Victory Over Japan

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Today marks the sixty-fifth anniversary of the ending of the attempt of Japan to conquer East Asia and form a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.  In that attempt, Japanese forces murdered some three to ten million civilians.  This figure does not include civilian deaths caused from military operations which resulted from Japanese aggression or famines that ensued.  It is estimated that some 20,000,000 Chinese died as a result of Japan’s invasion.  Approximately a million Filipinos died during the military occupation of the Philippines by the Japanese.  The video above depicts the battle of Manila in which 100,000 Filipino civilians died.  During lulls in the fighting, Japanese troops would engage in orgies of rape and murder, with decapitation being a common method of killing.  Special targets were Red Cross workers, young women, children, nuns, priests, prisoners of war and hospital patients.

Victory by the US and its allies brought this Asian Holocaust to a stop.  Perhaps something else to recall on Catholic blogs each August.

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161 Responses to Victory Over Japan

  • Ends do not justify the means. The Church is very clear that the intentional killing of civilians is always unjust.

  • Now the Church is very clear. She has not been so clear in the past, as a cursory examination of the history of the Church would reveal. I find the August bomb follies a sickening ahistorical bout of Monday Morning quarterbacking by people who usually have not a clue about the actual historical record.

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the end products of a ferocious and brutal war of conquest waged by the Empire of Japan. The August bomb follies focus on them and ignore the hecatombs of corpses produced by the Japanese. Every August I intend to remind people as much as possible about what brought about the atomic bombings, and why they were necessary.

  • Donald – I certainly agree with you. My Dad (US Army Platoon Sgt) was a “guest of the Emperor” (that means he was a Japanese POW) for almost 4 years. My Dad told me that when the atomic bombs were dropped, the POWs in the Japanese camps noticed a change in the behavior of the guards. This made my Dad nervous as there was a standing order to kill all POWs if the Americans landed on the Japanese mainland. The POWs were looking for signs of that and planned to go out with a fight. My Dad had several sticks of dynamite he had stolen from the copper mine he labored in, and he kept these wrapped in an oil cloth buried about 6 inches underneath where he laid his head at night. I am not kidding when an I say these POWs planned to not accept execution without a fight. My Dad talked to one of the guards and he said that there was a horrific bomb dropped by the Americans on two Japanese cities. He described to my Dad the results. My Dad was really scratching his head wondering what kind of bomb that could be. The guard told him it “even killed the little fishes in the streams for miles around the cities”. My Dad didn’t know of a bomb that could do the things this guard described. It was a bit of a mystery to the POWs, but they knew it was big, because of the marked change of behavior of the guards (they appeared less focused, more distracted, kind of stunned). My Dad believes that these two atomic bombs saved him, of course, but also many other people. I have never met a Japanese POW yet who didn’t agree with my Dad 100% on that . I know he is correct, and I laugh off the revisionists.

    I took my kids to see the Enola Gaye at the newer Smithsonian Museum near Dulles Airport. I pointed to the plane and explained to them that we would not be here, if it had not been for that very plane flying its famous mission. It was a great history lesson for them. I know some have felt displaying that plane was controversial – definitely not for our family! I didn’t know that that plane was displayed there until I got to the museum. Many things went through my head looking at it.

    In the video above of the Japanese signing the surrender papers, my Dad was on a ship heading home, with a lot of other POWs (American and British). He actually got to see from afar this surrender event as they passed by. My Dad said that a British Man of War ship lowered their flag in honor of the POWs on the transport ship. A British navy man and former POW told him that that was an unheard of honor at that time. My Dad and all the other POWs really appreciated their honor.

    I appreciate the videos above and discussion. It is important to remember history and learn all the lessons we can from it.

  • “The POWs were looking for signs of that and planned to go out with a fight. My Dad had several sticks of dynamite he had stolen from the copper mine he labored in, and he kept these wrapped in an oil cloth buried about 6 inches underneath where he laid his head at night.”

    Brian, I can’t even fathom the type of courage possessed by your Dad and his fellow prisoners. Starved, and no doubt beaten, they still planned to fight back. I stand in awe of them. You are correct that it was the intention of the Japanese to murder all POWs at the beginning of the invasion of the Home Islands. Of course captivity by the Japanese consisted of either murder or slow motion murder through starvation and beatings. Approximately 27.1% of all American POWs died in captivity, seven times the death rate of American POWs held by Germany. If the war had not been brought to a sudden halt, I have no doubt that you are correct and that your heroic father and his brave compatriots would have never survived their ordeal.

  • I find the August bomb follies a sickening ahistorical bout of Monday Morning quarterbacking by people who usually have not a clue about the actual historical record.

    Exactly. Ask a Filipino what Japanese occupation was like – one I met many years ago had an uncle who was shot dead in the street for failing to show the proper subservient attitude toward Japanese soldiers.

    The annual August self-castigation beloved by so many strikes me as just another example of Western self-hatred.

  • For the 1000th time: the U.S. was not targeting non-combatants with the atomic bombs. In fact, that would have been impossible given the fact that the line bewteen combatant and non-combatatnt was completely erased by the Imperial Japanese with their conscription of practically the entire adult population and training small children to roll under alllied tanks with explosives strapped to themselves.

    This is a salient fact calumnious jackasses like Jimmy Akin, Mark Shea, and the pseudo-Catholic ignoramus Amen corner deliberately ignore.

  • Furthermore, if you search for a Catholic magisterial condemnation of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki you will search in vain.

  • “Every of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or extensive areas along with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation” CCC 2314

    L’Osservatore Romano in 1945 deplored the atomic bombing of Japan because of lack of protection for civilians. Bishop Fulton Sheen thought it was a horror. Eisenhower did not think it was necessary.

    Learning

  • “Eisenhower did not think it was necessary.”

    I assume Learning that you have been reading one of those idiotic cut and paste lists of quotations of famous Americans who supposedly opposed the bombings. Eisenhower first gave his opinion that the atomic bombings were unnecessary in 1963. At the time he said nothing. In 63 I think he also prefaced his remarks with the comment that he had been focused on the war in Europe and knew little about the situation in the Pacific war prior to the bombings. General Bradley in one of his letters mentions that he was the one who told Eisenhower about Hiroshima, remarking that it would knock Japan out of the war, and Eisenhower made no dissent to this observation.

    Bishop’s Sheen observation was made long after the war and after he knew how the wind was blowing in the Church. Bishop Sheen always tailored his thoughts to what the current policy of the Church was. The pre-Vatican II and post Vatican II Sheen could have had some interesting debates.

    “L’Osservatore Romano in 1945 deplored the atomic bombing of Japan because of lack of protection for civilians.”

    It also said that the bombings were a response to Axis aggression and Pope Pius XII when an American diplomat complained about the editorial said it was not authorized by him.

    An excellent resource for learning about what people actually said about the bombings at the time is Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism

    http://www.amazon.com/Hiroshima-History-Robert-James-Maddox/dp/082621732X

  • “It is true – as Kuznick says – that Eisenhower claimed in 1963 to have opposed use of the A-bomb and to have forcefully argued his case to Secretary of War Henry Stimson. Kuznick does not however disclose (and Raimondo obviously has no idea) that independent evidence shows that Eisenhower’s recollection cannot be taken at face value. Parts of it are clearly false and the rest is unconfirmed. (The evidence is set out in Professor Maddox’s volume cited above, pp. 121-4, and in Barton J. Bernstein, “Ike and Hiroshima: Did He Oppose It?”, Journal of Strategic Studies, 10, 1987.) It is also true that Admiral William Leahy later condemned the use of the Bomb, but there is no reputable evidence that he did so at the time. One could go through a list of these military figures and say the same thing in each case. The chronology matters, and is the reason I carefully stated in my Guardian piece: “Contrary to popular myth, there is no documentary evidence that [Truman’s] military commanders advised him the bomb was unnecessary for Japan was about to surrender.” So far as I can tell from his conceptual chaos, Raimondo believes that almost all Truman’s commanders opposed the A-bomb decision. He’s wrong.”
    http://oliverkamm.typepad.com/blog/2007/08/still-more-on-h.html

    In regard to the August bomb follies, one of the things I find most irritating about it is the rank historical ignorance on display each year. People rely on the same recycled drek floating around the internet and never do any actual research or read any of the relevant books on the subject.

  • “Every of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or extensive areas along with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation” CCC 2314

    This CCC statement, taken form Gaudium et Spes #80, IS NOT a proof text to condemn the Hiroshinma and Nagasaki bombings. For one, it does not address the issue of the line between combatant and non-combatant being erased. Secondly, it could not do so without contradicting moral principles already recognized by the Church.

  • “I assume Learning that you have been reading one of those idiotic cut and paste lists of quotations….”

    Three quarters of blogging is other cutting and pasting other quotes. St. Paul did it a lot too back in his day.

    Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul V thought nukes were evil also. If they did not condemn America out right it may have been for prudence sake. I think you folks are just making excuses for a total war mentality. The USA is not the only purveyor of this evil idea but has surely participated in them from the march through Georgia to the Indian wars to Dresden. Consequentialism in action.

  • “Three quarters of blogging is other cutting and pasting other quotes.”

    Doing it unthinkingly is a stupid waste of time. You have no actual knowledge of the controversy regarding Eisenhower’s remarks but were merely parroting what you had read on some anti-Hiroshima bombing site.

    “Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul V thought nukes were evil also. If they did not condemn America out right it may have been for prudence sake.”

    Good of you to volunteer to read their minds. Nuclear weapons are no more good or evil than any other weapon at the disposal of man. The good or the ill is in the use of the weapon, why and how.

    “The USA is not the only purveyor of this evil idea but has surely participated in them from the march through Georgia to the Indian wars to Dresden.”

    Paleocon pontificating. Come back when you can actually argue a case with something more than ex cathedra statements from yourself.

  • [My Dad had several sticks of dynamite he had stolen from the copper mine he labored in, and he kept these wrapped in an oil cloth buried about 6 inches underneath where he laid his head at night.”]

    No doubt the shameless slandering revisionist “apologists” would castigate your father by waving the seventh commandment about and intoning “thou shalt not steal” while your father (who in my eyes is a hero) did what he needed to do in order to survive. And of course if he had shot a bomb laden child waddling towards him in Okinawa or elsewhere these same sorts would be calling him a “murderer.” I have no doubt based on what I have observed from these sorts over the years that they would do that -and my money is that if there was not a sizable Catholic population in Nagasaki these sorts would not give a damn about this issue. Their fallacious provincialism is evident to anyone with eyes to see and it stinks much worse than three week old moldy fruit. Not to mention the constant appeal to “consequentialism” is bunk, I am probably the only Catholic in recent years who has actually bothered to explain what that term (along with “proportionalism”) even means* and it is quite evident that these clowns do not know what they are talking about.

    Indeed so many of these sorts have no problem engaging in the most uncharitable, unethical, irrational, and unCatholic of behaviour towards those who do not tip the biretta, bow three times, and incense uncritically their pro-offered proof texts from various and sundry church sources, etc. That unquestionably involves objectively grave matter on their parts and when you further consider that (i) they are not coerced to do so and (ii) the knowledge of these people (even so-called “big time apologists”) is far from being even vincible most of the time but instead is what would be called “crass ignorance”**, this does not bode well for them. For essentially, most “apologists” who approach these things are arguably guilty of mortal sin. (Particularly those who ignorantly attempt to brand what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki as “war crimes” via shoddy methodology and the sort of Monday morning quarterbacking that if they had a conscience on these matter should make them ashamed of themselves.)

    * http://rerum-novarum.blogspot.com/2008_10_05_archive.html#8806531154296846595

    ** http://rerum-novarum.blogspot.com/2009_08_02_archive.html#3846558720127615604

  • So basically, your position is that nothing can be labelled consequentialist or proportionalist thinking unless a particular decision is made only 100% purely on consequentialist/proportionalist grounds. If anything else factors in, even 0.000001%, it is no longer consequentialist/proportionalist. Just want to be clear.

  • Bishop’s Sheen observation was made long after the war and after he knew how the wind was blowing in the Church. Bishop Sheen always tailored his thoughts to what the current policy of the Church was.

    Oh?

    From The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, May 1, 1946:

    Use of Atom Bomb Assailed by Sheen

    Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen of Catholic University in a sermon on April 7 in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York scored our use of the bomb on Hiroshima as an act contrary to the moral law and said, “We have invited retaliation for that particular form of violence.”

    Both obliteration bombing and use of the atomic bomb are immoral, Msgr. Sheen said, because “they do away with the moral distinction that must be made in every war—a distinction between civilians and the military.”

    After quoting the Pope’s warning against destructive use of atomic energy in an address made at the opening session of the Pontifical Academy of Science on Feb. 21, 1943, Msgr. Sheen said: “It is to be noted that the Holy Father not only knew about atomic energy and something of its power, but he also, exercising his office as Chief Shepherd of the Church, asked the nations of the world never to use it destructively. This counsel was not taken. This moral voice was unheeded.”

    Discussing arguments that use of the atomic bomb shortened the war and saved the lives of American fighting men, Msgr. Sheen declared: “That was precisely the argument Hitler used in bombing Holland.”

    Link.

  • Thank you JohnH. I was unaware of that statement by Bishop Sheen. What I had seen was written around 1961 by him. Do you have a link to the actual text of of the remarks of Bishop Sheen on April 7, 1946? I can find nothing on the internet except what you linked to.

  • Donald, I don’t have access to any full texts. His remarks about Hiroshima turn up twice in the NYT archives from 1946, if you search there. It appears he was pounding this point home starting around when the bombing took place.

    Also, if you look at the free archives of Time magazine online, you can see that condemnation of the atomic bombing of Japan was widespread.

    See here:

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,934449-2,00.html

    and:

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,792444,00.html

    It seems that there was a fairly immediate condemnation of the bomb from clergy across the spectrum of the Catholic and Protestant worlds. So to suggest that the stances of people like Jimmy Akin, Mark Shea, etc as “a sickening ahistorical bout of Monday Morning quarterbacking” seems rather ahistorical in itself. Their condemnation of the bombing follows in the footsteps of Catholics who were giving voice to this same condemnation in the months following the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  • The Federal Council of Churches cited in the first linked time article was an uber liberal group and associated with the World Council of Churches. Its postition can hardly be taken as representatives of protestants in general in this country.

    The second citation from Time is actually pretty nuanced if you read carefully the reactions:

    ” In one Gallup poll, 85% approved the use of the bomb against Japanese cities; and of the 49% who were against using poison gas, most explained that this was through their fear of retaliation—a possibility which, in the case of the bomb, they strangely overlooked.

    The Osservatore Romano’s unauthorized outburst regretted that the creators of the bomb had not followed da Vinci’s example (with his plans for the submarine) and destroyed it, on the ground that mankind is too evil to be trusted with such power. Later, men “high in Vatican circles” spoke of “useless massacre,”deplored “the circumstances which have compelled” the use of the bomb. London’s Catholic Herald recalled Pope Pius’ “Christian distinction between legitimate and illegitimate weapons of war.”

    The 34 U.S. clergymen (including John Haynes Holmes and A. J. Muste) who sent a protest and appeal to President Truman, while vigorously condemning the way in which the bomb was used, seemed to imply that its use might have been excusable to “save ourselves in an extremity of desperation.” They were “grateful for the scientific achievement” behind the bomb and wanted to see its power reserved “for constructive civilian uses.”

    Bishop Oxnam and John Foster Dulles, after protesting the first use of the bomb and pleading that the U.S. “follow the ways of Christian statesmanship,” wrote warmly after the Japanese surrender of the American “capacity for self-restraint” and of the impressive “practical demonstration of the possibility of atomic energy bringing war to an end.”

    The Christian Century, after flatly calling the use of the bomb “an American atrocity,” explained that this was because the editor did not believe that the “impetuous” manner of using it was “a military necessity.” The writer went on to say that military necessities are “beyond moral condemnation,” and that whatever is necessary is mandatory.”

    Monday morning quarterbacking is precisely what most modern critics are engaged in. Most are almost completely ignorant of the historical record, fail to acknowledge that Truman’s failure to use the bomb would almost certainly have killed far more civilians, and frankly they could care less in any case. They are deeply unserious individuals who live in peace and security precisely by the hard decisions made by men like Truman.

  • They are deeply unserious individuals who live in peace and security precisely by the hard decisions made by men like Truman.

    Unserious individuals such as Pope Paul VI?

    If the consciousness of universal brotherhood truly penetrates into the hearts of men, will they still need to arm themselves to the point of becoming blind and fanatic killers of their brethren who in themselves are innocent, and of perpetrating, as a contribution to Peace, butchery of untold magnitude, as at Hiroshima on 6 August 1945?
    Pope Paul VI, January 1976

    Or maybe someone ignorant of the historical record like Pope John Paul II?

    I bow my head as I recall the memory of thousands of men, women and children who lost their lives in that one terrible moment, or who for long years carried in their bodies and minds those seeds of death which inexorably pursued their process of destruction. The final balance of the human suffering that began here has not been fully drawn up, nor has the total human cost been tallied, especially when one sees what nuclear war has done — and could still do — to our ideas, our attitudes and our civilization.
    —Pope John Paul II, Hiroshima, 1981

    And, of course, the Catechism:

    “Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation.” A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons—especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons—to commit such crimes.

    Thanks, but I think I’ll stay “unserious”.

  • John Paul II would not have likely lived to write those words but for the Allied war effort that destroyed the Nazi regime which was intent on exterminating most Poles. The first bomb would have been used on Berlin but for the Nazi surrender. The great tragedy of the attomic bomb program was that it could not have been completed earlier, say in 1943, and brought World War II to a rapid conclusion, sparing tens of millions of lives.

    You are of course at liberty JohnH to be just as unserious as you have a mind to be.

  • The great tragedy of the attomic bomb program was that it could not have been completed earlier, say in 1943

    The same year Venerable Pius XII warned of using atomic power in a destructive manner.

    Sorry, but your position on this matter is just not in the Catholic mindset. Defend it if you must, but don’t try and pretend it’s Catholic.

    and brought World War II to a rapid conclusion, sparing tens of millions of lives.

    As Sheen said:

    Discussing arguments that use of the atomic bomb shortened the war and saved the lives of American fighting men, Msgr. Sheen declared: “That was precisely the argument Hitler used in bombing Holland.”

  • Actually JohnH my viewpoint is completely Catholic on this issue, if one does not confuse Catholicism as something that came into being only in the last century.

    Sheen’s statement was idiotic, and morally repulsive. Hitler was fighting for world conquest and to set the stage for his extermination of the Jews of Europe and other “undesirable” races. The comparison was unworthy of both his intelligence and his office.

  • Sheen’s statement was idiotic, and morally repulsive. Hitler was fighting for world conquest and to set the stage for his extermination of the Jews of Europe and other “undesirable” races. The comparison was unworthy of both his intelligence and his office.

    I think Sheen’s point was that we should not stoop to the total warfare barbarism embraced by thugs such as Hitler.

    Actually JohnH my viewpoint is completely Catholic on this issue, if one does not confuse Catholicism as something that came into being only in the last century.

    Really? I’d really like to see how you can mount a defense of the 20th century atomic bomb using Catholic teaching from the previous centuries, when destruction on this scale was unimaginable.

  • JohnH, do you think it is permissible under Catholic teaching to punish the innocent and the guilty? A simple yes or no will suffice.

  • Donald, I think what you mean is “do you think it is permissible under Catholic teaching to punish the innocent as a means to accomplish good”. And the answer is no. That is a perversion of the principle of double effect.

  • Actually JohnH I meant what I said, but I will accept your answer. I often use this passage from the Catholic Encyclopedia to demonstrate how differently the Church used to view things:

    “Whereas excommunication is exclusively a censure, intended to lead a guilty person back to repentance, an interdict, like suspension, may be imposed either as a censure or as a vindictive punishment. In both cases there must have been a grave crime; if the penalty has been inflicted for an indefinite period and with a view to making the guilty one amend his evil ways it is imposed as a censure; if, however, it is imposed for a definite time, and no reparation is demanded of the individuals at fault, it is inflicted as a punishment. Consequently the interdicts still in vogue in virtue of the Constitution “Apostolicae Sedis” and the Council of Trent are censures; whilst the interdict recently (1909) placed by Pius X on the town of Adria for fifteen days was a punishment. Strictly speaking, only the particular personal interdict is in all cases a perfect censure, because it alone affects definite persons, while the other interdicts do not affect the individuals except indirectly and inasmuch as they form part of a body or belong to the interdicted territory or place. That is also the reason why only particular personal interdicts, including the prohibition to enter a church suppose a personal fault. In all other cases, on the contrary, although a fault has been committed, and it is intended to punish the guilty persons or make them amend, the interdict may affect and does affect some who are innocent, because it is not aimed directly at the individual but at a moral body, e.g. a chapter, a monastery, or all the inhabitants of a district or a town. If a chapter incur an interdict (Const. “Apost. Sedis”, interd., n. 1) for appealing to a future general council, the canons who did not vote for the forbidden resolution are, notwithstanding, obliged to observe the interdict. And the general local interdict suppressing all the Divine offices in a town will evidently fall on the innocent as well as the guilty. Such interdicts are therefore inflicted for the faults of moral bodies, of public authorities as such, of a whole population, and not for the faults of private individuals.”

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08073a.htm

    Now I assume that most modern Catholics would find this monstrous and I confess it gives me pause. Denying the sacraments to innocent parties simply because they are members of an erring group? I find that very hard to accept. However, such was taught by Mother Church for a very, very long time indeed. In regard to warfare, the same logic was used by popes time and time again in regard to sieges and other warfare measures that were entirely foreseeably going to have very adverse impact on innocent parties. The idea that it is intrinsically evil to deliberately harm the innocent is one that is embraced by the Catholc Church of today, but it was not so in the Catholic Church of yesteryear.

  • Placing a town under interdict (or even under seige) is not equivalent to the instant destruction of a city and its inhabitants.

    Can you try again?

  • “Placing a town under interdict”

    I agree JohnH, it is far worse. We are all going to die sooner or later, and bid farewell to this brief life. We depend upon the Church and her sacraments to escape damnation in the next life. The interdict deprived completely innocent people of these sacraments, the food of immortality.

    In regard to sieges, the whole tactic rested upon the fact that the garrison and the civilian inhabitants would starve. It was also known that plagues were much more likely when populations were packed together in besieged cities. A general, or the pope commanding the general, would have to be a complete idiot not to realize that sieges would lead to a civilian death toll.

  • They are deeply unserious individuals who live in peace and security precisely by the hard decisions made by men like Truman.

    I’m sure that when JP II was living in Communist Poland he thanked God nightly that Truman had nuked Hiroshima, thus providing him with such peace and security.

  • “I’m sure that when JP II was living in Communist Poland he thanked God nightly that Truman had nuked Hiroshima, thus providing him with such peace and security.”

    I am sure that John Paul II thought as little as he possibly could about the connection between the massive bombing raids that blasted apart German cities and civilians and the sparing of his life by the destruction of the Nazi regime at a hideous cost in the lives of innocent civilians. Probably he also thought as little as possible about the balance of terror between the US and the USSR which spared Europe a third world war.

  • I am sure that John Paul II thought as little as he possibly could about the connection between the massive bombing raids that blasted apart German cities and civilians and thereby spared his life.

    Maybe because there was no connection. JP II’s life wasn’t spared by those raids and neither were the lives of anyone else. On the other hand, hard decisions made by Truman did result in Poland being under Communist domination for the next several decades.

  • it is far worse… The interdict deprived completely innocent people of these sacraments, the food of immortality.

    I’m not sure if you understand what the interdict meant historically. Generally, even under interdict certain sacraments were available to the dying or those about to engage in battle.

    And if you can’t see the difference between a siege and a total destruction of a city, well… those are your moral blinkers, not mine.

  • Actually JohnH the interdict varied in severity. However, it was not uncommon for all sacraments to be denied, including the Last Rites.

    In regard to sieges, of course you reject it out of hand. It is inconvenient to your argument and you apparently have no response.

  • Btw, during the 1940s the population of Berlin was around three million. What Don appears to be contemplating is mass murder on a horrendous scale. That he tries to justify the position as Catholic based on an analogy to interdiction is bizarre.

  • Donald, Extreme Unction was denied at times, but usually not confession (even by Innocent III, who popularized the idea of the interdict).

    In regard to sieges, of course you reject it out of hand. It is inconvenient to your argument and you apparently have no response.

    Actually, I do have a response above. A siege of a town or city is not the same as total destruction of a town or city. I think that’s pretty clear.

  • Actually JohnH my viewpoint is completely Catholic on this issue, if one does not confuse Catholicism as something that came into being only in the last century.

    Don may have a point. I can’t find any Church statement from more than 100 years ago condemning the use of nuclear weapons. It’s almost like they didn’t exist back then or something.

    On the other hand, I find this dismissal of any statements from the last 100 years somewhat odd. Has Don become a Sedevacantist without telling anybody?

  • “Maybe because there was no connection. JP II’s life wasn’t spared by those raids and neither were the lives of anyone else. On the other hand, hard decisions made by Truman did result in Poland being under Communist domination for the next several decades.”

    BA, history is most definitely not your strong point. The degrading of the industrial war capacity of Germany was all important to the victory of the Allies. That you fail to acknowledge it, is not surprising.

    In regard to Poland, the Red Army was in charge. It would have taken nukes to get them out, probably a few on Moscow. Oops, that would have been morally inconvient wouldn’t it?

    In regard to the A-Bomb, that was the assumed target from the inception of the project. Take out Berlin, kill Hitler and the Nazi high command, and end the war. I think the tens of millions of people who died because this did not occur would agree with me that it was a great pity that it did not.

    In regard to the interdict argument, it strips away the idea that the Catholic Church has always regarded the innocent as having an all-embracing immunity.

  • “A siege of a town or city is not the same as total destruction of a town or city. I think that’s pretty clear.”

    More than a few sieges ended in the virtual destruction of the city or town. Is it the body count that is the difference, or is it a matter of intention between what was intended by besieging a medieval city and what was intended by bombing Hiroshima?

  • “Don may have a point. I can’t find any Church statement from more than 100 years ago condemning the use of nuclear weapons.”

    Please BA, you are not nearly as intentionally humorous as your namesake. The world looked quite a bit different to popes when they were secular rulers. Popes and church councils are now free to condemn actions in warfare that they would not have dreamed of condemning in the past when popes had the responsibility of conducting wars themselves. Perhaps this is all to the good and is part of God’s plan, or perhaps it is merely a blip in the long history of the Church. However, to deny the difference is to betray a stunning ignorance of Church history.

  • In regard to the interdict argument, it strips away the idea that the Catholic Church has always regarded the innocent as having an all-embracing immunity.

    Well, if you want to go down that road… Pope Innocent III, who popularized the interdict, also adopted rules at the Fourth Lateran Council that prohibited Jews from public office and compelled them to wear distinctive dress to set them apart from the general populace.

  • Quite true JohnH and other popes took an opposing view.

    In regard to the Interdict if there have ever been any popes who have condemned past uses of it by other popes, I am unaware of such statements.

  • Quite true JohnH and other popes took an opposing view.

    Can they be ignored? The other popes, I mean?

  • Can Innocent III be ignored? That most definitely is a problem for Catholics which is why such great emphasis is placed on ex cathedra statements. Of course popes since Vatican I have an unfair advantage over their predecessors in that they know the formula for making a papal pronouncement ex cathedra.

    My point in regard to the interdict was to distinguish it from the example that you chose. If part of Catholic teaching or praxis is to go down the memory hole it is handy to at least have popes who have lined up on opposing sides.

  • Out of curiosity, I took a look at the article on War from the old Catholic Encyclopedia (which Don cites as an example of how Catholics used to think before they were weenified). Here is an excerpt:

    In the prosecution of the war the killing or injuring of non-combatants (women, children, the aged and feeble, or even those capable of bearing arms but as a matter of fact not in any way participating in the war) is consequently barred, except where their simultaneous destruction is an unavoidable accident attending the attack upon the contending force. The wanton destruction of the property of such non-combatants, where it does not or will not minister maintenance or help to the state or its army, is likewise devoid of the requisite condition of necessity. In fact the wanton destruction of the property of the state or of combatants — i.e. where such destruction cannot make for their submission, reparation, or proportionate punishment — is beyond the pale of the just subject-matter of war. The burning of the Capitol and White House at Washington in 1814, and the devastation of Georgia, South Carolina, and the Valley of the Shenandoah during the American Civil War have not escaped criticism in this category. That “war is hell”, in the sense that it inevitably carries with it a maximum of human miseries, is true; in the sense that it justifies anything that makes for the suffering and punishment of a people at war, it cannot be ethically maintained.

    Perhaps if Don wanted to know what the Church used to think about war he could have looked at the article titled War, rather than the one titled Interdict.

  • My point in regard to the interdict was to distinguish it from the example that you chose. If part of Catholic teaching or praxis is to go down the memory hole it is handy to at least have popes who have lined up on opposing sides.

    Interesting. So you acknowledge that the Church’s position on issues may shift slightly over the ages (except in the 20th century, where the statements of the Popes on the use of nuclear weapons can be ignored starting with Pius XII).

    Why is it that the Church’s teaching on war should be heeded up until the very century with the greatest rise in wholesale destruction the world has seen? Shouldn’t the opposite be true?

    From your position, shouldn’t it have also been allowable for the Allies to operate concentration camps on the scale of the Nazi machine so long as the goal was the capitulation of the Axis powers?

  • Perhaps if Don wanted to know what the Church used to think about war he could have looked at the article titled War, rather than the one titled Interdict.

    I cannot see how your excerpt provides a definitive refutation of Mr. McClarey’s argument.

  • “So you acknowledge that the Church’s position on issues may shift slightly over the ages (except in the 20th century, where the statements of the Popes on the use of nuclear weapons can be ignored starting with Pius XII).”

    Actually that is precisely the opposite of my position. My position is that the whole panoply of Church teaching and praxis has to be taken into consideration on all issues. It doesn’t do to change Church teaching and then everyone is supposed to play a game of “Church teaching has always been this way and there has been no change in Church teaching.” If the Church is going to get in the habit of condemning the past for the purposes of the present, then our catechisms should all come with ring binders and perhaps our Bibles as well.

    In regard to the concentration camp comment, that shows an inability to distinguish a military operation from simple murder. It is the difference between a pope besieging Milan and a pope simply rounding up all Milanese in Rome and putting them to the sword.

  • “except where their simultaneous destruction is an unavoidable accident attending the attack upon the contending force.”

    I think the atomic bombings fit precisely into this passage.

  • In regard to Pius XII, the rules that he laid down for the use of nuclear weapons on September 30, 1954 strike me as common sense:

    1. Such use must be “imposed by an evident and extremely grave injustice;”

    2. Such injustice cannot be avoided without the use of nuclear weapons;

    3. One should pursue diplomatic solutions that avoid or limit the use of such weapons;

    4. There use must be indispensable to and in accordance with a nation’s defense needs;

    5. That same use would be immoral if the destruction caused by the nuclear weapons were to result in harm so widespread as to be uncontrollable by man.

    6. Unjustified uses should be severely punished as “crimes” under national and international law.

  • My position is that the whole panoply of Church teaching and praxis has to be taken into consideration on all issues.

    But you don’t follow your own position. The use of nuclear weapons cannot be treated as if it were the same as the use of a siege. It is a new weapon with vastly more destructive potential.

    It makes no sense whatsoever to insist on “the whole panoply of Church teaching and praxis” on war, and then, in the case of nuclear weapons, exclude Church documents and the writings of the Popes in the cases where the Popes or the Church has actual experience of what the capabilities of nuclear weapons are.

    It is a nonsensical argument you are putting forth.

  • “It is a new weapon with vastly more destructive potential.”

    One of degree and not of kind. The issue of civilian deaths in War is as old as War. It matters little to the person dying if they died from nuclear fire in Hiroshima in 45 or starved to death during a siege of a city by a Papal army during the Hussite Wars of the early 15th century.

    In regard to popes who have written about nuclear weapons Pius XII strikes me as the most sensible. I will leave to others to glean how he differs from the attitude of his successors. Of course Pius had been pope during World War II and had seen first hand that there are things much worse than War.

  • Don,

    You think it was an accident all those civilians were killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

  • Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.
    Gaudium et Spes

    How much clearer can the Church be on this issue?

    Interesting citation at the link

    Even more interesting is that you chose to dismiss it based on a blurb from Tom Woods instead of addressing the voluminous quotes from the Magisterium.

  • It is the difference between a pope besieging Milan and a pope simply rounding up all Milanese in Rome and putting them to the sword.

    And what is the difference between a pope obliterating Milan with a nuke and rounding up all Milanese in Rome and putting them to the sword?

  • That gets us back to what is the difference between a siege in which most of the civilian population dies and the nuking of the same city in which most of the civilian population dies.

  • Donald, that statement has the moral clarity of a mud puddle.

    Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.
    Gaudium et Spes

    There. See?

  • Explain to me the moral difference JohnH between a military action that you can foresee is going to cause a great many civilian deaths, besieging a city for example, and the nuking of Hiroshima.

  • “Don,

    You think it was an accident all those civilians were killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki?”

    BA you do understand that the Catholic Encyclopedia was not using the term “accident” as in the sense, for example, “BA was funny by accident.” ?

  • I’ll break it down:

    Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities

    A siege is aimed not at the destruction of a city, but the surrender. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was aimed at the obliteration of these cities.

    of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself.

    Extensive areas along with their population were targeted and destroyed by the bomb. Again, not the aim of a siege. What the bombing was was a “crime against God and man.”

    It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.

    And it is this condemnation that you call “idiotic, and morally repulsive.” Perhaps you are a history buff, but I don’t see much evidence you’ve looked into moral theology.

  • BA you do understand that the Catholic Encyclopedia was not using the term “accident” as in the sense, for example, “BA was funny by accident.”

    Of course. To say that civilian deaths were an accident is to say that they weren’t killed on purpose. Is it your view that the civilians killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren’t killed on purpose?

  • Interesting citation at the link you gave JohnH from Thomas Woods, Jr.:

    “I, on the other hand, have never excused the Japanese internment, weaved apologias for mass murder, or casually called for nuclear attacks on civilian targets – all of which the mainstream of what laughingly passes for conservatism today does almost as a matter of routine. To the contrary, I join real conservatives and libertarians like Richard Weaver, Felix Morley (one of the founders of Human Events), Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, and Pope Pius XII in condemning the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

    That doesn’t surprise me since Woods doesn’t think we should have been involved in World War II at all.

    http://hnn.us/blogs/entries/15048.html

  • Explain to me the moral difference JohnH between a military action that you can foresee is going to cause a great many civilian deaths, besieging a city for example, and the nuking of Hiroshima.

    In the one case the civilian deaths are not intended; in the other they are.

  • Donald, I fully recognize that I won’t convince you in this (internet arguments rarely win converts) but I do think you need to read history from something other than the perspective of an amateur military enthusiast. While every historical action has to be understood in the context of its time, to pretend that the controversy over the war crime of Hiroshima and Nagasaki arose recently is deeply ahistorical.

    Blackadder: In the one case the civilian deaths are not intended; in the other they are.

    Exactly.

  • “The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was aimed at the obliteration of these cities.”

    There we differ. The attacks were aimed at bringing about the surrender of Japan. They were no more aimed at the death of civilians than bombarding a city filled with civilians during a siege is intended to kill civilians. I can understand condemning both, or viewing both as morally licit parts of war, but I cannot understand saying one is morally licit and the other is morally unacceptable. It is too cute to say that the death of civilians is intended in Hiroshima and not in a bombardment incident to a siege. The foreseeability of death in the case of bombardment is clear.

    More pertinent to the World War II situation is the death of civilian populations in urban combat. As I indicated some 100,000 civilians died in the fighting in Manila. 100,000 civilians died in the fighting on Okinawa, just a few months before the conclusion of the war. What makes those deaths morally acceptable and the deaths of those at Hiroshima morally unacceptable? Why is taking Hiroshima by ground assault and having 100k plus die morally licit, while nuking the city and having 100k civilians die morally unacceptable? Based on prior experience, it was a simple enoough mathematical calculation to determine how many civilians would die if our troops had to fight their way through them.

    Truman was attempting to avoid American deaths and the deaths of civilians, not only in Japan but also in the lands ruled by Japan. Why is his action a crime against God and man while using conventional means and killing far more civilians not?

  • “except where their simultaneous destruction is an unavoidable accident attending the attack upon the contending force.”

    The term accident in that phrase BA is being used the same as the term incident. For example, besieging a city and causing civilian deaths would be placed into this category.

  • “Why can we not do evil to produce good?” is perhaps one of the oldest siren songs of Satan. I’m surprised you’re trotting it out again.

  • “Why is taking Hiroshima by ground assault and having 100k plus die morally licit, while nuking the city and having 100k civilians die morally unacceptable?”

    Why the false choice? Japan had no ability to strike the US. It had lost its Navy, couldn’t control its airspace.

    They were done.

    Just wars don’t stay Just forever.

  • ““Why can we not do evil to produce good?” is perhaps one of the oldest siren songs of Satan. I’m surprised you’re trotting it out again.”

    Lobbing an insult is easier than answering a query JohnH.

  • The attacks were aimed at bringing about the surrender of Japan. They were no more aimed at the death of civilians than bombarding a city filled with civilians during a siege is intended to kill civilians. I can understand condemning both, or viewing both as morally licit parts of war, but I cannot understand saying one is morally licit and the other is morally unacceptable.

    It’s a standard part of Catholic moral theology that one intends the means chosen to achieve a particular end. So if one’s aim is to bring about the surrender of Japan by killing a bunch of civilians then you intend the death of those civilians. Saying ‘hey, I only wanted Japan to surrender’ doesn’t change that fact.

    This is a fundamental feature of Catholic moral theology and has been so for a long long term (i.e. since long before the end of the Papal States). The fact that you reject the distinction is, I think, part of what JohnH was getting at when he said your view on the matter was not Catholic.

  • Wrong on all points Jacobus. Japan was not aboout to surrender, it still controlled most of East Asia, and still had an Army in the millions. The US was not about to simply say to those wonderful people who brought us Pearl Harbor: “Well, its been a delightful war, and after killing tens of millions of people, please keep your foreign conquests, your current government, and we’ll now go back to the US and celebrate No Victory Over Japan Day.” Part of the truly weird aspect of the August Bomb follies is the air of unreality in which they are conducted. The US was not about to stop until Japan capitulated, and it would truly have been a crime against God and Man if it had.

  • The term accident in that phrase BA is being used the same as the term incident. For example, besieging a city and causing civilian deaths would be placed into this category.

    Saying that the deaths are accidental is saying that they weren’t intended. That wasn’t the case for Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  • In regard to the military arena BA the distinction breaks down when the deaths of civilians are clearly foreseeable. Not taking that factor into the moral calculus is one of the reasons why I find the critique of Hiroshima and Nagasaki lacking. The same arguments raised against the bombings I think are just as forceful against the conventional means that would have been used in place of the bombings to cause Japan to capitulate. I can understand a pacifist condemning all of this. I cannot understand the fine lines drawn in this area where civilian deaths are completely predictable.

  • In regard to the military arena BA the distinction breaks down when the deaths of civilians are clearly foreseeable. Not taking that factor into the moral calculus is one of the reasons why I find the critique of Hiroshima and Nagasaki lacking.

    Catholic moral theology has always drawn a distinction between consequences of an action that are intended and those than are merely foreseen.

    I’m actually a bit surprised that you seem so unfamiliar with these ideas. It’s as if you said you didn’t see the difference between contraception and natural family planning or something.

  • Oh I understand the distinction BA, I just find it unconvincing when it comes to civilian deaths in wartime, particularly in regard to the decision that confronted Truman. Any of the conventional avenues open to him: blockade, conventional bombing or invasion were going to cause a huge number of civilian deaths and he knew it. He didn’t guess that they would, he knew it as surely as it possibly is to know any future event. Not dropping the bombs and letting one of these options force a capitulation strikes me as no less morally problematic than the bombings if the main element of concern is civilian deaths. This of course leaves aside the responsiblity of any President for the lives of the troops he sends into harm’s way. I think my question after Hiroshima and Nagaski if I had been a father of a son who died on Okinawa would have been: “My God, why did they send him into combat there if they had a weapon that could end the war in the pipeline?”

  • I rarely disagree with Don, but I do so in this case. I think too many folks are missing the point of the siege analogy — it is irrelevant. The Church may well have participated in or encouraged such actions. Perhaps. Christ never promised that the Church would not commit error, only that it would not teach error. Even if sieges or cities are analogous to dropping atomic bombs on cities, that doesn’t prove a thing. There is a difference between Church teaching developing in the sense of building on and refining past teachings (something that happens all the time) versus Church teaching changing in ways that render past teaching incorrect (something that cannot happen). Current Church teaching is in no way incompatable with that of prior centuries. Popes have lied, cheated and stolen. And they quite possibly encouraged or participated in sieges of cities. But the Magisterium has never *taught* that such sieges are morally acceptable, and this is an important point.
    The key to the moral analysis is whether the act (whether the dropping of an atomic bomb or a seige) is the intentional targeting of innocent civilians or whether instead it is the targeting of military assets accompanied by the inevitable but unintended consequence of civilian casualties. This probably requires a case by case analysis, but I’m afraid that the record overall supports the notion that Truman et al were targeting civilians in order to induce Japan to end the war and thereby save lives (including Japanese lives). It was an evil act with good intentions. I don’t at all fault Truman, and admit that I may have made the same decision, but I cannot intellectually endorse its morality.

  • Briefly to c matt:

    It is not necessary for there to be no admixture when it comes to the proper application of concepts such as consequentialism and proportionalism; however, what I noted has to be the overwhelming or highly predominant part of the equation. And none of those using this term on the issue in question that I have seen over the years bothers to do this.

    It is much too easy to lazily throw the terms around much the way many do with various other terms intended to ad-hominize the matter rather than deal with the matters as they were rather than how we wish they were. Between that and the general inability to properly understand the concept of double effect (something else I have written on and which none of the apologist sorts have manifested any real understanding of -the article on Catholic Answer’s website on this matter is downright embarrassing in its omissions) there are plenty of things glossed over in order to be faithful unquestioning followers of every statement of popes (regardless of whether the latter are even within their levels of competence in making judgments on such matters).

  • Don,

    You have done very well on this thread.

  • “Why is taking Hiroshima by ground assault and having 100k plus die morally licit, while nuking the city and having 100k civilians die morally unacceptable?”

    When are people going to stop with this myth that Japan’s population was civilian? Everyone over 17 was militarily conscripted and younger children were taught to use anything nailed down to children young enough to walk were used as bomb packs and trained to roll under tanks and blow them up. Or as Manchester noted in his biography of Douglas MacArthur:

    ###All males aged fifteen to sixty, and all females ages seventeen to forty-five, had been conscripted. Their weapons included ancient bronze cannon, muzzle loaded muskets, bamboo spears, and bows and arrows. Even little children had been trained to strap explosives around their waists, roll under tank treads, and blow themselves up. They were called “Sherman’s carpets.”

    This was the enemy the Pentagon had learned to fear and hate –a country of fanatics dedicated to hara-kiri, determined to slay as many invaders as possible as they went down fighting. [William Manchester: American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964, pg. 510-511)]###

    I cannot take seriously anyone who plays the silly clean divide of “military” and “civilian” in dealing with the Japanese wartime population and refuses to interact with this reality. But then again, that has been the reality for years for most (but fortunately not all!) of those on the side of looking for any reason to bash the United States for deciding that the lives of their people are of actual value (unlike the view that Imperial Japan had of their people) in the annual ivory tower revisionist-fest on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There are exceptions to the rule on that side thankfully but not many.

    Again, as I said earlier on this thread, if not for a sizable Catholic population in Nagasaki, most Catholics would not give a damn about this issue; ergo their fallacious provincialism is revealed in spades every year when the slander-fest by those who deal in abstractions rather than realities. For anyone wondering why Catholic apologetics on the web has been slowly dying death of a thousand cuts for not a few years now, this is one of the key reasons why.

    Real problems are in the world and you have people every damn year regurgitating this garbage. If you had two sides that simply said “we disagree on this matter of interpretation” and left it at that, there would not be a problem. But the usual apologetics crowd and their unthinking followers always want to have SOME ox to gore on every issue even when one is not warranted. And any out-of-context or otherwise misinformed statement by a pope or person of presumed “high authority” that they need to try and play the “anathema sit” card, they will of course use because tools such as reason and logic are not considered important by many people anymore. Nor is the dialogual principle of approaching every issue with as much of a tabla rasa as possible and trying via that means to come to as objective a verdict as one can. But then again, I suppose I had far too many high hopes for the apologetics enterprise in my younger and (alas) more naive days.

    Again, for anyone wondering why Catholic apologetics on the web has been slowly dying death of a thousand cuts for not a few years now -and why some of us are beyond sick of the whole thing- this is one of the key reasons why. But enough from me, let the death rattle of apologetics continue!

  • One more thing since Mike Petrik made a reasonable posting that should not go unnoticed:

    “The key to the moral analysis is whether the act (whether the dropping of an atomic bomb or a seige) is the intentional targeting of innocent civilians or whether instead it is the targeting of military assets accompanied by the inevitable but unintended consequence of civilian casualties.”

    I did an indepth analysis of the military assets as well as various other ramifications on this matter five years ago today -see the weblog link above for the first of the Hiroshima threads. But that noted, you do sorta get the gist of it here -a couple of tweaks if I may:

    “The key to the moral analysis is whether the act (whether the dropping of an atomic bomb or a seige) is the intentional targeting of conscripts and other combatants or whether instead it is the targeting of military assets accompanied by the inevitable but unintended consequence of casualties of a conscripted, combatant, and (in some cases) civilian nature.”

    Hopefully those clarifications sharpen that point a bit and thank you for showing much more discerning-mindedness on this matter than most of those who are on your side of this issue Mike.

  • Shawn raises an interesting point in regard to civilians in Japan. According to the Japanese defensive plan Ketsu-Go, there were precious few civilians in Japan:

    “The defensive plan called for the use of the Civilian Volunteer Corps, a mobilization not of volunteers but of all boys and men 15 to 60 and all girls and women 17 to 40, except for those exempted as unfit. They were trained with hand grenades, swords, sickles, knives, fire hooks, and bamboo spears. These civilians, led by regular forces, were to make extensive use of night infiltration patrols armed with light weapons and demolitions.(43) Also, the Japanese had not prepared, and did not intend to prepare, any plan for the evacuation of civilians or for the declaration of open cities.(44) The southern third of Kyushu had a population of 2,400,000 within the 3,500 square miles included in the Prefectures of Kagoshima and Miyazaki.(45) The defensive plan was to actively defend the few selected beach areas at the beach, and then to mass reserves for an all-out counterattack if the invasion forces succeeded in winning a beachhead.(46)”

    http://www.fas.org/irp/eprint/arens/chap4.htm

    The Japanese slogan in 1945:

    “The sooner the Americans come, the better…One hundred million die proudly.” was not just for rhetorical effect. Based upon what the Americans had already seen in the Pacific, they could only interpret it literally.

  • Oh, for crying out loud. For the last time, there is no current out-of-the-blue “ivory tower revisionist-fest on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” From the very start prominent Catholics have condemned the bombings. Fr. Ronald Knox, Bishop Sheen, Blessed John XXIII, Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, etc are just the tip of the long list of Catholics who have condemned the bombings, starting in 1945 and continuing to this day.

    It’s far more revisionist to insist that the bombings are justified under Catholic teaching than the other way round.

    Shawn, if it really hurts your tender feelings so much to have Catholics explain that the Church doesn’t condone blowing up entire cities, perhaps you should steer clear of reading any Vatican documents at all.

  • [Shawn, if it really hurts your tender feelings so much to have Catholics explain that the Church doesn’t condone blowing up entire cities, perhaps you should steer clear of reading any Vatican documents at all.]

    I have probably read more Vatican documents than you have ever seen John. Unlike you though, I am also very familiar with the general norms of interpretation required to properly assess and thereby understand the levels of authority that different statements in different documents actually have. And I do not confuse personal opinions or pious gestures as being binding on others unlike people such as you and the lions share of the apologetics crowd.

    Monday morning quarterbacking is easy -particularly for those who do not have all the facts and yes John that includes the popes who on these matter are hardly within their spheres of competence. Does the pope tell you how to cook your eggs too?

    [It’s far more revisionist to insist that the bombings are justified under Catholic teaching than the other way round.]

    Hardly John, there has always been a divided assessment of this issue -so much so that when LaOsservator Romano ran an article condemning the bombings Pope Pius XII responded to an angry inquirer by playing the “it was not authorized by me” card.

    What IS involved in analyzing this matter is the application of certain moral and ethical principles that Catholics are SUPPOSED to concern themselves with. The rub of course is that there is no one-size fits all way to analyze the data in how they are to be applied. And that is the problem since apologists are by nature better at spitting out canned “arguments” on boilerplate issues rather than dealing with these kinds of more complicated assessments which have so many variables and which admit of differing (and mutually orthodox!) interpretations.

    Not that people like you care of course so let the slander-fest continue!

  • Shawn! Dude!

    My invitation for a face to face tete a tete with me and the Dominicans, where you get to explain your theories about the glories of nuclear mass murder to the flesh and blood people you denounce in cyberspace is still open, Big Man. I’d give anything to see that.

    I know. I know. The Dominicans are heretic wusses and you alone stand for the pure Faith. Still, a Real Man should be able to make his case even when faced with a mob of panty waists. Don’t you owe it to the purity of the faith to at least *try*?

  • Perhaps such a debate could be staged Mark before a mixed audience: Dominicans and veterans who call themselves Hiroshima survivors. The veterans cannot of course match the Dominicans in all likelihood in theological acumen, but they would have the advantage of having been preparing for the invasion of Japan and had skin in the game when Truman’s decision was made. Who knows, maybe the Dominicans might benefit from their insight and maybe the veterans might benefit from theirs. I know a former Army Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, ninety-one years old, Irish Catholic and a retired attorney, who would be willing to participate.

  • Mark Shea! The last time I visited your site, I had to reformat my hard disk. Ensure the safety of your site first, before dealing with things beyond your competence.

  • Ivan,

    Now, now, let’s be civil here.

  • Perhaps there could be a debate after between Shea and Akins on the definition of torture.

  • Hey Mark Shea, I’ll debate you if Shawn won’t. How about it Mark. I would be more than happy to fly up to Seatlle on my dime to lie bare your calumnious idiocy!!!!

  • Folks I understand the passions this issue stirs, but let’s keep personal insult out of the debate please.

  • Oh I understand the distinction BA, I just find it unconvincing when it comes to civilian deaths in wartime

    Well, okay, but you need to understand that in rejecting this distinction as applied to civilian deaths in wartime you are rejecting Catholic teaching on the matter.

  • I don’t think so BA, if by Catholic teaching you include the entire teaching and praxis of the Church. As I indicated above, the regulations promulgated by Pius XII as to the use of nuclear weapons make a lot of sense to me and I am rather surprised that they aren’t better known among Catholics. They at least provide some guidance as to when nuclear weapons may be used. If one merely states that nuclear weapons may never be used under any circumstances against a civilian population, then that puts us on a path to suicide when we are confronted, as we assuredly will be in the future, with a nuclear adversary, rather like the Soviet Union in the days of the Cold War, only less rational.

  • This article notes some of the current perils when Bishops decide to attempt to map our nuclear stragegy:

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2535706/posts

    By and large I think Bishops are as useful in this arena as Generals and Admirals are in explaining the two natures of Christ.

  • By and large I think Bishops are as useful in this arena as Generals and Admirals are in explaining the two natures of Christ.

    It should be pointed out that the same objection is made whenever the bishops have something to say about sexuality or a woman’s right to choose abortion.

    All of our actions can either help us grow in virtue or lead us away. The bishops & the Church have not only the right but the obligation to speak forcefully about the areas in which people live their lives-both the bedroom and the battlefield. We cannot exclude them from one area without eventually excluding them from all.

  • I am reminded that a colleague of ours, Blackadder, had engaged Shawn McIlhenney of the blog Rerum Novarum on this very topic in 2008. The two had mutually agreed that the bombings would be justified IF:

    The bombings did not involve the intentional targeting of noncombatants; and
    The bombings saved lives, that is, any alternative course of action would have resulted in even greater loss of life.

    I think the case for the second point can be readily made (I cited some books in my post that do just that) — the expected casualties (military and civilian) of a ground invasion would have been far more dangerous, coupled with the Japanese slaughter of civilians in victim nations (“between a quarter million and 400,000 Asians, overwhelmingly noncombatants, were dying each month the war continued”). And a study of history also reveals that, no, Japan wasn’t about to capitulate and were actually preparing for the opposite. Operating on purely utilitarian / “consequentialist” grounds I can understand why Truman made the choice that he did.

    However, on the first point of contention, I agree with Mike Petrik’s summary:

    “The key to the moral analysis is whether the act [dropping an atomic bomb] is the intentional targeting of innocent civilians or whether instead it is the targeting of military assets accompanied by the inevitable but unintended consequence of civilian casualties.”

    Responding explicitly to Shawn (and implicitly to Don), Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong addresses the contention of a ‘conscripted’ / militarized populace by pointing out the considerable number off non-combatants ranging from medical personnel to Allied POW’s to Koreans conscripted into forced labor.

    Q: Shawn / Don — care to respond to this? — would you maintain that all these would be dispensed with as so much ‘collateral damage’, and that such would be justifiable from a Catholic standpoint?

  • “It should be pointed out that the same objection is made whenever the bishops have something to say about sexuality or a woman’s right to choose abortion.”

    Actually the chant is more in the nature of “Keep your rosaries off our ovaries!” A Bishop’s job in some areas is simple. Christ condemned fornication and adultery. Simply do thou likewise Bishop. In regard to abortion the Church has always condemned it, without any detailed knowledge for the vast amount of time in regard to embryology or fetal development. Do thou likewise Bishop. Nuclear strategy is a much more complictated area, and the Bishops in this country, as the National Review article I linked to indicates, have been very free with advice in an area in which they are bone ignorant.

  • Now that is an interesting question Christopher. Our POWS at the bomb sites were heartrending but for me do not enter into the moral calculus: They were military and called upon to give their lives if necessary for their country. We might as well give up now if we allow an enemy to dictate our tactics because they use our prisoners as human shields. The Japanese government had ordered the slaughter of all Allied POWS at the beginning of an invasion of the Home Islands, and had already killed almost a third of our prisoners through casual murder, beatings and starvation. In regard to the vast majority of Allied POWS, they only survived captivity because of the bomb.

    In regard to human shields conscripted into the Japanese Army, we cannot allow that to dictate our strategy. In the Korean War, the North Koreans would sometimes drive civilians before them in assaults upon our positions. That did not deter our troops from fighting back. Allow human shields to work as a tactic in wartime, and the worst of humanity will quickly be in charge.

    In regard to non-combatants, the best argument is of course children. It is true as Shawn indicates that the commanders of the Imperial Japanese Army planned to use very young children in military operations. This of course does not detract at all in regard to the clear innocence of the children. Their presence has always to me been the strongest argument against the bombings. However, then we get back to the awful realities of the historical situation. We have to weigh those kids against the kids who would die in future conventional operations, and the kids who were dying in China and other areas controlled by Japan each day that the war went on.

  • I don’t think so BA, if by Catholic teaching you include the entire teaching and praxis of the Church.

    Don, the moral distinction between intended and foreseen consequences, the impermissibility of targeting noncombatants, etc. are part of the teaching and praxis of the Church. If you deny this you’re really just admitting your ignorance on the subject.

    I remember hearing George Weigel get asked about the Hiroshima bombing once. He talked a bit about how the bombing probably saved lives, but said that there was really no way it could be squared with Catholic moral principles. Weigel is not some wussified liberal Catholic. But he is familiar with what the Church teaches in this area.

  • A Bishop’s job in some areas is simple. Christ condemned fornication and adultery. Simply do thou likewise Bishop.

    I believe he also had a few words about murder.

  • “I believe he also had a few words about murder.”

    Correct Michael, although He was remarkably free about giving advice to Caesar about the use of Caesar’s Legions even at a time when most of the Jews were crying out for the Romans to withdraw from Palestine.

  • Blackadder,

    I do not have the background to have too much critical engagement with this material and am not at this moment in a position to parse this line by line, but I do not think you have given a correct summary of Dr. Weigel’s position.

    http://www.eppc.org/publications/issuesID.410,seriesID.4/issues_detail.asp

  • Well BA, then you have a real problem about how the Popes, including John Paul II, could support nuclear deterrence all those years since it was well known that deterrence was based on a city busting strategy.

    “The production and the possession of armaments are a consequence of an ethical crisis that is disrupting society in all its political, social and economic dimensions. Peace, as I have already said several times, is the result of respect for ethical principles. True disarmament, that which will actually guarantee peace among peoples, will come about only with the resolution of this ethical crisis. To the extent that the efforts at arms reduction and then of total disarmament are not matched by parallel ethical renewal, they are doomed in advance to failure.

    The attempt must be made to put our world aright and to eliminate the spiritual confusion born from a narrow-minded search for interest or privilege or by the defense of ideological claims: this is a task of first priority if we wish to measure any progress in the struggle for disarmament. Otherwise we are condemned to remain at face-saving activities.…

    In current conditions “deterrence” based on balance, certainly not as an end in itself but as a step on the way toward a progressive disarmament, may still be judged morally acceptable. Nonetheless in order to ensure peace, it is indispensable not to be satisfied with this minimum which is always susceptible to the real danger of explosion.”

    John Paul II’s address to the United Nations Special Session on Disarmament in 1982. I will agree with you that ignorance is never in short supply in the area of ethics and warfare, but I think we would disagree as to just what this ignorance consists of.

  • That is a wonderful resource you linked to Art:

    “This is not to suggest that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was, or is, easily justifiable under the moral criteria of the classic just war tradition. But the moral barrier had been breached long before August 6 and August 8, 1945. So-called strategic bombing, aimed at the destruction of civilian populations, had been going on for five years; none of it met the just war in bello criteria of proportionality and discrimination. Indeed, if one measures the violation of non-combatant immunity statistically, the fire-bombing of Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, Nagoya, and other Japanese cities was a greater breach of the just war tradition than Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    That the Germans had destroyed Rotterdam, the British, Hamburg, and the British and Americans, Dresden, does not “justify” the American destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But certain moral distinctions can and should be drawn between the bombing of cities for purposes of sheer terror (Rotterdam) or revenge (Dresden), and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which, on the best available evidence, was undertaken with a legitimate strategic purpose in mind. That purpose was summarized succinctly by Truman biographer David McCullough: “If you want one explanation as to why Truman dropped the bomb: ‘Okinawa.’ It was done to stop the killing.”

    The greater legitimacy of an end does not, of course, justify any possible means. But recognizing the legitimacy of the end does enable us to enter imaginatively and even sympathetically into the moral struggle over means faced by a responsible political leader confronting a brace of bad choices.1

    It sometimes happens, these days, that a parallel is drawn between Auschwitz and Hiroshima, as two embodiments of the evil of the Second World War. But this seems wrong. What Harry Truman did in August 1945 was, strictly speaking, unjustifiable in classic moral terms. But it was understandable, and it was forgivable. What was done at Auschwitz was unjustifiable, maniacal, and, in this world’s terms, unforgivable. That is a considerable moral difference.

    At my parish church on the morning of August 6, 1995, we prayed God to grant “that no nuclear weapons will ever again be used.” It was a petition to which all could respond with a heartfelt, “Lord, hear our prayer.” Only by facing squarely the unavoidable moral dilemma confronted by President Truman will we gain a measure of the wisdom that might help us avoid similar dilemmas in the future. By reducing the decision to use atomic weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki to crudely political, even ideological, categories, the revisionists do a disservice not only to history but to the future, and to the cause of peace.”

    http://www.eppc.org/publications/pubID.1826/pub_detail.asp

  • I have probably read more Vatican documents than you have ever seen John.

    And apparently forgotten more as well.

    Does the pope tell you how to cook your eggs too?

    Very funny, but I think the popes and the Church insisting we don’t nuke a city full of civilian hardly constitutes a matter as flip as cooking eggs.

    there has always been a divided assessment of this issue

    Can you point out some thinkers who outlined a Catholic moral framework justifying the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? From around 1945-1950 or so?

  • He was remarkably free about giving advice to Caesar about the use of Caesar’s Legions even at a time when most of the Jews were crying out for the Romans to withdraw from Palestine.

    Huh? Your point being? I don’t think Jesus had to give line by line military strategy in accordance with just war principles to Caesar for the Church to have the duty given to it by Christ to develop through its tradition moral principles applicable to warfare in order to guide the faithful. Nuclear weapons violate those principles regardless of their strategic value and therefore constitute an sinful taking of life i.e. murder.

    Can you point out some thinkers who outlined a Catholic moral framework justifying the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? From around 1945-1950 or so?

    While I know of none that did so, it should be pointed that Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, who as patriotic an American as Catholicism has seen, was adamant in his condemnation of nuclear weapons. For a patriot like that to risk his popularity by condemning the bombings immediately after WWII says quite a lot.

  • Art,

    From the conclusion of the Weigel materials you link to:

    What Harry Truman did in August 1945 was, strictly speaking, unjustifiable in classic moral terms.

    Weigel’s position is as I said it was.

  • “Huh? Your point being?”

    I should think that it would have been obvious. Christ did not seek to micromanage the use of the Legions by Caesar and neither should modern day Bishops or Popes. Except for Pius XII, it would seem that the general attitude has been that the State should not use nuclear weapons. That squares oddly with the support that the same pontiffs gave to nuclear deterrence, but that is a side issue. This strikes me as a departure from the attitude towards the State envisaged by Christ and is a throwback to such great successes as the attempt of the Church to restrict the crossbow to use against Moslems. Bishops know little about military affairs, and when they meddle in them they tend to come a cropper due to their usual abysmal ignorance on the subject.

  • Don,

    A counterforce nuclear strategy is arguably consistent with Catholic moral principles (if you’d like I can point you to some of the debates on the issue). When JP II made the comments you quote in 1982, counterforce was the official policy of the United States, and was always one of several options ‘on the table’ when it came to U.S. nuclear strategy.

    I find it interesting that you are willing to cite JP II when you think he supports your position, but dismiss his comments about the Hiroshima bombing itself as being naive and morally repugnant. If the fact that JP II said something about the legitimacy of deterrence is supposed to make the entire history of Catholic thinking on the killing of noncombatants problematic, then how on earth could you ever say the Hiroshima bombing is consistent with it?

  • Don,
    I am largely in agreement with your last post, even if not perfectly so. While I think that Truman’s purpose (to stop the killing) was certainly good, even noble, it does not in the end save the means, which were not morally legitimate. I acknowledge Sean’s argument that the Japanese’ extraordinary conscription practices rendered the entire populace combatants, but ultimately cannot buy it. That said, I have no patience for the self-righteous hand-wringers who contrive a moral equivalency between Hiroshima and Auschwitz, bla bla bla. What contemptible nonsense. Truman’s guilt is more equivalent to that of the soldier who murders his comrade in response to the latter’s desperate pleas while he is dying in agony on the battlefield. Morally unacceptable to be sure, but quite understandable and forgivable. For a soldier to resist such pleas out of moral principle requires heroic moral courage. More men would resist out of cowardice or indifference than out of such courage. Similarly, for Truman to not use the bomb out of moral principle would have required similar uncommon fortitude. Few of us are in a position to criticize him. At most we can agree that he was morally wrong. Fine, that describes me on a daily basis. But the deed, while wrong, was simply not as monstrous as some critics make out.

    Michael,
    Your statement to the effect that nuclear weapons are ipso facto violations of Church teaching cannot be squared with the teaching of Pius XII as noted earlier by Don. In the end, acts of war must always be evaluated on a case by case basis. That includes sieges as well as the ownership and use of nuclear weapons. I admit that the factual circumstances under which such weapons could be morally justified may be far-fetched, but precision in thinking must admit the theoretical possibility.

  • Mr. Petrik:

    First of all, I find that while you state that you think the bombings were morally unjustifiable, you are willing to do so without all the calumnious self-righteous hand wringing ala Jimmy Akin and Mark Shea and many out there in the Catholic blogosphere. i find that refreshing.

    But I am curious as to why you don’t buy the argument that given Japan’s conscription of practically all teh adult population that it did not render the entire country of Japan a military base and therefore a legitimate military target.

    To follow your logic, we would have to conclude that killing a conscripted soldier to be unjustifiable.

    With this taken in conjunction with the fact that other alternatives would have killed, in a much more grusome and heinous manner, far more American and especially Japanese, to deem the atomic bombings immoral apriori is, at the very, very, very, very least inconclusive.

  • Greg,
    The answer to your question is simply that I do not regard Japan’s de jure conscription to be de facto. And I think substance and reality ought to govern. If Roosevelt had waved a magic wand and conscripted all Americans I’d come out the same way. Such a universal conscription would be morally objectionable in its own right, and allowing it to be used as a bootstraped warrant for carpet bombing or A-bombing entire cities doesn’t wash with me. But given the options confronted by Truman, I simply refuse to condemn the man and agree that the annual August self-castigation is grounded less in measured moral reasoning and more in some perverse admixture of individual self-righteousness and group self-hatred. Truman erred in my view, but was a far better man than many of his critics.

  • Mark,

    I’m actually a little surprised to see you venturing into the “danger” zone of this blog, especially after your recent assessment of TAC as “dangerous and deadly”:

    “I agree with you that the bellicose messianic Americanism at TAC is far more dangerous and deadly than the nose-pulling of CF. However, as I virtually never read TAC and as CF (being the New Hotness) was more prominent on my monitor, I wasn’t attempting a full review of TAC.”

    http://orientem.blogspot.com/2010/08/catholic-fascist-revisited.html#7946745129191366168

    It’s a good thing that you “virtually never read TAC” or you might have to actually face the fact that there is a wide diversity of opinion here among both contributors and commenters (a much wider diversity, in fact, than you’ll find at Vox Nova), and that, even among his close friends on this blog, Don’s views of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, for example, are most likely a minority of one. In addition, by “virtually never read[ing] TAC”, you avoid having to form an opinion about the blog based in fact rather than pulling an assessment completely out of your ass.

  • This made me laugh:

    you avoid having to form an opinion about the blog based in fact rather than pulling an assessment completely out of your ass

    Good times. ;)

  • ###[I have probably read more Vatican documents than you have ever seen John.]

    And apparently forgotten more as well.###

    In the words of that great western philosopher Steven Tyler “dream on” JohnH…

    ###[Does the pope tell you how to cook your eggs too?] Very funny,###

    Actually I was serious. There is a cult of the modern papacy among some that basically involves abdicating reason and logic and going along with statements by the popes on any subject whatsoever regardless of the particular competence that the pope may or may not have in touching on a given subject.

    #but I think the popes and the Church insisting we don’t nuke a city full of civilian hardly constitutes a matter as flip as cooking eggs.#

    Since you are obviously not one to want to deal with the reality and prefer to deal in the “city full of civilians” fantasy, I see little more that can be said to you on these things.

    #[there has always been a divided assessment of this issue]

    Can you point out some thinkers who outlined a Catholic moral framework justifying the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? From around 1945-1950 or so?#

    It does not matter whether I give you a list of names because the opinions and conclusions of anyone (regardless of their perceived “authority”) do not a valid argument make. Of course to realize that would be to approach things rationally using the natural tools given to us by God: hardly something that very many Catholics are prone to do unfortunately. (I hate to say it but on this matter Gladstone was right and Newman in arguing against him was representing a minority of Catholics in any age not just his own.) But all is not lost on this John.

    For I *can* point to more people of the sort that you request than you could point out to some Oneness Pentecostal heretic representatives amongst the Fathers and Doctors of the first three centuries who taught the dogmas of the first few ecumenical councils in the fourth and fifth centuries.

  • I *can* point to more people of the sort that you request than you could point out to some Oneness Pentecostal heretic representatives amongst the Fathers and Doctors of the first three centuries who taught the dogmas of the first few ecumenical councils in the fourth and fifth centuries.

    Okay then, do it.

  • Mike Petrik,

    Like “Blackadder” you are evidently someone who can (in both agreement as well as disagreement) discuss these matters ethically and in accordance with Catholic principles such as charity: something far too often in short supply on matters such as this. May your tribe increase!

    ~Shawn

  • Thanks, Shawn. I try, but certainly bat less than 1.000.

    In my view this debate shares certain things in common with the very sad Sister Margaret McBride scandal a couple of months ago, except conservatives and liberals line up differently and sometimes succumb to similar lack of charity. What Sister McBride did was not morally defensible (notwithstanding the various impassioned defenses made on her behalf, which were generally devoid of serious reasoning), but it certainly was understandable. Like Truman, she did a bad thing for a good reason. Like Truman that makes her neither evil nor a hero — just human. I do think that overall Sister McBride’s supporters were considerably more strident and unreasonable than Truman’s supporters. But the analogy is still interesting, at least to me.

    Don’t get me wrong — I do think that Truman’s is a harder case. The application of the principle of double effect is far easier in the McBride case for a number of reasons, including the one offered earlier regarding the definition if innocents/noncombatants. But in the end I fear that my conservative friends are so sympathetic with Truman’s motives and circumstances (as am I), that they cannot quite come to grips with the fact that he crossed the line. It doesn’t help when Truman’s critics so often seem so smugly self-congratulatory about their views. In such cases a person with healthy moral instincts can’t help but want to rise to Truman’s defense.

  • It does not matter whether I give you a list of names because the opinions and conclusions of anyone (regardless of their perceived “authority”) do not a valid argument make.

    Nonsense.

    You label those who condemn the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as irrational and incompetent. So show how they are irrational and incompetent. You say condemnation of the bombings is revisionist. So show how it is revisionist.

  • “I find it interesting that you are willing to cite JP II when you think he supports your position, but dismiss his comments about the Hiroshima bombing itself as being naive and morally repugnant. If the fact that JP II said something about the legitimacy of deterrence is supposed to make the entire history of Catholic thinking on the killing of noncombatants problematic, then how on earth could you ever say the Hiroshima bombing is consistent with it?”

    I cited it BA because I find support for nuclear deterrence, the Balance of Terror as it was rightly called, inconsistent with a condemnation of Hiroshima under the factual situation confronting Truman. If you would like to link to sources that attempt to square that particular circle, I will be happy to read them.

  • I cited it BA because I find support for nuclear deterrence, the Balance of Terror as it was rightly called, inconsistent with a condemnation of Hiroshima under the factual situation confronting Truman.

    Exactly.

    If every actual use of nuclear weapons is per-se immoral, then their possession is per-se immoral too. Even mere-deterrence presupposes a threat of use and the believability of said threat. But since the threat of Bad Action X is the equivalent of Bad Action X, in every form of Catholic morality, if every use of nuclear weapons is damnworthy, then nuclear deterrence is too.

    And John Paul II could not have said what he said before the UN.

    Antinomy.

    So the task then is … what use of nuclear weapons CAN be fit into what the Catechism says (keeping in mind that the answer cannot be “none”). Maybe Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not those uses, but then I’d strain to think what might be.

    Blackadder wrote:
    “A counterforce nuclear strategy is arguably consistent with Catholic moral principles (if you’d like I can point you to some of the debates on the issue). When JP II made the comments you quote in 1982, counterforce was the official policy of the United States, and was always one of several options ‘on the table’ when it came to U.S. nuclear strategy.”

    Clearly … though “counterforce” was, as you state, merely one option always on the US and Soviet table and, in mirror image, the US never has since repudiated “countervalue” attacks. What happened in 1982 IIRC was that Reagan made counterforce and the attempt to fight a limited nuclear war the official preferred public doctrine. (And also, relevantly to the context in which John Paul was speaking, countervalue use was all Britain, France and China even contemplated.)

    (The curious might find it funny that the moralists of the time, including not a few churchmen, thought counterforce was unconscionable. Their claim was basically “thinkability,” that planning military uses for such weapons made a nuclear war attractive, a la “Dr. Strangelove.” Their argument, and this is one reason not to listen to moralists with no taste for paradox or irony, really was that the more destructive and unlimited a nuclear war was, the better, since that meant nobody would ever launch.)

    Anyhoo … the distinction between counterforce and countervalue really shouldn’t be overstated though. According to everything written at the time, and as a high-school debater in the 80s I free-based this stuff, the “forces” to be counter”ed included many targets in or near urban areas (such as Washington, say) — command-and-control centers (the Pentagon, say), bomber bases (Andrews AFB, say), national leadership (the White House).

    Point being … if 80s counterforce passes muster, Hiroshima and Nagasaki probably would too. Particularly since those 1945 bombs were small and primitive compared to the weapons of the 1980s (which were themselves small compared to the weapons of the 50s and 60s).

  • Mr Petrik:

    The conscription of the civlian Japanese populace was most certainly de facto. Their fanaticism was another well documented fact.

  • if every use of nuclear weapons is damnworthy, then nuclear deterrence is too.

    I think the flaw here is in assuming that if Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren’t justified then no possible use of nuclear weapons could be justified.

    Look, it seems pretty clear that JP II 1) thought that the Hiroshima bombing was unjustified, and 2) that nuclear deterrence wasn’t inherently immoral. Are the two positions logically inconsistent? No, even Don has admitted he understands the distinction involved, he just doesn’t think the distinction matters morally. But the distinction Don rejects is a fundamental and ingrained part of Catholic moral theology. So it’s hardly surprising that the Pope accepts it.

  • I think the flaw here is in assuming that if Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren’t justified then no possible use of nuclear weapons could be justified.

    I wouldn’t say it’s the flaw or that I assume, but… yes, that is a necessary point.

    Obviously John Paul thought (1) and (2) both, but, since he wasn’t specifically asked then and we can’t ask him now to square that circle, we’re left to our own devices … I think those two thoughts cannot consistently be held.

    Given two incontrovertible facts — (1) those weapons were small by JP2-papacy-era standards; and (2) Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not devoid of military targets* — I can’t think of any contemplated or reasonably likely use** of nuclear weapons, circa 1982, that would survive the criticisms the revisionists make about 1945. Since you’re knowledgeable enough about military strategy, Blackadder, to know the distinction between counterforce and countervalue, I doubt you can either.

    Also, though Donald can speak for himself, I didn’t read him as saying he “doesn’t think the distinction [between intended and foreseen effects] matters morally.” I read him more as saying “it has little or no applicability in the field of military action” (and I’d be with him 100% on that).
    ————————–
    * Even if one ignores the mass-conscription angle, which [full disclosure] I think is the dispositive point that clinches the discussion.

    ** Short of absurd scifi-nerd or seminar-room scenarios (like, in re interrogation, the ticking time bomb or castrating a terrorist’s child).

  • I can’t think of any contemplated or reasonably likely use** of nuclear weapons, circa 1982, that would survive the criticisms the revisionists make about 1945.

    Actually, I’ve just come up with the answer to my own challenge … there was much talk in the 80s about using nuclear weapons for high-altitude EMP attacks that could, theoretically, paralyze an entire country by frying all solid-state electronics.

    Of course, such an attack would be even less discriminate than any conventional military attack and would cause untold civilian deaths through such means as (first example off the top of my head, there are obviously many) the destruction of the electricity grid killing people on life support or those who need medical treatments that depend on electricity.

  • Victor, as always your arguments are cogent, and I thank you for the assist!

  • Mike Petrik: Mike, as always on the very few cases when we disagree you have made the strongest case for the opposing viewpoint and, as usual, done it with charity and respect for all involved. Bravo!

  • Victor,

    The fact that there are military objectives in a city would only matter morally if those military objectives – and only those military objectives – were targeted. That wasn’t the case for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Suppose, for example, that all the military objectives in Hiroshima were in the same place, but that there wasn’t a city there. Would we still dropped the bomb on there? Obviously not. Dropping the bomb on a city and killing lots of civilians wasn’t some unavoidable side effect of taking out a vital military target. It was an integral part of the whole plan.

  • Also, though Donald can speak for himself, I didn’t read him as saying he “doesn’t think the distinction [between intended and foreseen effects] matters morally.” I read him more as saying “it has little or no applicability in the field of military action”

    I assume he meant that it doesn’t apply morally. If the claim is that the fundamental nature of intentionality changes when there is a declaration of war, then I don’t think that makes sense.

  • The fact that there are military objectives in a city would only matter morally if those military objectives – and only those military objectives – were targeted. That wasn’t the case for Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    But to the extent that this is true, this would be exactly why nuclear weapons can never be morally used, and thus never morally possessed. Nuclear weapons are simply incapable of being targeted with that kind of discrimination. They can be targeted in the sense of “aimed” (and rather accurately in this day and age), but once they land, they destroy everything within a certain radius according to their size and various accidental factors (altitude, terrain, weather, etc.)

    Suppose, for example, that all the military objectives in Hiroshima were in the same place, but that there wasn’t a city there. Would we still dropped the bomb on there? Obviously not.

    You know this counterfactual hypothetical … how?

    Keep in mind that there are few military facilities on earth, then or now (or maybe ever, if we speak of standing militaries and permanent facilities) that have no connection to civilian areas. And no city on earth, then or now or ever, that doesn’t have military targets.

    If the claim is that the fundamental nature of intentionality changes when there is a declaration of war

    Same caveat as above … that’s still not what Donald and I are saying. We’re not talking about changing the structure of human acts but saying one category within the structure (“foreseen but unintended”) is an empty set in a particular specific activity (“war”).

  • if those military objectives – and only those military objectives – were targeted.

    With regard to the specifics of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, yes, military facilities were targeted — as best the technology of 1945 permitted (which is to say, by the lights of today and the imaginations of people thus shaped, very very poorly). The probably is simply that precision targeting, terrain mapping, inertial guidance and the rest of what we take for granted still lay decades in the future.

    Idle thought not strictly related: My mind often notes that as targeting technology has improved (always resisted by the “peacemakers” among us, natch), our ability to limit (not “eliminate”) civilian collateral damage has improved. But at the same time, our tolerance for collateral civilian deaths from bombardment has declined to essentially nil (see the complaints about Predator drones in Afghanistan/Pakistan — if ever there was a “targeted” bombardment, that is it). And simultaneous with that, essentially rigorist arguments about military targeting have gotten more popular. It’s as if our imaginations about war have come down with Lady Macbeth’s disease.

  • Victor,
    I cannot agree that the category of foreseen but not intended is an empty set in war. In general, we take great pains to minimize civilian casualties in war. When our bombs fell in Iraq we aimed only at military targets and in a manner that minimized risk to noncombatants. We did not “intend” for civilians to be hurt, but knew some casualties were inevitable. In WWII most bombing missions were actually conducted similarly, with pilots given specific military targets and actually briefed on the locations of schools and hospitals that should be avoided if at all possible. The carpet bombing that occurred at Dresden and other cities later in the war represented a departure from these norms. Churchill (a hero of mine) wanted to break the will of Germany to fight, and was angry at Germany’s indiscriminate targeting in London, so he pushed for the carpet bombing both in retaliation and in order to break German fighting spirit. He *wanted* civilian casualties. For similar reasons so did Truman, who had plenty of reasons to not only (i) be furious with the inhumane manner in which Japan had conducted the war from the very beginning but also (ii) anticipate much worse consequences for both sides in the event of an invasion or other options should Japan refuse to surrender.

    Finally, while it may be that the moral use of nuclear weapons might strike some as implausible, I continue to think it is an error to try to place nuclear weaponry in its own category. Each act of war must evaluated under its own facts and circumstances. There are all manner of nuclear weapons with a wide range of consequences. And one can hypothesize all kinds of facts and circumances.

    In the end, there is a profound difference between undertaking a military action whose intention is to harm civilians versus undertaking such an action that acknowledges the forseeable harm to civilians without such an intention. Truman’s supporters fall into one of three camps: (i) those who dismiss the above distinction and instead believe that the morality of the military act is judged only by its consequences; (ii) those who believe that the familes who lived and worked in H and N were not non-combatants and therfore licit targets; and (iii) and those who believe that the military and industrial sites within the H and N blast zones were the only targets and that the non-combatant casualties were collateral damage permitted under the principle of double effect. I have carefully considered each of these defenses and find them all deficient. I am not a consequentialist (at least in theory — I have no idea what I would have done had I been in Truman’s place); I do not find persuasive the notion that Japan’s idiosyncratic and extraordinary conscription practices rendered all women, children, etc. licit targets; and i believe the record supports Blackadder’s contention that the killing of civilians was was not just an unintended but foreseeable consequence, but was instead integral to the plan.

  • Actually I think the instructions on avoiding civilian targets applied primarily to Americans as they alone practiced daylight “precision” bombing. The English bombed at night and I suspect their targeting was far more indiscriminate as a result even when radar was available. Add to that that there was clearly the effort by the British as early as 1942 to demoralize the German population with their bombing and not solely to hit military targets.

    I also use the scare quotation marks as precision bombing, even when practiced as such, was minimally precise. The USAF identified precision as the bombs landing withing 1000 feet of the target. In 1944 by their own estimates (if I recall correctly) only about 7% of bombs landed within that 1000 feet. That leaves 93% scattered across what would usually have been populated cities.

    This of course does not render the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki moral. I think it does put in context what people accepted as “moral” or at least acceptable at that point in the war.

  • Phillip,
    Without question what people accepted as moral acts of war became more relaxed as their suffering increased, which is very understandable. The bombings of H and N were contemporaneously criticized only by a small minority. While I continue to believe these bombings were immoral, I simply cannot view them as monstrously so. Abortion is also gravely immoral. Always. So is murder. Yet, tough calls and horrible options do mitigate culpability — see the Sister McBride case and the example of a soldier killing his dying comrade in order to end his agony. Truman was not motivated by blood lust. The record is pretty clear that he just wanted to save lives. Although that noble end cannot justify the intentional targeting of non-combatants, it is essential to consider when rendering sober judgment on a man’s decision.

  • Agree with you. My point was that conventional bombing prior to H and N were in all likelihood objectively immoral also. At a minimum from how the British practiced it.

  • Agreed, Phillip.
    I am not so much concerned with precision as with target. The worse the anticipated precision the tougher to satisfy the prudential calculus, but no intrinsic evil problem unless the target is civilian. The conventional carpet bombing would appear to have been intrisically evil, whereas the conventional bombing of military targets (given the horrible imprecision and many anticipated civilian casualties) is subject to a prudential calculus, which it could also conceptually fail (but which is very difficult to morally assess with confidence).

  • With the exception again that as early as Feb ’42 the British did make an aim of their bombing the morale of civilians rather than specific targets. So I think again, at least as the British practiced it, conventional bombing was morally problematic.

  • I cannot agree that the category of foreseen but not intended is an empty set in war. In general, we take great pains to minimize civilian casualties in war.

    True, and we should.

    But given that, unique among human activities, war is — in se and not per accidens — a destructive activity that centers on intentional killing, the risk of killing “the wrong person” is always already baked in. The object of the act is always “killing” or maybe “doing deadly act X in order to kill” (the difference between these two is, I think, legerdemain). And whether the right person and the wrong person is mere chance.

    but no intrinsic evil problem unless the target is civilian.

    But in the actual 1945, or any actual use of nuclear weapons, there are no purely-civilian or purely-military targets, only mixed environments that we can be more or less prudent or careful about.

  • This of course does not render the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki moral. I think it does put in context what people accepted as “moral” or at least acceptable at that point in the war.

    This is the most brilliant thing ever written by an anti-bombing person, and the real reason I think for these Annual August Rites. There has been a sea change in attitudes about deadly risk in recent decades. We now believe, as wasn’t believed in the past, that it is possible (and therefore desireable) to end all risk to the innocent and/or to end all suffering.

  • Victor,

    If you look at the minutes of the Target Committee meeting where the initial list of targets for the bombing were drawn up, it states that “for the initial use of the weapon any small and strictly military objective should be located in a much larger area subject to blast damage in order to avoid undue risks of the weapon being lost due to bad placing of the bomb.” The minutes also cite Hiroshima as being a particularly good target because it “has the advantage of being such a size and with possible focusing from nearby mountains that a large fraction of the city may be destroyed.”

    Aside from that, it’s just not plausible that out of all the military targets in Japan, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were picked strictly because of their military features, particularly since the U.S. had already adopted a policy of city bombing using conventional forces. You would have done a lot more damage to Japanese military capacity by dropping the bomb on the assembled forces at Ky?sh?, or any of hundreds of other locations.

  • given that, unique among human activities, war is — in se and not per accidens — a destructive activity that centers on intentional killing, the risk of killing “the wrong person” is always already baked in.

    It’s true that whenever you try to kill one person there is always a chance you might accidentally kill someone else instead (or in addition to) the person you intend to kill. I’m not sure how this is supposed to vitiate the distinction between intended and foreseen consequences.

  • This of course does not render the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki moral. I think it does put in context what people accepted as “moral” or at least acceptable at that point in the war.

    And starting very early in the war, Pope Pius XII was warning that the increasingly common targeting of civilian areas was unacceptable and would lead to worse atrocities.

    From his Easter 1941 message:

    We feel obliged nonetheless to state that the ruthless struggle has at times assumed forms which can be described only as atrocious. May all belligerents, who also have human hearts moulded by mothers’ love, show some feeling of charity for the sufferings of civilian populations, for defenseless women and children, for the sick and aged, all of whom are often exposed to greater and more widespread perils of war than those faced by soldiers at the front!

    We beseech the belligerent powers to abstain until the very end from the use of still more homicidal instruments of warfare; for the introduction of such weapons inevitably results in their retaliatory use, often with greater violence by the enemy. If already We must lament the fact that the limits of legitimate warfare have been repeatedly exceeded, would not the more widespread use of increasingly barbarous offensive weapons soon transform war into unspeakable horror?

  • It’s pleasing to see all the respectful comments directed toward Mike Petrik from all sides. I have long thought that there are precious few people in the Catholic blogosphere as decent and bright as Mike.

  • Yes. Another reason why the bombing of H and N need to be taken in the context of what was for years acceptable and likely immoral behavior.

  • That was in response to JohnH

  • Thanks, RL. That was a very nice thing to say.

  • I’m not sure how this is supposed to vitiate the distinction between intended and foreseen consequences.

    Because the distinction in wartime practice between “killing a guilty person” and “killing an innocent person” is chance and thus not in the object of the act if the object of nearly every act of war (as I believe self-evidently the matter, St. Thomas notwithstanding) is “killing,” whether “dropping a bomb” or “thrusting a sword” or some otherwise-specified act of deadly force. Thus every “foreseen” death is also “intended.”

  • Blackadder … there’s no doubt that the US war planners of 1945 knew that attacking the 2nd Army HQ and the Mitsubishi shipyards entailed bombing the whole city (though that would’ve equally been the case had they decided to attack it with conventional bombs), and thought that killing civilians was, if not exactly desired as its own end, not anti-desired or shrunk from either.

    My point is always that this is merely an extreme (and unusually well-documented) case of what has, does and will go on in every war in human history — military planners not being deterred from legitimate operations by the known fact civilians will be killed in their due course (100-vs.-1,000 or Smith-vs.-Jones being morally indifferent in matters of intrinsic evil).

  • Because the distinction in wartime practice between “killing a guilty person” and “killing an innocent person” is chance and thus not in the object of the act if the object of nearly every act of war (as I believe self-evidently the matter, St. Thomas notwithstanding) is “killing,” whether “dropping a bomb” or “thrusting a sword” or some otherwise-specified act of deadly force.

    This is confused. Imagine you have a group of bank robbers who have taken hostages. If a sniper tries to shoot one of the robbers there is a good chance that he will miss and kill one of the hostages instead. It hardly follows that there is no difference between the sniper trying to kill the robber and trying to kill the hostages.

  • It hardly follows that there is no difference between the sniper trying to kill the robber and trying to kill the hostages.

    I didn’t say there was no difference between THOSE two options — “trying to kill the robber” and “trying to kill the civilians.” I merely note that, in fog-of-war situations, there is no “trying to kill soldiers” or “trying to destroy their support” without the moral certainty that some civilians will die.

  • Sorry … let me avoid the passive voice …

    in fog-of-war situations, there is no “trying to kill soldiers” or “trying to destroy their support” without the moral certainty that you will kill some civilians in due course.

  • in fog-of-war situations, there is no “trying to kill soldiers” or “trying to destroy their support” without the moral certainty that you will kill some civilians in due course.

    That’s right, but that doesn’t mean there is no difference between deaths that are intended and those that are merely foreseen.

  • I’m denying the distinction from the other end, i.e., everything that is foreseen is intended, if you are going to engage in acts of war, which all have “killing” as their object.

  • I’m denying the distinction from the other end, i.e., everything that is foreseen is intended

    Then you’re denying a fundamental part of Catholic thinking on the subject.

  • And it’s not a very plausible denial, even apart from its consonance with Catholic thought. It’s easy enough to translate the sniper example into a wartime situation, and if acts in wartime only have as their object “killing” full stop then there would be no difference between trying to kill the enemy and trying to kill one’s fellow solders.

  • Keep in mind, BA … I don’t deny it absolutely, just its relevance here, for perfectly sound common-sense reasons.

    Certainly it’s far more sound common-sense than trying, as St. Thomas does, to justify acts of war by defining their object in terms of its end (i.e., “does not will the death of the attacker, but only to render him harmless” … “BY KILLING HIM!!!” I wrote in frustration into the margins of my grad-school reading a decade-and-a-half ago. My opinion of legalistic application of JWD never survived.)

  • if acts in wartime only have as their object “killing” full stop then there would be no difference between trying to kill the enemy and trying to kill one’s fellow solders.

    Intrinsically? With respect to their object?

    Yes, there is no difference.

    That doesn’t mean there can’t be other differences.

  • Long but fun day taking my first born down to begin his freshman year at the University of Illinois. The thread seems to be going smoothly. I will respond to points as I think warranted tomorrow.

  • I protest at using the Philippines as justification for nuclear warfare. The Philippines has a no-nuclear policy. In fact, their Constitution forbids them from having or using nuclear weapons.

  • A luxury they enjoy Nathan as a result of sheltering under the US nuclear umbrella for 65 years. I doubt if they have a constitutional provision capable of preventing nuclear weapons striking the Philippines from unfriendly powers. Of course without the US the Philippines would still be a Japanese colony in any case.

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