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Wednesday, August 03, 2005



[T]hose who deplore the dropping of the bomb absolutely turn out to be largely too young to have been killed if it hadn't been used.

... although there are many of us whose fathers were enroute to Japan who do appreciate the opportunity to have been born.


Has the left forgotten that Truman was a Democrat? Have the forgotten that if FDR hadn't died then He would have dropped the bomb. FDR authorized its development after all. Imagine that, the greatest lefty President of all time would have been a terrorist mass murderer.

Tim in PA

"At some point in the next few days, I suppose, someone in the moral equivalence industry will try to argue that the dropping of the atomic bomb was an act of terrorism."

Sorry, you're a bit late, they already beat you to it:


Just yesterday, I heard a young (sounding) History prof from SJS explain on NPR, in an offhand manner, that Japan would have surrendered in the "next few months" without having been A-bombed or invaded, because their circumstances were dire. This knowledge was gained through study, she being too young to have lived through WWII.


Yeah, I think Nelson Mandela already pulled the "Hiroshima as terrorism" card a few years ago. Putz.

Jim in Texas


Since that argument will probably be in English instead of Japanese, German or Italian, it's a moot point

Scott Aaron

"At some point in the next few days, I suppose, someone in the moral equivalence industry will try to argue that the dropping of the atomic bomb was an act of terrorism."

I support the bombing. But give me a definition of terrorism under which Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren't. The dictionary definition is "The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons." Don Rumsfeld's definition is "For myself, I think of the word as meaning an act whereby innocent people are involved and killed." Under either definition, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were terrorist attacks. Civilian target? Yes. Intent to intimidate or coerce? Yes.

James Stephenson

And of course had we not dropped the bomb, we would have bombed them into the stone age. Many more people would died on both sides of the conflict. The only way to have avoided the killing, would have been for the US to accept an unacceptable peace treaty with Japan. We had to stop them from keeping their military. We also needed to limit their offensive capability. The only would have surrendered had they got to keep their military as is. No way we could have signed that.


Hiroshima and Nagasaki were MILITARY targets. That they had civilian populations around them was moot. And there was also a DECLARED war under way. That is not terrorism.

Hiroshima: A city of considerable military importance. It contained the 2nd Army Headquarters, which commanded the defense of all of southern Japan. The city was a communications center, a storage point, and an assembly area for troops. To quote a Japanese report, "Probably more than a thousand times since the beginning of the war did the Hiroshima citizens see off with cries of 'Banzai' the troops leaving from the harbor."

Nagasaki: The city of Nagasaki had been one of the largest sea ports in southern Japan and was of great war-time importance because of its many and varied industries, including the production of ordnance, ships, military equipment, and other war materials. The narrow long strip attacked was of particular importance because of its industries which contained the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms works and the Mitsubishi-Urakami Ordnance Works (torpedo plant) the nice fellows that made Pearl Harbor possible. *Note Nagasaki was a secondary target...the primary target was spared because cloud cover made accurate bombing impossible.

Some of the Considerations that went into making the target selection sites...

A. The range of the aircraft which would carry the bomb.

B. The desirability of visual bombing in order to insure the most effective use of the bomb.

C. Probable weather conditions in the target areas.

D. Importance of having one primary and two secondary targets for each mission, so that if weather conditions prohibited bombing the target there would be at least two alternates.

E. Selection of targets to produce the greatest military effect on the Japanese people and thereby most effectively shorten the war.

F. The morale effect upon the enemy.

These led in turn to the following:

A. Since the atomic bomb was expected to produce its greatest amount of damage by primary blast effect, and next greatest by fires, the targets should contain a large percentage of closely-built frame buildings and other construction that would be most susceptible to damage by blast and fire.

B. The maximum blast effect of the bomb was calculated to extend over an area of approximately 1 mile in radius; therefore the selected targets should contain a densely built-up area of at least this size.

C. The selected targets should have a high military strategic value.

D. The first target should be relatively untouched by previous bombing, in order that the effect of a single atomic bomb could be determined.


If Germany or Japan had developed the nuke first and destroyed Pittsburgh or Boston, would that be terrorism or not?

Scott Aaron

In modern war, everything is a military target. Cities have military value if for no other reason than they have large populations of potential, future enemy soldiers. Therefore, it is difficult to make some distinction between military and civilian targets. Though it may have had a military presence, Hiroshima was first and foremost a city of civilians. Would having an army office, say, in the World Trade Center have made that a military target? Ultimately, we attacked and destroyed a city of civilians.

There was a declared war. Yeah, of course. What difference does that make? Al Qaeda declared war on the US in 1998. Does that make a difference for 9/11?


My Marine father, who survived combat on Guadacanal, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and other islands was finishing OTS and preparing to ship back to the Pacific to lead men ashore on the Japanese main islands.

As a result of his personal experience with Japanese soldiers and civilians (Okinawa) he always said that not only did he expect to die on the shore, he expected at least 2,000,000 Japanese to die and maybe as many as 5,000,000 because, "they don't give up, and they don't surrender."

He was grateful that the bombs were dropped, both for himself and for all the Japanese who were spared. He definitely felt bad about the deaths in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but felt it was much preferable to the alternative.

As I said in other places, if the US is asked to apologize for dropping atomic weapons, the proper response is, "We're sorry your militaristic culture forced us to allow thousands of our young men to die to stop its spread and for more thousands of your civilians to die to finish the job. You're welcome."

Tony M

It's the anniversary of the dropping of the A-Bomb and I'm certain I'll hear or read about some morons moral judgement criticizing strategic decisions made to save lives 60 years ago. Would these critics have disagreed at that time if they had a father, son or male relative who would be part of the invasion force? I doubt it. Only in America!


Fling93, if the US had embarked on an imperialist war in the 1930s and 1940s which led to the deaths of at least 17 million people, and if Boston and Philadelphia were centers of military production, then use of atomic weapons against us would have probably been justified.

Great post by the way. Interesting note to the Frank/Weekly Standard piece - it seems clear now that the planned land invasion of Japan (Operation Coronet) would not have happened, at least on schedule. Japanese reinforcements of Kyushu would have offered a 1:1 troop ratio, a potential disaster for the Allies. Apparently, Truman knew this by June, and this probably tipped the scales on the atom bomb decisions.

Anyone interested in my post on this, come on by



Paul, so you believe the ends justify the means?


Scott - You just contradicted yourself. You claimed that it was a civilian target in your first comment and then in the second claimed that everything is a military target. Which is it?

Secondly, since it was a declared war the representatives of the people (the Japanese Imperial govt.) got the Japanese civilians involved. I don't care what Al queda thinks... who are they the representatives of? What nation do they rule? If the Japanese people disagreed with the war they could have peacefully protested.... sure they may have gotten themselves shot, but that is neither here nor there. Their govt. started it... and they got stung for it.

The issue is: were the people the target or was the city itself the target? I don't think you can seriously argue that the population was the target... the city served a military purpose...and therefore it was a legitimate target of a lawfully declared war. If you think differently, why were leaflets dropped beforehand telling civilians to leave the city since it was going to be "obliterated"?

In contrast the only goal of the Islamo-nazi's is to kill civilians. Otherwise they'd have aimed their 757's & 767's for newport news shipping yard, or Ft. Hood, or an AF Base instead of an office building full of clerical workers and bond traders.

Attempting to call terrorism and the A-bomb attacks one in the same is simply a demonstration of moral bankruptcy. Why don't you actually read Fussel's essay before posting such silliness?



If you define "end" and "means" more clearly, I'll try and answer the question.


CB Kiteflyer

>At some point in the next few days, I suppose, someone in the moral equivalence
>industry will try to argue that the dropping of the atomic bomb was an act of

Another example of how your prediction came true before you even wrote it:

Not just any act of terror..."the worst terror attacks in history" !

Scott Aaron

No contradiction. Everything is a military target, even civilian targets. It was a civilian target because the population was the target. Look over your own list of criteria. They wanted a densely built up area, in other words an area with as many people as possible. They wanted lots of frame buildings. Why didn't they pick some more remote area that also had military value? Because it wouldn't have had the same psychological impact.

One of the criteria was that the target not have been bombed before. If Hiroshima was such an important military target, from a purely military point of view, why was it not bombed before? Why was it so low in the pecking order? Because it wasn't of such great strategic importance. It just had a lot of people that could be killed.

Are you saying Hiroshima's people were warned beforehand? First I've heard of it. According to Wikipedia, "No evidence has ever been uncovered that leaflets warning of atomic attack were dropped on Hiroshima. Indeed, the decision of the Interim Committee was that we could not give the Japanese any warning." Nagasaki got warning leaflets, a day after it was bombed.

Calling Hiroshima what it was is not bankruptcy. We attacked a city with a devestating weapon with the intent of killing as many people and doing as much damage as we could, in as spectacular a way as we could (after all, the same damage could have been inflicted with conventional weapons, but that wouldn't have been as spectacular) so as to coerce the Japanese into surrender. That's terrorism. Was it justified? Yes. Is it terrorism? Yes.


"If you define 'end' and 'means' more clearly, I'll try and answer the question."

Means: action. End: goal.


Ends and means ... of course the ends justify the means, what else could justify the means?

The only sensible question, as Buckley among others has taught us, is "Do the ends justify any means?", the answer to which is "Of course not."

Saying "so you believe the ends justify the means" is the rhetorical equivalent of "nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyaaaaah!"


It strikes me that some folks are trying to define the undefinable; to find solid ground for distinctions where the footing feels suspiciously uncertain. As Scott Aaron wrote, the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima seems awfully consistent with a fair application of the term "terrorism."

We can certainly make distinctions based on the fact that our attacks on Japan were in no way "illegal" given the state of war that existed. We can also take some solace in the fact that the cities themselves were fairly rich in military significance. But still, we cannot avert our gaze from the glaring fact that thousands of civilians perished in an atomic fireball of our making and that was surely delivered to advance our war objectives.

What strikes me most about all the handwringing - as well as the finely detailed characterizations of the military value of these cities - is the presumption that, indeed, there is something ineffably wrong that we must endeavor to wrestle back to the right. That there is something in this evil that we must explain away lest we be carried away with it.

There is surely a far more robust and unassailable defense of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the equally horrific firebombings of Tokyo and Dresden. It applies to the current war against Islamic fascism as well.

Simply put: Americans had (and have) no obligation to die to serve anyone else's purposes.

Our soldiers had no obligation to die so that fewer civilians in the source population of the Japanese Imperial Army would perish. The Japanese and the German militarists brought this misery upon their home populations by attacking America and her allies for the express purpose of subjugating us. In the end, all horrors rest solely upon their shoulders - including any compromise with our ideals that they forced us to make in self-preservation.

Indeed, while the horror of the events themselves may make us flinch, we should never forget that America and the West proved itself capable of leaving the evil of these attacks behind in the treatment that we afforded Japan and Germany in the post-war period. We earned the right to say that our deployment of these horrors was truly in self-defense and not in the service of the oppression that so surely would have been visited upon us had our opponents won.

These vapid sophisticates who would prefer that 100,000 Americans or more had died than that they be discomforted by the fury of the war that won them their freedom have nothing to offer in this discussion. You needn't bother with finely calibrated responses about the military value of these cities because you can be sure that they care nothing for reason and even less for America.

We won against the forces of oppression - for that is surely what they were - and we preserved a world order infinitely more just, more humane and more successful than that planned by the Imperial Army or the Third Reich. No one - even the citizens of Japan and Germany - should pause even a moment in doubt of that truth. Because in the end, the "we" that won now includes even the phenomenally successful societies that grew out of post-war Japan and Germany. What better illustration of the fundamental rightness of our intentions can ever be found?


A couple things:
1) You don't coerce Ali into a fight and then cry foul when he knocks you the fuck out. No Pearl Harbor=No Hiroshima, Nagasaki.

2) Terrorism is a form of assymetrical warfare. i.e. un-uniformed guerrillas vs. a nationstate. Japan vs. United States is not considered assymetrical. Because the U.S. built a better bomb than their enemy during a war does not make them terrorists.

3) Should the goal of the United States during the war really have been to suffer any casualty rate necessary to protect Japan from major losses?


4- By their own evidence, teh Japanese had efectively militarized their civilian sector into both war production and into an armed 'homeland resistance' force. If they carry weapons and assist in the war effort, are they still civilians?

I see a lot of faulty logic here from people who are ignorant of history or of the situation of the time, but are just looking for a way to equate Hiroshima with September 11, therefore both claiming that America is "just as bad as they are" and excusing Bin Laden as some kind of good-guy-who's-defending-hiimself.
To my mind, this says a lot more about the moral bankruptcy and political leanings of people like Scott and company than is does about the actual history.


khawley: "The only sensible question, as Buckley among others has taught us, is 'Do the ends justify any means?', the answer to which is 'Of course not.'"

You seem to be implying that some acts are so heinous that it doesn't matter what the intent was. I don't see how that helps the case, because I don't know how you could claim that the act of intentionally killing a hundred or a few thousand civilians is more heinous than the intentional killing of over a hundred thousand civilians.

"The Japanese and the German militarists brought this misery upon their home populations by attacking America and her allies for the express purpose of subjugating us."

So it's morally okay to punish civilians for the crimes of their governments and then blame the government for bringing it upon their civilians? Isn't that exactly the reasoning used by Osama Bin Laden? Indeed, doesn't it make more sense when you're talking about a democracy?

khawley: "Saying 'so you believe the ends justify the means' is the rhetorical equivalent of 'nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyaaaaah!'"

Actually, that would be more applicable to rhetorical devices that seek to limit debate by claiming that your opponent is not qualified to debate the topic due to not fulfilling some arbitrary qualification. Pretty much a variation of the ad hominem attack, where you try and redirect focus from the message to the messenger. This is often used by academics against non-academics by claiming that you aren't qualified to debate a topic unless you've read such-and-such book or scholarly paper. It's also used in the chicken-hawk argument, where they claim you can't support a war unless you've already demonstrated a willingness to die in that war. And it was used on this very thread, where someone claimed that you can't criticize a war decision unless you had a relative that fought in that war or are old enough to have been affected by the decision.

And interestingly enough, you'll see similar tendencies when someone is trying to define terrorism, taking care to add qualifications such that their opponent fits it but they do not.

Let's not kid ourselves. In a war between us and them, it's perfectly human and understandable to pick us over them. There's no need to justify the answer. So why jump through all these hoops pretending that we have the moral high ground? Does that really matter? You can still believe the ends justify the means and still fight extremist Islamic militants without trying to claim that you're fighting them because terrorism is evil.

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