourishment in the suffering of others - because they loathe themselves so much that they feel the need to make others suffer to lessen the magnitude and emptiness of their own internal suffering.

You know what - you Napoleons, you Hitlers, you Bushes and you Pinochets, you Pol Pots, you miserable little tin-pot dictators?

Get over your damn self already. We all suffer. We're all struggling with unhappiness and personal pain. We all suffer from fear of our own fleeting mortality.

Your malaise is not unique, and certainly not a license to fill the empty, yawning void of your mirthless soul with the pointless exercises in fear, uncertainty and doubt you seem to find so dear.

I have news for you. You will not be remembered. You will die and be forgotten amongst the teeming billions and billions of Humankind, just like everyone else will.

Time marches inexorably onward, erasing all that ever was.

That being said, was all that suffering worth it? No, I think not. As trite as it is, deep down you really did just want to be loved.

Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think.

Humanity is done with you. You're in your last throes of a long-deserved death. I hope you choose to make it a peaceable, dignified death, but I'm not crossing my fingers. Undoubtedly you have further nasty surprises in store for Us, but your time and power here is waning.

We're already starting to organize and meet our global neighbors, and most of us find this to be a fine, beautiful thing.


On further thought, there may have been one war to end all wars: The Cold War, which begat the internet, which may finally bestow upon us the tools to live together and finally, truly look towards the future.
posted by loquacious at 10:26 AM on December 26, 2006 [10 favorites]


A fair reading of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court leaves the objective observer unable to answer with confidence whether the United States was guilty of war crimes for its aerial bombing campaigns over Germany and Japan in World War II. Indeed, if anything, a straightforward reading of the language probably indicates that the court would find the United States guilty. A fortiori, these provisions seem to imply that the United States would have been guilty of a war crime for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The fact that few Americans see this as possible, let alone true, is saddening. That a war crime may have shortened the war and saved lives is perplexing to me.
posted by dash_slot- at 10:38 AM on December 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


<<When have we ever actually tried peace instead of war?

Actually, the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 was intended to make the use of war as a tool of national/foreign policy illegal.

Your opinions are honorable, but not realistic enough for the realities of our world. For as many who would love to adopt a pacifistic approach to our foreign and domestic dilemmas, there are those who will see such a route as a sign of weakness to be taken advantage of.

It is this inter-connectedness which has also been creating some of the new animosity between peoples. If peace can be attained, then it must be ironically gained by wiping out all those who believe it to be an impossible means of conducting the affairs of humanity.
posted by Atreides at 10:52 AM on December 26, 2006


If anyone cares to read it, the classic text on the Manhatten Project & the subsequent decision to drop the bomb is The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. He goes into considerable detail on the decision process that led to the dropping of the bomb; it was not something which was taken lightly.
posted by pharm at 10:55 AM on December 26, 2006


There's no way with the money and manpower spent on the atomic bomb they would have dropped it into the ocean.
posted by geoff. at 10:56 AM on December 26, 2006


<<That a war crime may have shortened the war and saved lives is perplexing to me.

What is perplexing about it?

The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki did shorten the war, by concluding it in the terms desired by the Allied victors. The allies set out intent on total victory and the bombs achieved this goal.

There are no unstained hearts in war, but rather the victors should be judged as much by what they chose to do in victory as by how they earned it.
posted by Atreides at 11:01 AM on December 26, 2006


dash_slot: "The fact that few Americans see this as possible, let alone true, is saddening. That a war crime may have shortened the war and saved lives is perplexing to me."

That's a tough one, all right. I guess the question is: how do you stop an empire that's ready and willing to commit many and vast war crimes in order to win the war they've started? The bare existence of regimes like Hitler's and Hirohito's tend to make it difficult to enact realistic "war crime" standards.
posted by koeselitz at 11:04 AM on December 26, 2006


Want to know what takes real courage? Try walking unarmed into conflict. Now try it again, this time without anger.

Now try doing it again, this time with your heart full of love for your fellow humans, no matter how wrong they are


I don't know what those creatures would be, walking into fire without anger and with love for the humans killing them, but they wouldn't be human. Angels, if you believe in that sort of thing. Posthumans of some sort, if you don't. But not us.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:27 AM on December 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


Well, that is the question, isn't it? How do you fight an ethical war against an unethical opponent? How do you battle monsters without becoming one yourself?

And to just say that you don't worry about those things, this is war, and you do what you can to win -- well, that answer isn't good enough.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:27 AM on December 26, 2006 [2 favorites]


None of the justifications for Hiroshima can possibly be stretched to cover Nagasaki 3 days later. That was purely a test and a demonstration to the rest of the world, with a special emphasis on Russia.

The gratuitous character of the bombing of Hiroshima is most decisively demonstrated by the fact that we accepted essentially the same terms of surrender after the bombing that the Japanese had been offering before it.
posted by jamjam at 11:40 AM on December 26, 2006


If you happen to be in central Texas, the National Museum of the Pacific War is a really worthwhile place to visit. A wealth of artifacts, documents, and photographs; a coherent and somewhat overwhelming history of the war in the Pacific starting in the late 19th century. Does not flinch from the vast scale and cost of the war; the bravery and persistence of the people who fought; the extent to which so many battles hung not just on bravery and persistence, but on supply chains, intercepted communications, weather, and luck; the brutality of the wartime Japanese state; the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and the absolute uncertainty in the 1940s about how the world was going to turn out.
posted by escabeche at 11:50 AM on December 26, 2006


W/r/t Tibbets and the question of his conscience, you may also wish to read the Kim Stanley Robinson story in this 1985 volume, which oddly and coincidentally features a burning World Trade Center on its cover.
posted by adamgreenfield at 12:05 PM on December 26, 2006


The gratuitous character of the bombing of Hiroshima is most decisively demonstrated by the fact that we accepted essentially the same terms of surrender after the bombing that the Japanese had been offering before it.

You write as if the Japanese government spent the entire month of August begging for the Allied powers to accept their surrender. Up until their surrender, the terms of surrender was highly debated in the top echelon. In late July, the Allies actually offered surrender terms which were less demanding and the Japanese rejected them.

Further more, the Japanese were sending out diplomatic feelers to the Soviet Union to see if they could negotiate a separate and better settlement. This delayed the end as well.

Hiroshima was not gratuitous. Nagasaki is debatable. Regardless, there was no blood lust on the part of the Allies to kill as many as possible before time ran out. They wanted the war over as quickly as possible and selected the path they believed best to accomplish this.
posted by Atreides at 12:05 PM on December 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


It is well that war is so terrible, or we should get too fond of it
posted by dhartung at 12:15 PM on December 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


Astro Zombie: And to just say that you don't worry about those things, this is war, and you do what you can to win -- well, that answer isn't good enough.

It's not easy, I know. And that's why this documentary is so important: we should always try to remember the consequences of the choices we make.

But when you go out there in the world, you find that unpleasant things sometimes end up being the right things to do.

An example: my fiancee's horse, Justin, broke his leg last summer. If you know about horses, you know that breaking a leg pretty much spells doom for them: legs are an essential part of living. He had to be put down; thankfully, I wasn't the one who had to do it. You might think it's a little silly for me to draw a parallel between the necessary killing of one animal and the difficult-to-decide-on killing of tens of thousands of people. But think about it this way: when Justin was lying there in agony, somebody had to make her way over to him, avoid his thrashing legs, put the gun to the side of his head behind his eye, and pull the trigger. Then: wait for the shaking to stop, wrap the dead body, put it into a truck, dispose of it, clean up the area, and call the person whose horse just died. It's something that's not too uncommon, but it's painful in every way.

Though there was a lot more at stake, I think the situation in WW2 was very much the same. It was certainly aweful and saddening to drop a bomb on Hiroshima and a bomb on Nagasaki; we should try to keep the memory of the absolute and horrifically painful slaughter those bombs caused as a lesson to ourselves and our children about the sheer cost of war. But to allow the horse that was Japan in the Pacific to continue flailing would have meant the slaughter of more.

It's a terrible thing to have to make decisions that can mean the death of hundreds of thousands. I don't envy the people who do. But being a human being, a political animal, means sometimes having to face just those decisions.
posted by koeselitz at 12:17 PM on December 26, 2006


If you happen to be in central Texas, the National Museum of the Pacific War is a really worthwhile place to visit.
posted by escabeche


That is a neat museum. I really enjoy the courtyard that has a sliced off submarine conning tower sitting in the ground like some sort of polar ice cap surfacing gone horrible wrong. There's also a Zen rock/gravel garden on the grounds that is a soothing contrast to all the WWII war equipment scattered about.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:23 PM on December 26, 2006


Yet, if an attack the size of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had happened in the U.S., we'd never hear the end of what a tragedy it was and how unnecessary it was to kill so many civilians.

War is always horrible but there are unfortunately always acts that stand out as horrific even in the face of that.
posted by agregoli at 12:25 PM on December 26, 2006


jamjam: The gratuitous character of the bombing of Hiroshima is most decisively demonstrated by the fact that we accepted essentially the same terms of surrender after the bombing that the Japanese had been offering before it.

This is the sort of statement that needs backing up. Specifically, as far as I know, the Japanese didn't offer any kind of surrender before the bombing of Hiroshima.
posted by koeselitz at 12:31 PM on December 26, 2006


And, once again, what happened in Okinawa was much worse for the civilians of Japan than what happened in Hiroshima. I have a feeling people are more astounded about Hiroshima because it happened so fast; but would they prefer several more Okinawas, so long as they happened slowly?
posted by koeselitz at 12:33 PM on December 26, 2006


I would prefer we not kill civilians during war. They generally have very little to do with the war being fought, had almost no hand in the decisions that led up to it, and they suffer the brunt of it. It was the essntial concept behing the idea of just warfare.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:42 PM on December 26, 2006


You write as if the Japanese government spent the entire month of August begging for the Allied powers to accept their surrender.

No, of course not; apparently they started suing for peace not in August, but in June:

The cabinet, made up of elder statesmen, tried to send out peace feelers through neutral Sweden, Soviet Union, and Switzerland as early as June 1945. The only condition was the continued existence of the of Imperial Throne. Unwilling or unclear of the Japanese offer, the Allies refused and issued the Potsdam Declaration on July 26th.

The Emperor was sympathetic to the peacemakers.

[my emphasis].

Did the Imperial Throne continue to exist? Perhaps you would like to read an account of the celebration of the birth of Emperor Hirohito's grandson, long-awaited heir to the Imperial Throne, on September 6 of this year.
posted by jamjam at 12:46 PM on December 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


Some absolutely fantastic comments in this thread, very thought-provoking.

FWIW loquatious that's some of the most beautiful stuff I've ever read on this site.

War is garbage, a rotting banner that small-minded, vicious little people rally under.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 12:51 PM on December 26, 2006


from jamjam's link: "Unwilling or unclear of the Japanese offer, the Allies refused and issued the Potsdam Declaration on July 26th."

It's the space between "unwilling" and "unclear" that's causes the difficulty, isn't it? Moreover, is a whispered rumor of a willingness to surrender the same thing as a declaration of terms of surrender?
posted by koeselitz at 12:53 PM on December 26, 2006


If the Germans had dropped atomic bombs on cities instead of us, we would have defined the dropping of atomic bombs on cities as a war crime, and we would have sentenced the Germans who were guilty of this crime to death at Nuremberg and hanged them.
- Leo Szilard
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:00 PM on December 26, 2006


Malor, no one intelligent is saying it wasn't a war or that other horrible things didn't happen or wouldn't have happened The first use of nuclear bombs on civilian populations, however, fits my definition not of a war tactic, but as a war crime. Just because "they would have done it" doesn't mean we were justified in doing it. All we had to do, in any case, was bring a delegationg of Japanese officials to New Mexico and show them a test. War over.

What we proved is that we were no better than our "enemy." The reputation of the US was spoiled for eternity that day.
posted by spitbull at 1:06 PM on December 26, 2006


The reputation of the US was spoiled for eternity that day.

I guess Wounded Knee didn't do it for ya?
posted by adamgreenfield at 1:11 PM on December 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


The Japanese surrendered unconditionally, I believe it was MacArthurs decision as Supreme Allied Commander of the occupation forces to leave the Emperor's line intact as a means to ensure a peaceful occupation, which succeeded.
posted by sfts2 at 1:26 PM on December 26, 2006


Well, it wasn't as harrowing as "Threads" was.
posted by Curry at 1:31 PM on December 26, 2006


I need to pick nits here loquacious. It is not Hitler nor Stalin nor Pol Pot who their million faces throughout history that are to blame for the atrocities of humanity. It is those same ordinary, peace-loving, 2.5 kids and a white picket fence Average families.

Hitler did not kill six million Jews, Germany did. The Germans did. Pol Pot did not kill ~3 million Cambodians, Cambodians themselves did. Likewise Hirohito, Stalin, &c ad nauseum. It is only with the knowledge, forbearance and indeed blessing of that selfsame Common Man that stomach churning slaughters can occur. Those noisome little men whose names clutter history are nothing more than opportunistic versions of the common man. We all share the blame for how we as a species and a planet have governed ourselves.

War is a disease of the common man, his leaders merely edge him on. When we as common men can all accept that Them and Us are merely labels, wars will stop. As long as we are content to live small, shallow lives pacified by bread and circuses, expect our past to repeat itself, or at least rhyme.

That said, we agree. As a very wise man said, "Be the change you envision for the world."
posted by Skorgu at 1:32 PM on December 26, 2006 [3 favorites]


spitbull: The reputation of the US was spoiled for eternity that day.

There is almost nothing more disrespectful, and personally disgusting to me, than meeting the aweful and tragic death of 150,000 people with hand-wringing about "the reputation of the US."

Even beyond that, the reputation of the United States does not now and has never before mattered in the slightest. What matters is whether we do the right thing. People who do things not because they're right or good but because they want other people to like them aren't acting justly; it's the same with nations. I think the phrase you're looking for is: "The moral standing of the US was spoiled for eternity that day." What's sort of sick to me is that it's increasingly common to see "reputation" and "moral standing" as interchangeable.

/derail. Continue.
posted by koeselitz at 1:53 PM on December 26, 2006 [3 favorites]


The reputation of the US was spoiled for eternity that day

How was Hiroshima any different than the intentional firebombing of other civic centers, eg. Tokyo?

We killed tens of thousands of civilians in Tokyo, too.

None of the justifications for Hiroshima can possibly be stretched to cover Nagasaki 3 days later.

The US's position was clear in 1945. We're not fucking around here: Surrender or die. The Japanese government continually chose to screw around, until the shock therapy of the atom bombs disintegrated the power of their death cult.

Note that a similar drama was being played out wrt Nazi Germany in 1945. We had no expectation that the Japanese military gov't would fold any easier than the Nazis.

Their surrender message:
Despite the best that has been done by everyone--the gallant fighting of our military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of out servants of the State and the devoted service of our 100,000,000 people--the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.

Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.

posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:17 PM on December 26, 2006


I accept your nit, Skorgu, but it's a fine hair to split.

I fully mean that every [rank and file or civilian] who consciously and willfully supported [atrocity of violence or conflict] is themselves, indeed, their own scared little Hitler-archetype.

This human tendency towards totalitarianism, violence and more isn't some rare thing. It's dreadfully common. A tragically mundane, common thing.

Some people try to pass it off as "human nature".

I'd rather think of it as residuals of "animal nature", for it is our ability to inspect these motives and actions, our ability for emapthy and our ability to change and self program that make us the most human.

It is only when we rise above our basest animal instincts that we ever express any true "human nature".

Trying to dismiss the atrocity and violence of war and violence in general as being merely "human nature" is a grave discredit and disservice to humanity, and to only look at the past and say "As it once was, so will it forever be" is to admit that we are merely animals.

Our "human nature" is that we are capable of change.

The future doesn't need to mirror the past. The future is open. It's a blank slate.

Every last one of us as individuals - well, anyone unselfish, anyone who cares - has a responsibility to that future.

Peace begins not only at home and hearth, but in each and every one of us.

You can be as anti-war as you like, but without your own inner peace it's all moot. If you're so angry at the world and the various stupidities therein that you have no inner peacce of your own, it's moot.

Without a critical mass of people who know and practice this, all my idealism is only that. It won't happen otherwise, for war and strife will continue apace.

Yeah, that sounds bleak. It sounds impossible. But it's already happening. Think about it. The very concepts of pacifism and non-violent conflict or non-violent conflict resolution are still very new in the face of human history.

But the concepts are spreading like wildfire, and being employed more and more. Martin Luther King did it, and after much sacrfice and struggle brought Civil Rights to the US. Through what? Non-violent resistance. Through communication and community.


Mark my words, MetaFilter, and the world at large:

One day Humankind will live in Peace, or die trying.

The costs and totality of warfare have progressed to the point that we can no longer afford war. War has and will become "too dangerous" for Humanity, and if Humanity has any sense of self-preservation, it will banish war.

And that's about that. Love yourself and your fellows. Smoke 'em if you've got 'em, raise one for those who've gone before. Sing, dance, make love. Don't simply be tolerent of differences and diversity, learn to appreciate it and enjoy it.

Maybe, just maybe, we won't wipe ourselves out of existence.


Me? I'm not holding my breath. People are - generally speaking - stupid. And I am also a person, and therefore often quite stupid. But writing these these words and communicating these ideas is one of the only tools I have, and one of the best ways I can attempt to not be stupid.

I welcome any and all in their attempts at not being stupid. Lets all not be stupid together.

posted by loquacious at 2:20 PM on December 26, 2006


What Heywood said, too.
posted by loquacious at 2:20 PM on December 26, 2006


but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.

It might yet.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:24 PM on December 26, 2006


Well said. It was more of a nit's hair than a whole nit, I just think that the distinction between the common man and Hitler is one of degree, not of kind. To extend what you said, we're all tiny Hitlers, and the sooner we realize that and get the fuck over it the better off we'll all be.
posted by Skorgu at 2:30 PM on December 26, 2006


I've never understood the moral arithmetic behind the "more people would have died" crowd.
Dropping atom bombs on civilians is bad, m'okay? No amount of adding up potential deaths erases that. Machiavelli would disagree, of course.
posted by signal at 2:52 PM on December 26, 2006


Some people try to pass it off as "human nature".

I'd rather think of it as residuals of "animal nature"


animals tend to kill each other to have something to eat ... there are exceptions for territory and opportunity to reproduce, but most of the time, it's because an animal is hungry and another animal isn't tough enough to avoid being eaten

the same kind of desires and urges that make us want to explore, dominate and master the world around us can make us want to explore, dominate and master one another

you speak of war as if it's something that is caused by appalling, irrational rage

do you really believe that paul tibbetts raced to his airplane in a sudden furious fit, threw the bomb into the bomb bay, went over hiroshima grinding his teeth and smashed the release button, cursing and swearing in uncontrollable rage?

do you think that when the papers for the "final solution" were drawn up by the german high command that they were pounding holes in the tables, throwing chairs through the windows and screaming?

even on a battlefield, a soldier can be firing his weapon calmly ... and certainly, the general who orders him to that position is not going to be screaming bloody murder, nor is the politician who ordered the war

animal nature? ... i don't believe snails, dogs, vultures or monkeys are capable of starting something like the manhattan project and seeing it through to the incineration of hiroshima ...

it's not a matter of nature at all, but of artifice and rational thought ... which, by paradox , are part of our human nature

it's disturbing that as civilization becomes more complex and advanced, the atrocities get bigger and more thorough ... on the other hand, where affluence and human rights have increased, it seems wars have decreased

but we can't blame it on leaders, as leaders have followers ...

my view is if we are spread out over a few light-years' worth of territory, we won't have eliminated the problem, but we will have eliminated the chance that the problem will eliminate us
posted by pyramid termite at 3:05 PM on December 26, 2006


I took a class on the history of U.S. wars and we had simple book reports to do. For my last one I read The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II written by Herbert Feis in the middle of the cold war (1961, revised 1966). It really helped me to understand the situation and why the U.S. made the decision. I suggest it to everyone who is looking for a more policy driven analysis. I found the author to ben an interesting guy himself and he probably deserves a MeFi post to himself, but I can't find any of the links I dug up on him when I wrote the paper. Anyone else got any info on Mr. Feis?
posted by SteveFlamingo at 3:10 PM on December 26, 2006


signal: "I've never understood the moral arithmetic behind the "more people would have died" crowd.
Dropping atom bombs on civilians is bad, m'okay? No amount of adding up potential deaths erases that."


Jesus FUCK, you people are dense.

Okay, let's start over, in clearer terms. It's 1945, and you're Harry S. Truman. You're fighting the second of two enemies that have proven again and again that they're willing and eager to commit the most extreme atrocities in the interest of total domination. It appears that the only solution, the only way you have to stop them, means instantly killing many people in a largeish town. What would you do? Nobody seems to be able to answer that question; everybody just says "well, it was just wrong."

Remember the situation Truman was in: the last battle which has been fought, the Battle of Okinawa, resulted in the death of some 280,000 people, and the planned invasion which is to follow has a bottom-end civilian casualty estimate of about 8,000,000. A truncated and immediate end to hostilities at this point, given the attitude of the government of Japan, means only a lull until Japan can rebuild forces and start fighting again.

So, again, I ask you: what would you do? It's easy, living when and where we do, to pooh-pooh the difficult decisions people have had to make in the past by saying, "well, it's just wrong to kill civilians." But it's horribly unrealistic, and it ignores the historical facts surrounding the war.

"Machiavelli would disagree, of course."

You'd probably be better able to talk about politics and history if you did a little reading on political philosophy. I suggest starting with Machiavelli, who is pretty much singlehandedly responsible for making things like self-determination, liberty, and constitutionalism popular in the west.
posted by koeselitz at 3:16 PM on December 26, 2006 [5 favorites]


further informing the events of 1945 was the failure to achieve a clear decision in 1918, which let the German state essentially reform itself in the late 1920s and 1930s.

The Japanese military, for obvious reasons, was not willing to go along with this occupation idea, and were holding out for a "draw" -- making occupation too costly to the Allies to successfully complete, up to and after the second atomic bombing.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:34 PM on December 26, 2006


So, again, I ask you: what would you do? It's easy, living when and where we do, to pooh-pooh the difficult decisions people have had to make in the past by saying, "well, it's just wrong to kill civilians." But it's horribly unrealistic, and it ignores the historical facts surrounding the war.

I'll ask it again. Why did it have to be dropped on a population center to achieve the desired effect? If "off the coast" wasn't an option (they only had two precious bombs, and I understand they were afraid of "wasting" them, if perhaps, say the first didn't fire), then why the hell not a military installation, or something? surely it would have gotten their attention either way, with or without the insane number of civilian dead.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:11 PM on December 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


Well, depending on who you talk to, hirohito was trying to surrender in May. The americans, wanting to keep the war going so they could use the atomic weapons, ignored the first requests for audience from the Japanese emporer.

Basically, there were so many reasons to use the bomb. Everyone likes to use the "so many more people would have died if they didnt" arguement, and its true. They would have killed far more people if they used traditional bombing techniques or invasions

Tokyo fire raids
The Allies had first encountered the phenomenon of the firestorm when the British bombed the German city of Hamburg in August of 1943. The night raid ignited numerous fires that soon united into one uncontrollable mass of flame, so hot it generated its own self-sustaining, gale-force winds and literally sucked the oxygen out of the air, suffocating its victims. Lemay hoped to use this force to level the cities of Japan. Tokyo would be the first test.

This same source puts the death toll in these raids between 80 and 200,000. The stories are that the fires were so hot that they boiled the rivers in Tokyo. People who ran to the rivers to escape the fires were boiled alive.

Also, as previously cited, the battle of Okinawa, where historians estimate over 200,000 people killed.

However, one of the main reasons that they dropped the bomb(s) was to prove to the world that the US had the bomb. They had to assert themselves in the post war world and the atomic weapons would clearly delineate the superpowers.

I personally dont believe Truman was as troubled and honest as he is projected. I think he was a murderer and and should have been tried for war crimes for dropping those bombs.

To answer other questions, What would I have done? I would have accepted the surrender in May, June or whenever, or at least begun negotiations, as it is widely recorded that the Japanese requested.

I mean, dropping the bombs on an atoll in the pacific would have had the same effect. Or maybe not. Thats why I am not the president.
posted by subaruwrx at 4:16 PM on December 26, 2006


Uh Hiroshima was a stratigic military target. A launching point for the army and a place of major industry, developing war machines.

Where would you rather it be dropped? Tokyo? Kyoto?

Plus, Hiroshima was in a valley, minimizing the damage to surrounding towns and maximizing the blast effect. I think it makes the perfect military target for a "nuke"
posted by subaruwrx at 4:19 PM on December 26, 2006


What really gets me is the children. I couldnt get past the first 30 seconds of part two, where she is talking about her 6 year old daughter or sister trapped.

I read an eye witness account from a new mother who was on a train when teh bomb went off. She was holding her 3 month old son. He was in pain because of the burns so she kept feeding him from her breast, because it made him stop crying. Most of the radiation from her was passed to her son through the milk and he died 6 monhts later. I think the most hurtful thing of that is that she blames her self for killing him when it was really the americans.

That sort of thing really brings me to tears.
posted by subaruwrx at 4:21 PM on December 26, 2006


One more thing...

Its not to say the Japanese were innocent in this. Sure they realized they were done, but they were more than guilty for all teh atrocities brought by them onto Koreans, Chinese and other asian people.

I mean, really, slaughtering innocent citizens with their hands. That really makes me sick. Anyway, nobody wins in war. Well, the racketeers do.
posted by subaruwrx at 4:24 PM on December 26, 2006


do you know what really fascinates me? ... is that people will debate hiroshima, nagaski, and sometimes dresden and hamburg endlessly, but one rarely ever hears a peep about the displacement of germans after ww2 which probably killed more people than all of the above combined

the thing is, people have a bad habit of looking at things in isolation, rather than seeing that they are part of one really long, really bad, massive clusterfuck ...

but then it's more than likely that the people of 2066 are going to have some interesting comments about what we did or didn't do in the '00s ... and be equally certain that 1) they wouldn't have decided to do those things 2) that what they do now is truly civilized or correct

(and don't be so sure that these coming years will be any better than the 40s were)
posted by pyramid termite at 5:02 PM on December 26, 2006


I would have accepted the surrender in May, June or whenever, or at least begun negotiations, as it is widely recorded that the Japanese requested

"Negotiations"? Part was of the surrender process was getting the Japanese military to admit to their people -- if not themselves, that there had been defeated.

The Japanese government was free at any time to state their conditions for surrender. They did not, until two atom bombs, and perhaps more importantly, the Russians finally entered the war and began to roll up their Manchurian positions.

The life of a Japanese civilian wasn't worth spit in 1945. This is a sad, but understandable fact of the war. If you don not understand this point, do some reading of the events in E Asia 1932 - 1945, specifically the Japanese walking out of the League of Nations over Manchuria, their launching of offensive war against China in 1937, their indiscriminate bombing of Shanghai and Chungking, the brutal occupation of Nanking, the events of 12/7/1941, the brutal treatment of American and allied POWs 1942-1945, their suicidal resistance in 1942-1945.

"But they were civilians!" is ignoring the signal fact that the Japanese had no moral ground to stand on in 1945. Once they were utterly isolated diplomatically, their cities (save Kyoto and the ones out of B-29 range) incinerated, they gave up, finally.

Fwiw, I found this animation to be very moving. Understanding its context is critical, however.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 5:08 PM on December 26, 2006


pyramid termite: wow, thanks, I hadn't heard about the expulsion thing. Reading up on it now.

It's amazing just how nasty nations were as a matter of course back then. We often despair, nowadays, at how horrible things are, but the casual cruelty of just two generations prior is a strong indicator that we're moving forward in many areas still.
posted by Malor at 5:16 PM on December 26, 2006


Been away from my computer, did we solve this whole war thing?
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 5:37 PM on December 26, 2006


It is well that war is so terrible, or we should get too fond of it.

Quoth Robert E. Lee -- leaving that unattributed may do a disservice to our less well-read members, dhartung.

The way in which modern war have been sanitized by the television news, given logos and theme music and stripped of so much of its terribleness, has let too many comfortably-distanced people grow far too fond of it in our time, I think.

And I think it is entirely fair and germane that much has been made of the fact that so many members of the current American administration managed to avoid serving in military combat. Not enough has been made of it, perhaps.

people have a bad habit of looking at things in isolation, rather than seeing that they are part of one really long, really bad, massive clusterfuck

People tend to avert their eyes from realities that inspire nothing but despair, particularly when they get to an age where they reproduce, and need to hope in order to keep going.

The life of a Japanese civilian wasn't worth spit in 1945.

It is a little difficult to see whether you are describing your understanding or the dominant one amongst the conductors of warfare at the time. Perhaps both.

Regardless, it is exactly that kind of thinking that leads to the uses, by either the dominant or non-dominant combatants, of terror to achieve their aims -- the new canonical example being the attacks of September 11th -- and the ongoing litany of horrors that warfare against civilian populations has brought us, now, in the last century, and back further into the past. It ends in vicious and inescapable tribal hatred.

"But they were civilians!" is ignoring the signal fact that the Japanese had no moral ground to stand on in 1945.

You see, what I'm trying to get at is that you seem to mean 'the Japanese' here to denote 'the Japanese people' as well as 'the Japanese leadership'.

This leads those of us today, who loathe and fear the American government and their policies, but feel some sense of solidarity and love for the American people, into a difficult position. If we accept that by saying 'the Japanese had no moral ground to stand on in 1945', meaning all of the Japanese people, and that therefore any measures were justified in ending the aggression of their nation, including the murder of hundreds of thousands of non-combatants, then it seems reasonable to suggest that a similar attitude could be taken with regard to the American people today.

I am unwilling to accept that.

I am compelled to differentiate the between the actions and criminal culpability of the American administration and the American people themselves, despite what we may believe about democracy as expressing the voice of the people.

To accept your formulation about the moral culpability and rightness of punishment of the Japanese people in 1945 (if I understand it correctly), then, is repugnant to me, no matter the fury I might feel at those who make war.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:46 PM on December 26, 2006 [3 favorites]


Jesus FUCK, you people are dense.

Thanks FUCK for starting out by grouping me with "you people" (who are "we people" by the way?), thus negating my individual opinion.

Okay, let's start over, in clearer terms: non-criminal, sane people do not drop atom bombs on other people. War criminals drop atom bombs on other people. And incendiary bombs, etc. There FUCK where plenty of war criminals on both sides, of course.

It's 1945, and you're Harry S. Truman.


That's as far as I can get into your little fantasy. It's not 1945, and I am not Truman. The rest is just gibberish, ad hominems, etc.
posted by signal at 5:48 PM on December 26, 2006


It's not 1945, and I am not Truman

Incumbent on criticism of any past action is identification of an available superior alternative.

Feel free.

Here, I'll go first:

Make it clearer to the military Japanese government in 1945 that the US occupation would retain the Emperor system.

Upside: Likely, but not certain, earlier unconditional surrender.

Downside: Opens the door to further "negotiations", weakens the unified front presented to Japan at Potsdam.

Clue: The last we heard from the Japanese government about Potsdam was "mokusatsu", which meant ignore with prejudice.

It was a moral failure of some extent to not do this, but it's pretty fucking easy moralizing from 60+ years on.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 5:57 PM on December 26, 2006


Incumbent on criticism of any past action is identification of an available superior alternative.
Here's an alternative: don't nuke civilians.
it's pretty fucking easy moralizing from 60+ years on.
That is entirely beside the point. It was criminal to nuke people in 1945, and it still is today, and it still will be 200 years from now.
posted by signal at 6:09 PM on December 26, 2006


If we accept that by saying 'the Japanese had no moral ground to stand on in 1945', meaning all of the Japanese people, and that therefore any measures were justified in ending the aggression of their nation, including the murder of hundreds of thousands of non-combatants, then it seems reasonable to suggest that a similar attitude could be taken with regard to the American people today.

The US could have taken a higher road in not killing so many innocents in 1942-1945. On Utilitarian grounds, however, this may not have improved the situation, given the rather brutal ongoing Japanese occupations of Asia nations, not to mention horrific famine conditions of the isolated Home Islands that winter of 1945/46.

The international order of justice had become silent by 1945. I believe there is an apropos Latin saying wrt that.

For good or ill, the US *was* the Law in 1945, at least as far as Japan was concerned.

It is also important to note that the US just didn't waltz in with a B-29 in 1942 and blow up the Japanese cities. There was a rather bloody tough slog just to get to that position. The shift to area bombing came AFTER the USMC and army had gone toe-to-toe with the static defenses of the Japanese empire for about two years, incurring significant losses to our own, and producing an increasing war weariness.

It was in our power to bring this war to a conclusion on our terms, and we effected that. Truman's primary constituency was the American people, not history.

As signal so cogently said above, now is not 1945, so the morality of those times does not necessarily apply today.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:11 PM on December 26, 2006


It was criminal to nuke people in 1945, and it still is today, and it still will be 200 years from now

That is your opinion, yes. Good for you. Actions have contexts, however, though in your black & white world I guess that's irrelevant.

My Grandfather was on Okinawa in 1945, and would have gone into Tokyo should that have been necessary. While the war already had ruined his life (PST does not begin to describe it); it was in Truman's power to bring the suffering to a close, at the cost of the peoples of those two cities. The moral calculus of those times had already been altered by the conflagration of the European theatre -- the bombings of Warsaw, Rotterdam, London, later Germany, not to mention the murderous actions of the Japanese in China and the Phillippines.

By "criminal" I take it you wish to bring FDR & Truman into some court of judgement. McNamara quotes LeMay that they admitted to themselves that the bombing campaign was in fact criminal in some sense had they not been the victors, and I agree with that.

But more importantly, I look at the bigger picture of actions available to Truman in 1945. I think he did a pretty damn good job bringing the war to a close as he did. It could have gone on longer; the two atomic bombings have the important attribute of effecting prompt Japanese surrender.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:19 PM on December 26, 2006


I'm not sure you understood what I was saying, but that's fine. I'm well-versed in the history of the conflict, for what it's worth.

As signal so cogently said above, now is not 1945, so the morality of those times does not necessarily apply today.

My belief is that morality is temporal, cultural, and transient, but that ethics are not. Some would call the distinction between morality and ethics a semantic one; I do not believe that is so.

This underpins my reservations with regards to the killing of civilians, and why I do not believe that it is any more acceptable now than it was then.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:21 PM on December 26, 2006


No, I think they do.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:23 PM on December 26, 2006


That was in response to this:

the morality of those times does not necessarily apply today.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:23 PM on December 26, 2006


I'd like to agree with whomever it was that placed the perceived criminality of atom bombing Nagasaki and Hiroshima into the category of fire bombing. In truth, it should be included in the mass bombing of urban centers. There's no moral difference between killing a lot of people with a lot of bombs versus killing people with one bomb. The end is the same, regardless of the means. Regardless, as I've noted, and others noted, it was meant to end the war and it did end the war.

My grandfather's best friend was killed on Okinawa. While reading my grandfather's war time letters (he served in a Marine detachment on a ship), he was glad that the bombs were dropped, as he recognized that they would help bring about the end of the war. (He actually suggested they drop as many as necessary to force the surrender.)

Context is a key element.
posted by Atreides at 6:39 PM on December 26, 2006


re killing of civilians.

how many Asian civilian lives is/was a Japanese civilian life worth? What about the American draftee? Or how about a Japanese civilian in Hokkaido (who would starve to death in 1946)? No one system of ethics can answer these questions conclusively.

At some point, IMV, to some extent the USAAF became a force of nature, outside normal moral calculus and ethics. It was in the Japanese's power to surrender to the allies -- or disobey their government and abandon their cities. They did not. They died. The Japanese military wanted to take as many of us with them as they could, but we declined to play that game.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:52 PM on December 26, 2006


to some extent the USAAF became a force of nature, outside normal moral calculus and ethics.

No, it didn't.
posted by signal at 7:32 PM on December 26, 2006



to some extent the USAAF became a force of nature, outside normal moral calculus and ethics.


No, it didn't.

it's impossible for us to understand it, because we've never lived in such times, but the USAAF, hell, just about EVERY country and institution that was involved in that dire war became a force of nature, a law unto itself, or rather an expression of the law that OUR side must WIN and theirs must LOSE ...

asking people in 1945 why they did such things is a lot like asking people in a crowded theater why they panicked when someone shouted fire ... except that the crowded theater was the whole world and the fire had been burning for many years

it is the same kind of mentality that, after years of a dangerous standoff, could actually consider nuclear war as an option in 1962, and accept it as rational and perhaps inevitable ... i'm barely old enough to remember that and not old enough for ww2 by a long shot

our chances of actually understanding what people thought and felt and what they perceived as being moral in those times, in that situation are not much better than our understanding how people felt at the time of the american revolution or the civil war or any other crisis period ... because we've never lived through a crisis like that ... we don't know what it's like to confront the reality that someone in the world is making a damn serious try to ruin our country and kill millions of our citizens in the process ... or millions of people in countries we count as our friends and allies

a little humility is in order ... their experiences in the world and our experiences in the world were drastically different ... we can afford glib moral pronouncements because we aren't actually making any decisions that might cost us the lives of hundreds of thousands of our soldiers ... or their soldiers ... or of their civilians
posted by pyramid termite at 7:47 PM on December 26, 2006


This is an amazing post and all things considered, a really reasonable discussion.

The only thing I have to add is while I was watching the clip, I thought of how glad I am that I wasn't one of the American pilots/soldiers who dropped the bomb. I would have rather been vaporized than had to live with the knowledge of what I had done to civilians in the name of "war." Then again, I'm a peace-loving hippie and if you give me the option of "Instant death, not knowing what hit you" or "killing someone else to reach some probable better end" I'd pick being wiped out.

I can't even imagine what it's like to be in a war zone, on either side, and I thank Dog everyday that I live in a peaceful place, no matter what stupid shit my country may be doing elsewhere.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:55 PM on December 26, 2006


I thought of how glad I am that I wasn't one of the American pilots/soldiers who dropped the bomb. I would have rather been vaporized than had to live with the knowledge of what I had done to civilians in the name of "war." Then again, I'm a peace-loving hippie and if you give me the option of "Instant death, not knowing what hit you" or "killing someone else to reach some probable better end" I'd pick being wiped out.

Maybe I am thinking too Darwinist, but if everyone were given that choice in a time of great world turmoil, the only people left would be those willing to fight, or those who feel obligated to do so because they are damned either way.
posted by bugmuncher at 9:54 PM on December 26, 2006


bugmuncher: You might find some comfort, then, in knowing that my husband would rather be the pilot and try and grapple with the consequences than be vaporized. He's certainly not a fighter, but he'd much rather live with a shitty situation than die. Myself, I just don't think a life with the sort of guilt that I would feel would really be worth living.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:12 PM on December 26, 2006


Man, there's a lot of loons on MeFi. Did you guys watch too much ST:TNG as impressionable youths or are you all drug-addled refugees from the "Summer of Love?"
posted by keswick at 11:29 PM on December 26, 2006


Keswick, neither. I think we are idealistic. Whats wrong with wanting things done humanely and just?
posted by subaruwrx at 11:46 PM on December 26, 2006


Man, there's a lot of loons on MeFi. Did you guys watch too much ST:TNG as impressionable youths or are you all drug-addled refugees from the "Summer of Love?"

Man, what kinda pansy-ass rhetoric is that?

If you're going to hit a straw man, hit him hard enough to make sure he stays down.

Fucking pacifist.
posted by poweredbybeard at 11:58 PM on December 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


keswick: watch Grave of the Fireflies and get back to us.

The history of 1933-45 is quite subtle, really. What was considered horrendously outside the Hague Conventions in 1940 was the daily wages of war in 1945.

I believe the world was put on edge by the terror bombing in Spain -- specifically Guernica in 1937, Chungking in 1938, etc, but without this context -- especially if one did not have a relation fighting and/or dying in the war -- it is quite easy to come to snap judgments out how outside the pale the USAAF area bombing campaign of 1945 was.

However, given how the Japanese had been ignoring the Hague Conventions, they had no standing to complain when they got the same treatment they had been so freely meting out.

Prior to 1945, the Japanese had been quite honorably defeated -- their Navy completely crippled, their army pushed back to its inner defense perimeter. Yet their militarists thought they could bleed the US sufficiently that we would let them retain their position at the head of Japanese society, not to mention keeping their zaibatsus running their nascent Empire.

The psychology of the situation in 1945 was quite interesting. Death was the only way out for the militarists who had brought on such ruin, until the twin shocks of the Russian entry and the atomic attacks finally weakened the "face" of the Imperial Army such that the civilians could force through their peace initiative regardless of the militarists' institutional opposition.

The Russians had to wink the Hitlerites out of their bunkers in Berlin; one also needs this perspective to understand the mindset of the US military facing its task of finishing the war in the pacific in 1945/46.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:05 AM on December 27, 2006


I don't know whether it's nuclear weapons or the standard of comments on YouTube that make me most afraid for the future.
posted by vbfg at 12:10 AM on December 27, 2006


Whats wrong with wanting things done humanely and just?

It's grossly ignorant of the historical military and political -- domestic and international -- realities of the time.

In prosecuting Total War one does not stand around, dick in hand, waiting for the enemy's next move. You keep pounding the living shit of them until they give up their fight and surrender to your terms.

The Japanese had thrown in its lot with the revisionist Axis powers -- Hitler and Mussolini. We owed them nothing but the honorable acceptance of their surrender to our terms. Which they got.

Unfortunately, people have been misinformed by eg. Gar Alpervitz's book into thinking that Japan really wanted to surrender prior to 1945 but just wasn't allowed to.

It was only by rolling back the Japanese Empire to the south shores of Kyushu, destroying their civil infrastructure, and promising utter destruction -- and delivering on this promise, plus (perhaps) the final entry of Japan's last diplomatic hope, Stalin, against them, that the Japanese were able to yield to our will.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:17 AM on December 27, 2006


They train boys to drop fire on people, but they won't allow then to write the word 'fuck' on an airplane because it's obscene.
- Colonel Walter E. Kurtz
posted by Meatbomb at 3:58 AM on December 27, 2006


My grandfather volunteered for the service during WWII. My grandfather went out into jungles on tiny little islands in the Pacific to find the remains of the crews of US airplanes which had crashed. My grandfather had a picture of himself shaking hands with McNamara. My grandfather, he thought the nukes were unnecessary since the "Japs" (who he hated at the time) had already surrendered.
Funny how my grandfather's stories are backed up by non-revisionist history.
posted by eparchos at 4:17 AM on December 27, 2006


I wonder sometimes what would've happened if the US hadn't dropped nukes nor staged operations OLYMPIC and CORONET, but simply used its naval air power to enforce a maritime-exclusion zone around the Home Islands after Okinawa. Would that have led to mass starvation, or would the Japanese have accepted unconditional surrender?
posted by pax digita at 5:08 AM on December 27, 2006


Would that have led to mass starvation, or would the Japanese have accepted unconditional surrender?

it would have led to mass starvation ... once a surrender did come, it would have been a resentful one ... and i think our country's reputation would have been damaged more than the bombs damaged it

even when the americans occupied japan and were more than willing to feed the populace, they were having trouble doing so ... the japanese government was losing the capacity to feed its people without a blockade ... it would have been impossible with a blockade

by the way, there's something else everyone forgets about this ... that a good part of china was still under occupation by japan at the time of surrender and that a good part of that was being invaded by russia ... the results of a continued russo-japanese war in china would have probably been horrific as neither of those countries were too concerned about civilians
posted by pyramid termite at 5:21 AM on December 27, 2006


grandfathers' stories?

reading [Tibbet's] grandson Lt. Col. Paul Tibbets, IV, as of 2005 is a pilot in the U.S. Air Force, flying a B-2 Spirit for the 509th Bomb Wing, the same unit that his grandfather commanded gave me cause to shudder.
posted by de at 6:39 AM on December 27, 2006


I've never understood the moral arithmetic behind the "more people would have died" crowd.

It is hubristic to assume we can calculate such things, and experience shows it is damaging to try. It's the logic of every atrocity, we had to do it or they would have completely destroyed us.

Our computer models in Iraq allow(ed?) up to 30 civilian deaths to bomb one Ba'athist target.

It's not like firebombing the country and nuking two cities were the only two options available. There could have been a non-targetted demonstration, or alternative targets not populated by women and children could have been chosen.

Of course a message "had" to be sent, the telegraph needed to be bloody.
posted by sonofsamiam at 6:58 AM on December 27, 2006


"Our computer models in Iraq allow(ed?) up to 30 civilian deaths to bomb one Ba'athist target."

Documentation please.
posted by sfts2 at 7:23 AM on December 27, 2006


Documentation please.

I heard that on This American Life, in the episode about the Lancet report on Iraqi deaths. It's near the end of Act 1, iirc.
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:27 AM on December 27, 2006


Did you also see in the first paragraph where iit said 'despite concerted efforts to avoid civilian casualties' yet your post tries to make it seem like callous murdering Americans coldly calculating 'oh we can kill 30 civilians if we hit one target.' In the bowels of the pentagon, there may be someone who has calculated some metric such as this, although I find your source on its surface, not credible. You present this in such a way to make Americans seem like cold blooded murderers. I guess we have our share of small-minded bigots and jingoistic rednecks looking to kill some towelheads. Yet, we spend billions to make 'smart' weapons, to minimize loss of non-military life, and when this ordnance finds its way into a military target with women and children brought in to act as human shields, who takes the heat?

Its interesting to me the way some seem to evaluate the historical context of WWII given the mindset of the current situation in Iraq and I guess its easy to lump them together in your mind and see them as being somehow similar while frustration and hate for one colors the viewpoint of the other.

Its nice to know that folks espouse the way of peace and look to shun all who make war. I agree that if we all decided to end war, it would end. I hope that happens someday. In the meantime, I'll keep my powder dry.

/ramble
posted by sfts2 at 7:57 AM on December 27, 2006


although I find your source on its surface, not credible.

Listen to who gives this information on the show, then.

Its interesting to me the way some seem to evaluate the historical context of WWII given the mindset of the current situation in Iraq and I guess its easy to lump them together in your mind and see them as being somehow similar while frustration and hate for one colors the viewpoint of the other.

Or... I find some similarity in the arguments in this thread about WWII. Don't quit your day job, Freud.

You present this in such a way to make Americans seem like cold blooded murderers.

Is that what your mind immediately leaps to? I didn't say it's the logic of every American atrocity.

What do you have to be so defensive about here? I'm guessing nothing.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:12 AM on December 27, 2006


war is hell. In hell, you either be a devil or a sinner. Pick your side.
posted by concreteforest at 8:49 AM on December 27, 2006


Ain't nothing manlier than motivational slogans. Break the fuck out of those eggs, we gotsta get our omelette on! Feel the burn, max the envelope, etc.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:53 AM on December 27, 2006


I just think it's funny that loq condemns America for nuking two cities of a nation that initiated a war and then promptly wishes a comet would strike the Earth, presumably killing everyone. I've come to expect such idiocy from the batshitinsane left though.
posted by keswick at 9:00 AM on December 27, 2006


sonofsamiam: "Ain't nothing manlier than motivational slogans."

Fighting for peace is like fucking for celibacy, you cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war, make love not war, killing civilians is a war crime, etcet...
posted by koeselitz at 9:06 AM on December 27, 2006


One of those things is not like the others.

(hint: it depends on how you kill them.)
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:09 AM on December 27, 2006


keswick: I just think it's funny that loq condemns America for nuking two cities of a nation that initiated a war and then promptly wishes a comet would strike the Earth, presumably killing everyone. I've come to expect such idiocy from the batshitinsane left though.

Look, I disagree with loquacious. I mean, I think it's simplistic to say bluntly that dropping the bomb in Hiroshima was wrong, and I think it disregards the difficult decision that was made there. I also tend to lean toward thinking that it was the right thing to do.

But while it's a little naive to be so dismissive of the past, loquacious' sentiments were dead on: war is a hideous thing, and those bombs were worse than anything the world had ever seen. I defy anybody to watch those documentaries without getting a bit emotional; they tore me up a lot. And, like grapefruitmoon said earlier, I can't help but thank god that I had no part in that decision, as I don't have any idea how I could live knowing it. It may be the right thing to do, and I believe in it; but there are some necessary actions that are utterly horrific and completely unenviable. We have to remember that, and resist the temptation to fall into a "kill 'em all, it's just war" mentality.

There are days when I feel as though the moral weight of the things the United States was forced by circumstances to do in WW2 has caused so much spiritual damage to us Americans that we'll never really deal with it. Simultaneously recognizing these actions as necessary and horrifying, while nearly impossible, is the only way to begin to appreciate the way they've changed us.
posted by koeselitz at 9:19 AM on December 27, 2006


I just think it's funny that loq condemns America for nuking two cities of a nation that initiated a war and then promptly wishes a comet would strike the Earth, presumably killing everyone.

you have a point

I've come to expect such idiocy from the batshitinsane left though.

idiocy is one of those non-partisan things
posted by pyramid termite at 9:19 AM on December 27, 2006


The ends justify the means! Think of the children greater good. Vaporizing them instantly was a whole lot easier. And cheaper, too! And we won, and that is the whole point of everything, right?

Personally, I think we should go back to broad swords and battle axes to fight wars. I'd be much prouder of America had we hacked those hundreds of thousands of civilians to death.
posted by effwerd at 9:20 AM on December 27, 2006


The point of "waiting them out" ignores the presence of thousands of allied POWs rotting away in camps, the continued occupation of mainland Asia, and the possibility that Japan would deliver its own retaliatory weapons (they would have if they could; cf. their balloon bombs and plague bombs delivered from floatplanes launched from their fleet submarine).

The decision to force the issue came with the USAAF moving from high-altitude "precision" bombing to firebombing of urban areas. That was our moral/ethical Rubicon, not Aug 6.

Doing so saved American lives and very likely got the war over sooner (on our terms) for everyone.

oh, and I agree that keswick has yet to offer a worthwhile opinion here, ever.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:21 AM on December 27, 2006


sonofsamiam

"I like how, even "directly", you puss out and add "most likely." Am I full of shit or not?

Did you listen to the show? Did I make it up?"


son, I'll type reeeeaalll slow on this one.

First, I don't get knowledge of computer models of superpower warplans from TV shows. Or think that those who do have presented a credible source. However, it seemed polite to at least allow that there was some possibility that you were in fact, not full of shit.

Secondly, remember, if your argument has no merit, attack your opponent.
posted by sfts2 at 9:43 AM on December 27, 2006


You asked for a source and I took the trouble to dig it up and post it for you. If you can't be bothered to confirm it by actually examining the source (it's not a TV show), I couldn't care less, I'm not trying to sell something.

I have no 'argument', I have thoughts. I can't imagine what your problem is, though.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:48 AM on December 27, 2006


I'd be much prouder of America had we hacked those hundreds of thousands of civilians to death

cough

The end never justifies the means . . . the US did what we did in 1945. And at the end of the day what the US did is between the Americans and the Japanese, really.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:58 AM on December 27, 2006


Heh. I was trying for an over-the-top snark. I'll work harder on it next time. ;)
posted by effwerd at 10:22 AM on December 27, 2006


Killing (x)lives to save (y)lives is such a hollow argument.

Dropping the A-bomb was an incalculable evil.

There is no good in evil, ever.
posted by four panels at 12:21 PM on December 27, 2006


I wonder how comment posting it will take to the fact that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were subjected to nuclear bombs.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:28 PM on December 27, 2006


(how much comment posting, and how much more previewing?)
posted by Burhanistan at 12:28 PM on December 27, 2006


(change the fact) damn computer screen cross-eyedness!
posted by Burhanistan at 12:29 PM on December 27, 2006


Just a few more, Burhanistan. You're almost there.
posted by koeselitz at 12:31 PM on December 27, 2006


There is no good in evil, ever.

Thank you for your opinion.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:32 PM on December 27, 2006


Ok, for the archives: I wonder how much more comment posting it will take to change the fact that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were subjected to nuclear bombs.

Is this the one? Did this comment cause some kind of wormhole reversal effect to make those cities re-integrate and the plutonium to un-split? Ah...that's better.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:38 PM on December 27, 2006


MetaFilter. live in Peace, or die trying
posted by Doohickie at 12:46 PM on December 27, 2006


Is this the one?

no

(let's see, e=mc2 / 32/5678*95, taking into consideration the square root of pi and the square pi root of 66 and ...)

i'm sorry, but there aren't enough pixels in the universe to print out the answer on MY screen much less anyone else's

too much comment posting altogether

mefi should have it done by 2011, but only if there's a couple of good flame outs
posted by pyramid termite at 12:48 PM on December 27, 2006


We are not the only animal that wages war (although we do seem to deliberate it more than others do, a mixed blessing).

That said, perhaps when there is only one human society, we will live in peace.

I can't say I liked the video clip, but thank you for posting it.
posted by owhydididoit at 12:58 PM on December 27, 2006


four panels: Killing (x)lives to save (y)lives is such a hollow argument.

Dropping the A-bomb was an incalculable evil.

There is no good in evil, ever.


I agree that killing is always unpleasant, and often tragic. (There are times when I believe it's not tragic, but that's a very different case.) And I think it's both evil and harmful for us to forget that.

However, you do realize that your argument can't take place in a vacuum, don't you? I mean, when you say that killing can never be justified by calculating the lives saved, you're saying that war is never right. This is the position that several people in this thread seem to be arguing from: that it is simply wrong to kill people, and especially to kill that many people.

That might be the correct position. I respect the guts it takes to see it out to its logical end. But it's not my position.

At the end of WW1 and for a long time afterward, the popular belief was that war is a foolish game played by those who prefer the luxury of dominion to the benefit of a live and healthy male population. The sheer pointlessness of WW1, the carnage which ensued when some member of a royal family who hardly anybody could remember after a while was killed, the deaths of millions upon millions of people convinced a good chunk of society that, should the call up come again, we would be best to ignore it and turn aside. The film "All Quiet on the Western Front" expresses this sentiment most eloquently:

At the next war let all the Kaisers, presidents and generals and diplomats go into a big field and fight it out first among themselves. That will satisfy us and keep us at home.

WW2 changed a lot of people's minds. It was an amazingly tailor-made set of test cases for just wars: is it just to fight a war to prevent invasion? Is it just to fight a war to prevent genocide? Is it just to fight a war to prevent more killing? Now, all of these questions have been endlessly debated over the last six decades, and it's possible to argue that they're framed incorrectly (i.e., we certainly weren't fight against invasion, as that was hardly ever imminent except for a short time directly following the Pearl Harbor attack) but the fact that evil exists in the world means that we have to ask these questions. Once the so-called Nazis appeared, the question was: do we allow them to attempt to commit genocide? Or do we fight against them, killing many innocent people in the process?

If we had chosen not to fight in WW2, or not to end it by dropping the bomb in Hiroshima or invading Japan, then a lot more people would have died. We could have trudged into the fifties knowing that our hands didn't have blood on them, but the Jews of Europe and the victims of the imperial atrocities in Japan would be dead, and the world would blame us for it.

Nowadays, our grudging decision to enter WW2 has become a happy belief that war is something we just do, all the time, because we're supposed to. I have no doubt that the pendulum has swung too far, and that we'd do well to take a few lessons from the hatred of war that was common in the thirties. However, I don't think we can ignore what's happened in the last hundred years; it ought to have taught us a few things.
posted by koeselitz at 1:19 PM on December 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


you cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war

I disagree. Teddy Roosevelt's Big Stick policy was exactly that-- have a bigger stick than everyone else so they don't dare challenge you.
posted by Doohickie at 1:22 PM on December 27, 2006


keswick, the comet comments were from Devils Rancher (and a few minutes later from spitbull). I didn't see loquacious say anything about comets at all, and he didn't say anything about atomic bombs, either. You appear to me to have skimmed the thread and snarked, which is why you're in MeTa, now.

For my part, I see a crux between loquacious's eloquent hope for humanity's best qualities to stand for humanity as a species, and ROU_Xenophobe's starker sense of human beings as animals, unlike loquacious's better creatures.

If human beings can be better, loquacious says, they must be, or we'll die, all, stupidly, ignobly, inhumanly.

Whether an internet message board is a good context for a discussion about human beings' potential to transcend their limits as animals, I dunno, but that's the serious question I see in this thread. I see it as more important than trying to determine anything about the specific circumstances that drove specific people to choose to deploy atomic bombs in a time of war. Maybe I'm off-topic, though. If so, sorry, but when I read through, it's what I found myself thinking about.
posted by cgc373 at 2:51 PM on December 27, 2006


Rhetoric is still rhetoric, no matter if it is on "your side" or not.

This thread is a perfect example of why discussions like this cannot be decided by "the people".

The bombing of H&N is an incredibly complex topic that only perhaps 5 or 6 of the 150+ comments above touch on.

Most people do not have the knowledge to discuss this topic properly. I know much more about this topic than your "average american" and I'm still shamefully ignorant.

You had, literally, the greatest minds of the time (and some of the greatest minds of all time) trying to decide how to deal with this war. Real intellectual giants, people who changed the world.

I think everyone except psychopaths can agree that killing people is unfortunate. But, sometimes, there is no other choice.

The only thing I will address directly is that this fantasy of us ignoring Japan's surrender is just that, fantasy. At best, it would have been considered an offer of a "truce", which is quite different from a surrender, and it was never sincere anyway, but a tool to try to buy time and more importantly leverage. And it still works 60 years hence.
posted by Ynoxas at 3:03 PM on December 27, 2006


Really, if folks can't stand that the US atom-bonbed Japan for no fucking good reason to do with the war, they shouldn't pretend that they are somehow more toughminded or pragmatic than people who acknowledge this truth. Since by pragmatic standards to do with actually winning the war, the A-bomb was also stupidly useless. A broad consensus among military leaders of the time (Eisenhower, MacArthur, Nimitz) thought so, given that the Japanese had made multiple gestures in reaction to Potsdam and that the US had been well-advised as to Japan's likely terms -- terms which the US freely granted after the war. The US' own Strategic Bombing Survey came to the conclusion that neither the atom bomb, the Soviet threat nor a land invasion were necessary.

So basically, the idea that the atom bomb saved lives is bullshit. It didn't. Accept it. It did not replace a costly land invasion. It was not the nasty pragmatic tool that inspired Japan to surrender. It just killed and proxy tortured a whole bunch of people for no good reason.
posted by mobunited at 3:13 PM on December 27, 2006


mobunited: "...Japanese had made multiple gestures in reaction to Potsdam..."

Japan made no gestures in reaction to Potsdam. In fact, even after Hiroshima, Japan's only reaction to Potsdam was to impose martial law in order to prevent overtures of peace by Japanese civilians.

There was, it is true, a small number of Japanese civilians in favor of peace. They were apparently the ones responsible for the rumor that Japan was willing to surrender if certain conditions might be laid down. But they were not in control of the government, and the actions of the government even after Russia had declared war and bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima indicates that it took some time for the Emperor and his council to consider surrender.

Oh, and favoriting your own comments is silly.
posted by koeselitz at 3:40 PM on December 27, 2006


Sorry, forgot the link for "after Hiroshima"
posted by koeselitz at 3:42 PM on December 27, 2006


but the Jews of Europe and the victims of the imperial atrocities in Japan would be dead, and the world would blame us for it

we were basically too late for the former, but it was in fact the latter group was what got us into the war in the first place.

mobunited: I agree that the bombs did not necessarily end the war. However, they in combination with the area bombing campaign certainly did, by raising the price of continuation of resistance to be greater than the Japanese could themselves bear (and removing their efficacy of their suicide tactics of resistance).

Wikipedia says Chungking was the most-bombed city of of WW2, with over 1000 sorties flown against it. Regardless of the veracity of this, Japan had shown by its actions in China that it had no regard for civility as embodied in the Hague Conventions.

When the ABCD powers (America, UK, China, and Holland) stood together against Japanese aggression in 1941, they launched total war.

The arc of battle 1942 - 1945 was an immensely successful accomplishment of the Allied powers, in defeating a first-rate military power (while also taking on Nazi Germany simultaneously).

The Japanese in mid-late 1945 were still in fact husbanding their military resources for suicidal resistance of their shores. It is the most ignorant of revisionism to assert that the military, who was still running the show, was "making multiple gestures in reaction" to the Potsdam Declaration.

The Potsdam Declaration was simply: Surrender or Die. "Gestures" didn't count for shit.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 4:03 PM on December 27, 2006


In world war one, the hot new technology for killing was gas. I think I'd rather have been vaporized instantly than get hit with white star or the like. Not saying the bomb wasn't bad, just that it isn't anywhere near the cruelest form of mass killing humans have come up with, only the most wholesale.

Hmmm. There's some disturbing ethical algebra....

x*Cholorine-Gas-Victims = y*Atom-Bomb-Victims

where x and y are cruelty-coefficients, taking into account time-required-to-die, pain-during-dieing, and survivor-suffering...
posted by nomisxid at 5:04 PM on December 27, 2006


>"I guess the question is: how do you stop an empire that's ready and willing to commit many and vast war crimes in order to win the war they've started?"

Gosh. For a second there I thought you meant the war in Iraq.

>"we saved the lives of Japanese civilians"

The notion that Truman gave a hoot about Japanese lives is preposterous. When he ordered the bombing he knew for certain he would kill every single civilian in range. He purposely targeted civilians.

I expect in the future to be reading nonsense about Bush escalating the war in Iraq to save lives. Or worse, his being forced to nuke Iran in order to achieve peace on acceptable terms.
posted by crispynubbins at 5:56 PM on December 27, 2006


Those who confuse the argument that the bombing of Hiroshima saved lives with a knee-jerk jingoism of the Robert McNamara stripe have not been paying attention

The fact that few Americans see this as possible, let alone true, is saddening. That a war crime may have shortened the war and saved lives is perplexing to me.


McNamara quotes LeMay that they admitted to themselves that the bombing campaign was in fact criminal in some sense had they not been the victors, and I agree with that.

In Fog of War, Errol Morris asks McNamara if he knew of the decision to fire bomb Toyko in advance. McNamara replies that he was a part of the process that recommended it.

McNamara also says that had Japan won the war, "We all [USAAF leadership and probably anyone above the rank of Lieutenant] would have been executed as war criminals."

Stavros: How do people in Korea feel about Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
posted by mlis at 6:14 PM on December 27, 2006


crispy: your BDS is showing.

Nobody on this planet gave a shit about Japanese lives, civilian or no, in 1945. This is one of the signal reasons why the USAAF area bombing campaign was effective in bringing their military to heel (and why a somewhat similar bombing campaign directed at the Hanoi leadership failed).

To put in blunt terms, one American POW's life was worth 100,000 Japanese lives in 1945. The Japanese government had a choice: surrender or suffer under the continuing rain of bombs. The Japanese civilians had choices, too: civil insurrection or getting the hell away from any urban center or military target within range of the B-29s.

Again, the military and historical context here is critical in understanding the moral logic of events.

Some number of millions of Chinese civilians were killed in the second Sino-Japanese war, and the Japanese brought the Americans into this war by attacking us in 1941.

Empty-headed moralizing is pretty fucking easy sitting 60 years after the events. Educate yourself about the world of 1945, I've got to give up now.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:15 PM on December 27, 2006


hmm, it just struck me that an "urban center" is really a concentration of capital wealth. The leaflet campaign warning the civilians to vacate their cities was indicative of the true target of the atomic attacks -- Japan's wealth, not people.

Of course, the Japanese had absolute no grounds to complain about the US's destruction of their cities, given their own predations upon China (specifically Shanghai, Nanking, and Chungking), not to mention their garrisoning and bitter defense of Manila in 1944-45 (the Americans left it an open city when they were on the defense in 1942), and also not to mention their continued alliance with Nazi Germany, populizers and perfectors of the night-time area bombing raid, right to the bitter end.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:28 PM on December 27, 2006


If morality exists at all as anything other than a word, it's not about the military and historical context here, or what year it is, or how many years have passed, or about difficult decisions, or expediency, or how many of their lives are worth one of ours, or about how bad they are compared to how good we are, or what they would have done if given the chance, or even what would you do if you where president.
It's about simple stuff like: do not drop atom bombs on children, do not murder people with radiation sickness, do not burn people alive. Simple stuff like that.
Every single crime against humanity has a context, tons of explanations, thousands of "what ifs", millions of rationalizations. None of them make any difference, none at all.
Unless morality is just a word with no meaning, of course.
posted by signal at 6:39 PM on December 27, 2006


Stavros: How do people in Korea feel about Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

It tends to depend very much on their age. To generalize very broadly, many older people have a great deal of resentment about the occupation during the first half of the last century, the deliberate attempts to eradicate Korean culture and language, the WWII sex slaves, all of the evils done by the Japanese culminating in WWII (but are often deeply conflicted because of the ways in which the successes of the two countries have been intertwined, and the often-belittled but significant benefits that the occupation, evil as it was, conferred on Korea).

Younger people not so much, although there are of course many that are happy to shoulder their parents' and grandparents' burden of resentment.

The tendency amongst Koreans is to focus on Korea. There have been, famously, a few bars that have opened here over the years with Nazi themes -- without fail the justification was 'Well, Hitler was a famous historical guy! We didn't imagine that anyone would be offended!'

It's a very complicated thing, 20th century history, here. There is a very strong tendency to just Not Think About It. Some reasons for that: the pain and humiliation that looking dispassionately at those times would bring, the collective and individual loss of face and the very real possibility that (some Very Important) people (60% of the country was owned by 10 chaebol families as recently as 30 years ago, and not much has changed) might be embarrassed, the numbers of people who collaborated with the Japanese occupation forces, which most would like to forget, the partition of the country and the succession of military juntas that ran the place until the late '80s and fostered the KCIA-created atmosphere of paranoia (which led people to 'talk about nothing, to everyone, even family' during those times), and much more.

Mixed in with that are similar-but-different feelings about America. The current of anti-American feeling that comes in no small part from the injury to the all-important Korean national pride that the dependancy over the decades has created, all while (at least in older people) with knowledge that an extremely important element of Korea's successes in the past 50 years has been America's help, just as many of the setbacks have been a result of American (well-intentioned) meddling.

So, yeah, a mess. There is more love towards America (the ideal, the idea) than towards Japan (and resentment and conflicted feelings toward both), but both nations occupy enormous positions in the Korean mentality and attitude towards the Big Powers that they feel have pulled and pushed them at every turn, and those feelings, I think, have a deeper and more important effect than isolated events, no matter how horrific, like the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Korean War, coming 6 years after WWII with its millions dead in such a small place --and the long, painful aftermath -- occupies a much greater portion of mindshare, too, of course.

Again, it's complicated, and I generalize. I gotta run, or I'd blather on at even greater length, so you're spared.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:54 PM on December 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


Unless morality is just a word with no meaning, of course

There are differing systems of morality; there is no one global, eternal moral code we can refer to, other than perhaps to treat others as one would be treated.

IMV FDR, Truman, and the USAAF passed that moral test in the events surrounding WW2.

Japan, by its actions from 1933 to 1945 determined for themselves the coin they would be paying for their war.

They launched upon a bloody total war, and we obliged them. They were free to accept the Allies terms of surrender, or even offer their own conditions thereto, they declined. Their intents were evil, their diplomacy was inept, their military leadership delusional, and their people grimly bewildered by the whipsaw course of events.

That the war ended so quickly after Nagasaki is the only justification our actions that day require.

If that's not enough for you, too fucking bad.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 8:19 PM on December 27, 2006


If that's not enough for you, too fucking bad.

Nice touch. Just don't declare TOTAL WAR on your interlocuters, mmkay?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:35 PM on December 27, 2006


(Just funnin' -- don't nuke me, I'll surrender!)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:35 PM on December 27, 2006


From my relatively limited study of history, I think it's entirely possible that WW2 may have been the only just war we ever fought, save of course the Revolutionary War itself. (The Civil War is questionable... it can be argued either way.)

Pretty much every time before or since when we've gotten involved abroad, it's been for bad reasons. WW2 was a gigantic counterexample, and unfortunately it's shaded every war since. We were, for once, thoroughly in the right, fighting for the right reasons. All the actual wars since have used the WW2 memory as a justification in some way.... even up to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. (9/11: the New Pearl Harbor, etc etc blah blah blah). Saddam was the New Hitler... twice.

(I'm excluding Somalia and Kosovo from this, because I don't really think of them as war... the 'police action' euphemism does seem to apply in those cases.)

At one time we really hated war, but WW2 showed us that we could be fearsomely good at it if we chose, and we've been getting into ill-advised conflicts ever since. We've made the biggest hammer in the history of the world, and we keep seeing the screwed-up parts of the world as nails. We insist on using the wrong tool for the jobs we want done, because it worked so well that once.

But sticking with the bombing itself: as Ynoxas pointed out, these people were incredibly well-educated, powerful thinkers. They were enormously talented men, and they'd be ashamed to see the poor statesmen we choose for ourselves these days.

Of all the people in history to make that fateful decision, they were the right people to do it. There have probably never been better politicians in power. Second-guessing men of that caliber is foolish. You may not agree with the decision, but there's not a soul here who comes even close to the level of knowledge these people had.
posted by Malor at 8:44 PM on December 27, 2006


Ooh, thanks, I had never heard of the firebombing of Dresden before. I say "fuck you" to those British pilots, too.

And as someone who grew up in the Liverpool dock area in the mid-fifties, where every street *still* had a couple of houses that were left in ruins by German bombs, I say a big 'fuck you' back to you, meatbomb.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:18 AM on December 28, 2006


Huh, Peter? I didn't bomb your city, and I promise I never will. I suggest you redirect that "fuck you" to the pilots of the Luftwaffe... who were just following orders / doing their brave patriotic duty / trying to save countless lives and avert a greater tragedy, etc.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:15 AM on December 28, 2006


Second-guessing men of that caliber is foolish. You may not agree with the decision, but there's not a soul here who comes even close to the level of knowledge these people had.
No, what's foolish is to assume that a certain level of "knowledge" which leaves you beyond moral judgment.
There isn't.
posted by signal at 3:40 AM on December 28, 2006


That the war ended so quickly after Nagasaki is the only justification our actions that day require.

So if we'd wiped out the entire Japanese nation, that would have been justified because it ended the war? Not trolling, just asking. Is there any level of military response that you'd consider immoral?
posted by languagehat at 6:25 AM on December 28, 2006


Japan, by its actions from 1933 to 1945 determined for themselves the coin they would be paying for their war.

Since this whole discussion started with Hiroshima, it may be wise at this point to remind ourselves that the civilians (housewives, children, ordinary people who had no say in their government's decisions or affairs) who died in their thousands in the atomic attack most certainly hadn't "determined for themselves" the coin they had to pay. But they sure paid it anyway, didn't they?

Also, what languagehat said. That is, asked.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:41 AM on December 28, 2006


cn: "The notion that Truman gave a hoot about Japanese lives is preposterous. "
hm: "Nobody on this planet gave a shit about Japanese lives, civilian or no, in 1945. "

Truman's responsibility was to save American lives.
posted by crispynubbins at 7:06 AM on December 28, 2006


languagehat: yours is a fair question, but as you know, unanswerable.

I mean, what is the alternative? If you have someone who has pledged to fight to the last man, and they have shown they have no problem with offensive first strikes, then I'm not sure what else you could do.

Noone seems to ask this question: If we had dropped both bombs, and it STILL didn't break the Japanese will, what next?

We had burned entire cities to the ground, and we had vaporized two with something akin to magic at that time, and tens of thousands killed slogging through the islands.

Were the Allies to simply give up? Say "Welp, those Japs sure are a determined lot. Let's go back to San Diego."

The Japanese had proven themselves to be treacherous and without honor. They had also proven themselves to be tenacious and entrenched and, from all outward appearances, ready to fight forever, or until the last man, as the saying goes.

So, I guess the answer has to be, yes, any level of military action is acceptable. Isn't that what war means? If you decide to go to war, then you are saying "I plan on killing enough of your people till your government says 'enough'". Right? I understand Geneva conventions and such, and agree with them, but honestly, if wars could be decided by simply spinning a dial to the desired number of dead, and pushing a button, don't you think that's what they would do instead?

I'm rambling but this is a very difficult question, and as I alluded above, has perplexed the best and brightest of the modern era. I imagine even Roman commanders of the day may have asked if they were to kill every living thing.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:25 AM on December 28, 2006


All the people mentioning the battle of Okinawa ignore a central truth. Japan was prepared to sacrifice Okinawa, whose people were (and arguably, still are) considered second-class citizens of the country. In fact, Japanese soldiers almost surely committed more atrocities against Okinawan civilians than American soldiers did.

Japan was quite prepared to sacrifice Okinawa and its civilians, but was not prepared to sacrifice the home islands. How this fact might have affected the rest of the war can be debated, but it is a fact.

Those using this battle to justify the atomic bombings would do well to choose another example.
posted by jeffmshaw at 7:31 AM on December 28, 2006


>"crispy: your BDS is showing."

Yes, only the deranged would criticize Bush. He's not responsible for anything.
posted by crispynubbins at 7:37 AM on December 28, 2006


I understand Geneva conventions and such, and agree with them

This is not consistent with the rest of your argument.
posted by languagehat at 8:17 AM on December 28, 2006


crispynubbins: "The notion that Truman gave a hoot about Japanese lives is preposterous."
Heywood Mogroot: "Nobody on this planet gave a shit about Japanese lives, civilian or no, in 1945."
crispynubbins: "Truman's responsibility was to save American lives."


I just want to point out that this is demonstrably false. Harry Truman aimed to save lives, period; he agonized about the insanely extreme death toll that the war in the pacific had made, and sought to end it in the interest of ending the killing. In his diaries and memoirs regarding the subject, he makes it a point not to distinguish between "American lives" and "Japanese lives." A pertinent excerpt, from his diary of July 25, 1945:

This weapon is to be used against Japan between now and August 10th. I have told the Sec. of War, Mr. Stimson, to use it so that military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children. Even if the Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, we as the leader of the world for the common welfare cannot drop that terrible bomb on the old capital or the new.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were selected as military targets; and note especially that Truman thought that the United States had a duty to minimize Japanese casualties "as the leader of the world for the common welfare." These are the qualities which make Truman, at least in my mind, the last truly great president we've had in the United States. Also, crispynubbins: I'm certainly not defending Bush when I say these things; in fact, I think identifying Bush with Truman is confused, to say the least. Our current predicament has to do with what happened at the end of WW2, but as I said before, while it seems as though we've grown far too accepting of the bare fact of being at war, we need to remember that it's sometimes necessary; otherwise, our love of peace will be unrealistic and unguarded, and peace won't last.

languagehat: "So if we'd wiped out the entire Japanese nation, that would have been justified because it ended the war? Not trolling, just asking. Is there any level of military response that you'd consider immoral?"

I believe that the lesson that WW2 teaches us is this: it is difficult to set limits on the ability of man to be cruel and inhumane to man. When such extreme evils arise, we sometimes find ourselves trying to choose the lesser of several evils. The aim in such a situation must be to minimize bloodshed by ending conflict quickly; no other end is conscionable.
posted by koeselitz at 10:06 AM on December 28, 2006


...and it goes without saying that wiping out the entire Japanese nation wouldn't have saved lives.
posted by koeselitz at 10:08 AM on December 28, 2006


I realize that is contradictory to an extent, LH; again, I find it a terribly difficult topic, both intellectually and emotionally.

It's something I try not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I'm not sure I find things like humane treatment of prisoners and minimizing suffering of casualties to be completely incompatible with "all out war".

Being vaporized by a nuke is about as humane a death as you could get, considering it happens in milliseconds.

Really only the 4th convention has any bearing on this discussion, and basically (by my simple understanding, I am not even fully informed of the Geneva Conventions, much less any kind of authority) it could be construed to basically make modern warfare impossible.

In my opinion, waging modern (as opposed to, say, Napoleonic) war and protecting civilians is incompatible. Whether that is desirable or not is a different discussion. But, in WWII, care for civilians was practically disregarded by every party participating.

As I said... it's complicated. But as far as the H&N bombings, I agree it was the right thing to do at that time. Others may disagree, but for me to respect that disagreement, it has to be predicated on something other than OMGZ NUKES or "those poor civilians" for reasons listed in the last couple dozen posts.

War is hell.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:35 AM on December 28, 2006


my dad was a sergeant in the pacific theater in wwii. he and his comrades were at war with an enemy which had attacked us first. while i respect the views of the opposition here, i address this issue in the personal light of my family history which compels me to support anything, and i do mean anything, which would have brought him home safe.
posted by bruce at 12:21 PM on December 28, 2006


Being vaporized by a nuke is about as humane a death as you could get, considering it happens in milliseconds.

And for all the people who weren't vaporized, but instead suffured severe burns and radiation sickness? Must have been a walk in the park.
posted by agregoli at 1:01 PM on December 28, 2006


Yep. Walk in the park. Interesting reason for the censorship given here.
posted by crispynubbins at 1:09 PM on December 28, 2006


Sorry, bad url. That will teach me not to preview and test.
posted by crispynubbins at 1:11 PM on December 28, 2006


agregoli: yes, yes, nothing is perfect. I don't mean that flippantly. Truly, a perfect weapon would be one that with any exposure of any kind would cause instantaneous death. Those not exposed of course would suffer no ill effects. But neither bullets nor poison gas nor nuclear bombs nor even bayonets have that kind of assurance.

The thing that frustrates me is that many people in this thread basically want to say the solution was to not kill people... which while generally a good piece of advice, is not very helpful whilst in the middle of a war.

The Allies did not have the option of "not killing people" to bring the war to an end.

Therefore, they had to do "something". This "something" was thought, by many of the best and brightest of the era, to be better than other "somethings". I happen to agree. And that, simply, is the point in its entirety.
posted by Ynoxas at 1:54 PM on December 28, 2006


And to follow up, let me tell you that the reason I feared Global Thermonuclear War (tm) so much growing up in the 80's was not fear of being instantly vaporized, it was fear of being one of the "lucky" survivors.

My plan was if the nukes were ever on their way, I was driving my car as fast as possible directly towards Oak Ridge, as it was very close and a primary and secondary target, and I would certainly be killed. I want to be standing on top of a reactor waving at Slim Pickens as he rides the bomb straight down on top of me.
posted by Ynoxas at 1:59 PM on December 28, 2006


the British were thrilled with how destructive they were, and tried to repeat their success

Your history is totalising and un-nuanced. In the wake of public disdain and political turmoil in Britain, that old chemical bomber wannabe Churchill himself scrambled like crazy right after the Dresden slaughter to distance himself from the act, both in terms of its moral element and its strategic utility. The truth is that even during the conduct of the war in Britain, a number of rival factions competed to define the terms of the engagement with Germany. The most amazing thing to me is that throughout WW2 in the European theatre all sides managed to refrain from using mass chemical weapon and nerve gas attacks on cities - a cycle of mass destruction that could have easily led to the deaths of millions more. That they did not shows that even in the bitterest war so far some people had the presence of mind to constrain the activities of their more aggressive elements. This came about, of course, through a combination of morality and fear of retaliation.
posted by meehawl at 3:25 PM on December 28, 2006


The Allies did not have the option of "not killing people" to bring the war to an end.

They did, however, have the option of dropping only one nuclear weapon. The second was unnecessary.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:55 PM on December 28, 2006


I find it amazing no one has yet brought up Bushido.

"The Bushido mentality of Japanese soldiers
During World War II, Japanese society was a volatile combination of feudalism and nationalism that concluded in a national acceptance of military rule during the war years. The Japanese armed forces were a highly nationalistic, well established modern fighting force. Their doctrine was the Bushido code of feudal Japan permitted the fighting code of Japan's servicemen. Bushido, the code of the Samurai warrior extolled the offensive, created a lust of battle and condemned weakness. It demanded bravery, loyalty, allegiance to orders and forbade surrender. It was believed that death in combat was honorable. In combat, this code was used to rally troops into suicidal banzai charges, or to encourage encircled troops to take their own lives with grenades before they could be captured. Surrender was disgraceful not only to the soldier, but to his entire family. There are documented accounts of soldier's wives driving themselves to disgrace or death because of rumors that their husband dishonorably surrendered. Even after decades after the war was over, Japanese holdouts wept openly when they heard the war was over, refused to surrender to anyone other than their commanding officer, or apologized for not serving his majesty to satisfaction."

[More ...]

This mindset affected not just soldiers but civilians as well.

As much as it pained me to watch the video, I can't help but wonder how many Japanese civilians would have suffered in a protracted invasion.
posted by bwg at 4:56 PM on December 28, 2006


The ends justified the means, in the case of WWII and America's use of all means necessary, including atomic bombs. If America had not entered the war and convincingly, resoundingly, definitively defeated the Axis powers, just think of how horrible our world might be today, living under the combined tyranny of Nazi Germany and Italy and Japan. Those regimes were EVIL - brutally, mind-numbingly evil. Thank goodness for the Allies - America, the Brits, and all of the other brave nations and people who put an end to the Nazi march and defeated the true Hitlers.

It astonishes me that this is even debatable in the year 2006.
posted by davidmsc at 9:04 PM on December 28, 2006


I happen to agree. And that, simply, is the point in its entirety.
The entirety of the point is whether or not you agree with it? Kind of a one-sided argument, no?
posted by signal at 10:15 PM on December 28, 2006


Wow, after reading just the favourited arguments in this thread, it kind of shocks me how there has to be an argument over whether dropping an atomic bomb on civilians was right. Christ, and to think all the pro-nuclear-buildup people always tried to justify it with "we make these bombs so we never have to use them".
posted by tehloki at 10:54 PM on December 28, 2006


According to this CIA monograph on US invasion planning and the decision to drop the bomb, the initial estimates of American casualties ranged from 132,500 to 220,000, depending on the invasion scenario.

The National Security Archive has "the most comprehensive on-line collection to date of declassified U.S. government documents on the atomic bomb and the end of the war in the Pacific."
Besides material from the files of the Manhattan Project, this collection includes formerly "Top Secret Ultra" summaries and translations of Japanese diplomatic cable traffic intercepted under the "Magic" program. Moreover, the collection includes for the first time translations from Japanese sources of high level meetings and discussions in Tokyo, including the conferences when Emperor Hirohito authorized the final decision to surrender.
The Truman Library has a collection of documents on the decision to drop the bomb, as does Atom Bomb: Decision.

The darkened area in this aerial photo shows the extent of the damage in Hiroshima; before-and-after photos of Nagasaki.

Truman described Hiroshima as "a military base" when he announced the bombing in a radio speech. He also described the bombing of Hiroshima as a warning and advised Japanese civilians "to leave industrial cities immediately, and save themselves from destruction." Nagasaki had been bombed earlier that day.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:18 AM on December 29, 2006


If America had not entered the war and convincingly, resoundingly, definitively defeated the Axis powers

That was the Soviet Union. The US was mostly just along for the ride.

As an earlier posting in this conversation noted, the Soviets eliminated the million+ Japanese army of Manchuria in less than two weeks, suffering only minor losses. The Soviet occupation led to the establishment of communist power bases in North Korea and China. The Chinese communists later seized the mainland from their base in Manchuria.
posted by meehawl at 8:53 AM on December 29, 2006


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