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The Most Terrible Bomb That Ended The Most Terrible War

We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world. It may be the fire destruction prophesied in the Euphrates Valley Era, after Noah and his fabulous Ark.

Harry Truman, Diary entry-July 25, 1945

 

A bit late for the annual Saint Blog’s August Bomb Follies, but here is a new Prager University video by Father Wilson Miscamble defending Harry Truman’s decision to use the atomic bombs to bring World War II to a rapid conclusion.  I will repeat here what I wrote back on July 24, 2012 after Father Miscamble made an earlier video on the subject:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go here to read the 269 (!) comments to that post.

 

 

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

107 Comments

  1. If it was their sons, husbands and fathers being murdered, yes, murdered by an unjust aggressor, they would joyfully applaud the end of the WWII by any and every means. Could we have afforded such “morality” in the face of the Bataan Death March, the slave camps of the Japanese, Iwo Jima and the numerous assaults on life, liberty and freedom? The least that they could do is admit that they were not there fighting for freedom, in harm’s way. laying their own life down. Hindsight is 20/20.
    .
    Ask them. Perhaps they would not approve of the invasion of Normandy on D Day.

  2. The Japanese bear the guilt and bloodguilt for the civilian killed. Japan started a war of world domination and killed indiscriminately using the civilians as “shields”. Although the term “shields” was not used then, as it is now, that is exactly what the civilian population was for the Japanese.
    .
    The American soldier regretted and mourned the civilian death. The Japanese indulged in bloodlust.

  3. I have looked at my comments and realized that our language no longer has the words needed to express the reality of WWII. America has become a nation of politically correct idiots.

  4. I’m surprised to see a priest advocate for the grossly immoral principle that the ends (avoiding anticipated, guessed-at, and likely very inaccurate casualties figures) could justify the means (indiscriminate mass destruction of not just a military target but necessarilyvast civilian areas utterly unrelated to actual military activities).

    One doesn’t have to be a pacifist or a neo-Catholic social leftist to recognize that the utilitarian morality at play in the dropping of the bombs was evil, the capstone to a wicked notion of “total war” first enunciated in the 19th century.

    “Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2314.

    “When, I wonder, did we in America ever get into this idea that freedom means having no boundaries and no limits? I think it began on the 6th of August 1945 at 8:15 am when we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. … Somehow or other, from that day on in our American life, we say we want no limits and no boundaries.” –Fulton Sheen, that great tree-hugging leftist.

    “The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are a message to all our contemporaries, inviting all the earth’s peoples to learn the lessons of history and to work for peace with ever greater determination. Indeed, they remind our contemporaries of all the crimes committed during the Second World War against civilian populations, crimes and acts of true genocide.” –Pope St. John Paul II (9/11/99 address)

    The vast majority (likely over 95%) of casualties of the bombs were civilian. The bombs were not really needed to destroy whatever military targets still existed in blockaded, devastated Japan (and targets that remained could have been, and all over Japan were, destroyed by far more accurate conventional bombing) but to send a message to Japan and compel an unconditional surrender.

    That is, these civilians were slaughtered not because there was such a vital military goal, but rather because the US wanted to terrorize Japan into quick unconditional surrender. The military “need” was a thin window dressing for the actual purpose of the bombs. Civilians were killed not because of military need but for political ends.

    Catholics who want to defend Truman in the apparent belief that when it comes to military matters the US can do no wrong, have to do incredible contortions of fact, history, and moral reasoning to escape the clear and unequivocal Catholic teaching that direct and indiscriminate mass killing of civilians is always and everywhere immoral.

  5. Japan had erased the distinction between civilian and military in its population.

    The Japanese government did. I don’t know that it allows us to. ISIS erases the distinction between civilian and military with respect to the US – does the mean they are justified? The US erases distinction between terrorist and non-combatant in many of its drone attacks – does that mean it is right?

    It is not “Truman bashing” to observe he made a mistake. Just because it was a very difficult decision does not mean he can’t get it wrong.

    without the use of the bomb millions of more people would have died.

    This seems to be the linchpin argument. But how does this not amount to consequentialism or utilitariansm? The historical record also seems clear that the intent in bombing was specifically, among other things, to inflict sufficient casualties and destruction among the general populace (combatant or not) to force a surrender. The real question is whether or not it is licit to cause widespread casualties and destruction among noncombatants to achieve a perceived good. Answer that question, and Hiroshima/Nagasaki answer themselves.

  6. “I’m surprised to see a priest advocate for the grossly immoral principle that the ends (avoiding anticipated, guessed-at, and likely very inaccurate casualties figures) could justify the means (indiscriminate mass destruction of not just a military target but necessarilyvast civilian areas utterly unrelated to actual military activities).”

    I am surprised by your surprise Tom since you commented quite vociferously when I posted this originally back in 2012. Of course you mischaracterize completely Miscamble’s argument and the historical record which was crystal clear that without the use of the bomb millions of more people would have died.

    “One doesn’t have to be a pacifist or a neo-Catholic social leftist to recognize that the utilitarian morality at play in the dropping of the bombs was evil, the capstone to a wicked notion of “total war” first enunciated in the 19th century.”

    Rubbish Tom. Ever heard of Genghis Khan? Total War is as old as the sacking of cities in Sumer. What was unusual about many conflicts in the 19th century was the restraint shown. Our own Civil War was a prime example of this.

    ““Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2314.”

    Which would have come as a vast surprise to all the popes over the centuries whose armies besieged cities. Church teaching on war has taken a very utopian tone now that popes, since 1870, no longer wage war.

    ““When, I wonder, did we in America ever get into this idea that freedom means having no boundaries and no limits? I think it began on the 6th of August 1945 at 8:15 am when we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. … Somehow or other, from that day on in our American life, we say we want no limits and no boundaries.” –Fulton Sheen, that great tree-hugging leftist.”

    Actually on foreign policy he often was. A prime example was his coming out against the Vietnam War in 1967.

    “The vast majority (likely over 95%) of casualties of the bombs were civilian.”

    False. Over 40,000 Japanese troops were stationed in Hiroshima and 9,000 in Nagasaki and every adult Japanese male between 15-60 was considered to be a member of the Volunteer Fighting Corps along with all unmarried females between 17-40. Japan had erased the distinction between civilian and military in its population.

    ““The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are a message to all our contemporaries, inviting all the earth’s peoples to learn the lessons of history and to work for peace with ever greater determination. Indeed, they remind our contemporaries of all the crimes committed during the Second World War against civilian populations, crimes and acts of true genocide.” –Pope St. John Paul II (9/11/99 address)”

    John Paul II was close to being a pacifist by the end of his life. But of course if the Allies, often using methods he would condemn, had not won the war, it is quite likely he would never have survived it, as the Nazis planned to murder all Poles except for a handful they would keep as slaves.

    “That is, these civilians were slaughtered not because there was such a vital military goal, but rather because the US wanted to terrorize Japan into quick unconditional surrender. The military “need” was a thin window dressing for the actual purpose of the bombs. Civilians were killed not because of military need but for political ends.”

    Tom, read a bit of history. After Okinawa, no one in the American government wanted to see those type of casualties replicated on a giant scale in Japan. The idea that the Japanese were willing to surrender without the bomb is a fable.

    “Catholics who want to defend Truman in the apparent belief that when it comes to military matters the US can do no wrong, have to do incredible contortions of fact, history, and moral reasoning to escape the clear and unequivocal Catholic teaching that direct and indiscriminate mass killing of civilians is always and everywhere immoral.”

    A lot of projection going on there Tom. The Truman bashers usually believe that the US can do no good and show a shocking ignorance of the history surround the dropping of the bomb as you have just demonstrated.

  7. Comparatively little attention has been paid to the practical and moral consequences of Truman failing to act.

    The problem is this misdirects the focus of the inquiry. Evaluating whether “[an] act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants” is licit in the first instance does not depend upon consequences, practical or ethical, of failing to act. In other words, if such act is intrinsically evil, no amount of practical or ethical alternative consequences can make it “un-intrinsically evil.” Before getting to these alternative issues, you first have to demonstrate the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not intrinsically evil without resorting to these alternatives to prove it.

  8. I believe Truman pursued the least-harmful course of action available to him to end a ghastly war, a course that resulted in the least loss of life.

    But does that necessarily equate to the most ethical course? Turning the ISIS held territories into a glass parking lot might be the least harmful course of action in the sense of least loss of life (especially if ISIS has turned everyone within into an ISIS combatant, and killed or driven out most that are not). Is it the most ethical course?

  9. “The Japanese government did. I don’t know that it allows us to.”
    As a practical matter it does. In a War if one side is not observing rules, the other side will not long term. One of the facets of the bomb decision is that Japan had established throughout the War that it observed no rules when it came to the way it conducted War. One side is simply not going to observe Marquis of Queensbury conduct in such an environment.

    “ISIS erases the distinction between civilian and military with respect to the US – does the mean they are justified?”

    No, but it certainly changes the extreme measures that must be taken to destroy them as opposed to an honorable foe who observes the rules of war.
    “The US erases distinction between terrorist and non-combatant in many of its drone attacks – does that mean it is right?”
    Once again, the conduct of one side cannot be looked at and judged without considering the conduct of the enemy being fought.

    “But how does this not amount to consequentialism or utilitariansm?”

    It is not consequentialism in war to take into account the number of civilian deaths that action, or non-action, may result in. Not to take such consequences into consideration reduces morality to a mere following of the rules of the game without consideration of the harm that will almost certainly result. These are not easy questions and the charge of consequentialism makes them no easier to resolve. We are responsible not only for what we do, but what we fail to do. In the situation of the dropping of the bomb Truman was going to be responsible for a large number of deaths no matter what he did.

    “It is not “Truman bashing” to observe he made a mistake.”

    The usual formulation is that he was guilty of a hellish sin.

    “The real question is whether or not it is licit to cause widespread casualties and destruction among noncombatants to achieve a perceived good.”

    A better question is what do you do in a situation where a larger number of innocents will die if you fail to take action that will kill a lesser number of innocents.

  10. In the interest of transparency my father was in Okinanawa, having just gone through a brutal campaign under MacArthur, seeing civilians commit suicide out of fear (promoted by the Japanese govt) of the Americans. The next step in the war and for my father under MacArthur was the invasion of Japan. There are very good chances that if that had taken place I might not be typing this right now.

    Condemnations of President Truman are off the mark, to be honest. While he might have had some sense of what the Bomb could/would do, he had no previous knowledge of the program etc., no real time to evaluate the Bomb in any other category than how can we end this war as quickly as possible. Secondly, as we have discovered, even after the two Bombs elements within the military-industrial complex in Japan were pressing to carry on the war, and in fact if I am correct, almost caused a crisis in the government. Only the Emperor, who was not an innocent dupe in the whole build up of Japan to the war and in it , as often portrayed, finally said ‘enough is enough’.

    That being said, the question now is: is there any moral justification of nuclear arms in any war, battle etc. given the nature of the weapon etc based on Just War principles? On that there seems to be growing consensus that the Church is nuclear pacifist based precisely on her Just War principles.

  11. “The problem is this misdirects the focus of the inquiry.”

    False. It illuminates an aspect of the problem not usually addressed: the moral culpability of doing nothing in the situation that confronted Truman. Critics, presumably, of Truman, if they had been in his place, would have been willing to see vast numbers of innocents die in order not to drop the atomic bomb. Does such a stance involve no responsibility, no moral culpability?

  12. Glad your Dad made it back alive Botolph. I had two uncles who fought in the Pacific who were convinced that without the Bomb they would have been buried in Japan.

    “That being said, the question now is: is there any moral justification of nuclear arms in any war, battle etc. given the nature of the weapon etc based on Just War principles? On that there seems to be growing consensus that the Church is nuclear pacifist based precisely on her Just War principles.”

    Except of course that the Church gave limited approval to nukes for deterence during the Cold War.

    http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/u.s._must_quickly_move_beyond_nuclear_deterrence_archbishop_obrien_urges/

    Church teaching in this area needs some careful examination to be understood.

  13. What this issue boils down to is that if your moral reasoning results in a lot more dead people, including among the innocents that are allegedly your primary concern, you really have to reevaluate your moral reasoning.

    It is very easy to throw around accusations of consequentialism, but when all of your choices involve dead civilians, it is immoral not to choose the method that will result in the lowest death toll.

    An invasion of Japan would have made the earlier fighting in the Pacific look like pillow fights. Track down the film of Japanese civilians being trained to fight with bamboo spears, or learning how to roll under tanks wearing proto-suicide vests.

    As long as the Japanese military thought they could inflict serious casualties on the Americans, they believed they could defeat the invasion. Remember, the Japanese had defeated two invasions by the Mongols, the superpower of the medieval world, and they thought they could hurl another invader back into the sea. The bombs changed all that.

  14. I think (dangerous) that mutually assured destruction kept “cold” the Cold War.

    And, it seems as if President Truman thought ending in a week WWII was a good idea at the time. I thank God I never had to make a decision such as that.

    My WWII Pacific navy veteran uncle (RIP) would offer to fight anybody that said they should not have bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He knew it saved lives, likely including his own.

  15. My dad had flown dive bombers over Europe from April of 1944 into May of 1945, and in August was on a ship headed for Japan: so he was not unhappy about the bomb.

    Conventional scholarly wisdom now holds that Japan was ready to surrender anyway, especially after the Soviet declaration of war (which was a day or so after Hiroshima, as it happened, but was already scheduled). This meant there was no hope the Russians could negotiate a compromise settlement. The trouble is, the Japanese government gave no hint whatsoever that they had surrender in mind. Rather, they were promising the entire population would resist the invaders with bamboo spears. American casualties aside, the rational expectation was that the slaughter of civilians after D-day would make Okinawa seem like nothing.

    I find it a bit harder to,rationalize the Nagasaki bomb. But Truman had a horrible decision to make, and he acted as he thought best.

  16. The negative precepts of the natural law are universally valid. They oblige each and every individual, always and in every circumstance. It is a matter of prohibitions which forbid a given action semper et pro semper, without exception, because the choice of this kind of behaviour is in no case compatible with the goodness of the will of the acting person, with his vocation to life with God and to communion with his neighbour. It is prohibited — to everyone and in every case — to violate these precepts. They oblige everyone, regardless of the cost, never to offend in anyone, beginning with oneself, the personal dignity common to all.

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

    Furthermore, what must be done in any given situation depends on the circumstances, not all of which can be foreseen; on the other hand there are kinds of behaviour which can never, in any situation, be a proper response — a response which is in conformity with the dignity of the person. Finally, it is always possible that man, as the result of coercion or other circumstances, can be hindered from doing certain good actions; but he can never be hindered from not doing certain actions, especially if he is prepared to die rather than to do evil.

    One must therefore reject the thesis, characteristic of teleological and proportionalist theories, which holds that it is impossible to qualify as morally evil according to its species — its “object” — the deliberate choice of certain kinds of behaviour or specific acts, apart from a consideration of the intention for which the choice is made or the totality of the foreseeable consequences of that act for all persons concerned.

  17. Sadly, I am not an expert in history. Nor am I an expert in war. Nor do I like war. But in my youth I was a US Naval submarine reactor operator. As part of my submarine qualification I had to learn how to launch from the torpedo tubes in an emergency. We had nuclear weapons aboard. I even slept next to them in the torpedo room because berthing space was limited. If I had been ordered to launch (very unlikely given my rating), then with great fear and trepidation I would have done so.
    .
    By the way, for all those who hate nuclear weapons, do you support this?
    .
    http://www.usec.com/russian-contracts/megatons-megawatts
    .
    And just to make things perfectly clear, a nuclear reactor CANNOT undergo a nuclear explosion. Nuclear weapons require > 90% enrichment of Pu-239 or U-235 or U-233 in a specific geometry. Fuel for commercial reactors is < 5% of the fissile isotope and does not have the requisite geometry. Furthermore, while reactors fueled with U-235 do breed some small amount of Pu-239 from neutron capture by U-238, the Pu-239 is too mixed in with Pu-240 (non-fissile) to make a useful bomb. The North Koreans tried that and their bomb fizzled out – not a militarily useful weapon. Additionally, United States commercial used fuel is in zircalloy rods and contaminated with fission products, making it decidedly unusable for bombs. But it makes great fuel for Candu heavy water reactors, or liquid metal or molten salt fast neutron burner reactors. Want to get rid of all those long lived actinides and fissionable materials? Build a whole lot of these:
    .
    http://gehitachiprism.com/
    .
    Swords to plowshares! A little nukie never hurt anyone! 😀

  18. War was not always organized around uniformed participants fighting around the edges of town of non-combatants. When did war become Not total war? Just curious.

  19. Anzlyne is very perceptive. I do not know the answer to Anzlyne’s question. But perhaps war became not total war when with weapons like deuterium-tritium bombs we realized that we could destroy entire megalopolises in single blast. However, that realization dawned on civilized people in the US, the UK, France, the former Soviet Union and China. It restrains Pakistan, India, Israel and today’s Russia. It will not restrain Shiite Iran or the Islamic Jihadist terrorists should they gain nuclear weapons capability. Then war will be total and complete. 🙁

  20. The atom bombings were immoral because they made no distinction between civilian and military targets. If there were a way to limit casualties to military targets, that would make bombing moral. Also, Japan is an island chain that does not produce its own oil. If Japan were blockaded, it would run out of oil and would have no way to stop an Allied invasion.

  21. Mico Razon wrote, “If Japan were blockaded, it would run out of oil and would have no way to stop an Allied invasion.”

    Why would an invasion have been necessary at all? If Japanese forces were no longer occupying the territories it had invaded and its power to attack others had been neutralised, surely the only just object of the war would have been accomplished.

  22. So given an argument that the atomic bombing of Japan did not meet just war criteria, I pointed out that a decision not to do one thing is a decision to do another. Would he please justify the decision not to use the bomb by the criteria of the the just war doctrine.

    The politest thing that could be said about the response is that he had never thought of the question.

  23. Hank wrote, “I pointed out that a decision not to do one thing is a decision to do another”

    But that is to confuse the intended and the merely foreseen consequences of an action, as Miss Anscombe explained in her paper, “War and Murder.”

    “The distinction between the intended, and the merely foreseen, effects of a voluntary action is indeed absolutely essential to Christian ethics. For Christianity forbids a number of things as being bad in themselves. But if I am answerable for the foreseen consequences of an action or refusal, as much as for the action itself, then these prohibitions will break down. If someone innocent will die unless I do a wicked thing, then on this view I am his murderer in refusing: so all that is left to me is to weigh up evils. Here the theologian steps in with the principle of double effect and says: “No, you are no murderer, if the man’s death was neither your aim nor your chosen means, and if you had to act in the way that led to it or else do something absolutely forbidden.” Without understanding of this principle, anything can be–and is wont to be– justified, and the Christian teaching that in no circumstances may one commit murder, adultery, apostasy (to give a few examples) goes by the board. These absolute prohibitions of Christianity by no means exhaust its ethic; there is a large area where what is just is determined partly by a prudent weighing up of consequences. But the prohibitions are bedrock, and without them the Christian ethic goes to pieces. Hence the necessity of the notion of double effect.”

  24. “If Japanese forces were no longer occupying the territories it had invaded and its power to attack others had been neutralised, surely the only just object of the war would have been accomplished.”

    Japan was occupying vast territories in 1945 and killing each month about 300,000 people on the Asian mainland. The cost in killed to remove them from those vast territories would have been immense. Additionally, even assuming, contra to everything that actually occurred, that Japan would have voluntarily relocated those troops back to Japan, without a fleet those troops would have had to been carried on US transports, the only way that Japan would have been neutralized would have been for the US to have stayed on a war footing and kept troops ready to attack Japan. Of course the ending of World War I demonstrated how well Germany was neutralized without invasion and occupation of all of its territories.

  25. “If Japan were blockaded, it would run out of oil and would have no way to stop an Allied invasion.”

    We had a blockade of Japan. They had plenty of stored oil to resist an invasion. The blockade was also causing a famine that was likely to kill millions of Japanese in the fall and winter of 45-46. After the surrender MacArthur just narrowly avoided such a famine by threatening to resign unless huge shipments of food were sent from the US to feed the starving Japanese.

  26. “The distinction between the intended, and the merely foreseen, effects of a voluntary action is indeed absolutely essential to Christian ethics.”

    Which tends to be a very academic distinction in waging modern war, something Ms. Anscombe knew little about. It was foreseeable with near certainty what the civilian death tolls would be if certain actions were followed by the Allies. We had seen in the liberation of Manila 100,000 civilians die in those military operations. In Okinawa, with Americans attempting to limit civilian casualties, far more civilians died than perished at Hiroshima. Under such conditions, foreseeability as a moral figleaf to hide behind is merely a way to avoid moral responsibility for not doing an action and allowing greater calamities to occur. Philosophers like Ms. Anscombe, responsible for no lives other than their own, can take moral comfort in such distinctions. Someone like Truman, having millions of lives depending upon his choice, does not have the luxury of doing nothing, having millions more die as a consequence, and then finding the words to explain to the relatives of the dead for the rest of his life how his course of action was really moral and correct.

  27. The blame for civilian deaths belongs to the original aggressor. It belongs to Germany and to Japan. Nazi Germany had a program to develop an atomic bomb. Nazi Germany assisted Japan with Japan’s atomic bomb program.

    Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan caused, in all probability, more civilian deaths than in all wars before WWII.

    Blame them for starting the war. Blame them for waging war. Blame them for the deaths.

    They both started WWII because they were “aggrieved” at the conclusion of WWI.

    I am tired of revisionist historians who blame the USA for the atomic bombs. I never hear the screech about the Holodomor or the rape of Nanking or of Stalin’s concentration camps. Selective outrage is BS.

  28. Penguins Fan: “The blame for civilian deaths belongs to the original aggressor. It belongs to Germany and to Japan.”

    .
    This is true and the foundation for understanding the war.

  29. I find an eery parallel between the Pacific War with Japan during WWII and the present war since the 90’s with Islamicist-terrorists [Germany-Italy was actually a very different war given the Western and Judaeo-Christian cultures that remained in those countries despite National Socialism and Fascism] In both WWII Japan and the Islamicists (all of them-not just ISIS (ISIL)) we had/have:
    1) a non-rational mythologically based culture encountering “Western Civilization and the Modern Era” and seeing this as ‘the fight for their ‘spiritual’/cultural existence”
    2) therefore ready for ‘total war’ with ‘total cost’, seeing suicide as the ultimate heroic act

    With this in mind, I believe we are in for a major war, with major implications for the world. It eventually, no doubt, leave a good portion of the Middle East a spiritual-cultural void (look at Japan underneath its technologically jazzy veneer. Japan is demographically and culturally dying]

    How this war ultimately is conducted will have massive implications for the future of our own country and of the West

  30. I find it interesting that Hiroshima and Nagasaki are included under “Eugenics” in the Crisis link. Is the author saying that it was racism against Japanese that led to the decision? Would the Bomb not have been dropped on Nazis?

  31. I think there is one and only one legitimate argument for the bombings. If the civilian population could be considered to be actually military, then the bombings may have been, though not necessarily were, justified. I am not so comfortable as some here with declaring fisherman and clerks with bamboo spears to be truly military, but I do think that the argument can be made that killing them may have been moral. My position is that the bombings were wrong but understandable. Truman was neither a saint nor a monster in my estimation.

  32. Michael Paterson-Seymour wrote “Why would an invasion have been necessary at all? If Japanese forces were no longer occupying the territories it had invaded and its power to attack others had been neutralised, surely the only just object of the war would have been accomplished.”
    There are two answers to that question

    1) The original War Plan Orange did not foresee an invasion of Japan. It foresaw a determined blockade and bombardment of Japan to compel the country into a surrender that was not unconditional. Now, everyone who acknowledges the obvious immorality of the nuclear attacks needs to ask: how many civilian deaths from starvation, and in particular children, would have resulted from an actual 1945-47 blockade? The answer is hundreds of thousands if not millions. So, what is the higher morality of a blockade? The answer is: none. Anyone with a realistic view of war would realize that in the absence of real conciliation tactical alternatives often have no moral value over one another – all such choices do is move the innocent civilian deaths from one subpopulation to another. See http://www.amazon.com/War-Plan-Orange-Strategy-1897-1945-ebook/dp/B00BHOXR4E/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1410645939&sr=1-1&keywords=war+plan+orange for more info.

    2) The other issue has to do with the nature of surrender. If a nation has a leadership that causes a war, then the prevention of future wars requires the removal or discrediting of the leadership. For example, this did not happen after WW1 in Germany and so the stage was set for WW2. Whatever the outcome of the Pacific War, future peace required that the Japanese surrender be substantial enough to make real change in Japanese society. Except for the continued whitewashing of history in Japanese secondary schoolbooks this aim was accomplished. It is hard to say that a blockade would have accomplished this goal without some type of post-blockade occupation, and a blockade could not have made an occupation inevitable. One has to conclude that a of all options blockade posed the greatest risk of allowing Japanese militarism to survive and thus to fuel a future conflict.

  33. Leaflets were dropped on the civilian population of Hiroshima and Nagasaki two weeks before the A-Bomb was dropped warning the inhabitants of the coming bomb.
    .
    Two weeks more than had Pearl Harbor.

  34. TomD notes that “Now, everyone who acknowledges the obvious immorality of the nuclear attacks needs to ask: how many civilian deaths from starvation, and in particular children, would have resulted from an actual 1945-47 blockade?”

    The blockade would have been an entirely legitimate act of self-defence. Any deaths that resulted would have been caused by the obstinacy of the besieged and their government – Another application of the principle of Double Effect, for the deaths would have been foreseen, not intended.

    “If a nation has a leadership that causes a war, then the prevention of future wars requires the removal or discrediting of the leadership.” That could quite legitimately have been made one of the Allies’ war aims. The Second Treaty of Paris of 20 November 1815 that ended the Napoleonic Wars is an excellent example. There was no refusal by the Allies to negotiate with King Louis XVIII and his ministers, the king having resumed the throne on 8 July, following Napoléon’s second abdication on 22 June. France has never thereafter posed a threat to the peace of Europe.

  35. “Any deaths that resulted would have been caused by the obstinacy of the besieged and their government – Another application of the principle of Double Effect, for the deaths would have been foreseen, not intended”

    It would seem that the principle of Double Effect needs a serious critique. If the obstinacy of the besieged government is what creates the double effect, then certainly the obstinacy of the Japanese government in its refusal to accept the Potsdam declaration in the face of obvious defeat introduced a double effect in the use of nuclear weapons.

    No, it would seem that what introduces double effect is the immediacy of the effect. The use of a nuclear weapon has immediate and obvious effects, the use of a naval blockade has effects that are not so immediate and obvious, but they are just as real. It takes a certain kind of mental ju-jitsu to impose a blockade knowing that the adversary’s obstinacy will lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of his civilians and still maintain that the deaths are “foreseen, not intended”.

    Go back and read Josephus’ account of the Roman siege of Jerusalem. The Romans actually allowed Passover pilgrims into the city because it would quicken the depletion of food stockpiles. Later, when the Jews began to throw the emaciated cadavers over the walls, Titus swore to the gods that it was not his fault and certainly not his intention. Well, yes it was, not to 100% of the responsibility perhaps, but responsibility cannot be avoided. A naval blockade further distances the cadavers physically, and so the double effect appears stronger, but the morality remains the same.

    It would seem that Double Effect is in large part a self-serving delusion. It’s only real basis is in the partial shifting of responsibility to the obstinacy of the opponent, and even then it fails if the opponent’s motive in refusing to surrender is fear of atrocity rather than pride.

  36. Interesting post from the original article by Father Wilson Miscamble:

    “Take as but one example the early 1945 Battle for Manila, in which approximately one hundred thousand Filipino civilians were killed. Some were killed by the Japanese, but many of this large number were killed by aggressive American air and artillery bombardments used, without particular regard for civilian casualties, as the American forces sought to dislodge an established enemy that refused to surrender. These harsh tactics could not meet [Professor Christopher] Tollefsen’s criteria with regard to means. Given his unbending approach on moral absolutes, I assume he would condemn the action; but just what military means would he support in trying to defeat a foe that considered surrender the ultimate disgrace and who fought accordingly?”

    Very good question.

    During the siege of Intramuros Japanese Marines held over 100,000 Filipino civilians as human shields. Contra Fr Miscamble, Douglas McArthur was concerned that artillery would result in massive deaths of these people, so he ordered the use of dive bombers instead, hoping that the eyes of the pilots would minimize civilian deaths. The results were about the same as if artillery had been used.
    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intramuros#mediaviewer/File:Memorare_manila_monument.jpg

  37. Part of the problem in the fight for Manila was that MacArthur was perhaps too concerned with civilian casualties and attempting not to inflict damage on a city he loved, and he placed considerable initial restrictions both on the use of artillery and airpower. The results were to slow the liberation of Manila while the Japanese were massacring civilians for their amusement, and lengthen the duration of the battle, without reducing civilian casualties, or, in the end, doing less damage to Manila which was devastated by the battle. American casualties were 6000 to 16000 Japanese (Virtually the entire Japanese garrison died fighting.). One can imagine the American and civilian casualties if the Americans had had to take Tokyo from a Japanese army of one million.

  38. To outsiders it seems very… off to watch Catholics argue that the options which would result in MORE deaths are the moral ones.

    You could almost imagine a starving civilian looking at them and saying, “Well at least YOU feel better. At least YOUR hands are clean. Never mind that I might have lived, it’s all about you…”

    It’s like listening to a group argue that it’s so wrong to push little old ladies, they conclude that it’s best to stand by and let one be hit by an oncoming bus rather than push her out of the way. (and if you ever point this out, the group starts accusing you of demanding how soon you can run around and push old ladies)

    Do you ever stop and listen to yourselves?

  39. “Do you ever stop and listen to yourselves?”

    The principle that innocents should not be killed Nate is a very strong one in Catholic teaching. These are not easy questions and I am glad that I belong to a Faith that takes them very seriously indeed.

  40. Well put, Don and you are probably one of the best living credits to that faith.

    But when in a situation where ANY action (even no action) will result in innocents dying, to see many Catholics argue that the action which results in the MOST deaths is the “moral” one… one starts to wonder if they need to be reacquainted with that old teaching. (like Zippy’s ranting about abortion in the older post)

  41. “But when in a situation where ANY action (even no action) will result in innocents dying, to see many Catholics argue that the action which results in the MOST deaths is the “moral” one”

    I think insufficient attention has generally been paid in reference to Hiroshima of the moral consequences of not dropping the bomb. That, and the fact that we do live in a fallen world, something that is demonstrated dramatically in war time where the least horrible option is often very gruesome indeed. Catholicism has always been clear that sins of omission can be just as deadly as sins of comission, something that is apparently often overlooked when weighing the morality of Truman’s decision.

  42. Is there anything about war that is moral? But if war is forced, then one should aim to win quickly, and as decisively as possible. If that means basting apart the enemies’ cities with nuclear weapons so as to an immediate and complete surrender, then so be it. Maybe nothing is moral about it; From my past life of sin, I am a poor decision-maker in what is moral and what isn’t. But victory over a determined and intractable enemy is the right and correct thing to do, and in the case of WW II, the use of nuclear weapons averted a long, protracted struggle that would have killed far more lives on both sides of the struggle.
    .
    I wish I knew more about history and strategy. But I am just a nuke. I used to sleep beside those weapons in the torpedo room. I am glad war did not come in those days of the Soviet Union. I now dread that a culture and a government more insane than that of Imperial Japan – Shiite Iran or an Islamic Caliphate – will gain the weapons to which Japan and Nazi Germany aspired. And all this self-flagellation over Hiroshima and Nagasaki may sadly be forgotten in the radioactive ashes of a major American city. You’ll want war then. You’ll want the enemy defeated then.
    .
    By the way, was there anything moral about God telling Joshua to wipe out the pagan inhabitants of the cities in the Promised Land?

  43. Paul W Primavera wrote:

    “By the way, was there anything moral about God telling Joshua to wipe out the pagan inhabitants of the cities in the Promised Land?”

    Or indeed doing the job Himself as per Sodom and Gomorrah…?

  44. Donald R McClarey wrote, “The principle that innocents should not be killed Nate is a very strong one in Catholic teaching”
    In her 1958 paper, Modern Moral Philosophy, Miss Anscombe pointed out that “The prohibition of certain things simply in virtue of their description as such and such identifiable kinds of action, regardless of any further consequences, is certainly not the whole of the Hebrew Christian ethic; but it is a noteworthy feature of it.” It is also a fact that every academic moral philosopher since Sidgwick denies that any such prohibitions exist. For them, “the right action” is the action which produces the best possible consequences (reckoning among consequences the intrinsic values ascribed to certain kinds of act by some “Objectivists.”) It is for that reason that she coined the term “consequentialist” to describe them.
    The most a consequentialist can say is: a man must not bring about this or that – he cannot say that idolatry, adultery, making a false profession of faith are wrong without qualification, nor, indeed, that choosing to kill the innocent for any purpose, however good is wrong simply and without qualification.
    Of course, a Christian will say, “It is forbidden, and however it looks, it cannot be to anyone’s profit to commit injustice,” but that is an act of faith in the Divine Lawgiver, not a rational insight in a concrete instance.

  45. TomD wrote, “it would seem that what introduces double effect is the immediacy of the effect.”
    No, it is the difference between what is intended and what is merely foreseen. If I push a murderous assailant off a high cliff, that is not murder, for I do not intend his death, but to end his attack. Similarly, a man may licitly jump to his death from a tall burning building in order to avoid the flames (S Alphonsus Liguori, Theologia moralis, lib. III, tractatus IV, cap. I, 367.

  46. “No, it is the difference between what is intended and what is merely foreseen.”

    “merely foreseen” is mere word games in the example you raise. I would view the killing in the example as completely justified, but the death of the assailant was clearly intended.

  47. “nor, indeed, that choosing to kill the innocent for any purpose, however good is wrong simply and without qualification.”

    Of course that has not been the position of the Church, else the Church could not have given sanction to the balance of terror during the Cold War. These are far more complex questions than those who raise the charge of consequentialist usually wish to ackowledge.

  48. The civilians in Nagasaki and Hiroshima were warned to leave. It was incumbent upon the civilians to abhor that their nation was waging a war of aggression. If possible, the civilians were to literally rise up and stop their nation from waging an unjust war. Were these inhabitants of the doomed cities preparing to enjoy the spoils of an unjust war? Only the individual person knows his conscience. Non-combatants are called collateral damage, unintended victims caught in an unprovidential place. The unintended victims, collateral damage caused by the A-bomb is the guilt of Japan.
    .
    It was and is the duty of the U.S. military to impose Justice.
    .
    Many of the writers scrutinize the actions of the U.S. but none of the non-actions of the inhabitants and the necessary laying of guilt and the bloodguilt on Japan.

  49. “No, it is the difference between what is intended and what is merely foreseen.” “merely foreseen” is mere word games in the example you raise.”
    Thank you Don, that was exactly my point.

    I don’t want to be misunderstood: the idea of Double Effect does have some value. Military personnel who are placed in impossible situations should not have to live with crippling guilt for the rest of their lives, and Double Effect offers the only worldly escape other than amorality (God’s forgiveness being the heavenly reconciliation).
    Another example can be found in law enforcement. Police cannot ‘shoot to wound’, an assailant can still inflict harm on the officer or others in such a case, and in most venues ‘shooting to wound’ is a legal admission that deadly force was not justified. Yet ‘shooting to kill’ is not something society wants to encourage in our fellow citizens who hold police powers. The way out is to train police to ‘shoot to incapacitate’, use force to stop the assailant, but do not intend his death even though incapacitation requires aiming at vital organs.

    So, I have to conclude that Double Effect has some moral value for people who must quickly make life or death decisions in situations that have limited options or a degree of compulsion. It would seem to have less moral applicability to wartime leaders in a faraway and secure capital, for them it does risk becoming a word game.

  50. Donald R McClarey wrote, “I would view the killing in the example as completely justified, but the death of the assailant was clearly intended.”
    No, it is not intended. The test is this: would my intention be frustrated, if the assailant survived (by falling into the sea for example). The answer is plainly no; likewise the man jumping off the burning building.

    We see this in the case of in the case of the administration of a pain-relieving drug in mortal illness, where the physician knows the drug may very well kill the patient if the illness does not do so first. Nevertheless, the intention is to relieve pain; that intnetion is not frustrated, if the dose does not prove lethal.

  51. Michael Paterson-Seymour: I would not consider the double effect of an individual drug dosage or any medical procedure to be equivalent to the double effect of a military combat operation. Apples and oranges. Perhaps they become similar when dosages or procedures are considered across the population, but even then there is no real comparison. Unlike medical personnel (up to now, that is), military personnel are trained to kill, unlike civil police there is no double effect consideration in their training other than that required by adherence to international conventions. And training does impact culpability in any moral decision.
    So, I have to conclude that the use of Double Effect for the three groups were are considering (1- combat personnel, 2 – wartime civilian leaders, 3 – postwar critics like us) is not the same for a number of reasons, a few of which I have listed.

    The bottom line is this: if I am aware of the Double Effect principle, I can willfully use it to game the outcome of a moral decision, either while in the making or in a post facto critique. This gaming is little different than a repeat adulterer running to weekly Confession for forgiveness: he knows he is playing a game with the Sacrament. Same here with moral philosophy..

  52. I cannot believe that after the leaflets were dropped warning of the bomb for two weeks, that that information did not get to the highest command in Japan. and what did Japan do, especially for its civilians? Japan refused to surrender. Only after the bomb did Japan surrender very late and very unwillingly.
    .
    If we are talking about war, let us include the enemy, especially the enemy’s refusal to surrender, to end the war which would have made the bomb unnecessary.
    .
    Double effect and consequentialism must include all aspects of the case. Japan caused the dropping of the A-bomb and refused to prevent it by surrendering. So, the U.S. must accept the guilt for defending the free world, truth and Justice. Yes, I will buy that but that does not make it right.

  53. TomD
    St Thomas (ST II-II q 64. a 7) distinguishes a private individual killing in self-defence, where he says “Nothing hinders one act from having two effects, only one of which is intended, while the other is beside the intention. Now moral acts take their species according to what is intended, and not according to what is beside the intention, since this is accidental as explained above (43, 3; I-II, 12, 1). Accordingly the act of self-defence may have two effects, one is the saving of one’s life,the other is the slaying of the aggressor &c.”
    However, he would allow the police directly to intend the death of an assailant: “But as it is unlawful to take a man’s life, except for the public authority acting for the common good, as stated above (Article 3), it is not lawful for a man to intend killing a man in self-defence, except for such as have public authority, who while intending to kill a man in self-defence, refer this to the public good, as in the case of a soldier fighting against the foe, and in the minister of the judge struggling with robbers, although even these sin, if they be moved by private animosity.”

  54. Michael Paterson-Seymour: “”it is not lawful for a man to intend killing a man in self-defence, except for such as have public authority, who while intending to kill a man in self-defence, refer this to the public good,””
    .
    Is not the victim both an individual and a citizen, as in citizen’s arrest and in killing for the common good? Put off by his first victim, the killer went off and got another victim. See the Gail Schollar rape and murder by Scott Johnson.

  55. Don, whether there would have been 400,000 casualties in an invasion of Japan, or 4 million (no one knows what the number would really have been and there are conflicting figures), you are still ignoring the Church’s clear teaching that direct indiscriminate killing of the type that occurred at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, especially where very little actual military advantage was gained, is intrinsically immoral.

    No sleight of hand about how evil the Japanese were, no ridiculous attempts to cast the innocent women and children of those cities as “combatants,” no appeal to American self-interest in avoiding large military casualties, can right the wrong of the direct, intentional, indiscriminate slaughter of innocents. We wanted to terrorize the Japanese into unconditional surrender by slaughtering vast numbers of innocents and their cities. It was immoral. Period. Your arguments all reduce to mere consequentialism, with a good dose of ad hominem thrown in for good measure.

  56. The Target Committee stated that “It was agreed that psychological factors in the target selection were of great importance. Two aspects of this are (1) obtaining the greatest psychological effect against Japan and (2) making the initial use sufficiently spectacular for the importance of the weapon to be internationally recognized when publicity on it is released.”

    The bombing thus was not even really a military exercise for a military goal in relation to the two cities, but a demonstration of power. For this “demonstration” 70,000 humans were killed, the vast majority of whom were civilians, that is, not members of the Japanese military.

  57. What’s done is done, but the still-present moral dilemma makes me think of an old movie I saw about a fire in the garment district shirtwaist factory in NY. The girls were urged to jump out the windows to avoid dying by burning- and they did- just before God provided a better answer in the form of firemen breaking through the wall. Those few who waited on The Lord were saved.
    .
    Was there another solution for victory over Japan that was on the way ?

  58. “Japan was at the moment seeking some way to surrender with minimum loss of ‘face’. It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.”

    “Certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.”
    – U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey’s 1946 Study

    “It always appeared to us that, atomic bomb or no atomic bomb, the Japanese were already on the verge of collapse.”
    – General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold

    And if the judgment of these experts, who had much more intimate, direct knowledge of the facts and situation than any of us, is not enough, I’ll leave off with what the Church has said about “total war” tactics like these:

    “With these truths in mind, this most holy synod makes its own the condemnations of total war already pronounced by recent popes,(2) and issues the following declaration.

    Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.”
    –Gaudium et Spes, #80.

  59. We could not really predict what was going to happen with Japan, in light of the new freedom of Russia to wage war on her own eastern front after the victory of the allies in Europe.

  60. Mary De Voe asks, “Is not the victim both an individual and a citizen, as in citizen’s arrest and in killing for the common good?”

    But St Augustine says (De Civ. Dei i) [Can. Quicumque percutit, caus. xxiii, qu. 8] “A man who, without exercising public authority, kills an evil-doer, shall be judged guilty of murder, and all the more, since he has dared to usurp a power which God has not given him.”

    And St Thomas says (ST II-II q 64 a 3) “As stated above (Article 2), it is lawful to kill an evildoer in so far as it is directed to the welfare of the whole community, so that it belongs to him alone who has charge of the community’s welfare. Thus it belongs to a physician to cut off a decayed limb, when he has been entrusted with the care of the health of the whole body. Now the care of the common good is entrusted to persons of rank having public authority: wherefore they alone, and not private individuals, can lawfully put evildoers to death.”

    So, this power is limited to the magistrate and to those acting with his authority and not to private individuals. That is why the fasces (an axe tied in a bundle of rods) was carried before magistrates of the Roman people, as the symbol of their authority to beat and behead Roman citizens.

  61. The U.S, was unable to reach Tokyo by air with the bomb. Crippling the monster was all we could do.
    .
    Anzlyne: “Was there another solution for victory over Japan that was on the way ? ”
    .
    Yes, it is called the A-bomb. All else had failed.
    WWII in the Pacific was Japan’s war. Japan started it. It was up to Japan to end it.-
    .
    “Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.” –Gaudium et Spes, #80 “-
    .
    The population was warned by leaflet drop two weeks prior to the bomb.
    .
    “Japan was at the moment seeking some way to surrender with minimum loss of ‘face’. It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.” – General Dwight D. Eisenhower
    .
    The Japanese had difficulty surrendering after the bomb.
    .
    “Certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.” – U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey’s 1946 Study ”
    .
    Prove it.
    .
    “It always appeared to us that, atomic bomb or no atomic bomb, the Japanese were already on the verge of collapse.” – General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold – ”
    .
    Prove it.

  62. MPS: To kill a man while acting in self defense is killing for the common good.
    .
    Some silly notes. The rapist chopped the woman’s head 47 times. The court asked if the rapist wanted to kill her or only inflict serious bodily injury. Yeah right. in New Brunswick, N.J.
    .
    And the assaulted must ask: “Are you going to kill me or only inflict serious bodily injury” and this from a maniac.
    .
    IF I have an ax in my hand and I am being assaulted, believe you me, he is going to get hit with it and then let him ask me if I wanted to kill him or only inflict serious bodily injury.
    .
    Someone once told me that if I get raped I should let it happen because “it is God’s will”. That someone ought to read the Old Testament where if the woman did not cry out and fight back, she was to be put to death too.
    .
    If the U.S. had means to end the war and did not, the U.S. would be guilty of extending the war. This ought to be capitalized.

  63. “Japan was at the moment seeking some way to surrender with minimum loss of ‘face’. It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.”
    Eisenhower said nothing like that at the time. As a matter of fact when Bradley told him about Hiroshima he expressed satisfaction that the War would be ended. He also later noted in this context that he knew nothing about military conditions in the Pacific being solely focused on Europe. His idea that Japan was seeking to surrender on any conditions that the US was willing to accept is false. Background on this and other quotes routinely dredgred up by Truman bashers in regard to Hiroshima may be read at the link below:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=A2Zv3VD6ptQC&pg=PA18&lpg=PA18&dq=bradley+eisenhower+hiroshima&source=bl&ots=pkr9is5FVa&sig=vFRLOlMjzcx_MiyK00F7s9UhRUo&hl=en&sa=X&ei=MiAXVMfIC9eiyASXk4JA&ved=0CB4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=bradley%20eisenhower%20hiroshima&f=false

    “Certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.”
    – U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey’s 1946 Study
    No, that is completely untrue.

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

    Of course the Bomb Survey team assumed that we would continue to use conventional bombing against Japanese cities that had killed far more Japanese civilians that in the atomic bombings and that we would have maintained the blockade that by the fall of 1945 would have produced a full blown famine in Japan.

    “It always appeared to us that, atomic bomb or no atomic bomb, the Japanese were already on the verge of collapse.”
    – General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold

    Arnold and the other air lords assumed that conventional bombing along would have finished off Japan. Lemay, who had used firebombs to gruesome effect in Tokyo said at the time that he thought that even without the atomic bombs or the Soviet declaration of War the Japanese would have surrendered within a few days of when they surrendered. There is absolutely nothing in the historical record to support that declaration.

    And if the judgment of these experts, who had much more intimate, direct knowledge of the facts and situation than any of us, is not enough, I’ll leave off with what the Church has said about “total war” tactics like these:

    “With these truths in mind, this most holy synod makes its own the condemnations of total war already pronounced by recent popes,(2) and issues the following declaration.

    Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.”
    –Gaudium et Spes, #80.
    Which of course is directly contrary to the support that the Church gave to the use of nuclear weapons for deterrence during the Cold War.

    A good book for people interested in learning about the actual history of the atomic bombings:

    http://www.amazon.com/Hiroshima-History-The-Myths-Revisionism/dp/0826219624

  64. Donald R McClarey wrote, “Which of course is directly contrary to the support that the Church gave to the use of nuclear weapons for deterrence during the Cold War.”
    Individual churchmen, even popes, have said and done some quite indefensible things. To borrow some examples from Bl John Henry Newman – St Peter on that occasion at Antioch when St. Paul withstood him, St. Victor, when he separated from his communion the Asiatic Churches, Liberius when in like manner he excommunicated Athanasius, Gregory XIII, when he had a medal struck in honour of the Bartholomew massacre or Paul IV in his conduct towards Elizabeth or Sextus V, when he blessed the Armada, or Urban VIII when he persecuted Galileo.
    All very different matters from the solemn teaching of a General Council.

  65. The praxis of the Church is always important, especially when said praxis comes after a Council. Also, as noted by Newman, concluding what is infallible about a Council and what is not is not necessarily the easiest of tasks:

    “3. These conditions of course contract the range of his infallibility most materially. Hence Billuart speaking of the Pope says, “Neither in conversation, nor in discussion, nor in interpreting Scripture or the Fathers, nor in consulting, nor in giving his reasons for the point which he has defined, nor in answering letters, nor in private deliberations, supposing he is setting forth his own opinion, is the Pope infallible,” t. ii. p. 110. And for this simple reason, because on these various occasions of speaking his mind, he is not in the chair of the universal doctor.

    4. Nor is this all; the greater part of Billuart’s negatives refer to the Pope’s utterances when he is out of the Cathedra Petri, but even, when he is in it, his words do not necessarily proceed from his infallibility. He has no wider prerogative than a Council, and of a Council Perrone says, “Councils are not infallible in the reasons by which they are led, or on which they rely, in making their definition, nor in matters which relate to persons, nor to physical matters which have no necessary connexion with dogma.” Præl. Theol. t. 2, p. 492. Thus, if a Council has condemned a work of Origen or Theodoret, it did not in so condemning go beyond the work itself; it did not touch the persons of either. Since this holds of a Council, it also holds in the case of the Pope; therefore, supposing a Pope has quoted the so called works of the Areopagite as if really genuine, there is no call on us to believe him; nor again, if he condemned Galileo’s Copernicanism, unless the earth’s immobility has a “necessary connexion with some dogmatic truth,” which the present bearing of the Holy See towards that philosophy virtually denies.

    5. Nor is a Council infallible, even in the prefaces and introductions to its definitions. There are theologians of name, as Tournely and Amort, who contend that even those most instructive capitula passed in the Tridentine Council, from which the Canons with anathemas are drawn up, are not portions of the Church’s infallible teaching; and the parallel introductions prefixed to the Vatican anathemas have an authority not greater nor less than that of those capitula. 6. Such passages, however, as these are too closely connected with the definitions themselves, not to be what is sometimes called, by a catachresis, “proximum fidei;” still, on the other hand, it is true also that, in those circumstances and surroundings of formal definitions, which I have been speaking of, whether on the part of a Council or a Pope, there may be not only no exercise of an infallible voice, but actual error. Thus, in the Third Council, a passage of an heretical author was quoted in defence of the doctrine defined, under the belief he was Pope Julius, and narratives, not trustworthy, are introduced into the Seventh. This remark and several before it will become intelligible if we consider that neither Pope nor Council are on a level with the Apostles. To the Apostles the whole revelation was given, by the Church it is transmitted; no simply new truth has been given to us since St. John’s death; the one office of the Church is to guard “that noble deposit” of truth, as St. Paul speaks to Timothy, which the Apostles bequeathed to her, in its fulness and integrity. Hence the infallibility of the Apostles was of a far more positive and wide character than that needed by and granted to the Church. We call it, in the case of the Apostles, inspiration; in the case of the Church, assistentia.”

  66. We find what is, in effect, a reiteration of the teaching of the Council in Evangelium Vitae – “Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral.”

    It is difficult to see how this would not include the targeting of a civilian population that must contain some (infants, the infirm &c) who are innocent by any standards

  67. Actually taken in an extreme sense that statement would forbid Catholics to engage in any warfare, since there are precious few military operations that do not involve foreseeable casualties for the innocent, which would be certainly good news for those who spit on everything the Church stands for and are not shy about using military force. John Paul II often denied being a pacifist, but he attempted to hedge in the use of force with so many restrictions, that the difference between him and a Quaker pacifist was purely theoretical. A cursory knowledge of Church history will demonstrate how diffent this was from the attitude of the Church towards war and force for 1600 years.

  68. Mary De Voe, I have to take your side in your debate with Michael Paterson-Seymour.
    The statements by Sts. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas regarding ‘proper authority’ are simply outdated when it comes to personal defense. In today’s understanding of the nature of citizenship, we know that the citizen has the sovereign power to defend herself, at least in the American context of citizenship. Of course Sts. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas ideas regarding ‘proper authority’ still apply in any situation that goes beyond that which is required for the immediate defense of one’s person in the absence of the ‘proper authority’.
    Part of the problem is that Mr. Paterson-Seymour lives in a country where he is more subject than citizen, and where utopian elites have effectively criminalized self defense.

  69. Here is what I know to be true based on the commandment to love one’s neighbor:

    1) The nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were immoral
    2) The conventional bombings of other Japanese cities were immoral
    3) An extended blockade of Japan that starved millions would have been immoral
    4) An invasion of the Japanese home islands in which schoolchildren carried out suicidal banzai charges would have been immoral
    5) Calling a truce in July 1945 in which the U.S. Navy sailed home and allowed the Japanese to continue their atrocities in China and elsewhere would have been immoral.

    This is why war is so evil. Once begun often no good choice exists, especially for the non-aggressor (aggressors can at least stop, apologize and compensate the victim). Yes, each choice listed above is different with different culpabilities and intended and unintended effects. The facts remain: the United States had no moral – in the absolute sense of the word – choice in 1945. Every practical course would have killed hundreds of thousands somewhere.

  70. The most a consequentialist can say is: a man must not bring about this or that – he cannot say that idolatry, adultery, making a false profession of faith are wrong without qualification, nor, indeed, that choosing to kill the innocent for any purpose, however good is wrong simply and without qualification.
    Of course, a Christian will say, “It is forbidden, and however it looks, it cannot be to anyone’s profit to commit injustice,” but that is an act of faith in the Divine Lawgiver, not a rational insight in a concrete instance.

    1) Consequentialism is the only viable “common moral language” possible in a plural society. To invoke “consequentialism” as some kind of disqualifier only applies if the entirety of affected society is Catholic.

    2) The second a Divine Lawgiver is invoked, you have resorted to consequentialism yourself – because you consider the act of displeasing Him to be a far worse consequence than any alternative.

    In other words, consequentialism is nothing more than “logic of morality”. To say that it must be abandoned is to make the case that morality should not be reasoned or argued about at all, which I understood to be quite contrary to Catholic history.

    In summary, anyone that invokes consequentialism as heresy or other are just saying, “Shut up and stop thinking.”

  71. Donald R. McClarey

    Concerning your comment on Church history and the Church’s attitude toward war and force for 1600 years.

    I would share a few points, Donald.

    There is and always has been “the Development of Doctrine”, most notably stated by Saint Vincent of Lerins at the end of the Patristic era and of course, Blessed John Cardinal Newman. What does not take place is an outright denial and negation of doctrine [although some have attempted to show that it has happened at certain times, and their reasons for doing so are varied, such personages as Blessed John Cardinal Newman in the nineteenth century and Avery Cardinal Dulles in our own era have sufficiently shown that the seeming contradictions do not in fact exist]

    Here my point is precisely on the Just War teachings of the Church (and not the negation or even neglect of them) the Church ‘more recently’ has condemned ‘total war’ [the just war principle of proportionality], and the indiscriminate bombing of whole cities and their populations [Here it is not just Hiroshima and Nagasaki what come into view, but Warsaw, Coventry, London, Dresden, Tokyo; in other words, the condemnation is not just for the use of nuclear arms but also conventional arms when used on this scale]

    Secondly, while there was an ‘allowance’ of nuclear deterence from the Catholic Church there is not an allowance etc of the use of the nuclear weapons precisely because of the principle of proportionality AND the killing of innocent human lives [and citizens who are not soldiers have always been considered innocents; they are non-combatants. This is the foundation of any and all terrorist bombings etc even today, whether 9/11 or other locations. Authentic or inauthentic declarations of war do not make all citizens of the country/countries warring-combatants]

    While the Church has developed her teaching she has not negated it. The early Church was not totally pacifist as many claim. The number of Roman soldier saints should give us a clue to that. However, over time the Church develops her teaching, in this case Just War Principles, an aspect of the social teaching of the Church. While the recent popes [going all the way back to Benedict XV] called for an end to the insanity of war etc. they never, rejected the Just War Teachings. In fact, Saint John Paul II added another principle {I might miss word it here] calling for ‘response to protect the innocent’, which he made during the crisis in the 90’s in the Balkans

    The Church follows the Prince of Peace and seeks world patterned in light of the Gospel. However until that time comes, in the Eschaton, She promotes her Gospel of Peace and Justice, of which the Principles of Just War are an essential part, just as individually chosen pacifism is an essential part. All members of the Church are called to be peacemakers, which can be and should be lived out by soldiers as much as by pacifists.

    IN the end it is really not the Church that has changed but ‘war’. Therefore, the Church has had to develop her teaching accordingly.

  72. I left out: citizens of any and every city are innocents and non-comabatants-this is the foundation of the CONDEMNATION of any and all acts of terrorism—sorry lol about leaving that important wording out. My head gets ahead of my typing lol

  73. “IN the end it is really not the Church that has changed but ‘war’. Therefore, the Church has had to develop her teaching accordingly.”

    That is not correct Botolph as a matter of historical fact. War has always been a very grim business indeed. The Albigensian Crusade for example demonstrates that total war, and the destruction of the populations of cities or entire regions, is not a recent innovation in War. What has changed is that since 1870 Popes no longer make war, so the practicality and applicability of teaching regarding warfare is no longer a consideration.

    “Secondly, while there was an ‘allowance’ of nuclear deterence from the Catholic Church there is not an allowance etc of the use of the nuclear weapons”

    With respect, that is gibberish. Nuclear deterrence was predicated on using nukes, if necessary. For the Church to be in favor of nuclear deterrence but simultaneously against the use, if need be, of the nukes is a non-sequitur.

  74. Nate Winchester,

    You said, “Consequentialism is nothing but the logic of morality.To say that it must be abandoned is to make the case that morality should not be reasoned or argued about at all, which I understand to be quite contrary to Catholic history.
    In summary anyone who invokes consequentialism as heresy or other are just saying, “Shut up and stop thinking”

    Are you aware that the same Pope, St John Paul II who wrote Fides et Ratio, Faith and Reason [hardly someone who is saying “Shut up and stop thinking”, wrote in Veritatis Splendor [the Splendor of Truth]:
    that “consequentialism claims to draw the criteria of rightness of a given way of acting solely from the calculation of foreseeble consequences stemming from a given choice” and stated that this type of motal theorizing concludes that the foreseen proportions of ‘pre-moral” goods to evils in the alternatives available can at times justify exceptions to precepts traditionally regarded as absolute [see VS 75] John Paul rejected this form of moral theorizing declaring “they are not faithful to the Church’s teaching, when they believe that they can justify, as morally good, deliberate choices of behavior contrary to the commandments of the Divine and natural law” [VS 76]

    St John Paul continues. He writes that this way of evaluating human acts, “is not an adequate method for determining whether the choice of that concrete kind of behavior is ‘according to its species’ or ‘in itself’ good or bad, licit or illicit” because “everyone recognizes the difficulty or rather the impossiblity of evaluating all the good and evil consequences and effects-defined as pre-moral-of one’s own acts” [VS 77]

    St John Paul brings forth this fundamental point/teaching of the Church: “The morality of the human act depends primarily and fundamentally on the ‘object’ rationally chosen by the deliberative will [VS 78]

  75. Donald,

    It is true, since 1870 ‘the popes’ have no longer make war because they no longer have territory to defend etc. The unification of Italy, a socio-political reality helped to redefine the mission of the papacy and with it the Church. In response, in the dogmatic declaration on papal infallibiity, the Church has defined that her territory (and thus what needs to be protected by popes and bishops) is faith and morality. It also shored up the self-identity of the Church vis a vis the world (not so enmeshed etc), however, having said that, the nature of war, from the time of WWI has changed in many ways and not just in weaponry. The Church at first stunned by what it was experiencing/witnessing had to return to its tradition with new questions, ones that had never even imagined before WWI and certainly WWII-that is the development of doctrine. While war has always been ugly, terrible etc, nothing like these wars ever existed before [and frankly we are in a new era with mass terrorism etc–what kind of moral response can/should be given to these forces?]

    As for distingushing nuckear arsenals as a deterrance and the use of nuclear arms, there are many pacifists and progressives who also believe they cannot be distinguished [neither of which grouping I know you don’t belong in] but the Church has had to make very fine distinctions that some consider ‘gibberish’. I mention two: when the Church ‘allows’ the removal of a woman’s cancerous womb while an unborn child is present-this is the principle of double effect, the child’s life is ended, yet that is not the intention of the procedure, but the horrendously sad effect of a necessary operation. Another would be the taking of the Pill for non-birth control measures (although I believe these are becoming less and less necessary) But I believe you get my point.

  76. Botolph,

    Are you aware that the same Pope, St John Paul II who wrote Fides et Ratio, Faith and Reason [hardly someone who is saying “Shut up and stop thinking”, wrote in Veritatis Splendor [the Splendor of Truth]:

    No, but then I’m not Catholic. And as I pointed out (and you proved) the reasoning even quoted by JP2 ultimately still lies with the consequences.

    Take for example the situation that always seems to trip up anti-consequentialists: The attempted sacrifice of Issac. Killing kids? We all agree a pretty big no no. Never allowed? Ok, we also agree on that. Then it would be wrong and sinful for Abraham to have attempted to kill his son AND if at any point you want to say, “But God told him to”, that’s consequentialist thinking. You’re (or in this case Abraham) making a choice based upon the consequences.

    In other words, we all practice consequentialism, the only difference is the logic sort order (as we say in computer science) of the process. Whether some factors (such as orders from On High) weigh more or less than others (such as lives lost).

  77. Oops, I glossed over this comment by Michael Paterson-Seymour: “However, he [St.Augustine] would allow the police directly to intend the death of an assailant”

    Well, St. Augustine might have allowed such a thing, but I wouldn’t, and I don’t think many in a modern Western democracy would allow it either. As I mentioned, we in the 21st century know it is possible for police to use deadly force to protect the innocent without introducing the intention to kill. I don’t agree with the creed of the Progressive Religion, but it is undeniable that real progress does exist. This matter is one of them.

  78. Nate,

    No I nor JP II proved anything positive about Consequentialism. As he wrote, it is an impossiblity of knowing (or even claiming to know) all the consequences of a human act. What is possible however is to know “the object///rationally chosen///by the deliberative will”

    If you are not Catholic I certainly understand why you did not know of JPII’s writings etc. however, you are jumping into a Catholic world-view here. Want some water-wings lol? [meant with light heartedness ;-)]

  79. “The unification of Italy, a socio-political reality helped to redefine the mission of the papacy”

    Which the popes fought tooth and nail against until the Lateran Treaty. For example, in the Syllabus of Errors Pius IX condemned these propositions:

    24. The Church has not the power of using force, nor has she any temporal power, direct or indirect. — Apostolic Letter “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851.

    76. The abolition of the temporal power of which the Apostolic See is possessed would contribute in the greatest degree to the liberty and prosperity of the Church. — Allocutions “Quibus quantisque,” April 20, 1849, “Si semper antea,” May 20, 1850.

    Depriving the Church of secular rule may be a good thing or a bad thing. (Personally I think it is too soon to tell.) However, it is clearly something forced on to the popes against their will, and the office of the papacy has changed as a result, and the men who ascend to the papacy have also changed, lacking any experience of secular rule, which usually men had experienced before they were elected to the papacy pre 1870. This has had a major impact on Church teaching in how the Church looks at the World, War and Economics being two prime areas. Whether these changes are permanent, God, through History, will reveal in His good time.

  80. Botolph, I knew what I was getting into, that’s why my first comment was pointing out how a lot of this appears to Catholic outsiders.

    No I nor JP II proved anything positive about Consequentialism. As he wrote, it is an impossiblity of knowing (or even claiming to know) all the consequences of a human act. What is possible however is to know “the object///rationally chosen///by the deliberative will”

    No one claims to know all consequences, but what everyone does agree is that we all act based upon “best guess” and logic. Just to make sure I’m not misinterpreting something, I looked it up on wikipedia which says:
    “John Paul bases this on the argument that certain acts are so destructive to the human person that there are no extenuating circumstances that would allow them.”

    In other words, the consequences of the act (in this case, destructive to a person or personhood) are too great for it to be allowed.

    Consider as I said in the first comment. Some were claiming that the most moral choice is to blockade. To do so would have killed millions. Why is this moral? Because the consequences of it (in this case, the cost to the soul, only everyone’s dressing it up as breaking the Church’s or God’s laws, but that’s what both sum up as) are worse than the alternative – dropping the a-bomb.

    It’s not unlike Jonah Goldberg pointed in “Tyranny of Cliches” how labels are used (like non-ideological when the person, is – in fact – being ideological). Both sides are consequentialists here but only one side is trying to argue otherwise, even as they use consequence-style arguments. Even the quote by JP2 reads like someone trying to make a logical case against logic itself.

    And – as I also think some should acknowledge – consequenalism is the only option available when trying to talk about morals to those outside your system. I mean in this case, do you really think the Buddhist Japanese would have been that understanding about starving millions to satisfy your Catholic principles?

    It is somewhat ironic that many arguing against the a-bomb say that terrorists’ views of civilians are no different than America’s was that day. Yet never realize that much of their arguments rest on their religion… which is also what many terrorists use to justify their actions…

    Not you, Botolph, it just occurred to me while I was looking at something else.

  81. Donald,

    We both agree that “God through history will reveal in His good time”

    I am not a “Hegelian” who believes in automatic “Progression”. However, neither do I believe there was ever a golden age [except of course Paradise itself] in a particular age or in the history of the Church, What future will unfold for the Church in the world I only have guesses. The ‘reason for my hope” as St Peter puts it in his First Letter is the victory of Jesus Christ, the presence of the Holy Spirit within the whole Church preserving her in holiness and her unity, catholicity and apostolicity and the promise of Christ the Lord Who states that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church founded on Peter and maintained in his successors (yes even though some were grave sinners) and the bishops in union with them.

  82. We both agree that “God through history will reveal in His good time”

    I am not a “Hegelian” who believes in automatic “Progression”. However, neither do I believe there was ever a golden age [except of course Paradise itself] in a particular age or in the history of the Church, What future will unfold for the Church in the world I only have guesses.

    On that we all agree.

    Even the filthy protestants.

  83. Nate, you wrote: “Even the quote by JP2 reads like someone trying to make a logical case against logic itself.”
    I don’t think it is that exactly. I think it is merely an acknowledgement that ultimately logic fails us in these matters. I’m sure you know that in Christianity we do deal with such things, and we call them Mysteries. The mystery of evil is of course one of the greatest, so great that it is (in my view) the only honorable reason to be an atheist.

  84. Sorry, TomD, I was unclear. I meant “logic against logic” in a metraphorical/analogy sense, not literal. The literal use would be “using consequences to disprove consequentialism”.

  85. Tom D. : “where utopian elites have effectively criminalized self defense.”
    .
    I am aware of this position.
    .
    Here is what I know to be true based on the commandment to love one’s neighbor: – 1) The nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were immoral 2) The conventional bombings of other Japanese cities were immoral 3) An extended blockade of Japan that starved millions would have been immoral 4) An invasion of the Japanese home islands in which schoolchildren carried out suicidal banzai charges would have been immoral 5) Calling a truce in July 1945 in which the U.S. Navy sailed home and allowed the Japanese to continue their atrocities in China and elsewhere would have been immoral.
    .
    The commandment to love one’s neighbor sometimes includes an A-bombing of his cities to educate him in the Fifth Commandment and in the self-defense of the individual human being. Capital punishment is an education to the criminal of the Fifth Commandment on an individual basis. Defensive war is also an education of the Fifth Commandment to the barbarian invasions. The A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was an education to the barbarians in loving one’s neighbor and an education in equal Justice since the barbarians did not know how to love their neighbors, nor did the barbarians know the Ten Commandments.

  86. Tom D.: “The mystery of evil is of course one of the greatest, so great that it is (in my view) the only honorable reason to be an atheist.”
    .
    There is no honorable reason to be an atheist. Divine Providence gave America the A-bomb to end the World War in the Pacific.

  87. Mary, I think you could have put it more artfully. I’m not going to contort the Gospels to justify what was in fact a just war. All I am saying is that just wars still contain much immorality. A just war needs to be prosecuted with determination toward victory, but we cannot forget just how fallen from grace the circumstances of that justice and victory happen to be. And yes, victory in a just war may be God’s will, and I would hope it was God’s will, but I would be afraid to assume that it in fact was God’s will.

    As to there being honorable atheists, I can assure you they do exist, I know a few, and I know that they give attention to my religious views because I do honor them. Would you have it that they don’t listen? Did you ever see The Keys of the Kingdom?

  88. The atom bombings were technically immoral, but there were mitigating circumstances:

    1. The Allies were fighting for a righteous cause, and Japan was fighting for an unrighteous one. This makes all the difference in the moral calculus. Imagine if the Axis Powers had successfully developed the atom bomb before the Allies and proceeded to drop it on an Allied city. Everyone would agree that such would be immoral.

    2. The Japanese gave the impression of being ready to fight, down to pots and pans if need be, to the last man. Imagine “We shall fight on the beaches” taken to an absurd extreme.

    3. Based on Mr. McClarey’s figures, 300,000 people were dying on the Asian mainland every month that the war continued. (I would question the morality, though, of liberating China from Japanese militarism, only to allow it to fall under Communism.)

    What would have made the atom bombings more morally secure? I am no expert here, but if we could pick a circle having a one-mile radius with a higher military-to-civilian ratio, that might be one way of selecting a target that minimizes civilian casualties.

    The Allies were fighting for the righteous cause, so we should be glad that we won the war. At the same time, there were aspects of our military strategy that warrant self-examination. By the time we dropped the atom bombs, we had already been firebombing Tokyo for several months. We were piling on one morally questionable act over another. It is morally imperative that we don’t just drop the bomb without examining our consciences. After all, it was a surfeit of pride that brought 1930’s Germany and Japan on the path to war. “Pride goes before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” -Proverb 16:18.

  89. Nate Winchester wrote, “The second a Divine Lawgiver is invoked, you have resorted to consequentialism yourself – because you consider the act of displeasing Him to be a far worse consequence than any alternative.”

    One may indeed think so, but a primary characteristic of a Law theory of ethics is that you can be subject to a law that you do not acknowledge and have not thought of as law. Moreover, without a Law theory of ethics, the concept of “obligation” becomes vacuous or, at best, metaphorical, for “obligation” is purely juridical concept. As Miss Anscombe points out, with a Virtue theory of ethics, “ought” has the same sense as in “machinery needs oil, or should or ought to be oiled, in that running without oil is bad for it, or it runs badly without oil.” It does not mean that anyone is bound or obliged to oil it.

    Of course, morality can still be “reasoned and argued about.” We can argue, for example, whether, on a proper construction, Leviticus XVIII forbids marriage with a deceased wife’s sister, or whether the Levitical law is binding on Christians. This is not to deny, but to acknowledge its binding force.

  90. Botolph wrote, “neither do I believe there was ever a golden age [except of course Paradise itself] in a particular age or in the history of the Church…”
    Indeed. Most of us, I suspect do have a favourite period and, when it comes to writers, their choice often tells us more about them than the age in question. Think of Chesterton and Belloc and the 13th century, or Bl John Henry Newman and the 4th

  91. Divine Providence guided America’s war for independence. WWII is another war for independence. Freedom. Man is created in the freedom of God. Trying to take man’s freedom from him is a violation of the will of God.
    .
    I am sure that atheists are honorable. It is that “There is no honorable reason to be an atheist.” Tom D. You say: ““The mystery of evil is of course one of the greatest, so great that it is (in my view) the only honorable reason to be an atheist.” So why would any thinking person align himself with the “evil”, the total absence of God?
    .
    Mico Razon: “By the time we dropped the atom bombs, we had already been firebombing Tokyo for several months. We were piling on one morally questionable act over another. It is morally imperative that we don’t just drop the bomb without examining our consciences.”
    .
    Japan had not surrendered. Giving Japan time to rearm and reorganize could have been strategic to Japan’s victory. Japan needed to be driven out of the free world, as Saint Michael drove Satan out of heaven.

  92. Nate Winchester: ““John Paul bases this on the argument that certain acts are so destructive to the human person that there are no extenuating circumstances that would allow them.” In other words, the consequences of the act (in this case, destructive to a person or personhood) are too great for it to be allowed.”
    .
    World War II was “so destructive to the human person” and man’s God given freedom, ” that there are no extenuating circumstances that would allow them.” World War II ought not to have happened.

  93. Mary, the issue is that classic issue of theodicy. If God is good, why does He allow evil? If God allows evil, is He responsible for it?
    Do you have a good answer for these questions? I don’t and I don’t think anyone does. There are stock answers, which you can quote but which really don’t answer the problem. The best I can do is to acknowledge that, by sending His Son to die on the Cross, God understands the mystery of evil, has joined us in suffering under it, and promised by the Resurrection to overcome it. Such acknowledgement is an act of faith and hope; logic does enter into the decision to believe, but it is not primary.
    So an atheist who refuses to believe in God because evil exists is not “aligning” with evil, he is just making a rational decision based on the existence of evil and the conflicting definition of who and what God is. Perhaps the logical end is what you mean by “align”, since it does lead to despair, but in my experience most such atheists fail to follow though to the end of their logic.
    I have to conclude that by logic alone the atheist is right, and I thank God that I do not live by logic alone.

  94. Mico Razon wrote “We were piling on one morally questionable act over another. It is morally imperative that we don’t just drop the bomb without examining our consciences.”
    Of course not. And that goes for every other alternative to the bomb. In looking over this thread, one can conclude that the moral problem of U.S. decisions in July 1945 ought to be remembered and taught for the rest of time.

  95. The devil is a person with free will. If the atheist chooses to not believe in God because of evil in the world, then the athiest has already chosen to not believe in the devil. It is a package deal. The devil wants souls to believe he (the devil) does not exist. The atheist has not given himself a chance to choose to not believe in the devil by simply choosing to not acknowledge the existence of the devil. I guess any one who chooses to not acknowledge the devil has already made the devil a success and his partner in evil.

  96. Mico Razon: “We were piling on one morally questionable act over another. It is morally imperative that we don’t just drop the bomb without examining our consciences.”
    .
    What makes one think that, for a moment, America did not weight the results of the A-bomb, that America did not examine our individual and national conscience? This whole post is about America’s WWII conscience. Can you live with the freedom bought by the A-bomb?

  97. “Can you live with the freedom bought by the A-bomb?”

    I never said I don’t. I said, “The Allies were fighting for the righteous cause, so we should be glad that we won the war.” Can you live with the knowledge that we killed civilians in Vietnam?

  98. “What makes one think that, for a moment, America did not weight the results of the A-bomb, that America did not examine our individual and national conscience? ”

    Maybe because the development of the bomb (the Manhattan Project) was a VERY closely guarded military secret that only a small circle of scientists and Presidents Roosevelt and Truman knew about? (Truman was told about it for the first time the day that Roosevelt died, I believe.) How could “America” have “examined its conscience” about dropping the bomb when 99.99999% of its citizens had no idea the bomb even existed before it was dropped?

  99. I suspect my reaction in August 1945, if I had just lost a son on Okinawa, would have been: “My God! Why did my boy have to die invading Okinawa if they knew they had this in the pipeline?” For the vast majority of Americans at the end of a very bloody war, the debate would not have been whether to drop the bomb, but questions about why it could not have been developed earlier, and dropped, to spare more Americans from dying in the Pacific.

  100. Elaine Krewer: ” How could “America” have “examined its conscience” about dropping the bomb when 99.99999% of its citizens had no idea the bomb even existed before it was dropped? ”

    Yes. So why is the American conscience being blamed for the A-bomb? Scientists did not know what would happen when the bomb was detonated. Some believed that the entire atmosphere would catch fire in a chain reaction. The bomb scared both sides, but it did end the war.
    .
    Mico Razon: Vietnam was guerrilla warfare. Children were used, as in ISIL, to carry bombs into the camps of our G.I.s
    .
    A firm belief in Divine Providence and the love of God for all people carries me through. I lost several friends in Vietnam. One friend I have is Vietnamese. $25,000 in gold got them onto a boat where they watched their family drowned in the sea after they were robbed. Later, they were picked up by pirates and raped and robbed again. They made it to America, but that is a whole book.

  101. Ms. De Voe,

    As a human being, you ought to be bothered by the killing of civilians. If you do not have even the slightest tinge of regret over the killing of women and children, that would be disturbing. I would concede that the atomic bombings were probably morally justified. But that does not stop me from feeling some regret over the innocent civilians of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (Note that I am using the word regret, not remorse.)

    I do make a distinction between per se moral actions and morally justified actions. If an action is per so moral, it wouldn’t need any justification. An atomic bombing can never be a per se moral action; at best, it can be a morally justified action.

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