Victory Over Japan

Saturday, August 14, AD 2010

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

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

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161 Responses to Victory Over Japan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Learning

  • “Eisenhower did not think it was necessary.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Oh?

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

    Use of Atom Bomb Assailed by Sheen

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

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

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

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

    Link.

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

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

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

    See here:

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

    and:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Unserious individuals such as Pope Paul VI?

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

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

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

    And, of course, the Catechism:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    As Sheen said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Can you try again?

  • “Placing a town under interdict”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I think the atomic bombings fit precisely into this passage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    It is a nonsensical argument you are putting forth.

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

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

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

  • Don,

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

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

    How much clearer can the Church be on this issue?

    Interesting citation at the link

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

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

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

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

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

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

    There. See?

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

  • “Don,

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

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

  • I’ll break it down:

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

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

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

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

    It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    They were done.

    Just wars don’t stay Just forever.

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

    Lobbing an insult is easier than answering a query JohnH.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Briefly to c matt:

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

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

  • Don,

    You have done very well on this thread.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The Japanese slogan in 1945:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Shawn! Dude!

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

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

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

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

  • Ivan,

    Now, now, let’s be civil here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I believe he also had a few words about murder.

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

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

  • Blackadder,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • That is a wonderful resource you linked to Art:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And apparently forgotten more as well.

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

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

    there has always been a divided assessment of this issue

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

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

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

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

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

  • Art,

    From the conclusion of the Weigel materials you link to:

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

    Weigel’s position is as I said it was.

  • “Huh? Your point being?”

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

  • Don,

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

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

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

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

  • Mr. Petrik:

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

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

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

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

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

  • Mark,

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

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

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

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

  • This made me laugh:

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

    Good times. 😉

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

    And apparently forgotten more as well.###

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Okay then, do it.

  • Mike Petrik,

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

    ~Shawn

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

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

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

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

    Nonsense.

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

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

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

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

    Exactly.

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

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

    Antinomy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Mr Petrik:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Victor,

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

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

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

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

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

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

    You know this counterfactual hypothetical … how?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    True, and we should.

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

    but no intrinsic evil problem unless the target is civilian.

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

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

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

  • Victor,

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

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

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

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

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

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

    From his Easter 1941 message:

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

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

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

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

  • That was in response to JohnH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Sorry … let me avoid the passive voice …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Intrinsically? With respect to their object?

    Yes, there is no difference.

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

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

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

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

War Crimes

Tuesday, August 10, AD 2010

As the New York Times remembers Hiroshima, Richard Fernandez asks us to name the two greatest losses of civilian life in the Pacific war. (“Hint. In both cases the civilian casualties were greater than Hiroshima’s. In one case the event took place on American soil.”)

Meanwhile, Donald Sensing (Sense of Events) thinks it’s past time for Western churches to stop treating Japan as victim every Aug. 6 and 9:

I refuse on principle to pollute God’s ears with prayers dedicated only to Hiroshima Day and the dead of those cities while ignoring the tens of millions of Japanese-murdered souls who cry for remembrance, but do not get it, certainly not from the World Council of Churches and its allies who have no loathing but for their own civilization. If the prayers of the WCC’s service are to be offered, let them be uttered on Aug. 14, the day Japan announced its surrender, or on Sept. 2, the day the surrender instruments were signed aboard USS  Missouri. Let our churches no longer be accessories to Japan’s blood-soaked silence but instead be voices for the  millions of murdered victims of its bloodlust, imperialist militarism.

(HT: Bill Cork).

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97 Responses to War Crimes

  • Excellent post Christopher. Apparently Pius XII wasn’t as certain initially in his condemnation of the bombings as those members of Catholic blogdom in this country who engage in the self-flagellation ritual of spitting on the grave of Harry Truman in the annual August bomb follies. When the chief diplomat of the US mentioned an editorial of L Osservatore Romano that criticized the US for the bombings Pius responded that the editorial had not been authorized by him. I truly pray that those swift to condemn Truman never have to deal with making a decision that would kill hundreds of thousands, or likely kill millions if they do not make the decision. The cry of “consequentialism” is of course useful on Catholic blogs, and fairly useless when dealing with grim realities that constantly arise in war.

  • Sitting in Truman’s seat I may well have made the same decision. But I would not have tried to defend it before my Creator. The intrinsically evil nature of the act is not altered by either its good intentions or beneficial consequences. Some sins are simply more forgivable than others. While I’m willing to defend Truman I am unwilling to defend his decision, even though I certainly sympathize with his predicament. As wrong as his decision was, Truman is a far more morally sympathetic character than most of his vain and self-righteous critics.

  • Thanks for this post, Christopher. The last two paragraphs–yours and Michael’s–pretty well sum up where I am now.

    My sons and I visited the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force last month, and one of the exhibits is the original “Bockscar,” the B-29 which dropped “Fat Man” on Nagasaki. I posed my sons by a Spad XIII (the same model as flown by Eddie Rickenbacker) and by an F-86 Sabre (Korea). I refused to do the same with Bockscar. I explained to my oldest (I was trying to keep my youngest from touching every. single. aircraft. in the museum) what it was, and also said that it killed thousands of innocent people, and was dropped by a Catholic cathedral. If nothing else, I think he’ll remember that and understand the horrid complexity of war, even when the war itself is necessary.

  • It’s true that the Japanese army committed atrocities during WWII with a greater death toll than Hiroshima, but when was the last time you read an article trying to justify the Rape of Nanking?

  • I’m not sure what VDH’s point was about the Tokyo raids. Because we had done much worse, Hiroshima is not bad?

    The correct moral decision is clear enough. The fact it would be difficult to follow through on it is no real surprise. Doing the right thing is rarely easy.

    I have no desire to villify Truman for dropping the bomb; but I don’t consider him a hero either.

  • The firebombings of earlier in the war both in Europe and Japan were clearly nothing more than acts of terror deliberately calculated to demoralize civilians… and Dresden was a particularly horrific example of this barbarism (cf., http://www.rense.com/general19/flame.htm).

    “Bomber” Harris, the Brit commander behind Dresden and similar attacks, also memorialized in Britain by a statue in his honor, famously said he did “not personally regard the whole of the remaining cities of Germany as worth the bones of one British Grenadier.”
    And,
    “the aim of the Combined Bomber Offensive…should be unambiguously stated [as] the destruction of German cities, the killing of German workers, and the disruption of civilised life throughout Germany.”

    And,
    “It should be emphasized that the destruction of houses, public utilities, transport and lives, the creation of a refugee problem on an unprecedented scale, and the breakdown of morale both at home and at the battle fronts by fear of extended and intensified bombing, are accepted and intended aims of our bombing policy. They are not by-products of attempts to hit factories.”

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki were only extensions of this immoral military doctrine. The Brits, who during Germany’s V-2 campaign suffered a small fraction of the casualities they themselves would inflict on a supine German civilian population, should have known better.

    Truman should also have known better.

  • I am not able to argue against any of the comments posted by Tom so I will not attempt it. To give the military the benefit of the doubt for their actions, many soldiers had to act on the notion “kill or be killed” – which is totally different than our plush civilian lives.

    Many soldiers did not know who they could trust and saw death because of it. Leaders tried to keep their soldiers alive. Many were battle weary from long months of fighting in extreme conditions. We take the emotinally scars of these individuals for granted.

    This was war. We were attacked. Japan would not surrender and contiuned torturing people. Truman was obligated to defend this country and our allies and wanted to bring the troups home. I am not sure that we now are qualified to make a judgement statement such as “Truman should also have known better”.

    The dropping of these bombs was a tragic event. With the determination of Imperial Japan, what would have stopped them? Should we consider additional bombing raids that would have killed more people any less evil? Would sending our soldiers into certain-death situations be less evil since many were physically and emotionally drained? Are we supposed to consider self-defense and defense of others as evil?!

  • I am not able to argue against any of the comments posted by Tom so I will not attempt it. To give the military the benefit of the doubt for their actions, many soldiers had to act on the notion “kill or be killed” – which is totally different than our plush civilian lives.

    Many soldiers did not know who they could trust and saw death because of it. Leaders tried to keep their soldiers alive. Many were battle weary from long months of fighting in extreme conditions. We take the emotional scars of these individuals for granted.

    This was war. We were attacked. Japan would not surrender and contiuned torturing people. Truman was obligated to defend this country and our allies and wanted to bring the troups home. I am not sure that we now are qualified to make a judgement statement such as “Truman should also have known better”.

    The dropping of these bombs was a tragic event. With the determination of Imperial Japan, what would have stopped them? Should we consider additional bombing raids that would have killed more people any less evil? Would sending our soldiers into certain-death situations be less evil since many were physically and emotionally drained? Are we supposed to consider self-defense and defense of others as evil?!

  • My opinion: liberal, left-wing catholics resurrect this uncharitable (“He who is without sin . . . , etc.) opinion each August in order (I think) to salve their consummate consciences for voting for abortion: because America Hiroshima is evil, don’t you know? But, it’s not evil to vote for abortion.

    BARF!

  • T. Shaw,

    Most, if not all of us who frequent here are adamantly opposed to abortion and I have never voted for anyone who supports the killing of the unborn (whether the candidate has a D or R after his name).

    This is not Vox Nova.

    But evil is evil, and wrong is wrong. I agree with the others that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were evils, as well as Dresden, etc. It should be no surprise that even generally good people can do evil things.

  • Of course, our national flirtation with war-crime-as-policy began with Lincoln, who unleashed Sherman on the civilian population of the South:

    Quoth Sherman,
    “The Government of the United States has in North Alabama any and all rights which they choose to enforce in war – to take their lives, their homes, their lands, their everything . . . . war is simply power unrestrained by constitution or compact…. We will . . . take every life, every acre of land, every particle of property, everything that to us seems proper.”

    Not rebellious southern civilians alone were subject to this policy, but the Indians too:

    “It is one of those irreconcilable conflicts that will end only in one way, one or the other must be exterminated . . . . We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to the extermination, men, women and children” … “The more Indians we can kill this year, the less will have to be killed next year… They all have to be killed or be maintained as a species of paupers.”

    There’s no ambiguity about it: deliberate targeting of non-combatants and their homes and property is flat out immoral. I hope The American Catholic continues to rank the noun above the adjective.

  • Of course, our national flirtation with war-crime-as-policy began with Lincoln, who unleashed Sherman on the civilian population of the South

    Er, no.

    That hypothesis would be news to the Iroquois, who referred to George Washington as the “burner of towns” for his dispatch of John Sullivan to root out the pro-British tribes in 1779. Sullivan performed his mission with gusto, obliterating at least 40 Iroquois villages.

    Washington was actually rather disappointed with the results, truth be told.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sullivan_Expedition

  • There seems to be a great deal of confusion in the use of the word “moral”. The Church quite clearly teaches that morality is a personal attribute. A nation, an institution, a group cannot sin. It has no soul, no free will.

    [Likewise, the Church did not commit the sexual. They were acts of individuals. And again the Church did not cover up the acts. Those were decisions by individual bishops].

    The question then becomes “whose was the sin?” Who should be put on trial?

    There is a great deal of the disingenuous in those who point to others as the sinners. It is just a tad too easy at a distance of 60 years. And there is a touch of discerning the mote in the eye of others.

    Should not those who so quick to condemn the bombings, to condemn the war, be willing to give up all the benefits they enjoy as a result of the war?

    It seems to me that we Americans did what amounts to acts of contrition by rebuilding Germany and Japan after the war, and ridding those countries of the brutal regimes which oppressed them.

  • I think that several of the comments here misunderstand the upshot of the original post. Is it possible to hold both that

    (1) the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and other bombings of non-combatants, both in WWII and after, is an intrinsically evil act

    and

    (2) the agents responsible for committing those acts were in all liklihood not possessed of a desire to commit an intrinsically evil act, but by a desire to do the best thing possible in a very bad set of circumstances.

    Sometimes holier-than-thou-types seem not to understand that holding (2) does not remove the force of (1) but, if anything, testifies even more strongly to how pervasive sin is in the world: sometimes what seems to be the very best thing to an already compromised ethical agent (and who is not already compromised) is intrinsically evil.

    I take it that there exists an analogy between Truman and his desicion and the sister in charge of medical ethics at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, who ordered the D&E on the woman who appeared to be dying from priaclampsia [sic?].

  • Of course then we would have the burning of Chambersburg by the Confederates after the citizenry were unable to come up with the monetary ransom requested by the boys in gray.

    http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/ah/1973/5/1973_5_36.shtml

    Then there is also the fact that the Confederate States decreed death for all former slaves in the Union Army and the officers who led them.

    “3. That all negro slaves captured in arms be at once delivered over to the executive authorities of the respective States to which they belong to be dealt with according to the laws of said States.

    4. That the like orders be executed in all cases with respect to all commissioned officers of the United States when found serving in company with armed slaves in insurrection against the authorities of the different States of this Confederacy.”

    http://www.history.umd.edu/Freedmen/pow.htm

    Neo-Confederate apologists for the Confederacy have a lot to explain when they want to take Lincoln to task for “total war”.

  • One element I would like to raise in this thread is the alternatives to what Truman did. The opponents of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki also oppose the fire bombing of Japanese cities which was the only way to destroy from the air the spread out Japanese industries. Presumably they would also have opposed an air tight blockade of the Home Islands, probably going on for years, in order to starve Japan into surrender. Of course while this was still going on Japan would have still controlled a large part of Asia and continued to kill, on average, some 300,000 civilians each and every month. An invasion of the Home Islands would have led to a mammoth death toll of civilians. During the battle of Manila in March of 45 MacArthur restricted the use of artillery and air power in order to attempt to spare civilian casualties. Some 100,000 civilians died anyway, some deliberately slain by the Japanese, but most simply dying as a result of being caught in the cross fire of two armies battling in an urban area.

    So, critics of Truman, you are in his shoes. What do you do? (I do hope that no one brings up the truly fatuous idea of inviting the Japanese military to observe a test of the bomb. The Japanese didn’t surrender after Hiroshima. A test of a bomb would have had no impact upon the Japanese government.)

  • I understand that the bombing of Dresden was immoral. It was (as far as I know) a civilian, not a military, target. But does that distinction apply to Hiroshima and Nagasaki? The Japanese civilians were doing machine work in their houses; the families were trained for combat. Granted, they weren’t uniformed, and who knows if they would have resisted or surrendered, but I don’t see how they can be classified as non-military.

  • Oh – let me add, “unless I’m wrong”. I’m no ethicist or historian.

  • Hindsight may be 20/20, but war crimes are forever.

  • Don, if I were Truman, I would not have insisted on unconditional surrender.

  • Actually Pinky Dresden was rather heavily involved in the German war effort. A good revisionist look at that bombing is linked to below:

    http://www.amazon.com/Dresden-Tuesday-February-13-1945/dp/0060006773

    In regard to what an invasion of the Japanese Home Islands would have entailed the most recent study is linked below.

    “Giangreco, a longtime former editor for Military Review, synthesizes years of research in a definitive analysis of America’s motives for using atomic bombs against Japan in 1945. The nuclear bombing of Japan, he concludes, was undertaken in the context of Operation Downfall: a series of invasions of the Japanese islands American planners estimated would initially cause anywhere from a quarter-million to a million U.S. casualties, plus millions of Japanese. Giangreco presents the contexts of America’s growing war weariness and declining manpower resources. Above all, he demonstrates the Japanese militarists’ continuing belief that they could defeat the U.S. Japan had almost 13,000 planes available for suicide attacks, and plans for the defense of Kyushu, the U.S.’s initial invasion site, were elaborate and sophisticated, deploying over 900,000 men. Japanese and American documents presented here offer a chillingly clear-eyed picture of a battle of attrition so daunting that Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall considered using atomic and chemical weapons to support the operation. Faced with this conundrum, in Giangreco’s excellent examination, President Truman took what seemed the least worst option.”

    http://www.amazon.com/Hell-Pay-Operation-DOWNFALL-1945-1947/dp/1591143160/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1281467655&sr=1-1

  • “Don, if I were Truman, I would not have insisted on unconditional surrender.”

    What terms would you have offered Japan restrainedradical? Here are the terms Truman offered.

    Proclamation Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender
    Issued, at Potsdam, July 26, 1945

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    http://www.ndl.go.jp/constitution/e/etc/c06.html

  • So, critics of Truman, you are in his shoes. What do you do?

    If I were Truman my priority would have been to end the war quickly so as to prevent Soviet entry into the war (the fact that the Allies actually encouraged Soviet entry is one of the more boneheaded moves in all of diplomatic history). If ending the war quickly meant accepting something less than unconditional surrender (say, by letting the Japanese keep their Emperor), then it would have been cheap at the price.

    If you were going to use the atom bomb, I don’t see why you couldn’t have dropped it on a strictly military target (such as the troops at Kyushu). That would have achieved the same effect as Hiroshima without incinerating tens of thousands of women and children.

  • Arguing from counterfactuals is rather unhelpful in this instance. Our knowledge of what *may* have happened, given a different decision, is so slight as to provide no reason for acting. This is, by the way, why moral absolutes are important for Catholic theology. One does not have to provide an (impossible) answer to McClarey’s question–it is all just speculation at this point, anyhow–in order to determine that Truman’s act was wrong.

  • “If you were going to use the atom bomb, I don’t see why you couldn’t have dropped it on a strictly military target (such as the troops at Kyushu).”

    The Japanese located their military units in urban areas in the Home Islands.

    For example:
    “At the time of its bombing, Hiroshima was a city of considerable military significance. It contained the headquarters of the Fifth Division and Field Marshal Hata’s 2nd General Army Headquarters, which commanded the defence of all of southern Japan.”
    http://www.japaneselifestyle.com.au/travel/hiroshima_bombing.htm

    In regard to the Emperor, prior to Hiroshima, Japanese advocates of a negotiate piece assumed that such a peace would have to entail, at a minimum, no occupation of Japan, no dis-arming of Japan and Japan keeping some of its overseas conquests. Japanese militarists laughed at such peace advocates and assumed that Japan could stop an American invasion and cause the US, sick of war and high casualties, to withdraw from most of Asia and the Pacific. A negotiated peace is a fantasy.

  • “One does not have to provide an (impossible) answer to McClarey’s question–it is all just speculation at this point, anyhow–in order to determine that Truman’s act was wrong.”

    Wrong. Catholic moral theology has never simply thrown up its hands in regard to the real world. If Truman hadn’t dropped the bombs there would have been consequences, almost certainly terrible consequences. Condemning Truman without owning up to those consequences and accepting them, is to pretend that we live in a pacifist dream world rather than a world where the leaders of nations sometimes have to make decisions that will end up killing lots of people no matter what they do or not do. Condemning is easy, thinking through the consequences of acting or not acting is much harder and less pleasant, but must be done if moral theology is to be something more than a bat to swing in Catholic comboxes.

  • The Japanese located their military units in urban areas in the Home Islands.

    To suggest that the bomb couldn’t have been dropped on a military target in Japan without resulting in 95% civilian casualties is just silly. Dropping the bomb on the assembled forces at Kyushu would have had the same effect as Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but without the massive civilian loss of life.

    In regard to the Emperor, prior to Hiroshima, Japanese advocates of a negotiate piece assumed that such a peace would have to entail, at a minimum, no occupation of Japan, no dis-arming of Japan and Japan keeping some of its overseas conquests.

    I would say these were the maximum expected demands, not the minimum. However, even if the above were what it would take to end the war without incinerating tens of thousands of women and children, I think Truman should have accepted them.

  • “I would say these were the maximum expected demands, not the minimum. However, even if the above were what it would take to end the war without incinerating tens of thousands of women and children, I think Truman should have accepted them.”

    Which of our Asian allies would you have advised to “suck it up” BA and continue to live under the Rising Sun? How do you think the American people would have reacted to the idea that the nation that brought them Pearl Harbor was going to retain some foreign conquests, not be occupied, not be disarmed and probably be ready for another go at the US in twenty years. Your suggestion might fit some fantasy world. It certainly could not have been implemented by any US President in 1945.

  • Oh, and BA, Hiroshima had 43,000 troops in it when the bomb was dropped.

  • Donald,

    You’re right, I’m sure America never would have stood for China or Korea living under oppression.

    Actually the Chinese wanted to make peace with Japan at the beginning of 1945, but didn’t out of deference to America. The idea that Truman bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki because he was concerned about the plight of the Chinese is the real fantasy.

    And as far as I can tell you have no answer as to why the bomb couldn’t be dropped on the troops at Kyushu.

  • Oh, and BA, Hiroshima had 43,000 troops in it when the bomb was dropped.

    And how many were there in Nagasaki?

  • Good way of completely avoiding the question of which of our Asian allies you would have thrown to the wolves BA. The idea that such a thing would have been entertained by the US government is a tribute to the absurdity that usually surrounds the August Follies. In regard to China making a separate peace with Japan, unless you can cite chapter and verse, I will also assume that this is a fantasy of yours. The Japanese army had actually gone on the offensive in 44 and 45 in China and controlled a huge amount of China.

    http://cbi-theater-1.home.comcast.net/~cbi-theater-1/lantern/lantern050445.html

    There was zero prospect that Japan was going to willingly withdraw from China absent surrender by Japan. As a matter of fact, several overseas commanders after Japan surrendered contemplated carrying on a war.

    As to your odd assumption that there were large military units in Kyushu out in the open waiting to be bombed, the military units of Japan were subject to conventional bombing like everything else in Japan. They were dispersed, with most of them located in urban centers, as was the case in Hiroshima.

  • And how many were there in Nagasaki?

    I don’t know how many strictly military folks there were, but I know the Japanese lady at Sasebo’s indoc mentioned that it was their primary Navy shipyards. (Sasebo became the largest afterwards.)

  • Presumably they would also have opposed an air tight blockade of the Home Islands, probably going on for years, in order to starve Japan into surrender.

    One thing about the blockade – it takes a lot longer (as you admit, years) and it can be reveresed, as well as regulated to allow certain subsistence amounts in (and refugees out, if you are so inclined), and the repeated opportunity to surrender, change minds, etc. With the bomb, it’s all over in an instant, and there is no going back.

  • Mitsubishi shipyards, if anyone wants to research.

  • I don’t know that a blockade would have taken years. Like Britain, Japan was and remains a net food importer, and our submarine force was annihilating their merchant marine at will. I don’t think their navy would have been able to escort sufficient convoys to keep them going for very long.

    Then again, famine and the attendant diseases can’t be flipped off like a light switch, either. I can easily see the civilian death toll from a blockade leaping into the high hundred thousands, if not more than a million, in relatively short order, even given a surrender.

    And as to subsistence blockades–well, that certainly hasn’t hurt the Kim tyrants in North Korea. That ratchets down the likelihood of surrender, I think, and ups the likelihood of continuous conventional bombardment.

  • The famine would have hit in the Spring of 1946. MacArthur only avoided the famine historically with huge shipments of food that he insisted be sent to Japan from the US. Needless to say, sending food to Japan was not popular. MacArthur in response to opposition said that he was responsible for keeping the Japanese alive and that he would resign rather than allow mass starvation on his watch. It was Mac’s finest moment in my opinion.

    I have my doubts that even mass starvation would have caused the Japanese to capitulate, absent intervention by Hirohito, something he was unwilling to do until after Nagasaki.

  • FWIW, there was a similar discussion here on Kiwiblog.co.nz a few days ago.

    Most opinions were that “The Bomb” was the right decision under the circumstances, for all the reasons above mentioned.

    This will be debated for many years to come, by those who will moralize and condemn those who had this truly terrible decision to make, in the dispassionate comfort of their safe armchairs.

    Does the end justify the means? No.
    Was this means justified? If the END was to prevent the continued destruction of human life, and in bringing the war to an abrupt end, prevent the killing of many more millions than “The Bomb” would kill, then yes, the MEANS was justified.

  • The only non-negotiable I would insisted on would have been withdrawal from occupied lands. Some disarmament would probably have been necessary too. I may also have insisted on a reparations fund.

  • Intrinsically immorlal means can never be justified by good ends/consequences. Truman was wrong. But he was still a good man trying hard to do the right thing. This is not all that different from the Sister Margaret McBride, who when confronted with the choice of directly taking a life (via a direct abortion) versus allowing that same life and that of another (the mother) to die did what most sensible and well-intentioned people would do — choose to have one person to survive rather than none. Very understandable. But still very wrong.

  • After Nagasaki, Japan agreed to all terms except removal of the emperor. It was rejected and conventional bombing continued, killing thousands more.

  • Your understanding of those events is faulty restrainedradical. Here is actually what was said on August 12 by the Allies:

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

    The Allies heard nothing from Japan on August 13, and ordered a resumption of bombing for August 14, previously halted by Truman, the date when Hirohito, finally, eight days after Hiroshima and five days after Nagasaki, addressed Japan and ordered the capitulation:

    “Despite the best that has been done by everyone—the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our servants of the State, and the devoted service of Our one hundred million people—the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.

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

    Such being the case, how are We to save the millions of Our subjects, or to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why We have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers.

    The hardships and sufferings to which Our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great. We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all of you, Our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is unsufferable.”

    American bombing was halted after Hirohito’s address. Japanese units on the Asian mainland continued fighting for several days after Hirohito’s address.

  • Donald,

    You are misunderstanding my point–which is also the point of Catholic moral theology. To say that one need not provide answers to any of your multitudinous counterfactuals in order to determine that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was evil is just to say that the intentional killing of civilians is *intrinsically* evil. To say this, however, is not to say what you appear to think it says, that I–and the Church–are throwing up our hands with respect to “the real world.” Quite the contrary, the structure of reality, as revealed by Christ and his Church, is precisely what is being respected in the confident determination that some acts are so destructive of the imago dei that they can never, under any circumstances, be permitted–come what may. The intentional killing of innocents has always been regarded as such an act, and for good reason.

    From the perspective of Christian moral theology, it would have been better for Truman–and for any who were cooperators in this act–that the Japanese were militarily victorious than that he should have committed such an act. That is the hard truth.

    Now, you may disagree with the Christ and the Church’s teaching here–many do, Christians and non-Christians alike–but let us not be deceived by a sophistry which attempts to lessen the gravity of this evil act by appeal to a set of conjectures which remain just that, conjectures. From the perspective of Catholic moral theology, it is you, and not I, who are ignoring the “real world.”

  • Don, it’s not incumbent on one who is pointing out the immorality of intentional targeting of civilians to solve the problem of “what other course was there?”

    But the “other course” here would have been to continue the conventional war and perhaps pursuing something other than unconditional surrender.

    Oh, and with regard to the confederates, Bobby Lee in his forays north expressly forbade the type of tactics Sherman expressly adopted.

    Chambersburg should not have been burned, but by 1864 the Confederates were responding to Yankee war crimes, specifically in this case, Hunter’s devestation of civilian targets in the Shenandoah.

    Such is the logic of “total war”– it tends to suck in those who would otherwise not want to practice it.

  • One other thing: from the perspective of the civitas dei, which is the perspective that all Christians are exhorted to conform themselves to, it matters very little who wins what wars, what kinds of polity we are subject to here below, etc. For the Church, there are good things and bad things that accompany *any* political regime, and it is a dangerous, and finally idolatrous, mistake to believe that the defense of any particular civitas terrena–whether it be America in the 20th century, Rome in the 5th, or some future city–is worth the commission of an intrinsically evil act, which destroys one’s participation in the civitas dei.

    None of this entails pacifism. But it does entail our willingness to call a spade a spade.

  • From the perspective of Christian moral theology, it would have been better for Truman–and for any who were cooperators in this act–that the Japanese were militarily victorious than that he should have committed such an act. That is the hard truth.

    I’m not clear that “it would have been better” scenarios along these lines are all that useful. Frankly, from a perspective of Christian moral theology, it would be better if one no had earthly responsibilities for anyone else. Paul, after all, enjoins people not to even marry (and thus take on the responsibilities of a spouse) and for spouses to be celibate (and thus not take on the responsibilities of children) because earthly responsibilies tend to turn us away from true eternal priorities. And yet, we as Catholics also recognize that it is necessary that we as a human community have marriage, have children, have rulers and law, etc. Greater earthly responsibilities invariably distract people from their eternal destinations — something which I think Dante well summarizes the thinking of the Christian tradition on in Purgatorio. And yet, there is also a sense in which it is necessary that a portion of society make the sacrifice of focusing on earthly responsibility. Why?

    One other thing: from the perspective of the civitas dei, which is the perspective that all Christians are exhorted to conform themselves to, it matters very little who wins what wars, what kinds of polity we are subject to here below, etc.

    It seems to me that this misses an obvious issue, which is that the environment in which people find themselves often affects their ability to live in accordance with the the civitas dei. Look at conflicts such as the French Revolution or the Spanish Civil War in which one side was actively invested in stamping out the Church and perverting the order of society. To be sure, such situations offer the opportunity for martyrdom, but for most they offer the opportunity for apostacy, collaboration and corruption. I’m reminded similarly of some of the pieces I’ve read about the archives which are now open in Germany of East German secret police files, where people were constantly encouraged to inform on each other and rewarded for betraying of friends and family. Surely such an environment is destructive to many souls.

    Without question each society presents its own temptations and corruptions, and if anything I lean heavily in the direction of Christians seeking the path to God in their own societies as they exist rather than embracing a revolutionary ethic of overturning the social order in order to make society “more holy”. And armed struggle has a tendency to corrupt all sides. But I can’t see that complete indifference is the right response either.

  • Darwin,

    I mean “would have been better” in the strict sense that it is always better not to commit an intrinsically evil act than to commit one. I do not mean to say, nor is it true that, marriage, law-making, etc. fall under the same category. I am assuming here a post-lapsarian condition.

    As for your second comment: fair enough. I am more Pascalian in my outlook than most, and I am well aware that certain regimes produce certain evils that are on first blush more destructive than the evils of other regimes. (I am not so certain, however, that collaboration, apostasy, etc. are not equally prevalent in the West. There are more lapsed Catholics in American than any other denomination, they say.) But would you at least acknowledge that if my position leads to a skeptical indifferentism, it is nonetheless within the bounds of orthodoxy, and in fact corresponds nearly exactly with Augustine’s own view, whereas the danger in becoming too tied up with the “justness” of a particular regime on earth leads rather quickly to unorthodoxy and idolatry: one excuses intrinsic evils committed by that regime in order to ensure its own continued existence, rather than admitting that such an act has been committed?

    I fear that I discern something of this in McClarey’s hand-waving about the behavior of the Allies–and America in particular–in WWII.

  • Like Darwin, I can’t go so far as to say that it matters little who wins wars… Certainly there are just wars, and WWII was one example. It’s the old Thomistic distinction between jus ad bellum, whether a war is just in the first place, and jus in bello, whether a war is conducted in accordance with moral principles.

    Collateral damage is inevitable in modern warfare, but where the Allies went wrong was in aping the evil done by the Axis powers, i.e., deliberately targeting civilians and non-military targets for the purpose of “demoralizing” the populace.

  • (I am being especially procrastinatory today.)

    Tom,

    First, I agree that yours is a perfectly viable interpretation of where the Allies went wrong in WWII. I agree with it, in fact, and, as I said, nothing in my own position commits one to pacifism.

    But I still think that it is *also* true that, at least according to Augustine and several other thinkers in the Augustinian tradition, it *still* makes little difference what regime a Christian lives under, for the reason that *every* regime is dominated by the libido dominandi, and so, from the perspective of the civitas dei, they are all equal.

    Thomas, and the Thomistic tradition more generally, has a less skeptical view. One that, I hasten to add, is perfectly legitimate. It seems to me that the Church, within the bounds of orthodoxy, allows for a range of opinion on this matter.

    I am not so much bothered by any disagreement here as I am by the hesitancy to call a spade a spade.

  • Don (Kiwi)

    You seem to contradict yourself. First, you say that the ends cannot justify the means, and then you do precisely that – you state the end of ending the war justified the means of dropping the bomb. Am I missing something?

  • “The intentional killing of innocents has always been regarded as such an act, and for good reason.”

    Actually it depends on how you define intentional. Papal armies in the Middle Ages routinely besieged cities, a normal military operation of the time. The cities would be caused to surrender usually through blockades that produced starvation, and, inevitably, disease would usually explode in the cities. If any pope ever breathed a word against sieges as a method of warfare, I am unaware of it. This is quite a bit more of a complicated area than it seems at first glance.

  • That papal armies acted or did not act in certain ways with or without the permission of popes is immaterial. Are you denying that the slaughter of innocents has not always been regarded as an intrinsically evil act?

  • c matt.

    Re-reading my comment, I appear to do as you say. However, in the context of what was occuring – a war costing huge casualties on both sides, a stark choice became presented. Do we continue as we are, and lose many millions of lives, or do we introduce a new stratagem, and save arguably millions of lives which would otherwise be lost? ( the other choice was, as Wj said earlier, to lie down and be conquered, which to me , would be unacceptable)
    I guess the choice was therefore, a lesser of two evils. No doubt it can be debated whether or not a less evil choice is the correct moral choice in view of the principle, that the end does not justify the means.
    Quite a connundrum, isn’t it?

  • All ends are achieved by a means.

    But the end does not (necessarily) justify the means.

    Some means are justifiable, others are not.

  • Are you denying that the slaughter of innocents has not always been regarded as an intrinsically evil act?

    I think you mean “are you denying that…has ALWAYS been regarded as an intrinsically evil act,” or “are you CLAIMING…has not always been regarded as an intrinsically evil act.”

    Perhaps a better tact might be to find out when it was first enumerated as an intrinsic evil?

    DonTK-
    I think the situation is significantly more complicated than folks are willing to consider– even with folks that I KNOW are honestly trying to just figure it out, there’s incredible simplification.

    Does it matter that there was warning given so the population had a chance to leave?
    Does it matter that military operations were moved into civilian areas, even into family dwellings?
    Does it matter that “aiming” with bombs in that day was more an art than a science?
    Do prior tactics of the Americans matter?
    Do prior tactics of the Allies matter?
    Does our responsibility to defend the innocent that WEREN’T in those cities matter?
    What effect does the (possible) Japanese military stopping civilians from evacuating have on the morality of it?
    How much information did they have about what was going on at ground level, and how much could they reasonably be expected to have?

    (stuff like this is probably why a lot of folks think morality should be restricted to philosophy, not the real world– it’s just not as simple IRL, even if it is still black and white)

    I know full well I don’t have nearly enough information to make an informed, binding judgement on these actions that happened before my parents were born. Luckily, I don’t have to; it’s useful to try to figure out, in case a similar case comes along, but it’s also important to keep in mind that it’s not cut and dried.

  • “That papal armies acted or did not act in certain ways with or without the permission of popes is immaterial. Are you denying that the slaughter of innocents has not always been regarded as an intrinsically evil act?”

    I think the praxis of the Church is always of importance, especially when that praxis went on for centuries. I am denying that the Church has condemned all military operations which, by their very nature, were bound to take quite a few innocent lives.

    Let’s think this through. Hiroshima is bombed from the air, either fire bombed or nuked. Bad, intrinsically immoral. Hiroshima is taken by the US in a ground assault in the spring of 46 which, in a house to house fight against the Japanese Army, kills most of the civilian population, who are caught in the cross fire. Morally acceptable. I assume the difference is one of intention, but I find that argument weak. A military man would have to be brain dead not to realize that large scale combat in an urban area is going to kill huge numbers of civilians. If mass casualties are foreseeable in a ground assault, how does that materially differ from mass casualties caused by an air assault? The current Church stance may be an argument for pacifism, but I do not think it adequately addresses that other measures taken in military operations, presumably morally licit, may kill just as many civilians, if not more, than the measures condemned.

    I might also note that in the spiritual realm popes have been quite willing to take actions which have had adverse impacts on innocent parties. A good example would be the Interdict which prevented the dispensing of the sacraments in nations or regions. Imagine a pope saying that a dying innocent could not have the comfort of the Last Rites. However, it was done, and not infrequently, for reasons that the popes employing it deemed good and sufficient. The last use of the Interdict, in a fairly mild form, was by Saint Pius X in the early years of the last century. The idea that innocents have an all-embracing immunity is one that is popular in the Church today, but it is rather a novel one.

  • Now you are just obfuscating. For who would not agree with your following assertion? (I certainly don’t disagree with it.)

    “I am denying that the Church has condemned all military operations which, by their very nature, were bound to take quite a few innocent lives.”

    We don’t need to go through the motions of explaining how the doctrine of double effect applies in ius in bello scenarios on this blog. I’ll just take it for granted that most people reading here have a working knowledge about how unintentional though foreseen civilian casualties, for example, are a different kind of thing than INTENTIONALLY DECIMATING A CIVILIAN TARGET.

    Most ALL military operations involve the unfortunate killing of innocents, and if the Church is to have a doctrine of just war at all, which she most assuredly does, then it is basic to such a doctrine to differentiate foreseen but unintended evils from evils intentionally committed. So while, for example, the intentional slaughter of women and children has always been rightly condemned by the Church–which is not to say that she has not at times engaged in this practice against her better lights (thereby proving true what she has to say about sin)–the unfortunate killing of innocents as a result of some other strategy which does not *directly* target them is a more difficult scenario to parse. There is an entire casuitical literature on this and related topics. We all know all the moves here.

    What you are now doing, in fact, is redescribing the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as if this weren’t the intentional killing of civilians. But, on any plausible account of intentional acts (i.e. Thomas, Anscombe, Suarez, etc.), the bombing most clearly *was* an intentionally, and not merely foreseen, attack on noncombatants. Which is, as I said before, intrinsically evil.

    Either you do not understand or you do not agree with the distinction between foreseen and intended consequences–a distinction which is basic to Catholic moral theology. Which is it?

  • By the way, there is one other theological assumption in your response that I take issue with.

    1. The fact that the Church in the past–yea, even for centuries in the past–did or did not intentionally target or unjustly allow a disproportionate number of civilians to be killed in any of her wars is immaterial to the issue at hand. Why? That the Church acted one way or another in the past has, apart from her explicit teachings on doctrine and morals, no bearing on the normative status of that action. For centuries the Church abused the theology of indulgences; from this it does not follow that we, in the present, are supposed to be okay with the selling of indulgences on the grounds that the Church did it in the past. You are conflating two very different kinds of “tradition” and how they have normative bearing in Catholic theology.

    Of course, if you deny the distinction between an intended and a foreseen end, then you are a consequentialist. But if you are a consequentialist, then you have a problem with the decalogue. Do you have a problem with the decalogue?

  • I apologize for the somewhat heated and exasperated tone. If I had known that you denied the difference between an intended and foreseen end, I would have found your defense of the bombings much more intelligible–though not, I am afraid to say, any less repugnant.

  • “Either you do not understand or you do not agree with the distinction between foreseen and intended consequences–a distinction which is basic to Catholic moral theology.”

    My problem WJ is that what is considered as unforeseen in war in regard to civilian casualties is predictable as night follows day. Two corps battling each other in an urban area will produce large amounts of civilian deaths. A siege of a city will produce a large amount of civilian deaths. Foreseeability in this area seems like a very frail reed on which to make categorical distinctions. Because of the technology of the day, bombing an urban center in World War II was going to produce quite a few civilian casualties no matter what was done. My point is that if it is intrinsically evil to ever intentionally engage in the targeting of civilian populations in war, why is it not intrinsically evil to engage in actions in war which, completely predictably, will lead to civilian deaths? Hiding behind foreseeability in this area strikes me as exalting form over substance.

  • No sweat WJ. This is an area which people get passionate about. I certainly am in that category.

  • Donald, I think this response of yours points the way toward a difficult and important issue in the theology of Just War. At least we are now down to brass tacks, as it were. I am enjoying this quite a bit. You write:

    “My point is that if it is intrinsically evil to ever intentionally engage in the targeting of civilian populations in war, why is it not intrinsically evil to engage in actions in war which, completely predictably, will lead to civilian deaths?”

    The short answer to this is that the intentional targeting of a civilian is murder, and murder is always wrong. Why is it wrong? Well, even Augustine, who was not, I have to admit, terribly worried about civilian casualties, views murder as the sort of action which destroys the imago dei in the soul of the person committing it. (Indeed, murder is like any violation of the decalogue in this respect.) So the intentional targeting of a civilian is wrong not *only* because of what happens to the civilian (as you point out, the civilian may well be killed unintentionally via another strategy) but also what happens to you.

    In the second case, the military commander is intending to engage a lawful combatant, and he foresees that as a result of his action some number of civilians will die. This is not *intrinsically* evil, first, because there are some circumstances in which it is permitted; in a less tautological sense, it is not *intrinscially* evil because the ACTION in question is not murder, but some other action describable in a different way, and so the commander in question is not deprived of grace.

    Of course, it way well be the case, at least according to Just War Theory, that at some point the unintended yet foreseen civilian casualties issuing from some or other military strategy outweigh the good that is to be rationally expected to result from that strategy, and in this case the unintended yet foreseen killing of civilians is evil, though not intrinsically so. Some of Pope Benedict XVI’s skepticism as to whether any modern war can be “licit” (cf. interview with Zenit in March of 03 I believe) derives his beliefs that most contemporary wars cannot but fail to be just in their in bello execution. This is an important and complex issue, and it is not one about which I am certain.

    But can I ask a clarifying question? Do you deny the difference between an intentional and a foreseen end per se, or only the validity of this difference as it applies to actions in war?

  • As a follow up: I am not a pacifist, but it has always seemed to me that one of the strongest arguments for pacifism from a strictly theological point of view has to do with the *near impossibility* of ensuring that even the most just war from a ius ad bellum perspective will be able to be fought successfully and justly in bello. Many of your examples seem to support this view. I guess one can go one of two ways here. One can view the near impossibility of ius in bello conduct to constitute a strong argument for a practical, if not principled, pacifism, or one can argue that the Church’s understanding of ius in bello conduct has to be changed or expanded or loosened in some way.

  • “Do you deny the difference between an intentional and a foreseen end per se, or only the validity of this difference as it applies to actions in war?”

    Depends entirely on how likely a foreseeable end is. An artillery barrage is made of a grove of trees. Tragically some lumberjacks are killed. Clearly different from intentionally targeting the lumberjacks.

    A division of enemy troops are in a city filled with civilians and intermingled with the civilians. The artillery unit is told to attack the enemy and civilian deaths results. I don’t view that much differently from intentionally targeting the civilians, since their deaths are entirely predictable. Of course the artillery men didn’t want to kill the civilians, they were merely in the way of accomplishing the goal of winning the war. This area is tricky and filled with moral land mines. Whenever double effect is trotted out, I listen very carefully, but am rarely convinced by it.

  • If you hold that “of course the artillery men didn’t want to kill the civilians,” then you hold that they didn’t intentionally kill them. It seems to me that this is entirely different than the artillery unit intentionally targeting the civilians. Does it not seem so to you?

    I wonder what you make of double effect as it applies to abortion. Do you see the moral difference, that is, between surgically removing a mother’s fallopian tubes, knowing that the child inside them will die as a result of this procedure necessary for saving the mother’s life, and flooding the fallopian tubes with chemicals intended to kill the child? (There are any number of other scenarios, which all share the same structure.)

    The reason I ask is that in both cases the death of the child is entirely foreseeable.
    and directly killing

  • “It seems to me that this is entirely different than the artillery unit intentionally targeting the civilians. Does it not seem so to you?”

    Only if intention governs all. In that case why do the airmen of the Enola Gay not get a pass since they most definitely were not intending to kill civilians but rather to convince Japan to surrender? How does this differ materially from the artillery men intending to win a battle in a city, not intending to kill civilians, but knowing that civilians will be killed in large numbers by their bombardment?

    Frankly in the abortion case where the child cannot survive I see no problem with the desperate necessity of removing the fallopian tubes in order to preserve the mother’s life since the child simply cannot survive in any case. I pray for the day when technology will eliminate this sad quandry.

  • The answer to the first question is that you can’t separate intention from the object of the act. You can’t for example, burn your neighbor’s house to the ground and then say that your “intention” in doing so was to stop him from playing loud music. No, pretty clearly you intended to burn his house down with the further end in mind of ceasing his loud music. But this further end in mind does not mean that in burning his house down you acted unintentionally. So with Truman. The intention was clearly to kill large amounts of Japanese civilians with the further end of bringing the war to a speedy halt. This further end–bringing the war to a speedy halt–does not evacuate the intentional structure of the prior act. If you don’t mind a recommendation here, I suggest you read Anscombe’s classic work “Intention.” She demonstrates all this quite persuasively.

    Indeed, in the latter case, the whole point is that the removal of the fallopian tubes is a *different* act than the direct killing of the child. Which is why it is licit.

  • The intention was clearly to kill large amounts of Japanese civilians with the further end of bringing the war to a speedy halt.

    I have to disagree on the “clearly” part of that — you do NOT warn people to leave and give them time if you are trying to kill large numbers of them.

  • “The answer to the first question is that you can’t separate intention from the object of the act.”

    Ah but that is where foreseeability rears its ugly head. The artillery men bombarding the city filled with enemy troops know that large numbers of civilians will be killed. As a matter of fact Hiroshima had 43,000 Japanese troops in it. Once again, I do not think this is simple at all.

  • What is often ignored by Catholics who spill ink on this issue ignore is 1) The pertinnent Catholic moral principles involved and 2) The actual circumstances within Truman made his decision.

    With respect to the use of atomic weapons, Catholic moral theologian Father Heribert Jone defined them this way:

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

    Unfortunately, all of the of Catholic moral theologians and writers who condemn the bombings demonstrate no knowledge of the circumstances involved. The most horrendous and despicable example, in my view, is the recent piece written by well-known Catholic author and senior apologist at Catholic Answers Jimmy Akin.

    The objections these people raise is that the atomic bomb drops cannot be justified because they targeted innocent civilians. To be sure, there is no moral justification for deliberately killing innocent people regardless of how noble your end purpose is. The ends do not justify the means. You cannot do evil so that good can become of it. True enough.

    However, this was not the case with atomic bombings. In WWII Japan, the meaning of the term non-combatant was not only “greatly restricted” it was completely obliterated. William Manchester, in his biography of General Douglass Mac Arthur states:

    Hirohito’s generals, grimly preparing for the invasion, had not abandoned hope of saving their homeland. Although a few strategic islands had been lost, they told each other, most of their conquests, including the Chinese heartland, were firmly in their hands, and the bulk of their army was undefeated. Even now they could scarcely believe that any foe would have the audacity to attempt landings in Japan itself. Allied troops, they boasted, would face the fiercest resistance in history. Over ten thousand kamikaze planes were readied for “Ketsu-Go,” Operation Decision. Behind the beaches, enormous connecting underground caves had been stocked with caches of food and thousands of tons of ammunition. Manning the nation’s ground defenses were 2,350,000 regular soldiers, 250,000 garrison troops, and 32,000,000 civilian militiamen, a total of 34,600,000, more than the combined armies of the United States, Great Britain, and Nazi Germany. All males aged fifteen to sixty, and all females ages seventeen to forty-five, had been conscripted. Their weapons included ancient bronze cannon, muzzle loaded muskets, bamboo spears, and bows and arrows. Even little children had been trained to strap explosives around their waists, roll under tank treads, and blow themselves up. They were called “Sherman’s carpets.” This was the enemy the Pentagon had learned to fear and hate,a country of fanatics dedicated to hara-kiri, determined to slay as many invaders as possible as they went down fighting. [William Manchester: American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964, pg. 510-511)]

    The mass conscription of “all males ages fifteen and all females ages seventeen to forty-five” is practically the entire adult population. With this, the entire country of Japan became a large military base and no longer a civilian, but a military asset, and therefore, a legitimate military target.

    This idea that the bomb drops were a deliberate attack on innocents is flat out false.

    Furthermore, given the alternatives, either an invasion or blockade would have killed more Japanese, not to mention caused more than a million Amreican casualties in the case of an invasion, the most merciful thing Truman could have done was to drop the bombs. He most certainly could have justifiede it before his creator.

  • Donald,

    I have to get to bed–not a night person–so I’ll conclude by reiterating a distinction which you seem to deny (why? I can’t understand). There is a difference between the object of an intentional action and the foreseeable consequences that follow from that action. If I burn my neighbor’s house down, there will be smoke. I foresee that the act of burning my neighbor’s house down will necessarily produce smoke, and yet the production of smoke is not my intent in burning his house down. My intent is simply: to burn his house down.

    Greg,

    I don’t understand you. Is your claim that there were NO innocent Japanese (as you argue in the first half of your longish post) or that there were in any case LESS (innocent) Japanese killed as a result of the bomb than through other means? If the first, then I don’t see why you mention the second; if the second, then everything I’ve already written here applies to that argument. (I don’t think you’ll get many people agreeing to your first claim, though.)

  • Greg.

    Very interesting, and confirms my thoughts and understanding of the situation.
    Thankyou.

  • Wj.

    If I burn my neighbour’s house down, there will be smoke………”

    INO, applying this thinking is obfuscation of conscience.
    You know that you wish to burn down his house and you know fires create smoke. You therefore cannot claim that the creation of smoke is non-culpable, while the burnng of the house is.

  • Just because an action is or may be the lesser of two evils (dropping the atom bomb vs. all out ground invasion of Japan) doesn’t make it good or justified, or a precedent to follow in the future. The lesser of two evils is still an evil. However, this being a fallen world, sometimes a lesser evil is the best we can do. Unfortunately, what often happens is that instead of simply making the least bad choice possible and asking God’s forgiveness for any sin involved, we try to paint that choice as being entirely good.

  • WJ:

    I did not say there were no innocent Japanese. What I said was that the line between combatant and non-combatant had been erased due to the mass civilian conscription and therefore we were not TARGETING innocents.

  • “If I burn my neighbor’s house down, there will be smoke. I foresee that the act of burning my neighbor’s house down will necessarily produce smoke, and yet the production of smoke is not my intent in burning his house down. My intent is simply: to burn his house down.”

    Your example WJ illustrates precisely where the diffculty in this area lies. Intention either always determines the morality of an action or it does not. I think neither at Hiroshima nor my artillery against a city example is the goal to kill civilians, rather the killing of civilians is a necessary part of the action being undertaken to reach another goal, winning a battle or a war. The difference you would raise between them is that the bomb was directed against civilians while the artillery men only kill civilians accidently. This distinction is of cold comfort morally I think when the deaths of the civilians from the use of the artillery are completely predictable and foreseeable. If the goal is allowed to make the action moral in the case of the artillery barrage, I am uncertain why the same logic is not applicable in the case of Hiroshima.

  • Going to have to agree with Greg M. that the notion of “civilian” took a rather major beating in this situation– probably why the Gen. Conv. spent so much time hammering out who is a civie and who isn’t.

    Is someone standing by the soldier and reloading a valid target?
    Are you not allowed to fire at a foxhole that’s trying to gun you down, because you can see they’ve got a red cross worker trying to patch them up?
    Can you destroy a yard full of military ships under construction or repair?
    Can you bomb the not-formally-military staffed bomb factory?
    If it’s required for someone to be a formal military to be a military target, how do you deal with informal attacks? (getting a bit to close to modern issues, so I’ll stop there)

  • Well, despite the best efforts of bombing apologists, we’re left at the end of the day with the fact that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were obliterated, not because of their military value (which was slight and certainly less than many other potential targets), not because the civilians there were a threat (regimes like Japan’s always threaten that their civilians will rise up against any invader… they don’t), but because our bombing policy was, as I stated before, identical to “Bomber” Harris’ vision of demoralizing CIVILIAN populations.

    Thus, all this talk of Hiroshima’s bombing being justified either because of its military use or the ridiculous notion that the little old ladies and kids were armed threats to our forces, is bunk.

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki were wiped out in order to terrorize the populace and thus break the will of the military to resist.

    That END was produced immediately by the MEANS of purposeful destruction of innocent lives, NOT as a by-product or collateral result of legitimate bombing. Why can’t folks here acknowledge simply what everyone, especially Truman, knew at the time– the bombings were done to terrify the Japs so completely at our ability to incinerate civilian centers that their military would capitulate?

  • I think the evidence supports Tom’s contention. And I think the application of Catholic teaching yields a rather clear cut answer. That said, his moral error notwithstanding, Truman is still a far mor sympathetic character than many of his self-righteous critics.

    A man might deliberately kill his comrade in arms if that comrade is dying and in agony. Such an act is murder and intrinsically evil. Yet, I would hardly make it my business to scold him. All sins are forgivable of course — but some certainly more than others. Truman’s act was not heroic; it was wrong; but it was certainly understandable and forgivable.

  • Tom, you’re entitled to your own view, but not your own facts, and what you’re claiming as “facts” are far from proven.

    Feel free to call me whatever you like– heaven knows I can’t stop you– but your OPINIONS of what was true are far from persuasive, and should not be stated as if they are objective reality.

    (On a side note, I’m so sick of being one of the folks who has to say “hold up a sec, we don’t actually KNOW X, or Y, and Z is totally wrong.” Even when I agree with a conclusion, or don’t disagree, it’s a bad idea to let incorrect claims stand.)

  • Foxfier:
    It is completely appropriate to bomb a bomb factory, even knowing that some civilians will likely be killed. That is because a bomb factory is a military target. An entire city is not.

  • Mike-
    Military bases are sometimes cities. (Zip code, hospital/power/stores/water, own police force, civilian families, schools, etc.)

    Military bases, since they are military bases, are military targets.

    Thus, it’s clear that entire cities CAN be a military target.

  • Fair enough I suppose, but are you seriously suggesting that H or N were military bases? If so, then no need for further discussion since we occupy different universes.

  • Mike-
    Not going to fight this, because– like I said way up above– I don’t think we have enough information to do a decent job of it.

    My rough limit is basic damage control on the BS I _know_ I’m going to have to deal with in the next five years, in the form of “X who is (or was) a Catholic said Y, so it must be true, defend it.” Generally in the middle of family reunions or parties with geek friends.

    If you can’t make your argument off of facts, why on earth are you trying to state it as fact? Just throw in an “I” here or there, maybe in conjunction with “think” or “reason” or “believe,” refer to sources for your claims and bada bing: no conflict.

    Shoot, you could even say “I don’t see how it could be justified to bomb an entire city, because cities are not military targets” and it’s no longer something I, or some poor idiot like me, will have to defend. It’s your educated belief from the facts as you know them and your understanding of Catholic teachings. (Anybody talking Catholic theology with a half-dozen highly intelligent folks who have little to no use for organized religion, let alone the Church, needs to have their head examined. No offense to the real Catholic apologists among us.)

  • Foxfier,

    It’s not exactly as if there is no considered stance on this issue by the overwhelmingly vast majority of bishops, theologians, popes, etc. over the past fifty years. The only people who pretend as though this is somehow a difficult question for the Church to address are a handful of American Catholics.

    It is much better to do as Donald does: reject the reasoning of the Church forthrightly. It is no good pretending as though there is an epistemic difficulty here where there is not one.

  • Yay, appeal to authority, and total missing of the point.

    Have fun, I’m out.

  • “reject the reasoning of the Church forthrightly.”

    Questioning is not rejection, especially in an area such as this where we are not dealing with revealed truth, but rather the application of hair splitting logic.

  • (Same way I duck out when folks start bringing out “but all these guys say that the death penalty isn’t needed anymore! So I win!”)

  • Mike.

    Check the anecdotal historical evidence of who were in occupancy in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the military operations and indusctrial complexes attached to those cities.

    One could arguably conclude they were military bases.

  • I’m out after this one as well.

    Don, I didn’t mean to be inflammatory. I take it that you do reject the distinction between foreeseable consequences and intended ends *in certain instances*; but perhaps you only question their analytic efficacy. Fair enough. I think your position commits you to consequentialism (or at least some kind of proportionalism, a la McBrien, et. al.), which I don’t think you want to be committed to, but that’s a different topic. It is an important conversation to have, though.

    Foxfier, I wasn’t so much “appealing to authority” as showing that what you take to be a difficult, perplexing, epistemically vague scenario appears only to be so for a subset of American Catholics and not for the universal Church as a whole. This is an empirical claim.

  • Don the Kiwi,
    Sorry about the oddly abbreviated post above. I am well aware that both H and N contained both military operations and industrial complexes attached to the war effort. Same for Chicago and Detroit. And targeting those operations and complexes would have been morally licit, even if done quite imperfectly. But that is not what happened, and the evidence is quite clear that Truman knew exactly what he was doing. As I said earlier, I don’t really blame him — even if I can safely conclude from my comfortable perch that he were morally wrong. But I refuse to reason backwards either. Just because I’m sympathetic, actually very sympathetic, to the consequences, does not mean that the means were morally acceptable. They weren’t. Pretty much all of us do bad things for good reasons, and that does not make us bad people — just sinners.

  • Fortunately we don’t have to speculate on why Truman chose Hiroshima and Nagasaki and whether it was because the cities were military targets.

    His own press release states that the Potsdam ultimatum was issued to Japan (calling for their unconditional surrender) “to spare the Japanese people from utter destruction.” NOT the Japanese military, NOT the Japanese industrial ability, but the Japanese people themselves.

    Besides, the US had already joined in the British practice of terror bombing by helping in the destruction of Dresden and by firebombing Tokyo, a practice which indiscriminately killed thousands of civilians.

    As Doolittle’s raid early in the war demonstrated, it was entirely possible to target industry and military targets without wiping out entire cities.

    We simply adopted the Brit practice of firebombing, and ultimtely, nuclear bombing, to demoralize the civilian populaces of our enemies, not to advance a military objective.

  • Actually Tom Truman referred to the “military base of Hiroshima” when he announced the Hiroshima bombing. You can say that was incorrect, but that is how Truman looked at it.

    The firebombing of the cities of Japan wasn’t undertaken for terror purposes, but because that was the only way to take out the Japanese industries that tended to be located within residential areas. Precision bombing of Japanese industries was attempted until around March of 45 and had proven completely ineffective.

  • The Doolittle raid was a propaganda operation in 42. 15 of the 16 B-25s were lost, along with 80 airmen. The damage to Japan was completely negligible. From a morale standpoint in the US it was a success. From a military standpoint it was a disaster.

    The technology of the day made precision bombing usually a wistful dream rather than a reality.

    “In practice, the Norden (bombsight) never managed to produce accuracies remotely like those of which it was theoretically capable. The Royal Air Force were the first to use the B-17 in combat, and reported extremely poor results, eventually converting their aircraft to other duties. USAAF anti-shipping operations in the Far East were likewise generally unsuccessful, and although there were numerous claims of sinkings, the only confirmed successful action was during the Battle of the Philippines when B-17s damaged two Japanese transports, the cruiser Naka, and the destroyer Murasame, and sank one minesweeper. However these successes were the exception to the rule; actions during the Battle of Coral Sea or Battle of Midway, for instance, were entirely unsuccessful. The USAAF eventually replaced all of their anti-shipping B-17s with other aircraft, and came to use the skip bombing technique in direct low-level attacks.

    In Europe the Norden likewise demonstrated a poor real-world accuracy. Bombing was computed by assessing the proportion of hits falling within 1,000 feet (300 m) and 2,000 feet (600 m) circles about an MPI (mean point of impact). To achieve a perfect strike, a bomber group would have to unload all its bombs within the 1,000 ft circle. By the spring of 1943 some impressive results were being recorded. Over Bremen-Vegesack on 19 March, for instance, the 303d Bombardment Group dropped 76 per cent of its load within the 1,000 ft ring. Under perfect conditions only 50 percent of American bombs fell within a quarter of a mile of the target, and American flyers estimated that as many as 90 percent of bombs could miss their targets.[5][6][7] Nevertheless, many veteran B-17 and B-24 bombardiers swore by the Norden.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norden_bombsight

  • There is an ongoing myth that the British were primarily interested in terror bombing for the heck of it since they could not bloody the Germans in any other way. This is the received wisdom after Vonnegut and Irving. But it makes very little sense for the British to lose all those highly trained men of the Bomber Command (55,000 killed) and spend all that money to build a large strategic force merely to terrorise the Germans. The bombers were the British contribution to the continental war, as they lacked the ability to insert their forces into the field in a decisive ways. A much fairer assessment is provided in this book .

  • Harry S Truman was a 33° Freemason, an enemy of the Catholic Faith, which may be why Nagasaki, the center of Japanese Catholicism, was targetted. (More Catholics were killed on August 9th, 1945 than in four centuries of brutal persecution.)

    General Tomoyuki Yamashita was executed for the atrocities committed in the Battle of Manila (the “one case [in which] the event took place on American soil” mentioned in the post), despite the fact that said atrocities were committed by troops who had disobeyed his order to withdraw from the city to avoid civilian casualties.