It was a different time! You can’t judge by today’s standards!

Mass murder excuse #23.

Only, we’ve always known that it is gravely immoral to deliberately kill innocent human beings. And people knew it in 1945. For instance, Servant of God Dorothy Day knew it.

The difference between a saint and the rest of us is not that a saint knows super duper secret mystical stuff the rest of us don’t. It’s typically that a saint believes and lives ordinary common sense things we are too frightened or inconvenienced to believe and live, even though we know we should. That’s why they inspire us to be better people. It’s also why we so often put them to death.

“The Saint is a medicine because he is an antidote. Indeed, that is why the saint is often a martyr; he is mistaken for a poison because he is an antidote.” – G.K. Chesterton

Speaking of saints who inspire (me) and irritate (all consequentialists and apologists for grave intrinsic evil), the inimitably delphic Zippy Catholic makes a pungent observation about the insistence on using fantasy scenarios in order to come up with some way of rationalizing acts that the Church says merit “firm and unequivocal condemnation” as a “crime against God and man”.

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  • I’ve decided to do today different. I was reading the annual articles commemorating this day, and I noticed something. Harry Truman’s grandson visited Hiroshima this year. In the stories, several Japanese were interviewed, politicians as well as remaining survivors. In all the stories, it was mentioned that there are still Japanese who are bitter toward the US for the bombs, having a hard time forgiving us and all.

    And yet, once again, there is little to no mention of the victims of Japan’s own wartime activities. Oh, there have been occasional nods over the years, usually where it’s been forced, but that’s all. And yes, there are some Japanese reformers pushing for Japan to own up to the terrors and the millions who suffered, were tortured, raped, butchered and murdered. But certainly there hasn’t been anything to the degree that Japan demands from everyone else.

    So from now on, I’m going to take some other day to think about this (I’m sure there will be plenty of chances), and instead choose August 6 to remember all those millions who were put through a reign of terror that, if other countries’ figures are to be believed, rivaled the Holocaust. The only difference? We almost never bother to remember them. Nobody does, except maybe in those countries. Victims of the Holocaust get almost weekly remembrance. And I doubt a month goes by that someone doesn’t bring up the victims of America’s bombing campaign. But it’s mostly crickets and wind blowing when it comes to the millions who died under the boot of Japan. So today, and every August 6 from now on, that’s where my prayers and memories are going to focus. Here’s to them.

    • Michelle

      Mass murder excuse #24.

      • Question mark? I missed the excuse in that.

        • Ted Seeber

          “They were doing atrocities too, and thus we were right to drop the bomb”

          I don’t accept “He hit me first” from my 9-year-old, why should I accept it from Harry S. Truman and his modern apologists?

          • That’s not a ‘he hit me’ argument. In fact, it’s not an argument at all. It’s simply noting that after all these years, little to no attention is given to those particular millions who suffered and died under Japan’s control. Had it not been for the legendary Korean Women who came out and started pushing in the early 90s, we probably wouldn’t have gotten as much as we have. It was reading the interviews where it was said that Japanese still hadn’t forgiven the US. OK, fair enough. But how about those millions who died under Japan? So I figure from now on, August 6 will be my ‘remember the millions of innocents’ day. I’ll pick another day to remember the bombs.

            • Michelle

              IOW: Forget about the hundred thousand or so who died on August 6, 1945! They don’t deserve to be remembered on that day because their Evil Overlords were Evil Overlords. Maybe I’ll think about them some other day — if I can remember or be bothered to do so, since I’ve decided that I won’t allow myself to think about them on the day they, you know, died — but on August 6 I’ll think about how Evil the Evil Overlords were to Everyone Else. And thereby justify myself in refusing to except that my own Evil Overlords evaporated over 100,000 innocent men, women, and children on August 6, 1945.

              • Michelle

                “accept,” not “except” — oops.

              • How can I forget? I doubt a month goes by without it being brought up. The Japanese certainly don’t let it go. I just thought maybe it was time to remember those millions who died at the hands of the Japanese Empire. They, as a general rule, aren’t remembered. Again, had it not started with those women in the 90s who were part of Japan’s sex slave trade, who gained steam by getting women from around the former empire to testify, we probably wouldn’t have had half the apologies we’ve heard. And of course, that’s only those. There are still many parts of its legacy that Japan either downplays or ignores, while not a few actually deny any wrong doing to this day. Since nobody on our side of the ocean seems eager to make an issue of it nowadays, I thought it would be nice to remember them. I figure a few million innocents killed deserves a least a prayer, even if I might jeopardize the all-important internet pastime of argument winning by doing so.

            • Michelle

              Postscript: After further reflection, I’ve realized that I may have been to harsh toward you, Dave. For that I apologize. I can only say that the endless dodges of the gravity of these two U.S. war crimes by so many Americans makes it difficult for me to control my passion or sarcasm. Nobody likes to admit that their own country, the country they love and have been taught to revere as noble and justice-loving, could commit such unfathomable crimes against humanity. I get that. But it’s still difficult to endure without strong comment.

              • I have no problem admitting it, FWIW. But I also try to keep it in perspective, as I think our Church’s leaders have when they’ve addressed it. I don’t feel the need to pile on with bizarre theories and strange accusations that sometimes accompany this discussion. Plus, and this might be due to my close friendship with Koreans and Chinese from my schooling days and missionary associations, I do chafe every time I see that Japan has, once again, managed to use two mushroom cloud shaped curtains to cover up its own past. Don’t worry about the apology, none needed. I understand this is an important issue – if it involved one death, it should be that intense. But I try to keep it in balance, and look at it all beyond simply the textbook ‘the US was wrong to drop the A-Bombs. T or F’ approach to the debate.

        • Scott W.

          She’s saying that by bringing up things not in dispute (Japan being quite evil) it is an implicit tu quoque and changing the subject.

          • It wasn’t changing the subject. It was noticing a subject that is almost never mentioned. I figure the death of millions deserves more than a begrudging footnote to other discussions.

            • Richard Johnson

              If you will bear with me, Dave G., I have two questions about your statement, “And yes, there are some Japanese reformers pushing for Japan to own up to the terrors and the millions who suffered, were tortured, raped, butchered and murdered. But certainly there hasn’t been anything to the degree that Japan demands from everyone else.” I take it from this that you feel an apology is owed to the world by the Japanese people (though their government) for the horrific actions that resulted in the deaths of these innocents. Is that correct? (And allow me to state that I do believe a meaningful act of public penance is appropriate, even though it is decades after the fact.)

              With that asked, I’ll ask the next question. Do you believe the US owes the Japanese people a similar apology, in the same manner, for dropping the atomic bombs? Why or why not?

              • It depends. I understand that a country, for whatever reason, may not come out and ‘officially’ apologize. I can’t really know the reasons Japan may or may not officially do the things it does or doesn’t do. I’m no diplomat. But with that said, so little time is spent reflecting on just what Japan did, I thought it was time to focus on it myself. I mean, I’m sure Japan isn’t going to go to the UN and make a formal apology to all the countries it wronged. There are probably reasons I wouldn’t understand. And, of course, I doubt I can do much to make Japan do anything. But that doesn’t mean the rest of the world – ourselves included – need to share in the ‘nothing to see here folks, why don’t we move on’ approach.

                What would be nice, if nothing else for the memory of all those millions who died, would be if the rest of us spent a little more time reflecting on their memories, even if it means holding Japan’s feet to the fire as we do, say, Germany for its part in the war. It might even mean rethinking our easy acceptance of Japan’s version of itself as a country that really only wanted to give peace a chance. After all, we do a fine job with Germany’s legacy. We do a pretty smash up job with our own (I doubt I go a month without hearing internment camps/Dresden/Atomic Bombs). And of course the USSR’s legacy as good as always. But if you think about it, when was the last time anyone really spent any time reflecting on Japan’s actions, or really memorializing those millions who died under its shadow? If they are mentioned at all, it’s usually in passing. But as often as not, they’re not mentioned at all. I am able to go a year without hearing mention of their sufferings.

                • Richard Johnson

                  Then allow me to reassure you that there have been numerous such statements from Japan. Notice that in several instances offers of reparations. I’m sure you will critique each as being insufficient, but at least they have been given.


                  Again, I ask if you believe the US should issue an apology for dropping the atomic bombs on Japan? Why or why not?

                  • Oh, I never said Japan didn’t ever acknowledge. Naturally they have. They have much more in the last couple decades (as the list shows), owing again to the Korean and other ‘Comfort’ Women and the international pressures they brought, as well as the reformers from within – many who are younger generation Japanese. Kudos to them. But on the whole, Japan still drags its feet (though through pressure, again, it’s gotten better). That isn’t seriously denied by anyone who studies that period or culture. Even Japanese admit it.

                    With that said, paying attention to those forces who are calling for reform in how Japan addresses its past, the scenarios that Japan established around the end of the war have changed, and this is something Japan is still in denial about. The ‘Japan just wants to love us in 1945’ that was all the rage for understanding the climate leading up to the days of August, has faded in light of the push for reform. This should change how we see things. That’s what some of the questions being asked on this and similar threads are all about. If we bomb a nation that’s begging for peace, love, and John Lennon songs, that’s one thing. But if we bomb a nation that is slaughtering people up until the smoke clears, then that does put things in a different light, even if the act of bombing was still wrong.

                    As for a US apology? Sure. Why not? As long as Japan acknowledged its own role, and didn’t balk or use a US apology to deflect from its own legacy, a legacy far worse than any but a few nations in recent world history have ever achieved.

                    • Richard Johnson

                      “As long as Japan acknowledged its own role, and didn’t balk or use a US apology to deflect from its own legacy, a legacy far worse than any but a few nations in recent world history have ever achieved.”

                      Yes, because we know that good American Christians would never do that.

  • CJ

    Mark (or anybody else), do you have good resources that grapple with the Biblical killing of the Amalekites, Canaanites, etc where God ordered Israel to exterminate folks, including the babies?

  • MikeTheGeek

    Intended as a serious question: Assuming your opinion is correct, how does the bombing of Hiroshima differ from any other aerial bombing attack in WWII?

    I’ve never gotten the “nuclear chauvinism” that distinguishes some moral difference between one plane with a really big bomb from 1,000 planes with smaller ones. You can actually do more damage w/ 3,000 tons of bombs dropped over a wide area – especially incendiaries – than you can with one 10,000 ton bomb dropped in a single spot. H-bombs, of course, can be 2 to 4 orders of magnitude kaboomier, so that does represent a real shift in frame of reference (you’d need a totally preposterous 1,000,000 planes), but the “super” wasn’t detonated until 1952.

    • Timbot2000

      Hiroshima Yield 10kt
      Ivy Mike (1st US H-bomb test) 10.5MT
      That’s over 1,000x my friend! Albeit the typical warhead in most global arsenals, is a miniaturized dial-a-yield device producing about 250kt~1MT, so 25~100x the Hiroshima device.

      • Timbot2000

        Ooops! sorry Mike. I misread. I was Orders of Magnitude mistaken !

    • Joseph H. M. Ortiz

      I daresay the reason Shea focused today on the nuclear attack was that today is at an anniversary of such an attack.

    • Ted Seeber

      Dresden vs Hiroshima. The real difference is pollution of the area afterwards.

    • godescalc

      Generally, bombing a city will always cause collateral damage. But a nuke makes an entire city into a target, including residential areas, whereas conventional bombing can choose to make only military/industrial areas into targets, and attempt to leave residential areas intact. Collateral damage will happen, but there’s a difference between targeting residential areas and leaving residential areas alone.

      In the context of WWII, there was no difference, because both sides were fine with specifically targeting residential areas for bombing.

  • Scott W.

    Actually, I don’t really see many among us critical of the a-bomb droppings as ignoring the wickedness of indiscriminate boming with conventional weapons. One could at least make a case that conventional weapons could be targeted soley at legitimate military targets. Not so with our two A-bomb droppings–they were dropped on civilians for the purpose of terrorizing the country into grovelling submission. Now before someone pipes in with, “But those civilians were working for the war effort! Therefore they are legitimate targets!”, see Ed Feser’s post: and in particular Brandon’s comment:

    Now if there were some really good argument for it, maybe, but the arguments are always vague and handwaving. David’s total war argument is pretty as much as good as the arguments get, and it, like all total war arguments for similar conclusions, is conveniently vague about the one and only step that matters: how we move rationally from the real conditions of total war, including the moral conditions of waging total war at all, to everyone being fair game — without ever effectively saying that morality is expendable and that anything in war is justified as long as it conduces to winning. Because if one were to go so far as to claim that anything is justified in war, there is a name for that, and it is moral depravity. So what is this amazing line of reasoning that actually does the work of getting us from A to B without using morally depraved assumptions? It’s always the one step missing.

    • The definition of the word indiscriminate is something that the anti-bomb side has always seemed to be reluctant to do. That there were legitimate military targets in Hiroshima and Nagasaki is not open to serious discussion, unless you think that military headquarters, naval academies, military supply storage points, major shipbuilding and aircraft building facilities, port facilities, and communications centers are illegitimate targets. At what point do you draw the line and say that X is the number of human shields that surrounding oneself with will lead to the moral evil of indiscriminate use of bombing. And if there is no line, how can one say that Hiroshima and Nagasaki violated it? It’s not a particularly easy question to answer because bad consequences seem to be bon both sides. Avoiding the question is no solution either. I don’t have an answer.

      Alternatively posed, the proponents of the bomb have to recognize that destroying the whole world to get at Hirohito is no solution. There must be a point of collateral damage where dropping the bomb stops being worth the gain. Your side too has the same question to answer but what is the yardstick by which you measure the drop/no drop calculation? Are you really just guilty as charged, consequentialists? Consequentialism is not normal american morality. Or is there some other explanation that justifies these two nuclear attacks? Here also, I do not pretend to wisdom.

      • Ted Seeber

        The only thing I disagree with in the above is “Consequentialism is not the normal American morality”. Maybe it is my unique point of view as an autistic, but it seems like on everything from Abortion Business to Zebra Crossings, Consequentialism is the *ONLY* American morality that ever gets actively considered.

        • Go speak to a legal professional on US law. I cannot help correct your mistaken impression. Let us just say that jailhouse beatings would be legally permissible and openly done were you correct in your impression. They are not, so you might wish to consider alternatives.

          • Hezekiah Garrett

            In common discourse, jailhouse rape already rises to such levels. Pulling out, as an example, a small group of over-educated con men trained in the misrepresentation of truth to achieve their goals, doesn’t help the case.

            • 1. Eww. What is *wrong* with you?
              2. Way to shift the goal posts there. The original assertion was “Consequentialism is the *ONLY* American morality that ever gets actively considered”. If you think that jailhouse rape thought is the only morality active in America then I refer you back to point number 1.

          • Ted Seeber

            I thought that was the argument of the Bush Administration- that Jailhouse beatings, waterboarding, and torture were legal and to be regularly done if it prevents another crime. But I took America to mean all three parts, including central America- so I’ll see your jailhouse beatings and raise you El Salvador’s punishment for drunken driving- execution without trial on the spot.

            • No, it was not the Bush administration argument. If you cannot articulate the arguments of those you oppose and can only come up with a joke of a caricature of them you simply will not win over the long haul. This is ultimately separate from whether you are wrong or are right. You’re not even competent. Step up your game.

              Really, you want to saddle El Salvador with the moral consequence of Hiroshima? Really? What did El Salvadorans ever do to you?

              • Ted Seeber

                My point was consequentialism- and yes, the argument the Bush Administration put forth for Gitmo and the other prisons and what went on there WAS consequentialist.

                But then again, so is everything else. “I’m sorry I had to foreclose on your house, it was just business” is consequenitalist. ANY time you choose doing evil in the name of doing good it is consequentialism. It’s the end justifying the means. Heck, even putting somebody in a nice comfy cell to prevent them murdering somebody else is consequentialist.

                • The Bush administration’s Gitmo policy is consequentialist and so is everything else. Right.

                  You are embarrassing yourself. You should seek better moral instruction because wherever you’re getting it from, it’s either no good or not sinking in right. Not everything is consequentialist.

                  • Andy, Bad Person

                    Actually, Ted is onto something. Since all humans seek something good (it is impossible to desire anything else), then evil committed in that pursuit is consequentialist. You have committed evil so that good may come of it.

                    • No, Ted is not onto something. If all is consequentialist and also forbidden, Heaven is closed to all. Even the sacraments become illicit as consequentialist and sinful.

                      This is *not* correct, not even close.

      • Scott W.

        The question of what constitutes indiscriminate is certainly worthy of discussion, but I only brought it up here to counter the claim that anti-A-bombers give conventional bombing a free pass or somehow fetishize the atomic part.

        • Pretty much all the bombings had a component of trying to induce the enemy polities to end the war. That’s a feature, not a bug. It goes along with the whole idea of non-genocidal warfare. You avoid genocide by shocking, tricking, or otherwise convincing the other side to stop. Then you stop. You can’t use intrinsically evil tactics to accomplish this psychological state change. Thus the point about indiscriminate use of bombs. Other than when they were indiscriminate, getting people to turn against the war whether through sorrow, fear, or outright terror is a legitimate aim of modern (that is non-genocidal) warfare. You’ve got nothing else to protest.

          • Ted Seeber

            Uh, no. Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki were all much more about showing the Soviets what would happen if they double-crossed us after the war. The most military thing the factories in Dresden made were socks.

            I also can’t say that such massive destruction isn’t genocidal.

            • You also can’t seem to say that anything is not consequentialist so you really need to find a different conversational partner because that’s going to be your response from here on out until you withdraw the point above.

      • Richard Johnson

        If we are to truly run with the “human shield” argument then we need to take a look at the various arsenal locations that we have in the United States. For example, the Rock Island Arsenal is surrounded by roughly 370,000 “human shields”. Likewise there are some 400,000 “human shields” in the area surrounding the St. Louis Arsenal. Does that mean that we should consider the deaths of innocents from any kind of WMD attack on these facilities something that we have asked for by surrounding them with civilians?

        • I never heard anybody raise that argument, ever, except as a straw man to be immediately knocked down.

          When I used the phrase human shields I was thinking about the people who, just prior to the Gulf War, went to Iraq and parked their civilian bodies right next to Iraqi military targets for the express purpose of triggering RoE modifications so legitimate military targets would not be hit. The purposeful placement of Hezbollah rockets under civilian housing is another example. The people surrounding the military targets in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not human shields. Settling the problem of defining what indiscriminate means raises an issue of the future use of human shields to trigger target immunity. That is the relevance of the term with respect to a discussion on indiscriminate targeting. If you have any non-straw man objections, feel free to raise them.

          • Richard Johnson

            “The people surrounding the military targets in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not human shields.” I agree. But I fail to see why you would mention them in the context of your post if you were not intending to suggest that they were? Again, from your original post:

            The definition of the word indiscriminate is something that the anti-bomb side has always seemed to be reluctant to do. That there were legitimate military targets in Hiroshima and Nagasaki is not open to serious discussion, unless you think that military headquarters, naval academies, military supply storage points, major shipbuilding and aircraft building facilities, port facilities, and communications centers are illegitimate targets. At what point do you draw the line and say that X is the number of human shields that surrounding oneself with will lead to the moral evil of indiscriminate use of bombing. And if there is no line, how can one say that Hiroshima and Nagasaki violated it? It’s not a particularly easy question to answer because bad consequences seem to be bon both sides. Avoiding the question is no solution either. I don’t have an answer.

            Why even suggest the notion of human shields if not to imply that the residents of those two towns were functioning as such? Maybe it’s a function of the one-dimensional nature of internet discussions that made it seem that way. In my mind the folks in those two cities are no more human shields than I am here in my home just 1.2 miles away from Iowa Army Ammunition Plant. Yet a nuke hitting that plant would incinerate me just as surely as it did those unfortunate residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

            • I elided a point which probably should have been done better. That failing of mine probably led you into an interpretation of my remarks that was not what I meant. Are things more clear after that subsequent explanation that there’s a gap between the definition and the future gaming of the system?

              The problem stands. Once you define indiscriminate bombing, you create a standard which can be gamed. But not defining it leaves you vulnerable to the charge of capriciousness. I don’t particularly have a solution for the dilemma and so far as I can tell, neither does anybody else.

              • Richard Johnson

                “Are things more clear after that subsequent explanation that there’s a gap between the definition and the future gaming of the system?”

                Indeed, and thank you for that clarification. I agree that there is indeed a dilemma begging a solution, and I share your doubts about its discovery.

  • Richard Johnson

    “And yet, once again, there is little to no mention of the victims of Japan’s own wartime activities.”

    And thus the consequentialist rationalizing begins. Rather than wrestle with the question put forth by Mark (and Zippy Catholic), the consequentialist points to the other side and offers up the usual kindergarten arguments:

    1) They did it first
    2) They were being really, really bad
    3) If we hadn’t done what we did they would have continued to be really, really bad

    Of course, when presented with another argument along similar lines (say, permitting a woman to abort a child because carrying the child to term might well kill her), the consequentialist will quote Church teaching and insist on the letter of the law being followed.

    • In the case of a lie mixed with the truth, I’ve found that it’s better to take the truth, cut it free of the lie, agree that the self standing truth is actually true, and then you have a clear shot at the lie because the truth has been examined, recognized, and cleared off the deck as stipulated true by both parties. The lie as you describe it above is that someone else doing evil justifies my own evil. That is not accepted as justice in any court in the US, though it may affect sentencing. So why is such an unamerican justification acceptable in justifying this american act?

  • Mark Gordon

    “[But] if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” -I John 1:7

    Today we get to choose which “light” we’ll walk in, the divine light of the Transfiguration or the satanic, atomic light of Hiroshima.

  • EMS

    Most comments I’ve seen on this subject on a number of sites seem to assume that in 1945, people were in favor of the Bombs being dropped. Many Americans at the time, including Republicans and many military leaders like Ike, were horrified when the Bomb was dropped. Americans were under the assumption that our bombings were against military targets and not civilian populations; dropping the Bomb(s) seemed to counter that assumption. BTW, in terms of damage and deaths, the firebombings of Tokyo in March 1945 resulted in more deaths and damage than either Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

    • Richard Johnson

      Should the American people of that day be considered responsible for the actions of their government? Should the people of Japan be considered responsible for their government’s actions? What about the people of Palestine, Israel, Syria, or a host of other areas where violence has or is present?

      My parents were very active in the WWII efforts. Dad was in the European theatre and Mom was working here in a munitions factory. We talked often about the dropping of the bomb. Both of them believed to their dying days that Truman did the only thing he could have done to end the war. They believed that the Japanese people would have fought to the last person, young or old, to defend against an invasion. Many of their peers expressed the same belief. According to them, the bomb had to be dropped or the war would have continued. In other words, a true consequentialist position. Do grave evil to prevent even more grave evil.

  • Alias Clio

    I don’t think that the bombing of Hiroshima, etc., was right (nor the fire-bombings; nor do I wish to make excuses for Japan, the US, or anyone else). I also understand the evils of consequentialism – I think. But what if one is left with a series of options, all of which are likely to do harm and which may or may not do good, something that often happens in war? I remember once making a conventional comment to a friend about the atrocity of the nuclear bombing of Japan, only to be met by an enraged glare from him. I had momentarily forgotten that he was Dutch-Indonesian, and his parents had been in Japanese prison camps during the war. Another few months there would almost certainly have led to their death.

    I expect that there were fewer people at risk in those camps than there were in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, so you could argue, I suppose, that the latter merited more concern. But surely Japan’s large number of imprisoned enemy soldiers and civilians are worthy of concern as well? And while I would not want to carry such an idea too far, I do think that in war a leader’s first duty must be to his own side – while ensuring that he deals with the enemy with all due restraint and mercy. My friend’s indignation still echoes in my ears.

    I tried bringing this up on another website (one to which Mark linked), but no one addressed my comment, and I would very much like a response.

    • Joseph H. M. Ortiz

      “But what if one is left with a series of options, all of which are likely to do harm and which may or may not do good, …?”
      The question seems to me a “prudential” one, in which it’s up to moral reason, by the virtue of “prudence” (an energy that regards some complex concrete situation) to flexibly apply moral principles inflexible in themselves (e.g., “don’t expressly kill a person”).
      “Reason must never abdicate. The task of ethics is humble but it is also magnanimous in carrying the mutable application of immutable principles even in the midst of the agonies of an unhappy world, as far as there is in it a gleam of humanity.” — Jacques Maritain, in his book Man and the State, Chapter 3, “The Problem of Means”.

    • The wikipedia list of Japanese internment camps is here:
      I can’t swear to my count as my eyes glazed a couple of times but it’s over 200 camps. I think it’s doubtful that the number of people in the camps were less than the number of dead from the nuclear bombs. Make your moral choices, whatever they are, on an accurate assessment of the facts.

      Personally, I can’t seem to find a ready, condensed listing of those held prisoner at the end, those who would have been subject to a kill prisoners order if luck and circumstances had been different. The argument against consequentialism holds this all to be irrelevant. But had the coup plotters won and the emperor been prevented from surrendering, it is altogether possible that we would be stuck with having killed cities and lost all those POWs as well. Counterfactuals, though they are worth examining, are remarkably slippery beasts.

      • EMS

        According to Robert Goralski’s “WWII Almanac”, Japan held @ 145,000 miliary prisoners, only 15,000 Americans. If memory serves me, most of those POWs were not in Japan, but were held near the places they were captured. He doesn’t state how many civilians – Filipinos, American, Dutch, British, etc. were held in various areas.

        But saving Allied POWs was never a consideration in using the Bomb. The only consideration was the effect of the Bomb on ending the war. Before the Bomb was tested, there were many doubters, including oddly enough Oppenheimer, on whether the Bomb would even be an effective weapon. After the war ended in Europe, plans were to continue the firebombings of Japanes cities, bombings that had already killed nearly 500,000 civilians without the Bomb, 100,000 alone in one raid on Tokyo (one estimate is that most of those died within 30 minutes). The air forces that had bombed Germany to rubble were to be sent to the Pacific to do the same to Japan. Plans were underway to blockade Japan as well. By that time, the Americans were in control of the seas, not Japan. Japan was already having trouble feeding itself; a blockade would have resulted in the deaths of countless civilians. The invasion of Japan was already planned for November 1945, resulting in the deaths of Americans and Japanese. Another prime consideration was how the Japanese would fight when they were invaded. Over 100,000 were killed on Okinawa alone, ten times the number of Americans; another 150,000 civilians died on Okinawa. How many would die in an invasion of Japan itself? According to Margaret Truman’s biography on her father, Truman decided to use the Bomb to save millions of lives, Japanese lives as well as American lives, and she quotes a letter from her father about the deaths of Japanese civilians. Other biographers don’t say that, but do say that ending the war as soon as possible with as little loss of life as possible was the primary reason.

        Were the Bombs horrific? Yes. So were the firebombings of Tokyo, the bombings of the other Japanese cities, the bombings of Hamburg, Dresden, Berlin, and all the other German cities, the forced eviction of millions of Germans from eastern Prussia, the deaths of some 20 millions Soviets, the Rape of Nanking, rapes of millions of women in Europe, the 12 million killed in the Holocaut, etc. Compared to the numbers of deaths from those, the deaths in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are almost a footnote.

        I think what horrifies us the most about Hiroshima and Nagasaki is that those deaths and that horrible destruction were the result of ONE Bomb, not thousands of them as fell upon the German and Japanese cities until then. One Bomb. Before then, the world and Americans could all believe that no matter how many conventional bombs fell around the world, the world would still continue to exist. After all, despite the bombings, most Germans and Japanese were still alive, and it was unlikely that conventional bombings could kill everyone. But with the Bomb – that belief disappeared. After the Hiroshima, it was a whole new terrifying world. Before it was just a certain city or part of a city that would be destroyed. After Hiroshima, it was clear that in an all out war, nobody was safe. And the American newspapers, politicians and military leaders realized that immediately.

        • You’ve used way too much history in this my friend. I think you’ve made some of the best points I’ve seen in many years of reading and listening to this debate. There are other factors to consider, of course, but this is a blog post, and you did a good job establishing more background information than is typically given, as well as admitting to the obvious: it was the nature of the bomb that caused so much emotion about this one event in a war that caused a body count in the tens of millions otherwise.

        • I believe the original prisoners brought into the discussion were interned civilians. I’ve been using combined figures for military/civilian POW/internees. Both were treated abominably by the Empire of Japan and many died with and without uniform. There were plans towards the end of the war to kill them all and we knew about it. Posted orders are available as scanned documents and you can read them today.

          Apparently Truman, in a telegram sent the day Nagasaki was bombed mentioned two reasons why he did it, the attack on Pearl Harbor and “their murder of our prisoners of war.” The murder was ongoing, a daily fact, and the kill orders had been captured in February of 1945 so it was not considered speculative what would happen in the case of invasion. Given this historical record, I cannot agree that the fate of prisoners was not central to Harry Truman’s decision.

    • Richard Johnson

      “But what if one is left with a series of options, all of which are likely to do harm and which may or may not do good, something that often happens in war?”

      The Church has had no problem addressing such a situation in the matter of abortion in the case of a threat to the life of the mother, and from my reading of the blog I suspect most would be in agreement with that teaching and would consider it clear and unambiguous.

      Why is it so difficult to accept the Church’s teaching in this instance? Does the moral truth of the Church depend on what’s at stake in the situation? Does the likely death of one mean that it is permissible to kill another to save the one? Does the likely death of a million mean that it is permissible to kill another million to save them?

      Where does one draw the line, and under what authority?

  • Ben

    Oh boy. Cue the “Nukes for Jesus!” crowd. They weren’t Christians, and were evil dontcha know. American lives > Other people’s lives.

    • Richard Johnson

      Fodder for another thread, but do a search on “Doctrine of Discovery” for how that notion has played out in history.

  • Alias Clio

    If you were addressing that to me, Ben, you’ve made a rather egregious misreading of my comment. Oh, and for the record, I’m Canadian, and the lives for which I was expressing concern, above, were NOT American lives in particular, but those of the people interned by the Japanese, who came from all over the world. I began, after all, by mentioning my Dutch-Indonesian friend, and his parents who were in internment camps.

    Sigh. Sometimes I think that a major problem with internet controversies is that so many people either a) can’t read; b) can’t be bothered to read, or c) don’t pay attention to what they read, in their eagerness to get their own opinions out. I had a serious question to ask – and a real question, the kind over which I’m willing to take advice, not just a “can you top this?” posing of a moral dilemma.

    • Ben

      Wasn’t addressing my comment at you.

    • Ben

      Regarding your actual comment:

      Evil done by one party (or potential evil in this case, ie the extermination of POW camps) doesn’t excuse the use of an intrinsically evil act (the dropping of a nuclear bomb on a civilian population). I’m not sure that numbers actually are that relevant; and intrinsically evil act is by definition evil regardless of the circumstances. So evil was done that good might come about, which brings me to:

      “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?”

  • Alias Clio

    All right, sorry, Ben.
    Regarding Japan’s prisoners, I wasn’t thinking so much of a possible order to kill them as of the fact that Japan’s food supplies were running short, and they had commandeered any food supplies in captured territories for their own use. My friend’s father had been in serious danger of starving to death before the Japanese surrendered.

    Here’s an analogy: suppose some terror group has taken 50 people hostage, and is threatening to torture them to death one by one. The hostages are held in a fortress in which the terrorists’ families also live. Would it be acceptable to risk the lives of the terrorists’ families in order to rescue the hostages? After all, as with certain kinds of medical treatment that threatens a fetus in order to save the mother, you are not intentionally seeking the death of the innocent. You are trying to save people in an impossible situation. (I don’t think this counts as one of the far-fetched scenarios that Mark dislikes; it is, instead, a fairly reasonable analogy.)

    I suppose what I’m saying is that I don’t quite get where accusations of consequentialism ought to be invoked, and where they are irrelevant.

    • Ben

      I think a more apt analogy for what happened in Hiroshima might be if the hostage taker’s families were in another building, and you went and bombed that so as to demoralize the hostage takers into giving up the hostages. Does that make sense?

    • Ted Seeber

      You find me a group of terrorists that hold *their own families* in the same fortress as *prisoners*, and I’ll show you a bunch of Third Order Augustinians (because I simply can’t imagine the theology of Islam, let alone the Muwahiddun, creating such a result).

  • Alias Clio

    Ted, didn’t that happen all the time in Israel, when Palestinian gunmen, etc., used the civilians around them as a human screen, in an attempt to either a) deter counter-attacks by Israeli troops, or b) if that failed, encourage such counter-attacks and make Israeli soldiers look really bad? I believe that the guerrilla-terrorists of Latin America also grabbed hostages and held them prisoner in their own villages. The fact is, if you’ve only got one fortress/house/village, you have to do what you can.

    As for Ben’s correction of my analogy, I suppose it’s an improvement on mine, but only because in this specific instance, the prisoners were scattered all across the Far East. But anyway, as I said, I am trying to understand, not so much the right way to judge the bombing of Hiroshima, but the right way to *decide* in situations in which all options for action seem equally bad – including the option of inaction.

    • Oh it gets worse. Read Richard Fernandez’s Three Conjectures. That’s the current nightmare.

    • Ted Seeber

      The Palestinians had a tendency to use *Jews* as human shields, not their own families. In fact, if anything, the Druze, when they do turn suicide bomber, have a remarkable tendency NOT to target their own families.

      An Augustinian suicide bomber, should one ever arise and it is conceivable under the original Just War Theory in _City of God_, would not only use his own family as human shields, but as active participants in the self-defense of their home.

      • Hamas regularly uses palestinian civilians as human shields. Hezbollah regularly uses fellow Lebanese Shiites as human shields. I have no idea about the druze but I’m having a hard time finding any reports of them being suicide bombers at all with a simple google search.

        But none of it makes any difference because everything (and thus everybody) is consequentialist… according to Ted Seeber.

        • Richard Johnson

          Help me understand what you mean by the term “human shields”? I’m seeing the term and thinking of those entities/countries that intentionally place military targets in areas where large numbers of civilians live/work. Is this what you mean, or are you focusing on a more precise definition of the term?

          • I mean that Hamas and company regularly set up their mortars and rockets near civilian structures, launch a few and scoot so that only civilians get killed from the retaliatory fire. Shoot and scoot is not inherently a problem but doing so right next to civilian housing is a human shield situation because after the first few tragedies, RoE gets adjusted and return fire is slowed down to adjust for the presence of civilians. I mean that there are documented cases of Hamas gunmen using children as a screen to fire at Israelis (during operation Cast Lead most recently) and escape consequences. The tactics are formally called war crimes but nobody bothers to prosecute and few other than the Israelis even bothers to document them anymore. What’s the point, after all? After the whitewash reports post 2006, the double standard in favor of arab combatants is well entrenched.

      • Alias Clio

        Ted, I’m no expert here, but I’ve read that Palestinian snipers, etc., when in their own territory, would deliberately surround themselves with *Palestinian* civilians (whether these were their own families, I don’t know), which made Israeli efforts to eliminate/stop/capture them very difficult.

  • Richard Johnson

    “Here’s an analogy: suppose some terror group has taken 50 people hostage, and is threatening to torture them to death one by one. The hostages are held in a fortress in which the terrorists’ families also live. Would it be acceptable to risk the lives of the terrorists’ families in order to rescue the hostages?”

    Let’s change that just a touch. Let’s say some terror group has setup active bases in your country, has taken violent action against your people (driven them from their homes, killed them if they resist), and has enlisted military support for their efforts from other nations. You have access to the wives and children of some of the leaders of this terror group. Would you threaten to kill them unless the terror group left your country? Is that an acceptable risk?

    If they didn’t leave, would you follow through on your threat?

  • Richard Johnson

    There is an old joke attributed to W.C. Fields. In one of his movies he asks this socialite if he took her out for a fine dinner, dancing, and a good movie would she go back to his house with him for the night. She indicates she might be willing.

    He then asks her if she would come back to the house for $10. She slaps him and asks, “what do you think I am, a floozie?”

    He answers, “My dear, we’ve already established that. All we are doing is negotiating the price.”

    Such is the nature of a consequentialist approach to morality. Once you approach it from that standpoint, you can no longer hold to an absolute position. All you are doing is negotiating the price at which you abandon your morals. For some it might be when a terrorist is apprehended and might have information on a bomb that may explode and kill hundreds. For others it might be when one armed force seems to be willing to fight to the last person standing. For others it might be when the mother’s life is endangered by her pregnancy.

    Once you agree the line can be moved, all you are doing is figuring out where to draw it…and letting the next generation know it is OK to erase and redraw it if circumstances dictate.

  • Merkn

    Dropping the bomb was an act of war in the context of a war most of us will agree was a just war against an evil aggressor. If you don’t accept this then I concede, you cannot accept my argument. There is no war, just or otherwise, that does not result in the just actor’s killing the innocent. He does not do so by design and as an end but he recognizes it as the inevitable consequences of his decision to wage the war. It is his duty to act proportionally and to do all that can be done to protect the innocent. Consequentialism has nothing to do with it. Labeling acts of war consequential is a wrong analysis. So in analyzing the decision to drop the bomb it is appropriate to consider time and place. Yes, indiscriminately killing the innocent is always and everywhere wrong, but is that what happened here? To resolve it means you must approach within the framework of the just war analysis which means you must consider all the circumstances. Simply mouthing nonsense like we just did it to show the Russians is simply ignorant. Am I saying it was right? I honestly am open to argument, but you need to make one. Eighteen year old American draftees were no less innocent than the Japanese killed by the bomb. How many of them do we agree can be killed? How many people starving in prisoner of war and slave labor camps do we have to let die? What if fewer people died as a result of the bomb. That is absurd? Really? Show me your calculation. Citing Dorothy Day just doesn’t end the argument. Her scriptural citation is inapposite, unless of course she rejects my premise, in which case if the war was not just then there can be no excuse for the bomb. Not sure that is what she meant. Also not sure why the bomb is worse than the firebombing that preceded it.

  • Richard Johnson

    Merkn: “Eighteen year old American draftees were no less innocent than the Japanese killed by the bomb. How many of them do we agree can be killed? How many people starving in prisoner of war and slave labor camps do we have to let die? What if fewer people died as a result of the bomb. That is absurd? Really? Show me your calculation.”

    Do you believe an abortion is permissible if the life of the woman is being threatened by the pregnancy? If not, explain how you can consider that the taking of a few thousand innocent lives is permissible if more innocent lives were saved, but the taking of one innocent life (the unborn child) cannot be allowed to save the life of another innocent (the mother)?

    Sorry to harp on this, but if we are going to open the door to grave evil in one area (the dropping of the Atomic Bomb on innocent civilians), why should we be angry when it opens for another grave evil (abortion)? Moreover, to those who wish to split hairs regarding the Bomb, on what moral authority do you deny others the ability to split hairs with regards to abortion and saving the life of a pregnant mother?

    • Alias Clio

      But life-saving measures (not abortion) for a mother who is endangered by her child *are* permissible. Sometimes these kill the child, and the doctors involved usually know quite well that this is one possible outcome. A woman with cancer is permitted to undergo treatments that might very well kill her child, if I’ve understood our Church’s position correctly.

      THAT is the kind of situation I was thinking of before, and while I can see that it is morally different from a direct intent or act to kill, it still involves killing. Meanwhile, for those who are truly scrupulous about consequentialism, I don’t quite see how this is NOT consequentialism, in that while the intent is not to kill, the outcome of the action involved is certain or almost certain death for the child.

      War is of course different from any such scenario in that many of the decisions taken in a war are of a kind that would certainly be immoral in civilian life. So we can’t just say “The decision is morally acceptable if it does not involve the intent to kill.” But what should the criteria for correct decisions be?

      I am trying to come up with a situation which does not trigger such “doing evil to do good” responses from readers here. How about this: a policeman sees a child being snatched by someone he recognises as a pedophile. He reaches for his gun and fires at the kidnapper, and while it will almost certainly not be foremost in his mind, he knows that he is putting the lives of innocent bystanders at risk in doing so. Is such a man really “doing evil to do good,” or is he attempting to do the best he can in an impossible situation?

      I am attempting to say that some situations really are nearly impossible and that the kind of cold calculus implied by words like consequentialism and “doing evil to do good” do not do justice to the moral predicament which they present.

      I am willing to accept correction here but I keep elaborating on my point because I want to be sure that I understand and am understood.

      • But life-saving measures (not abortion) for a mother who is endangered by her child *are* permissible.

        Not when those life-saving measures kill the child. That is why, in moral theology and bioethics circles, distinctions are made between procedures like salpingostomy (considered licit, though I have my own doubts about that) and salpingectomy (considered illicit). The idea that any life saving measure whatsoever is morally licit, even those which kill the child, is widespread but is actually wrong. The child’s death has to be an accident, even if it is foreseen: it cannot be something directly willed in the kind of act that the procedure is.

        A nun in Arizona, a hospital official, was recently excommunicated (and later reconciled) over this very issue.

        • Joseph H. M. Ortiz

          Actually, in this Arizona case, such conservative pro-life Catholic moralists as Michael Liccione have questioned the bishop’s position, inasmuch as he may well have misapplied the Church’s teaching, which indeed condemns DIRECT abortion, but not indiscriminately any and every termination of pregnancy. See on this matter Liccione’s article in First Things, “Excommunicating Intentions”, dated May 21, 2010.

          • There is always someone around who will question this or that detail about what is essential to a category like “abortion”. I don’t know what that is supposed to show, especially since, as far as I know, Mr. Liccione supports the Catholic doctrine that abortion is always immoral without exception, even when the intention is to save the life of the mother.

            Mind you, I won’t downplay the fact that I have had disagreements with Mr. Liccione about moral theology and other subjects, and I do have quibbles with the way he expressed it in the beginning of that article. This old post of mine talks about a possible wrongheaded interpretation of the way he expressed it (not the only possible interpretation, and not necessarily the one he himself meant by his words).

            • Joseph H. M. Ortiz

              Of course “Mr. Liccione supports the Catholic doctrine that abortion is always immoral without exception, even when the intention is to save the life of the mother.” FWIW, so do I. But by “abortion”, Catholic doctrine means, as Pius XII has indicated, “DIRECT abortion”: “On purpose we have always used the expression ‘direct attempt on the life of an innocent person’, ‘direct killing’.” — discourse to the Family Front, Nov. 26, 1951. Any disagreements among those who accept this principle are therefore not on the principle itself, but on how it is to be applied.

              • Sure, I’m familiar. Introducing the word “direct” doesn’t settle anything though. In order to be able to distinguish between what can be called direct killing and what can be called indirect killing, you have to be able to figure out the object (in the sense of moral theology) of the act: that is, what behaviour the acting subject is choosing, independent of his (further) intentions extending beyond that behaviour. “Direct killing” is when killing is intrinsic to the act’s object: basically, when the behaviour chosen is a killing behaviour. In order to understand what that means, Veritatis Splendour is your go-to encyclical. That is also what the post I linked is about: a criticism of the way certain modern theologians define intrinsically immoral acts which is pretty clearly (it seems to me) contrary to VS.

                • Joseph H. M. Ortiz

                  I find nothing to disagree with in the post just above. But its notion of a “killing behavior” is still ambiguous. For direct sterilization even of a non-pregnant woman is likewise intrinsically immoral. Now suppose such a woman’s physiological situation is such that without a hysterectomy she is moribund for some cause having nothing to do with fertility. If her sterilization as such is not willed either as an en end or as a means to some end, but simply to prevent her otherwise proximate death, is it a “sterilizing behavior”? Yes, in the sense that it in fact sterilizes her (in actu exercito). But No, in the sense that act’s the moral object is not to sterilize but (in actu signato) to remove some quite dangerous condition not otherwise removable.

                  • Joseph H. M. Ortiz

                    My last sentence should read “… in the sense that the act’s moral object …”.

      • Two old discussions might be of interest here. In the first, I discuss the similarities between an airliner controlled by terrorists but containing civilians, and an ectopic pregnancy. The second link actually goes to the discussion which preceded it.

    • markn

      The difference is abortion is always immoral and evil in and of itself. War is not if if it meets the just war criteria. In my example I am doing the calculation in the context of a decisionmaker waging a war that is just. It is the same as when a commander orders his men to take a town by storm. His men will be killed. Innocents will be killed. It is an immoral and evil act outside the confines of a just war. Your example is an individual choice: can an individual protect his own life or (in your example) her life by killing an innocent. No. It is never permiisible..

      • It is always immoral to deliberately kill the innocent, even in prosecuting a just war. Shorthand for “innocent” is “not choosing to engage in combat or combat support operations”. At a minimum, the unborn and small children actually killed deliberately by the Bomb were innocent in the pertinent sense.

        The fact that it is possible to conduct a war justly does not imply that it is morally OK to commit intrinsically immoral acts in a war.

        The difference between anticipating that innocents will be killed by accident in a just war and a supposed moral license to kill them deliberately is the same as the difference between anticipating that innocents will be killed by accident on the freeway and a supposed moral license to go run them over on purpose. It isn’t a difficult distinction: it is one every child knows intuitively. When weapons fire kills innocents by going astray from its target that is an accident. When weapons fire hits it’s target, a target known to include innocents in the morally pertinent sense, that is on purpose.

        Only when the work of attempting to justify slaughtering civilians on purpose in war comes up does the distinction between foreseen-but-accidental and on purpose become so befuddling.

        • Merkn

          I agree it is impermissible to deliberately kill innocents in war. A soldier cannot bayonet an infant, or vioalate the laws of war. He can shoot an enemy noncombatant in certain circumstances. Prior to the D day invasion civilians were killed in the bombing and shelling. No one wanted to do that but they certainly knew for a fact it would happen. The Hiroshima Bomb must be evaluated in the same context. You may well be right but you need to explain how the “use of arms” in the form of the Bomb was a graver evil than not using it. You have not done so. What about everyone who dies because the bomb is not used. Just War doctrine allows that to be considered.

          • but you need to explain how the “use of arms” in the form of the Bomb was a graver evil than not using it

            No, I don’t.

  • I’ve answered the contention that we have to consider doing the evil thing and count the cost of not doing it here.

  • Alias Clio

    Zippy, I read what was on the page to which you linked, but the material there is clearly part of a larger question, of which I am ignorant. I must say, though, that your line here, “I’m going to set aside the qualifier ‘avoiding slavery’ because it is not morally licit to do evil in order to avoid slavery” struck me as getting to the heart of my bewilderment – because that’s what it is; I am not taking a position here.

    I’ll put it in the form of a question: If it’s not morally licit to do evil in order to avoid slavery, why is it licit to go to war at all, even a war of self-defense in which one was not the instigator? After all, one of the main reasons why peoples or nations go to war is precisely to avoid enslavement. Surely the idea that a nation can make war in self-defense is a form of consequentialism? I know that the Catholic view is that national “self defense” is not an evil, but why not? If one considers that what it means is demanding that the nation’s young men accept the risk of death; demanding that they learn to kill other soldiers; accepting that in the course of resisting the enemy they will certainly kill civilians, however inadvertently, then it would be odd to insist that it is an entirely innocent or morally neutral act. After all, a nation’s leaders could decide (like Petain) that they had seen enough dying/killing, and would try surrender instead. In any case, what with all the killing and destruction involved, it’s hard for me not to believe that war in self-defense is a kind of consequentialism, a form of doing evil to do good, even if “self-defense”, considered in isolation and without, er, details, is morally defensible.

    I understand that in the Church there is both a tradition of heroic resistance and of heroic pacifism, but the trouble with the anti-consequentialist argument (and with E. Anscombe’s defense of it) is that it tries to embrace both of them at once. Surely serious anti-consequentialists really ought to be pacifists?

    • If it’s not morally licit to do evil in order to avoid slavery, why is it licit to go to war at all, even a war of self-defense in which one was not the instigator?

      Because it is possible to go to war without doing evil. Evil, by definition, must not be done, as either a means or an end. The Just war doctrine and the rest of the moral law give guidelines as to how (and when) to go to war without doing evil.

  • Alias Clio

    Zippy, (if you’re still following the thread!)
    Here are the principles of Just War according to the Catechism, just to remind me:
    –1. the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain; 2. all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; 3.
    there must be serious prospects of success; 4. the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. —

    Now, when the Allies went to war against the Germans in WWII, they were attempting to halt the progress of an aggressor who threatened to conquer the whole of Europe. They were aware of the possibility of “enslavement,” perhaps (though not how far it might go!), but the prospect of “lasting harm” as a result of such a conquest was not then entirely clear to them at the time. Most Allied leaders were, I understand, only vaguely aware of Hitler’s long-range plans for Jewish people and for “lebensraum.” Keeping these facts in mind, surely by your interpretation of Just War doctrine it might be difficult to defend the decision to go to war in 1939? I don’t know.

    I want to emphasize again that I’m not arguing for the sake of argument here, as I keep saying. I’m seeing enlightenment regarding a moral issue about which I am confused, and asking questions as they occur to me. I agree that it would be difficult to defend Hiroshima under *any* interpretation of Just War doctrine – though as I said, the problem of the POWs and interned civilians is a real sticking point to me. (I do think that there could be, in such cases, other ways to resolve the problem.) Meanwhile, it seems to me that your interpretation is so strict as to allow very little in the way of sensible decisions among leaders until it is too late.

    • To stay focused, I would again reiterate that “to avoid slavery” is not a reason to do evil; because by definition, there is never a valid reason to do evil. That is what “evil” means.

      However, in terms of the just war doctrine, the enslavement of a people is definitely lasting, grave damage inflicted by an aggressor. So avoiding it does constitute one part of the required justifications for a just war. It does not however constitute a license to suspend all moral rules: war never constitutes a suspension of moral rules:

      The Church and human reason assert the permanent validity of the moral law during armed conflicts.

      I realize you asked a broader question than that. Comboxes are great places to argue out particular points, but they aren’t great places to learn how to think about a whole subject. If you want a decent book to read on the subject, a book which helped me learn how to think about these kinds of questions (which is not to say that I endorse everything in this book, mind you) is Proportionalism and the Natural Law Tradition by Christopher Kaczor.

      Having said that, though, I also recommend special care in the following sense: moral theologians are not, in general, very good teachers of what is doctrinally true. Moral theologians publish books and articles about controverted subjects. By the nature of controversion, some of them must be wrong. Some of them are so badly wrong that now and then – though far less often than most seem to expect – the Magisterium has to rein in the worst of the errors. So once you’ve learned how to learn about moral theology, the best sources for what is true in terms of moral theology are the Magisterial documents of the Church. (The foregoing also very much applies to armchair theologians you encounter in comboxes, e.g. yours truly).

      • Alias Clio

        Thanks – I think this may be enough for me to go on with.

      • Merkn

        Where do you get your definition of “innocents”. I do not think it fairly reflects the reality of what happened in WW 2. If you asked all the men who were about to embark in the LST’s before the invasion of Japan in late 1945 or early 1946 that would have occurred had the bomb not been dropped if they would just as soon go home and leave the invasion for another day, I bet quite a few would have. Do they meet the definition? Those boys were not about to be given that option. What about the Japanese women and children armed with bamboo stakes that would have been sent against them? My point is not to denigrate the lives of those killed by the bomb. My point is that opponents of its use seem to overlook the value of the lives that would have been lost otherwise. The just war doctrine requires that all lives be valued in the analysis. It may be that the end result of your calculus is that better that better that 1 million American soldiers be maimed and killed in the battle of Japan than that we kill 50,,000 non combatant Japanese at Hiroshima; and add to that the dead in the prison camps, and the 2-3 million more Japanese killed. There is a case to be made there. But I think you have to own up to the consequences of your argument.

        • Richard Johnson

          “What about the Japanese women and children armed with bamboo stakes that would have been sent against them?”

          Perhaps I am showing my age a bit here, but I recall a TV mini-series called “Amerika” about an invasion of the US mainland by the (then) Soviet army. The resistance was shown training children to help defend their homes against the Soviet army as it sought to dissolve the US into “administrative zones”.

          If there were an invasion of our nation would you, Merkn, train your children/grandchildren to use guns to help defend the homestead? Would you teach them some basic self-defense, perhaps using knives or “sharp sticks”?

          If the women and children who had been trained to defend their homes in Japan were no longer to be considered innocent civilians under your interpretation of the Just War Doctrine, what then constitutes an innocent? Is a community that engages in a Civil Defense program still innocent, or are they considered combatants? Are the minor members of the Civil Air Patrol or the various Junior ROTC programs innocents under this definition?

  • Alias Clio

    (Er, that was “seeking” enlightenment.