Starry, Starry Night Open Thread

 

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?

Bear Growls: Dear Reinhard

Dear Reinhard

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:

 

 

Dear Reinhard: Is Sex With a Prostitute Adultery?

Once again, we look over the shoulder of Germany’s favorite advice columnist, Reinhard Marx, as he opens up his mailbag…

Dear Reinhard,

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?

Signed,
Muddled in Munich

Reinhard replies…

Dear Muddled:

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!
Reinhard

Continue reading

PopeWatch: Butchery

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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

Heia Safari!

 

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

The Asian Holocaust

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”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

Hiroshima Survivors

 

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

August 7, 1945: No Japanese Surrender

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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

Himmler, Mark Shea and False Equivalence

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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:

 

Or the rhetoric of those who champion the incineration of thousands of civilians for the Greater Good:

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

Requiem for a Shill

Today is a momentous day for political theater as later tonight millions of Americans will tune in for a big tv event. I’m of course talking about the final Daily Show featuring Jon Stewart.

There are several commentaries exploring what a fantastic fraud Stewart was. This one is a few years old, but here’s Jim Treacher exposing Stewart’s two-faced nature.

Stewart has been playing this game for years, most notably back in 2004 when he comment-trolled my future boss, called him a dick*, and said he’s ruining America. Then, he responded to the ensuing discussion with, “You guys do know I’m on Comedy Central, right?” Stewart wants you to take his political opinions seriously, but then when you try to engage his argument, he draws back and says, “Whoa, I’m just a comedian!” Yes, you can be a comedian and yes, you can be a pundit. You can even be both over the course of the same conversation. But Stewart plays the two roles against each other to deflect criticism, and it’s dishonest.

Call it Clown Nose On, Clown Nose Off.

Bill McMorriss calls him the left’s Donald Trump. He delves into how Stewart ceased being an honest broker, pulling his punches when it came to Democrats. He also highlights Stewart’s simplistic and dull “humor.”

When Stewart first rushed onto the scene of renegade, devil-may-care truth-telling, the zeitgeist of the day demanded howling lamentations of soundbite politics. Stewart is the chief pioneer of soundbite humor, the news of the day broken into out-of-context eight-second clips followed by three to five minutes of the host making funny faces and sighing loudly as each one plays.

It’s the comedic equivalent of saying “ugh,” of Popsicle-stick one-liners, only less original. It was built for our SEO-fueled, clickbait-laden age. Stewart may despise the “Watch Jon Stewart DEMOLISH Idaho’s Infamous Homophobic, Bigoted, Sexist, Cis-Gendered Republican County Dog Catcher” headlines that accompany each one of his segments, but those headlines have been routine for nearly a decade and the show has never deviated from its formula.

Then there’s the matter of his dishonest editing.

That’s exactly what Stewart did to former Libertarian presidential nominee Wayne Allen Root when it aired a segment of him bashing the Internal Revenue Service for profiling Tea Party groups while seemingly defending racial profiling that he’d spent his career condemning.

“When the interviewer asked the 3 guests for their opinion of me…all 3 said something nice. The director said, ‘Cut. C’mon guys. This is supposed to be funny. Please say something funny or negative about Wayne. Like ‘rich white guy’ or ‘Fox News guy.’ And then they turned the camera back on…and each guest said something negative about me,” Root said in an email to Reason.

Here’s John Daniel Davidson, also writing in the Federalist.

This is no small thing. Stewart has managed to convince large numbers of Americans, especially Millennials, that he is a real-life newsman and can be trusted as a news source, but also, paradoxically, that he’s just a comedian making jokes about the absurd political news of the day. In a recent survey, self-identifying liberals said they trusted “The Daily Show” more than Fox News and CNN. Among moderates, he’s more trusted than MSNBC.

. . . The purpose of the show is to entertain, sure, but the purpose of the entertainment is to discredit political opponents of the Left. More or less the same is true of liberal “explanatory journalism” outfits like Vox and Politifact, which exist largely to provide Left-leaning readers with liberal talking points on the issues of the day. As Kevin Williamson pointed out last year, Jon Stewart and Ezra Klein are cut from the same cloth: “For the Left, the maker of comedy and the maker of graphs perform the same function. It does not matter who does the ‘destroying,’ so long as it gets done.”

And here’s a video at Reason TV: Five Reasons Jon Stewart is Full of (well, you know.)

I will not shed a tear for Stewart’s departure. He has done more to damage political discourse than anyone else in this country. Young hipster leftists have been reduced to snarky brats who have no ability to truly analyze or even honestly assess their opponent’s political views. I am no stranger to snark or sarcasm, but these are essentially the only arrows in their quiver. Stewart may have been as much a reflection of this pose as an inspiration, but either way we’re better off without this shill on air four nights a week.

Father Wilson Miscamble Defends the Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

 

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.

 

Truman Announces the Bombing of Hiroshima

 

Truman’s statement after Hiroshima was classic Harry Truman:  blunt, concise and no confusion about who had made the decision and what he intended to do next if Japan did not capitulate.  Truman did not write it, he was still at sea returning from the Potsdam conference, but Arthur W. Page who did captured Truman’s style perfectly.  His statement in the text given to the press that Hiroshima was an important army base has engendered a lot of criticism, although considering that the Second General Army, that commanded Japanese defenses in southern Japan, was headquartered in Hiroshima, and that on the day of the bombing there were 43,000 Japanese troops stationed in Hiroshima, of which 20,000 died, a good argument can be made for his interpretation.  Here is Truman’s statement:

A short time ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima and destroyed its usefulness to the enemy. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of TNT. It had more than two thousand times the blast power of the British “Grand Slam” which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare.

The Japanese began the war from the air at Pearl Harbor. They have been repaid many fold. And the end is not yet. With this bomb we have now added a new and revolutionary increase in destruction to supplement the growing power of our armed forces. In their present form these bombs are now in production and even more powerful forms are in development.

It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East.

Before 1939, it was the accepted belief of scientists that it was theoretically possible to release atomic energy. But no one knew any practical method of doing it. By 1942, however, we knew that the Germans were working feverishly to find a way to add atomic energy to the other engines of war with which they hoped to enslave the world. But they failed. We may be grateful to Providence that the Germans got the V-1’s and V-2’s late and in limited quantities and even more grateful that they did not get the atomic bomb at all.

The battle of the laboratories held fateful risks for us as well as the battles of the air, land, and sea, and we have now won the battle of the laboratories as we have won the other battles.

Beginning in 1940, before Pearl Harbor, scientific knowledge useful in was pooled between the United States and Great Britain, and many priceless helps to our victories have come from that arrangement. Under that general policy the research on the atomic bomb was begun. With American and British scientists working together we entered the race of discovery against the Germans. Continue reading

PopeWatch: Christ on Divorce

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Sandro Magister at his blog Chiesa keeps us updated on the behind the scenes efforts to turn the words of Christ on their head in regard to divorce, and the push back from theologians who have not take leave of their senses:
IN RESPONSE TO FATHER GUIDO INNOCENZO GARGANO

by Gonzalo Ruiz Freites

(From: “Let man not separate what God has united.” The final chapter: “Conclusions”)

The teaching of Jesus on divorce and remarriage, present both in the synoptic Gospels and in the writings of Paul, is unanimous and definitive and forms part of the revelation of the New Testament, received and faithfully guarded by the Church. This is a teaching of divine-apostolic origin, absolute and universal, that prohibits divorce and, in the case of the remarriage of one who has divorced, considers the second union as adultery.

The hypothesis of Father Guido Innocenzo Gargano has no support in a serious exegesis of the texts he has studied – in their literal sense, in the immediate context, and in the entirety of the revelation of the New Testament. His is a failed attempt, moreover, because he has selected the texts that he wanted to consider on the basis of his preconceptions and not of the precomprehension of the faith of the whole of the New Testament. He has also studied them in an exceedingly partial manner, without the slightest exegetical analysis of the texts or their context. Finally, he has forced them in order to draw conclusions that are in accord with the preconceptions with which he began.

We are reminded of the words of St. Jerome, when he teaches that the one who studies the sacred text must adhere above all “to the exact interpretation,” and that “the duty of the commentator is not that of presenting personal ideas but rather those of the author who is being commented upon.” Otherwise, he adds, “the sacred orator is exposed to a grave danger, one day or another, on account of a mistaken interpretation, of making the Gospel of God the Gospel of man.”

For Gargano, Jesus approved the certificate of repudiation as a merciful concession. He approved, therefore, the adultery that resulted from this. The consequences of such reasoning are disastrous, even if Gargano does not explicitly deduce them. Jesus is supposed to have come not to abolish anything, but to take into account the concrete situation of the sinner. He is therefore supposed to have come not to call all sinners to leave their situation of sin by calling them to conversion (cf. Lk 5:32). For some there would be another way, that of the Mosaic law. In this manner Jesus would not heal the nature wounded by sin. He would instead let the sick continue being sick. He himself would have to be contented with being unable to attain the “skopòs” desired.

Gargano’s confusion is great, and his conception of salvation seems more Protestant than Catholic: it lacks an adequate theology of grace. In such a position there is no room for the grace infused into the heart of man, which makes him a new creature by healing his wounds from the inside and elevating him to the supernatural order through formal participation in the divine life. It is in this way that the “skopòs” of the salvific work of Christ is attained!

Moreover, to affirm once again the validity of Mosaic law for salvation, even if entering as “the least” in the kingdom of heaven, is gravely contrary to the revelation of the New Testament, and as a result to the Christian faith. If the Mosaic law is still a way of salvation, Christ would have died in vain.

It is also very grave to seek to impose the validity of the precepts of the ancient law on Christians. Many times while writing these lines I have thought of Paul’s cry in the letter to the Galatians, against those who were seeking to “Judaize” in this sense the Christians who had come from the Gentile world. After saying “I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose” (Gal 2:21), the apostle continues: “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?” (Gal 3:1-3).

It is clear that the teaching of the Lord is new in the Hebrew world, where divorce and remarriage were permitted on the condition of issuing a certificate of repudiation. It is in this context that Jesus prohibits the possibility of divorce and remarriage with his absolute precept: let man not separate what God has joined (Mk 10:9; Mt 19:6).

The primitive Church, therefore, had to face this problem both for the Jews who embraced the faith and for the pagans who were accustomed to the legal validity of the practice of divorce. From the beginning, however, the Church was faithful to its Lord. The Pauline text of 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 attests to how the authority of the Lord’s commandment prevailed in the face of all the permissiveness of the ancient world, both Jewish and pagan. This firmness is due to faith in the commandment given by Jesus himself: “Let man not separate what God has joined.” This conviction upheld throughout the centuries the Church’s teachings on this matter.

The mission of Jesus is entirely characterized by mercy for sinners. It is however a mercy that leads to conversion and change of heart, as He himself defines it: “I have not come to call the just, but sinners to repentance” (Lk 5:32). Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, but neither did he say to her, “Go and get a certificate of repudiation, then you can continue to live just as before.” Instead, clearly, he commanded her: “Go and sin no more” (Jn 8:11).

Jesus does not command things that are impossible. For the necessary change of heart He brought with him the new law, the grace of the Holy Spirit poured into hearts (cf. Rm 5:5). With his grace it is possible to fulfill all of his commandments, including the precept of not uniting “more uxorio” with a person who is not one’s spouse, even if this means having to bear one’s cross every day (cf. Lk 9:23). To think that living chastity is not possible for one who has failed in his marriage means not believing, in point of fact, in the interior grace of God, which makes the old man into a new creature (cf. 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15). It also means thinking that the Lord commands us to fulfill that which is impossible, de facto nullifying the grace of God with which everything is possible, in spite of our weaknesses.

One key for understanding the thought of Father Gargano is found in his letter to Sandro Magister, when he distinguishes between “objective truth” and “subjective truth” in the moral-existential field. The distinction is unacceptable in the sense proposed by the author and opens the door to every sort of moral relativism, where one’s own conscience becomes the supreme norm of action even when it does not correspond to the objective truth or to the law of God. The truth is objective by definition. Subjective reality can correspond to the truth or not correspond to it. In the latter case this is not a matter of “subjective truth,” but of error, and it is a work of mercy to correct the one who errs. To love the sinner also means this, according to the teaching of the Lord (Mt 18:15-17; cf. Eph 6:4; Heb 12:5-11).

Vatican Council II, in “Dignitatis Humanae,” indicated that man must govern himself with his conscience, but it also taught that “all men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His Church, and to embrace the truth they come to know, and to hold fast to it.” And this because of the dignity of the human person, according to which men are “impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth.” And later: “Further light is shed on the subject if one considers that the highest norm of human life is the divine law-eternal, objective and universal-whereby God orders, directs and governs the entire universe and all the ways of the human community by a plan conceived in wisdom and love. Man has been made by God to participate in this law, with the result that, under the gentle disposition of divine Providence, he can come to perceive ever more fully the truth that is unchanging. Wherefore every man has the duty, and therefore the right, to seek the truth in matters religious in order that he may with prudence form for himself right and true judgments of conscience, under use of all suitable means.”

In the formation of their conscience, Christians must however also consider the doctrine of the Church, oriented to the salvation of all according to the plan of God the savior, “who wants all men to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” (1 Tm 2:4). It is by the will of Christ that the Catholic Church is the teacher of truth. Its mission is to proclaim and to teach authentically the truth that is Christ, and at the same time to declare and confirm authoritatively the principles of the moral order that arise from human nature itself. In teaching all the truth contained in the Gospels, therefore, the Church does nothing other than obey the commandment of the risen Lord: “Go therefore and make disciples of all peoples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20). In this “all” is included the teaching on divorce and remarriage.

The Church, following the model and teaching of its Lord, has always taught that exquisite mercy must be shown to persons who find themselves in irregular situations concerning marriage. A mercy, however, that did not take into account all the teachings of the Lord in this matter would be a false mercy, being wholly or partly deprived of the truth. It would even be a cause and source of many evils, as Saint Thomas teaches in his commentary on the beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount: “Justice without mercy is cruelty; mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution.”

Only the truth makes man completely free. That truth which is the person of Jesus, the “Verbum abbreviatum” that encapsulates all of the Scriptures, old and new. He is the truth that is expressed in all his words, without cutbacks or discounts. He is the truth that is at the same time the way to life, to eternal salvation, the only goal of our Christian existence (Jn 14:6). This is what Saint Peter, the first pope, confessed when many were abandoning the Lord because they found his words “hard”: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68).
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August 6, 1945: Bombing of Hiroshima

 

In 2002 Studs Terkel interviewed retired General Paul Tibbets about the Hiroshima bombing:

 

Paul Tibbets:  I think I went to Los Alamos [the Manhattan project HQ] three times, and each time I got to see Dr Oppenheimer working in his own environment. Later, thinking about it, here’s a young man, a brilliant person. And he’s a chain smoker and he drinks cocktails. And he hates fat men. And General Leslie Groves [the general in charge of the Manhattan project], he’s a fat man, and he hates people who smoke and drink. The two of them are the first, original odd couple.

 
Studs Terkel:  They had a feud, Groves and Oppenheimer?

 
Paul Tibbets:  Yeah, but neither one of them showed it. Each one of them had a job to do.

 
Studs Terkel:  Did Oppenheimer tell you about the destructive nature of the bomb?
Paul Tibbets:  No.

 
Studs Terkel:  How did you know about that?

 
Paul Tibbets:  From Dr Ramsey. He said the only thing we can tell you about it is, it’s going to explode with the force of 20,000 tons of TNT. I’d never seen 1 lb of TNT blow up. I’d never heard of anybody who’d seen 100 lbs of TNT blow up. All I felt was that this was gonna be one hell of a big bang.

 
Studs Terkel:  Twenty thousand tons – that’s equivalent to how many planes full of bombs?

 
Paul Tibbets:  Well, I think the two bombs that we used [at Hiroshima and Nagasaki] had more power than all the bombs the air force had used during the war in Europe.

 
Studs Terkel:  So Ramsey told you about the possibilities.
Paul Tibbets:  Even though it was still theory, whatever those guys told me, that’s what happened. So I was ready to say I wanted to go to war, but I wanted to ask Oppenheimer how to get away from the bomb after we dropped it. I told him that when we had dropped bombs in Europe and North Africa, we’d flown straight ahead after dropping them – which is also the trajectory of the bomb. But what should we do this time? He said, “You can’t fly straight ahead because you’d be right over the top when it blows up and nobody would ever know you were there.” He said I had to turn tangent to the expanding shock wave. I said, “Well, I’ve had some trigonometry, some physics. What is tangency in this case?” He said it was 159 degrees in either direction. “Turn 159 degrees as fast as you can and you’ll be able to put yourself the greatest distance from where the bomb exploded.”

 
Studs Terkel:  How many seconds did you have to make that turn?

 
Paul Tibbets:  I had dropped enough practice bombs to realize that the charges would blow around 1,500 ft in the air, so I would have 40 to 42 seconds to turn 159 degrees. I went back to Wendover as quick as I could and took the airplane up. I got myself to 25,000 ft and I practiced turning, steeper, steeper, steeper and I got it where I could pull it round in 40 seconds. The tail was shaking dramatically and I was afraid of it breaking off, but I didn’t quit. That was my goal. And I practiced and practiced until, without even thinking about it, I could do it in between 40 and 42, all the time. So, when that day came….
Studs Terkel:  You got the go-ahead on August 5.

 
Paul Tibbets:  Yeah. We were in Tinian [the US island base in the Pacific] at the time we got the OK. They had sent this Norwegian to the weather station out on Guam [the US’s westernmost territory] and I had a copy of his report. We said that, based on his forecast, the sixth day of August would be the best day that we could get over Honshu [the island on which Hiroshima stands]. So we did everything that had to be done to get the crews ready to go: airplane loaded, crews briefed, all of the things checked that you have to check before you can fly over enemy territory. General Groves had a brigadier-general who was connected back to Washington DC by a special teletype machine. He stayed close to that thing all the time, notifying people back there, all by code, that we were preparing these airplanes to go any time me after midnight on the sixth. And that’s the way it worked out. We were ready to go at about four o’clock in the afternoon on the fifth and we got word from the president that we were free to go: “Use me as you wish.” They give you a time you’re supposed to drop your bomb on target and that was 9:15 in the morning , but that was Tinian time, one hour later than Japanese time. I told Dutch, “You figure it out what time we have to start after midnight to be over the target at 9 a.m.”
Studs Terkel:  That’d be Sunday morning.’

 
Paul Tibbets:  Well, we got going down the runway at right about 2:15 a.m. and we took off, we met our rendezvous guys, we made our flight up to what we call the initial point, that would be a geographic position that you could not mistake. Well, of course we had the best one in the world with the rivers and bridges and that big shrine. There was no mistaking what it was.

 
Studs Terkel:  So you had to have the right navigator to get it on the button.

 
Paul Tibbets:  The airplane has a bomb sight connected to the autopilot and the bombardier puts figures in there for where he wants to be when he drops the weapon, and that’s transmitted to the airplane. We always took into account what would happen if we had a failure and the bomb bay doors didn’t open; we had a manual release put in each airplane so it was right down by the bombardier and he could pull on that. And the guys in the airplanes that followed us to drop the instruments needed to know when it was going to go. We were told not to use the radio, but, hell, I had to. I told them I would say, “One minute out,” “Thirty seconds out,” “Twenty seconds” and “Ten” and then I’d count, “Nine, eight, seven, six, five, four seconds”, which would give them a time to drop their cargo. They knew what was going on because they knew where we were. And that’s exactly the way it worked; it was absolutely perfect. After we got the airplanes in formation I crawled into the tunnel and went back to tell the men, I said, “You know what we’re doing today?” They said, “Well, yeah, we’re going on a bombing mission.” I said, “Yeah, we’re going on a bombing mission, but it’s a little bit special.” My tail gunner, Bob Caron, was pretty alert. He said, “Colonel, we wouldn’t be playing with atoms today, would we?” I said, “Bob, you’ve got it just exactly right.” So I went back up in the front end and I told the navigator, bombardier, flight engineer, in turn. I said, “OK, this is an atom bomb we’re dropping.” They listened intently but I didn’t see any change in their faces or anything else. Those guys were no idiots. We’d been fiddling round with the most peculiar-shaped things we’d ever seen. So we’re coming down. We get to that point where I say “one second” and by the time I’d got that second out of my mouth the airplane had lurched, because 10,000 lbs had come out of the front. I’m in this turn now, tight as I can get it, that helps me hold my altitude and helps me hold my airspeed and everything else all the way round. When I level out, the nose is a little bit high and as I look up there the whole sky is lit up in the prettiest blues and pinks I’ve ever seen in my life. It was just great. I tell people I tasted it. “Well,” they say, “what do you mean?” When I was a child, if you had a cavity in your tooth the dentist put some mixture of some cotton or whatever it was and lead into your teeth and pounded them in with a hammer. I learned that if Ihad a spoon of ice-cream and touched one of those teeth I got this electrolysis and I got the taste of lead out of it. And I knew right away what it was. OK, we’re all going. We had been briefed to stay off the radios: “Don’t say a damn word, what we do is we make this turn, we’re going to get out of here as fast as we can.” I want to get out over the sea of Japan because I know they can’t find me over there. With that done we’re home free. Then Tom Ferebee has to fill out his bombardier’s report and Dutch, the navigator, has to fill out a log. Tom is working on his log and says, “Dutch, what time were we over the target?” And Dutch says, “Nine-fifteen plus 15 seconds.” Ferebee says: “What lousy navigating. Fifteen seconds off!”
Studs Terkel:  Did you hear an explosion?

 
Paul Tibbets:  Oh yeah. The shockwave was coming up at us after we turned. And the tail gunner said, “Here it comes.” About the time he said that, we got this kick in the ass. I had accelerometers installed in all airplanes to record the magnitude of the bomb. It hit us with two and a half G. Next day, when we got figures from the scientists on what they had learned from all the things, they said, “When that bomb exploded, your airplane was 10 and half miles away from it.”

 
Studs Terkel:  Did you see that mushroom cloud?

 
Paul Tibbets:  You see all kinds of mushroom clouds, but they were made with different types of bombs. The Hiroshima bomb did not make a mushroom. It was what I call a stringer. It just came up. It was black as hell and it had light and colors and white in it and grey color in it and the top was like afolded-up Christmas tree.

 
Studs Terkel:  Do you have any idea what happened down below?

 
Paul Tibbets:  Pandemonium! I think it’s best stated by one of the historians, who said: “In one micro-second, the city of Hiroshima didn’t exist.”

Go here to read the rest of the interview. Continue reading

What If Nazi Germany Had Invaded America?

 

Strasser: Are you one of those people who cannot imagine the Germans in their beloved Paris?

Rick: It’s not particularly my beloved Paris.

Heinz: Can you imagine us in London?

Rick: When you get there, ask me!

Renault: Hmmh! Diplomatist!

Strasser: How about New York?

Rick: Well there are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn’t advise you to try to invade.

Well this is a surprise.  Something worth reading in Slate.

 

And even if the Germans had landed a sizable force here, how where they going to be resupplied? Any such force would have been trapped here until it was defeated, destroyed, or retreated. The U.S. could play at the U-boat game, and the Germans would have needed open logistics lines to keep themselves supplied. Assuming that they were somehow able to move further inland, they still would need a corridor or corridors open to the ocean for supplies and retreat. Not seeing how that could have happened.

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PopeWatch: Che

PopeWatch2-199x300

 

Pope Francis is scheduled to say Mass by a huge portrait of Castro’s hangman when he visits Cuba:

Ernesto “El Che” Guevara adopted German economist Karl Marx’s views of religion with pride. He was 39 when he died fighting for his atheist revolution in Bolivia in 1967. But Cuba has been shifting away from the Communist ideals Guevara envisioned.

A sign of this was set to play out Sept. 20th in the Plaza de la Revolucion in Havana. Cubans will celebrate a historic Roman Catholic Mass under the gaze of the iconic image of “El Che.”

The controversial image portrays “El Che” as a hero. The stenciled beret is a sign that  the physician engaged in guerrilla war alongside Fidel Castro. The 118-foot sculptural silhouette was inspired on Cuban officials’ order to place an enlarged photograph by Alberto Korda during a government event. Continue reading

August 5, 1945: Briefing For the Hiroshima Mission

At midnight August 5-6, Colonel Paul Tibbets held a final briefing for the 26 men who would fly the three planes for the Hiroshima mission.  Enola Gay, named after Tibbets’ mother, would carry the atomic bomb and be piloted by Tibbets.  The Great Artiste would measure the blast with special instruments.  A then unnamed plane, later known as Necessary Evil, would photograph the bomb and carry scientific observers.  At the end of the briefing a 25 year old Protestant Army Chaplain, Bill Downey, gave the following prayer:

Almighty Father, Who wilt hear the prayer of them that love Thee, we pray Thee to be with those who brave the heights of Thy heaven and who carry the battle to our enemies. Guard and protect them, we pray Thee, as they fly their appointed rounds. May they, as well as we, know Thy strength and power, and armed with Thy might may they bring this war to a rapid end. We pray Thee that the end of the war may come soon, and that once more we may know peace on earth. May the men who fly this night be kept safe in Thy care, and may they be returned safely to us. We shall go forward trusting in Thee, knowing that we are in Thy care now and forever. In the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Interviewed in 1985 he noted that he was often asked what he would say to the survivors of the bombing: Continue reading

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