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August 03, 2005

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Jeff

It seems to me that the excerpt has it entirely right. And it works both ways.

First, we have to distinguish evil in the cause from evil in the means. Killing masses of people in order to terrorize or pressure them into surrender is evil in means. There is no defense of it unless you want to say that civilians are proper direct and intentional targets in war. As far as I can see, that's unCatholic. Atom bombs used on populations centers, not military targets are wrong. Right?

Second, if you want to excuse Hiroshima or perhaps diminish its significance by saying that maybe the means should not be the focus of attention because the cause was clearly good, or because the enemy bore the ultimate responsiblity because for initiating the conflict, you have to allow that argument to the Palestinians and others, too, even if their cause is evil.

But there just IS some kind of fundamental equivalence here, as far as I can see. I loathe Osama bin Laden's cause and think it evil. I am convinced that our cause against Japan was just, despite the revisionists. For what it's worth, I support American actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. I'm no peacemonger or anti-Americanist. But I have never seen any argument against this basic point. Bluster and fury, obfuscation and silence, have been the only responses.

And I never see Palestinians given credit for hewing to the rules of war when they take care to attack military targets only and not civilians, which several of their "operations" have done. One more reason for them to ignore the rules of civilized warfare and engage in viciousness and indiscriminate murder: what they do when they attack is called "terrorism" no matter what it is.

Stewie

"We must face, and take responsibility for" -- just exactly what does that mean? Take responsibility how?

"I do not even want to evaluate the objective moral culpability of those who made the decision and those who carried it out. That is for God to determine. I want to emphasize that there were strong reasons for the decision, and most of all to stress what is so easy to ignore for those evaluating such acts from the comfortable, safe, and omniscient vantage point of the future: that the cost of deciding otherwise might have been enormous." -- OK, you lost me there. Which is it? Was it wrong or was it not wrong. Are you / were you opposed, or not?

"the abstract ethical principle: it is wrong to target noncombatants in war. It is wrong to incinerate non-combatants in their hundreds of thousands at a swoop. It is wrong, and, what perhaps most needs saying in our present ethical climate, even if you have powerful reasons for doing it, it is still wrong." -- OK, I would agree with that, as would just about everyone, but it is something of a non sequitur.

"Those bombings are only the most dramatic and terrifyingly efficient instances of the general practice of bombing civilians in which the U.S.A. engaged during the Second World War." -- Ah ha. Here we get the linkage. Here we get the direct indictment of the United States -- its a terrorist country. The problem with that statement however, is that it assumes too much.

Aside from the little children, whom older folks insist on keeping around, even in dangerous areas -- to what extent can the residents of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Tokyo, Berlin, or even Dresden properly be called "civilians" or "non-combatants"? As with the United States, both Germany and Japan were engaged in total warfare. That is, theirs and our entire populations were contributing to our respective war efforts. To the extent that there was any kind of industry in those areas that contributed to the war, they were neither civilian nor non-combatant.

Yes, use of Fat Man and Little Boy was an awful and horrendous thing. Just as the bombings of Tokyo, Berlin, and Dresden were terrible things. And yet, even after the fire-bombing of Tokyo, killing hundreds of thousands, and probably far more destruction using conventional weapons, the Japanese DID NOT QUIT. Even after the destruction of Hiroshima, the Japanese DID NOT QUIT. They kept on fighting the war; a war that they began. If the Japanese had acted to stop the war back in 1942, after the Battle of Midway, when their navy was effectively eliminated from the war, then they could have saved millions of their own lives and hundreds of thousands of ours.

Yes, war is an awful and horrible and terrible thing. People die and are mutilated. Children are orphaned. Industry and other material goods are wasted and destroyed. War is hell. That's why it is a thing to be avoided. But when it is thrust upon you, the only way to end the suffering, present and future, is to destroy the enemy's ability and will to commit war against you.

The bombing of Japan, any of the cities of Japan, not only Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was a terrible tragedy. The United States wished and wishes that it never had to come to that. But it did. The United States was and is willing to live in peace with all the peoples of the world, the United States would have preferred to never have war in the first place, but war was thrust upon us, and the war-makers had demonstrated again and again that they were not going to stop.

We must "take responsibility for" Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Just exactly what does that mean? I really don't have a clue as to what this guy is saying. I wonder if he has a clue either.

Donald R. McClarey

No Pearl Harbor, no Hiroshima.

Donald R. McClarey

From am interview with military historian Victor Davis Hanson on April 2, 2004

"Hanson: In the case of Okinawa, I had grown up hearing about how this battle had killed a young Swedish-American farm kid at 23, just after he got his bachelor's degree in 1945. Nobody wanted to talk about it, nobody knew exactly how he [died]; they were all dead now. So I wanted, as a personal odyssey, to reconstruct and explain how that death had affected all these people I know, but then lead that as an entry into the battle itself.

Kreisler: And this was your namesake, the person you're named after, and was a cousin.

It was. It was my father's first cousin. His mother died in childbirth and his father left, so he grew up with my father. They were the same age, same height, looked almost identical, and they had joined the Marine Corps together. They had gotten in a fight with an officer and my father took the rap, and as punishment, they put him in these new experimental B-29s, which turned out to save his life. To stay in the 6th Marine Division, if you look at the casualty ratios in Okinawa of the 29th Marines, was a death sentence. Nobody knew that at the time.

So I was interested in how he died. I knew that it would be almost impossible, because 83 percent of his battalion that went up Sugarloaf Hill were dead by the time he died, and this being 58 years later, I didn't think there would be anybody alive. But I found, actually, seven people who were there when he died.

Kreisler: The battle over Okinawa, a major island near Japan, occurred toward the end of the Pacific war. Over ninety days, the Japanese lost probably 100,000; we lost 12,000 solders; maybe another 100,000 civilians were killed. It was a horrendous battle to take a well-fortified island, and the costs and casualties were quite heavy, but it was important for moving on to Japan.

Hanson: It was. It was a funny battle that started on April 1 and ended July 2, and then sixty days later the war was over. The American people didn't know what was going on for two reasons: One, Franklin Delano Roosevelt died right at the beginning of the battle, and then Europe was liberated, and the war was over in early May. So while their attention was focused on Europe, they didn't realize there would be 50,000 casualties, 350 ships hit, 5,000 sailors killed, 7,000 marines and air force, the worst fighting of the entire war. In fact, there were days where Okinawa was the worst day for the Americans in World War II. So that was striking.

What was even more striking was its the purpose. It was to get a gigantic island 350 miles from the Japanese mainland. We, today, worry about the atomic bomb, but we have no idea what Curtis Lemay was thinking, bringing in 3,000 B-29s, and rather than having to fly 1,500 miles from the Marianas, they could fly three sorties a day. And although they had almost burned down the cities of Japan already, they could do this day in. And then why not bring all the B-17s in, and even the B-24s, and even the Lancasters. In his mad mind, he had this idea of 15,000 bombers 350 miles from Japan. It would have been a holocaust. And I try to discuss that.

We worry about the bomb, and the moral implications of that, but ...

Kreisler: The dropping of the atomic bomb ...

Hanson: Yes, in August. But we have completely forgotten that that generation asked different questions. We killed over 100,000 Japanese solders, they and us together killed 100,000 Okinawans, and then we had 50,000 American casualties. And when this was all going on, we had a bomb that was almost ready for production; it was tested in July. So why didn't we just hold off and use this bomb, and then we wouldn't have had all these people dead? So that generation's call was not don't use the bomb, but use it earlier.

It had an enormous effect on what we envisioned for Japan, because there were suicide boats, there were suicide submarines, there were suicide battleships, the Omoto, and there were suicide planes, there were suicide corpses. The Americans had never, ever experienced anything like that. It made Iwo Jima look like a picnic, if I can say that. There were still 12,000 kamikaze planes on the Japanese mainland, and there was a militia of 5 million people. It would be staggering to see Okinawa replicated at a magnitude of, say, 10 or 20.

Kreisler: So this impacted on the decision about the atomic bomb?

Hanson: It did. You can't understand the dropping of the atomic bomb unless you read about what went on in Okinawa. The Japanese militarists had written instructions that one man can take ten out, or take a tank, and they had had a year to fortify the island. It was designed by the Japanese to show the Americans that "we can make life so horrible for you, and you can't take casualties like we can, that you better think about a negotiated surrender of ours, rather than an unconditional surrender." The militarists could stay in power with the threat that "If you try to invade the mainland, it will be another Okinawa." And they were successful in that way."

Jeff (another one!)

Okinawa (and to some extent Iwo) created an awareness among American military leaders -- along with the kamikaze phenomena -- that there were no non-combatants. I think a fiar reading of the historical record would indicate that if thousands of civilians, including civilian women, running at the troops or off cliffs, created the perception that there were no longer Japanese non-combatants. Which does nudge the moral calculus vis Truman, Stimson, et alia somewhat. I reject the equivallence of "no Pearl Harbor, no Hiroshima" however.

fidens

It has often struck me that arguments about the morality of the atomic bombings are a bit of no brainer for Catholics - of course they constitute evil.

It follows that it is virtually pointless to raise arguments demonstrating their immorality without addressing the question "If not, then what?" What were the alternatives to the bombings? How do these alternatives measure up morally against the bombings?

This is where the true debate lies.

Truth seeker

The deliberate destruction of non-combatants constitutes an absolute and grave moral wrong. Mass rape cannot ever be justified, even if it were to shorten a war and save lives - regardless of considerations "if not, then what?". The same applies to the dropping of atomic bombs with the intention of destroying innocent civilians.
Consequentalist arguments are not in line with natural law. I welcome any condemnations of the terrible evil done at Hirohima and Nagasaki (interestingly two great centres of Catholicism in Japan). Would that more Americans faced up to the evil their governments have done (has NSSM 200 ever been revoked?).

Maureen

We've discussed this before. Quite frankly, I still believe that it was better to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, despite the fact that civilians were bound to die in large numbers, rather than let the Japanese people (women, children and old people included, as on Okinawa) continue to be starved, involuntarily suicided, and used as cannon fodder by their own government. It was better than killing them in their millions by sending our guys to die in their millions. It was infinitely better than dropping mustard gas bombs over large cities, which was another war-ending option.

It wasn't nice. It was, in fact, the kind of prudential judgment that nobody ever wants to face. But it had a better chance of working than anything else; and it did work in the end. In fact, it shocked everybody so well that it's saved everybody else in the world from nuclear fire for the last fifty years.

So it's a great pity. It's a great example of how horrible the choices can be, in our fallen world. It may even be an example of how God uses the suffering and deaths of good people to create something good, because everyone alive in Japan today and a good chunk of America owes their lives to those folks in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

But it wasn't a sin. It was a just act of war.

frank sales

I'm with Donald and Maureen. I'd focus on the word "indiscriminate" in the Catechism, if I had to defend my decision to bomb these two cities. Indiscriminate would have been dropping 15 or 20 bombs.

You had a civilian population mobilizing to defend Japan at a horrendous cost to both sides. Hundreds of thousands were about to be slaughtered. I don't see how the cool logic of moral theory would comfort me if I could have avoided those deaths by dropping the two bombs and didn't.

Samuel J. Howard

"I never see Palestinians given credit for hewing to the rules of war when they take care to attack military targets only and not civilians"

Because you don't get credit for doing the minimum! It's not praiseworthy, it's expected.

David

Here's what the bishops at Vatican II had to say about the matter in Gaudium et Spes:

Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation. The unique hazard of modern warfare consists in this: it provides those who possess modem scientific weapons with a kind of occasion for perpetrating just such abominations; (my emphases)

http://tinyurl.com/4hvy3

David

This portion of Gaudium et Spes is cited in the Catechism:

2314 "Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation."110 A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons - to commit such crimes.

http://tinyurl.com/clp44

David

crimes (my emphasis)

dcs

Indiscriminate would have been dropping 15 or 20 bombs.

Do you mean like the bombs we dropped in Tokyo in retaliation for Pearl Harbor?

The atomic bomb was (and is) "indiscriminate" because of its sheer destructive power.

m.g.

Amy,

I think, in this instance, you are too nuanced and that the AP headline is just right. There’s no question that Bishop Skylstad made a nice little moral equivalency statement with this letter. It can’t be read any other way because he direclty follows the condemnation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as being an act which “merits firm and unequivocal condemnation” with the paragraph saying that terrorist attacks on innocents “merit the same unequivocal condemnation.” He could have interrupted this juxtaposition with a discussion of the circumstances at the end of WWII and perhaps something about sometimes there’s a need to choose between two evils . . . but he chose not to. Why?

Seamus

"Okinawa (and to some extent Iwo) created an awareness among American military leaders -- along with the kamikaze phenomena -- that there were no non-combatants."

Nonsense. My father was on Okinawa,and his stories make clear that the U.S. forces were keenly aware of the distinction between combatants and non-combatants. He said that at night the marines would fire at anything heard moving around between the American and Japanese lines, because it was assumed to be a Japanese soldier looking for the opportunity to sneak into the American foxholes, and that they took care to warn the Okinawan civilians (by means of leaflets and loudspeakers) not to approach the American lines at night for this reason. He said that, notwithstanding the warnings, every morning the rising sun would reveal the heartbreaking scene of corpses of civilians (many of them children) who had disregarded the warnings and been shot during the night. According to my father, they had been trying to get out of the path of the American advance, and they either hadn't heard or didn't believe the warnings, or they thought they'd take their chances rather than be caught in the middle of the battlefield once the Americans had pressed forward.

(My father noted, BTW, that the Okinawans didn't feel any particular affection for Japan, which had ruled them since the 1600s, had only annexed their country in the 1800s, and throughout its rule had treated the Okinawans with quasi-racist condescension.)

I'll admit, however, that on Iwo Jimo there literally "were no non-combatants." That's because after war broke out the Japanese had evacuated the entire civilian population from the island. (If I remember correctly, the inhabitants of Iwo included a lot of people with names like Washington. My recollection is fuzzy (based on an article I read in National Geographic about 30 years ago, after the US gave Iwo Jima back to Japan), but I believe the island was settled in the 1800s by whalers or others with American connections or backgrounds, and it was their descendants who were removed during the war.)

Seamus

"Quite frankly, I still believe that it was better to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, despite the fact that civilians were bound to die in large numbers, rather than let the Japanese people (women, children and old people included, as on Okinawa) continue to be starved, involuntarily suicided, and used as cannon fodder by their own government."

Nope. This is consequentialist ethics, which has always been rejected by the Church. As Ven. John Henry Cdl. Newman wrote: "The Church holds it better for sun and moon to drop from Heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in the most extreme agony... than that one soul... should commit one single venial sin, should tell one willful untruth or should steal one poor farthing..."

b

I had the pleasure of having an old Maryknoll priest over for dinner a couple of years ago. He worked in Japan, China and Taiwan in the late 40's and 50's. He told me about the day he met the bishop of Nagasaki. The bishop told him that he had been in his cathedral when the bomb hit, and had been burried under the rubble of his church for three days before someone found him. Little Boy killed most of the Catholics in Japan. Nagasaki had been perhaps the most tolerant city in the empire, and was the center of Christian life there.

Julia

If Pearl Harbor is not enough - let's add in Bataan, Nanking, etc. etc. Talk sometime with guys who fought hand to hand on those Japanese islands. Just in the last few months yet another 2 Japanese soldiers from WWII have been located. They were not going to give up.

I'd like to add my personal story. I was 2 weeks old when my father was sent off in the winter of 44-45 to Northern France along the Belgian border to set up an evac hospital to take in the horrendous number of casualties that were expected when we stormed across the Rhine. Luckily, Battle of the Bulge was a temporary set-back and the Remagen Bridge held. So GIs fought, were wounded and died, but the enormous casualties didn't happen.

But I didn't get my Dad back. He was sent down the Rhone to Marseilles where he boarded a troop ship that went through the Panama Canal, stopped at New Guinea and landed at the now-free Philipines. This time he was going to be going along as part of the invasion of Japan.

The invasion was scheduled to begin in November of 1945. The documents showing the expectations of the war-planners are all on-line. I lost the URL of the site, but if you google a lot you can find them. Not hundreds of thousands, but millions were expected to die. Our troop invasion numbers exceeded a million and Russia was going to be joining in, too. Consider that the bulk of our exhausted fighting men were exhausted from years of fighting island to island or had been transferred like my dad from ETO. The US was getting tired of seeing its young men die. These were guys who had survived the Depression and their families back home had been sacrificing through rationing and lack of all but the basics to keep the war effort going. Buying war bonds required even more sacrifice of available pin money.

Remember that our war with Japan began in 1941 and this is 4 years later. Japan had already devasted much of Asia even before we were into the conflict. Huge portions of Japan had been bombed. Other than the radiation effects (which were not fully understood at the time), there was more damage to Japan by Doolittle, etc. and the conventional bombers than the A bombs.

Think too about what kind of enemy Japan was. In Europe, for the most part, captured soldiers were more or less safely interned. I know several former POW from the European/N. African theater. Look up how the Japanese treated prisoners. Look at how the Japanese treated civilians in the areas they conquered, not just in the Philipines. I lived in Korea for a year in 1969-70 before it bacame the modern country it is today. The Japanese had killed off their military & their educated people and tried to kill off their language and culture. The Koreans were trying to come back from having their country treated as a slave labor & commodities source for 40 - 50 years. Japanese also had nothing but contempt for Americans and Westerners in general. Even China, for which they historically professed some respect, was horribly ravaged by the Japanese. Ever see the famous photo of that little baby crying in the middle of the destruction caused by the Japanese Rape of Nanking? Read the story about the training of the very young men to be kamakazi fliers - at the end a lot of them had no military training at all. They were like the Palestinian boys who go off to their death in hopes of taking out lots of folks with them.

Thanks to the A bombs, I still had a dad to come home to me when I was over 2 years old and go on to have 5 other children.

Instead of going in with the invasion, he went in with the first wave to establish the Occupation. Photos of his first duty station in Nagoya (which had no A bomb experience) show massive, widespread devastation. The people were incredibly poor and hard scrabble -their government had brought it on them. The militarists would not surrender without ensuring their survival so they could embark on a new plot to rule the world at a later date.

That's why the bombs were dropped. The Allies would accept nothing but unconditional surrender - just as in Nazi Germany. The problem in Japan, Germany and in Italy was the government at the top. It had to be dismantled.

Dropping the A bombs were not acts of terrorism. Anybody who thinks so is ignorant of what was actually at stake back then.

Consider also that if the Allies had to invade Japan, we would have had a Japan divided between the free world and the Communist world as still exists in Korea today. As it turned out, I think the Russians just got a couple of northernmost islands out of their last minute jump into the fray against Japan.

Seamus

"Not hundreds of thousands, but millions were expected to die."

Of course, that wouldn't have been necessary if we hadn't insisted on unconditional surrender.

"As it turned out, I think the Russians just got a couple of northernmost islands out of their last minute jump into the fray against Japan."

That, and North Korea, and North China, which they handed over to the Chinese Communists, helping bring Mao to power four years later (another consequence of our insistence on unconditional surrender).

Der Tommissar

So when do the Japanese Council of Catholic Bishops get around to condemning Pearl Harbor?

I tend to agree with those who point out that due to the nature of the world wars, civilians couldn't be thought of as strictly civilians. They were playing a vital role in the prosecution of the war through the production of armaments and munitions.

I'd always thought the proscriptions against targeting civlians applied more towards burning a village that was occupied, or shooting the inhabitants or even against striking a town to make an enemy army move out of its defenses to attempt to prevent the attack.

If a man not in uniform was driving a cart of ammunition to a fort, could he be targetted? If so, the bombing of cities where war industries were being produced I would think falls under the same scenario, writ large.

On the other hand, I feel the specific targetting of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were immoral, insofar as neither was targetted because of any specific military value, but only because neither has been bombed before. It's my understanding we were looking for a clean target that would make the power of the atomic bomb fully evident.

Jeff

Well, mine was the first comment and look at the ones afterward. See anything that makes the least bit of sense defending Hiroshima?

All I see is, Look what would have happened if we hadn't. And, Everyone is a combatant. Etc., etc.

No arguments for Hiroshima still that I see.

Der Tommissar

And, Everyone is a combatant. Etc., etc.
No arguments for Hiroshima still that I see.

Uhh, that's very lazy of you. It's easy to point out that circumstances and consequences do not alter the morality of an act, I think most here would agree. But just to dismiss if a civilian is still a civilian if they actively aid the continuation of hostilities, that's just intellectually arrogant. If that's not an argument for Hiroshima, could you at least enlighten us as to why not?

DarwinCatholic

Without necessarily looking any deeper it seems clear to me any of the possible means of ending the pacific war (atom bomb, extensive 'conventional' bombing campaign, naval embargo and bombardment, land invasion) would at this point be condemned by the American bishops. Because no matter what we did to end the war, hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of civilians would have been killed.

Which is not to say that there's not a moral debate to have acceptible tactics in a just war, but the USCCB (rightly or wrongly) would not from this vantage point smile on any action that we might have taken. Maybe that's just as well. I'd be rather disturbed to have a national bishops conference of the "kill them all and let God decide" school. But I'm also not sure that their condemnation at this point is any indicator that we should have acted other than we did.

nottoday

could you at least enlighten us as to why not?

Der, I'm not Jeff, but I think I'll play. Why not? Why doesn't "there were no civilians" fly? Because words mean things. Because to say there are no civilians is to ask what the meaning of "is" is, or to say, "What's really a person? Surely not this helpless unborn thing."

Because the man in a uniform launching into the sea toward a beach with a rifle and a prayer is not the same as his wife at home working a factory job -- even in a munitions plant -- to keep the family fed. Because the man in uniform is sure the hell not the same as the man's five-year-old daughter or 70-year-old grandmother.

And because if it were your family wiped out in a nuclear explosion, this basic distinction would be completely clear to you, and you know it, even if your wife or your mother or your aging grandfather worked in a munitions plant.

It's really funny -- as shocking and as horrible as it sounds to us, a few people actually said a similar thing about 9/11: working in that big center of the global economy, nobody was innocent, they said. And don't the terrorists make a similar lack-of-distinction, that there are no "civilians" when they attack our cities? Well, I reject those arguments. Don't you?

There are some things you cannot not know. The whole "not civilians" argument is semantic BS. Civilians exist. Purposely targeting them in war is never legitimate -- ever. It really is very simple.

Seamus

"So when do the Japanese Council of Catholic Bishops get around to condemning Pearl Harbor?"

On the grand scheme of things, Pearl Harbor was pretty small potatoes. The Japanese did pretty much the same thing at Port Arthur in 1904 and at the time were generally regarded by Americans as "the plucky Japanese" for doing so. In both cases, the Japanese were attacking military targets. If you want a real atrocity to compare with Hiroshima, how about the Rape of Nanking?

(One thing that irks me about the Japanese take of World War II is that, unlike the Germans, they've never really faced up to their country's culpability. They act as if Hiroshima and Nagasaki conferred certified victim status on them, entitling them to disregard everything that came before. There are a few notable exceptions, such as Hitoshi Motoshima, former mayor of Nagasaki, who condemns war atrocities on both sides. It's perhaps not a coincidence that Motoshima is a Christian.)

Kevin Jones

The idea that there are no "non-combatants" is rooted in the hideous doctrine of total war.

It is the root of the demand for total surrender. It's also one justification for terrorism. Not that that will give many "nuclear option" apologists pause, but it should.

Sydney Carton

DarwinCatholic: "the USCCB (rightly or wrongly) would not from this vantage point smile on any action that we might have taken."

All the more easier for one's opponents to ignore you, if you produce consistently ridiculous or useless advice. Considering that precision-guided bombs are a recent invention, and that in most if not all wars some non-combattants die, one would suspect that there is a more developed theology of war consistent with 2,000 years of Catholic tradition and the Crusades than simply saying "surrender to your opponent and don't fight" every time (I don't know if the bishops said this in WW2 - I suspect they didn't).

I happen to think that of all the alternatives, the use of the bombs was the least evil.

Sydney Carton

Kevin,

What about destroying an enemy's line of supply?

What if there was a manufacturing plant that was producing WEAPON X, which could be immediately launched upon completion from that plant, which would obliterate a country. The people pressing the button of WEAPON X are in a secure, hidden location far away. WEAPON X is manufactured by workers, who obviously aren't fighting. Do you bomb that factory?

Jeff

Okay, Tomissar, I retract. But only in this sense: Osama bin Laden gets to make the same arguments. And he DOES. So do the Palestinian terrorists. You can't condemn them out of hand--you have to give them a hearing.

All Israelis are aiding the Israeli army; they are all combatants in one sense or another; they vote, they participate in the enterprise of colonization and the taking of land; they participate in the economy which supports the Zionist project and its soldiers; all are combatants. Hey, it's an argument, right?

Okay, so old men reading and sipping a coffee and teenagers in a pizza parlor and babies in the cradle and the mentally retarded in a hospital are all combatants and it's lazy of me to dismiss this argument.

There's a much better argument for destroying the World Trade Center, isn't there? Not to mention the Pentagon, for heaven's sake.

Sorry, I reject the mass killing of babies in their cradles--by atom bomb or otherwise. This only qualifies as an "argument" by indecently classifying all non-combatants as combatants so you don't have to distinguish. We don't get to do that.

COULD there theoretically be a situation in which everyone in a city or even country was a combatant? Persuade me. But I think it just boils down to: indiscriminate killing is evil, unless it's our indiscriminate killing, we have a really good reason for it, and the results of not doing it are wretched for us.

Maybe the Japanese were all really, really into the war effort. And we weren't with our victory gardens and war bonds and USO concerts? Maybe none of us were civilians either. How about nuking San Francisco? The babies just get swept up as collateral killing under double effect. Right?

That's NOT an argument as far as I'm concerned. If that's not rationalization, NOTHING is rationalization.

Der Tommissar

And because if it were your family wiped out in a nuclear explosion, this basic distinction would be completely clear to you, and you know it, even if your wife or your mother or your aging grandfather worked in a munitions plant.

So were the strategic bombing campaigns alwaya immoral? Did the entire 8th Air Force commit immoral acts when they attempted to bomb factories in the middle of towns?

BTW, nice moral equivalence between someone working in a rifle factory for the Reich and someone working in a consulting firm in New York.

So, is it morally licit to target a guy driving a carriage full of ammo to an enemy army if he's not wearing a uniform?

Anna

Has the Japanese Council of Catholic Bishops commented on the Rape of Nanking, yet?

That, surely, is something that we all can agree on, is evil.

nottoday

End 'em?

nottoday

End 'em?

nottoday

OK, so I didn't end the italics. Der-T, if those distortions are all you pulled out of my answer to your question, then I am afraid I cannot be of any more assistance to you.

Maclin Horton

Thanks for the link, Amy.

I'm not at liberty to engage in much debate now, and besides I don't think I can add much to what I've said in the linked piece. In particular I don't think I can make it any plainer that I fully recognize the horrors that might well have followed had we not dropped the bomb, and that I therefore do not presume to judge the culpabilty in God's eyes of those who made the decision. I might add, along the lines of what Julia says, that I might well not be here if we had invaded Japan, as my father was barely old enough to see the last days of combat in Europe and (assuming he recovered sufficently from his wounds) would probably have been sent to Japan.

I must say, I'm appalled by the argument that in wartime there is no such thing as a civilian. I first heard this argument many years ago from William F. Buckley, and I think it has always kept me from fully identifying myself with American conservatism, even though in most respects I fit that classification.

Two quick points, in reply to Stewie above:

One: What do I mean by taking responsibility? Yes, that is vague; basically I mean simply acknowledging in humility that it was a violation of the moral law.

Two: You are gravely mistaken in supposing that I see the U.S. as a terrorist nation. Don't make too many assumptions about my opinions beyond what I've explicitly stated in the piece.

Jim

The Japanese bishops have made numerous statements over the years regarding Japan's actions during the war, including this one last week:

The Bishops’ Conference published the message ‘Resolution for Peace’ fifty years after the end of the war. In it we acknowledged that before and during the war, the Catholic Church in Japan ‘lacked an awareness of the prophetic role it should have fulfilled to protect human life and carry out the will of God’ and ‘asked forgiveness of God and of the people who had to bear such suffering during the war.’...

In his ‘Appeal for Peace’ at Hiroshima, Pope John Paul II repeatedly said that ‘to remember the past is to commit oneself to the future.’ We Japanese are being called to honestly accept our history, a history which includes the violent invasion and colonization of other countries, reflect on it and share the historic recognition among ourselves. We believe that to do this will be to promise not to repeat the tragedy and also to commit oneself to the future.

frank sales

What is the magic behind the civilian/combatant distinction? If you could end a war by fighting and killing 10,000 troops made up of 18-30 year old men with 5,000 collateral civilian deaths , or alternatively a nursing home of 5,000 retirees (the example assumes a new weapon that couldn't be used for some reason on the troops) why is it so obvious that the moral choice requires more deaths?

Jeff

Frank:

Because that's Catholic teaching, that's why. If you can end a war by killing one innocent kid directly, you're not allowed. That's uncontroversial. It's like, adultery is wrong.

Why is it obvious that adultery is wrong?

You may never do evil that good may come of it. We're not arguing personal ideas here, just Catholic teaching.

Der Tommissar

Distortions?

That's not a distortion. We're talking about the bombing of population with the intent to destroy industry.

When factories were bombed in Europe, those weren't precision weapons. There were tons of civilian casualties when residential areas were hit by stray bombs. No one pretended they could take out a factory without blowing up blocks of other real estate around it. Those were civilians, was that immoral?

Was it moral because they were hit with conventional, not nuclear weapons? Every response you've made has referred to civilians being killed by an atomic bomb. Would it be better if they were only killed by a 500lb. conventional bomb?

So I'm asking you again, what makes Hiroshima and Nagasaki intrinsically different than other bombing missions? Is it because atomic weapons were used? Is it because you could assume that explosive yield was significantly greater than what would be needed to destroy a specific military target? Explain to me how it was different. Heck, even say, "strategic bombing was wrong because it was indiscriminate". I could at least say you're being consistant. I might even agree with you.

All I'm hearing is, "don't you understand that they used an atomic warhead, and atomic weapons are bad?"

And finally, are you claiming that a civilian is a civilian so long as he does not actually wear a uniform or fire a weapon? Does that include the civilian leadership of a belligerent nation? I mean, let's say we fight Unistasia because they declare war on us and blew up an army base. We have nothing against their people, only the leadership. Is it moral to target the president of Unistasia? He's not actively fighting, and he doesn't wear a uniform. But if he were to die, the government would cease hostilities against us. Would it be immoral to bomb his palace? Or would we have to destroy his armies and occupy his country for the war to be conducted justly?

Victor Morton

Let's

try

this

And is there any reason for anybody to be under the impression that it matters whether Osama bin Laden or the Palestinian suicide bombers and terrorists "get to make the same arguments"? As if they're interested in theological forensics?

Victor Morton


Let's

try

it

again

Victor Morton


Something is screwy

or some people

who shouldn't fool

with text formatting

have inserted

italic commands

where "end italic"

< / i > (no spaces)

was required, as

by the end of this post

I will have inserted

20 "end" commands

Victor Morton


I

smell

sabotage


Maclin Horton

Did anybody try opening and then closing italics?

Jim

Try this.

nottoday

Der-T, Your accusation of moral equivalence was pure distortion, especially given that I EXPLICITLY REJECTED one of the supposed equivalences. You have persistently evaded my central point while waxing eloquent on hypotheticals which bear little if any relation to what I wrote. While falsely accusing me of "moral equivalence," you imply by your comparison that dropping a bomb on a munitions factory is exactly the moral equivalent of dropping it on a children's hospital, which is what nuking a city does.

Now you conjure out of thin air and attribute to me some imagined moral distinction between doing an evil act with nuclear weapons and doing the equivalent evil act with conventional ones. This has no basis whatsoever in anything I have written.

You imagine -- again, based on exactly zero things I have actually written -- that I don't know the difference between an act which unintentionally kills civilians, such as a stray bomb, and one which inherently targets them, as is in the case of a nuclear bomb detonated on a city. Or are you yourself unwilling or unable to see the distinction?

It seems clear to me you are arguing with what you imagine me to have said, rather than what I have actually said.

You want moral equivalence? I will posit one. Saying that there were no non-combatants among Nagasaki's crippled grandmothers and infants and housewives and so dropping a bomb on them was licit is precisely the moral equivalent of saying unborn human beings are not persons and therefore it is licit to abort them. Happy?

Jim

Der Tommissar used the < em > tag, not the < i > tag.

DarwinCatholic

Maybe This will help?

DarwinCatholic

Sorry, I guess Jim caught it first... View Source is such a usething thing.

frank sales

Jeff, I guess I don't get why the "kid" you describe is sometimes considered innocent and other times not. If he's fighting you, obviously not, if he's paying taxes to buy bombs to kill you, or he's minister of defence telling the soldiers to fight you, then we're getting greyer. If a whole society mobilizes to kill you, each playing whatever role they can in that effort, in what sense are there innocents, children excepted?

Seamus

"So were the strategic bombing campaigns alwaya immoral?"

Maybe not always, but in some cases, yes. Certainly they were to the extent that they aimed at legitimate military targets (including war factories, docks, etc.), but those directing the campaigns knew that the collateral damage to civilians would be disproportionate. And there's no question that they were immoral to the extent that the "military targets" were just the ostensible justification, while the real purpose was to kill civilians in order to demoralize the population. The latter seems to have been the explanation of the firebombing of Tokyo on March 9-10, 1945, as well as the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings (and possibly the firebombing of Dresden in February).

The fact that there are nuclear warheads involved does not alter the morality of a bombing, except to the extent that it may make the collateral damage more disproportionate, in a case where the noncombantant population was not deliberately targeted. But if you're targeting noncombatants to begin with, then it doesn't make a dime's worth of difference whether you kill them with nukes, with conventional bombs, or with sharp sticks and heavy rocks.

nottoday

To press a point: I agree completely with what Maclin wrote about not passing judgment on the culpability before God of those who made the decision to nuke Japan. However, I keep seeing variations on two arguments here to justify what is unjustifiable:

1. We could simply redefine the word "noncombatant" to exclude the noncombatants we killed. As I said, this is precisely the moral equivalent of redefining the word "person" to exclude the babies we abort.

2. We can set up an imaginary scale of corpses and say the "Nuke 'Em" pile looks to be smaller than the "Invade!" pile and therefore conclude that nuking is the right option. That's a handy argument but for the fact that it is utterly inconsistent with all Catholic moral reasoning and with the revealed truth of God.

I would say that those who continue to press such arguments despite their rather obvious refutations are perhaps the definition of conservative cafeteria Catholics.

The decision was hard and one no one should have to be faced with. We are entitled to show mercy and to not judge too harshly. We are not entitled to pick and choose when we're going to apply the moral law in retroactive justification of the decisions of our forebears.

frank sales

And another thing Jeff, we're not talking about adultery, or stealing, or worshipping of false idols. I think it's fair to say that the morality of war and war-making is a more complicated area, with more ambiguities and shifts in Church teaching through the years. It is the one area where I think Catholic doctrine has not kept up with unprecedented changes in technology over the last 60 years.

Der Tommissar

you imply by your comparison that dropping a bomb on a munitions factory is exactly the moral equivalent of dropping it on a children's hospital, which is what nuking a city does.

In World War II, you really couldn't drop a bomb on either. Even the most accurate bombings had dispersal patterns of several hundreds of yards. The bombs that were dropped on the factory were also dropped on the schoolyard, the neighborhood, and the bar down the street.

I never claimed there were no "non-combatants" at Nagasaki, by a strange turn of events you appear to be doing so, however. I'm assuming you have no problem with the dropping of a conventional bomb on a factory used to produce war materials.

Civilians work in factories.

In order to bomb the factory, you have to intentionally target civilians. Or is it that the civilian casualties from blowing up the factory are an unfortunate consequence? If you say that it was ok to blow up an aircraft factory in Germany then in some cases committing an act that will certainly result in civilian deaths. So in what instances do civilian deaths outweigh the objective achieved?

Is it a matter of size? Is it because the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima caused much to great a blast to destroy a specific target that it was immoral?

I've already stated that insofar as targetting Hiroshima or Nagasaki, not to take out a military target but to demonstrate the power of the atomic bomb, was immoral.

The effect on Hiroshima of the atomic bomb, IIRC, was very similar to a large scale bombing on Dresden. Was the bombing of Dresden as much a violation of the Just War Doctrine?

And of course I'm going to give you hypothetical situations, we're talking about a theory! How else are you going to discuss a theory?

If Hitler didn't wear a uniform during the war, would it have been moral to send a super smart bomb to take out his personal apartment? Could we send a team of commandos into Germany to take him out? Do goverment officials count as civilians? Do partisans and guerillas count as combatants according to the Just War Doctrine? Is conducting a guerilla campaign against an occupier morally permissable?

If we're to assume that a certain act is a violation of a church teaching, where are the limits of that teaching? Obviously, I have more to learn about the Just War Doctrine than you, so please let me know.

And sorry about the tag. I tried closing it in my next post. Didn't seem to do it.

Samuel J. Howard

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum puts it on their website:

"Hiroshima was the political and economic heart of the Chugoku Region and was a vital military base."

A vital military base (and manufacturing center) which was completely put out of action by the atomic bombing. It was a legitimate military target for direct attack and was put out of action by the bombing.

It had not been previously targeted because its several rivers made the industrial and military district a poor incendiary target. (And HE bombing was not strategically effective so in the employment of limited resources incendiary bombing was favored.)

The degree of collateral damage is a question of proportionality. It is there that we can look at the likely numbers of civilian and military casualties of an invasion. Reasonable estimates of those numbers are in the millions.

Therefore, given that the cause was just, the target was legitimate, and the degree of collateral damage was proportional the bombings were morally permissible.

Seamus

"A vital military base (and manufacturing center) which was completely put out of action by the atomic bombing. It was a legitimate military target for direct attack and was put out of action by the bombing."

So if by chance the military base and manufacturing plants had survived the bombing, but 100,000 civilians had still died, we'd have said "Damn, all those civilians killed for nothing"? Of course we wouldn't. We'd have said, "Well, that ought to tell Hirohito we mean business. Too bad we didn't take out the base and the factories while we were at it." The deaths of those civilians was the reason we dropped the bomb.

Lee Penn

Here is what Cardinal Ottaviani wrote about modern war in 1947:

http://www.pust.edu/oikonomia/pages/febb/classica.htm

It is a precursor of the teaching of Vatican II.

Lee

Victor Morton

you imply by your comparison that dropping a bomb on a munitions factory is exactly the moral equivalent of dropping it on a children's hospital, which is what nuking a city does.

That sentence could only be written by someone projecting backwards his knowledge of today's military technology and (implictly at least) assuming that during WW2, there was any such thing as dropping bombs on "factories" or "children's hospitals." Or that, given the technology of WW2, nuking a city attacked children's hospitals any more than did any and every conventional bombing raid (regardless of its size).

frank sales

Nottoday,

How come we can't look at the definition of noncombatant? If we say that in a just war it's moral to kill some people and not others, we have to work at the definitions we're using.

The abortion analogy you use doesn't hold up. The Church has always taught that it is wrong to abort a human life. The definition of what constitutes a human life has developed over the centuries to the point of our current understanding -- a single cell fertilized egg. That definition has evolved. Why is it out of bounds to talk about the definition of a combatant?

DarwinCatholic

While not necessarily ready to declare the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagisaki, for sure it can't be justified the way Frank Sales has:

What is the magic behind the civilian/combatant distinction? If you could end a war by fighting and killing 10,000 troops made up of 18-30 year old men with 5,000 collateral civilian deaths , or alternatively a nursing home of 5,000 retirees (the example assumes a new weapon that couldn't be used for some reason on the troops) why is it so obvious that the moral choice requires more deaths?

And I would unquestionably say that the decision to drop the bombs on essentially civilian targets rather than picking targets of greater military significance was a moral problem. I guess I'm not ready to say that for sure we shouldn't have used the atom bomb at all, but I'm willing to concede that it could have been used more morally.

Something that I'd have to think about a lot more rigorously to figure out if there's a sound moral argument in it is the question of the obligation which war leaders have to end the war as efficiently as possible -- within the bounds of moral law.

Just war theory forbids engaging in a war that cannot possibly achieve its aims. (This is one of the clear ways in which Al Qaida's "war" would fail the test.) It seems like it would also mandate that a war leader act in such a way as to bring the war to a close as quickly as possible. (One of the numerous things wrong with WWI was that after negotiating the armistice, the actual cease fire was actually put off for a number of days in order to come out to a nice round number for the history books.)

Now, given that war (not only modern war, but ancient and medieval as well) invariably involves "collateral damage" it seems that one of the thornier questions is how the war leader is balance the likelihood of ending a war sooner by persuing a given strategy vs. the likelihood of causing more innocent deaths.

Joseph D'Hippolito

Several points:

1. Hiroshima and Nagasaki cannot be discussed only in the historical context of WWII but also in the cultural context of a nation where a militaristic brand of religion prevailed. Bushido, the way of the samurai, pervaded and influenced heavily all elements of Japanese culture. It contributed mightily to Japan's imperialistic, militaristic ethos in the first half of the 20th century.

It is no coincidence that, after experiencing the fruits of that ethos, Japan enshrined pacifism in its constitution. Hiroshima and Nagasaki, perhaps because of their horrific effects, played a vital role in that radical transformation.

2. To what degree are nations responsible for the detrimental affects of their own policies? Think of how God dealt with Egypt. Does anybody seriously believe that God would have continued with the increasingly severe plagues if Pharoah had repented? And were not those plagues a divine judgement on a society that enslaved the innocent?

3. Muslim terrorists, just as the Japanese and Nazis before them, practice total war. They believe it is their religious obligation to committ suicide for "Allah's" greater glory, as they define it. They not only view all "infidels" as acceptable targets, they also view those whom they view as compromised Muslims as targets. To them, the only innocent civilians who exist are those who live in their definition of the "dar al-Islam."

If the eviseration of Japanese and German infrastructure was needed to destroy those societies that advocated "total war," then we must at least contemplate the possibility of using similar methods against Muslim terrorists.

4. No intelligent Catholic should have any respect for anything coming out of the USCCB (the Union of Stupendously Cretinous and Corrupt Bishops). Until they start serioujsly confronting the pervasive problems of moral corruption in their ranks and disciplining their own effectively, they can collectively fornicate themselves.

Then again, they probably do. Or have "specialists" from their chancellories do it for them.

Jeff

Frank:

Yes, let's find a way to "define" the kid as a noncombatant so we can kill him.

That's the definition of dishonesty and rationalization. You can't simply "define" noncombatants out of existence for your convenience. Noncombatants ALWAYS in some sense "support" combatants, don't they? They provide food, they provide shelter, they pay taxes, etc.

So, really, when you get down to it, there ARE no noncombatants, are there? How convenient! Except where you are on the receiving end.

So, we can't criticize Osama bin Laden or the murderers of kids in pizza parlors, can we? If you want to make that argument, they benefit, too? Don't they?

Oh, but their CAUSE is evil, you say? Then don't criticize them as terrorists, which is a criticism of means. Are their means barbaric or not? Is bombing the World Trade Center barbaric because it targeted civilians? Or just bad because they attacked an innocent party?

Because people's ideas of who is innocent differ and their notions of what causes are just--because people are apt to rationalize to support their friends and families and punish there enemies--we have the laws of war which bind us in what we can and cannot do. What, Frank, can we NOT do in war, according to your expansive definition of noncombatant? What WOULD be a crime for us? Or do the ends justify the means?

I still say, No argument has been presented. Just bluster and nonsense. "Well there must have been some factory in there somewhere, right?" So, we destroy the whole city. Hey, why not the whole country? Why not a whole continent? Surely there's a factory there, a bank, a man with a gun, a baby who will grow up to pay taxes. Something. Right? Noncombatants? I suppose theoretically there might be such a thing, but under the circumstances...

Read your catechism, Frank. Crime, crime, crime. Which cries out to Heaven for vengeance. Oh, sorry, that's indecent. They're the ENEMY, what am I saying?

No, I don't RESPECT this "argument." And I dispute your right to make it. That's my point, ultimately. Defending mass murder is itself criminal. But I wouldn't kill you for it!

nottoday
In order to bomb the factory, you have to intentionally target civilians.

No, you have to intentionally target a munitions factory. It's called the principle of double effect and is an important part of just war theory. If all the civilians were somehow miraculously left alive while the building was destroyed, that would leave you happy, whereas the reverse is not true, for instance.

... So in what instances do civilian deaths outweigh the objective achieved?

Just war theory does contain a question of proportion, but that is a secondary concern in this case, where a civilian populace and infrastructure in the form of an entire city was intentionally targeted. That is intrinsically evil and never licit.

Is it a matter of size? Is it because the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima caused much to great a blast to destroy a specific target that it was immoral?

... The effect on Hiroshima of the atomic bomb, IIRC, was very similar to a large scale bombing on Dresden. Was the bombing of Dresden as much a violation of the Just War Doctrine?

A specific target was destroyed - a city. That is illicit, whether it was done by firebombing as in Dreden or by atomic weapons. Indiscriminately destroying a city is always wrong whether it is done with one bomb or 1,000.

And of course I'm going to give you hypothetical situations, we're talking about a theory! How else are you going to discuss a theory?

A. Probing questions based on hypotheticals go down much better if also accompanied by reckoning with the central point made by the person you are questioning.

B. We are not primarily discussing a theory, we are discussing a past action with implications for future ones (see recent comments by political figures on bombing Mecca). As I understand it, what's theoretical about just war theory is justifying war. It is not theoretical that the moral law applies in war as in every other part of life. It is revealed truth.

If Hitler didn't wear a uniform during the war, would it have been moral to send a super smart bomb to take out his personal apartment?

That's the kind of distortion I'm talking about. You derive this from what I wrote because I mentioned soldiers wearing uniforms. You don't think that's stretching things a bit?

If we're to assume that a certain act is a violation of a church teaching, where are the limits of that teaching? Obviously, I have more to learn about the Just War Doctrine than you, so please let me know.

Limits of the teaching? Well, others have quoted direct denunciation of the kind of act in questionfrom a constitution promulgated by an ecunemical council of the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church. That is about as authoritative as it gets, from a limits standpoint.

From the standpoint of faith seeking understanding, I recommend the relevant passages in the Catechism. Sections 2302 to 2330, with attention to the footnotes and cross-references, accompanied by a prayer for a pure heart in discerning God's truth (by which I mean we all should pray for this, not just you specifically), are a good starting point.

I'm not an expert on just war theory, either, by the way. It's complicated and politicized. As in all things, it is our nature to emphasize the parts which accord with the conclusions we wish to reach and minimize the ones which suggest other conclusions.

But I don't think the teaching is unclear as it relates to the two common pro-nuking-Japan arguments being presented here.

Richard

Interesting thread.

My grandfather fought under Krueger in the Philippines. To his dying day he was convinced that the Bomb ensured that he would live to see his 30th birthday.

A lot of other soldiers felt the same way.

Growing familiarity with the Church's moral theology on this subject has made clear to me the problematic nature (at the least) of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But I still get a bit tetchy at the kneejerk tendencies to judge Truman et al's choice without having walked a mile in their mocassins. The decision was made not only with a lack of real information about the effects of the Bomb, but also in light of Okinawa and appalling projected casualty figures for Olympic/Majestic (the planned Nov. 1945 invasion of southern Kyushu) and Coronet (the March 1946 plan for invading central Honshu) based on what we experienced there.

Today no American president would make Truman's decision, I think, and rightly so. At best it might have been dropped on a purely military target like the naval base at Kobe, all the sundry arguments about totally militarized societies in the Axis notwithstanding. Certainly that's what I wished had been done versus what was actually done.

Because the larger issue still remains: that the mass fire-bombings of Japanese and German cities are no more justifiable, really, than Hiroshima. We were killing civilians - and that is what they were in many cases regardless of whether they were wearing Landswehr or auxilliary uniforms - in mass numbers long before August 1945. And it's chilling to realize how quickly a nation which had a strong tradition of respecting noncombatants in wartime sank to such excesses.

Consider also that some figures in the navy and army air forces were arguing instead to starve out the Japanese rather than invade. Given how close we now know Japan came in the fall of 1945 to a famine of unprecedented proportions as a result of our systematic destruction of the railroad network, interisland shipping and the Korean rice ferries, it's sobering to realize how much barbarity had come to be commonplace in the counsels of total war.

Even at the tables of the "good guys."

Frank Sales

Jeff,
"Bluster and Nonsense" should have been the title of your post. Your problem is that you confuse thinking with rationalization. "I dispute your right to make it" indeed!

I can't really respond to each non-sequitur but a few points:

1. We don't have rules of war to bind people who are mistaken about the righteousness of their cause. If the World Trade Centre was full of Zionists plotting the rape, murder and enslavement of the Muslim world as the terrorists suggest, then sure, their act was morally defensible. The act was evil because the victims were inarguably innocent and non-combatants.

2. You ask what would be a crime. It would have been a crime if there was no military purpose to the atomic bombings. There was though, because you see it ended the war. It would be a crime if we bombed 10 cities when only two bombs had to be dropped to achieve the desired end.

3. You ask about the shoe being on the other foot. Yes, if I actively supported efforts to subjugate, enslave, and murder the populations of other nations, I would consider myself a fair target of those nations. Since I don't, I consider people who try to kill me terrorists.

Erich Schwarz

Would the individuals refusing to even consider "consequentialist" morality please explain to us what their plan would have been for getting any kind of surrender out of Japan -- unconditional or not -- in 1945 that did not involve Operations Olympic and Coronet?

And if you don't know what Olympic and Coronet were, would you individuals please look them up?

Thank you very much in advance.

Victor Morton

If the World Trade Centre was full of Zionists plotting the rape, murder and enslavement of the Muslim world as the terrorists suggest

No, no, no, no, no ...

The Israeli Zionists plotting the rape, murder and enslavement of the Muslim world were all evacuated from the WTC because the Perfidious Jews had advance warning of the attack.

nottoday

Actually, Frank, Jeff had it pretty much right. Here again you argue based on the justness of the cause, the ends, when what is in question is the means. Gaudium et Spes reads, "Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation." You can read it in section 2314 of your Catechism.

nottoday

Erich,

a) On what basis do you rule out Olympic and Coronet?

b) The Catechism of the Catholic Church states (1789) that one may never do evil that good may result. It calls that a rule that applies in every moral choice. Intentionally targeting a civilian population is either intrinsically evil or it is not. The Church (and human reason and the natural law) say that it is, as do those of us who reject consequentialist morality in this case. Why is it incumbent upon those of us who recognize this fact to provide a happy outcome to an evil situation we did not create?

Jeff

NOW we're getting somewhere. There are limits on war and they apply to us, as well as to other people. They apply to people who are fighting to save their lives from brutes and not just to the brutes. Sometimes they mean that MORE lives will be lost. Sometimes they mean you lose and lose everything. Sometimes they mean you die and deliver your loved ones into the hands of evil.

We can understand and sympathize with the temptation to do otherwise, of course. We can understand, but not justify. And we have to apply the same rules to ourselves that we apply to our enemies; and we have to allow them to apply the same rules to us that we apply to them.

We were right to be afraid of a world ruled by Nazis, Japanese Imperialists and Communists. We were right to resist it with all our strength. But we used wicked tools to achieve that great end and look what came of it in the end. We say, World Trade Center and they say Hiroshima. We say Pizza Parlor in Jerusalem and they say Dresden. And there is only one answer: We repent. We would not do the same today. Or would we?

If I were in Truman's shoes, might I have authorized nuclear bombs? I might have. I can understand why he did. But it was simply WRONG. And no amount of self-justification or ends-based moral analysis or calculi of comparative deaths can change that. Explanations and appeals for sympathy are fine. Excuses and justifications won't wash.

Jeff

Okay, Frank, I'm going to quit arguing with you. But here is what I would ask. I want to submit my mind and judgment to the Church and I assume you want to do the same. I want to do that regardless of where it leads me, even if I have to condemn actions of my country, which I love.

So, take a look at the statements in the Catechism and the documents of the Council referenced in the thread. And see what you come out with. And see how many orthodox Catholic moral theologians or ethicists--faithful ones, mind--you can find that agree with you. I bet you can't find even one who will justify Hiroshima.

If you find what I think you'll find, I think you'll see you need to let go of this one. That's hard to do, to give up old loyalties and verities that one has lived by for years.

Good luck and God bless.

Mike Petrik

nottoday,
I think that section 2314 uses the word "inhabitants" to describe "innocents" in contradistinction to the war's participants. The question being debated is whether all members of a "civilian" population can always be presumptively regarded as innocents. I'm inclined to the view that such should be the case, but to equate the civilians in the WTC to those supporting the declared and aggressive war effort in the munitions plants of Hiroshima, as I believe was the case in an earlier post on this thread, is absurd.
I would also add that there is no question that our increasingly callous understanding of the rules of engagement with Japan was a direct response to their behavior, which, in general, was far worse than the Nazis. Japan interpreted anything less than total warfare on our part as weakness and as signaling a lack of will. Of course, none of this excuses the deliberate targeting of civilans, but if such targeting occured -- which is debatable notwithstanding Seamus's earlier assertion to the contrary -- it is certainly explainable.

Jeff

Erich:

I think you misunderstand. Suppose, let's just suppose, that we couldn't get Japan to surrender in any other way. How does that change the argument?

Your argument is "Whatever it takes to win." Any well-catechized Catholic child can tell you that's not allowable. How can I consider "consquentialist ethics"? I'm a Catholic. We don't believe in that.

And anyway, it's not logical. Where do you stop? What's the end result? What end can there possibly be that can justify any means?

This is fundamental to morality. You have to begin by realizing there are some things you cannot do regardless of the consequences. Without that there is no ethics and no morality.

So you have to BEGIN with the understanding that there might be situations in which a brutal enemy overcomes you because your hands are tied. That's where you START. Otherwise, there's nothing to talk about in the end, just a process of justifications for whatever actions are "necessary" to achieve your goals.

Easy for me to say, I know. I'm a pampered modern American living in safety paid for in part with the lives of the soldiers who fought and died--and the efforts of the many others who maybe WOULD have died had the atom bombs not been dropped. I get that. But what I'm saying is true nevertheless.

And it's important because it's not at all beyond the conceivable that we will be faced with similar choices within our lifetimes. We get hit with atomic weapons or a dreadful virus that kills millions. We see them dancing in the streets. They hate us and want to bring us low. Their entire religion, their whole society seems dedicated to working for our destruction. Even the young ones will grow up to kill and kill and kill us. What choice will we have but to exterminate them? How else can we fend them off? They've left us no choice.

I would feel that way too, I KNOW I would. But we CAN'T. It's wicked. God loves them. He died for them, too. The Kingdom of Heaven is the End of Ends. And we get there by saying, Thy Will be done.

Jeff

Mike:

Do you really think that virtually the entire city of Hiroshima was making munitions? I suppose if you were right, you might have cause to destroy the city. Here's my challenge: Show me specifics. That there may have been munitions plants in Hiroshima is true. That the whole city was working in them is not. You can target the plants. You can target the soldiers. You can't target everyone just because they are all in some generalized sense, "involved."

You can't engage in mass, indiscriminate killing. If Hiroshima is not mass indiscriminate killing, what on earth is?

What do you say to Osama and Co.? His followers believe that America is targeting and killing people and in war to destroy Islam and Muslims. (Fine, he's wrong and a vicious ass to boot. That's irrelevant.) It's our great wealth and the fabric of our society that supports the mighty military engine. The money is generated by business and finance centered in New York. Shut it down! Attack the war effort at the root. Go for the gold, the heart of the financial empire and the heart of the military empire--the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Why is going after the World Trade Center worse than going after supply trains feeding soldiers, or communication posts and infrastructure that aids the military effort?

Tell them why they are wrong and defend Hiroshima at the same time. Don't just say, "It's absurd." Again I say it, That's not an argument.

Der Tommissar

That's the kind of distortion I'm talking about. You derive this from what I wrote because I mentioned soldiers wearing uniforms. You don't think that's stretching things a bit?

Why? How am I to understand who is a soldier, and who is a civilian? If we are to avoid deliberately targetting civilians, how are we to conclude who is a civilian? We can't use the rationale of "killing one to save one million", we both agree that is fundamentally immoral. Since we are bound to not indiscrimantely target non-combatants, is a civlian goverment considered that? Can you target an individual in war? What if, instead of a member of the government, we're talking about a Werner Von Braun? Could he be killed, in order to prevent even worse weapons of war being invented and used against you?

I understand we're talking about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but it just seemed all of your arguments revolved around the use of an atomic bomb. Obviously you were basing your reasoning on more than just the type of weapon used, which I had hoped.

Limits of the teaching?

Is limits to the applicability of the teaching a better phrase? Or maybe, what is condoned and what is not condoned under the doctrine of Just Warfare? That was probably a vague way of saying what I was trying to say.

frank sales

In 1995 George Weigel wrote: "What Harry Truman did in August 1945 was, strictly speaking, unjustifiable in classic moral terms. But it was understandable, and it was forgivable."

I've stopped arguing, and concede Jeff's point as to the unity of Catholic thought on the bombings. I wonder if a Catholic president could ever be elected who promised that as commander in chief he would sacrifice the lives of a million of his soldiers rather than repeating the moral error of Truman.

David

The late John Paul II gave a speech at Hiroshima. Here's a link to the Italian version.

http://tinyurl.com/9rc8a

I don't know if an English version is online.

nottoday
I think that section 2314 uses the word "inhabitants" to describe "innocents" in contradistinction to the war's participants. The question being debated is whether all members of a "civilian" population can always be presumptively regarded as innocents.

That's an interesting conjecture but one with no evident support in the text itself. That's the charitable way to put it.

The full context of the statement from GS, from which the text in the Catechism is derived, condemns "total war" immediately before the passage cited, leading one to believe the Fathers of the Council were familiar with the concept of total war and yet did not discriminate among "inhabitants," which implicitly does presume they are innocents.

Indeed, the proximity of the two statements suggests that the Fathers had precisely the events in 1940s Japan in mind when they wrote this passage. I note, too, that the English translation of GS posted at the Vatican Web site uses the word "population," which seems even more to presume exactly what you are unsure about. The phrase reads: "entire cities of (sic - I assume it's "or") extensive areas along with their population." I think you really have to pervert the text to make it say what you want to say. Strangely, I didn't find the official Latin text on the site -- not that my Latin would be adequate for a more definite reading anyway.

I'm inclined to the view that such should be the case, but to equate the civilians in the WTC to those supporting the declared and aggressive war effort in the munitions plants of Hiroshima, as I believe was the case in an earlier post on this thread, is absurd.

Read more closely. I said that some of the 9/11 murderers claimed there were no innocents in the World Trade Center, in a way weirdly analagous to the way some folks here are claiming there were no non-combatants in Hiroshima. To say that both views are incorrect is not in any way to say that office workers in the WTC are just the same as munitions workers in Nazi Germany. It is not even to say that purveyors of the two mistaken views are equally mistaken. It says just what it says. Perhaps it is naive but one might think fellow Catholics obligated to adopt the most charitable understanding of what someone says might, um, do that.

I would also add that there is no question that our increasingly callous understanding of the rules of engagement with Japan was a direct response to their behavior, which, in general, was far worse than the Nazis. Japan interpreted anything less than total warfare on our part as weakness and as signaling a lack of will. Of course, none of this excuses the deliberate targeting of civilans, but if such targeting occured -- which is debatable notwithstanding Seamus's earlier assertion to the contrary -- it is certainly explainable.

You're absolutely right that such considerations don't excuse deliberate targeting of civilians. Neither does the fact that some of our Islamic terrorist enemies view "weakness" much the same way justify ignoring the moral law in that conflict.

How you can find debatable the contention that aiming two city-caliber weapons (if you will) at two cities intentionally targets two cities is beyond me, though.

Anyway, I've got to leave it there for today.

Victor Morton

I wonder if a Catholic president could ever be elected who promised that as commander in chief he would sacrifice the lives of a million of his soldiers rather than repeating the moral error of Truman.

He cannot (be elected that is). And the Know-Nothings are right.

Chris Sullivan

I think Bishop Skylstad has it exactly right. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are morally equivalent to terrorist attacks.

Does anyone think that the atomic bombing didn't terrorise thousands of innocent civilians ?

Does anyone think that those who ordered the bombings didn't know they would terrorise innocent civilians ?

That's what terrorism is - the deliberate attempt to terrorise innocents.

God Bless

Sydney Carton

Jeff: "Tell them why they are wrong and defend Hiroshima at the same time."

Ok, I'll try and play Devil's Advocate here.

1. There was a declared war between Japan and the United States. America was not at war with anyone at the time of 9/11. True, al Qaeda declared war on America in 1998, but they are an illegal organization.

2. The declared end of bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki was to end the war. The attack on the WTC and the Pentagon was to START a war.

3. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was designed to minimize the cost of human life, by saving soldiers & civilians from the horror of a ground invasion of mainland Japan, in which a million or more people would surely die. The attacks of 9/11 were designed to MAXIMIZE casualties: at 9:00 in the morning when the Towers were thought to be full, resulting in the hoped-for deaths of over 50,000 people.

4. Al Qaeda's attacks necessarily put innocent people in the zone of danger: the innocent people on the planes. By contrast, the American attacks were conducted by soldiers and did not use civilians as cover.

5. The attack on Hiroshima can be seen as a proportionate attack, in comparison to the mainland invasion of Japan which would've been more deadly and dangerous to civilians. As opposed to ravaging ALL of Japan in a mainland invasion, only 2 cities were A-bombed. By contrast, the attack on the WTC and Pentagon was unprovoked, and designed to be disproportionate.

6. Hiroshima was bombed first in an attempt to get Japan to surrender. With no response, Nagasaki was bombed. The delayed action of the second attack was designed with the goal in mind of ending the war (and not merely to kill indiscrinately, else they would've been used simultaneously). By contrast, al Qaeda engaged in simultaneous attacks.

This Devil's Advocacy isn't necessarily my own opinion, though frankly I think that the differences between the 2 kinds of attacks are obvious.

Liam

Also, the primary purpose of the bombs was not the destruction of munitions or specific military support sites, but intentionally to terrorize the government through terrorizing the people. That is in the record. And it cannot in any way be squared as an objective matter with consistent Church teaching.

The subjective guilt of those responsible is a distinct matter.

Chris Sullivan

Sydney,

I don't think anyone doubts that U.S. political and military leaders, with their tradition of honour in war, Christian moral principles, democratic restraints, and political and military checks and balances are at all comparable to Al Qaeda.

But, being in possesion this heritage, and their superior military position, isn't there a greater incumbent responsibility to exercise it more wisely and compassionately ?

"To whom much has been given, much is expected".

God Bless

Sydney Carton

Chris,

Of course that's true. But it has little to do with the things I listed.

Donald R. McClarey

"Also, the primary purpose of the bombs was not the destruction of munitions or specific military support sites, but intentionally to terrorize the government through terrorizing the people. That is in the record. And it cannot in any way be squared as an objective matter with consistent Church teaching."

Then besieging cities during the Middle Ages, as papal and crusader armies would routinely do, was also against Church teaching since, without a doubt, noncombatants would starve to death unless the city was swiftly surrendered? If this was against Church teaching theologians and popes were rather quiet on the subject.

Maureen

Actually, a large percentage of Japanese war industries did take place in small shops in residential areas. These were the small contractors and machinists, of course, not the huge arms manufacturers like Mitsubishi. (At least, until decentralization and camouflage started, and some factory processes were moved into civilian areas.) This is not an obscure fact.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were both centers of war production. They were thus both legitimate targets of war. This is not an obscure fact.

If Germany or Japan had ever been able to fly over and A-bomb Detroit, Toledo, and Dayton, we also would have had no room to complain when civilians were killed, because the war factories in all those areas were surrounded by civilian neighborhoods. (And NCR, the US center of Ultra-machine decryption, was and is surrounded by a hospital, a Catholic church, and a Catholic university and Marian Brothers convent as well.)

And actually, the Germans theoretically could have bombed our 14 dams and flooded the entire Miami Valley, too (if they waited till a particularly rainy time), because dams are also legitimate targets of war. And if they wanted to bomb the railroads carrying munitions and food -- well, food's just as much a war materiel as bombs are.

Honestly, you'd think people didn't know the smallest thing about the rules of war and the rules of just war. War is not nice. Even without subscribing to a doctrine of total war (which I don't), civilians are going to suffer and civilians are going to get killed.

This is why it's called "war" instead of "voluntary full-contact melee arena combat to the death".

Any truly professional military and the civilians who govern them are going to strive to minimize civilian deaths by following the rules and exercising mercy. But it's not mercy to prolong a war and endanger your own men. And if a beaten enemy won't acknowledge it's beaten (Japan's government should have surrendered when it started starving its people, but it fought on for years after that point!) and continues to attack, then the just military must do what it can justly do to get that enemy to surrender before it kills all of its own and a bunch of yours.

Nowadays we have more options than they did. But frankly, there aren't any pretty options in war. The recently developed non-lethal weapons seem far worse from a just war standpoint than getting shot or blown up, frankly. (Though actually being left alive to complain about incredible pain, huge fits of vomiting/diarrhea, or a host of bizarre drug reactions is certainly a bonus.) And I devoutly hope that nobody will ever use atomics again; and I'd be deliriously happy if nobody ever used a rifle or a bomb or even a good throwing rock. But the chances of that happening are not great, until Jesus comes again. And until then, we have to deal with war as it is.

That doesn't include killing babies so they won't grow up to be soldiers -- that's consequentialism, and wicked -- but it does include waging war with an eye to the government morale reaction caused by an attack by a secret weapon, which is only sensible. And worked, when by the government people's own admission, nothing else would.

(Though if that capture-the-Emperor coup'd worked and the Emperor's surrender message had been destroyed -- and it did almost work -- the Japanese wouldn't have stopped, because the coup only started because certain officer loons still weren't convinced.)

Der Tommissar

"voluntary full-contact melee arena combat to the death"

Isn't that on ESPN 8, "The Ocho"?

Zippy

"I wonder if a Catholic president could ever be elected who promised that as commander in chief he would sacrifice the lives of a million of his soldiers rather than repeating the moral error of Truman."

"He cannot (be elected that is). And the Know-Nothings are right."

If the American people are incapable of electing an orthodox Catholic president then that implies, as a moral matter, that the American people must change; and certainly putative orthodox Catholic presidential candidates must not change.

Adopting an evil policy in order to get elected, under the auspices of doing good once elected, is just another way of doing evil in the pursuit of the good. I have little doubt that many of the inhabitents of Hell believe quite sincerely that they were doing the evil things they did in the pursuit of a greater good.

Doing the right thing can no doubt often make one feel as though one's hands were tied; or nailed to a tree, perhaps.

midwestmind

I just finished reading _Silence_, because of the enthusiastic endorsement of many on this blog. So it struck me as a haunting afterword to the novel itself to have these words e-mailed to me this morning:

"Now it turned out, in the mystery of good and evil, that St. Mary’s Cathedral was one of the landmarks that the Bock’s Car bombardier had been briefed on, and looking through his bomb site over Nagasaki that day, he identified the cathedral and ordered the drop.

"At 11:02 am, Nagasaki Christianity was carbonized - then vaporized - in a scorching, radioactive fireball. And so the persecuted,, vibrant, faithful, surviving center of Japanese Christianity became ground zero.

"And what the Japanese Imperial government could not do in over 200 years of persecution, American Christians did in 9 seconds. The entire worshipping community of Nagasaki was wiped out.

"The above true (and unwelcome) story should stimulate discussion among those who claim to be disciples of Jesus."

Full article is at: http://www.catholicpeacefellowship.org/nextpage.asp?m=2366

I post it to reiterate a point that "b" made very early in this thread.

Thanks also to commenters on this thread for highly intelligent discussion conducted with a commendable degree of civility, given the topic.

Victor Morton

If [medieval siege] was against Church teaching theologians and popes were rather quiet on the subject.

Yes.

Though on the other side of the equation, one must mention the longbow, condemned by the Church when it was introduced. Curiously, such far-more-indiscriminate weapons as ... um ... guns have escaped condemnation.

The Church and the particulars of military strategy have not been on speaking terms for a very long time.

Der Tommissar

"Now it turned out, in the mystery of good and evil, that St. Mary’s Cathedral was one of the landmarks that the Bock’s Car bombardier had been briefed on, and looking through his bomb site over Nagasaki that day, he identified the cathedral and ordered the drop.

"At 11:02 am, Nagasaki Christianity was carbonized - then vaporized - in a scorching, radioactive fireball. And so the persecuted,, vibrant, faithful, surviving center of Japanese Christianity became ground zero.

"And what the Japanese Imperial government could not do in over 200 years of persecution, American Christians did in 9 seconds. The entire worshipping community of Nagasaki was wiped out.

So if they were all Buddhists, what? Rock on, bomb 'em back into the Stone Age?

So the balance of WWII is we killed a bunch of Christians in Japan, and saved a ton of Jews in Europe.

I mean, I'm an evil Traditionalist and I can't even justify how folks in Nagasaki being Catholic or some other kind of Christian makes their deaths worse.

Mike Petrik

Jeff,
As I explained, I am inclined to agree that we cannot assume that all civilians are combatants and therefore legitimate targets. Whether one is a legitimate target matters, however, which is why the analysis of who is a combatant matters. I submit that determining whether a Japanese civilian was a combatant in 1945 is a somewhat more difficult question than you suggest given Japanese society at the time. Moreover, the facts do matter. There is a difference between pushing an old lady out of the path of an oncoming train versus pushing her into the path of an oncoming train, notwithstanding the fact that both are instances of old lady pushing. The fact that both types of pushers may, for whatever reason, subjectively feel the same morally doesn't make it so. We were correct in seeing the Japanese as aggressors and Muslim extremists are wrong in seeing us as aggressors. I submit that distinction does matter.

nottoday,
My "conjecture" is sensible insomuch as the word "inhabitant" must mean something, and if it meant "combatants" it would seem to fail the test of logic. If you read my post you will see that I carefully avoided attributing the moral equivilance argument to you, since I was aware you did not make it. I'm sorry if my care in this respect was inadequate.
Finally, what I was trying to describe as "debatable" was Seamus's earlier assertion that the real purpose of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was precisely to kill civilians. I think that contention is debatable.

Donald R. McClarey

"The Church and the particulars of military strategy have not been on speaking terms for a very long time."

You are correct Victor, perhaps the final breach was the fall of the Papal States under Pio Nono. After Mother Church no longer had a terrestrial kingdom to guard, Church teaching on war and peace was free to "develop" in a more utopian direction. Whether it will continue in that direction is a question that time will answer.

Zippy

I've seen it claimed that the Church did condemn the rifle. I suspect that, as with the crossbow, some statements were made at some point and that for polemical reasons the canonical status and details of of those statements have been left obscure by those who bring them up obliquely in discussions like these.

But surely no one is suggesting that the crossbow -qua- crossbow or atom bomb -qua- atom bomb are objects of the Church's always-and-everywhere moral condemnation, binding on all of the faithful. I have little doubt that using an atom bomb to mine minerals from the asteroid field would be as licit as using a crossbow to bring home some venison.

Consequentialism is an object of the Church's always-and-everywhere moral condemnation, binding on all the faithful, though.

Victor Morton

Dude, I am only responding to show utterly out of your league you are on this topic. The condemnation is Canon 29 of the Second Lateran Council. It reads:


29. We prohibit under anathema that murderous art of crossbowmen and archers, which is hateful to God, to be employed against Christians and Catholics from now on.

Zippy

Touche. I suppose it is still licit (depending on object and circumstances) to use crossbows against the Communists or the Moors though.

But not under a consequentialist justification.

Zhou

If anyone is interested, this is what the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan wrote on the 60th Anniversary (Japanese).
English (PDF)

Chris Sullivan

Zippy,

It looks like Lateran 2 just torpedoed the Just War !

God Bless

frank sales

Excellent, Victor, although you did say the longbow, not crossbow, was proscribed :)

Interesting that you quote canonical law enunciated under the Second Lateran Council. I'm way out of my depth here, but is that roughly the equivalent to the oft quoted section of Gaudium et Spes referred to throughout this thread and cited in the Catechism, in terms of authoritative teaching?

Mike Petrik, you got it right on the nut in analysing legitimate targets and combatants.

And I think that the broad agreement that Truman's decision was "understandable" or "forgivable" or "I might have done the same" is an admission that the pure moral theologian posters understand that these industrial cities, integral to the war effort, feeding the machine that we were at war with, was a target different in kind from say, a roomful of Japanese babies, Buddhist or Christian.

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