The Electric Commentary

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

A-Bombs and War Crimes

There is an interesting discussion going on over at Liberty and Power about whether the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki should be considered war crimes. David T Beito asserts that several defendants were prosecuted [at Nuremberg] for crimes against humanity and war crimes which included "wantonly, destroying cities, towns and villages beyond any justification of military necessity." The bombing at both Nagasaki and Hiroshima would certainly seem to clearly qualify as crimes under this standard.

If you ask me, they most certainly would not qualify as crimes under this standard. I think the key language here is "of military necessity." We were at war with a people whose culture made them prefer death in battle to life, much like the enemies in the war we are currently fighting. The Japanese believed in on, an unfullfillable obligation and they did their best to fulfill it anyway. The casualty rates on Iwo Jima and Okinawa were proof of this.

There were also 100,000 American POWs in Japanese camps who were being killed at a rate of 30% compared with 4% in the German POW camps. On top of this, American intelligence had intercepted a general order issued by Imperial high command to "dispose" of all POW and enemy civilian detainees "without a trace" if and as soon as an Allied invasion was imminent near a theater of operation.

The Japanese believed that there was a certain hierarchy in the world and they sat at the top. To defeat them we would have to convince them that they did not. Once that occurred, they would accept their place in the world. This is why the emperor was left in power but was humanized when viewed in public next to the towering form of General McArthur.

The atomic bombs did not kill any more people than the conventional bombings of Tokyo and Dresden, Germany in the same year. They are, however, more heavily criticized because of the destructive power delivered in one fell swoop. It was because of this massive power in one blow that the US was able to convince a warrior culture that they had overestimated their place in the world's hierarchy. It is because of the bombs that the war ended when it did. They were necessary to save the lives of countless soldiers that would be lost in the alternative invasion. These soldiers may have included my grandfather. That means that my life may have been saved by the atomic bombs, which means that this blog would not be here if not for Truman's decision.

More on the bombs here. Also, this book is an excellent look at the role of Japanese culture in WWII.

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