Sixty-one years ago today, my country dropped an atomic bomb on a nonmilitary target:

In the closing days of World War Two, the United States dropped a 10,000-pound plutonium-239 bomb, nicknamed "Fat Man," on Nagasaki.

It exploded about 500 meters (1,600 feet) above the ground, instantly killing about 27,000 of the city's estimated population of around 200,000. By the end of 1945, the number of dead due to acute radiation exposure reached about 70,000.

The names of 2,831 people who died recently were added to the list of victims, bringing the total number recognized by the city to 140,144. A few thousand names are added each year.

You're not allowed to do that. You're not allowed to kill civilians.

The usual excuse for the attack on Nagasaki, and on Hiroshima three days earlier, is that the United States "had to" do this because it was the only way to end the war in Asia without launching a full-scale invasion of Japan.

I've written about this earlier at greater length, but let's just review the outlines of this argument.

The United States' goal at the time was the complete and unconditional surrender of Japan. For short, we'll call this "Goal X."

In order to achieve Goal X, the U.S. saw only two possible courses of action:

1. Full-scale invasion of Japan, resulting in massive civilian casualties and heavy loss of life for American forces.


2. Dropping a couple of atomic bombs on major population centers, killing roughly 370,000 noncombatants.

Defenders of the indefensible want to say that these were the only choices available. Thus, they say, any objection to this indiscriminate slaughter entails the acceptance of unacceptably massive loss of life for American forces.

Let's accept, for the sake of argument, that the choices really were this limited — that these were the only possible ways to achieve Goal X. Does my refusal of Option 2 therefore mean I accept Option 1? No. It means that Goal X cannot be achieved by any acceptable means and therefore Goal X ought not to be pursued.

The complete and unconditional surrender of Japan was not morally, tactically, strategically, economically or politically necessary. It was not necessary for victory.

If we could not imagine any way of achieving this goal without committing the unimaginable, if the only options for securing it were either unacceptable or unthinkable, then our only choice was to pursue something else, something other than Goal X. Containing a chastened, weakened and thoroughly whipped Japan could have been achieved without recourse to either Option 1 or 2 above. (If you've bought into the objectively anti-history sophistry that says containment-or-anything-else-short-of-invasion=appeasement, then you'll have to explain to me why you don't think the United States should nuke Havana.)

All of which is to say, You're not allowed to kill civilians.

Or, to paraphrase from that earlier post: You may not both 1) intentionally target and incinerate 140,000 noncombatants and 2) not be a monster.

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  • Vanya

    I’ve never understood why dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki is qualitatively any worse than firebombing every other Japanese population center. The choice of weapon shouldn’t matter in terms of a “don’t kill civilians edict.”
    That said the options available to the US in August 1945 were slightly more complicated than you’ve spelled out. Shortly before the Nagasaki bomb was dropped the USSR declared war on Japan and began running roughshod over the Japanese army in Manchuria. Of course the Soviet plans to declare war on Japan were well underway before the A-bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The reality is there would not have been a sole US invasion if Japan had not surrendered, the USSR would certainly have grabbed a large chunk of Japan as well. By the time of the surrender, only a few weeks later, the Soviets had already managed to occupy Sakhalin and the Kuriles (where they still remain), and Northern Korea. If the war had continued the Russians would have grabbed Hokkaido, the rest of Korea, and maybe even landed on Honshu. So the atomic bomb may well have prevented the creation of a divided Japan on the German or Korean model. On the other hand the historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa has made a good case that it was actually the speed of the Soviet advance that compelled Japan to surrender to the US, not the bomb, and that the atomic bomb was simply a futile gesture at that point.
    But of course that’s hindsight. If you had been President of the US in August 1945 and sincerely believed that you had a devastating weapon that would possibly end the war quickly, thereby saving American lives, generating huge political goodwill from the American soldiers who did not want to fight in Japan, checking the Soviet advance in East Asia, and finally gaining negotiating leverage in the post-war world by showing the USSR that the US had technology the Soviets could only dream of, what decision would you have made? The pressure on Truman to use the bomb was enormous. It probably was not morally justifiable but I can’t blame him for doing what 99% of human beings would have ended up doing under those circumstances.

  • cjmr’s husband

    Vanya, you just justified the Hiroshima bomb. Well done.
    But why did we nuke Nagasaki?

  • Dina

    Thank you, Fred! Long time lurker, here.

  • Stan

    Sadly, I think a lot of the reason why we dropped the bombs on Japan has little to do with Japan and everything to do with trying to scare the Russians. It was a big message to Stalin: “We have the Bomb and we’re crazy enough to use it. Dont’ fuck with crazy people.”

  • Chan

    I knew someone on another board who got all incensed about the Atomic Bomb memorial last year: his posts basically boiled down to, “The Japanese are not allowed to mourn those killed by the atomic bombs, because it was our only choice.”
    He didn’t think those people were worth mourning because we saved thousands of American lives. I think he overlooked our taking thousands of Japanese lives in the process. This suggests to me that he didn’t think the civilians killed in the bombing were worth notice, which is certainly a me-centric position for him to take. On another level, this was all a might-makes-right situation for him: we won, therefore we were justified in using the bombs.
    When I was in the 8th grade, in the early part of 1993, I took a trip to the United Nations building in New York, and one thing we saw was a display of artifacts from the bombing: stone statues that melted and cratered, a fused lump of coins that had to weigh a couple hundred pounds, plenty of photographs. If I hadn’t thought of the atomic bomb before then, I certainly was convinced that it should never be used again. Every year this date comes around, and every year I’m reminded of what I saw in the UN building.
    Thank you, Fred, for creating a short phrase that sums up my experiences with civilian bombing.

  • Scott

    One of the major ‘unconditional’ parts of the surrender demand was that we didn’t want to negotiate over what happened to Hirohito, who we decided to keep anyway since it made the occupation easier.

  • Mike Timonin

    I’ve just finished a book called Into the Land of Bones by Frank L. Holt, about Alexander’s invasion of Afghanistan (334-323 BC). From the introduction:
    “War is an ugly business, one of the most repugnant actions to which we humans regularly resort en masse. This is why every group convinced of its necessity works so hard to justify it to others. We rally to the conviction that a given alternative would be even uglier: terrorism, tyranny, starvation, or whatever else the abstracted enemy might be. When war looks like the lesser evil, we can embrace it warmly as though it at least has a good heart beneath its horrid exterior.”
    To which one might add – when an action is defended as vehemently as the bombing is and was, one must ask why such a defense is necessary. I remain unconvinced by the “million man” argument (not dropping the bombs would have resulted in a million American dead and 10 million Japanese dead in an invasion, says the argument), and I rest in the fact that Truman, while quoted as saying he would do the same again, if needed, regreted his decision for the rest of his life.

  • Ben

    I should point out that containing the enemy had been tried with Germany after WWI. Given how that ended up, I can see why no one considered it an option with Japan.

  • Recall

    “Or, to paraphrase from that earlier post: You may not both 1) intentionally target and incinerate 140,000 noncombatants and 2) not be a monster.”
    Would it be any less monsterous if they were soldiers?

  • TU

    While I risk being flamed for suggesting that as an act of revenge it was justified: I must point out that while the loss of civilian life was certainly a tragedy, there were many people who felt that justice had been served.
    1) Survivors and/or relatives of Nanking
    2) Survivors and/or relatives of comfort women
    3) Survivors and/or relatives of POW GIs tortured by the Japanese
    4) Island natives that were in the warpath, since the Japanese made ample use of them for slave labor.
    5) natives of mainland Southeast Asia who suffered similar treatment.
    The Germans, of course were guilty of their own atrocities which met and exceeded those of the Japanese, but few seem to mention that the Germans were subject to punishment as well. Or at least, it isn’t considered as much of a “reminder” as the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are.
    What differentiates them? It would almost seem as though we have this natural tendency towards sweeping truly atrocious acts perpetrated over time individually to victims out of our collective memories. The bombs, they’re singular, swift, spectacular acts that are easy to point fingers at and say, “let us never let that happen again”.
    I don’t know if I have a point in saying this, it was lost over the course of many work-related interjections, but perhaps it will spark some discussion.

  • bulbul

    that as an act of revenge it was justified
    That’s exactly where you lost me, TU.

  • Scott

    Since govt is the community’s way of collectively acting toward what they think is good for the community (and if they think raping a neighboring community like Nanking qualifies…), then there is no such thing as an innocent civilian. As govt isn’t some ‘thing’ external to the people, but is the people acting collectively, then the people are the govt and the govt is the people and Nagasaki is justified. If we’re collectively ‘responsible’ for spending cuts, they’re collectively responsible for WWII. Collective responsibility either is or isn’t – it cannot exist only when it gets liberals what they want.

  • Susan

    Nonmilitary target? Nagasaki was home to the Mitsubishi torpedo factory, and I believe there was a dockyard there as well.
    Maybe you’d like to explain to the Japanese, or the Nazis, or for that matter, al Queda and Hamas “You’re not allowed to kill civilians.” And saying “but we should be better than them” is not an answer.

  • Beth

    Maybe you’d like to explain to the Japanese, or the Nazis, or for that matter, al Queda and Hamas “You’re not allowed to kill civilians.”
    I’d love too!
    And saying “but we should be better than them” is not an answer.
    Maybe not, but just having just told all those people they’re not allowed to kill civilians, wouldn’t it be kind of hypocritical of me to say that we can?

  • cjmr’s husband

    Not sure of my history, Scott: Was WWII Japan a democracy?

  • Schwaumlaut

    Ah, it’s all so clear now!
    “We should be better than them” isn’t an option, so it’s okay to be as bad as them.

  • Michael Stiber

    The complete and unconditional surrender of Japan was not morally, tactically, strategically, economically or politically necessary. It was not necessary for victory.
    I suppose it depends on your point of view (note here I’m addressing the need for complete surrender, not the bomb). If you were Chinese, you might think unconditional surrender was the only just solution. If you care about war crimes, then you can’t morally leave a criminal regime in control of territory in which it continues to commit crimes.

  • Fred

    Susan sez:
    “Maybe you’d like to explain to … al-Quaida and Hamas ‘You’re not allowed to kill civilians.'”
    Sigh. Here:
    I did exactly that. That post is a bit sarcastically overdone — listing different groups ad infinitum, ad nauseum. The point there being that the universal statement: “You’re not allowed to kill civilians” is inevitably read, perversely by the morally and/or logically stunted as less than universal, and will always be read that way by them no matter how many examples you attempt to provide of its universal meaning.
    I am not suggesting that Susan is among the “morally and/or logically stunted.” She writes, “We should be better than them is not an option” — which means she is among the morally and logically stunted.
    WTF? The antecedent for “them” in that sentence is the Nazis, Hamas and al-Qaida.
    Susan, congratulations, you are the first commenter here to suggest that these ought to be our moral role models. You are a danger to yourself and others.

  • Steve Smith

    I’m with Vanya on this one. Hiroshima: OK; Nagasaki: a war crime. The two options (full scale invasion or dropping nukes) were the same as the options would have been if D-Day were to have occurred a year later. Not pursuing unconditional surrender against the Nazis was not an acceptable option, considering what they had done to the civiliian population of Europe and what they would continue to do unless they were utterly defeated. The same thing was true with Japan in 1945.
    And I’m sorry if civilians die in war, but that’s war. Innocent civilians always die. When the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan was still a threat, and the Soviets had not yet invaded Manchuria. After the bomb, however, and after the Soviets invaded, the Japanese were falling over themselves looking for a way to surrender. Dropping the bomb on Nagasaki was hardly a necessary move (esp. in light of the fact that it was our last A-Bomb; had it failed, or had the Japanese government shrugged its collective shoulders afterward and refused to surrender, we would have had no other option but to invade. There was no tactical advantage to be gained, and the terms the Allies accepted days afterward were pretty much the same as the ones that the Japanese offered before: to keep the Emporer. Nuking Nagasaki was the worst act in the history of the United States.

  • rashomon

    There seems to be a claim repeated in several comments that I would like to address, that the bombs and/or occupation/surrender were some sort of just punishment for Japan’s crimes. This relies on the theory that those responsible for the crimes are the ones being punished, which simply didn’t happen. The fact is all sorts of people died from the bombs that fell on Japan; grandmothers, children, torpedo makers, priests; while the leaders of Unit 731(biological weapons unit in China) received immunity for their war crimes in exchange for their knowledge. While some Japanese leaders were put on trial; a lot of the military leadership and the soldiers directly responsible for the atrocities that “required” revenge went on to help run the “new” Japan. Revenge is a justification, not justice.
    The atomic bomb saving lives may make you feel better (probably helped Truman after he found out that Hiroshima was actually a city and not a military base) but it doesn’t make much sense if you look at actual events. The two atomic bombs were dropped 3 days a part. Giving 1 or 2 days for information to be collected and have an effect on negotiations doesn’t seem to be much time if you are concerned about saving lives. Having a follow up bombing 3 days later does make sense if you are demonstrating to the world the power of a weapon; it says we have this power and we have the ability to use it repetitively.

  • Seth

    According to a documentary on the History Channel a few years ago, there was a military coup staged after the Emperor had recorded his surrender speech but before it was aired. (N.B., this was several weeks after Nagasaki had been bombed.) The insurrection came close to finding the recording, and had they succeeded they would have called on the Japanese people to fight to the death. The army, according to the documentary, was split and many officers would have heeded this call. Probably most, given the culture and the absence of a call from the Emperor to lay down their arms.
    It’s easy for us to speculate on what might have happened if the US held back, but the bottom line is that an attempted coup actually happened despite the prior use of two nuclear weapons. It’s not hard to imagine what would have happened had the coup succeeded and Japan reneged on its not-yet-public unconditional surrender.
    None of this makes it “okay” to kill civilians, but it puts the “they were about to surrender” argument in a new light.

  • Seth

    How did thousands of people die from the Nagasaki bombing last year?
    I’m serious. The memorial added their names, Why?
    The only explanation I can think of is that they’re including the names of everyone living in the area at the time of the explosion. The actual cause of death doesn’t matter — immediate death because of a collapsed building, a car accident in 1972 or a stroke in 2005.
    In other words, they have their thumb on the scale.
    “All deaths diminish us,” but IMO this is deliberate deception (aka “lying”) that trivializes the real horrors of nuclear and conventional war. How do you compare somebody dying in a collapsed, burning building in Dresden, Tokyo or Nagasaki with somebody who lived to see their children and grandchildren grow up?
    Did you know more people – many more people – died in Tokyo firestorms caused by conventional incinderaries? Or Dresden? (Talk about morally indefensible.) Are the latter deaths somehow less important than the deaths in Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
    BTW, a related note: iirc the biggest immediate threat from a nuke is the same as evey other bomb — fires and collapsed buildings. The difference is one of scale and the ability of the thermal flash to ignite fires directly at great distances. It’s the latter that’s behind most of our horrifying images. (Again, not to dimish the suffering of these people. Third degree burns are third degree burns regardless of their source.)

  • rashomon

    The US had more than 2 atomic bombs. I understand why you pick D-day but
    in truth the more appropriate analogy would be the US dropping the bomb on Germany after the battle of the Bulge when the red army was closing in on Berlin.
    Two links. One is to Truman’s speech after Hiroshima, the second is the bombing order. Its a little hard to reconcile the first hand accounts with the history that we have be given.
    The dirty secret of total war is that it is safer to be a soldier than a civilian. The majority of casualities in total war are civilian loses.

  • rashomon

    With the Nagasaki bomb, more people died after the blast from radiation then from the bomb itself. Radiation and the cancer and health effects it creates are the reasons why the number grows. My japanese teacher’s parents died from cancer which was most likely caused by the Hiroshima blast. This is an article from the BBC which talks a little bit about it.

  • twig

    And I’m sorry if civilians die in war, but that’s war. Innocent civilians always die.
    Which is always Tragic But Necessary, until it’s someone you love – or you.

  • LL

    If civilians don’t want to be killed, they shouldn’t be in places where war is going on. Duh.

  • Toby

    To the commenters who bring up firebombing:
    Yes, the firebombings of Tokyo and Dresden and so on were crimes on a par with the nukings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
    Is this somehow supposed to make the nukings seem less bad? Is there supposed to be an argument justifying the nukings hiding in there somewhere? The firebombings are also worth noting, and should not be forgotten, but how this amounts to an objection to the original post is beyond me.

    To the commenters doubting the possibility of containment, or thinking that Japan still posed an intolerable threat in August ’45:
    Japan’s navy had been decimated. Japan is an island.

  • Toby

    Attempts to justify the use of the atomic bombs rely on all sorts of what-ifs. I’ve never been able to figure out where in the world these what-ifs come from. They seem dreamt up out of thin air, almost as if they were dishonest post hoc attempts to justify the clearly unjustified slaughter of civilians.
    So here is another what-if, with some actual reasoning behind it, courtesy of the Strategic Bombing Survey report on the Pacific War, requested by Truman, published July 1, 1946:
    Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey’s opinion that 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.
    (Just so we’re clear that the document is genuine, refer to the last paragraph of this, courtesy of the Truman Library.)
    Look at all those even-ifs. Surrender without nukes, without invasion. So much for the attempts to morally defend the nukes–those defenses don’t even get the facts right, let alone the morality.
    The bit about Russia is also interesting. The hardline holdouts on Japan’s War Council held out this absurd hope that Russia might come out on their side. The Allies could have disabused Japan of this notion, even without Russia actually invading. Then there would have been no need even to wait until November. This is called diplomacy, which is something worth trying before slaughtering hundreds of thousands of civillians. (The hardliners were also worried about the Emperor, which the Allies ended up leaving in place anyway. Again: diplomacy.)

  • L

    This seems to be the American approach. Send in the troops, crush the enemy with overwhelming force if you can, but do not under any circumstance present to the enemy a set of diplomatic options where you could get what you want out of him while still allowing him an avenue for saving face. We’re doing it with Iran now, and we did it with Japan then.
    However… I was talking with a fellow parishioner a couple of weeks ago about this very subject. His father was a US serviceman stationed in Japan after the war; his mother was a Japanese woman he married while he was there. He told me that according to her, by the end of the war all the children her age, herself included, were receiving combat training in schools. (What level, junior high or high school I can’t recall.) Not self-defense — combat, in preparation for what was felt to be the impending invasion of the home islands by US forces. I’m not trying to defend the bombing of Nagasaki by any means. It just seems to me that when a country is in the process of militarizing its schoolgirls, the line between combatant and civilian is not so clear-cut as we might like. Imagine what might have gone on had we actually invaded. We might be regretting an entirely different set of atrocities right now.

  • NBarnes

    saying “but we should be better than them” is not an answer.
    That’s a bold statement to put forth without any… what’s the word I’m looking for here? … details.
    Are you suggesting that we should not be better than them?
    as an act of revenge it was justified
    ‘justified revenge’…. Perhaps not.

  • Keith Thompson

    Maybe you’d like to explain to the Japanese, or the Nazis, or for that matter, al Queda and Hamas “You’re not allowed to kill civilians.” And saying “but we should be better than them” is not an answer.
    Please explain exactly why “but we should be better than them” is not an answer.

  • Mnemosyne

    I’m serious. The memorial added their names, Why?
    Um, a nuclear bomb isn’t just a larger bang than a conventional weapon. It has fallout that continues killing people with radiation poisoning and cancer for years to come.
    Unless you’re one of those people who doesn’t believe that radiation causes cancer. In which case, um, I’m backing away slowly now …

  • bulbul

    If civilians don’t want to be killed, they shouldn’t be in places where war is going on. Duh.
    Absolutely. I mean what were those dumb mofos thinking, being born into a war zone. Some people just never learn…

  • wintermute

    > If civilians don’t want to be killed, they shouldn’t be in places where war is going on. Duh.
    So, during World War II, any civilians wanting to stay alive should have high-tailed it to… the Moon?

  • Susan

    Thanks to everyone who thinks I’m morally stunted. I think on the other hand that some of the liberals here – and I consider myself in most ways a liberal – need to wake up to the real world and the nature of the enemies we face.

  • wintermute

    Susan: In the Next War (against, hypothetically, Switzerland), assuming the same circumstances as when America nuked Nagasaki, do you think the Swiss would be justified in nuking Orlando because there’s a Lockheed-Martin missile plant there, or should they be concerned that this would lead to excessively high civilian casualties? Would it be wrong for the Swiss to declare “we should be better than them” (and, in this case, “them” is us), and not nuke Orlando? Or should they say “this is the nature of the enemy we face” and drop the nuke?
    After all the morality of using nukes shouldn’t change, just because they’re being dropped on you rather than by you…

  • twig

    I think on the other hand that some of the liberals here – and I consider myself in most ways a liberal – need to wake up to the real world and the nature of the enemies we face.
    Oooh! Oooh! Are the enemies we face like the commies?! I remember them, the Russians! And they were baaaaaaad news and dangerous and sneaky and evil and… hey where did they go?

  • Theron

    What does Havana have to do with this? We’re not at war with Cuba – though down there everyone calls the embargo “el bloqueo” – “the blackade” – which is an act of war. Still, I don’t understand that analogy/

  • Gaurav

    I recently heard that Japan was actually ready to surrender _before_ the bombs were dropped. The only hold-up was Emperor’s insistence that he keep the throne.

  • Craig

    “You’re not allowed to kill civilians.”
    Says who? I’m allowed to kill civilians when I go to war.

  • Samurai Sam

    I think on the other hand that some of the liberals here – and I consider myself in most ways a liberal – need to wake up to the real world and the nature of the enemies we face.
    He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.
    Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 146
    German philosopher (1844 – 1900)

  • none

    Craig writes: I’m allowed to kill civilians when I go to war.
    Really? Sez who?

  • Andrew Norris

    Okay… Someone’s pointed out the fact that the military ATTEMPTED a coup _even_ AFTER Nagasaki (fact).
    What no one’s pointed out, that the arming of CIVILIANS to ‘repel’ the invaders had begun at least 2 months before this.
    Which, sadly makes them vaild targets. Sorry.
    Even escaping that fact…
    _IF_ we had not dropped the second bomb, the Japanese WOULD HAVE! (fact, there was discussions in the privy concuil about this, recorded) consdiered it a bluff.
    Espically consdiering that they had pulled this trick ON the Allies (a varaint of it, read the fall of Sinagpore for more details.)
    Secondly… please reserach JGSDF studies of what a invasion would curtail.
    20-40 MILLION Japanese dead. That’s JGSDF’s, not US studies.
    (US was less, 10 or so)
    Thirdly: “Oh, they were trying to surrender.”
    Yes… and no.
    The ‘civilians’ in the goverement were looking for ways out.
    however the junior officers who held the real power in Japan AT THE TIME, were in a grand kamikaze mode.
    And wihtout the Army, no surrender was possible. The US (and rightlfuy so, given the activites of the Japanese outside Peral Harbor) was in no mood to accept anything but total surrender, to be SURE that Japan understood that they were broken.
    At the mercy of the enemy they awoke.
    We tried negotiations in War 1.
    They worked well, didn’t they?
    Your arguement that Nagasaki was not needed, is incorrect. Japan would -not- have surrendered to the Russians. They HATED them.
    Yes, the nukes were bad.
    Yes, the firestorms were bad.
    Yes, war is _wrong_.
    Truman’s desicion was “what’s the LEAST bad of my choices, for my duty?”
    His duty was NOT to spare the enemy.
    HIS Duty was to _save_ as many lives as he could, _with_ the INFORMATION he had AT THE TIME TO MAKE THE DESICION. Japan had NOT even reponsed after Hiroshima with a “Give us a few here, we’re very disorganized after your strike” With what Truman and his staff KNEW, and understood AT THE TIME… Nagasaki was needed.
    We had already effectivly shut down Japanese trade, japanese imports as early as 6 months BEFORE the bomb.
    Japanese production lines were in end run stages. Food was becoming a probelm… the Army (which HAD THE POWER) was NOT willing to surrender.
    And we wanted to be sure that Japan did NOT do what Hilter was able to do with Germany. Which is a reason for the unconditional surrender. Do not judge people by standards and information that apply now. Judge then _with_ WHAT THEY KNEW, and WHAT RESPONIBLITIES they had.
    It’s nice being able to look back 61 years, isn’t it?

  • LL

    People understand my “civilians shouldn’t be where there’s a war going on” thing was a joke, right?
    Should I have used one of those emoticon things? What’s the one for “just kidding, I’m not a psychopath”?
    Having said that, if we’re not going to shrink from killing women and elderly and small children in order to make sure we get the terrorists, let’s do it right, by gum!
    Saturation nuclear bombing of the entire Middle East, and let’s not forget the most populous Muslim nation by far, Indonesia, with about 200 million people in it. Of course, Europe, Africa, and the rest of Asia will get some wicked fallout, but gotta mash some chickpeas to make some hummus, right? Got that one from The Daily Show last night.

  • Sigh

    I never understood this distinction between civilian and military. Why is the life of a drafted farmboy from Iowa worth less than the life of a worker in Hiroshima? How does it locically translate that forcing a person, picked due to essentially spurios qualifications such as belonging to a particular age group and being a particular gender, to wear a uniform makes him an acceptable target?
    In my view, the only distinction is between aggressor and victim. Japan attacked the US – thus wiping out the entire Japanese population in order to save one american (or chinese, korean etc) life is morally justified.
    Now, we can argue that even though it is morally justified, other means can still be sought. That’s fair, and open to debate. Maybe the total annihiliation option is detrimental in the long run – ok, let’s look for a better way. Would nuking only two cities be enough to compell surrender? If so, great, no need to inflict more casualties than necessary.
    But arguing that a country has some kind of moral imperative to sacrifice it’s *own* citizens in order to save anothers, that one I just don’t understand.

  • Duane

    but gotta mash some chickpeas to make some hummus, right?
    That clip was crying funny.

  • Jesurgislac

    Sigh: But arguing that a country has some kind of moral imperative to sacrifice it’s *own* citizens in order to save anothers, that one I just don’t understand.
    Neither do the people who support Palestinian suicide bombers, Sigh.
    Arguing that it’s okay to kill more foreign civilians if by doing so fewer of your own combatants get killed is pretty much a solid justification for Palestinians strapping on bombs and blowing up Israeli civilians: or indeed for any terrorist attack, pretty much. Most of the time, fewer people of the combatant group get killed by terrorist attacks, and more civilians die.
    But, that’s okay, in your view?

  • sigh

    Jesurgislac, I assume by your example that you do consider Israel the aggressor in this conflict, then? If so, then yes, the palestinians do have the moral justification to do whatever they can to drive off the invaders.
    Not sure what you mean with “any terrorist attack” – do you mean by palestinians towards israel, or any terrorist group in general? If the latter, then no, as most terrorist groups are not actually the victims of an aggressor. I guess this is basically what makes the distinction between a terrorist and a freedom fighter.
    Now, I freely acknowledge that the distinction is not always so clear. In this post, however, we DO have a clear case – Pearl Harbour is pretty distinct…

  • Hagsrus

    **_IF_ we had not dropped the second bomb, the Japanese WOULD HAVE! (fact, there was discussions in the privy concuil about this, recorded) consdiered it a bluff.**
    This sounds as if you’re saying Japan would have dropped a nuke. What would they actually have done? What was being discussed in the privy council?

  • Jeff

    LL (and bulbul): I got the joke. I don’t know if that means you’re not a raging psychopath, or just that I’m as much a raging psychpath as you. (grin)