Father Wilson Miscamble Defends the Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

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Getting the annual Saint Blogs August Bomb Follies off to an early start.  Father Wilson Miscamble, Professor of History at Notre Dame, and long a champion of the pro-life cause, defends the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the video above. The video is a summary of the conclusions reached by Father Miscamble in his recent book, The Most Controversial Decision.  Go here to read a review of the book by British military historian Andrew Roberts.  Go here to read a review of the book by Father Michael P. Orsi.  Go here to read a review by Michael Novak.

I echo the conclusions of Father Wilson Miscamble and appreciate his heroic efforts to clear up the bad history and inane American self-flagellation that has distorted a very straight-forward historical event.    I also appreciate his willingness to take the heat that his position has caused him.  Go here to read his response to a critique by Professor Christopher Tollefsen.  This portion of his response is something I have noted in regard to many critics of Truman, an unwillingness to address the consequences of not dropping the bombs:

It is when one turns to alternate courses of action that the abstract nature of Tollefsen’s criticisms becomes apparent. He criticizes Truman’s actions as immoral but offers no serious proposal regarding a viable alternative. Elizabeth Anscombe had naively suggested that Truman alter the terms of surrender, but such an approach only would have strengthened the hand of the Japanese militarists and confirmed their suicidal strategy. Tollefsen concedes that “it might well be true that greater suffering would have resulted from a refusal to use the atomic weapons in Japan,” but he backs away from any genuine discussion of what Truman should have done and of what that “greater suffering” might have involved. He provides no evidence that he has considered this matter at all. But should philosophers be able to avoid outlining what they would have done in the demanding circumstances that Truman confronted? I have always thought that moral reflection wrestles with the awful and painful realities. Tollefsen seems to want to stand above the fray, to pronounce Truman’s actions as deeply immoral and to leave it at that. It would have brought greater clarity to this discussion if he had confronted the alternatives seriously.

If Tollefsen were to engage the military issues involved in the war in the Pacific, I suspect he would be forced to raise further objections to the American military practices pursued well before the Enola Gay flew toward Hiroshima. Take as but one example the early 1945 Battle for Manila, in which approximately one hundred thousand Filipino civilians were killed. Some were killed by the Japanese, but many of this large number were killed by aggressive American air and artillery bombardments used, without particular regard for civilian casualties, as the American forces sought to dislodge an established enemy that refused to surrender. These harsh tactics could not meet Tollefsen’s criteria with regard to means. Given his unbending approach on moral absolutes, I assume he would condemn the action; but just what military means would he support in trying to defeat a foe that considered surrender the ultimate disgrace and who fought accordingly? Similarly, Tollefsen could hardly approve of the military force utilized in the taking of Okinawa and the high number of civilian casualties that resulted.

I suspect that Professor Tollefsen would be willing to say that it would be better to do absolutely nothing and to live with the consequences, if I may use that word, than to use morally questionable tactics. But the decision not to act undoubtedly would have incurred terrible consequences. Surely such inaction would carry some burden of responsibility for the prolongation of the killing of innocents throughout Asia, in the charnel house of the Japanese Empire. Is it really “moral” to stand aside, maintaining one’s supposed moral purity, while a vast slaughter is occurring at the rate of over two hundred thousand deaths a month? Isn’t there a terrible dilemma here, namely, which innocent lives to save? Would Tollefsen really have rested at peace with the long-term Japanese domination of Asia? Would that be a pro-life position?

Let me confess that I would prefer that my position had the clarity of Professor Tollefsen’s. It is a large concession to admit that Truman’s action was the “least evil.” Arguing that it was the least-harmful option open to him will hardly be persuasive to those who see everything in a sharp black-and-white focus. Yet this is how I see it. If someone can present to me a viable and more “moral way” to have defeated the Japanese and ended World War II, I will change my position. I suppose my position here has some resonance with my support for the policy of deterrence during the Cold War. I could recognize the moral flaws in the strategy but still I found it the best of the available options, and the alternatives were markedly worse. Interestingly, I think the author of Veritatis Splendor thought the same thing and he conveyed that view to the American bishops as they wrote their peace pastoral letter.

I trust that my pro-life credentials will not be questioned because I refuse to denounce Truman as a “mass-murderer.” Unlike Tollefsen, I do not think that my position initiates the unraveling of the entire pro-life garment. I believe Truman pursued the least-harmful course of action available to him to end a ghastly war, a course that resulted in the least loss of life.

Harry Truman knew that if he ordered the dropping of the bombs, a very large number of Japanese civilians would be killed.  He also knew that if he did not drop the bombs it was virtually certain that a far larger number of civilians, Allied, in territory occupied by Japan, as well as Japanese, would be killed, as a result of the war grinding on until the war ceased due to an invasion of  Japan, continued massive conventional bombing of Japan, or a continuation of the blockade which would result in mass famine in Japan.  He also knew that an invasion of Japan would have led to  massive, almost unthinkable, US military casualties, to add to the 416,000 US deaths and 670,000 US wounded that World War II had already cost.   The morality of Truman’s dropping of the bombs has been a subject of debate since 1945.  Comparatively little attention has been paid to the practical and moral consequences of Truman failing to act.  Father Miscamble is to be congratulated for examining this facet of Truman’s Dilemma.

Update:  Go here to view a lecture by Father Miscamble on Truman and the bombings.

 

269 Responses to Father Wilson Miscamble Defends the Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

  • The trouble is that taking into account consequences makes you a ‘consequentialist’, which is a very bad thing.

  • Obama is quietly, unilaterally disarming so that the US may never do that again.

    My uncle (RIP) believed he survived the war because of the bombings. He would take strong exception with anybody that said it was inappropriate.

    Unilateral disarmament is like gun control: only the bad guys are armed. No, wait! For Obama, Americans are the bad guys. Neville Chamberlain incarnate.

  • “Arguing that it was the least-harmful option open to him will hardly be persuasive to those who see everything in a sharp black-and-white focus.”

    I see everything in sharp black-and-white focus, and it’s clear: dropping the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the moral thing to do, saving millions of innocent lives on both side that would have been otherwsise lost in a protracted struggle of conventional warfare to defeat an intractable, godless enemy.

    Ironically, however, the very people who oppose nuclear weapons are the SAME people who today oppose anti-ballistic missile shield technology. Go figure! Peace at any price, including that of slavery.

    One last thing: when discussing weapons of war, nuclear or otherwise, maybe reading “The Strategy of Technology” by Stefan T. Possony, Ph.D.; Jerry E. Pournelle, Ph.D. and Col. Francis X. Kane, Ph.D. (USAF Ret.) would be enlightneing.

    http://baen.com/sot/

  • And, T. Shaw, the USCCB supports that position of nuclear disarmament.

    http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/war-and-peace/nuclear-weapons/

    Peace at any price, including that of slavery!

  • Paul,

    Thanks for the link.

  • “Peace at any price, including that of slavery!”

    Nope. Peace of Christ at any price, including that of martyrdom before slavery.

  • I agree that Truman’s decision is best when evaluated by reference to consequences. But before consequences can be consulted it must first be determined that the act was not intrinsically evil. This is a problem insomuch as the bombs clearly targeted civilians. One cannot fairly or reasonably describe the civilian casualties as collateral damage — they were the target. Accordingly, I do not see how it is possible to square the bombings with Catholic moral teaching.

    That said, Truman was hardly a monster. Indeed, I have no basis for believing I would have handled the situation differently. In extreme cases we all do bad things for good reasons, and those good reasons certainly mitigate our moral culpability. For instance, while murder is always wrong, I hardly think God judges harshly the soldier who kills his comrade who is wounded and dying in agony. One cannot do evil for good reasons. But if the reasons are good enough the actions certainly are forgivable. Life can be tragic and complicated. I am reminded of Scobie in Greene’s “The Heart of the Matter,” who secretly took his own life in order to reduce the pain of his loved ones. It was almost Christ-like, even if the word “almost” does a lot of heavy lifting.

    Finally, I agree that the amateur historians who claim that Truman knew that the Japanese would have surrendered without an invasion are shameless turds.

  • “Peace of Christ at any price, including that of martyrdom before slavery.”

    Agreed. But does that mean you get to decide that hundreds of thousands of American and Japanese soldiers as well as millions of Japanese get to be martyred in a protracted conventional war that was obviated by the dropping of two nuclear weapons?

    Does that mean you get to decide that millions of innocent people should be martyred if and when Iran obtains nuclear weapons capability and Obama has disarmed the United States?

    We live in a real world where idealism kills.

    PS, I literally slept beside thermonuclear weapons on a make-shift bunk in the torpedo room within a submarine a long time ago. We were all trained to launch weapons in case the submarine was fatally hit and we were the last ones alive aboard. Given the order, I would have launched without hesitation. And were I in the postion again (now not possible), I still would do so. If I am being martyred for my country, my family, my freedom, then I will take as many of the enemy with me as possible.

  • But does that mean you get to decide that hundreds of thousands of American and Japanese soldiers as well as millions of Japanese get to be martyred in a protracted conventional war that was obviated by the dropping of two nuclear weapons?

    Dropping the bombs was the exact same decision – only you choose different martyrs, and a different number of them. On this question, Art Deco and I agree (at least as to objectively immoral nature of the act; Truman’s subjective moral guilt is a different question).

    Hiroshoma and Nagasaki are the right’s version of abortion.

  • Well, we strongly disagree, C Matt. Bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved uncounted millions of lives which today the liberal left would prefer to see aborted. Therefore, to characterize this as the right’s abortion is simply wrong. Besides, it was a Democrat – Truman – who ordered the bombing.

  • “Hiroshoma and Nagasaki are the right’s version of abortion.”

    Assuming that the unborn were engaging in a war to conquer Asia that had killed tens of millions of people cmatt, that is perfectly logical.

  • before I say, I have not read the full text: Here my opinion:
    America was at war with Japan. The articles of war are to be engaged to understand “THE BOMB.” What is happening to us now is that Obama is trying to impose martial law upon American civil law, sadly for his own agenda. If it comes to war in America, it will come without the safety of the articles of war and martial law will be used against us.
    I am with the bishops in being against war, but a war of self-defense is always inevitable. The USCCB must deny Pearl Harbor to be against just war. The USCCB must deny St. Thomas Aquinas’ just war theory to be against all war without regard to the facts. Has man so realigned himself with the Prince of Peace that it is in America’s best interest to disarm?

  • Donald R. McClarey says:
    Tuesday, July 24, 2012 A.D. at 8:42am
    “Hiroshoma and Nagasaki are the right’s version of abortion.”

    Assuming that the unborn were engaging in a war to conquer Asia that had killed tens of millions of people cmatt, that is perfectly logical.

    Thank you Donald McClarey. I wish I had your turn of phrase.

  • I’m glad I wasn’t Harry Truman in the summer of 1945.

  • Truman said at the time that when he took over as President after FDR’s death he felt like the moon, the stars and the planets had just fallen on him.

  • Hiroshoma and Nagasaki are the right’s version of abortion.

    Closer to killing someone that’s trying to kill my family, even though he’s only trying to do it because someone will kill his kids if he doesn’t. Or any of a thousand other Hollywood plotlines.

    This is pretty dang relevant these days, what with the habit of terrorists to set up their most sensitive centers with human shields. Or to strap bombs on kids, especially those with Down’s syndrome and the like, then send them to checkpoints.

    It’s always wrong to try to kill someone; but sometimes you have to kill them to stop them.

  • On this question, Art Deco and I agree (at least as to objectively immoral nature of the act; Truman’s subjective moral guilt is a different question).

    I was being ironic, and making a jab at Daniel Nichols and Mark Shea. I am not an adept of any kind of philosophical discourse, so have nothing to say about involved questions. I merely note that the decision was a wretched one to have to make.

  • If I recall correctly (and I really need to get my hands on Frank’s “Downfall”), the non-invasion, non-bomb option was a blockade of the Home Islands, preventing Japan from importing anything. The American submarine force had all but swept the Japanese merchant fleet from the seas by August 1945 (doing what Donitz only dreamed of), but the clamps would have been applied very tightly with a blockade. You would have had famine and then disease sweeping the population in a matter of weeks.

    I can’t imagine the unspeakable horror of that, either.

    Mike Petrik’s analysis more or less speaks for me. Few options, all bad.

  • Even with the surrender Dale, MacArthur just narrowly averted famine in Japan which would have killed millions in the Spring of 46. It was prevented due to massive shipments of food from the US. To say the least shipping food from the US to feed Japan was unpopular in many quarters in the US. MacArthur overcame all resistance by saying that the Japanese were the responsibility of the US now, and that rather than see them starve on his watch he would resign. It was Mac’s finest hour in my opinion.

  • Essentially, the case for Hiroshima and Nagasaki boils down to one part consequentialism plus one part proportionalism.

    It is the same thinking employed by many proponents of abortion.

    We all have our blind spots.

  • Yes we do cmatt. One of them I would suggest is comparing abortion to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  • If the bombing was immoral, it was immoral. There’s no way to argue that it was immoral but justified. The consequences of not bombing were outside of the moral choice of Truman. Truman wasn’t responsible for the moral choices of others including those of the enemy. He was responsible only for his moral choices.

    If there were military targets within the cities, as there were, it could be argued that those were the targets and any additional damage was due to double effect. This argument gets iffy. Would Hiroshima’s and Nagasaki’s targets be of sufficient interest to merit their bombing? They weren’t targeted by conventional Allied attacks. Nevertheless, one can say that the military targets in the cities were bombed, and the power of the new technology was demonstrated, and any deaths among the civilian population were an unintended consequence. I think that’s sufficient to justify the decision (or to not stand in judgement over Truman on the matter).

    I’d say that Hiroshima and Nagasaki then are the right’s death penalty: a good person can defend it in limited cases, but no one should celebrate the event.

  • “I’d say that Hiroshima and Nagasaki then are the right’s death penalty: a good person can defend it in limited cases, but no one should celebrate the event.”

    Bingo. As Father Miscamble stated, it was the least horrible choice available to Truman.

  • @Paul – sorry, but that was taken exactly the wrong way around. I took “Peace at any prioce, including that of slavery” to mean that you prferred to live as a slave as long as it was in peace. These are contradictory, so I was confused; a slave knows no peace.

    What I meant that I will either live and worship freely, or if need be, die. I will never allow myself to be enslaved and made to turn on my faith. This has nothing to do with defending against an attacker. The assumption is that I am already defeated and those are my choices. I will defend if I am able, of that there is no doubt.

    I can’t help but agree that if the choice is between millions of dead over years and hundreds of thousands of dead in a blinding instant – and no other option – the choice is clear. What was done may not have been “right” but it was what was necessary.

    Also, think for a minute what would have happened in Germany if the Allies had suddenly backed down against Japan. It had been only a few months since V-E, the Werewolf problem was still rampant and Odessa was shipping truckloads of SS and Gestapo officers to points hither and yon about the globe – who could have been brought back just as easily. Any sudden sign of weakness and the European theater might have smouldered for years.

    Then, there was the Stalin question. The USSR had finally declared war on Japan when it was evident that it wouldn’t invite Siberian invasion, and it was another way for Uncle Joe to stage a land grab. Truman had to show Stalin where the line in the sand was. A prolonged Allied invasion would most certainly have involved Russian cooperation, so there could easily have been a “North Japan” and “South Japan.” A warm-water port for a Soviet Pacific fleet was simply unacceptable, so that option was out.

    So, apologies, Paul if I was unclear. I have no doubt that what was done then was correct. As well, any current enemy who insistst on staging a plausible threat must also be undone, in the way that most quickly ceases any potential for further conflict.

    And thank you, Mr. McClarey, for your pithy analysis of the unborn’s evil plot to create the Greater Pre-Natal Co-Prosperity Sphere.

  • “And thank you, Mr. McClarey, for your pithy analysis of the unborn’s evil plot to create the Greater Pre-Natal Co-Prosperity Sphere.”

    Comment of the day!

  • Failing to act is action. Both choices had consequences according to Father Miscamble.
    Though consequences do not determine the morality of an act– consequences do matter. .. by the fruits (consequences) you shall know them. That requires hindsight or prophetic vision.
    For the Commander in Chief it was hard to see clearly and he decided he must “pull the trigger” and leave the consequences to the Lord.

  • “For what I have done, and for what I have failed to do.”

  • I don’t see how analysis of the decision by supporters can evade the charge of consequentialism. Clearly, that’s what Truman weighed and gave the most credence to–the higher death toll from other options.

    However, I also don’t see how the critics’ analysis can evade the historical record–namely, that the regime was digging in for a fight to the death, and the “conventional” means of the time would have led to a staggeringly higher death toll, military and civilian.

    I can’t tie it up into a neat satisfactory answer, much as I’d like to.

  • I am a bit shocked to read, on a Catholic website, that it was a good, just, and courageous thing to drop a nuclear weapon on the Catholic city of Nagasaki, killing and wrecking the lives of so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ, including priests and religious (according to Father George Zabelka, chaplain to the 509th Composite Group on Tinian Island, three convents full of sisters were destroyed by the bombing), not to mention Catholic schoolchildren (see the documentary “White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima/Nagasaki”), etc.

    This is incomprehensible to me.

  • It is the same thinking employed by many proponents of abortion.

    Fallacy: argument from bad analogy, possibly also association fallacy.

    Also, something can’t be partly consequentialism– consequentialism requires that ONLY the results be examined.

    Proportionalism, on the other hand, is put on so many different things that it’s kinda crazy to try to defend against such a charge.
    Clearly, looking at the harm done from not doing something isn’t immoral, or it would be illicit toremove the fallopian tube a child has implanted in, using vaccines that were grown in fetal tissue would never be allowable, and deadly force for self-defense would never be acceptable.
    Also clearly, the classic “torture a kid to death to save thousands” is also not acceptable.

  • I think that Hiroshima thingy is one of them moral gymnastics routines that catholic liberals twist themselves into every so often so as to distract (from their acts and rantings which hugely support abortion, artifical contraception, class envy, gluttony, sloth, wrath, etc.) you and accuse you of being bad people.

  • Well, it’s not the right’s capital punishment, which does not involve the direct commission of an immoral act, namely the killing of innocent civilians.

    Father’s presentation effectively shows that Truman had a list of bad choices, but it does not attempt to answer the question of how the atomic bombs square with the Catholic teaching that one can never permissibly do a directly immoral act (here, deliberate targeting of civilians) in order to achieve a presumed greater good (the end of the war).

    Choosing blockade would have been a moral option, because it would not have involved American responsibility for ensuing deaths, which would have been squarely on the shoulders of the Japanese leadership for failing to surrender when there was no hope of victory. But at least in that scenario, we would not have directly and intentionally taken innocent lives, as we did at Hiroshima/Nagasaki.

    I don’t believe Fulton Sheen was a bleeding heart liberal dem when he observed: “When, I wonder, did we in America ever get into this idea that freedom means having no boundaries and no limits? I think it began on the 6th of August 1945 at 8:15 am when we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. … Somehow or other, from that day on in our American life, we say we want no limits and no boundaries.”

    WWII was notorious for being the first time that the Christian West had, as a matter of policy, adopted the practice of deliberate targeting of civilian centers as a war-aim (except perhaps for Grant, Sherman, and Hunter in the Shenandoah valley, but that’s another argument for another day).

  • I confess that I find Father Miscamble’s argument confusing. It sounds like he is saying that the bombings were wrong, but that they also were the right thing to do. That’s just incoherent.

  • “Choosing blockade would have been a moral option, because it would not have involved American responsibility for ensuing deaths, which would have been squarely on the shoulders of the Japanese leadership for failing to surrender when there was no hope of victory. But at least in that scenario, we would not have directly and intentionally taken innocent lives, as we did at Hiroshima/Nagasaki.”

    Yep, our hands would have been completely clean as we watched millions starve to death due to our blockade and the fact that they were ruled by lunatics who would prefer to see 100 million die proudly, as was a Japanese propaganda slogan in 45, rather than face the consequences of their having led Japan into an unwinnable war. I prefer Truman’s solution.

  • “WWII was notorious for being the first time that the Christian West had, as a matter of policy, adopted the practice of deliberate targeting of civilian centers as a war-aim (except perhaps for Grant, Sherman, and Hunter in the Shenandoah valley, but that’s another argument for another day).”

    I will assume Tom that you haven’t read much on the Thirty Year’s War? Or the expulsion by the Brits of Acadians during the Seven Year’s War? Or the anti-guerrilla campaigns waged by the French in Spain during the Napoleonic Wars? The list could go on for a very long time.

  • @ WK Aiken. No problem. We agree. Having been on a nuclear propelled, nuclear armed submarine, I would have been terrified to see a launch. But at the time we were in the Cold War and I would have obeyed orders not blindly, but willingly and knowingly and with fear and trembling.

    Again, the people most opposed to the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the past are the SAME people who in the present oppose an anti-ballistic missile shield.

  • WWII was notorious for being the first time that the Christian West had, as a matter of policy, adopted the practice of deliberate targeting of civilian centers as a war-aim (except perhaps for Grant, Sherman, and Hunter in the Shenandoah valley, but that’s another argument for another day).

    The Iroquois would like to have an animated discussion with you about the Sullivan Expedition of 1779, which was dispatched by the Father of Our Country.

  • “This is incomprehensible to me”

    That people should want to avert even greater war casualties and spare those involved great pain and suffering should not be that incomprehensible.

    The implied moral calculus ,on the other hand, weighing some innocent lives over others is the greater moral dilemma.

  • The analogy to abortion, while imperfect (as are all analogies), is nonetheless instructive. Recall the case of Sister Margaret McBride, whose excommunication was revealed less than two short years ago. Her offense? Permitting a hospital abortion in order to save the life of the mother. The undisputed facts are that without an abortion the mother would die long before the baby’s viability. So the choice was abort the baby and allow the mother to live, or watch both die. Sister McBride chose, wrongly, to permit the abortion. It is hard to do the right thing when terrible consequences are avoidable only by doing the wrong thing. Sister McBride is no more a monster than Truman. Both made decisions, however wrong, that many of us who visit this forum might well make under the circumstances. We are weak, and our faith imperfect. It is good that God is loving and merciful. I’m counting on that — it is my salvation strategy.

  • I believe the analogy falls down on the facts Mike. First off, there was a line of treatment for the mother that could possibly have saved both mother and child. Such treatment was apparently never considered. Second, unlike the abortion case, only innocents did not die in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In both cities there were legitimate military and industrial targets. In war time, sadly, it is not unusual for the innocent to die with the guilty, which we would have seen a hundredfold if a land invasion of the Home Islands had been attempted. Third, Truman did not order the bombings to save his own life, but rather to save a multitude of other lives which would have ended if the bombings had not occurred. Fourth, unlike war there is no such a thing as a just abortion. In waging a just war cases like Hiroshima are not unusual in kind if not in degree. We are besieging a city, what about the starving non-combatants? The enemy has placed a tank factory next to an orphanage. Do we bomb it? The enemy is advancing on our position driving human shields in front of them. Do we fire on them? We are attempting to drive the enemy from an urban center. Do we limit our airstrikes and artillery to spare civilians, thereby causing more of our own men to die in assaults without such fire support? If one ever lacks tough moral questions to ponder, wartime will supply enough to last several lifetimes.

  • I wonder if, in his book, Fr. Wilson disucsses the mass consciption of Japanese civilians, practically the entire adult population and the training small children to strp explosives to themselves and roll under American tanks, hence the term “Sherman’s Carpets”.

    What Japan did was turn its entire country into a large military base and hence a legitimate military target. So no, it was not the intentional direct killing of innocents that people Jimmy Akin assert (even he knows that to not be the case).

    The shoddy treatment of this subject and severall others is why I think the Catholic blogosphere is, large part, embarrassment to the Church.

  • Don, you are wrong, and very surprisingly so on Hiroshima.
    First, regarding Sister McBride, the lines of treatment you mention were speculations by Monday-morning quarterbacks based on facts not in evidence. But even if true, the fact remains that Sister McBride made her decision — a decision to save a life other than her own — based on the medical facts presented to her; just as Truman made his based on the military and political facts presented to him (as opposed to the after the fact speculations regarding Japan’s putative plans to surrender).
    Second, you know very well (or certainly should know) that the targeting of civilians was precisely within the object of Truman’s intentions. They were not merely collateral damage in an effort to bomb a military facility. He did so for the same reason that Churchill carpet-bombed Dresden — to terrorize civilians and their political leadership into losing the political will to fight. I wish it were not the case, but the history is simply too clear. In any event, Truman’s calculus was correct. And no doubt it saved lives — probably many millions.

  • This is very good, thanks Donald. The fact that these cities were legitimate military and industrial targets is never even mentioned by the anti-Truman propagandists.

  • McBride was already covered here, and the fatal-to-mother condition turns out to be not quite as clean cut as claimed. Not sure if the woman ever came forward and released her medical records, either, so we have no information other than that she had Pulmonary Hypertension.

    The fact that these cities were legitimate military and industrial targets is never even mentioned by the anti-Truman propagandists.

    *dryly* Oh, those were just collateral damage when they hit the Catholic nuns, orphanages and old folks homes.

  • Mike – I was the one making the argument that Truman’s decision could be defended as a kind of double effect. It’s flimsy, I know. It’s has a Chief Justice Roberts element to it – accepting an action for a reason that the actors themselves didn’t invoke. It’s enough of a defense for me to feel uncomfortable judging the action itself, though.

  • Mike, I am not a doctor, I do not even play one on tv, but it only took me a few minutes searching on the internet to find this when the McBride controversy first arose:

    http://www.wisn.com/Doctor-Gives-Hope-To-Pregnant-Women-With-Heart-Condition/-/9374034/8079188/-/rrox6m/-/index.html

    One would think that a Catholic hospital would at least have brought this doctor in for a consulation before killing the unborn child.

    In regard to the guilty and the innocent I stand by my observation. It would be great in war if combatants and non-combatants were all segregated from each other so that no possible harm can come to the non-combatants but that rarely occurs. In announcing the bombing of Hiroshima, Truman referred to it as the military base of Hiroshima. He was actually more correct than his critics on that score:

    “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

    From the Japanese point of view, the only non-combatants in either Hiroshima or Nagasaki were those either too young or too old to fight. As Greg notes above, the Japanese government had turned its entire population into a military force. The prospect of those civilian warriors coming up against our assault troops would have led to one of the great slaughters in military history, and one which I am quite glad we avoided.

  • Pauli – As far as I know, neither city had been targeted previously. Why would that be the case if they were such valuable military targets?

  • Pauli,
    While you may be correct regarding anti-Truman propogandists, the fact that these cities were industrial cities important to Japan’s war effort is widely known and fully appreciated by the many Catholic moral experts who have concluded that the bombings were not morally justified. No one is saying that the munitions factories and other military sites could not be targeted, fully accounting for the reality of inevitable collateral deaths of innocents. What is asserted is that the targeting of an entire city, including its civilian population, cannot be morally justified. This is not to say that I stand in judgment of Truman. To the contrary, for Truman to have made any other decision would have required non only rare moral insight, but even rarer moral courage. I don’t pretend to be in such rare company, so I don’t remotely judge Truman. As c matt speculates above, while the objectively evil nature of the act may be clear to us(or should be, especially in retrospect), Truman’s subjective moral culpability is very doubtful.

  • Hiroshima I don’t think had been bombed before it was the target of the atomic bomb. Nagasaki had been a target for conventional bombing during the war. Both were placed on the a bomb target list because they were both relatively unscathed. Both had major miltiary significance:

    “Hiroshima was a city of considerable military importance. It contained the 2nd Army Headquarters, which commanded the defense of all of southern Japan. The city was a communications center, a storage point, and an assembly area for troops. To quote a Japanese report, “Probably more than a thousand times since the beginning of the war did the Hiroshima citizens see off with cries of ‘Banzai’ the troops leaving from the harbor.”” There were about 43,000 Japanese troops in Hiroshima at the time of the bombing.

    “The city of Nagasaki had been one of the largest sea ports in southern Japan and was of great war-time importance because of its many and varied industries, including the production of ordnance, ships, military equipment, and other war materials. The narrow long strip attacked was of particular importance because of its industries.” Probably the most important military target in Nagasaki was the Mitsubishi shipyard.

  • “There is little point in attempting precisely to impute Japan’s unconditional surrender to any one of the numerous causes which jointly and cumulatively were responsible for Japan’s disaster. The time lapse between military impotence and political acceptance of the inevitable might have been shorter had the political structure of Japan permitted a more rapid and decisive determination of national policies. Nevertheless, it seems clear that, even without the atomic bombing attacks, air supremacy over Japan could have exerted sufficient pressure to bring about unconditional surrender and obviate the need for invasion. Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey’s opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated. ” – The United States Strategic Bombing Survey, July 1, 1946

    Furthermore:

    “In an article that finally appeared August 19, 1945, on the front pages of the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Times-Herald, Trohan revealed that on January 20, 1945, two days prior to his departure for the Yalta meeting with Stalin and Churchill, President Roosevelt received a 40-page memorandum from General Douglas MacArthur outlining five separate surrender overtures from high-level Japanese officials. This memo showed that the Japanese were offering surrender terms virtually identical to the ones ultimately accepted by the Americans at the formal surrender ceremony on September 2 — that is, complete surrender of everything but the person of the Emperor. Specifically, the terms of these peace overtures included:

    * Complete surrender of all Japanese forces and arms, at home, on island possessions, and in occupied countries.
    * Occupation of Japan and its possessions by Allied troops under American direction.
    * Japanese relinquishment of all territory seized during the war, as well as Manchuria, Korea and Taiwan.
    * Regulation of Japanese industry to halt production of any weapons and other tools of war.
    * Release of all prisoners of war and internees.
    * Surrender of designated war criminals.”

  • Pinky says:
    Tuesday, July 24, 2012 A.D. at 2:48pm (Edit)
    Pauli – As far as I know, neither city had been targeted previously. Why would that be the case if they were such valuable military targets?

    I hate to say it, but check Wikipedia. Most of the sources are books, or I’d link them.
    they actually have a decent write-up.

    Here’s once they got around the issue of how hard it is to bomb Japan:
    In the following two weeks, there were almost 1,600 further sorties against the four cities, destroying 31 square miles (80 km²) in total at a cost of 22 aircraft. By June, over forty percent of the urban area of Japan’s largest six cities (Tokyo, Nagoya, Kobe, Osaka, Yokohama, and Kawasaki) was devastated. LeMay’s fleet of nearly 600 bombers destroyed tens of smaller cities and manufacturing centers in the following weeks and months.
    One of those cities was Nagasaki. Hiroshima was picked BECAUSE it hadn’t been bombed yet, was big enough to figure out what damage it did, and had a ton of strategic stuff.

    The allies were also dropping leaflets warning people. Not only at the cities they’d bomb, of course, but they were giving warning. And yes, they got warning to the last two, as well.

  • Hirohito?

    Tacky. Not surprising, but tacky.

  • “There are a good many more points that now extend our understanding beyond the debates of 1995. But it is clear that all three of the critics’ central premises are wrong. The Japanese did not see their situation as catastrophically hopeless. They were not seeking to surrender, but pursuing a negotiated end to the war that preserved the old order in Japan, not just a figurehead emperor. Finally, thanks to radio intelligence, American leaders, far from knowing that peace was at hand, understood–as one analytical piece in the “Magic” Far East Summary stated in July 1945, after a review of both the military and diplomatic intercepts–that “until the Japanese leaders realize that an invasion can not be repelled, there is little likelihood that they will accept any peace terms satisfactory to the Allies.” This cannot be improved upon as a succinct and accurate summary of the military and diplomatic realities of the summer of 1945.”

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/005/894mnyyl.asp?page=3

  • For an excellent historical view of this issue I would recommend Rcihard P. Frank’s book Downfall and Manchester’s biograpghy of MacArthur, American Ceasar (the part of MacArthur’s life that deals with the WWII years.

    In his manual Moral Theology, esteemed moral theologian Fr. Heribert Jone OF.M. Cap. JCD articulates the moral principles guiding the use of atmoic weapons thus:

    Atomic Warfare:

    The fourth condition required for positing an action that has an evil effect that there be a sufficient reason, i.e., a proportionate resulting good, to permit the evil effect. The morality of using either the atomic or hydrogen bomb as a weapon of war is therefore, not a question of principle, which remains unchangeable, but a question of fact, and the fact questioned is whether there can be a military objective so vital to an enemy, the destruction of which would be a sufficient reason to permit the death of a vast number of civilians who at most contribute only remotely and indirectly to the war effort. We think this proportion can exist 1) because today’s concept of “total war” has greatly restricted the meaning of the term “non-combatant”; 2) because in modern warfare the conscription of industry, as well as manpower, greatly extends the effort on the home front; and 3) because it is difficult to set limits to the defense action of a people whose physical and even spiritual existence is threatened by a godless tyranny. Therefore, while use of atomic weapons must be greatly restricted to the destruction of military objectives, nevertheless, it may be justified without doing violence to the principle of a twofold effect. (Moral Theology #219 pp. 143-44 1961 Edition)

    An honest look at the circumstances within which Truman made his decision to drop the bombs show that he was clearly acting with the principles stated above.

    President Truman was a lot of things, but a war criminal and terrorist was not among them. Truman was faced with a situation so horrific that the only merciful option he had was to drop two atomic bombs. Let us pray that no president or any other head of state is ever faced with such a situation again.

  • “To the Editor:

    Three days after the atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima, Japanese statesmen and military leaders met with Emperor Hirohito in an underground bunker at the Imperial Palace. During the meeting, word came of the explosion of a second devastating bomb over Nagasaki. Adm. Soemu Toyoda immediately announced that the Americans must have a production line for atomic bombs. Despite this knowledge, the military leaders continued to advocate an all-out defense of the home islands against the coming invasion.

    In my interviews with senior Japanese Army and Navy officials, Adm. Rikihei Takuma, chief of staff of the kamikaze corps, told me that his group had hoarded fuel, armaments and more than 2,000 aircraft to employ against the invaders. With far fewer planes the kamikazes had inflicted enormous losses on the United States Navy off Okinawa.

    Japanese Army officials said they had identified the landing beaches we would use in an invasion of the home island of Kyushu. At Ariake and Kagoshima they were already fortifying the terrain for a fight to the death. More than two million men were under arms in the home islands, ready for a prolonged and costly defense.

    It was only the Emperor’s direct intercession at a meeting five days after Nagasaki that made a surrender possible. Even then, a rebellion broke out among younger officers, who murdered a General Mori for refusing to support them in their defiance of the Emperor’s wishes.

    Although it is a relief that Smithsonian Institution curators have backed down in the face of overwhelming criticism of the planned exhibition on the atomic bombing of Japan, one wonders how they reached their conclusions.

    Is it not humiliating that veterans groups had to negotiate with the curators? It is appalling that the planned text gave moral equivalency to Japan’s sneak attack on Pearl Harbor with our own contingency planning for an attack on Japan.

    The proposed script also included an estimate of 31,000 casualties for the first phase of an invasion. The absurdity of such a figure should be obvious even to revisionist historians: nearly 20,000 Americans died taking the small, outlying islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa; the wounded numbered more than 50,000. The cost of an assault on the home islands would have been proportionally much more horrendous.

    Another implication in the proposed exhibition has no basis in fact: that the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were the work of American military racists bent on vengeance. The Manhattan Project was designed to beat Germany to the making of the bomb, and it would have been used in Europe if ready.

    The further charge that President Truman ordered its use more to impress Stalin than to save American lives is preposterous. Truman’s only desire was to end the slaughter and save millions of lives, American and Japanese. Emperor Hirohito seized this opportunity to lead his people away from further calamity and, as a result, all through the vast Pacific theater, men laid down their weapons in peace. WILLIAM CRAIG Westport, Conn., Oct. 6, 1994 The writer is the author of “The Fall of Japan.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/1994/10/11/opinion/l-smithsonian-a-bomb-display-distorts-history-496855.html

  • Might want to read this about the Japanese. It’s not directly related, but it might help people to have an idea of who we were fighting.

  • Human intellect and will are not perfect. God is the judge. His ways are above our ways, We do what good we can with what we have to work with.
    There is no practical wisdom in non-action. Prudence is an intellectual virtue (knowing good) tied to doing the good.

  • It doesn’t matter how evil the Japanese commanders were. A Catholic can only admit of the morality of mass killing of innocents such as Hiroshima/Nagasaki if this action does not violate the principle of double effect, i.e., an action producing both good and evil effects is licit only if ALL of the following are present:
    1)that the action in itself from its very object be good or at least indifferent;
    2)that the good effect and not the evil effect be intended;
    3)that the good effect be not produced by means of the evil effect;
    4)that there be a proportionately grave reason for permitting the evil effect.

    The bombings failed #1 in that the action per se had as its object the destruction of vast civilian populations in addition to military targets.
    As to #2, it’s not entirely clear that Truman intended only to destroy infrastructure, indeed, it is highly likely he intended to send a message specifically by killing large numbers of non-combatants.
    As to #3, the good effect of ending the war was ONLY produced by the horrifyingly large loss of life.
    As to #4, the destruction of whatever military capability still existed in the two towns at the time of the bombings could in no sense be said to be proportionate to the indiscriminate loss of innocent human life.

    No, by Catholic principles, the bombings cannot be justified, and any appeal to “it ended the war quickly” or “saved American lives” is raw consequentialism, the real and erroneous kind, not the bogus, Mark Shea variety.

    And yes, a blockade would be morally permissible, because again, the JAPANESE would be responsible for any deaths at that point, not the Americans, just in the same way that a land invasion would be permissible, because the ensuing loss of civilian life would not be a direct effect or object of the invasion (unlike the bombings, which directly intended the killing of civilians).

    These distinctions matter, and attempts to jeer those propounding them into the outer darkness only show how far we’ve come from putting Christ truly first, as Bp. Sheen remarked.

  • You don’t get to make up your own facts, Tom.

    If the point was to kill civilians, they would not have dropped leaflets telling them exactly what they were trying to do, and asking them to leave.

  • “And yes, a blockade would be morally permissible, because again, the JAPANESE would be responsible for any deaths at that point, not the Americans, just in the same way that a land invasion would be permissible, because the ensuing loss of civilian life would not be a direct effect or object of the invasion (unlike the bombings, which directly intended the killing of civilians).

    These distinctions matter, and attempts to jeer those propounding them into the outer darkness only show how far we’ve come from putting Christ truly first, as Bp. Sheen remarked.”

    Rubbish Tom. The idea that our hands would be morally cleaner if millions of Japanese died of starvation due to a blockade, or millions died as a result of a land invasion, when those deaths would be completely foreseeable to anyone other than a complete idiot, makes this type of double effect doubletalk completely repugnant to me. Such actions would clearly have led to far more civilian casualties than the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If the goal is to protect innocent human life in wartime, it seems to me that taking actions that are bound to lead to more massive civilian casualties is an extremely odd way to go about it. This type of hairsplitting may gain the day in Catholic comboxes, but I have my doubts as to its morality in either the real world or in eternity.

  • Abortion and infanticide are just fine, as long as they are done by a nuke rather than a curette.

  • Thank you Zippy. I feared that we would miss your invaluable non-sequiturs in this debate.

  • “If the point was to kill civilians, they would not have dropped leaflets telling them exactly what they were trying to do, and asking them to leave”
    http://www.damninteresting.com/ww2-america-warned-hiroshima-and-nagasaki-citizens/

    I doubt if that will matter to Truman’s critics Foxfier. The war is long over and won. The last veterans of the conflict are dying off each day at a rapid rate. Those who enjoy their peace and freedom due to the exertions of men like Truman can now damn him at their leisure.

  • Donald: right, because no unborn children or infants were murdered by those nukes, deliberately targeted at the civilian population. Only soldiers and military infrastructure were targeted.

    I suppose that when we all face final judgement I’ll have to have been purged of the premonitional schadenfreude I feel now, just as you’ll have been purged of your despicable support for this monstrous act.

  • Dropping leaflets has no bearing on the morality of an intrinsically immoral act. Warning the population ahead of time that they will be raped if they don’t leave would not excuse raping them. All the talk of consequences, leaflets, and such is question begging: it assumes that nuking a civilian city is not, like rape, intrinsically immoral.

  • Innocents die in war all the time. Far more would have died if Truman hadn’t ordered the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I doubt that it would have been much comfort to the larger number of innocents who died to learn that they had been killed morally.

  • Gee Zippy, then perhaps you could explain how the Popes supported the balance of terror all those years during the Cold War, if the use of nuclear weapons againt cities is always immoral? Perhaps Pope Pius was being immoral when he laid down these rules for the use of nuclear weapons on September 29, 1954:
    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. Their 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.

  • It is indeed sad that there are fewer men and women who served in the US military during WWII each day. There are fewer and fewer retired soldiers, sailors and Marines who have thanked Truman for saving their lives.

    I see virtually no difference between the results of the atomic bombs and the results of the massive carpet bombings with incendiary bombs that turned other Japanese cities into wastelands. All of those bombings killed civilians – women, children and the elderly.

    The Military History Channel frequently reruns “The Last Days of World War II”, which was an excellent miniseries when the History Channel ran it in 2005. Check out the carnage in the Philippines. The retreating Japanese Army killed countless Filipino civilians. Who weeps for them?

    Given Imperial Japan’s treatment of Chinese civilians and Filipinos, to mention just two countries, I have a great amount of difficulty generating any sympathy for Japan.

    Fact – Imperial Japan was the enemy of the USA.
    Fact – Imperial Japan had an Army of 2 million men in Manchuria.
    Fact – Imperial Japan was run by warlords to whom death was preferable to surrender.

    Truman did what he had to do and countless American lives were saved. Japan surrendered and the war was over. Case closed.

  • Zippy
    They..rape and bombing military… are not equal. If you intend to bomb military and warn civilians to leave, your act is not equivalent to rape but is bombing military. If civilians stay after a warning, they are in effect acting as human shields in a manipulative capacity that is military itself. All this is true if the warning gave ample time so that even the elderly could flee and the warning completely covered all nooks and crannies of where people lived. If it lacked that patience and completeness, that is a darker matter.

  • Bill-
    five days. PLUS radio messages.

  • Bill Bannon:

    The claim that nuking a civilian city is not intrinsically immoral, and thus is dissimilar to rape, is precisely the question-begging that the comparison is designed to illustrate. None of the arguments in favor of the moral liciety of the Bomb work if nuking a civilian city is intrinsically immoral. That is why all the arguments in favor of the liciety of Hiroshima and Nagasaki beg the question on the point.

    At the very least, supporters of Truman’s decision should be explicit that they are simply assuming that nuking a civilian city is not intrinsically immoral; and that because they are making that assumption there is no possibility for common ground or persuasion.

  • Hindsight is 20 20. The Japanese cities were warned. Leaflets were dropped for two weeks before the “BOMB”. Does anybody want America to apologize for the Batan Death March, or Pearl Harbor?

    “All the talk of consequences, leaflets, and such is question begging: it assumes that nuking a civilian city is not, like rape, intrinsically immoral.”

    It was incumbent for the decent citizens of Japan to stop their country from the evil it was perpetrating on the world. The citizens of Japan carried bloodguilt, visited on them by their country and only God knows their innocence. The BOMB cannot be called “intrinsically immoral” because the penalty for bloodguilt is death. Three men rob a gas station. One man kills the attendant. All three are guilty of the homicide. Bloodguilt. Consent to the crime.

  • Begging the question again, Zippy. A “civilian city” isn’t a major shipbuilding city and a large military port (cut and paste from here, previously linked)

    A “civilian city” doesn’t have a high concentration of troops, military facilities and military factories that had not yet been subject to significant damage. (cut and paste from here, previously linked)

    Of course, a “civilian city” doesn’t exist. There are cities that have nothing but civilians, there are cities that have nothing but military and their facilities. But, just like your false statement that they were trying to kill civilians, you keep claiming it.

  • ” just in the same way that a land invasion would be permissible” A land invasion would have cost hundreds of thousands of American lives, lives who were innocent of bloodlust and /or aggression. Without the BOMB the Japanese would be dancing on American graves.

  • You’re also ignoring that the class of “civilian” for the Japanese is far more limited than you’ve acknowledged.

  • Zippy
    Nuking civilians not city structures is immoral. Nuking a civilan city that civilians should have left is equivalent to nuking empty buildings. Actually military personel could have left after the warning also. The warning should have stated the five days they allowed in fact but didn’t. That would have helped those worrying about elders. The Geneva Accords did not require forces to respect human shields which is what any of us become if we do not follow such a warning in leaflet form in some future hypothetical war. It was awful. No question. But armies and leaders must proceed after they have urged civilians to leave and they do not.

  • The thing it most reminds me of is the cases I know of where terrorists open fire on military members over seas, and when they kill the guy with the gun, it’s reported as a civilian death.

  • I think the whole issue in all this for individuals like Zippy is the word “nuclear,” but I could be wrong. Basically, people like this don’t want overwhelming force to be in the hands of the good guys, and yes, we were the good guys. (I would like to think we still are.)

    And again, today when it is becoming possible to have an effective defense strategy against the nuclear missiles of other nations, the same people who decry the Truman decision are the very ones to now side with Vladimir Putin against a missile shield.

    I am certainly not glad that Truman decided to use nuclear weapons, but I would have been far less glad were history to have recorded mass starvation and massacre of untold millions of civilians had the nuclear weapons not been used.

    And yes, Zippy, if I had been ordered to launch a nuclear weapon from the torpedo room on my old submarine during the Cold War, then with fear and trembling I would have done so. We are the good guys.

  • Paul: the (non-nuclear) firebombings of Tokyo, Dresden, etc were also intrinsically immoral.

    Am I really the only person in this discussion who sees a teensy problem with the putative moral equivalence of nuking empty buildings and nuking women (including pregnant women with their unborn babies) and children?

    Don’t forget to tip your waitresses.

  • Am I really the only person in this discussion who sees a teensy problem with the putative moral equivalence of nuking empty buildings and nuking women (including pregnant women with their unborn babies) and children?

    … YOU are the one that’s making that argument up to now with all the talk of civilian cities, and now you’re saying you’ve got a problem with it?

    Good grief.

  • Zippy, here is a Hypothetical Cold War Scenario that never played out but could have:

    USS Jacksonville SSN-699 is submerged on patrol off the coast of Murmansk, Russia in the Artic Ocean circa 1982. Yuri Andropov initiates a full scale tank attack against Western Europe in fears of Reagan’s installation of Pershing missiles in West Germany. We are ordered to fire our nuclear Subrocs onto the Soviet Naval Port of Murmansk. We will kill hundreds of thousands if not more civilians as well as destroy an important Soviet Naval Base. We will also be detected after the first launch and subsequently destroyed. I slide the Subroc into the torpedo tube, flood the tube, equalize pressure and when given the order, press the launch button. Murmansk dies minutes later. Our submarine is hit by a counter-attack from a Soviet submarine and implodes. All hands aboard are lost. Do I go to hell for my “immoral” action?

  • One other question, Zippy. When God ordered the children of Israel to slay every single pagan in the cities of Canaan which they conquered – men, women (pregnant or otherwise) and children – was God immoral?

    War is hell. Period. And I am thankful to God that we were all spared the scenario in my previous comment.

  • Nuking a civilan city that civilians should have left is equivalent to nuking empty buildings.

    Anyone else gonna challenge this? Beuller?

  • So you’re admitting that you lied about what someone else said?

    You claimed that someone was arguing empty buildings were the same as “nuking women and children”. That, as your own out-of-context quote shows, is not what he said.

    In context:
    Nuking civilians not city structures is immoral. Nuking a civilan city that civilians should have left is equivalent to nuking empty buildings. … The Geneva Accords did not require forces to respect human shields which is what any of us become if we do not follow such a warning in leaflet form in some future hypothetical war.

    If you throw yourself in front of a military target, you are not a bystander.

    You still haven’t dealt with the issue that “women and children” were among their military sources, but that’s asking a bit much.

  • I’ll take that as a “no”.

    Now I’m outta here.

  • You didn’t answer anyone else’s questions, Zippy, so why should you expect yours answered? But I’ll ask again just in case you hang around:

    Was God immoral for ordering the execution of every single man, woman and children in the pagan cities of Canaan?

    The answer of course is no. So why was Truman immoral for making a decision that SAVED countless millions of men, women and children?

  • The most up-to-date complete, yet concise rendering of our Catholic social doctrine is the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church- which is authoritative- as Archbishop Chaput has confirmed if that helps. I know many here would like to rely on their own wits and ability to reason things out- which is why God intended us to have a Church led by Apostolic Authority, and not military historians or patriots of one particular nation, or any tom, dick or harry parish priest making personal judgement calls that are simply out of his league. I have no truck with those brothers/sisters in Christ who would turn weapons of mass destruction on “entire cities”- here’s why:

    509. Arms of mass destruction — whether biological, chemical or nuclear — represent a particularly serious threat. Those who possess them have an enormous responsibility before God and all of humanity.[1071] The principle of the non-proliferation of nuclear arms, together with measures of nuclear disarmament and the prohibition of nuclear tests, are intimately interconnected objectives that must be met as soon as possible by means of effective controls at the international level.[1072] The ban on the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical and biological weapons as well as the provisions that require their destruction, complete the international regulatory norms aimed at banning such baleful weapons,[1073] the use of which is explicitly condemned by the Magisterium: “Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation”.[1074]

  • Some say that it was the (immoral, unsporstman-like) demand for unconditional surrender that made the Japanese war-criminals obdurate in pursuing a war that they had already lost. Both FDR and Churchill who had agreed on this, had the prior experience of the monumental blunder the Allies had committed in allowing the Kaiser’s Army to return home to Germany claiming that they had been undefeated in the field. That it was the weak politicians and Jews who had stabbed them in the back – the Dolchloss legend that Hitler made a big play of in his rise to power. Whereas in reality by this time, the commanders Foch, Haig and Pershing were itching to scourge the Hun on his home grounds. It is a given that had the Japanese military been spared the humiliation of total surrender, madmen inspired by Anami and Tojo would have hung the likes of Prince Konoe in the marketplaces or wherever it is that the Japanese made examples of so-called traitors and cowards. Utter humiliation of the Japanese warriors was a necessity in order that future generations were spared further bloodshed.

  • Hang in there Zippy! No, you’re not the only one. I’m glad your opponents are not speaking for the Magisterium of the Church–we’d be in trouble if they were. The pro-aborts would have a field day with their logic.

  • Furthermore Zippy, I’m not sure how productive it is to continue an argument with someone who refers to a person who’s canonization process is underway a “complete idiot”. Humility is probably not a virtue he possesses in abundance.

  • I think there is an overreliance on the “We warned them with leaflets and radio messages” card here. Propaganda is all about confusing the enemy- who got these messages? How would the people have filtered these messages? What was known about nuclear bombs- if that was even part of the warning? Does the dropping of leaflets then certify that whatever weapon of mass destruction being dropped on an entire city is not really an entire city anymore- just a bunch of empty buildings and abandoned homes?

  • Ivan, when it comes to human moral choices, nothing is a “given”–unless, of course, you claim omniscience (after reading this thread, I’m left wondering if there are more than three persons in the Holy Trinity).

  • Paul, with all due respect, there may be a wee bit of difference between God and Truman.

  • A few days ago, hubby and I were on an “end of the world” flick kick, and we ended up watching “The Day After” and “Threads” back to back. Those of you who were around in the 1980s may remember the first movie — a blockbuster and highly controversial TV event, in which Lawrence, Kansas, gets blown off the face of the earth by Soviet missiles. Less well known is “Threads,” a British production depicting in even more grim and unrelenting detail the aftermath of an all-out nuclear attack on England over a period of 13 years — complete with nuclear winter, massive crop failure and resultant famine, social chaos, and an eventual reversion to the population level and living conditions of the Middle Ages, more or less.
    While both movies may seem dated today, when they were made, they depicted a type of warfare between the US and USSR that was a possibility, and remained so right up to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
    Moreover, over time the early emphasis on preparing for nuclear war with bomb drills, fallout shelters, etc. gave way to a belief that all such preparations were useless and in fact increased the risk of war by making people believe it was survivable. “The Day After” and “Threads” both portrayed life after full scale nuclear war as so horrific that nothing could possibly justify it and no one would want to survive it.
    I suspect that during the Cold War era especially, there was a great fear that any endorsement whatsoever of Truman’s action in dropping the Bomb on Japan (even though at the time, no other country had the Bomb, and it was among the least bad of a host of ghastly alternatives) implied endorsement of future nuclear weapons use, with all the horrors that would accompany it. And that, more than anything else, is what I suspect drives the “inane American self flagellation” over Hiroshima even to this day.

  • “Was God immoral for ordering the execution of every single man, woman and children in the pagan cities of Canaan?”

    I know you asked Zippy but I’ll tackle that question. Catholic biblical scholarship doesn’t take a fundamentalist or literalist approach to Scripture in all cases, and bears in mind that the books of the Bible, while divinely inspired, are ALSO products of the culture in which they originated and of the people who wrote them.

    It’s possible — and I don’t believe you have to be a heretical far-leftist to come to this conclusion — that the passages in which God “orders the execution” of entire pagan populations down to children and babies, reflect what the people of Israel BELIEVED God wanted them to do, based on their (imperfect) understanding of Him, and on their zeal to purge idolatry and false worship from the Promised Land. They knew He demanded total loyalty and did not want them being tempted to worship false gods. That much was true; whether their subsequent actions were in perfect accordance with God’s will is another story.

  • Miss Anscombe, on of the most eminent philosophers of the last century and a Catholic observed:

    “The policy of obliterating cities was adopted by the Allies in the last war; they need not have taken that step, and it was taken largely out of a villainous hatred, and as corollary to the policy, now universally denigrated, of seeking “unconditional surrender”. (That policy itself was visibly wicked, and could be and was judged so at the time; it is not surprising that it led to disastrous consequences, even if no one was clever and detached enough to foresee this at the time.)”

    In 1939, she had produce a pamphlet, “The Justice of the Present War Examined,” in which she had made precisely this point: the British war aims were so vague (even though the policy of unconditional surrender had not then been made explicit) as not to comply with the Just War requirement of a Just Aim.

  • “Paul, with all due respect, there may be a wee bit of difference between God and Truman.”

    And there may be a wee bit of difference Gerard between Truman and his critics. He actually had to make a decsion in a situation where, no matter what he chose, large numbers of people would die. He had all the responsibility. His critics on the other hand are free from responsibility and can say any damn thing they please about a situation they are often bone ignorant about.

  • “Was God immoral for ordering the execution of every single man, woman and children in the pagan cities of Canaan?”

    One always has to be careful when determining morality based upon events in the Old Testament, where even the best of individuals, David for example, have huge moral failings. Additionally, what is licit for God, the Creator of Everything, is not licit for Man, as the story of the flood would indicate. A better argument in this area is actually from siege warfare in the Middle Ages, where armies, papal and otherwise, would starve cities into submission. Such practices never received papal condemantion so far as I know, although the consequences to civilians within the city were usually dreadful.

  • “Miss Anscombe, on of the most eminent philosophers of the last century and a Catholic observed:”

    Although Miss Anscombe was an interesting philosopher, and a dedicated foe to abortion, as the above quoted passage indicates, as a historian she was an idiot. A compromise peace with Hitler or Hirohito would merely have led to another World War in just a few years. These were not regimes that you compromised with, but rather criminal enterprises that had to be overthrown and a complete new start made in Germany and Japan. Like most true ideologues, Miss Anscombe lived in a world her mind created, and it bore very little resemblance to the one that the rest of us are forced to inhabit.

  • I will be on my way to Springfield today with my family on our annual “pilgrimage” to the Abraham Lincoln Museum and the Lincoln Tomb, where we always say a few prayers for the repose of the souls of Mr. Lincoln and his family. As a result I will not be around to keep watch on this thread, and I will address any comments directed towards me tomorrow.

  • “Propaganda is all about confusing the enemy- who got these messages?”

    Over five million of the leaflets were dropped by air over the 33 cities named Tim. The radio broadcasts after Hiroshima were accessible to viturally any Japanese who had a radio or a crystal set. This of course was on top of the Potsdam Declaration which was the final attempt to cause Japan to surrender prior to the use of bombs. The final sentence is very relevant:

    “1) We-the President of the United States, the President of the National Government of the Republic of China, and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, representing the hundreds of millions of our countrymen, have conferred and agree that Japan shall be given an opportunity to end this war.

    (2) The prodigious land, sea and air forces of the United States, the British Empire and of China, many times reinforced by their armies and air fleets from the west, are poised to strike the final blows upon Japan. This military power is sustained and inspired by the determination of all the Allied Nations to prosecute the war against Japan until she ceases to resist.

    (3) The result of the futile and senseless German resistance to the might of the aroused free peoples of the world stands forth in awful clarity as an example to the people of Japan. The might that now converges on Japan is immeasurably greater than that which, when applied to the resisting Nazis, necessarily laid waste to the lands, the industry and the method of life of the whole German people. The full application of our military power, backed by our resolve, will mean the inevitable and complete destruction of the Japanese armed forces and just as inevitably the utter devastation of the Japanese homeland.

    (4) The time has come for Japan to decide whether she will continue to be controlled by those self-willed militaristic advisers whose unintelligent calculations have brought the Empire of Japan to the threshold of annihilation, or whether she will follow the path of reason.

    (5) Following are our terms. We will not deviate from them. There are no alternatives. We shall brook no delay.

    (6) There must be eliminated for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest, for we insist that a new order of peace, security and justice will be impossible until irresponsible militarism is driven from the world.

    (7) Until such a new order is established and until there is convincing proof that Japan’s war-making power is destroyed, points in Japanese territory to be designated by the Allies shall be occupied to secure the achievement of the basic objectives we are here setting forth.

    (8) The terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out and Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine.

    (9) The Japanese military forces, after being completely disarmed, shall be permitted to return to their homes with the opportunity to lead peaceful and productive lives.

    (10) We do not intend that the Japanese shall be enslaved as a race or destroyed as a nation, but stern justice shall be meted out to all war criminals, including those who have visited cruelties upon our prisoners. The Japanese Government shall remove all obstacles to the revival and strengthening of democratic tendencies among the Japanese people. Freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamental human rights shall be established.

    (11) Japan shall be permitted to maintain such industries as will sustain her economy and permit the exaction of just reparations in kind, but not those which would enable her to re-arm for war. To this end, access to, as distinguished from control of, raw materials shall be permitted. Eventual Japanese participation in world trade relations shall be permitted.

    (12) The occupying forces of the Allies shall be withdrawn from Japan as soon as these objectives have been accomplished and there has been established in accordance with the freely expressed will of the Japanese people a peacefully inclined and responsible government.

    (13) We call upon the government of Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces, and to provide proper and adequate assurances of their good faith in such action. The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction. ”

    Truman kept every word of the Declaration, fortunately for the Japanese in regard to 9-12. Few nations in the history of the world, after completely conquering a nation following a bloody war, have imposed a milder and more beneficial peace than did the US on the Empire of Japan.

  • “The policy of obliterating cities was adopted by the Allies in the last war; they need not have taken that step, and it was taken largely out of a villainous hatred, and as corollary to the policy, now universally denigrated, of seeking “unconditional surrender”. (That policy itself was visibly wicked, and could be and was judged so at the time; it is not surprising that it led to disastrous consequences, even if no one was clever and detached enough to foresee this at the time.)”

    Which makes one conclude that much of what was done to defeat the Nazi’s and Japanese (and in turn end great evil) was evil itself.

    One wonders what National Socialism would look like today, seventy years after conquering most of Europe.

  • “One wonders what National Socialism would look like today, seventy years after conquering most of Europe.”

    I think Churchill nailed that Phillip:

    “But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age, made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. “

  • “A few days ago, hubby and I were on an “end of the world” flick kick,”

    If that mood strikes you and your spouse again Elaine, I would recommend Failsafe (1964). Absolutely chilling, and very realistic.

  • @ Elaine,

    When the Bible talks about events like Creation or the Flood in non-scientific terms (after all, the Bible is not a science text book), then taking a non-scientific interpretation is OK. When the Bible is talking about orders that God gave the Israelites, then those orders are exactly as written.

    Did God say “Let there be light”? You betcha – and the Big Bang occurred.

    Did God sat, “Kill them all”? You betcha – and that’s what He meant.

    I don’t subscribe to this false, liberal notion that what’s said isn’t what it means, and I won’t be accused of being a Fundamentalist simply because I believe that God’s Word is – well, God’s Word.

    BTW, Dr. Hugh Ross makes an excellent point of correlating the six day “mythical” Creation account with scientific observations of a 13.73 billion year old universe at his Reasons to Believe Institute. You’ll have to hunt for it here:

    http://www.reasons.org/

    If the Bible can be demonstrated correct in that regard, then why not with respect to God’s orders to the Israelites? Just because the order is uncomfortable and doesn’t sit well with our modern notions of what morality should be? God destroyed entire cities- men, women and children – before (Sodom and Gomorrah come to mind – perhaps the first nuclear strike ever).

  • Gerard, the phrase “It is a given” is perhaps too strong in the context, I substitute it instead with the phrase “As certain as it is possible to be in human affairs” .

  • Thank you Tim Shipe. I notice no one has refuted either the double effect principles I laid out earlier, and no one has explained how a Catholic can ignore the clearly stated teaching quoted by Tim: “Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation”.[1074]

    All the comments about “the enemy was really evil,” “Truman had a tough choice”, “more people would have died if another tactic had been used” are entirely beside the point and are simply consequentialist errors.

    The point is, we’re not entitled to simply weigh which tactic in the aggregate might cause less death and annoint that one as the correct and moral choice. HOW the deaths occur (indiscriminate vs. limiting collateral damage) and WHO the dead are (comatants vs. non-combatants) matter in making a moral assessment of the means chosen.

  • I notice no one has refuted either the double effect principles I laid out earlier, and no one has explained how a Catholic can ignore the clearly stated teaching quoted by Tim: “Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation”

    Then you’re clearly not paying attention, and I have a hard time seeing how explaining it again would do any good. Still, I’ll do it again.

    It has been shown, multiple times, that they took steps within the abilities at that time to GET THE POPULATION OUT. No matter how many times you insist that they didn’t really mean to try to get people out, you haven’t shown otherwise.

    This, in particular, is a golden example of how this discussion is going:
    “Propaganda is all about confusing the enemy- who got these messages?”

    Finally, it admits that there were warnings– but declares them “propaganda,” asks a question about them that has been answered MULTIPLE times (there are links to the specific warnings dropped on the nuked cities, and in the first link to those I mentioned they had warned the cities they’d been hitting with fire-bombs. A little research would have told you they warned all the cities on the target list– very important, since bombing Japan is not easy. They had to change targets often.

    Instead, those of you so glad to wrap yourselves in righteousness are, at best, willfully ignoring the provided facts and claiming things you have no evidence for, then attacking strawmen that live in your imaginary world with abandon.

    How very holy of you.

  • I agree, Tom. But the objective moral analysis notwithstanding, the understood consequences are relevant when assessing subjective culpability. I stand by my earlier statement: “[F]or Truman to have made any other decision would have required non only rare moral insight, but even rarer moral courage.” Catholic combox contributors occasionally demonstrate keen insights, but few of us have had to demonstrate true moral courage. While I agree that Truman’s decision was morally deficient, I would not dream of judging the man. I probably would have made the same decision. As I wrote earlier: “We are weak, and our faith imperfect. It is good that God is loving and merciful. I’m counting on that — it is my salvation strategy.

  • One of the leaflets read:

    “Read this carefully as it may save your life or the life of a relative or friend. In the next few days, some or all of the cities named on the reverse side will be destroyed by American bombs. These cities contain military installations and workshops or factories which produce military goods. We are determined to destroy all of the tools of the military clique which they are using to prolong this useless war. But, unfortunately, bombs have no eyes. So, in accordance with America’s humanitarian policies, the American Air Force, which does not wish to injure innocent people, now gives you warning to evacuate the cities named and save your lives. America is not fighting the Japanese people but is fighting the military clique which has enslaved the Japanese people. The peace which America will bring will free the people from the oppression of the military clique and mean the emergence of a new and better Japan. You can restore peace by demanding new and good leaders who will end the war. We cannot promise that only these cities will be among those attacked but some or all of them will be, so heed this warning and evacuate these cities immediately”

    As any lawyer should know, this looks more like a CYA or propaganda than “evidence” of our pure intentions (very Stalinesque – “we are here to free the oppressed!”). “I know my product was shabby and dangerous, but dang it, I put a warning on the label!” (and where, exactly, were these people supposed to go?)

    As for the “they were all combatants” arguments, the exact same argument could be made for the US. How many of our “civilians” own guns, and how many have stated they would resist an invasion to the death? How many are involved in our various war efforts (employed by Halliburton or Lockheed or others in the weapons industry, those in the financial sector helping finance the war, etc. etc.). How many cities do not contain militarily strategic assets (ports, refineries, steel mills, chemical plants, laboratories, manufacturing sights, “HQ’s” for military suppliers, etc.)? How easy it is to blur the line?

    And no, just because I see the immorality of the decision does not mean I think Truman a monster or that his personal guilt has no mitigating circumstances (a separate question), nor do I think the anti-ballistic missile shield is necessarily immoral.

  • Paul,
    I agree with you that the dooms were ordered by God ( Pope Benedict does not…cf Verbum Domini sect.42). But the reason they are exceptions in all of history is because God ordered them verbally and intimately to the Jews and He thus made the Jews his arm so to speak. Even present day Jews do not claim that God thus speaks to them now in war matters.
    Wisdom chapter 12 which is only in the Catholic canon of the Bible gives a fuller explanation of the dooms…ie that God first “punished them little by little that they may have space for repentance”. When they did not stop child sacrifice and cannibalism and idolatry after centuries of lighter punishments, only then did God order the dooms by Israel. Also it’s intent was to protect pre grace Jews from imbibing the sins of those people. Israel didn’t really completely carry out such dooms therefore she commensurately did centuries of flirting with Baal worship of the residue of those tribes which is why God eventually exiled both the north and the south kingdoms…the north permanently because they added to Baal worship the sin of Jeroboam which was the worship of two golden calfs…one at Dan and one at Bethel.

    The doom principle only obtains if God intimately and verbally makes a nation his punishing
    arm to punish and to remove a people as a source of overwhelming temptation. The Church is saying that that will not happen after the closing of the Bible partly because Christ voided overwhelming temptations in reducing satan’s power for all men.

  • …some or all of the cities named on the reverse side will be destroyed by American bombs. These cities contain military installations and workshops or factories which produce military goods. We are determined to destroy all of the tools of the military clique which they are using to prolong this useless war. But, unfortunately, bombs have no eyes.

    This is about as close to an admission as you can get that the targeting was to be indiscriminate – we know there are military targets in the city, so we are going to destroy the whole city. Tough nuts.

  • Finally! Some sort of response to actual points!

    1) Even if you think it looks like a CYA, it was issued. With time to run. Perhaps, given the list of targets on the back, they could have gone to a city that wasn’t listed. (From memory, their gov’t tended to kill anyone who tried, but we didn’t know that for a very long time. The Japanese were awful picky about desertion.)

    For the “freeing the oppressed” sneer you offer… might want to brush up on what Japan was like. Oppressed isn’t even a start. You can be cynical all you like, and malign others, but that doesn’t give it any more weight than your own ill-belief. I linked this earlier to give an idea of the culture involved.

    2) No, the US did not conscript children to throw themselves under tanks with bombs.
    No, the US did not conscript almost the entire adult population, including wanting to put them in uniform but having to settle for an official patch.
    An insurrection is not a military force, although you could make the argument that an actual militia is (obviously) a military target, the ability to eventually form one (guns) isn’t an actual force.

    A lot of towns and cities have nothing military or direct supplier in them, if you get away from the Ginormo Blobs on the coast. Your belief that it is easy to blur the line has no bearing when the actual facts of the case are there where actual military facilities and factories.

  • This is about as close to an admission as you can get that the targeting was to be indiscriminate – we know there are military targets in the city, so we are going to destroy the whole city. Tough nuts.

    That would be true today– not when you’ve got a one in ten chance of hitting what you aimed for, assuming that it’s clear enough to drop at all. Darn those Japanese, not painting huge “THIS IS THE RIGHT FACTORY” signs up top of buildings and letting the pilots go low’n’slow enough to hit only them, without the wind changing where the bomb lands.

    I don’t think I can convey how very different it is to have the self-steering stuff we have today vs explosive bricks. I do know it is not valid to fault someone for not using technology that didn’t exist.

  • “Nuking a civilan city that civilians should have left is equivalent to nuking empty buildings.

    Anyone else gonna challenge this? Beuller?”

    A civilian by definition is a person who is civil. Those enabling unjust aggression are not non-combatants but collateral damage for their bloodlust and bloodguilt of their own choosing. World War II was their war. Are you, Zippy on their side? You must choose.

  • I am really glad that during the Cold War, the various Presidents then in Office (even nit wit Carter) did not subscribe to some of the arm-chair quarterbacking being presented here.

    Sodom and Gommorah – mass destruction – perhaps the first nuclear strike ever.

  • It was hard to decide which I enjoyed more: Zippy’s takedowns of this elaborate apologetic for abortion by nuke or Tom McKenna’s desperate attempts to distance himself from me while ably defending the Church’s teaching on consequentialism.

    I also enjoyed the standard Stupid Dissenter’s Trick of finding some academic to say, “Ignore the Magisterium and listen to me tell you what your itching ears want to hear.” As persuasive as Catholics for a Free Choice appealing to Dan Maguire.

    Hilarious, for those of us who enjoy black humor. cmatt’s right. Apologetics for the deliberate incineration fo Japanese children in their beds are the right’s form of abortion agitprop. I am embarrassed for you.

  • Because . . . it would have been morally acceptabe to kill an additional 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 American and Japanese GI’s, plus untolled Japanese civilians that would have committed suicide, as they had at Saipan.

    Attack – Siegfried Sassoon:
    At dawn the ridge emerges massed and dun
    In the wild purple of the glowering sun,
    Smouldering through spouts of drifting smoke that shroud
    The menacing scarred slope; and, one by one,
    Tanks creep and topple forward to the wire.
    The barrage roars and lifts. Then, clumsily bowed
    With bombs and guns and shovels and battle-gear,
    Men jostle and climb to, meet the bristling fire.
    Lines of grey, muttering faces, masked with fear,
    They leave their trenches, going over the top,
    While time ticks blank and busy on their wrists,
    And hope, with furtive eyes and grappling fists,
    Flounders in mud. O Jesus, make it stop!

    Because . . . The lives of 250,000 civilians (that refused to evacuate) were worth more than 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 conscripts.

    MS: Don’t waste any dudgeon on me. I am not worthy.

  • I don’t see how a blockade is more moral (please note that I am *not* arguing strikes against civilian targets *are*).

    We know Japan was (and still is not) self-sufficient in foodstuffs. A few weeks supply at most on the Home Islands.

    We know that the military will take priority with respect to food.

    We’re the ones preventing merchantmen from bringing in the necessary food imports to feed civilians.

    Our planes, ships and subs are exterminating the merchant shipping and stopping the imports. This induced starvation is intentional–a feature, not a bug.

    It is directly intended to force a surrender.

    But we are morally inculpable for this act, one which rightly makes Stalin as one of history’s monsters.

    Because it’s those crazy Japanese militarists’ fault for not surrendering. Even though we can’t take their mindset into account in evaluating the use of the bombs. It sounds, bleakly, like one of those older brother bullying games, only writ onto a canvas of human suffering: “Why are you starving yourself? Why are you starving yourself? Stop starving yourself!”

    I am simply not getting it.

  • Donald McClary

    I really do believe that Miss Anscombe’s Modern Moral Philosophy [Philosophy 33, No. 124 (January 1958)] contains one of the most important and original contributions to moral philosophy produced in English in the last century. Amongst other things, it gave us the term “consequentialist.”

    She rightly diagnoses the root of the consequentialist position as being the belief that we are, in all cases, responsible for the foreseen but unintended consequences of our actions. It is this, ultimately, that creates Truman’s supposed moral dilemma.

    Obviously, if a Christian statesman refuses to go on television and recite the shahada, which would be an act of apostasy, he is not responsible for the deaths that result from terrorists carrying out their threat to explode a nuclear device in a populous city, if he refuses.

  • Allow me to align myself with Tom in distancing himself from Mark. I try to distance myself from arrogance generally. There is no sense in going out of one’s way to agree with folks who relish being disagreeable. And when those disagreeable folks display habitual arrogance, they render themselves unsufferable, especially when they are right, which is about as often as most folks. But happy you are enjoying yourself Mark. No doubt Zippy is too.

  • Dale, I agree.
    And I sympathize with the consequentialists, I do. Especially in extreme cases, and this was one. But they are wrong in evaluating the morality of a decision or act by initial reference to its consequences. This is usually (I certainly hope) a forgiveable moral error, but it is an error nonetheless.

  • The debate about the atomic bombings hinges upon two problems: victory and honor. Catholics need more than victory: we need honor, in the sense of acting honorably in the eyes of God. We teach our children that “it isn’t whether you win or lose, it is how you play the game”, and we scold them for cheating. Victory isn’t everything.

    Sometimes you have to lose to win.

    Jesus Christ shows us this lesson most effectively.

  • “Gee Zippy, then perhaps you could explain how the Popes supported the balance of terror all those years during the Cold War, if the use of nuclear weapons against cities is always immoral?”

    Because the bishops’ report on the issue goes on to clarify that the conditions for actual use of a nuclear bomb, even so enumerated, simply do not apply in the real world (specifically the ability to control and direct the damage done by the bomb), and that therefore no ACTUAL use of the bomb is ever justified, even if the keeping of nuclear weapons so as to create what they referred to as “a centimeter of doubt” was necessary to preserve the balance of terror. The Church never, ever came out in favor of using atomic weapons to annihilate civilian populations under any circumstances.

  • Father Miscamble is an historian, and this is demonstrated in his analysis, which not only skillfully explicates Truman’s horrible predicament but also expertly debunks the nonsense about other less costly options. But Father Miscamble is not a moral theologian, and this is revealed in his failure to properly address the morality of indiscriminately destroying an entire city — something our Catholic Catechism addresses in crystal clear language:

    CCC 2314 “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.”

    But for the unfortunate concluding rhetorical question, I could honestly say I agreed with 100% of the featured video.

  • Mike:

    Notice what your above cited CCC quote (which originally appears in Guadium et Spes) DOESN’T say. What it doesn’t say is “even if the line between combatant and non-combatant has been erased” (as it clearly was in Japan at the time). And that’s because the Church couldn’t do so without repudiating her own teaching.

  • Greg,
    I do not see why a qualification addressing the circumstance you describe (substantially all inhabitants are combatants) repudiates Church teaching. In fact, even without such a qualification I think one can fairly argue that in such a case the destruction would not be “indiscriminate” within a fair and proper understanding of the term. That said, I am not remotely convinced that such a line was erased in this case (or is ever really erasable as a practical matter), even if I do appreciate your point. And yes, I am well aware of Japan’s conscription and related practices. That is one reason why I (unlike Shea and others) admit to the possiblity of being wrong. Agreement on principles is one thing. Applying them to facts is something else altogether. Facts can be murky even when rules are clear. The distinction between a combatant and non-combatant admittedly may not always be obvious in a simple binary sense. Truman deserves some charity here, I readily concede.

  • “I do not see why a qualification addressing the circumstance you describe (substantially all inhabitants are combatants) repudiates Church teaching. In fact, even without such a qualification I think one can fairly argue that in such a case the destruction would not be “indiscriminate” within a fair and proper understanding of the term.”

    My point exactly.

    “That is one reason why I (unlike Shea and others) admit to the possiblity of being wrong. Agreement on principles is one thing. Applying them to facts is something else altogether. Facts can be murky even when rules are clear. The distinction between a combatant and non-combatant admittedly may not always be obvious in a simple binary sense. Truman deserves some charity here, I readily concede.”

    Although we may disagree as to whether the situation in Japan qualifies for the complete erasure of the line between combatant and non-combatant, I do appreciate your admitting the possiblity of the divergent view. If more Catholics expressed their disagreements this way. there wouldn’t be so much psuedo-Catholic toxic waste in teh Catholic blogosphere on subjects of this nature.

  • I don’t see how a blockade is more moral (please note that I am *not* arguing strikes against civilian targets *are*).”

    I don’t think it is. I think the Vatican has even weighed in on this. They argue that it is immoral if it impacts civilians as opposed to those leaders the blockade is intended to affect.

  • 20,000 Koreans killed at Hiroshima: combatants (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_bombings_of_Hiroshima_and_Nagasaki#CITEREFGruhl2007)

    Nobody knows how many infants and pregnant women were killed. But rest assured, they were all combatants.

    You guys think you are different from the pro-aborts. But you just disagree with them about what circumstances justify abortion.

  • You guys think you are different from the pro-aborts. But you just disagree with them about what circumstances justify abortion.

    I can see why your Mark Shea’s favorite. You like to throw out pithy, sneering, self-congratulatory little comments, confident in your disdain for anybody who disagrees with you.

    For the record, my personal feelings most closely mirror Mike’s of all the people who have commented here. Note that he, Tom, and others actually attempt to engage in dialogue. I know that such an activity is beneath your lofty intellect – what, with it being easier to just dismiss all other viewpoints as being unworthy of any but sneering condescension.

  • Yeah, I don’t see this as clear cut as abortion, indeed, only recently have I come around on this issue, primarily because of my education in Theology which taught me about double effect, and the passages already cited from Magisterial sources which unambiguously declare wholesale destruction such as that involved in Hiroshima/Nagasaki to be morally impermissible.

    I think the bottom line is that probably a land invasion would have been the best moral option in that it would have resulted in the deaths only of combatants (except for the genuinely collateral casualties that all war produces–but which would not be directly intended). Would this have cost lots of American lives? Undoubtedly. But as much as I cherish our military, it exists to do this job, and I don’t believe it’s moral to avoid troop losses by swapping out killing of large numbers of civilians in order to get the enemy to knuckle under. That strikes me as somewhat the cowardly path. It strikes the Church as morally impermissible.

    And while proportionate consequences sometimes are a valid factor in the moral equation (such as in whether to inflict pain–not an intrinsic evil– on an enemy to extract actionable intelligence), no level of good consequences can make an intrinsically evil act good, such as direct killing of innocent lives in order to extract unconditional surrender.

  • The idea that the unborn children and infants killed at Hiroshima were combatants is an idea which is in fact beneath contempt. I confess that I do treat things as what they are.

  • Hey Zippy, I thought you were outta here.

  • I can’t help but thinking that Shea’s comment ought to have been preceded by a leaflet drop.

  • But they are wrong in evaluating the morality of a decision or act by initial reference to its consequences.

    Again, not an adept of this material at all. Would tend to assume, however, that the agents we are evaluating live in space and time and given to certain regularities both natural and social.

    It was hard to decide which I enjoyed more:

    You have spent about a decade of your life disfiguring the discussions you enter as a matter of routine. Perhaps you might do yourself and everyone else a favor and get a normal job.

  • Back from Springfield and I will have a write up about the trip later this week. I find quite a few of the contributions in this thread to be serious grapplings with the moral questions involved. Congrats, as usual, to Mike Petrik, and to Paul Zummo, Paul Primavera, Foxfier, Nate, Tom Mckenna, Art, Greg Mockeridge, MPS, Dale Price, Phillip, Mary DeVoe, Bill Bannon, Elaine, Tim, Anzlyne, WK and TShaw. I apologize for any worthy contributions I have overlooked. A special thank you to Mark Shea and Zippy for giving us a hilarious sample of their Pharisees-R-Us tag team routine that has made them so beloved throughout Saint Blogs. More comments tomorrow after I have rested up from today’s festivities.

  • I keep getting asked to come back, Greg. I’m not sure why: contemptible ideas are like fish in a barrel in this thread.

  • I was going to vent in GI vernacular, but Mac will cut me off.

    If Zippy and MS had their way in 1945, my uncle, and an additional 6,000,000 Americans and Japanese soldiers and civilians likely would have unnecessarily died.

    The purpose of the missions was to immediately end the war, not to kill babies or civilians, born or unborn.

    Here’s my “pithy, sneering, self-congratulatory little” vulgate ventatotum for your two sanctimonious savants’ opinions: Spucatum tauri.

  • Zippy,
    Under your paradigm though, an evil army like North Korea need only bring their infants in battle as they invade a country like South Korea, and no one could shoot at them because of the babies. Iraq could have brought their babies while invading Kuwait and no good person could shoot at them.
    I live under threat by a ghetto thug with whom I fought almost to the point of his death on the street two years ago. Since he implied that he’d return with a pistol, I sleep with a gun when I work on that particular house in an edgy neighborhood of middle class and poor in close
    proximity. If he enters the house at night ( many motion detectors) with a glock and carrying an infant in your paradigm, I would still shoot him even though he would drop the infant to its hurt.
    Would I shoot through the infant if he draped it to cover his whole torso and head while he fired at me? That is a damn good question…but since he lacks evil creativity, it won’t happen. Would I check with the CDF office in Rome? No. No high clergy in Rome for the past twenty years protected Catholic boys from priests. Why would I want their insights into double effect as it involves protection questions?

  • The ends don’t justify the means. This is such a simple principle, and yet it flies out the window every year on the anniversaries.

    I confess I will never understand why “But it stopped the war and prevented other, possibly worse casualties!” is ever put forth as a defense, because it cannot be a defense until *after* it has been shown that indiscriminate and deliberate killing of civilians is *not* an intrinsic evil. And since almost everyone who condemns the bombings does so using the argument that indiscriminate and deliberate killing of civilians *is* an intrinsic evil, not that it is sometimes okay but wasn’t in this case, to argue on the basis that the bombing had good results is to miss the point entirely.

    If you can’t argue purely on the question of whether the bombing did or did not represent an intrinsic evil, regardless of whether its material effects were on balance good, you have no business taking part in this debate.

  • “Because the bishops’ report on the issue”

    Pope John Paull II disagrees with you and the US bishops 1983 pastoral Sage:

    “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.” Pope John Paul II, Message to the UN Special Session (1982)

    Let us think this through. Nuclear deterrence was moral. Nuclear deterrence only worked on the assumption that if the US was nuked it would nuke the USSR. The idea that such deterrence was moral only if it was a simple bluff strikes me as ludicrous. Let us be honest here. Nuclear deterrence was deemed moral by John Paul II and his predecessors because they understood that the West dropping its nukes would have been suicidal. As a matter of fact, when the US bishops were drafting their anti-nuke pastoral in 1983, Cardinal Bernadin behind the scenes, deep sixed a call for unilateral disarmament because Bernardin, committed liberal though he was, understood that if the bishops came out for uniltateral disarmament they would be viewed as nutcases and not be taken seriously by anyone. George Weigel, the biographer of John Paul II has the details here:

    “Archbishop Bernardin’s shaping of the war/peace committee was a classic expression of his ecclesial and political style. As for the bishop-members of the committee, get the pacifist (Thomas Gumbleton) and the former military chaplain (John J. O’Connor) aboard in order to define the “extremes,” then appoint two other bishops who could be counted on to follow the lead of Bernardin and the committee’s chief staffer, Father Hehir, in defining the liberal “consensus.” That was clever, if not terribly original, bureaucratic maneuvering. What was more telling was Bernardin’s instruction to the committee members at the beginning of their work: namely, that the one policy option they would not consider was unilateral nuclear disarmament. For that option, adopted, would brand the bishops as cranks who would no longer be “in play” in the public-policy debate.”

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2011/01/the-end-of-the-bernardin-era

  • I think use of the atom bombs were justified. However, they should have been used on military targets instead of urban areas, in order to minimize civilian casualties.

    Also, Japan does not have too many natural resources. Once we decimated their Navy and air force, it would only be a matter of time before their oil (and their war-making capability) ran out.

  • Zippy and Shea would have surrended 20 minutes after 9/11

  • Abortion, artificial contraception, euthanasia and voting democrat are intrinsically evil.

    Resorting to capital punishment and war, when necessary, are matters of prudential judgment.

  • “I apologize for any worthy contributions I have overlooked.”

    You are of course referring to me. :)

    “Let us think this through. Nuclear deterrence was moral. Nuclear deterrence only worked on the assumption that if the US was nuked it would nuke the USSR. The idea that such deterrence was moral only if it was a simple bluff strikes me as ludicrous.”

    This is of course the problem. Nuclear deterrence is deterrence only if one can actually use the weapons. Germain Grisez said that nuclear deterrence was not possible primarily due to the use of the weapons being illicit in the first place.

    So the dilemma of deterrence (which implies use) and the immorality of the use of nuclear weapons.

    Solutions?

  • “Zippy and Shea would have surrended 20 minutes after 9/11″

    Unclear. But one has to wonder if, given the situation on Dec 8th, 1941 and Just War criteria, if one can argue that the condition of the “reasonable possibility of success” was doubtful. Thus entry into the war was unjust.

  • Tom Shipe: “Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation”.[1074]”
    The BOMB was an act of self-defense. An act of war is Pearl Harbor. Civilians are people who do not give consent to an act of aggression. The women videoed dancing and singing on the wings of a downed American aircraft in Bosnia are not civilians, no more than Tokyo Rose giving aid and comfort to the enemy. In time of war, giving aid and comfort to the enemy is treason. Most people had no idea what nuclear power was at the time the BOMB was detonated. The nuclear scientists themselves thought that the entire atmosphere might be destroyed. Thank God they were wrong, but then who would know?

  • “You are of course referring to me.”

    Oh I remembered you in my list Phillip. :)

  • “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.CCC 2314

    [T]the negative moral precepts, those prohibiting certain concrete actions or kinds of behaviour as intrinsically evil, do not allow for any legitimate exception. They do not leave room, in any morally acceptable way, for the “creativity” of any contrary determination whatsoever. Once the moral species of an action prohibited by a universal rule is concretely recognized, the only morally good act is that of obeying the moral law and of refraining from the action which it forbids.Veritatis Splendour

  • Zippy
    Unforetunately John Paul listed all deportation and slavery as intrinsic evils in Veritatis Splendor, sect.80. They are not intrinsic evils. Benedict in May of 2010 allowed himself to be saved by Italy deporting two Muslims who planned to kill him so Benedict…lol… made an exception pronto to John Paul’s intrinsic evil of deportation.
    Slavery, chattel and perpetual, was given by God to the Jews in Leviticus 25:46…so while awful, it’s not an intrinsic evil as John Paul said it was….unless God gives intrinsic evils in your and John Paul’s book. Unless a Pope speaks infallibly, he can err. In fact most of what any Pope says historically can contain errors.
    CCC 2314 never addresses the case of a population warned to move and given several days to do so by pamphlet and radio at all. I read that as talking of pure attack without warning as in 9/11.

  • Another endless and inconclusive debate about an event 67 years ago that abruptly and decisively ended a conflict that had already cost tens of millions of lives. We all have a point of view, but -
    It happened.

    Well past time to accept history and move on, recording and remembering the event, thus ensuring that another stiuation like it never occurs again – ever!.

  • I see several problems with Miscamble et al’s logic (though in fairness, I haven’t read the book).

    First, we need to be much more humble about our “knowledge” of the counterfactual – that is, what would have happened if we didn’t drop the bombs. It is all conjecture – worthy and necessary conjecture to some degree, but an argument can’t live and die by it, as Miscamble seems to imply.

    And even if true that Miscamble has thought more thoroughly about this than his detractors, I don’t find his counterfactual argument convincing. In fact, Miscamble seems to make a glaring contradiction. He says that if it weren’t for the bombs, the Emperor could not have broken the impasse with the militants. But almost in the same breadth he says that militants were unaffected by the bombs and wanted to keep fighting. So what is the causal mechanism here? Is it really the bombs? How can we be so sure? Ironically, Miscamble is providing us with evidence that it WASNT the bombs.

    Apologists often say that the conventional destruction the US was visiting on Japan was just as bad as the bombs anyway, and that the Japanese would never surrender. But this begs the question, why did they surrender after the bombs then? It seems to me that the argument for the bombs depends on the idea that the destruction was unique and therefore frightened the Japanese into surrendering. And yet Miscamble seems to be acknowledging that the different factions for surrender and resistance before the bombs were the same ones after the bombs. What seems to me a more plausible explanation – supported by evidence in another posting above – is that the so-called indefatigable Japanese were actually getting close to their breaking point before the bombs, and that other less evil and drastic methods of inducing surrender could have succeeded. Unfortunately, we’ll never know if this is true. Instead, we view the surrender after the bombs and assume a causal relationship, but as all social scientists will tell you, correlation is not causation. Maybe it was only the bombs that could lead to surrender, but again Miscamble and others describe the situation as if the bombs weren’t even that unique – that the destruction and suffering caused by conventional weapons was almost, if not, comparable and that the main forces against surrender before were still adamantly opposed to it afterwords.

    We also have to deal with this dubious notion that in the counterfactual universe, Japan would have continued its imperious ways. Japan was a defeated and isolated nation by August 1945. The idea that in the post WWII era – were it not for the bombs and unconditional surrender – it would have just picked up where it left off in a few years, terrorizing the rest of Asia from which it had been ejected is not nearly as certain as some would have us believe. For one thing, theorizing about what Japan would do requires us to consider so many other economic and political factors that no one is dealing with seriously in this forum. Just because the Japanese did something before doesn’t mean that in the new post WWII era, they would do the same thing again. Incentive structures change in new environments. Apologists are acting as though utility functions never vary under different circumstances. Again, a little humility would be welcome here in arguing about a universe we can never observe.

    Finally, as others have pointed out, the arguments for the bomb seem uncomfortably Machiavellian to be made by a priest and other Catholics. Don’t we believe that our call to love is greater than a calculus of costs and benefits? If not, I’m not sure what should distinguish our behavior from the agnostics in this life. Were the pacific ways of Gandhi, MLK, and others only justified by their tactical success? I’m not claiming that Truman’s decision should have been easy, but I do think it’s a reminder to us that we can go too far toward becoming the evil we reject when we follow the ways of this world too closely. It’s hard to imagine what evil action would NOT be justified under some circumstances, if we can justify the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  • “that is, what would have happened if we didn’t drop the bombs. It is all conjecture –”

    Not really. We know the Japanese did not surrender after Hiroshima. Even after Nagasaki there was a coup attempt to forestall surrender. The idea that the Japanese government was going to surrender absent the bombs, mass starvation or a successful land invasion is simply risible. We also know this from Magic intercepts at the time of internal Japanese communications, and from post-war interviews with Japanese officials. In Hirohito’s speech announcing the surrender he specifically mentions the bombings as the cause of the surrender.

    Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is indeed incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should We continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization. Such being the case, how are We to save the millions of Our subjects; or to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why We have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers.

    “he says that if it weren’t for the bombs, the Emperor could not have broken the impasse with the militants. But almost in the same breadth he says that militants were unaffected by the bombs and wanted to keep fighting. So what is the causal mechanism here?”

    It took two bombs to convince Hirohito to intervene. Short of hearing directly from the Voice of the Crane, the Army and Navy was simply not going to surrender. Once Hirohito said to surrender they did, execpt for a group of younger officers who attempted an unsuccessful coup to stop the surrender.

    “Is it really the bombs? How can we be so sure?”

    Because we know verbatim what was said at the surrender conferences and because Hirohito mentioned the bombs as the cause of the surrender in his speech. Sheesh! No offense intended to you in particular, but it would really save time if people would learn some of the basic history of this event before attempting to comment on it.

    “Apologists often say that the conventional destruction the US was visiting on Japan was just as bad as the bombs anyway,”

    Some of it was worse. Look up the Tokyo fire storm. However, conventional weapons were one thing, the a-bomb that could destroy most of a city was another. In a way it gave the militarists an excuse to surrender. As one Japanese general said at the time, “Who could fight against science?”

    “And yet Miscamble seems to be acknowledging that the different factions for surrender and resistance before the bombs were the same ones after the bombs.”

    No, he isn’t saying that at all. Get his book and read it. That will clear up your confusion.

    “What seems to me a more plausible explanation – supported by evidence in another posting above – is that the so-called indefatigable Japanese were actually getting close to their breaking point before the bombs, and that other less evil and drastic methods of inducing surrender could have succeeded.”

    Completely untrue as the failure to surrender after Hiroshima amply demonstrates. Once again the historical record is very clear and you really need to familiarize yourself with it. Here is a good place to start:

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/005/894mnyyl.asp

    “The idea that in the post WWII era – were it not for the bombs and unconditional surrender – it would have just picked up where it left off in a few years, terrorizing the rest of Asia from which it had been ejected is not nearly as certain as some would have us believe.”

    Germany was badly beaten in 1918 too. The Japanese killed some 30,000,000 human beings in their drive to conquer Asia. Would it have been moral to risk having them attempt to do that again?

    “Don’t we believe that our call to love is greater than a calculus of costs and benefits?”

    Yes, which is precisely why I think Truman was right to end that terrible conflict quickly with as little additional bloodshed as possible.

  • I used to see people’s point about how the bombs were justified…but then I became Catholic. Killing innocent people is wrong…targeting civilians is wrong no matter what country does it or for what reason…it was wrong for terrorists to do it to us and it was wrong of us to do it to Japan.

  • Truman demanded unconditional surrender, and the removal of the Emperor to end the war. Of course the Japanese prepared for an invasion. Wouldn’t we have done the same, not knowing the future? Eisenhower and MacArthur both advised against the Bomb. Japan tendered surrender terms before Hiroshima and Nagasaki were nuked. She asked only that the Emperor be left on his throne. After the bombings, Japan surrendered unconditionally, with her Emperor intact. What was gained? Truman was jubilant when the bomb was dropped, dancing around excitedly like a little kid. When your own generals advise against aggression, it’s time to listen. Truman was an ass, out to prove something to himself.

  • If I misrepresented Miscamble’s book, I apologize, but in the posted video he states that the bombs were successful in allowing the Emperor to overcome the impasse with the militants while also saying that the militants didn’t change their view because of the bombs. If this isn’t a contradiction, fine – I guess I’ll need to read the book to find out why.

    I think it’s a bit naive to think that because Hirohito cited the bombs in his surrender speech that this proves that without the bombs, surrender – or at least containment – could not have happened. You are reduced to a cheap ad hominem attack against me about my supposed lack of basic historical knowledge, when in fact you have selectively quoted part of Hirohito’s speech. Yes, he refers to the bombs – but BEFORE that he says that “the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.” Then he begins his statement about the bombs with the word “moreover” which means “besides” or “in addition”. It does not mean “of singular importance”.

    But there is a bigger question about causality here. We can observe what happened after the bombs were dropped, but we can’t observe what would have happened had they not been dropped. So yes, we can read statements from officials saying the bombs convinced them to surrender – but this DOES NOT mean that had the bombs not been dropped that some other factors wouldn’t have accomplished the same or similar goal. So to repeat, we DO NOT know, nor can we ever know, whether there was another way out of the war. To pretend that we do – especially with the certainty being expressed in this forum – is a significant overreach.

    Your point about Germany is seductively simple. I am not saying you’re wrong – maybe post WWII Japan would have been like post WWI Germany – but how can we possibly know? So yes, you have an anecdote – and I’m sure we can both think of more. But by your logic, the only way a once bad-behaving country ever becomes a non-imperious, non-dictatorial, responsible member of the international community is through destruction, invasion, or a combination of the two. You point out that the Japanese killed millions of people and ask if it would have been moral to risk this happening again. Yes, it would have been a “moral” risk. In fact, we take a similar risk quite frequently with violent dictatorships. We didn’t a-bomb China after they invaded Tibet and elsewhere. Look, the future is full of risk. But past action does not automatically predict future action, especially when the environment has changed so dramatically. And if it were really immoral to take this risk that once murderous countries will change, then we should be at war all the time.

    I also think you make way too much of the failure to surrender after Hiroshima. We bombed Nagasaki three days later! Just because a second bomb was dropped before surrender does not mean that the second or even the first was necessary. Were the bombs necessary for surrender to happen as soon as it did? Almost certainly – I’ll concede that. But I don’t think that’s the debate. There were many factors involved, and it is certainly possible that without the bombs – given enough time and other kinds of pressure – the Japanese would have surrendered, or at least been contained. Truman should have tried other options. He didn’t have to attack when he did, and we’ll never know what would have happened had he tried things like a demonstration bomb.

    You say that it is risible that the Japanese would have surrendered absent the bombs, mass starvation, or full scale invasion. I’ve always found it a bit obnoxious to call other people’s ideas laughable, but that said, I also find it somewhat amusing that people think they know the counterfactual with such certainty. Yes, there are facts which support your theory – but there are other facts which suggest that the Japanese were already looking for ways out of the war. You are conveniently ignoring the facts that don’t fit your story and choosing to believe that facts which do support your position are definitive, and the only ones that matter. If this were statistics you’d likely be guilty of omitted variable bias. And to that point, you seem to have not even considered that we may not have all the relevant facts/variables, as is almost a constant pitfall of historical analysis.

    If you think the bombs were a moral response, fine, but it is unconvincing to justify such destruction on the dubious and ultimately unknowable claim that without them the consequences would have definitely been worse.

  • “Eisenhower and MacArthur both advised against the Bomb”

    No they did not. Eisenhower in 1963 said that he thought that the bomb was unneccessary, but he also said that he did not know conditions in the Pacific being totally concentrated on Europe. MacArthur did not even know about the Bomb until after it was used. He was furious that it took away his day in the sun as the commander of the largest amphibious invasion in history, and continued to insist that the land invasion was essential until the Japanese surrendered. During the Korean War MacArthur advised Truman to authorize the nuking of Chinese cities, so MacArthur certainly had no moral qualms about nuking civilian centers.

    “Japan tendered surrender terms before Hiroshima and Nagasaki were nuked. She asked only that the Emperor be left on his throne.”

    No they did not. Read the article by Richard B. Frank linked below:

    “The conduit for this initiative was Japan’s ambassador in Moscow, Naotake Sato. He communicated with Foreign Minister Togo–and, thanks to code breaking, with American policymakers. Ambassador Sato emerges in the intercepts as a devastating cross-examiner ruthlessly unmasking for history the feebleness of the whole enterprise. Sato immediately told Togo that the Soviets would never bestir themselves on behalf of Japan. The foreign minister could only insist that Sato follow his instructions. Sato demanded to know whether the government and the military supported the overture and what its legal basis was–after all, the official Japanese position, adopted in an Imperial Conference in June 1945 with the emperor’s sanction, was a fight to the finish. The ambassador also demanded that Japan state concrete terms to end the war, otherwise the effort could not be taken seriously. Togo responded evasively that the “directing powers” and the government had authorized the effort–he did not and could not claim that the military in general supported it or that the fight-to-the-end policy had been replaced. Indeed, Togo added: “Please bear particularly in mind, however, that we are not seeking the Russians’ mediation for anything like an unconditional surrender.”

    This last comment triggered a fateful exchange. Critics have pointed out correctly that both Under Secretary of State Joseph Grew (the former U.S. ambassador to Japan and the leading expert on that nation within the government) and Secretary of War Henry Stimson advised Truman that a guarantee that the Imperial Institution would not be eliminated could prove essential to obtaining Japan’s surrender. The critics further have argued that if only the United States had made such a guarantee, Japan would have surrendered. But when Foreign Minister Togo informed Ambassador Sato that Japan was not looking for anything like unconditional surrender, Sato promptly wired back a cable that the editors of the “Magic” Diplomatic Summary made clear to American policymakers “advocate[s] unconditional surrender provided the Imperial House is preserved.” Togo’s reply, quoted in the “Magic” Diplomatic Summary of July 22, 1945, was adamant: American policymakers could read for themselves Togo’s rejection of Sato’s proposal–with not even a hint that a guarantee of the Imperial House would be a step in the right direction. Any rational person following this exchange would conclude that modifying the demand for unconditional surrender to include a promise to preserve the Imperial House would not secure Japan’s surrender.”

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/005/894mnyyl.asp?page=3

    “After the bombings, Japan surrendered unconditionally, with her Emperor intact. What was gained?”

    Nope, the future of the Emperor was left in the hands of the Allied High Authority in Japan as Hirohito understood. Here is the actual provision:

    “From the moment of surrender the authority of the Emperor and the Japanese government to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied powers who will take such steps as he deems proper to effectuate the surrender terms. …The ultimate form of government of Japan shall, in accordance with the Potsdam Declaration, be established by the freely expressed will of the Japanese people.”

    “Truman was jubilant when the bomb was dropped, dancing around excitedly like a little kid. When your own generals advise against aggression, it’s time to listen. Truman was an ass, out to prove something to himself.”

    No, by all historical accounts Truman was anguished by the decision and was relieved after the Japanese surrendered. Where did you pick up the above piece of historical fiction?

    A useful antidote to the types of myths about Hiroshima floating around the net is the book linked below:

    http://www.amazon.com/Hiroshima-History-The-Myths-Revisionism/dp/082621732X

    People are entitled to their own opinions. They are not entitled to their own historical facts.

  • “but then I became Catholic.”

    I’ve been a Catholic all my life and I’ve always found the breastbeating over Hiroshima and Nagasaki inane and disproportionate when all of World War II is viewed, especially World War II in the Pacific, which for most Americans today might as well be the Third Punic War as far as their knowledge base about it goes. I have noticed the breastbeating has increased in volume over time as the veterans who would have been killed off in an invasion of the Home Islands, the ones who called themselves Hiroshima survivors, have died off, and historical illiteracy has become the order of the day among far too many people.

  • “If I misrepresented Miscamble’s book, I apologize,”

    Apology noted. Read the bloody book.

    “think it’s a bit naive to think that because Hirohito cited the bombs in his surrender speech that this proves that without the bombs, surrender – or at least containment – could not have happened. You are reduced to a cheap ad hominem attack against me about my supposed lack of basic historical knowledge”

    Not ad hominem at all, merely descriptive. You obviously lack the historical knowledge to comment in this area. Your attempt to still argue that the bombs were not the decisive factor in bringing about the surrender amply demonstrates that. Read the sources I have linked to. Learn the basic historical facts before commenting on a historical event.

    “but this DOES NOT mean that had the bombs not been dropped that some other factors wouldn’t have accomplished the same or similar goal.”

    The Japanese High Command thought they could inflict enough casualties on an Allied invasion to get what they considered decent terms. Unless they could get such terms, in the absence of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they were simply not going to surrender.

    “maybe post WWII Japan would have been like post WWI Germany – but how can we possibly know?”

    It wasn’t worth the risk to find out. The US had fought in two World Wars between 1917-1945. Most of the men at the top in the US were World War I veterans, including Truman who was a World War I combat veteran. They were not going to risk setting up World War III without doing everything in their power to avoid it. Considering the peaceful Japan the world has seen since 1945 they chose wisely.

    “I also think you make way too much of the failure to surrender after Hiroshima.”

    No because meetings were held by the Japanese decision makers between Hiroshima and Nagasaki and we know from those meetings that Japan was not going to surrender. One of the main arguments that the militarists used in those meetings was that the US probably only had one such bomb. Nagasaki destroyed that pleasing illusion.

    “I’ve always found it a bit obnoxious to call other people’s ideas laughable”

    And I have always found it obnoxious for people to venture to give opinions about historical events, and to render judgments about them, when they clearly do not know what the devil they are talking about. Read this blog. You will find from such reading that history is very, very important to me. It annoys me to no end when people make historical blunder after historical blunder and seem to have no interest in doing the research and reading necessary to gain knowledge about what they are pontificating about.

    “Yes, there are facts which support your theory – but there are other facts which suggest that the Japanese were already looking for ways out of the war.”

    No there aren’t. The Japanese were not interested in surrendering until after both bombs were dropped, at least not on any terms that any of the Allies were willing to accept.

  • Donald,
    Excellent and informative. Pulp It…missed this one.

  • ScottL,
    Yes, certainty is elusive in the realm of counterfactuals. But those making decisions don’t live in such realms. The live in a world with real but limited information. There is absolutely no reason to believe that Truman did not make the most prudent (I’m not saying moral — that is a different question) decision possible under the circumstances taking account everything he could know. It is plain to me that instead of doing your homework in order to assess Truman’s world you would rather just jump into the world of counterfactuals in order to critique the posts of others with uninformed speculation. Really not very sensible.

  • Phillip: “So the dilemma of deterrence (which implies use) and the immorality of the use of nuclear weapons.

    Solutions?

    When in Rome do as the Romans do. When dealing with insane dictators, the game is played according to their rules, the rules they make up to rule the world. A nuclear standoff that worked, that had to work, or these posts would never be written.

  • Why weren’t these cities targeted earlier? … because American soldiers could not get to them, thus the war in the Pacific, and the horrific loss of life, the horrific loss of life.

  • I’ll note again that aside from attempting to brush aside the moral objections to the bombings as inane and disproportionate, no apologist for the bombings has refuted the fact that the bombing was contrary to Catholic moral principles. All I’ve read have been one variety or another of “but it was justified because of x, y, or z.”

    The direct, targeted killing of civilians on a massive scale like Hiroshima and Nagasaki is morally impermissible, no matter what x, y, or z factor seems to make it really, really, really necessary. You can’t commit an intrinsic evil to accomplish a purported greater good.

    Continue now with the litany of reasons why the immoral act was really, truly for the best.

  • The nuclear detonations over Hiroshima and Nagasaki were immoral and wrong. The alternative – hand to hand combat and mass starvation with far, far more loss of innocent life – was more immoral and wrong.

    As I repeatedly mentioned above, during the Cold War, I was a reactor operator on a nuclear submarine armed with some of those fearsome weapons. For our qualification in submarines, we were all trained to launch in case the submarine was fatally hit and we were the only ones left alive aboard. Given the order (very, very unlikely given my job position back at the Reactor Plant Control Panel), I would with fear and trembling have launched, self-appointed Pharisitical ponificating bloggers anmd commenters in this present day and age notwithstanding. It’s easy to be self-righteousness when you haven’t had to hide at test depth off the continental shelf of some coastline waiting for that Soviet submarine to move on.

    PS, our motto was “Death from Below” and that was exactly what we were prepared to give the atheist Soviets if it had come to blows. And I don’t care if that isn’t politically correct, because exactly that strategy preserved the freedom of yellow-bellied, cowardly bloggers and commenters to now decry what saved their very lives.

  • Speaking of inane Tom, I loved this comment of yours:

    “I think the bottom line is that probably a land invasion would have been the best moral option in that it would have resulted in the deaths only of combatants (except for the genuinely collateral casualties that all war produces–but which would not be directly intended).”

    Over 142,000 civilians died on Okinawa despite the best efforts of our troops to avoid civilian casualties, including evacuating civilians from combat zones, and well over 100,000 civilians died in Manila in our battle to take it back from the Japanese. In Operation Olympic we planned to use atomic bombs as tactical nukes to attack Japanese troop concentrations close to major cities near the beach landing zones. The radioactive fallout would have been devastating. The Japanese army made no plans to evacuate Japanese civilians, and instead planned to use them to attack allied troops. The bloodbath among civilians would have been in the millions. This was all clearly foreseeable at the time. To say that such clearly foreseeable casualties are “collateral” and “unintentional” is truly Orwellian. Condemn Truman forever if you must, but saying that the invasion was more moral is risible.

    The best book on what an invasion of Japan would have been like: Hell to Pay: Operation Downfall and the Invasion of Japan 1945-1947

    http://www.amazon.com/Hell-Pay-Operation-Downfall-1945-1947/dp/1591143160

  • Tom,
    Show us where Catholic moral doctrine deals with the case of a city that is warned with leaflets and radio, given days to leave and then does not leave the area. You can’t. You’re presuming you know how the Cardinals at the CDF in their catechism would answer such a twist in the issue. Shouldn’t a Pope by now have declared the incident at hand immoral…like internet Catholics do. Why haven’t they?
    Were you correct, bad nations need only place their missile bases in their largest cities and no good nation could attack their military assets. Does the Vatican want to state your position as long as that position has those absurd consequences?

  • Were you correct, bad nations need only place their missile bases in their largest cities and no good nation could attack their military assets.

    At least not with large yield nukes. But that scenario is somewhat mitigated now by modern targeting technology.

    Well past time to accept history and move on, recording and remembering the event, thus ensuring that another stiuation like it never occurs again – ever!.

    But that is the difficulty, as 170+ comments demonstrate. What have we learned? Some argue the tactic was not justifiable, others that it was. So how will we ensure it never occur again?

  • *snip* no apologist for the bombings has refuted the fact that the bombing was contrary to Catholic moral principles *snip* it was justified because of x, y, or z.”

    That would be the refuting you asked for.

    And no matter how many times you and others try to insist that the bombings were targeted mass killings of civilians, or that the point of destroying the city was to slaughter civilians, you can only hand-wave away the efforts to get civies out of there.
    It didn’t work (and here I’m repeating myself AGAIN in a new phrasing) because the Japanese turned their civilian force into a military one and would kill those who left as deserters. One of the cities had been bombed before, the other had the most intact stuff in an area that the damage from the bomb would make the biggest impact. One of the cities was only added to the list AFTER their version of Rome was removed.

    Perhaps the folks on the side that requires passing on false-to-facts claims about what happened and assuming the worst possible interpretation of motivations should look a little at their views?

  • As a relevant aside, I strongly recommend Takashi Nagai’s “The Bells of Nagasaki,” and Fr. Glynn’s biography of Nagai, “A Song for Nagasaki.”

    Nagai was a radiologist and convert to Catholicism who was working at the university on August 9. Ironically, he was already dying of leukemia, but he survived (his wife did not) and became an eloquent voice for peace in the postwar period.

  • C Matt asks, “But that is the difficulty, as 170+ comments demonstrate. What have we learned? Some argue the tactic was not justifiable, others that it was. So how will we ensure it never occur again?”

    2nd Chronicles 7:14 answers, “…if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

    Repentance by all the nations is the only certain way to avoid this in the future. The solution has not changed in the 3000 years since King Solomon uttered those words.

  • Bill,

    There is a profound moral difference between targeting military assets contained within a city knowing that there will be substantial non-combatant casualities (morally permissible depending on the circumstances) versus “indiscriminately” targeting an entire city that includes both non-combatants and military assets (not permissible).

    Your reference to “absurd consequences” in the last sentence is especially telling. This is precisely the reasoning relied on by the defenders of Sister McBride, who excommunicated herself by authorizing an abortion. In that case, the hospital’s medical staff had unanimously concluded that the mother and non-viable baby would both die unless that baby was aborted. The abortion was authorized in order to avoid the “absurd consequence” of two deaths that would have resulted from a refusal to cause one (which would have happened anyway).

  • Note, it’s:
    “Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself.

    Not “indiscriminately” targeting an entire city that includes both non-combatants and military assets.

    Got to take the whole thing, and can’t rephrase it to something different.

  • Mike,
    I’ve consistently affirmed the situation in sufficient posts above of warning civilians in any such cases to leave and to give time for that leaving (in one post, stressing sufficient time for elderly to leave.). Each poster has an overall context that might not be obvious if one reads him partially.
    I’ve been making abortions less likely in Beijing for years, monthly at a sacrifice that hurts…that tar won’t stick with God who knows it intimately.

  • And no, that’s nothing at all to do with the McBride case, no matter how much folks want to drag it in.

  • My view on this is rooted in “first principles”, like in natural law application, is best formed around the Magisterium’s teachings and ongoing guidance through the Pope and Bishops’. Not that Catholics are the ones who could see first principles or the natural laws in operation- but as that other Notre Dame professor Rice noted in his book on Natural Law- the Church is the surest guide in this moral matters- makes perfect sense if the Catholic Church is as advertised!

    If from First Principle we agree that innocent civilians should never be the direct and intended target in any violent action- even in the midst of a Just War- then I really can’t see a moral way around the conclusion that we should have taken the Nuclear Option off the table when picking over possible military actions at the time we are referencing here. It seems that the logic being deployed in this thread is that somehow with ample warnings being made to the populace in H. and N. those who stayed around would no longer be innocent civilians. Maybe the analogy here is how in an ectopic pregnancy the procedure used is not considered an immoral abortion- or how in treating for cancer a woman may licitly receive treatments that would quite likely harm or even kill the unborn child within her. Maybe my analogies are off- but that is what comes to my mind immediately.

    Now, if we isolate on the “We gave them ample warning- those who stayed were combatants and not innocent civilians” then we have moved from the First Principle zone into some prudential territory. I think this is the only place where we aren’t in consequentialist troubles. My assessment so far is that the First Principle is still in place with regards to the nuclear attacks on H. and N. I’m wide open to an intervention by the Pope and Bishops to help me understand this particular case better- but piling on with historical quotes showing how “necessary” the dropping of these weapons of mass destruction were is not going to move me from the rock of first principles which is the basis for my understanding that terrorism is always wrong because it is in the first place targeted at civilian targets- even if in the subjective opinion of the terrorist- these civilians are not true civilians because they support or have elected their leadership who is conducting the dark side of an unjust war or foreign oppression. This line of thinking has been used by those who have attacked Israeli population centers for example.

    Does the crux of this matter come down to whether or not the warnings given the people of H. and N. create a new argument that allows for faithful Catholics to move past the First Principle of do not directly target civilian cities with weapons of mass destruction? One final point- the idea that we could use the Old Testament examples of supposed genocide as a point of defense for American use of similar tactics seems a very dangerous theology- simply put- We are not God, America is not the New Israel, we cannot allow a quick reading of Old Testament examples to excuse behavior that is not allowable by Church teachings- which is why I look to the Magisterium as my primary source of moral theological knowledge- properly applying what is meant and should be applied from examples in Holy Scripture- otherwise we are all left to interpret according to our singular lights and that quickly leads many off a cliff.

  • The First Protocol to the Fourth Geneva Convention, in the opinion of many publicists is simply a restatement of customary international law

    rticle 51 — Protection of the civilian population
    1. The civilian population and individual civilians shall enjoy general protection against dangers arising from military operations. To give effect to this protection, the following rules, which are additional to other applicable rules of international law, shall be observed in all circumstances.

    2. The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited.

    3. Civilians shall enjoy the protection afforded by this Section, unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities.

    4. Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited. Indiscriminate attacks are:

    (a) those which are not directed at a specific military objective;

    (b) those which employ a method or means of combat which cannot be directed at a specific military objective; or

    (c) those which employ a method or means of combat the effects of which cannot be limited as required by this Protocol; and consequently, in each such case, are of a nature to strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction.

    5. Among others, the following types of attacks are to be considered as indiscriminate:

    (a) an attack by bombardment by any methods or means which treats as a single military objective a number of clearly separated and distinct military objectives located in a city, town, village or other area containing a similar concentration of civilians or civilian objects; and

    (b) an attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

    6. Attacks against the civilian population or civilians by way of reprisals are prohibited.

    7. The presence or movements of the civilian population or individual civilians shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations, in particular in attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield, favour or impede military operations. The Parties to the conflict shall not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations.

    8. Any violation of these prohibitions shall not release the Parties to the conflict from their legal obligations with respect to the civilian population and civilians, including the obligation to take the precautionary measures provided for in Article 57

  • If from First Principle we agree that innocent civilians should never be the direct and intended target in any violent action- even in the midst of a Just War- then I really can’t see a moral way around the conclusion that we should have taken the Nuclear Option off the table when picking over possible military actions at the time we are referencing here.

    That would only be true if there was something about nukes that causes them to directly and intentionally target civilians on any use. Barring something showing that, they’re bombs.

    Maybe the analogy here is how in an ectopic pregnancy the procedure used is not considered an immoral abortion- or how in treating for cancer a woman may licitly receive treatments that would quite likely harm or even kill the unborn child within her.

    Yep. Believe it’s been mentioned several times. I know I pointed it out, along with the fatal force for defense point. Gone unanswered.

    these civilians are not true civilians because they support or have elected their leadership who is conducting the dark side of an unjust war or foreign oppression.

    Not analogous at all. There’s the lack of warning that attacks will happen, the lack of actually targeting military centers with civies being hit by splash-over, and the little point that the entire purpose of terrorism is to kill those who didn’t do anything, and the little detail that “support or elect leadership” is not the same as continuing to work in a military center after there’s been warning that said military center is going to be attacked by the people you are fully and openly at war with.

    Does the crux of this matter come down to whether or not the warnings given the people of H. and N. create a new argument that allows for faithful Catholics to move past the First Principle of do not directly target civilian cities with weapons of mass destruction?

    No, the warning civilians to get away from military targets that THEY had built in a population center “allows” faithful Catholics to move past the point of not targeting extensive areas and their populations.

    If there had been a way to selectively explode only military ports, factories, bases, etc— do you seriously doubt they would have taken that? On what basis, other than the constant assertion that the point was to kill a bunch of innocent civilians?

  • Excellent post, Tim.

    Foxfier, the Sister McBride case stands for the proposition that one cannot do evil, even in order to achieve optimal consequences. Many of the posts here (certainly not all), as well as the featured video, analyze the morality of Truman’s decisions solely by reference to predicted outcomes (i.e., conseqeuences). Sister McBride’s case presents a perfect example of this error. I agree with Tim that the question as to whether the civilian populations of H and N constituted combatants due to peculiar circumstances is a fair one, even if I am not remotely convinced.

    Bill, the last thing I intended to do was tar you with anything. My reference to Sister McBride was to illustrate a moral error, not to question your anti-abortion credentials.

  • I still am not convinced that giving warnings is sufficient to remove the prohibition against indiscriminate targeting.

    Does it depend on the efficacy of the warning, the ability of the targeting populace to comply with the warning, the objective or subjective credibility of the warning from the perspective of the recipient of said warning? To simply say we dropped leaflets therefore we are golden is far too simplistic. Not to mention whether from moral, rather than legal, perspective, does a warning excuse immoral conduct?

  • “I think the bottom line is that probably a land invasion would have been the best moral option in that it would have resulted in the deaths only of combatants (except for the genuinely collateral casualties that all war produces–but which would not be directly intended).”

    Yeah riiiiiiiiiiiiiigggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhtttttttttttttt. Here is what the Allies would have faced in a land invasion according to MacArthur’s biographer:

    “Hirohito’s generals, grimly preparing for the invasion, had not abandoned hope of saving their homeland. Although a few strategic islands had been lost, they told each other, most of their conquests, including the Chinese heartland, were firmly in their hands, and the bulk of their army was undefeated. Even now they could scarcely believe that any foe would have the audacity to attempt landings in Japan itself. Allied troops, they boasted, would face the fiercest resistance in history. Over ten thousand kamikaze planes were readied for “Ketsu-Go,” Operation Decision. Behind the beaches, enormous connecting underground caves had been stocked with caches of food and thousands of tons of ammunition. Manning the nation’s ground defenses were 2,350,000 regular soldiers, 250,000 garrison troops, and 32,000,000 civilian militiamen, a total of 34,600,000, more than the combined armies of the United States, Great Britain, and Nazi Germany. 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)]”

    From two inescapable conclusions can be drawn. 1) There were no longer any civlian targets in Japan . 2) The slaughter of Japanese civilians in a land invasion would have made the atomic bombings look like a mouse fart in a wind storm by comparison.

    With all due respect Mr. McKenna (I do actually have considerable repect for your work on the death penalty), you seem to have about as much understanding the circumstances leading up to Truman’s decision to drop the bombs as Archbishop Charles Chaput does with the death penalty.

  • No, I understand perfectly well that the Japanese high command intended to impress their civilian population into their land defense plans in the event of an invasion. We cannot know to what extent this would have succeeded, nor really what civilian casualties it would have produced.

    Nevertheless, the point is and remains, it was an option that would have taken us out of the business of mass-scale, intentional slaughter. It matters what means are chosen to carry out a just war, and this ,b>jus in bello requirement would be met if we had invaded, and had to kill many, many civilians in self-defense because the enemy interposed them between us and themselves. The moral blame would rest with the enemy. On the other hand, dropping a bomb that indiscriminately incinerates vast swaths of population, mostly civilian, while it might have induced a surrender, simply did not pass muster according to jus in bello principles because the Church has time and again condemned their use against populated areas:

    Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of
    entire cities or of extensive areas along with their population is
    a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal
    and unhesitating condemnation. (Pastoral Constitution on the
    Church in the Modern World, No. 80).

    And as restated in the Catholic 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 (CCC 2314).

    Sorry, again, all I read here are reasons why it was more convenient to use the bombs, I have not read how the use of the bombs were not, as the Church maintains, per se immoral, being used as they were against “whole cities” and “vast areas with their inhabitants.”

    It’s not difficult to understand what the Church teaches. It’s merely difficult to accept it when it might suggest our side blew it. I can understand that it might be a humbling prospect to realize we were wrong for doing it, but in my view, it would burnish our greatness, not diminish it, to admit that we blundered in unleashing horrific indiscriminate death on a large number of innocent civilians.

  • Tom:

    Once again you are ignoring a crucial point. Nowhere does either the catechism or Gaudium et Spes say “even if the line between combatant and non-combatant has erased”, something Japan clearly did in WWII. In fact, for the either GS or the CCC to do so would be for the Church to repudiate her own teaching, something the charism of infasllibility prevents.

  • Greg, I think you overstate your case. At most, the line between combatant and non-combatant was perhaps rendered murky. And perhaps a case can even be made that a reasonable person could conclude that it was erased, but to say with confidence (“clearly”) that it was erased is a stretch, especially when we are talking about women and children, infants, and the infirm. But I do appreciate that you are grappling with Catholic teaching, as am I, rather than simply resorting to a consequential analysis.

  • Yes. Mike, clearly. What else can you conclude when you conscipt practically the entire adult population, train children to strap explosives to themselves and roll under tanks among other things? If that’s not completely erasing that line what would be?

    Furthermore, there is a huge difference between a indiscriminate effect (even if that effect is a foregone conclusion) and intent. This is something many lose sight of.

  • Foxfier, the Sister McBride case stands for the proposition that one cannot do evil, even in order to achieve optimal consequences.

    *exasperated sigh*
    Which assumes that you’ve actually established that bombing Hiroshima was evil in the same manner as abortion, rather than evil in the same way as killing another person (such as in war, self defense, etc).

    It’s kind of ironic that you think Greg is over-stating his case, when that’s the exact problem that my fingers are worn out pointing out about the opposite case.

    Many of the posts here (certainly not all), as well as the featured video, analyze the morality of Truman’s decisions solely by reference to predicted outcomes (i.e., conseqeuences).

    The video is about correcting bad history, clearly states that he chose military targets, and it is either blind or slanderous to claim that those who disagree with you here are arguing “solely by reference to predicated outcomes.” Frankly, since you’re still claiming something is “clear” when it’s quite obviously not (“clearly targeted civilians”), you might be a bit more careful about complaining about the confidence of others.

    It is delightful to see that some hundred comments later, you’ve admitted that someone might actually disagree with you without committing consequential analysis. Perhaps you could reconsider your opening accusation that we hadn’t considered it might be an intrinsic evil….no, probably not, you’re still quite sure you know they were really aiming for the civilians that were warned to flee, rather than the huge flippin’ military targets.

    Holy circular reasoning, Batman…. flip it, I’m out. When people aren’t even bothering to deal in good faith, it’s not worth it. Facts, sources, rational arguments, the actual text about destroying cities and their population …. if that doesn’t sway you, I sure as heck can’t.

  • Yeah Tom: under the right circumstances (that is, when we are the Good Guys[tm] and have dropped leaflets), the hundreds or thousands of unborn children murdered in the womb by the atomic blast were “combatants”.

    Folks keep responding as if abortion were an analogy here. It isn’t. They are laboring to justify mass abortion via bomb blast, as if that change in technique somehow changed the moral nature of the act.

  • “The best book on what an invasion of Japan would have been like: Hell to Pay: Operation Downfall and the Invasion of Japan 1945-1947″

    Or Richard Frank’s Downfall (a book mentioned by Fr. Miscamble in his response Tollefson):

    http://www.amazon.com/Downfall-The-Imperial-Japanese-Empire/dp/0141001461/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1343342897&sr=8-1&keywords=richard+frank

  • Mr. McClarey,

    If not technically an ad hominem attack, it is a lame and unnecessary personal insult which you can not support. You don’t know what I know from one blog posting (one that you misunderstood by the way), and it is unfortunate that you think you do. I am tempted to continue trading insult for insult, but I’ll do my best to take the high road.

    You may have an impressive array of facts at your immediate command, but you still don’t seem to understand causality, without which facts can mislead you to think you know more than you do. You make the very common error of thinking that because one variable appears to cause another variable, it is an essential cause. It is a fallacy to claim to know that absent the bombs, an acceptable solution would have been impossible. At one point you respond with the very simplistic claim that since we have recordings of discussions between Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we know – KNOW! – that they would have never surrendered. It’s as though, in all your self acknowledged historical reading, you have never encountered stories of leaders who changed their mind. Or at least never changed their mind after three whole days.

    Here’s an example of what I mean by causality. Now I’m guessing that we can both agree that the Cuban Revolution was a tragic disaster for Cuba. But I think most historians agree that in the areas of public health and education, the Castro regime rather quickly began providing widespread basic services to the poor majority that Batista and others had largely neglected. By the logic you’re applying to this debate, not only should we say that the Cuban revolution caused these services to be provided, but that ONLY the Castro revolution COULD HAVE resulted in these services for the poor. You don’t seem to get that absent a variable like the Revolution, or the bombs, the dependent variable – social services or surrender/containment may still have been possible. Now I’m betting we actually agree that had the Castro revolution failed, it still would have been possible for Cuba to develop basic social services for its citizens. Yet applying your same logic from the atomic bomb debate, you’d have to deny it. After all, where are all the recordings of Batista officials planning to create these programs? Where are the “facts”?

    The unfortunate reality is that we never know the counterfactual, and it is particularly hard to have any certainty about it when we’re talking about one historical event like Japanese surrender. At least with experiments we can mimic the counterfactual by having control and treatment groups, but even that has lots of potential error. In historical analysis – which often relies on systematically biased information available to us – we should have great humility (if we care about being honest about what we “know”) when predicting what would have happened absent the independent variable – in this case, the bombs. You seem to think we know everything now – end of story. Miscamble has written the final word!

    By the very source you cite, we know that Japan was looking for a negotiated settlement. I have simply said that some sort of surrender or solution – at worst containment – could have been a reasonable possibility, and therefore we didn’t have to kill 200,000 people in an instant. Our main disagreement is over opinion – not fact – ie, whether something less than unconditional surrender would have sufficed. You say it wasn’t worth the risk – fine, but again that’s a matter of opinion, not fact. In your mind, it was worth killing all of those people instead of accepting something less than unconditional surrender. To many of us, that idea seems kind of repulsive. But I trust that for you it comes from a sincere belief (not a fact though, just an unverifiable belief) that Japan would have restarted its murderously imperious ways. And your best evidence is that well, Germany did it. And as we all know, there is no difference between German history, culture, and institutions of the 20s and 30s and the Japanese situation in 1945.

    Anyway, as you point out, you’re too smart to waste your time reading something from an ignoramus like me, so no point in going on too long. Congratulations for knowing your facts. Facts are necessary, but they at best the beginning, not the end of wisdom.

  • To claim that there were no civilians left in Japan does not stand up.

    Assuming, for the sake of argument that Greg Mockeridge’s figures of “2,350,000 regular soldiers, 250,000 garrison troops, and 32,000,000 civilian militiamen, a total of 34,600,000,” are correct, Japan’s population in 1945 was a little over 71,000,000. That means some 36,400,000 non-combatants, a majority of the population.

    Even if 90% of these were willing and able to offer some resistance, that would still leave over 3, 640,000 non-combatants.

  • Mr. Patterson-Seymour:

    Your argument would only make even remote sense if all civilian conscripts were concentrated in one area. But as anyone with a lick sense knows that all males aged fifteen to sixty, and all females ages seventeen to forty-five that had been conscripted was throughout the enire country of Japan.

  • “But as anyone with a lick sense knows that all males aged fifteen to sixty, and all females ages seventeen to forty-five that had been conscripted was throughout the enire country of Japan.”

    True. I have a friend, a retired Methodist minister, Ollie Zivney, who was a Navy medic with the Marine Corps during World War II. He served at Guadalcanal and other hellish battles. After the surrender, he was sent to Hiroshima to set up aid stations. He learned to speak Japanese and grew fond of the people and their culture. His Japanese friends showed him the arms that had been stored up in schools, hospitals and temples, almost all bamboo spears. They told him that they would have fought and died for the Emperor if the US had invaded, although now that they realized that US servicemen like my friend weren’t going to kill and eat them, as propaganda had told them for years, and seemed like pretty decent Joes, they were glad that the Emperor had surrendered instead! Ollie has never had had any doubt that Truman spared Japan one of the greatest slaughters in world history, as Japanese civilians attempted to kill US Marines and GIs with bamboo spears and anything else they could get their hands on. Ollie met Truman years later, and Truman told him that it had been a hard decision to drop the bombs, but he never doubted that it was the right one.

  • ScottL,

    For what it’s worth, I appreciate your comments. I also enjoy reading this blog even though it’s obvious I don’t fit in well, so I hope maybe you will chime in on other topics as they develop.

  • Apparently, MacArthur (if you believe the Peck movie) agreed with Zippy, MS, and the judgmental jugheads that the bombings were wrong.

    No Glory! The American caesar actually wanted to invade Japan and have umpty-umph millions more killed. It, mass murder, is what the Army does. The bombs did it in nanoseconds. Did he see that as a professional threat?

  • “If not technically an ad hominem attack, it is a lame and unnecessary personal insult which you can not support. ”

    I can only judge your lack of historical knowledge in this area Scott from what you wrote, lacking as I do the charism of mind reading.

    “I am tempted to continue trading insult for insult, but I’ll do my best to take the high road.”

    How charitable of you to point out that you are the noble one in this debate in your eyes.

    “It is a fallacy to claim to know that absent the bombs, an acceptable solution would have been impossible.”

    I know it based on the historical record Scott. You do not know the history and substitute guesses and hopes.

    ” At one point you respond with the very simplistic claim that since we have recordings of discussions between Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we know – KNOW! – that they would have never surrendered.”

    Scott, I was responding to your claim about how did we know that we know that the Japanese would not have surrendered after Hiroshima. I enlightened your obvious bone ignorance on that score. You respond by saying that perhaps the Japanese would have changed their mind in the future. We know what changed their mind: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Your resort to counterfactuals is no argument against Truman’s actions, since they, in fact, accomplished what was necessary, caused the Japanese to end a conflict which was killing hundreds of thousands each month. The idea that the US was going to wait endlessly for the Japanese leadership to decide that their situation was indeed hopeless is, and I know you will appreciate my use of the term, risible.

    “But I think most historians agree that in the areas of public health and education, the Castro regime rather quickly began providing widespread basic services to the poor majority that Batista and others had largely neglected.”

    As a matter of historical fact, that would be an error, and would betoken a lack of knowledge of both the Batista and Castro regimes.

    “By the logic you’re applying to this debate, not only should we say that the Cuban revolution caused these services to be provided, but that ONLY the Castro revolution COULD HAVE resulted in these services for the poor.”

    No, that does not follow at all. My argument is that the Japanese leadership were not going to surrender on terms acceptable to the Allies absent Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a land invasion or mass famine, and the historical record, what actually occurred, supports this conclusion. In your hypothetical the rather pathetic Eastern European style welfare state imposed by Castro and his cutthroats could have been vastly improved upon by many other types of regimes. Your use of this hypothetical demonstrates graphically your failure to understand the historical record in regard to the bombings. A better analogy would be someone attempting to argue that Lincoln would have agreed under virtually any circumstances to the Confederacy breaking away from the United States. We know that is not a valid hypothetical based upon the historical record. Let us propose another hypothetical. The Confederacy surrendering in the Spring of 1862 on the condition that they could keep slavery and that Lincoln accepted it. We know that is a valid hypothetical, based upon the historical record. One can always postulate some outlandish event, like alien armies landing from the Andromeda galaxy, that alter everything, but if one is going to second guess what Truman did, one has to hew to the historical record as to what the Japanese leadership would do in the future, and the best determinant of that is what they did and said in regard to surrender both before and after the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima.

    You are obviously miffed by our back and forth. I am not. I do this for fun. I enjoy the cut and thrust of a good debate. If you do also, comment in the future. When you are right in my opinion I will agree with you and when you are wrong in my opinion I will argue with you, but in either case it will be not taken overly seriously by me, since amusement is my main goal.

  • It is a fact to be taken into consideration about the evil effects of the BOMB necessary to make it morally acceptible is that the intention of the Japanese was total world domination, hence no religious freedom or acknowledgement of the human being’s rational, immortal soul. It was also the intention of Hitler to dominate the whole world, to subjugate what Hitler preached as “the inferior races” to Arianism. Sometime, I wonder what would have happened if both were the only two left to duke it out. Total conflagration without the freedom fought for so valiantly by the Americans. All the reason and more to use the BOMB. You are here posting today because Truman used the BOMB.

  • Zippy
    Our fighter jets in the US, since 9/11, are under orders to shoot down a highjacked commercial plane over less densely populated areas…a plane filled with several terrorists plus numerous traveling innocents: men, children and women possibly pregnant…lest the hijackers use the plane to hit densely populated areas or key targets like the White House. No Pope nor Bishops have denounced same ongoing orders because the innocents are being killed simultaneously (not literally but virtually) to the terrorists for a good reason: to protect a greater number or more critical persons…the principle of double effect. Apparently that instance is not like saving a
    mother by abortion.
    You Zippy are a soldier going house to house in Afghanistan and suddenly a pregnant womn begins to aim an AK47 at you and you shoot her and her innocent triplets to save your life but also your role in Afghanistan. I never heard the Vatican argue against that action of yours either.
    Catechisms seem to keep things very simple, black and white, and not address nuances.
    Were the civilians in the Japanese cities in not fleeing…as innocent as the civilians in the plane or the triplets within the woman you shot? Or were they responsible young and old, as when parents speak for their infants as agents of decision in infant baptism…and both are held to a choice though the infant made no choice? It’s odd that the Magisterium or a Pope by now did not produce a moral theology document that exhaustively analyzed such an iconic event in comparison to similar actions that they permit by silence.

  • Now I’m guessing that we can both agree that the Cuban Revolution was a tragic disaster for Cuba. But I think most historians agree that in the areas of public health and education, the Castro regime rather quickly began providing widespread basic services to the poor majority that Batista and others had largely neglected. By the logic you’re applying to this debate, not only should we say that the Cuban revolution caused these services to be provided, but that ONLY the Castro revolution COULD HAVE resulted in these services for the poor.

    An ancillary point. IIRC, per capita income in Cuba ca. 1955 was such that it was among the more affluent Latin American territories (ranking 5th out of 20, I believe). To the extent that this metric could be divined from published data, Cuba was by the end of the century at the bottom of the pile or leading only the poorer Central American republics. Literacy rates north of 90% are nowadays characteristic of all Latin American republics, as are life expectancies north of 70.

  • Bill Bannon:

    You seem awfully confident that shooting down airliners filled with innocent civilians is morally licit. You base that confidence on the fact that “No Pope nor Bishops have denounced same ongoing orders …”

    You insert your own assumptions about the reasons for that silence after the elipses. But as Elizabeth Anscomb has pointed out and as documented in Denzinger, the argument from the silence of the Holy See has been, itself, explicitly condemned by the Holy See.

    In addition, you engage in a specifically Catholic fallacy I have in other contexts called Magisterial Positivism or the Appeal to finer detail.

  • Zippy,
    Well you are alluding to Denziger without giving the cite nor the context and without showing the actual text; so it remains an allusion only. The Vatican has an obligation to be non silent about iconic issues that are in the larger society though it does not have an obligation to comment on relatively obscure moral questions that pertain to subgroups…like nuances of the investor world. The Vatican as a blanketly non accountable actor is rediculous as a concept. The CDF is really a group of Cardinals making $69 a year til death as celibate men with maid service and I suspect housing. By now they should have commented on Hiroshima…but that’s just me.
    Let’s look at what you didn’t face (Afghanistan) and we’ll give a domestic example: You are camping with your wife and daughter in Alaska and have a .50 caliber pistol with you for protection against grizzly bears. A drunken pregnant woman approaches you three as you eat supper around a fire. Suddenly from 20 feet away, she pulls out a .50 pistol and begins firing at you three. Are you going to let your family be killed by this person because she has innocent(s)
    inside of her or are you going to kill her?
    Pope Benedict is sporadically excessive against violence and you can see it in his apostolic letter ( where he does not have to be as precise as in an encyclical) Verbum Domini sect.42. He states that ” the preaching of the prophets vigorously challenged
    every kind of injustice and violence, whether collective or individual…”. That sounds like
    America magazine or Commonweal…but it’s totally mistaken because Elijah, the only human appointed by God to return right before Christ’s Second Coming…killed 450 Prophets of Baal:
    I Kings 18:40
    ” Then Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Let none of them escape!” They seized them, and Elijah brought them down to the Wadi Kishon and there he slaughtered them.”

    Saul failed to kill Agag as ordered by God so the prophet Samuel had to do it while removing Saul from the kingship due to his failure:
    I Sam.15:33
    “And Samuel said,
    ‘As your sword has made women childless,
    so shall your mother be childless among women.’
    Then he cut Agag to pieces before the LORD.”

    Elisha, the prophet, cursed children who derided him and thus his office and two bears killed 42 of them. God tells Elijah to anoint Elisha and Jehu to a great deal of violence and apparently Elisha is actually Jehu’s back up…God is speaking here:

    I Kings 19:16  “You shall also anoint Jehu, son of Nimshi, as king of Israel, and Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah, as prophet to succeed you.
    17 Anyone who escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill. Anyone who escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill.”

    Apparently Benedict was incorrect. The prophets did not oppose all violence. You have a .50 Smith and Wesson and a drunken pregnant woman is shooting at you and your two ladies from 20 feet away. What would you do?

  • Correction: that’s 69K a year not $69 a year for the Cardinals.

  • I have been emailing representatives of our Hierarchy to see if in fact we have the freedom to take the public position that the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were morally licit and offer potential guidance for any future decisions re: such use of weapons of mass destruction. If this is in fact a prudential matter then I think all of the historical evidence forming the context is worthwhile in forming a Catholic-conscience on this important issue. But if the first principle set forth in #509 in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church is indeed applicable to these bombings then I believe all faithful Catholics would have to conclude that this public debate should be over- just as in the case of certitude that we should have as Catholics on the issue of abortion.

    Archbishop Chaput emailed me back that in his current role he is not able to get directly involved with “outside groups” in commenting directly on our controversy here at this forum. He suggested getting with our own Bishops to seek counsel- I have also sent out a bunch of emails to the Pope and sundry Vatican officials with a link to this article in the hopes of drawing out more official commentary- I’m into longshots and Hail Marys’! I do this because I know that one of the criteria of this blog is that we are offering the public a faithful witness of Catholic orthodoxy- I am also a Catholic theology teacher of our youth- so I am particularly careful to try and find the more exact position of our official Church teaching authorities. I don’t want to overreach in my own application of principles put down in authoritative documents. If there is freedom to take a positive view of the nuclear bombings in Japan due to all the factors presented in this thread- then so be it- I am no idealogue- I have my own frame and background so I know that bias is always a possibility- this is why I/we need the Catholic Magisterium- which promises (through our Lord’s grace) not to lead us into hell through faulty principles and teachings. I am between Bishops at the moment in the midst of a major move across the state- if anyone has contacts with their bishop or email addresses for Vatican officials relevant to our discussion- please share!

  • The Vatican has an obligation to be non silent about iconic issues …

    Good of you to dictate the pace of doctrinal development to the Holy Spirit, Bill.

    Anscombe’s citation from Denzinger is number 1127. It is from a list of “Various Errors on Moral Matters,” condemned in a decree of Sept 24, 1665 by Pope Alexander VII. In my version of Denzinger it is on Page 321, and reads in English translation as follows (remember, this is a condemned proposition):

    “If a book be published by a younger or modern person, its opinion should be considered as probable, since it has not been rejected by the Holy See as improbable.”

    In other words, in arguing that the silence of the Holy See supports your position, you are taking a position which has been expressly condemned by the Holy See.

  • Zippy,
    That is such a stretch from our conversation about the Vatican needing to comment on iconic events known to the whole world…. to book censorship and Vatican silence, that you should have your own TV program on stretching exercises.
    All pacifist leaning internet persons not just you, avoid all questions of what they would do when faced with protecting their daughter etc. in a real situation.
    You avoided the Alaska situation because you’re hoping God will protect you from every such case. I hope He does but He is obviously not protecting many persons from same as Investigation Discovery TV shows 24 hours a day.
    In the Alaska case, I’d shoot the drunken woman and my guidance: God ordering, amongst the ancient Jews only, the stoning of adultresses…period. Adultresses were probably often pregnant and not showing or were showing and were to be stoned. If the Sanhedrin later spared those showing, they had no way of sparing those not showing. I’m very sure the killed children involved are in Heaven right now because God “wills all to be saved” and “it is easy in an instant
    for the Lord to make a poor man rich” Sirach 11:21….ie to wipe away original sin in their case.
    Our Alaska drunkard shares pregnancy as a detail with those whom God commanded to be stoned as adultresses. If later Judaism made exceptions that were no where in the Pentateuch, that could have been wisdom or it could have been foolish as in Saul’s sparing of Agag. Only the Judgement will reveal.
    Peace. You have a good heart. But if you come home someday and a criminal is attacking your wife, put a long screwdriver deep into his ear and into his brain and then deep into his eye and into his brain unless you’re adept at martial arts and then you can go lighter on him with a rear naked choke. Criminals are safer with martial artists in such situations. But you have no obligation to produce their adeptness out of thin air. Samuel may have over done it on Agag because it wasn’t his usual field.

  • Zippy,

    Thanks for joining the conversation.

    How about a gravatar?

    JMJ

    Tito

  • FWIW, Jimmy Akin has addressed the application for the DDE in the context of shooting down a hijacked airliner. I think he did a fine job.

    http://jimmyakin.typepad.com/defensor_fidei/2006/12/shooting_down_h.html

  • Don

    What you mistake for my ignorance, is a distinction I’m making between the bombs being sufficient and the bombs being necessary. Please figure out the difference if you’re going to try to interpret history instead of just describing it.

    You don’t appear to understand my hypothetical about Cuba, and the observation that Batista was providing social services to the majority of poor Cubans would probably be a surprise to them.

    I am not the only one “guessing” here – the difference between my guesses and your guesses is that I’m not justifying massive human slaughter based on them. The historical record can not tell us what would have happened had the bombs not been dropped. Nor can it tell us what would have happened had Truman settled for something less than unconditional surrender. And the fact that the Japanese were not prepared to surrender within 3 days of Hiroshima is not proof that Nagasaki was necessary. This is all mere conjecture, for which the historical record can not tell us much. Saying that Fat Man and Little Boy were sufficient causes for the Japanese to surrender is not the same thing as saying they were necessary for surrender. Causal inference 101. Truman’s mistake was in not being more patient and creative before unleashing such a horrific weapon onto human history. All of the transcripts of stubborn Japanese generals in the world does not prove this to be false, because it is not based on an assumption that the generals were about to buckle. It is based on the idea – promoted by the Magisterium – that certain weapons and actions are uniquely evil and therefore at the very least we must do everything possible – ie, go much further than Truman – to avoid their use. Even if this had meant accepting less than optimal surrender terms by Japan, or taking the risk that they may have by some miracle (perhaps with the help of those aliens you refer to) turned into the same evil empire as before, right below the world’s eyes.

    Finally, I am sorry if earlier I appeared too sensitive. It is agreed that in the future, I will keep in mind that when you hurl inane and witless insults, this is just your idea of fun.

  • “What you mistake for my ignorance, is a distinction I’m making between the bombs being sufficient and the bombs being necessary”

    No Scott your ignorance was quite clear. What you are doing now is flailing about because you were called upon it.

    “and the observation that Batista was providing social services to the majority of poor Cubans would probably be a surprise to them.”

    I see that your ignorance of history Scott is not limited to the decision to drop the bomb. The Cuban people of all classes were far better off economically under Batista than they have been under Castro. I assume that you either missed Art Deco’s comment or are studiously ignoring it.

    “the difference between my guesses and your guesses is that I’m not justifying massive human slaughter based on them.”

    Of course you are Scott. You would have preferred that the bombs not have been dropped and that the war go on until it concluded with far greater loss of life. You do not get to simply cancel out the bombings and then be free from the consequences of your choice.

    “And the fact that the Japanese were not prepared to surrender within 3 days of Hiroshima is not proof that Nagasaki was necessary. This is all mere conjecture,”

    No it isn’t Scott. and I assume you still haven’t looked up the records of the surrender discussions that occurred within the Japanese government between Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or you wouldn’t use the term conjecture.

    “Truman’s mistake was in not being more patient and creative before unleashing such a horrific weapon onto human history.”

    Your mistake Scott is in being blithely indifferent to the consequences of Truman not acting. Of course you do not really care about those consequences. So long as Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not bombed, the fact that millions of Japanese would have died as a result of famine, or as a result of a land invasion in which hundreds of thousands of American troops would have died or been wounded, all while 250,000 Allied citizens died in Japanese occupied territory each month, is simply a matter of indifference to you. If the Japanese government responsible for the war was to be left in power that is also OK with you, if the bombings could be avoided, even at the risk of another Pacific War. I cannot be so cavalier about human life, which is why I support Truman’s decision.

    ” It is agreed that in the future, I will keep in mind that when you hurl inane and witless insults, this is just your idea of fun.”

    Actually people like you who get overwrought about combox to and fro do appeal to my sense of humor. Thanks for giving me a hearty laugh to start off the weekend!

  • To be precise, my point was that Cuba is at this time not all that exceptional in the realm of public health and education and that over more than fifty years annual improvements in production have lagged behind the pace of the rest of Latin America and it has lost many places in regional rankings of economic well-being. I tend to doubt that production levels in Cuba are lower than they were in 1955.

    The rest of Latin America has improved in well-being while building a more liberal-democratic political order. Cuba is not only the most retrograde country in the hemisphere, its government maintains a tyrannical quality exceeded only by North Korea & some cesspits in equatorial Africa.

  • Without the BOMB. Had Japan and Hitler been the two behemoths waging war to dominate the whole world, Hitler, who was obviously a madman and might be likened to Beelzebub, would have lost. The Emperor of Japan, who might be likened to Mephistophiles, would have won. Only the BOMB came between the Emperor of Japan and his conquest of the world. It is said that as the BOMB was being built, Russia was given a daily report, so Russia would have had the BOMB, as well, and there would have been nuclear conflict between Russia and Japan. I think we said that already.

  • This is precisely why I became a medic when I enlisted. Morally, it was so much simpler. And I was pretty good at it. If it’s a just war, you’ve done your bit. If it’s an unjust war, you’ve picked up the pieces. Loved the infantry I was attached to. Great people.

    One thing that is missing, is the issue of who does what to whom. Sometimes, you have to allow bad people to do wrong, constraining their actions as best you can. Had we blockaded the islands, the Japanese, not the Americans, would have been responsible for the effects, not the Americans. The Japanese could mitigate it at any time through surrender.

    Sometimes, you just need to back off and let things run a course you don’t like. Had we walled Japan off from the rest of the world, Americans would not have had to target civilians, and Americans would not have been culpable for what happened. Only the Japanese would have been culpable for the inevitable famine in Japan.

    But that would not have ended Japanese aggression in the rest of Asia. For that, only the Japanese were culpable. We were not. To the extent that we would have attempted to end that aggression, we would have been morally laudable. But we can never do evil that good might result. If there are no good prospects of success, we might… might… be able to step aside and allow evil to exist if we must. This is what we are currently doing with the atrocity of abortion.

    Abortion has killed far more than Japan ever could. Yet we stand against the bombing of abortion clinics, even empty ones, and for justifiable reasons. They are the same reasons one could use to argue against the use of the atomic bomb in Japan.

    Reasonable people can disagree on this, but on a personal level, I would find it easier as a Catholic to be the guy who bandages the wounded than the guy who pulls the trigger, but who would pull the trigger to defend the wounded.

  • Alphatron Shinyskullus

    You are quite right that a blockade would not have been morally problematic.

    The object of a blockade is to interrupt the enemy’s commerce, it is not aimed at killing anyone. Even torpedoing or bombing a blockade-runner has, as its object the sinking of the vessel itself; any casualties are a foreseen, but unintended consequence.

  • Americans would not have escaped culpability for what transpires in Japan had they imposed a naval siege to force surrender. That is how it works out in practice. The sanguinary images surrounding the Royal Navy’s blockade of Germany during WW1, the Nazis’ 900 day siege of St Petersburg (Leningrad) during WW11 and the US air embargo on Iraq after the first Gulf War, all attest to the fact that greater approbrium is attached to the besieger than to defenders, whatever be the merits of the case.

  • Actually MPS that is incorrect. An example of what I am talking about is the British blockade of Germany in World War I which included food stuffs. Some 400-600,OOO German civilians died of malnutrition as a result of this blockade. Japan due to the blockade in World War II would have faced a famine of epic proportions in 1945-1946. MacArthur barely averted the famine historically after the Surrender by massive shipments of food aid from the US, and the establishment of food distribution centers throughout Japan.

  • Yet all the besieged need do is surrender. The siege is aimed at stopping the aggression. The besieged’s intransigence in continuing to resist is the moral evil, not the siege itself. This is why SWAT teams are advised to cordon off a residence and wait for surrender.

    At the same time, a SWAT team must enter the residence if the besieged begins killing hostages. In the case of Japan, it seems this might have occurred. In that instance, perhaps the bomb could have been delayed to see if a blockade could have resulted in surrender or loss of life. It was never tried so we will never know.

  • We do know AS that far more civilians would have died if a famine had taken off in Japan than died in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. By the time of the Surrender the Japanese civilian ration included an edible weed normally used as chicken feed mixed in with the rice to stretch out the rice. The ration was due to be cut in half by November and the Japanese civilians were already starving with the old ration. The famine that was barely prevented in Japan by American food aid following the Surrender is one of the more overlooked factors when Hiroshima and Nagasaki are looked at in the rear view mirror.

  • Bill Bannon:
    If I were you, I wouldn’t be too flip about interpreting your way out of a heresy condemned in 1665 by appealing to some putative difference between books and blog posts. The argument that some modern opinion is more probable because the Holy See hasn’t condemned that opinion has, itself – that substantive mode of argument – been condemned. Insistence that the Holy Spirit simple must bow to popular demand for immediate clarification on ‘key issues’ is very democratic and all; but as I understand things, Heaven is not a democracy.

    Also, I’ve noted in the past that what “pacifist” often seems to mean in online discussions is “believes in stricter rules of engagement than I do”. Nuking a city of civilians can’t be done morally: it is intrinsically immoral, so every right-thinking person’s “rules of engagement” rule it out. A ground invasion would in all likelihood end up killing (foreseeably but accidentally, for those still capable of making that distinction, e.g. the distinction between traffic deaths and murder deaths) more people, soldier and civilian alike; yet it is possible to conduct a ground invasion morally. Apparently favoring the latter (or at least considering it “on the table”) – on the grounds that the former is intrinsically immoral – means I have pacifist tendencies.

    I’ll now be regaled with detailed arguments that human-caused global warming is real and can be stopped by the Kyoto protocol, I mean that ground invasion and limited blockade would have resulted in a Japanese empire ruling the world. But I don’t really care what the global warming fantasists, I mean armchair historical revisionists, have to say. Their self-delusion about knowing counterfactual history and projected futures doesn’t move me in the slightest.

    In the first place, I am unmoved because our first job as Catholic moral actors is to act virtuously: to do concretely good acts and avoid concretely evil acts. Nuking a city of civilians is a concretely evil act, and Catholics are required not merely to refrain from it but to unequivocally condemn it (Catechism).

    In the second place, I am unmoved because in playing with the toy soldier models in their heads or spread out on the tables at the gaming shop every friday night, the fantasists are not dealing with actual reality – just like the warmists. There is no more reason to believe their counterfactual history / projected future ‘models’ than there is to believe anthropocentric global warming models.

  • It’s funny how we come against and condem other nations for their crimes against humanity. Killing and disfiguring hundreds of innocent women and children and babies. Yet when it comes to the horrors of what those who died and those who survived the nuclear bombs—no notices or thinks to care. I have seen films on the aftermath of what was done to those women, children an babies. Alive skin torn in huge chunks to the bone. Wounds that still haunt me even years and years later. Horrible burns over so much of their little bodies. You’ll view pictures of the holocost and find them horrible. I gaurantee if you view picture of the victims of the atomic bombs not only will you become sick to your stomic but you can’t help but cry. I pray I shall never view such devastation again in my life. I dare everyone to search out films of the aftermath which show what happened to those who survived right after the bombs fell. Look at those people, the women, the children, the babies. Imagine Russia or any other country doing the same to us. Using the same reasoning our country did, would you say they were right? Would they have the right then to innialate two of our citys, killing all and inducing horrible wounds and burns upon our children and babies. What if North Korea is contemplating such a move right now if they feel threatend by us. What if it was the city where your loved ones lived????

  • I think that the Age of Blogging is a new place of major challenge for wanna-be orthodox Catholics- armchair social teaching application has moved out of the barbershops and entered the world wide web of information dissemination. With this sudden new access to a broader public- I think we need to keep in mind this from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine:

    539. In the particular Church, the primary responsibility for the pastoral commitment to evangelize social realities falls to the Bishop, assisted by priests, religious men and women, and the laity. With special reference to local realities, the Bishop is responsible for promoting the teaching and diffusion of the Church’s social doctrine, which he should do through appropriate institutions.

    For example – I’m not comfortable at all that the overall message being delivered by a wanna-be orthodox Catholic blog is that the dropping of nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were morally justified- in part because of the other bad alternatives, and part because civilians lose their identity as non-combatants if they do not take warnings of bombings serious enough to depart the areas being threatened. My worry is not over how much judgement we should heap upon then-President Truman or the Catholic Americans of that time who supported the nuclear decision. My chief concern is that we get our first principles right and straight here and now- lest we fumble our way into another historical lesson gone awry. Now, while I remain unconvinced that the first principle expressed by the Magisterium here-

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

    is to be side-stepped due to the reasons mentioned in this article- I am as well open to being enlightened by the proper teaching authorities of the Church. So, again I reiterate- all of us who have been commenting and leaving a trail of our take on the Catholic truth to be taken away from this teachable moment on the internet- we all need, if we are indeed wanna-be orthodox Catholics- to make the attempt to consult with our Bishop or someone in the Hierarchy who could take up the responsibility to lend his view on the acceptability of a range of views- pro or con- on the thesis being set forth here- that we have the doctrinal freedom to look at Hiroshima and Nagasaki without being sent straight to the first principle quoted above- for unhesitating condemnation of the acts and any support given the acts to this day.

    I am in the midst of a major move, but I emailed Archbishop Chaput who responded that the Blog was an “outside group” that falls out of his jurisdiction- but recommended we get in touch with our local Bishops. Trust me- when I get re-settled in the Diocese of Venice, Florida, I will be putting in a call or a letter to the Bishop there and will report back later. I have sent emails to Vatican officials- if I hear back I will let everyone know that as an update as well- as a short blog entry to bring this topic up fresh. Can I ask all the wanna-be orthodox Catholics reading this to do something similar and make haste to their Bishop and let us know if we have strayed into public scandal territory- or if we are right where we should be as lay Catholics grappling with a major moral issue from the past that has present and future implications in the way we think about the use of weapons of mass destruction. I am have offered my opinion to this point as has everyone else- with no real resolution- so as a convert I appreciate that this is the place where the Catholic Hierarchy can play a deciding role- and I think it is warranted because of all the confusion generated in this one article and commentary – among thoughtful Catholics. Any takers on this challenge to check on our responsibility not to bring public scandal to our Faith?

  • “We do know AS that far more civilians would have died if a famine had taken off in Japan than died in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. By the time of the Surrender the Japanese civilian ration included an edible weed normally used as chicken feed mixed in with the rice to stretch out the rice. The ration was due to be cut in half by November and the Japanese civilians were already starving with the old ration. The famine that was barely prevented in Japan by American food aid following the Surrender is one of the more overlooked factors when Hiroshima and Nagasaki are looked at in the rear view mirror.”

    That part is was not taught in history classes when I was in college. I did not know that, and it certainly changes things. I’m glad you pointed it out. I wonder why the liberals never go on a rant about the moral culpability of the Japanese leadership in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? It seems they bore most of it.

  • Lillian Connor,

    Self-defense is not a crime. Why didn’t the Japanese government surrender to protect their citizens? The Japanese government’s rage to dominate the world was more important to them then their own people. What do you think the Japanese would have done to us if they had succeeded in Pearl Harbor? Los Angeles? San Francisco? Hitler had a plan to invade America. Japan’s plan to invade America and conquer the world was so old that it was inculturated.

    Zippy,
    Everytime you say Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I think Pearl Harbor. I think Okinawa, Tarawa
    Iwo Jima. Bataan. It is burned into my memory like the flesh burned from the people, and I do not say victims, I say people, of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. You are doing to us what the Holocaust deniers are doing to Pope Pius XII.
    Japan coveted the Hawiian Islands for centuries as an outpost, a stepping stone to conquer America and then the whole world. You and I, Zippy, would be speaking Japanese if it weren’t for the BOMB, and there would be plenty of American flesh hanging off the bones of American citizens in the aftermath without the BOMB.
    In India the people have a saying: “When two elephants fight, only the grass get trampled.” Do you want to be the dandelion or the daisey? Let me be the other.

  • “Americans would not have had to target civilians,”
    Amercans did not target civilians. There were civilians in Pearl Habor. Did the Japanese target the Pearl Harbor civilians? No. The Japanese goal was to conquer the Hawaiian Ilsand and targeting civilians would not further their goal. Forcing the surrender of Japan by destroying the aggressor’s cities was the goal of the BOMB.

  • Mary De Voe:
    Everytime you say Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I think Pearl Harbor. I think Okinawa, Tarawa Iwo Jima. Bataan.

    In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t defended any of the effervescent wickedness of the Japanese Empire. Yes, the Empire brought war upon itself, and we justly set out to defend ourselves from their wickedness.

    It does not follow, however, that the mass scale destruction of civilian cities using conventional and atomic weapons can be morally justified. It cannot. Furthermore, Catholics have an obligation to unequivocally condemn such acts.

    The fact that self (and other) defense is justified does not license any conduct whatsoever in carrying out that defense. Many kinds of concrete acts are absolutely prohibited, and nuking civilian cities isn’t the only kind. Things like mass rape are also prohibited, for example, even if those concrete acts in fact and demonstrably have a demoralizing effect on an enemy and can bring about a faster end to war, ultimately saving lives (at least as measured by statistics: particular fates of particular individuals will vary, of course).

    Licit ends to not imply that every means is morally acceptable. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were morally abominable means. That both the means and ends of the Japanese empire were morally abominable does not license us to use morally abominable means to oppose them.

  • “Americans did not target civilians”

    Perhaps I misspoke. Urban areas with large numbers of civilians were targeted. General Douglas MacArthur didn’t think either city had significant military value. Eisenhower and MacArthur both thought the bombings were unnecessary. Admiral William Leahy, chief of staff to Roosevelt and Truman wrote “”The use of the atomic bomb, with its indiscriminate killing of women and children, revolts my soul.” We can grasp all we want at the fact that there were military installations there, but we knew we would be killing a lot of civilians.

    http://www.doug-long.com/quotes.htm

  • I am have offered my opinion to this point as has everyone else- with no real resolution- so as a convert I appreciate that this is the place where the Catholic Hierarchy can play a deciding role- and I think it is warranted because of all the confusion generated in this one article and commentary – among thoughtful Catholics.

    If you think that statements from individual bishops are going to move the needle for folks who are rationalizing away the clear statement in the Catechism, which was issued by the Pope, I expect you’ve got another thing coming.

  • It is really amazing to see those who haven’t served for one microsecond the country that gave them the freedom they have to utter such words of nonsense and pontificate with pharasitical self-righteousness, as if speaking as the official interpreter of the Magisterium, Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture.

    Given a lawful order, however, I would have still (with much fear and trembling) pushed the button (as it were) to save the lives and the freedom of these ungrateful individuals when during the Cold War I was on patrol under the waves. I require no approval from the ungrateful for doing what is right and correct, nor does any submariner. And the same applies to Truman and those who “dropped the bomb” to end a horrible war.

  • Zippy,
    Be careful not to overstate the distant past papacy in the matter of your 1665 example. Here is the perfect example below from 1520AD of a like condemnation which proved with development to have been perfectly erroneous yet people then were excommunicated for agreeing with Luther although the vast majority of the Catholic hierarchy right now in our day agrees with the Lutherian position that was condemned.

    First you will see Luther’s opposition to burning heretics…then you will read Pope Leo X condemn it under pain of excommunication with great fanfare but not with agreement of Bishops but rather with agreement of Cardinals oddly enough:

    33. That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit.

    With the advice and consent of these our venerable brothers (Cardinals paren.mine) with mature deliberation on each and every one of the above theses, and by the authority of almighty God, the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own authority, we condemn, reprobate, and reject completely each of these theses or errors as either heretical, scandalous, false, offensive to pious ears or seductive of simple minds, and against Catholic truth. By listing them, we decree and declare that all the faithful of both sexes must regard them as condemned, reprobated, and rejected . . . We restrain all in the virtue of holy obedience and under the penalty of an automatic major excommunication….
    ……………………………………………………………

    So Zippy….this Exsurge Domine1520…if still valid in some far right mind, would mean that after Vatican II opposed coercion in religion, literally the entire Church would be excommunicated latae sentenciae for seeing burning Protestants as against God’s will.
    The Church now agrees with Luther and disagrees with Leo X. The Church should review all these old documents and state where they err, when are they relevant, how far does their underlying principles obtain. Until the CDF does such work, I generally ignore them as suffused with the problematic. This goes to the oddity that we have one billion Catholics and 11 Cardinals working at the CDF while there should be several hundred…and they should not be bogged down over long with problems like the SSPX. They should be fixing the chaos in dogmatics whereby Catholics have little sense of which documents are really de fide, infallible, common theological opinion, no longer valid… etc etc….because Denzinger itself is edited by non Popes…like Karl Rahner when he was alive. The far right is always schisming precisely because they hold an old papal document over a new one and call the old one infallible while the Popes will see the old document as superceded by an Ecumenical Council.

  • Tim Shipe,
    All a Bishop can do is give you his opinion on whether warning civilians changes the bombing from indiscriminate to e.g. regettable but moral. But he can’t point to a document of great weight that has addressed that very dichotomy already…that’s why people can only point to texts that in our eyes presumes no warning period…but in others’ eyes presumes both warnings or no warnings. A second dichotomy is those who see civilians as helpless to obey the warning and those who see them as obligated even under duress to obey the warnings. There is no document that covers the latter issues. One group sees the “indiscriminate” word as covering all these issues and the other group says they are giving the text and that one word.. credit for facing questions that it has not faced.
    And you would have to be sure your new Bishop is credible on security issues. Did he protect Catholic children from sexual predators or did he endanger boys by too soon returning fast therapied priests to parishes. You wouldn’t seek counsel on security issues from a Bishop who placed predators near new children.
    Sirach 37:11
    ” 11 Do not consult a woman about her rival, or a coward about war….”

  • Paul,

    It is not a display of “pharasitical self-rightousness” for a Catholic to proclaim the clear and unambigous teaching of the Magisterium:

    “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.” – CCC 2314

    Those words either mean what they say, or they do not.

    You may of course describe describe such words as “nonsense” if you so choose (you would certainly not be the first), but nevertheless the fact remains that this is what Catholics believe. Or at least his is what they publicly proclaim that they believe at every Mass with the reciting of the Creed (or is that also just more “pontificating”?).

    We all have a free choice to make: whether to follow the teachings of Christ or to follow the teachings of Man.

    The fact that many times this can be an extremely difficult choice to make does not relieve us of the responsability of having to make it.

  • Considering that Pope John Paul II found nuclear deterrence to be moral, Andre, I find your statement as to the unambiguous teaching of the Magisterium to be completely misplaced, unless one indulges in the fantasy that our missiles were not aimed at Soviet cities.

    From an earlier comment I made on this Purgatory of a comment thread:

    “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.” Pope John Paul II, Message to the UN Special Session (1982)

    Let us think this through. Nuclear deterrence was moral. Nuclear deterrence only worked on the assumption that if the US was nuked it would nuke the USSR. The idea that such deterrence was moral only if it was a simple bluff strikes me as ludicrous. Let us be honest here. Nuclear deterrence was deemed moral by John Paul II and his predecessors because they understood that the West dropping its nukes would have been suicidal. As a matter of fact, when the US bishops were drafting their anti-nuke pastoral in 1983, Cardinal Bernadin behind the scenes, deep sixed a call for unilateral disarmament because Bernardin, committed liberal though he was, understood that if the bishops came out for uniltateral disarmament they would be viewed as nutcases and not be taken seriously by anyone. George Weigel, the biographer of John Paul II has the details here:

    “Archbishop Bernardin’s shaping of the war/peace committee was a classic expression of his ecclesial and political style. As for the bishop-members of the committee, get the pacifist (Thomas Gumbleton) and the former military chaplain (John J. O’Connor) aboard in order to define the “extremes,” then appoint two other bishops who could be counted on to follow the lead of Bernardin and the committee’s chief staffer, Father Hehir, in defining the liberal “consensus.” That was clever, if not terribly original, bureaucratic maneuvering. What was more telling was Bernardin’s instruction to the committee members at the beginning of their work: namely, that the one policy option they would not consider was unilateral nuclear disarmament. For that option, adopted, would brand the bishops as cranks who would no longer be “in play” in the public-policy debate.”

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2011/01/the-end-of-the-bernardin-era

  • Tim Shipe:
    I hate to say I told you so, but, I told you so. Preemptively, on the part of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki apologists, nothing any bishop says can gainsay the righteous holiness of the nuclear fire. That possession of nukes is morally licit implies that their use against civilian populations cannot possibly be intrinsically immoral, under the impenetrable McClarey “strikes me as ludicrous” rubric.

  • “Thank you, Donald”

    No problem Paul. People can say whatever fool thing they wish, but attempting to make you ashamed of your service to our country is beneath contempt.

  • And of course the Zipless Wonder does not respond as to how nuclear deterrence could be moral if the use of nukes against Soviet cities was immoral since that was the only way nuclear deterence worked. Fortunately the Popes did not agree with him that Catholicism is a suicide pact in the nuclear world.

  • Donald,

    I believe that you have totally misunderstood the point that JPII was making in his Message to the Un Assembly on June 7, 1982.
    I defy any honest observer to read the transcript of that speech(http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/speeches/1996/documents/hf_jp-ii_mes_07061982_gen-assembly-onu_en.html) and point out anywhere that it could in any plausible way be argued that JPII indicted that the “indiscriminate destruction of whole cities” would be anything other than a great moral evil. To even suggest such a thing is completely absurd.

    To casually proffer the claim that “Pope John Paul II found nuclear deterence to be moral” without context or qualification is either an act of self-serving dishonesty or of gross ignorance.

    If you haven’t actually read the whole text of the speech, but have only cribbed a line or two from some secondary source, then go read it now, before you further undermine the credibility of some of your other, better arguments with such silliness.

  • No Andre, I was familiar with the entire speech. My interpretation of the Pope’s words is entirely accurate. John Paul II obviously wanted disarmament, but he was also a realist who understood that nuclear deterrence had kept the peace.
    Mine is not some unusal interpretation, but is accepted by such critics of nuclear deterrence as Archbishop Migliori:

    http://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/blogs/this-catholic-s-view/posts/vatican-questions-nuclear-deterrence

    Some theologians disagreed with the pope. In 1988 John Finis, Joseph Boyle, Jr and Germain Grisez wrote a book called Nuclear Deterrence, Morality and Realism in which they examined nuclear deterrence and judged that it could not be morally justified because it stood upon inflicting harm to innocent people.

    http://www.amazon.com/Nuclear-Deterrence-Morality-Realism-Finnis/dp/0198247915

    Now the interesting thing about this tome is that the three authors understood, and truly deplored, what they assumed would be the consequences in the unlikely event that the United States embraced what they were arguing: the destruction of freedom and a world dominated by the Soviet Union. ( It was ironic that the book came out as the Soviet Union was heading for the ashheap of history.) Fortunately, this is not what the Popes have held. Why not? Because the Popes have real power and responsibility. They do not merely toss around arguments in comboxes. As a result, the Popes have accepted nuclear deterrence, and the forthright statement of John Paul II noting that it was morally acceptable was merely a recognition of the reality that the Popes had lived with for decades.

  • “John Paul II obviously wanted disarmament, but he was also a realist who understood that nuclear deterrence had kept the peace.”
    - Donald.

    There you go again. You repeat the same mischaracterization and misleading oversimplification of the position laid out by JPII in the speech in question. The whole point of his speech was not a validation of the policy of deterence but a pointed criticism of it! While acknowledging that it had “worked” so far, he clearly held that it was a long term losing proposition and that a new way must be found:

    “Many even think that such preperations constitute the way – even the only way – to safeguard peace in some fashion or at least to impede to the utmost in an efficacious way the outbreak of war, especially major conflicts….As my Predecessor Paul VI put it: “The logic underlying the request for the balances of power impels each of the adversaries to seek to insure a certain margin of superiority, for fear of being left at a disadvantage”…Thus in practice the temptation is easy- and the danger always present- to see the search for balance turned into a search for superiority of a type that sets off the arms race in an even more dangerous way. In reality this is the tendancy which seams to continue to be prevelent today perhaps in an even more accentuated fashion than in the past….The actual convocation of this meeting indicates a judgement: the nations of the world are already overarmed and are overcommitted to policies that continue that trend. Implicit in this judgement is the conviction that this is wrong and that the nations so involved in these actions need to re-think their positions.” -JPII\

    That is not an endorsment of the modern theory of Nuclear Deterence, that is a clarion call of warning about the ultimate disaster to which it may be leading. Your interpretation of the Popes opinion is not “entirely accurate”, it is ass-backwards.

    I must also point out that the version of “Deterence” that JPII supported as a minimally acceptable and temporary stop gap measure was not at all the Satanic cartoon version you have presented. It was most emphatically not “if you attack us we will commit massive war crimes targeted against your civilian population”. The morally acceptable theory of Deterence based on “balance of power” was that a nation could maintain adaquate military standing so that in the event of an attack it was capable of defending itself to a sufficiant degree that the aggressor would have a powerful incentive not to attack in the first place. From the Christian perspective, it goes without saying that any such defensive response must conform to well established moral guidelines. That could take many forms short of a targeted campaign of genoicide against the attackers civilian population.

    Never having had access to Classified information, I have no definitive knowledge of what targets our missles where pre-programed to strike, but I agree with you that it would probably rise to the level of “fantasy” to assume that they were not targeted on Soviet cities. But that is an indictment of the morality of our strategic military posture during those years, not a defense of it, and to imply, if not outright claim , that John Paul II would have supported such an irredemably evil strategy is as monsterously slanderous as it is historicaly uniformed and completely without basis in the evidence.

  • Bill Bannon

    There is always a danger of reading into papal condemnations more than the words will bear.

    As Blessed John Henry Newman put it, in his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk:-

    “As to the condemnation of propositions all she tells us is, that the thesis condemned when taken as a whole, or, again, when viewed in its context, is heretical, or blasphemous, or impious, or whatever like epithet she affixes to it. We have only to trust her so far as to allow ourselves to be warned against the thesis, or the work containing it. Theologians employ themselves in determining what precisely it is that is condemned in that thesis or treatise; and doubtless in most cases they do so with success; but that determination is not de fide; all that is of faith is that there is in that thesis itself, which is noted, heresy or error, or other like peccant matter, as the case may be, such, that the censure is a peremptory command to theologians, preachers, students, and all other whom it concerns, to keep clear of it. But so light is this obligation, that instances frequently occur, when it is successfully maintained by some new writer, that the Pope’s act does not imply what it has seemed to imply, and questions which seemed to be closed, are after a course of years re-opened. In discussions such as these, there is a real exercise of private judgment and an allowable one; the act of faith, which cannot be superseded or trifled with, being, I repeat, the unreserved acceptance that the thesis in question is heretical, or the like, as the Pope or the Church has spoken of it

    In these cases which in a true sense may be called the Pope’s negative enunciations, the opportunity of a legitimate minimizing lies in the intensely concrete character of the matters condemned; in his affirmative enunciations a like opportunity is afforded by their being more or less abstract. Indeed, excepting such as relate to persons, that is, to the Trinity in Unity, the Blessed Virgin, the Saints, and the like, all the dogmas of Pope or of Council are but general, and so far, in consequence, admit of exceptions in their actual application,—these exceptions being determined either by other authoritative utterances, or by the scrutinizing vigilance, acuteness, and subtlety of the Schola Theologorum.”

    This is particularly true, where the condemned propositions are subject to a global censure (as was the case in Exurge Domine) ranging from “heretical” to “offensive to pious ears.” Perhaps, Clement XI’s condemnation of 101 propositions, extracted from the works of Pasquier Quesnel [Unigenitus (September 8, 1713)] and to which the subscription of the clergy was required, furnishes the best example. By contrast, when Innocent X condemned the Five Propositions [Cum Occasione (May 31, 1653), a specific censure was attached to each of them.

    Moreover, infallibility is a purely negative charism. It is does not mean that popes or councils receive a divine illumination that enables them to pronounce definitively on every controverted question. It took rather more than four hundred years (reckoning from Sixtus IV to Pius IX to come to a definitive judgement on the Immaculate Conception, with Trent ducking the issue and Pius V [Super Speculam, 1570]; forbidding public discussions on the issue).

  • John Paul II understood what he was doing Andre when he endorsed nuclear deterrence as moral. It is fanciful to think that he understood nuclear deterrence to be other than the balance of terror between the United States and the Soviet Union. You disagree so you deploy a lot of verbiage and outrage to conceal the very simple fact that what you wish Papal policy was, a condemnation of nuclear deterrence, simply is not what the Popes have chosen to do.

  • Michael PS
    Butt covering. Newman: ” So light is the obligation…etc.”. Exsurge Domine: “We restrain all…under the penalty of an automatic major excommunication.”
    Picture a highly intelligent Non Catholic reader at this thread trying to reconcile Newman and thou….with Exsurge Domine’s automatic major excommunication irrespective of the “impious to pious ears” nature of an article. He’d look no further into Catholicism. We need a major overhaul and explicit classification and criticism of past documents and we need to drop the illusion of the hermeneutic of continuity. Lol…the Vatican executed 500 criminals in the first half of the 19th century in the papal states and now Popes are trying to stop all executions including of mass murderers like Timothy McVeigh and Saddam Hussein….and this is continuity. God supports burning heretics 1520 AD…God’s against burning heretics 1964 AD…continuity?

  • Bill,
    The Church is composed if sinners who commit all kinds of errors. The Holy Spirit’s protection only applies to the teaching of error. This is not hard to grasp, really, but it is an important distinction.

  • We need a major overhaul and explicit classification and criticism of past documents and we need to drop the illusion of the hermeneutic of continuity.

    Yeah, that’s just what we need. Wait, we already have it: it is called “Anglicanism”.

  • Donald:
    …attempting to make you ashamed of your service to our country is beneath contempt.

    I have three brothers who are veterans and two nephews currently serving (a coastie and a jarhead), so trying to paint me as holding the military in contempt isn’t any more credible than the “pacifist” tripe. And there is no shortage of valiant military men who have condemned the use of nukes and firebombs on civilian populations.

    Not that that ad hominem sidetrack in the discussion has any bearing on the “firm and unequivocal condemnation” doctrinally required of Catholics in the case of “every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants”.

  • I wasn’t referring to you Zippy in regard to my comment, however citing your relatives who have served in the US military is beside the point. If the US embraced your position regarding nuclear weapons we would all have been radioactive dust long ago, including your relatives who served.

  • I think it is rather telling that in this thread, supporters of the use of the atomic bomb on civilian populations are so fixated on ad hominem: on the red herring of the man rather than the objective act. “Bob is a good guy, and he says X” and “saying that X is wrong is accusing Bob because of personal things about Bob; but Bob is a great guy” are forms of ad hominem: the idea is to distract the discussion from the substantive issue at hand by focusing on some particular man, as if that distraction had any bearing on the substantive issue at hand.

    But the mass murder of civilian populations (via nuclear ordinance or conventional), is morally abominable, period. I don’t get to choose who supports these abominable acts and who, with the Church, condemns them. The people who make that choice for themselves are the ones doing the choosing. I fully appreciate that some people are faced with a more difficult choice than others: that personal history, personal ties, etc can make it a far more tangled choice for some than for others.

    But that again has no bearing whatsoever on an objective moral evaluation of the act itself. Dragging those things into the discussion is just a form of ad hominem.

  • Donald:
    … however citing your relatives who have served in the US military is beside the point.

    We agree about that. Others in this thread citing their own military service is also beside the point.

  • Mike,
    I think you may have missed the detail that Exsurge Domine condemned under excommunication what we now teach implicitly as truth…article 33 (Luther’s position then) was condemned then and implicitly affirmed now. That is teaching error then in 1520. The guidance of the Holy Spirit in teaching is clear only in de fide and infallible areas. Here is Fr. Brian Harrison otherwise and exactly on Leo X excommunicating for non support of burning heretics:
    . Therefore, especially in the light of the fact that the burning of heretics (or, indeed, their execution by any other method) formed absolutely no part of Catholic practice or tradition for the first thousand years of church history, and in fact, was explicitly repudiated by councils and popes as recently as the 11th century (cf. B2 and B3 above), I do not believe it is incumbent on Catholic apologists in the third millennium to go to great lengths trying to defend this non-infallible decision of Leo X.”
    In short, Harrison is saying the obvious…where infallibility is not present, the Church can err not just in actions but in teaching. He is saying what Ludwig Ott implies in the Intro to his Fundamentals of the Catholic Faith:
    With regard to the doctrinal teaching of the Church it must be well noted that not all the assertions of the Teaching Authority of the Church on questions of Faith and morals are infallible and consequently irrevocable. Only those are infallible which emanate from General Councils representing the whole episcopate, and the Papal Decisions Ex Cathedra (cf. D 1839). The ordinary and usual form of the Papal teaching activity is not infallible. Further, the decisions of the Roman Congregations (Holy Office, Bible Commission) are not infallible. Nevertheless normally they are to be accepted with an inner assent which is based on the high supernatural authority of the Holy See (assensus internus supernaturalis, assensus religiosus). The so-called “silentium obsequiosum.” that is “reverent silence,” does not generally suffice. By way of exception, the obligation of inner agreement may cease if a competent expert, after a renewed scientific investigation of all grounds, arrives at the positive conviction that the decision rests on an error .”
    So the Holy Spirit guides teaching perfectly only where infallibility, inerrancy etc. is present.
    Where it is not, His guidance is rather on putting limits to the perniciousness of the degree of error. The error in Exsurge Domine prolonged the burning of human beings in a context Vatican II condemns. That is not light…but it is also not deep error like Manichaeans seeing childbirth as the imprisonment of the divine light. It is such deep dogmatic error that leads to actions as a root to branches that is impossible in Catholicism while simple but fearful moral error has happened and been taught.

  • So, Zippy, you have painted yourself into Nirvana or probably limbo. One cannot live another person’s life for them. America can only try to prevent JAPAN’S annihilation of us, as equal human beings. You would proscribe self-defense as no defense. Have you no soul? THAT IS RATIONAL AND IMMORTAL? Sorry Zippy. It was self-defense and intended as self-defense. The fact that not a square inch of territory except that as was needed for graves for our military heroes is proof positive that the BOMB was self-defense. We took no slaves as did the abominable Japanese, not property either, and America rebuilt Japan. I suppose you drive a Mitsubishi auto. I do not. If the atomic bomb saved one innocent American life, it was worth it.

  • Scott:
    “Truman’s mistake was in not being more patient and creative before unleashing such a horrific weapon onto human history.” Truman’s mistake was in not letting Japan annihilate us. Would you be here?

  • Mary De Voe:

    I agree that dropping the atomic bomb(s) on Japan was self defense. It was self-defense using morally abominable means.

    In Catholic moral theology, there are certain concrete acts – intrinsically immoral acts – which cannot be justified, ever. That means among other things that they cannot be justified even as the means to a perfectly legitimate end, such as self defense. I gave the example above of mass rape: mass rape of civilian women might shorten the war by demoralizing the enemy, but it is nonetheless never morally acceptable.

    Some Catholics attempt to justify the Bomb by appealing to the principle of double-effect. But the principle of double-effect only applies when (among other criteria) the means chosen to achieve the end is not intrinsically immoral. Tom McKenna explained above why it cannot apply here.

    But one need not understand the moral theology of the matter in detail in this case anyway, because the Magisterium has been crystal clear that “firm and unequivocal condemnation” is doctrinally required of Catholics in the case of “every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants”.

    Even when it is done in self defense.

  • Zippy: “Even when it is done in self defense.”
    That is a 180 of what the Catholic Church, in fact, said. It is your private opinion.

    “every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants”. An act of self defense is not an act of war or aggression. And it certainly was not “indiscriminate”, but was calculated to end the war sooner than later. Obliterating the teachings of the Catholic Church to promote your own agenda is rather appalling. When the World War II veterans call the BOMB immoral, you will have my ear.

  • Bill Bannon

    The “lightness of the obligation” refers to the fact that papal pronouncements are frequently found to imply less than was thought at the time of their promulgation, or even by the author himself.

    Who doubts that “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” the doctrine of “St. Ignatius, St. Irenæus, St. Cyprian in the first three centuries, as of St. Augustine and his contemporaries in the fourth and fifth,” as Newman notes, was understood in a more comprehensive sense than it is taught now? However, we believe with the Fathers that “there is no other communion or so called Church, but the Catholic, in which are stored the promises, the sacraments, and other means of salvation.”

    Again, a superficial reader of the acts of that council might conclude that Chalcedon had condemned the formula “one Nature incarnate of God the Word,” [??? ????? ??? ???? ????? ???????????] but the eighth canon of the Fifth Ecumenical Council declared it orthodox, if those using it “accept it as the Fathers taught, that by a hypostatic union of the Divine nature and the human, one Christ was effected” even though “Mia Phusis” was the watchword of the Monophysite party.
    Laurentius Berti was denounced by two French bishops, for reviving Jansenism, but in May 1751, Pope Benedict XIV, declared that nothing had been found in his work contrary to any decision of the Church.

    In our own day, Henri de Lubac’s Surnaturel was long suspected of Modernist teachings condemned in Lamentabili and Pascendi; it is now hailed as a pivotal moment in the history of 20th century Catholic theology. The same is true, to a lesser extent, of works by Bouyer, Chenu, Congar, Daniélou and Maréchal; these five, together with de Lubac are now recognized as the leading theologians of the last century. Again, we have had the recognition that the 40 propositions of Rosmini can bear an orthodox sense.

    Papal and Conciliar pronouncements are often the starting-point, rather than the termination of a process of theological development.

  • Michael PS
    Yes…..but that long term progress didn’t help the heretic dying from flames for 5 or more centuries ( I realize scholars are ever at work whittling an Inquisitor’s 31K burn figure down to one man in downtown Madrid). And I’m all for the death penalty but the Gentiles…us…were only given it for murder alone in Genesis 9:6 and asked to shed blood not cook it…echoed in Rom.13:4 with the icon…”sword” not fire. CCC #58 and #71 say that that Noachide covenant lasts til the end of time….tell that to CCC #2267 which ignores a 3% arrest rate in Guatemala
    ( meaning modern penology or life sentences could only protect Guatemalans from 3% of
    murderers…with our hierarchy showing no awareness whatsoever). Adieu. Donald wants this thread to stop being the Hotel California.

  • (I realize scholars are ever at work whittling an Inquisitor’s 31K burn figure down to one man in downtown Madrid).

    I believe there were 2,800 executions by various means, mostly between 1478 and 1530.

  • tell that to CCC #2267 which ignores a 3% arrest rate in Guatemala
    ( meaning modern penology or life sentences could only protect Guatemalans from 3% of
    murderers…with our hierarchy showing no awareness whatsoever).

    Unless you are planning a mess of extra-judicial executions, the police and courts are not going to protect than from any more than 3% even if the ultimate penalty is instituted. Guatemala needs to make incremental improvements in its civil service and its courts. Firing squads may be just, but that is a side issue.

  • ” Adieu. Donald wants this thread to stop being the Hotel California.”

    Correct. Let’s stay on topic please.

  • The Catechism states:
    “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.”

    Mary De Voe responds to the Catechism:
    “An act of self defense is not an act of war or aggression.”

    Defining the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as not-war is a transparently desperate rationalization. If self-defense is not-war by definition, as you would apparently have it, then the whole just war theory of the Church – both jus ad bellum and jus in bello – kind of goes out the window.

  • Whenever my father heard folks saying we shouldn’t have dropped the bomb he would say, “They weren’t sittin’ in the Phillipines waiting to invade Japan like I was.”

  • True Gil. Like my uncle Chuck who had fought his way across the Pacific in the Marine Corps and thought that he was certain to die in the invasion, or my uncle Bill who served on a destroyer and assumed, after what he saw at Okinawa, that a Kamikaze could well take out his ship sometime during the invasion. The news of the Surrender hit those men like a rescission of a death sentence.

  • Zippy: There is force, the Armed Forces, the Air Force, the Police Force. Then there is violence, which does violence to all mankind and creation. Violence does violence There is a difference. Force ends violence. You will know them by what they do. In your sense, Lucifer would still be cruisin’ around heaven ridiculing almighty and eternal God…for creating him.

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