Donald R. McClarey
PopeWatch sometimes fears that the Pope Emeritus is in jeopardy of becoming the forgotten pope. Sandro Magister at his blog Chiesa brings to our attention of a perceptive new look at his papacy by a Japanese agnostic:
A NONCONFORMIST ON THE THRONE OF PETER
by Hajime Konno
Benedict XVI entered the stage of world politics as a Church leader endowed with clear principles and strong will. The name selected as pope, Benedict, indicated his pessimistic diagnosis of the times, or his comparison between the situation today and the late-Roman decadence at the time of Saint Benedict. Already in his homily on the eve of his election to the see, on April 18, 2005, he had clearly taken a position in this regard.
The pope’s objective was first of all the defense and reinforcement of the Christian foundations of Europe, even though during his pontificate the curia also dealt intensively with relations with non-European countries, as for example the socialist republics of China and Vietnam. Benedict did not intend to subject himself to fashion and limit himself to governing with diligence. He wanted to decide what should be changed and what not, always on the basis of the Church’s position and independently of the spirit of the times. He was by no means pledged to anti-modernism. He simply intended to preserve the elements that he saw as necessary for the Church, regardless of the fact of whether they were modern or premodern. He eliminated the papal tiara from the pontifical coat of arms, he renounced the title of “patriarch of the West,” he addressed environmental problems with passion.
Above all he was, de facto, the pope of the “logos”: with the power of his words, his most powerful weapon, he fought for Christian Europe. He opened the Church to the most recent means of communication, including YouTube and Twitter, he rehabilitated Latin and the Tridentine Mass, he reached out to the Fraternity of Saint Pius X, he consolidated the liturgy as the solemn actualization of the mysteries, he placed the Eucharist at the center of Christian life, he encouraged the administration of communion on the tongue and was not afraid, even after the much-criticized discourse in Regensburg, to discuss the violence of radical Islamists.
As interlocutors in the ecumenical movement, Pope Benedict XVI carefully chose Churches like the Orthodox and the Anglican, establishing good contacts with both while still inviting conservative Anglican dissidents to join the Catholic Church. The culmination of the friendship between Catholic and Orthodox was the encounter with the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople. Benedict XVI also went to Great Britain, meeting with both Queen Elizabeth and the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and beatifying Cardinal John Henry Newman in Glasgow. It was not possible to organize a trip to Russia, yet Benedict also had good relations with the patriarch of Moscow, Cyril I, since he was metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad. Although at the time of the council Ratzinger had worked for a positive evaluation of Protestantism, Pope Benedict XVI kept his distance from the “ecclesial communities” of the Reformation.
The progressives inside and outside of the Catholic Church did not recognize the pope’s ability to act autonomously apart from the spirit of the time. To these groups a pontiff who had as his motto “cooperatores veritatis” appeared as an arrogant, unbearable prince of the Church. They did all they could to promote a negative image of the pope and rejoiced over his unexpected resignation. Among the means used, an important role was given to anti-Germanism. The method of stigmatizing Ratzinger as German, even though he rarely emphasized his Germanic identity, resembles that used by anti-Semitism when even Jewish converts are still accused of remaining Jews.
In Germany, his birthplace, Pope Benedict XVI has always been a topic of debate. On the one hand his election was a sort of stroke of liberation. The fact that a German had been elected pope and therefore, so to speak, the supreme spiritual authority of the West, was in itself sensational. English tabloids like “The Sun” could not pass up the chance to compose mocking headlines (“From Hitler Youth to… Papa Ratzi”). Benedict reacted to all of this by emphasizing his Bavarian rather than German patriotism and on May 28, 2006 he went to visit the former concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. At the same time, however, he also highlighted the importance of Germany. The progressives left no stone unturned in accentuating the problems of sexual abuse and of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X, in order to undermine the authority of the pope. Conservative German Catholics, for example those gathered in the initiative “Deutschland pro Papa” or in the “Forum Deutscher Katholiken” found themselves disarmed in the face of the markedly anticlerical climate that prevailed in German public opinion.
Although Benedict XVI did not expressly intend to do so, in fact he brought the dominion of modern values into question. In the context of his criticism of Marxism he supported Western parliamentary democracy, but his siding in favor of democracy was by no means unconditional. He decisively refused to introduce it into the Church, which is ordered in a hierarchical way. He also looked with skepticism at public opinion polling. His distance from the popular will is not explained only by his experience with the student movement in the 1960’s, but was already rooted in his distancing himself from National Socialism, which in its time was accompanied by thunderous applause from the majority of the population. He also did not share the optimistic evaluation of modern-day man and the progress of society.
His attitude followed in the footsteps of Christian social conservatism. The appreciation of the family and of heterosexual marriage was in contradiction with the present-day multiplication of family models. The emphasis placed on the role of Christianity as the pre-political basis of liberal democracy was aimed against secularism. Benedict XVI disapproved of the criticism of Eurocentrism and reiterated the Christian character of Europe. Not only in political questions, but also and above all in cultural ones he took positions and acted as an active champion of old European culture against the tides of globalization.
Pope Benedict XVI was a nonconformist on the throne of Peter. When from the seat of gold he imparted the blessing in Latin, excommunicated dissidents, held the universal Church together and affirmed the unicity of the Catholic faith, he was in fact showing his authoritative side. It comes as no surprise that his detractors, like Leonardo Boff or Johann Baptist Metz, should have criticized him. Nonetheless, the question can also be seen in a different way if it is placed within the situation in which the Church finds itself. If one looks at the dominant position of modern values, the Catholic Church is an oppressed minority while its critics belong to the majority. Thus Ratzinger’s authoritative attitude was a reaction to the prevailing situation.
In any case, the combative spirit was only one side of Joseph Ratrzinger. Although he armored himself, in a certain sense, against his opponents, he never lost the willingness for dialogue. Even his most ardent critic, Hans Küng, was given a friendly reception at Castel Gandolfo. In his encyclicals, Pope Benedict XVI repeatedly dealt with themes like “love” and “hope.” Substantially he remained a Bavarian patriot, with enthusiasm always in his heart for the procession of Corpus Domini. In this sense he resembles the prince of ancient China Ling Wang (Gao Changgong). Even though he fought on the battlefield wearing a mask of the devil, the features of the face that this concealed were delicate. Continue reading
On receipt of the Japanese offer to surrender, the decision was quickly made by Harry Truman as to the US response. From his August 10, 1945 diary entry:
“Ate lunch at my desk and discussed the Jap offer to surrender which came in a couple of hours earlier. They wanted to make a condition precedent to the surrender. Our terms are ‘unconditional’. They wanted to keep the Emperor. We told ’em we’d tell ’em how to keep him, but we’d make the terms.”
Truman ordered that no more atomic bomb attacks be made, although conventional attacks be continued. When the press misinterpreted an Army Air Corps briefing that mentioned that no bombers were flying over Japan due to bad weather on August 11, 1945, Truman ordered a halt to conventional attacks so the Japanese would not be confused on his willingness to give them a short time to consider the Allied response. The response went out on August 11, the Soviets signing on reluctantly as they were busily conquering Manchuria from the Japanese and did not want the War to stop until they had wiped out Japanese opposition. Here is the text of the Allied response: Continue reading
“Yet we must guard against the arrogant claim of setting ourselves up to judge earlier generations, who lived in different times and different circumstances. Humble sincerity is needed in order not to deny the sins of the past, and at the same time not to indulge in fascile accusations in the absence of real evidence or without regard for the different preconceptions of the time. Moreover, the confessio peccati, to use an expression of Saint Augustine, must always be accomplished by the confessio laudis – the confession of praise. As we ask pardon for the wrong that was done in the past, we must also remember the good accomplished with the help of divine grace which, even if contained in earthenware vessels, has borne fruit that is often excellent.”
Pope Benedict XVI
A powerful video. Incidentally the purple heart the Sergeant held up was manufactured in 1945. It was one of the half million purple hearts that the military laid in for the invasion of Japan and which the Pentagon has used for the past seven decades. You know, when the Pope visits the US it is too bad that he could not meet the Sergeant and hear the other side about the deal he has so blithely endorsed.
Meeting just after midnight on August 9, 1945, in the first hour of August 10, 1945, with Emperor Hirohito present, the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War deadlocked yet again, 3-3 between peace and war factions. Looking to Hirohito to break the deadlock, the Emperor suggested acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration if the Imperial Throne were preserved. The Japanese government asked the Swiss government to present to the US its conditional acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration. Here is the text of the American Charge d’Affaires to the Secretary of State conveying the news:
August 10, 1945
Sir; I have the honor to inform you that the Japanese Minister in Switzerland, upon instructions received from his Government, has requested the Swiss Political Department to advise the Government of the United States of America of the following:
“In obedience to the gracious command of His Majesty the Emperor who, ever anxious to enhance the cause of world peace, desires earnestly to bring about a speedy termination of hostilities with a view to saving mankind from the calamities to be imposed upon them by further continuation of the war, the Japanese Government several weeks ago asked the Soviet Government, with which neutral relations then prevailed, to render good offices in restoring peace vis a vis the enemy powers. Unfortunately, these efforts in the interest of peace having failed, the Japanese Government in conformity with the august wish of His Majesty to restore the general peace and desiring to put an end to the untold sufferings entailed by war as quickly as possible, have decided upon the following.
“The Japanese Government are ready to accept the terms enumerated in the joint declaration which was issued at Potsdam on July 26th, 1945, by the heads of the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, and China, and later subscribed to by the Soviet Government, with the understanding that the said declaration does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign Ruler.
“The Japanese Government sincerely hope that this understanding is warranted and desire keenly that an explicit indication to that effect will be speedily forthcoming.” Continue reading
The Pope addressed the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki over the weekend:
“It became the symbol of the boundless destructive power of man, when the achievements of science and technology are put to wrong use. It remains a permanent warning for humanity to reject war forever and to ban nuclear weapons and every weapon of mass destruction,” Francis said.
On August 9, 1945 the second atomic bombing mission was launched. The target was the city of Kokura, with Nagasaki, a seaport and a vital part of the military industrial power of Japan, as the secondary. Fat Boy was being flown in Bockscar, commanded by Major Charles W. Sweeney. Kokura was obscured by clouds and by smoke from a nearby US fire bombing raid. After three abortive bombing runs over Kokura, and with fuel running low from a failed fuel pump, Bockscar headed for Nagasaki.
Nagasaki too, was largely obscured by clouds. At 11:01 AM, a break in the cloud cover allowed the dropping of the bomb. Fat Man exploded 47 seconds later over a tennis court, halfway between the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works and the Nagasaki arsenal. The blast was confined to the Urakami Valley and the rest of Nagasaki was protected from the initial blast by the hills around the valley. Immediate deaths on the ground are estimated from 22,000-75,000.
Bockscar due to the fuel leak, had to make an emergency landing on Okinawa with about five minutes of fuel to spare.
Contrary to mythology popular among more paranoid Catholic circles, Nagasaki was not chosen in an evil Masonic plot by Truman to wipe out Japanese Catholicism. Urakami Cathedral was not the aiming point for the bomb, which was the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works. The Cathedral was destroyed because the bomb missed its aiming point by three-quarters of a mile and exploded 500 feet from the Cathedral. Continue reading
Our usual open thread rules apply: be concise, be charitable and, above all, be amusing. Contrary to my usual practice I will suggest a possible topic. Does anyone think that the mullahs are not playing us for fools in regard to the proposed Iran deal? Does anyone think that the purpose of the Iran deal in the eyes of Obama is to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, rather than stopping the US from doing anything meaningful about Iran obtaining nuclear weapons?
As I have often said of some of my offspring, my bruin friend at Saint Corbinian’s Bear is “scary smart” and this piece of all too true satire will leave a mark on Reinhard Cardinal Marx:
My wife and I have been married for eighteen years and have a six year old daughter. I love my wife, but for three years I have been seeing a sex worker in a Munich brothel, Magdalena. She is the only working girl I ever visit, and I have fallen in love with her. Although I realize this may be less than ideal, I love both my wife and Magdalena.
I hear some people saying that this may be “adultery,” and, further, that it could be a mortal sin and maybe I shouldn’t take communion! I am a good Catholic and want to do the right thing. Surely God recognizes the stable and loving relationship I enjoy alongside my marriage? What should I do?
Muddled in Munich
Don’t be so hard on yourself. As the editors of the traditions gathered together under the name “Jeremiah” wrote: “The heart is perverse above all things, and unsearchable, who can know it?” Pascal, though only a Frenchman, expressed a similar sentiment when he said, “The heart has its reasons that reason knows not.” What these authors, separated by centuries, agree upon is this: you cannot control whom you love.
The important thing is that we find a way for you to feel welcome in the Church in your clandestine extramarital relationship with Magdalena. Is it right to call a committed, though unorthodox, loving relationship adultery? I think not. So enjoy the blessings of love (and love!) and do not let small-hearted naysayers keep you from communion!
I am sending you an autographed copy of Pope Francis’ friend and collaborator Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez’s “Heal Me With Your Mouth: the Art of Kissing.” (Sounds like you could use it!)
God bless you!
From the only reliable source of Catholic news on the net, Eye of the Tiber:
A priest arrested in the butchering of a beloved Mass in Zimbabwe was released Wednesday by an ecclesiastical court on $1,000 bail.
Fr. Theo Braxton, a professional Mass butcher since the 1960’s, said through his attorney that he was innocent of ruining a Mass in Zimbabwe, after he was asked to cover for a sick priest while vacation in the southern part of Africa. Church officials in Zimbabwe said Friday that killing the beloved Mass could bring a sentence of more than 10 decades in purgatory.
“My client is innocent of what is being accused,” Braxton’s attorney Roger Mahoney told the press this morning. “Fr. Braxton relied on the expertise of local Catholic priests to ensure a licit Mass.”
But many around the globe are contesting his argument, telling EOTT that Braxton was not innocent of butchering the Mass, and that he is known to kill the Mass for sport.
“Fr. Braxton lured the parishioners out of the pews and onto the sanctuary during a sentimental homily about coming together as one family,” a member of a conservative liturgical group in Zimbabwe said. “Fr. Braxton then asked them to remain there for the consecration, but went on to make up his own words of institution, a method for which he is known. But the Mass just barely survived another 20 minutes until the Fr. Braxton walked down the center aisle giving parishioners high-fives, killing the Mass as he did so.” Continue reading
Something for the weekend. Heia Safari!. The lyrics were written in 1916 by noted German painter of African wild life Hans Aschenborn, and became immensely popular. When Paul Emil von Lettow Vorbeck wrote his memoirs, he entitled the book Heia Safari (Hurray Safari).
Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck doubtless would have died an obscure retired German colonel but for the outbreak of World War I. Taking command of the troops of German East Africa he made up his mind that he would help the German war effort by holding down as many Allied troops in Africa as possible. This seemed like a large task for a man who commanded 2,600 German nationals and 2,472 African soldiers in fourteen Askari field companies. The other German colonies in Africa were conquered swiftly by the Allies, but von Lettow-Vorbeck had a deep streak of military genius in him that had hitherto been unrecognized.
He defeated the initial Allied attempts to take the colony and expended to 14,000 his mostly native force. He declared that “We are all Africans here.” and lived up to that claim by appointing native officers, mastering their language and treating his troops fairly, without loosening the strict discipline he applied to Germans and natives alike. He proved a master of guerrilla war and improvisation, often arming, clothing and feeding his men from the stores of defeated Allied forces sent against him. The Allies would pour 250,000 troops into a campaign that lasted the entire war. He became a hero in Germany as news of his exploits spread, and the British grew to respect and admire a man who fought successfully against very long odds.
He ended the war undefeated, he and his men in northern Rhodesia, the only undefeated German force of the War. He and his officers were given a tumultuous parade in Berlin in 1919. Deeply conservative, he entered German politics after he retired from the Army in 1928 and served as a member of the Reichstag. He fought against the rise of the Nazis and Hitler, who he despised. When Hitler offered him the ambassadorship to Great Britain, knowing in what esteem the British held their old foe, the old soldier allegedly told Hitler to perform an anatomically impossible act. (After World War II a nephew confirmed this in substance, but mentioned to his British inquirer that he had heard that his uncle had not been quite that polite to Corporal Hitler.) Continue reading
”I want to make sure with my own eyes about this cruelty, so I can someday tell others about it as a witness.”
John Rabe, German Nazi businessman credited with organizing the efforts to save the lives of some 200,000 Chinese during the rape of Nanking that saw the murder of 300,000 Chinese civilians by the Imperial Japanese Army.
One of the problems of the analysis of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is that the events are often treated as if they occurred in a moral vacuum. They did not. Here are a few of the crimes of the Empire of Japan:
1. Launching a sneak attack against a country you are not at war with.
2. Murdering approximately 20 million civilians in a war of aggression.
3. Using live enemy POWs and civilians for bayonet practice.
4. Forcing enemy civilian women to serve as “comfort women” for your troops.
5. Starving POWs and interned enemy civilians.
6. Beheading enemy POWs and civilians for such serious crimes as stealing a bowl of rice or failing to bow low enough to a camp guard. Continue reading
At my first law firm I worked with a charming Irishman, Tom Ryan. Dead now sixteen years, during World War II he was a staff officer with the Eighth Air Force in Europe. At the conclusion of the struggle on that continent he was slated to participate in the invasion of Japan. He referred to himself as a Hiroshima survivor. The late Paul Fussell, literary critic, I heartily recommend his The Great War and Modern Memory, served as an infantry Lieutenant in the fighting in France and Germany during World War II. He too was tagged to take part in the invasion of Japan. A political liberal after the War, in 1981 he wrote an essay entitled Thank God for the Atomic Bomb in which he spoke for Hiroshima survivors like him:
When the atom bombs were dropped and news began to circulate that “Operation Olympic” would not, after all, be necessary, when we learned to our astonishment that we would not be obliged in a few months to rush up the beaches near Tokyo assault-firing while being machine-gunned, mortared, and shelled, for all the practiced phlegm of our tough facades we broke down and cried with relief and joy. We were going to live. We were going to grow to adulthood after all. The killing was all going to be over, and peace was actually going to be the state of things.
When the Enola Gay dropped its package, “There were cheers,” says John Toland, “over the intercom; it meant the end of the war.” Down on the ground the reaction of Sledge’s marine buddies when they heard the news was more solemn and complicated. They heard about the end of the war with quiet disbelief coupled with an indescribable sense of relief.
We thought the Japanese would never surrender. Many refused to believe it. . . . Sitting in stunned silence, we remembered our dead. So many dead. So many maimed. So many bright futures consigned to the ashes of the past. So many dreams lost in the madness that had engulfed us. Except for a few widely scattered shouts of joy, the survivors of the abyss sat hollow-eyed and silent, trying to comprehend a world without war.
These troops who cried and cheered with relief or who sat stunned by the weight of their experience are very different from the high-minded, guilt-ridden GIs we’re told about by J. Glenn Gray in his sensitive book The Warriors. During the war in Europe Gray was an interrogator in the Army Counterintelligence Corps, and in that capacity he experienced the war at Division level. There’s no denying that Gray’s outlook on everything was admirably noble, elevated, and responsible. After the war he became a much-admired professor of philosophy at Colorado College and an esteemed editor of Heidegger. But The Warriors, his meditation on the moral and psychological dimensions of modern soldiering, gives every sign of error occasioned by remoteness from experience. Division headquarters is miles—miles—behind the line where soldiers experience terror and madness and relieve those pressures by crazy brutality and sadism.
Indeed, unless they actually encountered the enemy during the war, most “soldiers” have very little idea what “combat” was like. As William Manchester says,
“All who wore uniforms are called veterans, but more than 90 percent of them are as uninformed about the killing zones as those on the home front.”
Manchester’s fellow marine E. B. Sledge thoughtfully and responsibly invokes the terms drastically and totally to underline the differences in experience between front and rear, and not even the far rear, but the close rear. “Our code of conduct toward the enemy,” he notes, “differed drastically from that prevailing back at the division CP.” (He’s describing gold-tooth extraction from still-living Japanese.) Again he writes:
“We existed in an environment totally incomprehensible to men behind the lines . . . ,”
even, he would insist, to men as intelligent and sensitive as Glenn Gray, who missed seeing with his own eyes Sledge’s marine friends sliding under fire down a shell-pocked ridge slimy with mud and liquid dysentery sh-t into the maggoty Japanese and USMC corpses at the bottom, vomiting as the maggots burrowed into their own foul clothing.
“We didn’t talk about such things,” says Sledge. “They were too horrible and obscene even for hardened veterans…. Nor do authors normally write about such vileness; unless they have seen it with their own eyes, it is too preposterous to think that men could actually live and fight for days and nights on end under such terrible conditions and not be driven insane.”
And Sledge has added a comment on such experience and the insulation provided by even a short distance: “Often people just behind our rifle companies couldn’t understand what we knew.” Glenn Gray was not in a rifle company, or even just behind one. “When the news of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki came,” he asks us to believe, “many an American soldier felt shocked and ashamed.” Shocked, OK, but why ashamed? Because we’d destroyed civilians? We’d been doing that for years, in raids on Hamburg and Berlin and Cologne and Frankfurt and Mannheim and Dresden, and Tokyo, and besides, the two A-bombs wiped out 10,000 Japanese troops, not often thought of now, John Hersey’s kindly physicians and Jesuit priests being more touching.
If around division headquarters some of the people Gray talked to felt ashamed, down in the rifle companies no one did, despite Gray’s assertions. “The combat soldier,” he says, knew better than did Americans at home what those bombs meant in suffering and injustice. The man of conscience realized intuitively that the vast majority of Japanese in both cities were no more, if no less, guilty of the war than were his own parents, sisters, or brothers. I find this canting nonsense. The purpose of the bombs was not to “punish” people but to stop the war.
To intensify the shame Gray insists we feel, he seems willing to fiddle the facts. The Hiroshima bomb, he says, was dropped “without any warning.” But actually, two days before, 720,000 leaflets were dropped on the city urging everyone to get out and indicating that the place was going to be (as the Potsdam Declaration had promised) obliterated. Of course few left.
Experience whispers that the pity is not that we used the bomb to end the Japanese war but that it wasn’t ready in time to end the German one. If only it could have been rushed into production faster and dropped at the right moment on the Reich Chancellery or Berchtesgaden or Hitler’s military headquarters in East Prussia (where Colonel Stauffenberg’s July 20 bomb didn’t do the job because it wasn’t big enough), much of the Nazi hierarchy could have been pulverized immediately, saving not just the embarrassment of the Nuremberg trials but the lives of around four million Jews, Poles, Slavs, and gypsies, not to mention the lives and limbs of millions of Allied and German soldiers.
If the bomb had only been ready in time, the young men of my infantry platoon would not have been so cruelly killed and wounded. All this is not to deny that like the Russian Revolution, the atom-bombing of Japan was a vast historical tragedy, and every passing year magnifies the dilemma into which it has lodged the contemporary world.
As with the Russian Revolution, there are two sides—that’s why it’s a tragedy instead of a disaster—and unless we are, like Bruce Page, simple-mindedly unimaginative and cruel, we will be painfully aware of both sides at once.
To observe that from the viewpoint of the war’s victims-to-be the bomb seemed precisely the right thing to drop is to purchase no immunity from horror. To experience both sides, one might study the book Unforgettable Fire: Pictures Drawn by Atomic Bomb Survivors, which presents a number of amateur drawings and watercolors of the Hiroshima scene made by middle-aged and elderly survivors for a peace exhibition in 1975. In addition to the almost unbearable pictures, the book offers brief moments of memoir not for the weak-stomached:
While taking my severely wounded wife out to the river bank . . ., I was horrified indeed at the sight of a stark naked man standing in the rain with his eyeball in his palm. He looked to be in great pain but there was nothing that I could do for him. I wonder what became of him. Even today I vividly remember the sight. I was simply miserable.
These childlike drawings and paintings are of skin hanging down, breasts torn off, people bleeding and burning, dying mothers nursing dead babies. A bloody woman holds a bloody child in the ruins of a house, and the artist remembers her calling, “Please help this child! Someone, please help this child. Please help! Someone, please.”
As Samuel Johnson said of the smothering of Desdemona, the innocent in another tragedy, “It is not to be endured.” Nor, it should be noticed, is an infantryman’s account of having his arm blown off in the Arno Valley in Italy in 1944:
I wanted to die and die fast. I wanted to forget this miserable world. I cursed the war, I cursed the people who were responsible for it, I cursed God for putting me here … to suffer for something I never did or knew anything about. (A good place to interrupt and remember Glenn Gray’s noble but hopelessly one-sided remarks about “injustice,” as well as “suffering.”) “For this was hell,” the soldier goes on, and I never imagined anything or anyone could suffer so bitterly I screamed and cursed. Why? What had I done to deserve this? But no answer came. I yelled for medics, because subconsciously I wanted to live. I tried to apply my right hand over my bleeding stump, but I didn’t have the strength to hold it. I looked to the left of me and saw the bloody mess that was once my left arm; its fingers and palm were turned upward, like a flower looking to the sun for its strength.
The future scholar-critic who writes The History of Canting in the Twentieth Century will find much to study and interpret in the utterances of those who dilate on the special wickedness of the A-bomb-droppers. He will realize that such utterance can perform for the speaker a valuable double function. First, it can display the fineness of his moral weave. And second, by implication it can also inform the audience that during the war he was not socially so unfortunate as to find himself down there with the ground forces, where he might have had to compromise the purity and clarity of his moral system by the experience of weighing his own life against someone else’s. Down there, which is where the other people were, is the place where coarse self-interest is the rule. When the young soldier with the wild eyes comes at you, firing, do you shoot him in the foot, hoping he’ll be hurt badly enough to drop or mis-aim the gun with which he’s going to kill you, or do you shoot him in the chest (or, if you’re a prime shot, in the head) and make certain that you and not he will be the survivor of that mortal moment? Continue reading
One of the arguments of critics of Truman’s use of the atomic bomb, is that a demonstration could have been made of it without blood being shed, over the ocean for example, the Japanese would have seen the power of the bomb and surrendered. Well, we know that is incorrect. We know that because the Japanese did not surrender after Hiroshima. We also know that the Japanese had no intention of surrendering after Hiroshima. Discussions within the Japanese cabinet were deadlocked until the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, with the dominant war faction claiming that the US probably had no more atomic bombs and that their strategy of holding out, inflicting a defeat on an American land invasion, and then negotiating from strength, was the best strategy for Japan. The deadlock continued on August 9, 1945 when the atomic bombing of Nagasaki caused the war and peace factions to agree to bring their differences to the Emperor. Continue reading
PopeWatch hopes this isn’t true:
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Argentinian Pope, 78, is planning a meeting this fall at the holy site in Rome, Italy, where he hopes to discuss “how the church is perceived by Western media influencers.” THR reports that said influencers include Oprah Winfrey and Matt Damon. Continue reading
False Equivalence-A common way for this fallacy to be perpetuated is one shared trait between two subjects is assumed to show equivalence, especially in order of magnitude, when equivalence is not necessarily the logical result. False equivalence is a common result when an anecdotal similarity is pointed out as equal, but the claim of equivalence doesn’t bear because the similarity is based on oversimplification or ignorance of additional factors. The pattern of the fallacy is often as such: If A is the set of c and d, and B is the set of d and e, then since they both contain d, A and B are equal. d is not required to exist in both sets; only a passing similarity is required to cause this fallacy to be able to be used.
Oh good. I was afraid that we would miss on the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima Mark Shea’s usual histrionics:
If nuking these cities was a major U.S. war crime, illicit under international law and Church teaching, then we are put in the position of demanding a higher price in blood to salve our consciences. There are times in real life when one must commit a wrong in order to avoid an even greater wrong. These instances arise frequently in wartime. Another example: the terrorist who must be “tortured” in order to find out where the bombs are.
Jimmy, you’re right when you say that we were participating formally in evil when we dropped the bomb. Unfortunately, our participation in evil began almost four years earlier when we entered the war. This is the nature of war. There is much, much evil in it, and we do ourselves a disservice when through our well-meaning but futile efforts to mitigate its evil we prolong it and make it even worse.
What ties each of these stories together is perverted courage. For instance, note the sick logic at work in Himmler’s remarks: the willingness to commit murder is transmuted, in Himmler’s diabolical imagination, into a brave act of self-sacrifice. He consoles the SS soldiers by telling them they are tough men willing to do the dirty work of war. They don’t moralistically refuse to do acts that risk hell but bravely undertake the work of sinning gravely for a higher cause. They have the guts softer men lack to butcher thousands of innocent Jews and are willing to endure this hardship—the psychological trauma that goes with doing monstrous evil—for the sake of the love of country without looking for any loopholes.
Myers uses the same curious rhetoric of bravery to undergird his stirring defense of his Kermit Gosnell view of life – which also turns out to be a stirring defense of the Dr. Josef Mengele view of life. These men, like Myers, were “unafraid” to reduce millions of other, slightly older, human beings to “pieces of meat”. Once again, the language of “courage” and “bravery” is deployed to describe the embrace of grave evil.
And it doesn’t stop there. The Croatian butcher likewise speaks of his monstrous evils in tones indistinguishable from Milton’s Satan. As though the filthy charnelhouse he helped to staff was an act of noble rebellion against an unjust God whom he had no choice but to defy, what with His simplistic ideas of “just war” that get in the way of what Needs to Be Done to Win. He speaks of his participation in slaughter as a beautiful act of patriotism that none but the bravest could undertake. Sure, he’ll go to hell for it. God is unjust! But our brave soul will spend his eternity in Hell secure in the notion that He Did the Right Thing.
This is much of a muchness with our last quotation from an American who argues (like ever so many Americans) that God asks far too much when he imposes Just War criteria on us and seriously expects us to believe that not even we can directly intend the mass slaughter of innocent human life. This reader doesn’t mess around with pretenses that Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren’t violations of Just War teaching. Instead he simply declares that God is wrong, we are right, and we have to have the courage to just go ahead and do monstrous evil because it’s the Right Thing to Do and God is a fool to say otherwise. You must “commit a wrong in order to avoid an even greater wrong.” Continue reading
By July of 1945, the Japanese had undergone months of devastating attacks by American B-29s. Their capital and other major cities had suffered extensive damage, and their home islands were subjected to a naval blockade that made food and fuel increasingly scarce. Japanese military and civilian losses had reached approximately three million, and there seemed to be no end in sight. Despite all this, Japan’s leaders and military clung fiercely to notions of Ketsu-Go: a plan that centered on inflicting such punishment on the invader in defense of the homeland that he would sue for terms. In fact, even after Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the Soviet attack in Manchuria, the Japanese military still wanted to pursue that desperate option, but Emperor Hirohito broke the impasse in the Japanese government and ordered surrender. He came to understand that the atomic bomb undermined (as the brilliant historian Richard Frank has noted) “the fundamental premise” of Ketsu-Go “that the United States would have to invade Japan to secure a decision” in the war. Ultimately, the atomic bombs allowed the emperor and the “peace faction” in the Japanese government to negotiate an end to the war.
Of course, the United States eventually could have defeated Japan without the atomic bomb, but all the viable alternate scenarios to secure victory—continued obliteration bombing of Japanese cities and infrastructure, a choking blockade, the likely terrible invasions involving massive firepower—would have meant significantly greater Allied casualties and higher Japanese civilian and military casualties. These casualties would likely have included thousands of Allied prisoners of war whom the Japanese planned to execute. Notably, all of these options also would have indirectly involved some “intentional killing of innocents,” including the naval blockade, which sought to starve the Japanese into submission. Hard as it may be to accept when one sees the visual evidence of the terrible destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japanese losses probably would have been substantially greater without the A-bombs.
Moreover, the use of these awful weapons abruptly ended the death and suffering of innocent third parties throughout Asia. Rather surprisingly, the enormous wartime losses of the Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos, Vietnamese, and Javanese at the hands of the Japanese receive little attention in weighing the American effort to shock the Japanese into surrender. The losses in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were horrific, but they pale in comparison to the estimates of seventeen to twenty-four million deaths attributed to the Japanese’s hideous rampage from Manchuria to New Guinea. The thoughtful scholar Robert Newman explains that “the last months were in many ways the worst; starvation and disease aggravated the usual beatings, beheadings and battle deaths. It is plausible to hold that upwards of two-hundred-fifty thousand people, mostly Asian but some Westerners, would have died each month the Japanese Empire struggled in its death throes beyond July 1945.” Surely these persons also are “innocents” deserving of some concern in our moral calculations?
Bluntly put, the atomic bombs shortened the war, averted the need for a land invasion, saved countless more lives on both sides of the ghastly conflict than they cost, and brought to an end the Japanese brutalization of the conquered peoples of Asia.
Subsequent to their use, Harry Truman maintained that dropping the bombs had been necessary, having ended the war and saved numerous lives. This conviction, however, did not stave off his own serious moral qualms about the action. He never again spoke of the atomic bombs as military weapons to which the United States could make easy resort. He rightly indicated some retreat from his pre-Hiroshima view that the A-bomb was just another military weapon.