Donald Trump: Unfit to be Commander in Chief

Friday, March 4, AD 2016

There was a horrifying moment during last night debates (there were several cringe-worthy moments as well) when Donald Trump said he would order soldiers to kill women and children. If you remain unconvinced that Donald Trump is singularly unfit to be Commander in Chief after this debate, then perhaps the words of a retired soldier will do the trick.

Tonight, in the Detroit debate, Donald Trump went further.  He doubled down on his claim that American Soldiers should be in the business of assassinating innocent women and children because of the actions of their husbands/fathers.  This is wrong.  This is a war crime.  This is an illegal order.  When he was told U.S. troops do not obey orders to commit war crimes, he responded in typical Trump fashion. “I know leadership, I tell them to do it and they will do it.  I’m a leader.”

This is not just a bad idea.  This is not just embarrassingly stupid.  This is even further trashing of the honor and dignity of the members of the world’s best military.  No Soldier I trained would ever obey that order.  Even worse is to contemplate the soul destroying reality for any that did obey it.  Killing a combatant in defense of yourself and your battle buddies is right and just, but it never leaves you.  In the back of your mind is always the realization that you took a human life, no matter how justified.  How could anyone contemplate putting Soldiers in the position to live the rest of their lives seeing the faces of dead innocent children in their dreams every night?

Donald Trump cannot be the Commander in Chief of the United States Military.  If nothing else convinces you to be #NeverTrump, think of the men and women who offer their lives in defense of your freedom.  Think of what Trump as President means to them in light of what he said at the debate.

In case I was not clear: American Soldiers as a group will NOT obey illegal, unconstitutional orders to commit war crimes.  They will not, and anyone who would consider asking them to should shut up and go home.  Anyone who would consider that does not deserve the votes of the Republican party or of the American people.

This isn’t a joke. “Sticking it to the Establishment” ain’t worth the cost of losing your soul.

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78 Responses to Donald Trump: Unfit to be Commander in Chief

  • Paul,
    I agree about Trump but can you envision a sane commander bombing a high level ISIS residence in Raqqa based on international law:
    Geneva Convention IV
    Article 28 of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV provides: “The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.”

  • I am beginning to see the light.

  • That’s more gratifying to hear than you could possibly know, Michael.

  • My question hangs in the air then but is based partly on the 1986 attempt by the Reagan administration on Quaddafi’s life which actually killed his adopted daughter.

  • Sorry Bill, I just wasn’t clear on the question. Are you saying it would be considered a war crime? I don’t think so. Morally, the the difference is intent. One has to decide how much, if any, collateral damage is acceptable in going after military targets. What we’re talking about in relation to Trump is the deliberate targeting of innocent civilians.

  • Where’s the specific situation he was responding to?

    Because the situation Bill Bannon is talking about isn’t a war crime, it’s not trying to kill women and children because of what the man in their life has done. They’re collateral damage if they’re killed. (Our reluctance to do that is well known to be abused.)

    I can’t find the quote of what Trump was responding to anywhere, and heck no I didn’t waste my time on the debates.
    ****
    Found it, after much fighting with search engines, in– of all places– the NYTimes.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/04/us/politics/transcript-of-the-republican-presidential-debate-in-detroit.html?_r=0

    Trump is a moron. Per my husband– who, amusingly enough, is going to work in uniform this week for annual tour– gave a bright smile and said “hey, if you ever wanted to SEE the military uphold their oath….”

    It’s about specifically targeting those related to a terrorist, not about them being killed in the process; he clearly knows it’s a bad thing, because he keeps trying to switch it around to waterboarding the terrorist, and away from those who happen to be related to him.

  • To Bill’s question, this mirrors the theological question of secondary effect. A person cannot morally kill an innocent in war. A person can morally do an act in war which has the secondary effect of killing an innocent. Detonating a drone to kill a terrorist? Yes. Detonating a drone to kill a terrorist in a place where his family may also be killed? Possible, although if the terrorist can be killed without killing the family, that’s better. Detonating a drone to kill a terrorist’s family, where the primary motivation is to discourage future terrorists? That’s terrorism.

  • Bill Clinton to Donald Trump in 2014; “We will reimburse you plus 10 points of each dollar you spend if you run for the Republican ticket in ’16.”. Donald; “Make it 17 points!”.
    Bill; ” Done.”

    Fly on the wall fiction that is looking more plausible ever day.

    Donald Trump is insane.
    A write in candidate must be organized soon.
    Or else!

  • Hillary Clinton is also not morally qualified to be commander in chief (Benghazi nor Sanders.
    Any of the three Republicans running could be trusted with the job.

  • If Trump is insane, what does that make his supporters?

  • I wrote an open letter to Trump Supporters here: http://sardonicexcuria.blogspot.com/2016/03/funs-over-lets-decide.html

    His original quote was from before the debate. Trump said this:

    We’re fighting a very politically correct war….And the other thing is with the terrorists, you have to take out their families. They, they care about their lives. Don’t kid yourself. But they say they don’t care about their lives. You have to take out their families.

    When he was asked about whether the military would obey this command during the debate, he said:

    “They won’t refuse. They’re not gonna refuse me. Believe me.”

    I don’t think he could be any more plain. Unless, somehow, “take out their families” means something other than the apparently plain meaning.

  • I do not know what to think about this. It is horrifying to me to think that an American military person would be ordered to kill a woman or child. Yet there have been many cases where a woman or child is used to threaten military personnel in the field – women carrying suicide bombs, 12 year old boys aiming automatic weapons at soldiers, etc. In circuumstances like that our troops have to espond with deadly force. I do not like that and I do not advocate that.
    .
    As Robert Heinlein said, “All is fair in love and war. What a contemptible lie!”
    .
    BTW, for all those faint of heart, did not God tell Joshua to kill every man, woman and child when he went into Canaan to conquer a city? Again, this does NOT mean Trump is justified to do the same with our military, but precedence has been set, in this case by God Himself, albeit for very special circumstances. Personally, however, I am horrified by what Trump is alleged to have said (I watched the debate but obviously missed that).

  • With Trump, you never know. Nor can you ever know.

    That said, he’s not wrong about political correctness influencing the way we fight.

  • Potential for non-combatant casualties must be taken into consideration and mitigated consistent with the mission. But, that is not the issue here … or should not be.
    The question is about his belief that the military will follow ANY order he gives. That is absolutely not true, underscored by the folks who were hanged and shot after WW II, whose defense was, ” I was only following orders.”
    Also, substitute going after ‘terrorists’ families’ with going after ‘ Tea Party member families’. THAT open issue has been hanging out there for some years, given the lawlessness of the Obama Administration.

  • The way to think about this is that it’s typical Trumpean bombast & hyperbole. Trump’s opponents hear him say that and start having visions of a bloated, beshadow Brando talking about diamond bullet thoughts on the utility of ruthlessness. Trump’s supporters hear De Niro shouting he wants terrorism DEAD! Terrorism’s family DEAD! terrorism’s house BURNED TO THE GROUND!
    .
    Is it a debate gaff? Yes. Will it hurt him? Probably not before the general election, but Hillary was going to call the eventual nominee The Worst Person in the World EVER anyways, whoever he is, so even then it won’t hurt that much.
    .
    Did he mean it? At the time. He’s like the Clintons that way.

  • IS it a debate gaffe?

    We’re fighting a very politically correct war….And the other thing is with the terrorists, you have to take out their families. They, they care about their lives. Don’t kid yourself. But they say they don’t care about their lives. You have to take out their families. – Fox and Friends, December 1 or 2, 2015

    Asked again during a later CNN debate, he said:

    But Trump didn’t flinch, saying that he “would be very, very firm with families” and repeating his view that terrorists “may not care much about their [own] lives.” But, he added, “they do care, believe it or not, about their families’ lives.”

    And then he confirmed those statements during the debate, and stated that the military would not refuse the orders…could not.

    No – this is not a debate gaffe.

  • The GOP establishment majority in Congress funded Obamacare; funded executive order lawlessness; funded PP; voted for the latest, huge Federal budget. The establishment GOP is one wing (the Dems are the other) of a bloated bird (big government): which bird is an insatiable buzzard.

    No, this isn’t a joke. Sticking with the loser GOP Establishment isn’t worth another lost election and a Hillary presidency.

  • The Bear asks if Trump is a psychopath.

    This is not the position of a man who doesn’t get something. It’s the position of a man who doesn’t get anything.

  • Be clear on the enormity of what Trump is saying here. He’s not saying that we should make an airstrike or dronestrike on a terrorist target even if women or children are present. He spun a (false) story about how the 9/11 hijackers had wives and children living with them in the US (they didn’t) and sent them back to the Middle East right before the attacks. Trump proposes that in such a situation, we should send military revenge missions out specifically to kill those family members in order to teach terrorists a lesson.
    .
    That’s not just against the laws of a war, though it’s certainly that. Even at a strictly utilitarian level it’s a really stupid, non-productive mission on which to risk the lives of American men and servicemen.

  • Does anyone think Hillary is above the killing of others?

    If Trump and Hillary are the candidates, how to choose the lesser evil????????

    We are in big trouble in the US. God help us. Please.

  • Lucius,
    On the Canaan massacres, it is not a precedent to be repeated since such is moral only if God clearly orders humans to do such ( He takes c.151,000 humans into the next life each day of the week)…which ordering He has not done since the Old Testament with 70 A.D. Jerusalem being different…an intersecting of God’s punishment with a Roman reaction to rebellion. The modern hierarchy at the non infallble level has erred on Canaan with Pope Benedict saying it was simply human sin in Verbum Domini sect.42 in 2010 and with the Pontifical Biblical Commission saying in a 2014 paper….that it never happened literally ( different than Benedict ).To hold those positions, both had to deny multiple biblical verses that had God commanding it…e.g. Wisdom 12:6 ” you willed to destroy by the hands of our ancestors”.
    God kills such groups only when their sin is complete in His eyes and He tells us that in Gen. 15:16 while talking to Abraham (” the wickedness of the Amorites is not yet complete”) which was over 400 years til completed sin for them ( a standard that humans are incapable of judging … and Christ repeats that standard in Mt.23:32 as does Paul in I Thessalonians 2:16 as to Jewish leader sins being complete for the punishment of 70A.D. Relatedly as to God’s lordship over life: Ezekiel 18:4 God says, ” All souls are mine”…Deut.32:39 ” It is I who bring death and life…and from my hand, no one can deliver.”
    Wisdom 12:10 tells us that during that 400 plus years, God was trying to convert the Canaanites by lesser punishments….only then does He finally kill a group as such. Til 70 AD it was over a thousand years of offenses by the Jews prior to completed sin with God wooing them all that time.

  • No – this is not a debate gaffe
    .
    Headline: Trump: “I will order the military to commit war crimes”
    .
    Pretty sure that’s a gaffe. Whether its a Kinsley gaffe or a conventional gaffe I’ll leave for others to decide.

  • Sticking with the loser GOP Establishment isn’t worth another lost election and a Hillary presidency.

    I guess I don’t understand what that means in context.

  • “There is a class of people — men, women, and children, who must be killed or banished.”

    –General William Tecumseh Sherman

    Was General Sherman insane while waging his “total war” against the South?

  • That OR in there matters

  • Ernst Schreiber asked; ” If Trump is insane what does that make his supporters? ”

    Desperate?(!)

    Kill them all and let God sort them out…oh that’s not it at all. Well, justifiable genocide is a trait of the left…see Abortion on demand supporters. If he is not insane he is delusional. I do not believe him to be right in the head or heart.

  • President Truman deliberately targeted civilians to achieve peace and end the war.

  • Mr. McClarey,

    Once Sherman got into the business of burning down houses and farms, the inevitable result was the killing of civilians. Therefore, it is almost impossible for him not to have committed war crimes. Indeed, someone who says “War is hell” and proceeds to make war on civilians sounds more like a fiend than a human being.

  • Without doubt, the “entire” population of some Middle Eastern countries is hostile to the United States, just as it was in Japan. Invading any country there to try to bring peace would be next to impossible – an obvious morass, such as Iraq. ISIS could be stopped, or significantly slowed, by dropping 1-2 small nuclear weapons in the vicinity.

    Forever may we avoid that action.

    I liken Truman’s…and Trump’s…statements to the following:

    A Mafia boss is besieged in his house. In the house with him are his family (wife, several children), several other mob bosses, and some friends of the children who just happened to be playing there at the time. In addition, every room is guarded by an underling. Taking the house would involve massive loss of life. If the boss is allowed to escape, he will continue a dangerous drug smuggling operation.

    Therefore…the local police choose to firebomb the house out of existence. They plant C-4 at all the corners. They douse the house in kerosene, and light the C-4. It kills or horribly burns everyone in side. But, the police and other innocents are safe.

    Based purely on a utilitarian calculus, this makes sense. If “our” lives are worth more than “their” lives, even of the innocents among them, then it also makes sense.

    I suppose one could also analogize and say that eventually, the mafia don surrenders because the police begin executing his daughters one by one. After 3 of 4 daughters are dead, he surrenders.

  • More to the point, ‘our’ culture advances mankind, ‘their’ culture diminishes mankind … see also Islam. Per force, war between the two can envision only one winner, the more violent and persistent. So far, that would be Islam.

  • Ginny.

    Are we there yet?
    Do the killings of Christians in the middle East, the killings of the 9-11 attack, the US Cole, Benghazi, all terrorist attacks on the US allow you or me a clear conscience to flatten families believed to be terrorist?

    Yes we have suffered. More so the Christians in the Holy Land, but do we start a retaliation campaign that kills by association?

    Is this sound?

  • Trump has now reversed himself today on both torture and killing families..first reported by the Wall Street Journal two hours ago but here is CNN link:

    http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/04/politics/donald-trump-reverses-on-torture/index.html

  • “Once Sherman got into the business of burning down houses and farms, the inevitable result was the killing of civilians.”

    Except that Sherman never killed any civilians. He was speaking of partisans in Kentucky who were raiding Union lines and under the rules of war at that time were subject to immediate execution. The Confederates pursued similar policies in regions of the Confederacy that supported the Union, including East Tennessee, Western Virginia and Western North Carolina.

  • JTL,
    Since you used the plural…imbeciles…and have no idea what each person has been outraged by over the past years, your post is nothing but indirect self promotion. You’re trying to impress readers that you are the real deal yet your post tells us explicitly that you enjoy spite. Take your post and show it to a good priest and follow his advice. May God bless you.

  • I am sure you ran a similar headline when Obama was running either time. 54% of the Church attending Catholics admitted to voting for him.?

  • JT, your comment consisted of nothing but gratuitous insults, so it was deleted, and you have been prohibited from commenting further.

    Other comments about this blog or blogger in particular not being equally condemnatory of President Obama, Hillary Clinton, or the left in general are laughable.

  • Phillip,
    It is not sound. We cannot win without prayer to cultivate charity in the hearts and minds of humankind. But we have lost the belief and regard for the supernatural and have fallen away into paganism. Unless God soon comes to our aid, the end of civilization is at hand.

  • I agree with the author. We cannot elect a narcist and self loving individuals. Trump does not care for anyone except himself. He a a little boy in a man’s body. He needs to mature to become a leader. It is very dangerous to elect this man after you saw him endorse by his children at the CBN appearance. How can one elect Trump when his morality is in the gutter. I am not judging Trump, but observing his behaviors and track records. It doesn’t matter if one elect this man for economic reason, morality comes first, and utmost respecting life. Trump supports planned parenthood, this shown this man is ignorance of Jesus, who died for our sins. Everyone one of us will be judge by Jesus and how we elect our presidence, since the repercussion will affect many lives and souls.

  • The rise of Trump is more than just about “Sticking it to the Establishment”. If that were the only, or even the main, reason, Cruz would be running away with the nomination. In fact, I get the sense the Establishment would rather see DaDonald get the nomination than Cruz. After all, they had to know that Romney’s speech would have the effect of helping Trump. It has more to do with the Cult of Personality worship that has become so ingrained in society. Hell, you even see it in the Church. If the Establishment were serious about stopping Trump, they would tell Rubio and Kasich to get out and throw their support behind Cruz.

  • You anticipate PopeWatch tomorrow Greg!

  • How about voting for Hillary Clinton who supports the mass murder of babies? Will that be a cause of the loss of you soul?

  • How can one elect Trump when his morality is in the gutter? Easy. When his opponent’s morality is in the sewer.

    Not everyone will agree that choosing the gutter over the sewer is defensible, or that opting not to choose between the gutter or the sewer is an honorable position. And that’s . . . okay.

  • Personality worship is only part of it. What people are really looking for Deliverer to save them from our feckless ruling class.
    .
    Everything implied by “Deliverer” fully intended.

  • is a Deliverer
    .
    (This typing one handed stuff ain’t easy, y’know)

  • “You anticipate PopeWatch tomorrow Greg!”

    I am nothing if not ahead of the curve.

  • How about voting for Hillary Clinton who supports the mass murder of babies? Will that be a cause of the loss of you soul?

    Yes. Any other questions?

  • I was in the car most of today, listened to the news radio stations and NPR. NOT ONE PEEP was to be heard about this statement by Trump.
    A few minutes ago I was in a restaurant which had CNN on the wall with no sound but the moving transcript was on. biggest deal about this story appeared to be how Trump has backed away from his original statement.

    If Cruz or Rubio had made this statement, the MSM would be crucifying them right now. Why not Trump? It may be Teflon, or that radiation-resistant cockroach DNA, but then again, it may be because Trump is one of them. The media knows its own, and they know that Trump like Clinton will protect that which is most dear to them. Everything else can go to hell.

  • Why not Trump? Because they’re saving it for the general.
    .
    And Trump is almost certainly more “them,” than “us.” Which only goes to show you how damaged “our” brand is.

  • “Why not Trump? Because they’re saving it for the general.”

    Yeah, I think so too.
    I wonder if Trump is running to fail on purpose and throw the election to Clinton? Hmm?

  • That’s a check his ego can’t cash, however many zeroes the Clinton’s write on it.

  • I was in the car most of today, listened to the news radio stations and NPR. NOT ONE PEEP was to be heard about this statement by Trump.

    Because they *want* him to run.
    The guy is a Clinton friend. I still can’t figure out why, on earth, anybody believes that he’s what he claims to be– someone who will stick it to the man. (Well, I could form a way of making that work, given my skills from the Navy, but this is a family-friendly sorta blog and I’m trying to be a lady, not a sailor.)

  • The Constitution says otherwise.

    No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

  • Unfit: adjective
    1. not fit; not adapted or suited; unsuitable.

    “He is legally allowed to run” says nothing about if he’s suitable, although if the best argument that can be offered to support him is “he’s not legally barred” then that says rather a lot.

  • Ginny – Without God, the end of civilization is always at hand. Does that justify killing innocents? How is killing innocents possibly a move toward God and toward civilization? Isn’t civilization the opposite of random slaughter? Isn’t holiness?

  • I still can’t figure out why, on earth, anybody believes that he’s what he claims to be– someone who will stick it to the man.
    .
    Because he’s not a career politician, and a political outsider to boot, he gets the benefit of the doubt. His supporters accept the fact that he might be a liar because they know the other guys are all liars.
    .
    Whether that’s a true assumption is completely irrelevant.

  • Ernst – Still, you’ve got to admit it’s wierd. The last Republican candidate couldn’t get elected because he bought his wife a horse. This guy buys wives and people think he’s trustworthy?

  • Pinky,
    I think you misunderstood my earlier comments which were my half-witted attempts to put into perspective Donald Trump’s remarks and the ensuing gasps of horror, shock, and allegations of insanity. He has talked in this vein before and I think he meant the families and others closely associated with the terrorists who are often not just out picking daisies.

  • Excuse my description of Trump being insane.
    Too harsh. After he flip-flopped on his own remarks yesterday he demonstrated sanity.

    He was in our town yesterday for a town hall meeting. So was Bernie.
    Trump’s draw was triple to that of Bernie.

    My knee jerk reaction to Trump’s remarks is a form of disgust. With him less words would be soothing to a voter who is remotely and reluctantly considering him in lieu of a Clinton face off.

    I can not sit out a vote when I know Hillary will springboard from what Obama has already done to incorporate “change.” The frustration from Midwest conservative voters is fueling Trump. I don’t like him, but I’ll pick him to lead over Hillary all day long.

    M

  • The truly insane thing is to vote for Hillary. I’m with Phillip.

  • Phillip,
    Are you in Kansas? Great state. My daughter graduated from KU. We are all fans of the Jayhawks and KC Chiefs.

    I unenthusiastically voted for Trump in SC primary. I don’t understand why the establishment wants open borders which has created a civil war in the GOP. Cheap labor, I understand, but the rich will have to pay for all the illegals’ government services.

  • Good morning Ginny.

    No. I’m from Michigan. This week is our primary. Trump is not my choice. Kasich is, but it I feel that Divine intervention is what it might take to see him against Hillary. Trump has so much momentum.

    On immigration he is weak in relationship to Trump…big time weak, however I believe a fair compromise on illegals who are already here can be reached and implemented. As far as stopping more from entering, I can’t imagine how that can be accomplished without a wall.

    Kasich first.
    In the big game on November it will probably be Trump.

  • Every condemnation and criticism now heaped on Trump, and worse and more serious, did not prevent Barry Soetoro aka Obama from being elected and then reelected. Look good and sound good on a screen, no matter how amoral or demonic, and you can get elected in the USSA. Especially noted Catholics coming out now and saying “You cannot vote for Trump becasue__________” are consummate hypocrites – they never came out and stated that you could not vote for Obama and the Democrats-who as the PartyOf Death, the Party of Intrinsic Evil, are ever so much more damnable than Trump. I will most probably write in a 100% prolife person if it is Trump vs Hillary – but Pleaseeeeeeeee, do NOT tell me why I cannot vote for Trump, implicitly campaigning for the libCatholic, Democatholic prodeath candidate. Guy McClung, San Antonio, Texas USA

  • Especially noted Catholics coming out now and saying “You cannot vote for Trump becasue__________” are consummate hypocrites – they never came out and stated that you could not vote for Obama and the Democrats-who as the PartyOf Death, the Party of Intrinsic Evil,

    I have an 11+ year blogging history that says otherwise.

  • Paul Zummo & Donald McClarey & those like them are in the minority in the Roman Catholic Church. The Pope publicly denigrates Donald Trump in an interview with reporters on a plane from Mexico to Italy, but he publicly embraces a murderous abortionist in Italy and says not one word against abortion and sodomy in his speech to the US Congress last year – not one rebuke of the baby murdering and sodomy sanctifying liberal progressive politicians. But he talks all about the evils of capital punishment. I am well beyond disgusted. Pope Francis is the Catholic Church’s Donald Trump as far as I am concerned, and if not Trump, then perhaps Her Bernie Sanders.
    .
    Let the Catholic Church get its house in order before speaking about Trump (not a reference to Paul Zummo’s post against which I cannot disagree). Depose and anathematize this heretical Pope first, then go after the wicked politicians. But have your house clean first!

  • Come on , people!
    .

    Keep writing comments and you can raise the comment count to 666!
    .
    Latest from the establishment GOP and the draft Mitt committee: Trump’s hair is hiding the mark of the beast!
    .
    If only Mitt and the clown crowd had vehemently opposed Obama equally as they hate Trump . . .

  • Thanks T. Shaw.

    Now the befuddled look on Christies face from last week makes perfect sense. Sulphur smell wafting into Christies nostrils. He definitely look like he was owned by the Donald.

    One post closer to 666.

  • Ginny,

    .
    The chamber of commerce, corporate-board-room, crony-capitalist, country club, establishment GOP support untrammeled immigration because they want low wages and, to a lesser extent, to avoid being called racists by the lying, Dem-controlled media, which was one reason (really they were making big money) GW and most elected GOP stooges were all-in for the subprime housing boom/bust which caused the financial crisis which spawned the Great Recession. Worstly, they don’t give a tinker’s dam about working Americans or our way of life.

  • My facebook page had a poll thingy to draft Mitt. I was about to put in an (expletive-deleted) comment, but already I get too much useless stuff on that page.
    .

  • Glenn Greenwald points out that the Donald’s statement only reflects how comfortable Americans have gotten with torture during the Bush, Chaney and Obama years

    https://theintercept.com/2016/03/04/trumps-policies-are-not-anathema-to-the-u-s-mainstream-but-
    an-uncomfortably-vivid-reflection-of-it/

  • Perhaps the Trump insurgency will persuade the establishment types to embrace Cruz whom they would otherwise resist. It’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow some good.

  • HI William – Words seem to get a life of their own. Is young Marco, little Marco now an establishment type?
    Buss words are like buzz saws sometimes. It is just understood right across the county that gosh we all hate the establishment. But don’t we really need an establishment?

  • “[G]osh we all hate the establishment. But don’t we really need an establishment?”

    No, the establishment does very little except to protect the interests of those that run it.

    Is Cruz really an option as an anti-establishment candidate? No. He and his wife are both former members of the Bush administration. He funded his senate campaign with loans from Goldman Sachs and his wife is a managing director of Goldman Sachs. How much more establishment can you get?

  • I suppose you could invite Hillary Clinton to your wedding. That might boost your Establishmentt bona fides.

  • “How much more establishment can you get?”

    The GOP establishment would prefer Donald Trump to Cruz who they hate with an unending passion.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/01/is-the-republican-establishment-ganging-up-on-ted-cruz/425145/

    Cruz actually means what he campaigns on, and to most politicians there is no greater threat than a politician who means what he says and who will fight with all his strength for it.

    Trump is simply an ignorant buffoon who swiftly changes his positions under media pressure. No establishment has anything to fear from such a creature.

  • “The GOP establishment would prefer Donald Trump to Cruz who they hate with an unending passion.”

    Could this be why Rubio and Kasich are still in the race?

  • Kasich I think is still in the race to be Trump’s Veep if he gets the nomination. For now I think Rubio is still in the race because he thinks he can still win, as delusional as that is. If he loses Florida and stays in, that would be a sign he is deliberately acting as a spoiler for Trump against Cruz.

November 20, 1945: Nuremberg Trials Get Underway

Friday, November 20, AD 2015

“But the most interesting — although horrible — sight that I encountered during the trip was a visit to a German internment camp near Gotha. The things I saw beggar description. While I was touring the camp I encountered three men who had been inmates and by one ruse or another had made their escape. I interviewed them through an interpreter. The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where they [there] were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said he would get sick if he did so. I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to ‘propaganda’.”

General Eisenhower letter to General George Marshall 4/15/45

The Nuremberg Trials got under way seventy years ago today.  One may cavil at some of the procedures used during the trials and the presence of Soviet judges and prosecutors at the trial, but no decent human being can ever claim that the crimes committed by the leaders of the Third Reich, in Eisenhower’s phrase, beggar description.  The video at the beginning of this post consists of film shot by the Army Signal Corps, at Eisenhower’s order, of the Nazi death camps and was admitted into evidence at the Nuremberg trial.  It makes for grim viewing, but the reality it reflected must never be forgotten.

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The Asian Holocaust

Saturday, August 8, AD 2015

bad11

”I want to make sure with my own eyes about this cruelty, so I can someday tell others about it as a witness.”

John Rabe, German Nazi businessman credited with organizing the efforts to save the lives of some 200,000 Chinese during the rape of Nanking that saw the murder of 300,000 Chinese civilians by the Imperial Japanese Army.

 

One of the problems of the analysis of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is that the events are often treated as if they occurred in a moral vacuum.  They did not.  Here are a few of the crimes of the Empire of Japan:

 

1. Launching a sneak attack against a country you are not at war with.

2. Murdering approximately 20 million civilians in a war of aggression.

3. Using live enemy POWs and civilians for bayonet practice.

4. Forcing enemy civilian women to serve as “comfort women” for your troops.

5. Starving POWs and interned enemy civilians.

6. Beheading enemy POWs and civilians for such serious crimes as stealing a bowl of rice or failing to bow low enough to a camp guard.

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15 Responses to The Asian Holocaust

  • The critics and haters of the USA, from the National Schismatic Reporter to the Remnant, focus upon the evil and cruelty of the USA, its Masonic founders, its Mason President Truman who wanted the bomb dropped on a Catholic Church, etc.

    Critics of the Bomb weren’t alive in 1945. Obviously they weren’t in the Army, Navy or Marines faced with death fighting a fanatical enemy. Nor were they prisoners of Japan.

    Crickets.

  • I suspect many (but certainly not all) critics of America’s using the bomb are kissen-cousins to those who spend their lives taking down America by preaching lies about our deliberately killing the “Indians” with diseases we brought here as weapons.(failing to mention the lasting destruction of live “tobacco.”)

  • Japan sowed the whirl wind. Guess what it reaped!
    .
    Be not deceived. God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man soweth, that also shall he reap.
    .
    The Prophet Hosea and St Paul continue to speak on deaf ears.
    .
    🙁

  • With all due respect, it’s a totally asinine and illogical argument that “party x” did “wrong thing y” in war and that therefore “party a” became justified doing “wrong thing z”

    Seriously, are we suggesting on a site with “Catholic” in the title that two wrongs make a right?

    No one doubts that the Japanese *military* and by extension her government committed war crimes. How in the world would that justify the US committing a war crime itself?

    No, Axis atrocities don’t absolve the Allied powers, who should have known better, from their own war crimes, such as the fire-bombing of Dresden and other militarily useless cities in Europe, and the indiscriminate destruction of absolutely innocent civilian lives at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  • Tom, your thinking is correct if that is what the issue was, but I’m afraid the issue was more complex. You might consider one more appropriate moral criterion to be “the lesser of two evils, and toss in the idea that the civilian population was effectively conscripted as part of the military–by its construct-to fight to the death (think radical Islam)
    There was reasonable hope that millions of Japanese lives could be saved.
    Having been there during the “occupation” I can assure you they were more than thankful to be offered the opportunity to become westernized, putting a permanent end to the evils of their bushido warrior mentality–thus saving unknown lives even to this day..

  • There is no evidence that the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were “militarized.” I would challenge anyone to produce contemporary, reliable evidence that the people of those cities were armed combatants.

    This claim, like the “1 million American dead” upon invasion claim, is an attempt to get around what we know happened: thousands of civilians directly and indiscriminately killed in order to compel a Japanese surrender. The towns were not bombed to destroy combatants, but to terrorize the Japanese government into surrendering. That such an act would save 50k or 500k soldiers’ lives is not a sufficient moral justification under Christian moral teaching.

    Here’s what Ike said about the bombings: “It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing . . . to use the atomic bomb, to kill and terrorize civilians, without even attempting [negotiations], was a double crime.”

  • “There is no evidence that the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were “militarized.” I would challenge anyone to produce contemporary, reliable evidence that the people of those cities were armed combatants.”

    You missed the post on Ketsu-Go Tom? How blind of you.

    “This claim, like the “1 million American dead” upon invasion claim”

    Tom, your wanting to claim that the atomic bombings were wrong no matter what is one thing. Attempts to deny historical facts, for example with your ludicrous 50K American casualties for an invasion of the Home Islands, is another. If you can’t participate in this discussion without lying, please do not participate.

  • Admiral Leahy, Chief of Staff to FDR and Truman:
    “It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons.

    “The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare in the future are frightening. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”

    Norman Cousins, relating a conversation with MacArthur:
    “When I asked General MacArthur about the decision to drop the bomb, I was surprised to learn he had not even been consulted. What, I asked, would his advice have been? He replied that he saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor.”
    Assistant Secy of War, John McCloy:
    “I have always felt that if, in our ultimatum to the Japanese government issued from Potsdam [in July 1945], we had referred to the retention of the emperor as a constitutional monarch and had made some reference to the reasonable accessibility of raw materials to the future Japanese government, it would have been accepted. Indeed, I believe that even in the form it was delivered, there was some disposition on the part of the Japanese to give it favorable consideration. When the war was over I arrived at this conclusion after talking with a number of Japanese officials who had been closely associated with the decision of the then Japanese government, to reject the ultimatum, as it was presented. I believe we missed the opportunity of effecting a Japanese surrender, completely satisfactory to us, without the necessity of dropping the bombs.”

  • Again, thick with ad hominems and name calling, thin on any Catholic rationale justifying the bombings.

    I’m surprised, but shouldn’t be, that when shibboleths like the morally mandatory nature of the bombings is questioned, the long knives come out.

    I expect that kind of argumentation from people like Shea, not from folks who say they’re committed Catholics.

  • “Admiral Leahy, Chief of Staff to FDR and Truman:”

    Yeah Tom, Leahy wanted to follow your moral policy of starving several million Japanese to death. His considerable pride was also stung because he had predicted that the atomic bombs were a waste of money and wouldn’t work. His contention that the Japanese were ready to surrender is ludicrous and I defy you to find any evidence that the Japanese were prepared to unconditionally surrender prior to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Their idea of surrender was that Japan would keep some of their foreign conquests, that there would be no foreign occupation of Japan and that they would try their war criminals. Oh, incidentally, Admiral Leahy opposed the land invasion because he correctly thought it would be a blood bath, with at least 268,000 US casualties for Operation Olympic alone.

    “When I asked General MacArthur about the decision to drop the bomb, I was surprised to learn he had not even been consulted.”

    As was often the case, Big Mac was speaking BS. At the time he was contending that a land invasion was still needed after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He was furious that the bombs had stolen his opportunity to command the invasion of the Home Islands. He obviously had no moral problem nuking cities since during the Korean War he called for the nuking of Chinese cities in Manchuria

  • “I have always felt that if, in our ultimatum to the Japanese government issued from Potsdam [in July 1945], we had referred to the retention of the emperor as a constitutional monarch and had made some reference to the reasonable accessibility of raw materials to the future Japanese government, it would have been accepted.”

    Once again, there is zero evidence of that. The statement is odd because the Potsdam Declaration did guarantee access to raw materials through trade to Japan.

  • Tom, it’s not an ad hominem attack to state that you either don’t know history or that you tailor and cherry pick the facts that you want. Your opponents in this debate are not doing that. Don McC says you are lying. I think you are deluded. But it really doesn’t matter. You are wrong on your facts. period.

    The only point I can grant you is that, yes, the nuclear attacks were a direct evil. The problem is that you effectively deny the truth about the alternatives, almost all of which are also direct evils. The invasion intends the deaths of those who oppose it, regardless of age or gender, and yes even some just in close proximity. The blockade intends the suffering and death by starvation of millions. Every time I or others point this out you are mum. Sorry, you cannot have only one direct evil in this debate. Facts are facts.

  • Going to be less polite than others, in a vague hope it MIGHT penetrate.
    Again, thick with ad hominems and name calling, thin on any Catholic rationale justifying the bombings.
    Due to your own contributions, I must admit this is true for the combined total of the Bombing posts on this site in the last month.

  • Re: Eisenhower, Leahy, MacArthur (according to Cousins), and McCloy:
    .
    J. Glenn Gray’s all.

  • “When I asked General MacArthur about the decision to drop the bomb, I was surprised to learn he had not even been consulted. What, I asked, would his advice have been? He replied that he saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor.”

    This is pure bovine feces. McAthur & his staff provided Truman with the 50,000 number you keep mentioning re: the US deaths–except onstead of 50,000 total deaths–it eas 50,000 US dead from the first 30 days of the first phase of what was to be a 2 phase planned invasion of just part of the Japanese homeland. I have already cited an exact source of that info for you an an earlier post. MacArthur did indeed want to invade Japan–he was not content with Truman’s decision to bomb. The individual claiming that MacArthur saying he was never consulted either 1.is greatly exaggerating, 2. Is lying or 3. Simply misunderstood what he was told.

    Nothing in Truman’s nature or pattern of political functioning would suggest that Truman would leave even the smallest stone unturned in gleaning any and all info available to him for decision making.

    Re: your repeated claims that there is no Catholic belief that allows for the dropping of those two bombs on the Japanese under the situation that Truman found himself as the commander-in-chief of the US forces & also bearing great responsibility for the lives of all Allied forces. Again, I will point out that Truman had led men in battle during WW 1 & knew first hand what it was to face the death, hell, & suffering of war. I’m sure those first hand experiences greatly impacted his feelings of responsibility re: the savings of lives under his WW 2 leadership. Truman headed up a committee in the US Senate before becoming VP in which he worked tirelessly to make sure that our soldiers were provided with the most effective & best quality materials with which to fight these battles–in order to save US lives.

    What does Catholic teaching have to say about the saving of lives and governmental responsibility to protect the lives, property, souls, and freedom of those under your governmental authority? What does Catholic teaching say about dragging wars on longer than necessary when you have in your hands the ability to bring one to a quick close? Before God, Truman’s first responsibility was to the men & women of our armed forces–and to the families who loaned them to the US govt for the fighting of this war. What in Catholic teaching would have vacated Truman’s responsibility to those US citizens?

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.

No War Crimes Trials

Friday, January 16, AD 2009

In the comments on a post on another blog, I was challenged with the following question, which while fringy in origin strikes me as being the sort of thing which requires a post-length answer if it’s going to be answered at all. (I’ve put together the content of a couple comments in the following summation.)

Given the statement by president-elect Obama’s incoming Attorney General that waterboarding is torture, shouldn’t one want to see “everyone in the Bush administration who authorized torture” sent to the Hague to stand trail for war crimes?

My short answer is, “No.” And I think there are a number of interesting reasons for saying this.

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16 Responses to No War Crimes Trials

  • Just because something is wrong does not necessarily mean that one must prosecute it as a crime — something I think applies at all levels of society.

    Unbelievable! What a telling line. You are using EXACTLY the logic of pro-choice america here, PRECISELY to provide an escape from criminal consequences for war crimes including the direct and willful killing of innocent persons which THE CHURCH KNOWS is just a morally grave as the killing of babies in the womb. Aside from the other disgusting, glaring moral mistakes you make in this post from a Catholic point of view, this is perhaps the most severe and transparently demonstrates your double-standards and obvious non-commitment to anything remotely resembling a “pro-life” position.

    I dunno… hard to say which is the most severe. That, or your idiotic notion that war crimes committed against non-soldiers don’t matter as much. Um, the definition of war crimes INCLUDES crimes against non-soldiers.

    We have never yet reached a point where a presidential administration has turned around and prosecuted key members of its predescessor. To move in that direction would, I think, signal a very bad turn for our country.

    Or maybe this idiotic idea, that countries should always “stay the course” and never fix their problems. My country, right or wrong is essentially what you are saying here.

    f anyone thinks this analysis is overly partisan, seeing as I am a Bush supporter (given the alternatives), ask yourself: Why is it that the incoming administration shows absolutely no interest in prosecuting the Bush administration?

    The fact that the Obama administration does not want to prosecute Bush does not mean that their reasons are the same as yours.

    This has to be one of your most outrageous and poorly thought-out posts yet.

  • And what the hell do you mean by “fringy in origin”??

  • And what the hell do you mean by “fringy in origin”??

    As in, it’s only the most politically fringy elements who have suggested with any seriousness that members of the Bush administration be tried for war crimes.

    Unbelievable! What a telling line. You are using EXACTLY the logic of pro-choice america here

    Actually, no. Pro-choice advocates generally insist that abortion isn’t wrong, not that it is but shouldn’t be punished. And actually, the “wrong but not punished” point is one normally used by pro-lifers when talking about how to outlaw abortion — except in a few rather extreme cases. Few people suggest life in prison or execution as the penalty for abortionists and women who abort their children. Generally it’s just suggested that abortion be banned as a medical procedure. This means that pro-lifers are also advocating not prosecuting a crime to the fullest extent possible.

    PRECISELY to provide an escape from criminal consequences for war crimes including the direct and willful killing of innocent persons which THE CHURCH KNOWS is just a morally grave as the killing of babies in the womb.

    The question I was addressing was whether members of the administration should be tried for waterboarding a half dozen terrorists in Guantanamo. That was what I stated in post. If you wanted me to write a post about addressing another situation, you could ask. But this post is about whether Cheney and such should be tried for authorizing waterboarding of “enemy combatants” — which if they were POWs would be against the Geneva Conventions.

    Or maybe this idiotic idea, that countries should always “stay the course” and never fix their problems. My country, right or wrong is essentially what you are saying here.

    No, I’m saying it’s bad for a country’s stability when the engines of justice are used as a political weapon. Perhaps as an anarchist you think the common good is served by a country collapsing into civil war, chaos, or dictatorship, but since I’m personally against those things I think there’s a very strong case for being prudent about these things.

    The fact that the Obama administration does not want to prosecute Bush does not mean that their reasons are the same as yours.

    Well, that’s certainly true. Do you have another theory?

    This has to be one of your most outrageous and poorly thought-out posts yet.

    Given how incorrect I generally find your political and moral thinking to be, I have to admit I find that somewhat encouraging. Perhaps I’ve written something truly reasonable!

  • “No, I’m saying it’s bad for a country’s stability when the engines of justice are used as a political weapon.”

    Quite right Darwin. As you pointed out prosecutions for political purposes were one of the prime factors in the fall of the Roman Republic. Once members of poltical parties realize that losing an election also means losing one’s life and liberty, it is a very short step to civil war.

  • As in, it’s only the most politically fringy elements who have suggested with any seriousness that members of the Bush administration be tried for war crimes.

    Simply not true.

    No, I’m saying it’s bad for a country’s stability when the engines of justice are used as a political weapon.

    So you’re assuming that anyone interested in prosecuting Bush for war crimes is doing so as a “political weapon” and is not interested in justice. That quite the easy way to dismiss the idea without at all taking seriously the crimes of the Bush administration. Why would folks interested in prosecuting Bush be interested in using a “political weapon” against him, apart from the actual context of his administration? Do you think those who oppose Bush simply don’t like how he looks? Don’t like his ties? Don’t like Texans? Are you nuts? People who oppose Bush oppose him because of his policies which have killed thousands upon thousands of innocent human beings. You need to take that seriously in your moral reasoning, and you don’t. To you, some human beings simply don’t matter.

    Could you just admit that you don’t actually think the Bush admin. committed war crimes. THAT’s why you don’t think he should be prosecuted for any. Right?

    Given how incorrect I generally find your political and moral thinking to be…

    Perhaps as an anarchist you think the common good is served by a country collapsing into civil war, chaos, or dictatorship, but since I’m personally against those things I think there’s a very strong case for being prudent about these things.

    If that’s how you characterize my “political and moral thinking” (being in favor of civil war, chaos, and dictatorships) then you have no idea what anarchism is, nor have you read any of my comments very closely. In fact, if you think I am in favor of any of those three things, it would be entirely fair to say you are incredibly… what other word is there but stupid.

  • Michael,

    You are using EXACTLY the logic of pro-choice america here, PRECISELY to provide an escape from criminal consequences for war crimes including the direct and willful killing of innocent persons which THE CHURCH KNOWS is just a morally grave as the killing of babies in the womb.

    1. This is incorrect on it’s face in that the Church recognizes that abortion and euthanasia are the most grave evils becuase they are an attack the most innocent by those who should be protecting them. This is found in many documents, particularly “Evangelium Vitae”:
    58. Among all the crimes which can be committed against life, procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable. The Second Vatican Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an “unspeakable crime”.54

    But today, in many people’s consciences, the perception of its gravity has become progressively obscured. The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behaviour and even in law itself, is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake. Given such a grave situation, we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception. In this regard the reproach of the Prophet is extremely straightforward: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Is 5:20). Especially in the case of abortion there is a widespread use of ambiguous terminology, such as “interruption of pregnancy”, which tends to hide abortion’s true nature and to attenuate its seriousness in public opinion. Perhaps this linguistic phenomenon is itself a symptom of an uneasiness of conscience. But no word has the power to change the reality of things: procured abortion is the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence, extending from conception to birth.

    The moral gravity of procured abortion is apparent in all its truth if we recognize that we are dealing with murder and, in particular, when we consider the specific elements involved. The one eliminated is a human being at the very beginning of life. No one more absolutely innocent could be imagined. In no way could this human being ever be considered an aggressor, much less an unjust aggressor! He or she is weak, defenceless, even to the point of lacking that minimal form of defence consisting in the poignant power of a newborn baby’s cries and tears. The unborn child is totally entrusted to the protection and care of the woman carrying him or her in the womb. And yet sometimes it is precisely the mother herself who makes the decision and asks for the child to be eliminated, and who then goes about having it done.

    It is true that the decision to have an abortion is often tragic and painful for the mother, insofar as the decision to rid herself of the fruit of conception is not made for purely selfish reasons or out of convenience, but out of a desire to protect certain important values such as her own health or a decent standard of living for the other members of the family. Sometimes it is feared that the child to be born would live in such conditions that it would be better if the birth did not take place. Nevertheless, these reasons and others like them, however serious and tragic, can never justify the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.

    The Holy Father cautions against attempts to diminish the the seriousness of abortion relative to other evils.

    2. This is incorrect because there is no evidence that the US ever intended to cause the death of innocent persons, and clearly have taken massive and extremely risky steps to avoid that. Do you really believe that if the US had used it’s airpower indiscriminantly against Iraq that there would be ANY people left alive in Baghdad??? Are you unfamiliar with the extent of damage that can be caused by even conventional weapons? The largest US conventional weapons would kill aroun 10,000 people per strike in a city like Baghdad. It is clear that civillian casualties were not intended.

    That, or your idiotic notion that war crimes committed against non-soldiers don’t matter as much. Um, the definition of war crimes INCLUDES crimes against non-soldiers.

    You are deliberately misinterpretting Darwin’s point, yet he shows incredible restraint in the face of such an offensive response. Obviously offenses against non-combattants are war crimes, on the other hand actions against unlawful combattants are not war crimes as such, terrorists are not protected by the Geneva Convention for several reasons nor would they be afforded the same protections under natural law:

    1. They are not signatories to the Geneva Convention so by definition it does not apply to them.

    2. Morally they are murderers and not soldiers, they also have information on future terrorist operations.

    Of course they are still protected by natural rights, but most natural rights are not absolute. They can be punished (unlike POWS who can not be punished) for their actions, and they can be compelled to reveal informations about terrorist attacks (unlike POWS who can not be compelled to reveal any information beyond their identity). The means to compel them to reveal information is limited by morality of course, but it is not clear which particular means would be moral and which would not. The Obama nominee for AG is not a definitive source for such conclusions, nor has the Church declared any of the means authorized by George Bush to be immoral. No declaration by a competent authority has declared these means to be illegal… period.


    Darwin:
    As in, it’s only the most politically fringy elements who have suggested with any seriousness that members of the Bush administration be tried for war crimes.

    Michael:
    Simply not true.

    Stunning response. Cite one non-fringy element that is proposing prosecution?

    People who oppose Bush oppose him because of his policies which have killed thousands upon thousands of innocent human beings. You need to take that seriously in your moral reasoning, and you don’t. To you, some human beings simply don’t matter.

    What a foul thing to say about a fellow blogger. With such a stunning regard for innocent human life, I trust that you opposed Obama because the policies he has enacted (via legislation), supports, and promises to enact which kill millions upon millions of unborn babies….

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • I think ideally that legal violations committed by outgoing administration officials would be prosecuted like other legal violations. But that’s not how it works in the U.S., and I think there are very sound reasons for this.

    The first is that changes of power are traumatic enough without the threat of punishment for those leaving office. The second is that it would be difficult to ensure just and impartial investigations in the type of frenzy such trials and prosecutions would cause. The third is that a precedent of prosecution would create a number of undesirable incentives prior to the transition for every ensuing administration (e.g. purging records, or even resistance to the transition in worst cases). And notice, the worse an administration was ethically, the more incentives they would have to engage in these behaviors.

    There may be some circumstances where such prosecutions were necessary; but waterboarding of prisoners signed off on by the leaders of both parties (high ranking Democratic congressional officials signed off on these methods also), does not approach that threshold imo. Particularly when placed in the context of the last half century of U.S. history, when many of the Presidents have signed off on analogous tactics without even the mention of prosecution. It would be great in the abstract if every crime was punished fairly (and that we had fair laws for punishing them), but that’s not the world we live in. Sometimes we don’t prosecute people who have broken the law because it might do more harm than good. That does not mean we condone their actions, or shouldn’t condemn them; it means that in practice we’ve made the prudential judgment that prosecuting some crimes is not beneficial to society (as Augustine observed about prostitution).

  • I was hearing some interesting reports today, apparently the practice of extraordinary rendition originated under Bill Clinton, when the great one’s Secretary of State was the First Lady, his AG (the one who now declares water boarding a crime) was deputy AG, and his CIA director was chief of staff and his Treasury Secretary (head of the IRS) was evading taxes (alright this last one has nothing to do with torture, but it’s a riot).

    http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/pdd39.htm

    I guess if we’re hauling in G W we should add Bill Clinton, and his administration too? Of course, that would leave Obama’s administration a little light.

    Oh, and since, as pointed by John Henry, that the Democrat house and senate leaders all signed off, then they should be charged as well.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • What a foul thing to say about a fellow blogger.

    Wasn’t aware that there was some kind of blogger’s fellowship code to which I need to adhere. Is there a handshake?

    Seriously. It ain’t “foul” if it’s true. I would not hesitate to tell a “fellow blogger” who had utter disregard for unborn human life that some human beings simply didn’t matter to him or her. And I don’t think you would have a problem with me saying it.

    In the case of DC, it’s not “foul” because it is simply true. If the human lives involved mattered at all to him, he would clearly denounce the actions of George W. Bush. There is no possible way to deny the utter disregard and willful destruction of human life that his administration has been responsible for (in the tradition of a long line of “fine” presidents, but clearly in a class by himself). He is more concerned with defending Bush than he is defending human life.

    With such a stunning regard for innocent human life, I trust that you opposed Obama because the policies he has enacted (via legislation), supports, and promises to enact which kill millions upon millions of unborn babies…

    I certainly did oppose and still oppose Obama when it comes to his views and his policies on abortion.

    I guess if we’re hauling in G W we should add Bill Clinton, and his administration too?

    I am all for adding Clinton to the list.

  • Michael,

    just because you disagree with someone’s interpretations of a leaders intentions doesn’t justify accusing him of such grave immorality as to not care for human life. That accusation is completely baseless.

    With such a stunning regard for innocent human life, I trust that you opposed Obama because the policies he has enacted (via legislation), supports, and promises to enact which kill millions upon millions of unborn babies…

    I certainly did oppose and still oppose Obama when it comes to his views and his policies on abortion.

    But since he agrees with you on lesser issues, you’re happy that he was elected?

  • Its simple: there won’t be a trial or investigation because the Democrats will want the same wiggle-room to immorally use their power.

    The surprise of this next year will not be how much changes…it will be how little things change. The first 100 days will be full of superficial bones thrown to the liberal base.

    Its why there has been no investigation to into wire-tapping and other post 9/11 decisions- it would reveal the Democrats (like Pelosi) to be complicit in the government’s disregard for civil rights/liberties.

  • But since he agrees with you on lesser issues, you’re happy that he was elected?

    “Happy”?

  • clearly in a class by himself

    Ever heard of FDR?

  • I think John Henry’s comment above does a good job of summarizing and expanding on my view. I’d especially highlight his point:

    There may be some circumstances where such prosecutions were necessary; but waterboarding of prisoners signed off on by the leaders of both parties (high ranking Democratic congressional officials signed off on these methods also), does not approach that threshold imo. Particularly when placed in the context of the last half century of U.S. history, when many of the Presidents have signed off on analogous tactics without even the mention of prosecution.

    The assumption that I’m working here is that the “war crimes” of which the Bush Administration could legitimately be accused would be of inhumane treatment ordered during the interrogations of a fairly small number of Al Qaeda suspects in Guantanamo. If, as Michael seems to, I thought that the Bush Administration had been routinely ordering the slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians, I might have a different view on this. But I disagree with Michael on that matter of fact.

    The reason I suggested that an attempt to prosecute the Bush administration for war crimes would smack of political revenge through the justice system (and would thus be massively destablizing for the country) is that the accusations against the administration which strike me as credible (using harsh interrogation tactics and having a poorly thought out system of bringing people in without being sure what to do with them afterwards) do not strike me as being at all more severe than the bad choices which other recent presidents have made in some of their foreign policies. (And given how much they’ve been involved in, the small number of really bad choices is not necessarily the major theme of their foreign policies either.) If Bush is a slam dunk for the Hague, than I would have to assume that at a minimum FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Reagan and Clinton would have been triable as well — which basically means every president in the last 60 years except the least remarkable one-termers, and in those cases it may be that I just don’t know enough.

    Trying every president for war crimes doesn’t sound to me like something that would be good for the country as a whole. And so no, I don’t support it.

    Now, I can see why Michael objected to my comments saying:

    If that’s how you characterize my “political and moral thinking” (being in favor of civil war, chaos, and dictatorships) then you have no idea what anarchism is, nor have you read any of my comments very closely.

    While he surely knows that some anarchists do support civil war and chaos (which tend to lead to dictatorships, so doubtless the anarchists don’t explicitly support those) I realize that he does not support them. My point, however, was to point out that making a routine of prosecuting outgoing administrations would result in precisely those things. If Michael is strongly in favor of prosecuting the Bush administration (and unsurprisingly, I must admit that I do find Michael a rather “fringy” political thinger — one pretty much asks for then when calling onself an anarchist) then I would assume one of the two following to be the case:

    1) Michael disagrees with me on a matter of fact, in that he thinks that Bush had committed crimes far in excess of all or nearly all past US presidents. I don’t see how one could maintain this, but it is quite possible he does.

    2) Michael does not think the above, but he believes that one can make a habit of political prosecutions without the above results occuring. I think he’s clearly wrong on this, which is why I made the rhetorical attempt to make clear to him the implications of his suggestions.

  • Well, I for the most part agree that it would be a travesty to hand our outgoing president over to an international tribunal, for many reasons, most of them noted above. On the other hand, I do think there’s room to continue to argue for a case for prosecution. Personally, I don’t believe Bush should be prosecuted for his administration, but there are aspects that deserve some thought.

    First, arguments about the Iraq War still rage hot. As Catholics, I feel we are practically obligated to believe that the Iraq War did not meet the just war doctrine. No matter our fears of the weapons Saddam was amassing, no matter the continual defiance of U.N. resolutions (some of which carried the consequence of military reprisal, from what I understand), and no matter the atrocities he committed against his own people. I know, that’s quite a list, and because of it I have long held out that the Iraq War, at the very least, was legal by international standards. But just because something is legal…

    Second, the use of even “harsh interrogative techniques” that fall short, in theory, of the standard of “torture”, are worrisome. I’m of two minds on the issue, and not even talking about waterboarding here. On one hand, we know that physical and even emotional and psychological discomfort are viable options for the treatment of prisoners, especially as a punitive/corrective measure geared towards impressing on the prisoner the extent of his crimes. How that squares with trying to extract information or confessions out of a person, I’m not so sure about.

    The optimal condition, as I see it, is to offer a reprieve from what is regular punishment in return for information. If we are offering to stop rounds of sleep deprivation, slapping, and forced nudity in exchange for information, then those activities would have to be part of normal punishment, even when there is no need to interrogate the prisoner. That’s not something I think any of us would agree to. To deliberately add those in just for the sake of obtaining information is something I simply can’t accept.

    So where does that put us in relation with Bush? That he has been more of a “might-makes-right”, “end-justifies-the-means” type president in regards to our war on terror (though I know many will argue there is simply no other way to fight this war) is disappointing. From a moral perspective, I think Bush deserves to answer for what he has done in that regard. That, I am content to leave between him and God. From a legal perspective, though, given the precedent of other presidents, given the legal jargon which justified the Iraq War, and so on, I don’t believe there’s any case whatsoever against Bush. Even in those areas where we can all agree that Bush overstepped the lines of justice and morality, there is simply not a legal case against him.

    That is not to say that we can’t fight to make it so that future presidents cannot overstep into realms of injustice and immorality. I think we should. We need to reclaim the high ground and stay there. (Or, if we have to move, only to even higher grounds.) In regards to Bush, I think this one of the realms where we are called to do the hard thing. Never forget, but still forgive.

  • Breaking News:
    Al Qaeda Cell Killed By Black Death Was Developing Biological Weapons

    It seems to me very important that we use every moral means possible to prevent these terrorists from killing millions of people to further their cause. It would be deeply immoral to not use every moral means. I don’t believe it is acceptable to err ALWAYS on the side of caution as to whether or not a tactic is moral, but necessary sometimes to use means which we find offensive, and which approach the line of immorality but do not intentionally cross it.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t question the use of any particularly offensive tactic, or wring our hands over it, but sometimes we will just have to live with it, pray that we have not erred in either direction, and forgiveness where we have. If that means that we are unpopular, so be it.

    God Bless,

    Matt