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Via Media


A question of emphasis?

posted by awelborn

The AP story that’s running on the bishops’ letter to the Japanese bishops on the anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki implies that the bishop is writing that the dropping of the bomb was the equivalent to a contemporary terrorist act. "U-S bishop compares atomic bombing of Hiroshima to terrorism today " is the headline running on the story. Also: "Bishop: Bombing Hiroshima, Nagasaki Same As Terrorism"

However, when I read the actual entire text of the letter, I got a slightly different vibe:

At this time of remembrance, we solemnly recall the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These bombings, like other acts of total war in that conflict, brought indiscriminate destruction and death to civilians and soldiers alike. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are permanent reminders to the entire human family of the grave consequences of total war.

No matter how noble the ends of a war may be, they cannot justify employing means or weapons that fail to discriminate between noncombatants and combatants. As the Second Vatican Council declared, “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.” (Gaudium et Spes, no. 80)

In our day, the threat of global nuclear war may have receded, only to be replaced by the prospect of nuclear terrorism. Terrorist attacks on innocent civilians are a crime against God and humanity and merit the same unequivocal condemnation of all acts that fail to discriminate between combatants and noncombatants.

The slightly different vibe I get from that is a sense that the bishop is saying, "If you condemn the dropping of the bomb, you must, logically, condemn all terrorism as well." Or am I too nuanced for my own good?

Maclin Horton has a post:

We must face, and take responsibility for, the simple fact that what we did at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was wrong. I call this a “simple” fact fully aware that not everyone grants its status as fact, much less that it is simple. The simplicity to which I refer is not that of the historical decision, which was indeed complex, but of 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. And if it is not wrong, then our argument with, say, Osama bin-Laden becomes a question of who struck first and who had the greater provocation; that is, we have no principled argument against his methods.

I am not saying that the circumstances surrounding the decision to use the atomic bomb were such that the right decision should have been easy.

Please read the entire post – I don’t do it justice by just excerpting this chunk – he precedes this with much caution about judging the past, and hindsight.



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Jeff

posted August 4, 2005 at 12:31 am


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.



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Stewie

posted August 4, 2005 at 2:09 am


“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.



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Donald R. McClarey

posted August 4, 2005 at 5:38 am


No Pearl Harbor, no Hiroshima.



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Donald R. McClarey

posted August 4, 2005 at 6:00 am


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.”



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Jeff (another one!)

posted August 4, 2005 at 6:21 am


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.



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fidens

posted August 4, 2005 at 7:28 am


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.



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Truth seeker

posted August 4, 2005 at 7:39 am


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?).



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Maureen

posted August 4, 2005 at 8:17 am


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.



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frank sales

posted August 4, 2005 at 8:42 am


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.



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Samuel J. Howard

posted August 4, 2005 at 8:45 am


“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.



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David

posted August 4, 2005 at 8:46 am


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



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David

posted August 4, 2005 at 8:57 am


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



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David

posted August 4, 2005 at 8:57 am


crimes (my emphasis)



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dcs

posted August 4, 2005 at 9:25 am


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.



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m.g.

posted August 4, 2005 at 9:27 am


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?



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Seamus

posted August 4, 2005 at 9:32 am


“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.)



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Seamus

posted August 4, 2005 at 9:38 am


“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…”



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b

posted August 4, 2005 at 9:41 am


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.



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Julia

posted August 4, 2005 at 9:49 am


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.



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Seamus

posted August 4, 2005 at 9:58 am


“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).



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Der Tommissar

posted August 4, 2005 at 10:10 am


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.



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Jeff

posted August 4, 2005 at 10:16 am


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.



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Der Tommissar

posted August 4, 2005 at 10:23 am


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?



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 4, 2005 at 10:42 am


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.



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nottoday

posted August 4, 2005 at 10:52 am


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.



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Seamus

posted August 4, 2005 at 11:05 am


“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.)



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Kevin Jones

posted August 4, 2005 at 11:23 am


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.



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Sydney Carton

posted August 4, 2005 at 11:29 am


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.



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Sydney Carton

posted August 4, 2005 at 11:32 am


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?



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Jeff

posted August 4, 2005 at 11:34 am


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.



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Der Tommissar

posted August 4, 2005 at 11:36 am


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?



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Anna

posted August 4, 2005 at 11:36 am


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.



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nottoday

posted August 4, 2005 at 11:40 am


End ‘em?



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nottoday

posted August 4, 2005 at 11:41 am


End ‘em?



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nottoday

posted August 4, 2005 at 11:46 am


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.



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Maclin Horton

posted August 4, 2005 at 11:55 am


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.



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Jim

posted August 4, 2005 at 12:12 pm


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.



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frank sales

posted August 4, 2005 at 12:12 pm


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?



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Jeff

posted August 4, 2005 at 12:23 pm


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.



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Der Tommissar

posted August 4, 2005 at 12:29 pm


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?



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Victor Morton

posted August 4, 2005 at 12:34 pm


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?



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Victor Morton

posted August 4, 2005 at 12:35 pm


Let’s
try
it
again



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Victor Morton

posted August 4, 2005 at 12:39 pm


Something is screwy
or some people
who shouldn’t fool
with text formatting
have inserted
italic commands
where “end italic”
(no spaces)
was required, as
by the end of this post
I will have inserted
20 “end” commands



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Victor Morton

posted August 4, 2005 at 12:42 pm


I
smell
sabotage



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Maclin Horton

posted August 4, 2005 at 12:55 pm


Did anybody try opening and then closing italics?



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Jim

posted August 4, 2005 at 12:58 pm


Try this.



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nottoday

posted August 4, 2005 at 12:59 pm


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?



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Jim

posted August 4, 2005 at 1:00 pm


Der Tommissar used the tag, not the tag.



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 4, 2005 at 1:01 pm


Maybe This will help?



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 4, 2005 at 1:02 pm


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



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frank sales

posted August 4, 2005 at 1:03 pm


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?



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Seamus

posted August 4, 2005 at 1:09 pm


“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.



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nottoday

posted August 4, 2005 at 1:13 pm


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.



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frank sales

posted August 4, 2005 at 1:14 pm


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.



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Der Tommissar

posted August 4, 2005 at 1:15 pm


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.



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Samuel J. Howard

posted August 4, 2005 at 1:17 pm


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.



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Seamus

posted August 4, 2005 at 1:27 pm


“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.



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Lee Penn

posted August 4, 2005 at 1:27 pm


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



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Victor Morton

posted August 4, 2005 at 1:27 pm


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).



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frank sales

posted August 4, 2005 at 1:28 pm


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?



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 4, 2005 at 1:34 pm


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.



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Joseph D'Hippolito

posted August 4, 2005 at 1:43 pm


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.



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Jeff

posted August 4, 2005 at 1:53 pm


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!



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nottoday

posted August 4, 2005 at 1:54 pm


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.



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Richard

posted August 4, 2005 at 2:36 pm


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.”



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Frank Sales

posted August 4, 2005 at 2:42 pm


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.



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Erich Schwarz

posted August 4, 2005 at 2:44 pm


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.



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Victor Morton

posted August 4, 2005 at 2:46 pm


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.



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nottoday

posted August 4, 2005 at 2:47 pm


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.



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nottoday

posted August 4, 2005 at 2:55 pm


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?



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Jeff

posted August 4, 2005 at 2:56 pm


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.



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Jeff

posted August 4, 2005 at 3:04 pm


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.



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Mike Petrik

posted August 4, 2005 at 3:09 pm


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.



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Jeff

posted August 4, 2005 at 3:21 pm


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.



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Jeff

posted August 4, 2005 at 3:34 pm


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.



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Der Tommissar

posted August 4, 2005 at 3:40 pm


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.



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frank sales

posted August 4, 2005 at 3:42 pm


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.



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David

posted August 4, 2005 at 3:50 pm


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.



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nottoday

posted August 4, 2005 at 4:01 pm


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.



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Victor Morton

posted August 4, 2005 at 4:03 pm


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.



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Chris Sullivan

posted August 4, 2005 at 4:11 pm


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



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Sydney Carton

posted August 4, 2005 at 4:15 pm


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.



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Liam

posted August 4, 2005 at 4:15 pm


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.



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Chris Sullivan

posted August 4, 2005 at 4:43 pm


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



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Sydney Carton

posted August 4, 2005 at 4:50 pm


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



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Donald R. McClarey

posted August 4, 2005 at 4:53 pm


“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.



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Maureen

posted August 4, 2005 at 4:54 pm


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.)



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Der Tommissar

posted August 4, 2005 at 5:06 pm


“voluntary full-contact melee arena combat to the death”
Isn’t that on ESPN 8, “The Ocho”?



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Zippy

posted August 4, 2005 at 5:09 pm


“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.



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midwestmind

posted August 4, 2005 at 5:13 pm


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.



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Victor Morton

posted August 4, 2005 at 5:18 pm


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.



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Der Tommissar

posted August 4, 2005 at 5:22 pm


“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.



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Mike Petrik

posted August 4, 2005 at 5:28 pm


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.



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Donald R. McClarey

posted August 4, 2005 at 5:31 pm


“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.



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Zippy

posted August 4, 2005 at 6:04 pm


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.



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Victor Morton

posted August 4, 2005 at 6:16 pm


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.



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Zippy

posted August 4, 2005 at 6:41 pm


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.



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Zhou

posted August 4, 2005 at 6:52 pm


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



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Chris Sullivan

posted August 4, 2005 at 6:54 pm


Zippy,
It looks like Lateran 2 just torpedoed the Just War !
God Bless



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frank sales

posted August 4, 2005 at 7:09 pm


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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Zippy

posted August 4, 2005 at 7:11 pm


Sorry Chris, but as far as I can see that makes no sense. It is curious that there is in fact a juridical prohibition of the use of a particular weapon against Christians, but I don’t see how that juridical curiosity has the profound effect that either you (on the one side) or Victor (on the other) seem to think it has. In your case I could conclude from the same sort of construction that required fast days imply that Catholics aren’t ever allowed to eat. Victor’s construction seems to be – and I emphasize seems – that a juridical prohibition on a particular weapon against a particular kind of foe means that when it comes to war the Church is just silly, which further implies that we can ignore the Church and be consequentialist in making decisions about war.
Rhetorically all good fun, to be sure. But I really don’t see the substantive relevance of either.



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Chris Sullivan

posted August 4, 2005 at 7:35 pm


Zippy,
If Lateran 2 was an Ecumenical Council and it’s decisions ratified by a valid Pope, which seems to be the case, then it’s decisions are binding on Catholics.
See today’s, not coincidental, gospel reading.
The clause prohibits any use of crossbows or bows whether it be in war, capital punishment or whatever :-
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.
God Bless



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Victor Morton

posted August 4, 2005 at 7:43 pm


Frank wrote:
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?
Both Canon 29 and GS are declarations of one of 20-something general councils of the Church.
The Lateran Council canon I cite says “anathema … from here on,” which implies both authoritative and permanent. Some of the other things declared at Lateran 2 include specifying and making definitive the prohibition against usury and the universality of celibate clergy. (Pretty important things to this day.)
The terms “murderous … [and] hateful to God” are very similar in argument as the oft-cited GS passages. GS does flesh things out a bit more than the flat prohibition of Canon 29, so what follows is Victor the Military Historian speculating about what (one supposes) might make the weapon murderous and hateful to God. The crossbow could pierce armor and, by providing deadly fire outside customary targeting ranges, it allowed for more-indiscriminate volleys. If there’s some other potential reason why it might be murderous and hateful to God, I’d love to hear it. Along with accompanying reasons why ANY modern firearm from a Saturday Night Special to Big Bertha would not also be murderous and hateful to God.



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Kenjiro Shoda

posted August 4, 2005 at 7:55 pm


As a native of Japan, and as a new American citizen, I must refute the equating of modern day terrorism with the total destruction of the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. As terrible as modern acts of terrorism are, including 9/11 in New York City, it can no way compare to the total destruction of 2 large cities, and the incineration of hundreds of thousands of people. The remnats which survived suffered radiation sickness, horrible burns, and a slow painful death. Some were unfortunate to linger for years. Those that survived completely often developed terminal cancer later in life. The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki even when rebuilt had a very high rate of cancer for years. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO COMPARISSON with terrorism of today, where maybe 20-50 people are killed, or a very infrequent attack such as 9/11/2001 to the complete destruction of two entire cities and the entire populations. It actually is an insult to compare perhaps a random attack in a place like Israel where 3-4 are killed, to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and call both terrorism.
The Vatican II statement about war was a patronizing piece, and only restated that which any moral civilization already should know.
As for the commemnt that Der Tommisar wrote about being an “evil traditionalist” and can not determine how being a Christian made Christian victims deaths in Hiroshima and Nagasaki worse than other deaths I say….good for you. There should be no sentiment from anyone who says that because they were some Christians in Nagasaki when they died their death was worse than others. That is sick. It reminds me of what some of your American bible fundamentalist Christians would say. I know many devout Buddhists back in Tokyo and Nara, Japan who are living better and holier lives that these “Christians”.
My family and I were in Atlanta, Ga. last week for a convention (I am an intern, studying to be a cardiologist). The people were “right friendly” until we asked where the nearest Catholic Church was for Sunday Mass. Then they looked as us as if we were garbage. I know what they did to African Americans, but believe me I heard everything in the two weeks we were down south. They had a slur for every racial group.If I didn’t know better, I would think that the whole South was some kind of inferior part of the USA due to their rudeness and predjudice.
But to make the point, there can never be a comparisson between Hiroshima/Nagasaki to the acts of today (unless God forbid some lunatic group actually tries an act as vast). All terrorist acts are terrible….but what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki is beyond comparison. So don’t even ever try.
Thanks.



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Victor Morton

posted August 4, 2005 at 8:18 pm


More civilians were killed (and far more discriminately) in the all-retail Rape of Nanking, which was committed by “natives of Japan” quite without the aid of nuclear weapons (or even gas chambers … if the upper casualty figures are accurate, fewer people were killed in an average comparable period of time at Auschwitz than in Nanking).
Which rather suggests that nuclear weapons have no special characteristics (other than speed, the moral relevance of which is unclear at best).



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Jim

posted August 4, 2005 at 8:19 pm


Kenjiro, you should have asked ME where the nearest Catholic church was. We live right outside of Atlanta–I would have picked you up and taken you myself. :-)
My wife and I lived in a small town an hour northwest of Hiroshima for 3 years. We knew several people who saw the cloud the day the bomb hit. What impressed us was that we did not meet a single person who expressed any animosity towards us as Americans; rather, we felt that people only wished that their experience could save the rest of humanity from the horror of another nuclear war.
And I believe that’s what this discussion should be about. Maybe back then, people didn’t know what the bomb would do. We don’t have that excuse. We’ve seen the effects of a nuclear bomb, and yet we still do nothing to promote disarmament, or reconciliation between nations.



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Donald R. McClarey

posted August 4, 2005 at 8:23 pm


“More civilians were killed (and far more discriminately) in the all-retail Rape of Nanking, which was committed by “natives of Japan” quite without the aid of nuclear weapons (or even gas chambers … if the upper casualty figures are accurate, fewer people were killed in an average comparable period of time at Auschwitz than in Nanking).”
The best estimates Victor are that Imperial Japanese forces from 1937-45 killed in excess of 11,000,000 Chinese civilians. The killings continued up to the date of surrender of Japan.



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Zippy

posted August 4, 2005 at 8:24 pm


Chris: again, while the specific prohibition on the use of crossbows against Christians 900 years ago is interesting, and no doubt counts for rhetorical points on some peoples’ comment-box scorecards, I don’t see that it implies either (1) dogmatic pacifism (your position) or (2) that it is licit to annihilate whole cities with nuclear weapons (Victor’s). Either construction is a nonsequitir.



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Chris Sullivan

posted August 4, 2005 at 8:28 pm


Well said Jim.
Down here in New Zealand we’ve made our country nuclear free.
It’s only a small start, but maybe if other countries joined us…
In the spirit of Lateran 2.
God Bless



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Zippy

posted August 4, 2005 at 8:30 pm


The best estimates Victor are that Imperial Japanese forces from 1937-45 killed in excess of 11,000,000 Chinese civilians.
And again, the “proportionate reason” calculus is quite literally irrelevant unless the act has already been determined to be otherwise licit.
Consequentialism is heresy.



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Victor Morton

posted August 4, 2005 at 8:40 pm


The best estimates Victor are that Imperial Japanese forces from 1937-45 killed in excess of 11,000,000 Chinese civilians. The killings continued up to the date of surrender of Japan.
I’ve never seen a figure that large (not to doubt you, of course). The reason I specifically mention the Rape of Nanking is that it was as focused space-wise as the Hiroshima bombing (albeit over six weeks, versus one moment). As long as they didn’t use crossbows or nuclear weapons, I guess.



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Zippy

posted August 4, 2005 at 8:54 pm


Was somebody arguing that the Rape of Nanking was just? I must have missed that.



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Nancy

posted August 4, 2005 at 9:01 pm


The men who were in charge at the time made the decisions they made.
All of WWII was immoral, according to the standards enunciated here. (Slaughter of civilians? Please! It was the order of the day, on both sides!) Those who enunciate these standards, now half a century away, have no easy answers as to what exactly should have been done to stop Japanese atrocities in China, or German atrocities in Europe.
Will everyone please remember that it was not England and the United States who proposed to invade territories held by other peoples, and kill and enslave the inhabitants? But that it was Germany and Japan who proposed to do that, and who did that, to vast loss of (civilian) human life?
Let us give our fathers and grandfathers the benefit of the doubt.
Oremus.



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midwestmind

posted August 4, 2005 at 9:03 pm


To clarify:
I didn’t post the comments about the Catholic church in Nagasaki to imply that somehow dropping an atomic bomb was worse because it killed Catholics. Several commenters have already articulated what a perverted position that would be, and I agree wholeheartedly with them.
I posted to suggest that the entire discussion of what “we” did to “them” is framed incorrectly. If you take the idea of the universal church seriously, dropping the bomb on Nagasaki is about what “we” did to “us.”



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frank sales

posted August 4, 2005 at 9:13 pm


Kenjiro,
Your run of the mill Japanese is just as racist as our stereotypical redneck, so lighten up just a touch. To be fair though, the racism of the Chinese puts both to shame. Your take on the absolute evil of the atomic bombings without any thought to the loss of life, both Japanese and American, that was avoided shows a narrow perspective.
Victor, can you imagine the medieval blog? Jeff and Nottoday arguing that even discussing the use of crossbows is beyond the pale, the Lateran Council has spoken!



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Nancy

posted August 4, 2005 at 9:13 pm


midwestmind,
I agree entirely. And what was done at Auschwitz also was done by us to ourselves. Also Nanking. Also Rotterdam. Also the bombing of London. All of them, all the horrible things.



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Nancy

posted August 4, 2005 at 9:17 pm


Was somebody arguing that the Rape of Nanking was just? I must have missed that.
Zippy, wake up and dig it. What is done by non-European peoples is OK, by definition. What is done by Europeans or their descendants is suspect, also by definition.
Therefore what the Japanese did at Nanking was OK, because the Japanese are not, were not, Europeans. What was done at Nagasaki is wrong, by definition, because it was done by the descendants of Europeans.
So, got that?



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 4, 2005 at 9:19 pm


Nancy, we’re not supposed to aggree. Stop it. :-)



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Seamus

posted August 4, 2005 at 9:31 pm


“If Lateran 2 was an Ecumenical Council and it’s decisions ratified by a valid Pope, which seems to be the case, then it’s decisions are binding on Catholics.”
Right, just as Lateran IV, an ecumenical council ratified by the pope, requires Jews and Moslems to wear distinctive clothing, and to stay in their houses on Passion Sunday and the last three days of Lent.
(I think the Roman law principle of desuetude, under which a statute can become invalid through lack of application and enforcement over time, would negate both laws.)



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Zippy

posted August 4, 2005 at 9:35 pm


What is done by non-European peoples is OK, by definition. What is done by Europeans or their descendants is suspect, also by definition.
Um, no. You must have mistaken me for someone else. My politics is to the far right of Thomas Jefferson, and I am no pacifist. I think the majority of Moslems should be deported from Western countries on the basis of religion, that the Afghan war is/was just, and that the Iraq war is not just. You may feel most comfortable shadow-boxing with stereotypical leftists, but give me a break.
Nobody has argued that the Rape of Nanking was just. The only reason for bringing it up is in some kind of post hoc consequentialist calculus, as in “look at the bad stuff we brought to an end by committing a moral atrocity of our own”.
Bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki was morally wrong, with indisputable certainty. And it would have been just as wrong if the Chinese had done it to the Japanese.



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Donald R. McClarey

posted August 4, 2005 at 9:39 pm


“The best estimates Victor are that Imperial Japanese forces from 1937-45 killed in excess of 11,000,000 Chinese civilians.
And again, the “proportionate reason” calculus is quite literally irrelevant unless the act has already been determined to be otherwise licit.
Consequentialism is heresy.”
Zippy, in the afterlife I am sure you will have endless fun preaching to medieval popes who called for crusades where they knew, beyond doubt, that innocent civilians would be killed. The call was made anyway because the goal was important enough to justify their action, they hoped, in the eyes of God. If you are going to condemn Hiroshima and Nagasaki, be prepared to join the pacifists, because using that logic there are precious few large scale military actions that will not result in civilian deaths. An invasion of the Japanese Home Islands may not have intended civilian deaths, but I guarantee you that the deaths would have made the horrendous death tolls in Hiroshima and Nagasaki seem petty by comparison. Why they might even have approached the death totals the Japanese were busily adding to in China each day in 1945.



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Nancy

posted August 4, 2005 at 9:48 pm


Zip, my dear, given that two wrongs don’t make a right, how exactly would you suggest, even with hindsight, how the Japanese war machine should have been stopped? With a rain of flowers? With a statement that only soldiers were fair game? (And the Rape of Nanking fits into this picture how exactly?)
Our fathers and grandfathers determined to cut to the heart of the evil, and thus to end it. And it worked.
My father was not in the ranks who would have been sent to die in the bloodly invasion of Japan, for he had TB. But many potential fathers were.
Get this: We didn’t start this war. We didn’t invade China, or Poland. We were sitting over here in our own land, with no thought of any of this. We didn’t run concentration camps. We didn’t invade China and massacre innumerable civilians. We didn’t convert young women into prostitutes for our troops by force, and then refuse to take responsibility for this.
We came in to defend the defenseless. So shoot us.



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Victor Morton

posted August 4, 2005 at 9:49 pm


Seamus:
Agreed about desuetude in principle as a matter of secular law (since societies do, in fact, change). But:
(1) I would expect a different standard would apply to “anathemas” and “hateful to” a God who is eternal; and
(2) Gaudium rather suggests that anathematizing new military technologies on the basis that they add heretofore-unheard-of capabilities is not in such disuse.



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Nancy

posted August 4, 2005 at 9:51 pm


Zip,
And we bring “an end to bad stuff” how exactly?



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Victor Morton

posted August 4, 2005 at 9:51 pm


All of WWII was immoral, according to the standards enunciated here.
Exactamente.
And yet curiously, the Church neglected to say this at the time. And yet even more curiously, Benedict XV even neglected to declare WW1 immoral. In fact, most curiously of all, some popes have even blessed wars fought with weapons far more “murderous” than the crossbow.



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Zippy

posted August 4, 2005 at 9:52 pm


Zippy, in the afterlife I am sure you will have endless fun preaching to medieval popes who called for crusades where they knew, beyond doubt, that innocent civilians would be killed.
If you think that knowing that innocent civilians will die in a war is the same thing as a consequentialist justification for incinerating a city with an atomic bomb then you need to do some serious reading before resuming this discussion. Right now I am getting the distinct impression that you don’t even know what “consequentialism” means; but perhaps you can disabuse me of that impression by explaining what the moral heresy of consequentialism is and why your arguments are not an instance of it.
Consequentialism is heresy. I would not hesitate for an instant to affirm as much to any Pope or Saint.



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Nancy

posted August 4, 2005 at 9:53 pm


Darwin, I don’t know if you’ve noticed this yet, but we agree more often than not. :(



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Ghost of an old Knight

posted August 4, 2005 at 9:57 pm


“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.”
This doesn’t end just war theory. This only says that I have to win wars with my trusty sword, and not some newfangled contraption that kills dishonorably at a distance!



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Zippy

posted August 4, 2005 at 9:58 pm


Zip, my dear, given that two wrongs don’t make a right, how exactly would you suggest, even with hindsight, how the Japanese war machine should have been stopped?
That you have to ask this question indicates that you have rejected a-priori the Catholic understanding of morality. With perfect hindsight, if we could have prevented WWII from happening in the first place by summarily executing, say, your innocent father, it would have been wrong for us to do so.



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Nancy

posted August 4, 2005 at 9:59 pm


Oh, Zip, give it a rest. Calling names, especially names no one understands (“consequentialism” which is what???) is unavailing.
Back to the point. We should have stopped the immoral Japanese aggression how exactly? Or maybe we should have just said, “Well, OK, slaughter unnumberable Chinese civilians, make innumerable Korean women ‘comfort women’ to your troops, all good, multiculturalism is fine.” ?? Or maybe we should have just shot everyone in uniform, assuming we could find them?
You call it. If you think our fathers and grandfathers did wrong, it is on you to instruct as to what they should have done. And why. And even more to the point, how.



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Nancy

posted August 4, 2005 at 10:01 pm


Zip, if you don’t feel called to solve real problems in the real world, retire to the ivory tower, and please, stop posting.



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 4, 2005 at 10:08 pm


Zippy,
Given the multitude of voices, it’s a good chance that someone here is pushing a consequentalist viewpoint, but I think what is more generally being suggested is something along these lines:
-In order to defeat Japan it was necessary to demonstrate incredible military might while at the same time proving that Japan could not fight us to a draw by exacting huge casualties.
-Any of the ways we could have done this (atom bomb, conventional bombing campaign, naval blockade, land invasion) would result in huge numbers of civilian casualties.
-Demonstrating that we had the ability to incinerate an entire industrial center with minimum risk to ourselves did accomplished this goal most quickly while at the same time (quite arguably) minimizing casualties for both sides.
This is not quite the same as a consequentalism in that the argument is not that the atom bomb was justified because it ended the war, but rather that it was justified because of the various options at hand for ending the war, it was the least destructive.
Nancy,
Pretty shocking, isn’t it, a Texas conservative like me agreeing with a SanFran lawyer like you. Perhaps there’s something to thing “universal church” thing… We’ll see if we can keep it up.



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Zippy

posted August 4, 2005 at 10:08 pm


(“consequentialism” which is what???)
It is the large door over there, at the end of that wide and easy path. It is a bit warm on the other side though, so have a care dear. If you want to take a different path there is another one, narrower and rockier, but it goes in an entirely different direction.
Consequentialism is the (false) belief that it is sometimes OK to do evil in order to prevent a larger evil or achieve a greater good. You seem to think that the only alternatives to consequentialism are self-hatred or pacifism, but that is not the case. The basic principle behind just warfare and self-defense is called double-effect, if you need something to google.
…it is on you to instruct as to what they should have done.
One of the things they should have done is left the Enola Gay on the ground.



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Victor Morton

posted August 4, 2005 at 10:09 pm


not some newfangled contraption that kills dishonorably at a distance!
That was really the principle at work in 1193. It was long, long, LONG ago made null. Fell into desuetude, one might say.



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JonathanR.

posted August 4, 2005 at 10:10 pm


“I know what they did to African Americans, but believe me I heard everything in the two weeks we were down south. They had a slur for every racial group.”
Yeah, and every other racial group has a slur for them. I believe the Japanese version was “hairy white ape”. I think that was what they put on those old WWII propaganda fliers. Or possibly as far back as the Meiji Era.
So, don’t pull the racial victim card. Everybody’s a victim by that count, and its stupid. I have Filipino blood, and have had my people called “dumb” by Canadians (to my face) and “brown monkeys” by Spaniards (when I was nearby, during WYD no less!). But I think pulling the race card just because of some flaw that exists in all human nature is like combatting idiocy with more idiocy. Especially with a topic like this. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, both of which were military targets (Nagasaki was a kamikaze training center…though I wish they didn’t drop the bomb on top of the cathedral), can certainly be disputed to be on a higher moral plane than the terrorist attacks. The numbers and vastness moral equivalence game fails, because the Japanese have certainly killed more in Nanking.
And I’m saying all this as a person who, if put in Truman’s shoes, would’ve authorized Operation Olympic.
Oh, and I still love former Mother Spain. ;) Despite the current gov’t there.



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Zippy

posted August 4, 2005 at 10:20 pm


This is not quite the same as a consequentalism in that the argument is not that the atom bomb was justified because it ended the war, but rather that it was justified because of the various options at hand for ending the war, it was the least destructive.
But choosing an evil act because it is less destructive than other options (or the option of no act at all) is consequentialism.
Nancy wants me to produce military options so that the discussion can degenerate into arguments over military and political strategy. (As an aside, the “ivory tower” characterization is priceless. I’ve never been near an ivory tower, and my last formal title was chief executive officer). We could argue about the list of options all we want, but whatever process was used to produce them the evil ones have to be taken off the list even if that results in an empty list. The willingness to accept an empty list of licit options is a prerequisite; an unwillingness to accept that prerequisite is itself an embrace of consequentialism.



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Nancy

posted August 4, 2005 at 10:20 pm


Darwin, Texas is a nice place I hear. We may have more in common than we think.
Zippy, we’re all still waiting for your ideas about how we should have ended the war in the Pacific by moral means acceptible to yourself. Leaving Enola on the ground is one part. We’re all waiting breathlessly for the rest, unless you think that leaving that bomb on the ground would magically have ended the war.



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Nancy

posted August 4, 2005 at 10:25 pm


The willingness to accept an empty list of licit options is a prerequisite
Cute. And easy for you to say, 50+ years after the event.
But if you had been one of the men to make the decision, I daresay your willingness to accept an empty list of options would have been less than satisfactory.
Easy. Easy for you to second-guess the men on the ground, who didn’t have the option of just saying, Well, I haven’t any licit options, so screw it. Easy to condemn. Too easy.
So easy that no one serious takes you seriously.



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 4, 2005 at 11:03 pm


Zippy,
I don’t know if you indulge in Science Fiction at all, but there was an interesting TV series seven or eight years back called Babylon 5 in which a highly religious civilization has fought Earth to the point where Earth is nearly defenseless. Then, in the middle of the final battle, the nearly victorious enemy (having decided for reasons that took quite a while to become evident that the war was immoral) surrendered.
Anyway.
I’d have to think a while about the idea that one should keep open the idea that as a moral leader in time of war, one should keep open to the possibility that all modes of success are immoral. I want to say that, given that one of the criteria for a just was is win-ability, that a just war should (if it is just) be one that may be won by just means. It almost seems like the dillema you’re posing is: Are some some enemies so determinedly evil that one cannot oppose them, because doing so successfully would mean resorting to evil means. I find that concept rather troubling from a moral point of view. But I’d have to think more about why.
I’m also thinking there must be a certain level of ‘collateral damage’ that is acceptable (on the principle of double intent and proportional force) and another level that is not. I take it we agree on that much, but potentially disagree on what would constitute a legitimate target and what level of civilian casualties could be considered proportional. (Any attempt to take or reduce a city by military means has the capacity to result in a huge number of civilian casualties, yet I assume that the taking of a city, whether by modern means or medieval, is not necessarily out from the start.)



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Nancy

posted August 4, 2005 at 11:18 pm


Babylon 5!! I forgive you everything you’ve said that I disagree with, Darwin.



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Chris Burd

posted August 5, 2005 at 12:03 am


Interesting essay here from Spiked Online:
http://www.spiked-online.com/Articles/0000000CACD0.htm
Excerpt:
“The argument that the Bomb significantly shortened the Pacific conflict and made a bloody invasion of the Japanese mainland unnecessary was first rubbished almost immediately after the war, when the American government’s own Strategic Bombing Survey reported that Japan had been on the point of surrender anyway:
‘Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey’s opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.'”



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 5, 2005 at 12:11 am


A Jewish friend of mine (and another B5 fan) used to call it “Catholics in Space”. It did have a peculiarly Catholic POV, though JMS (the writer) was an agnostic ex-Catholic.



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Samuel J. Howard

posted August 5, 2005 at 12:41 am


“As a native of Japan, and as a new American citizen, I must refute the equating of modern day terrorism with the total destruction of the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. As terrible as modern acts of terrorism are, including 9/11 in New York City, it can no way compare to the total destruction of 2 large cities, and the incineration of hundreds of thousands of people.”
But this is simply false.
On casualties see:
http://www.atomicarchive.com/Docs/MED/med_chp10.shtml
Immediate (not cancer) fatalities in Hiroshima 66,000 of which 60% were from burns. Nagasaki immediate fatalities were 39,000 of which 95% were burns. So that’s 76,050 people “incinerated” even if all those people died in fire, which they didn’t.
On destruction see:
Hiroshima was not totally destroyed. 33% of it’s buildings remained standing afterwards.
Nor was Nagasaki totally destroyed. According to Nagasaki Municipality figures, 60.8% of buildings were undamaged.



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Samuel J. Howard

posted August 5, 2005 at 12:42 am


“Interesting essay here from Spiked Online:”
Oh right! Living Marxism magazine. Now I’m persuaded.
This is complete nonsense as the Magic transcripts have shown.



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Samuel J. Howard

posted August 5, 2005 at 12:49 am


Ooops, left out the reference for building destruction. That’s http://www.atomicarchive.com/Docs/MED/med_chp9.shtml



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Zippy

posted August 5, 2005 at 1:30 am


Cute. And easy for you to say, 50+ years after the event.
You mean, easy for the Catholic Church to say for two millennia. Consequentialism is morally wrong.
And to be frank, you have no idea what personal prices I have paid for living with that principle.
So easy that no one serious takes you seriously.
My life will not be complete until Nancy takes me seriously, to be sure.



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Erik Keilholtz

posted August 5, 2005 at 2:38 am


We didn’t run concentration camps.
What exactly were Tule Lake and Manzanar? Americans who were born here were forced into these camps. Elderly people who did not speak English were shot for standing too close to the barbed wire fences.
Overall, the Allies did some good in WWII (Joe Stalin and Chairman Mao certainly thought so), but let’s not sugar coat it.
Also, we should not forget that Japan had offered a negotiated surrender. We demanded, against all precedent (and the call from Ven. Pius XII), unconditional surrender, the complete loss of all sovereignty of Japan. Had we accepted the negotiated surrender, neither the bombings nor a massive land invasion would have been seen as necessary.



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Chris Sullivan

posted August 5, 2005 at 3:42 am


Nancy,
“Consequentialism” aka “proportionalism” is the moral theory that man can weigh the apparant good versus the apparant evil of a proposed action, as it appears to man, and if the good seems to man to outweigh the evil, then the proposed action is OK.
The theory is essentially idolotary because man dares to make his own moral decisions, based on the moral weight man assigns to his actions, without reference to God as the author of morality.
The theory denies the existence of moral absolutes ie moral actions which are always wrong because of their inherant nature (eg adultery, killing the innocent).
It’s the moral theory proposed by Caiaphas justifying the crucifixtion of Christ :-
“it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.” John 11:50
Caiaphas’ argument is the same one used to argue that the atomic bombings were OK because they saved many allied lives.
God Bless



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Donald R. McClarey

posted August 5, 2005 at 5:37 am


“Also, we should not forget that Japan had offered a negotiated surrender.”
Completely untrue.



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Samuel J. Howard

posted August 5, 2005 at 5:43 am


“Caiaphas’ argument is the same one used to argue that the atomic bombings were OK because they saved many allied lives.”
Except that it’s not.
That’s one possible argument. It’s not “the same one used” it’s “an argument used”. While it is an incorrect arguement, it’s not the argument I’ve made and it’s not the argument that was expressed by Harry Truman, on whom sole authority to make the decision to use the bomb rested (nowadays the decision is vested in the National Command Authority, the President and the Secretary of Defense together).
Furthermore, it is acceptable to consider lives to be saved (and the losses already inflicted by the enemy) in determining the proportionality of an act against a military target.



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Donald R. McClarey

posted August 5, 2005 at 6:02 am


“If you think that knowing that innocent civilians will die in a war is the same thing as a consequentialist justification for incinerating a city with an atomic bomb then you need to do some serious reading before resuming this discussion.”
Perhaps Zippy, you need to do some serious viewing. I would recommend the movie David and Bathsheba with Gregory Peck as David. David orders that Uriah the Hittite is to be kept in the front lines against the enemy when the battle ensues. One of his officials looks at David suspciously. David sheepishly says it is only what Uriah wants, which is correct. He then says that he will not add hypocrisy to the list of his sins. He amends the message to Joab the commander of his army stating that Uriah is to be abandoned in the front lines so that he may be killed.
It is a hairsplitting defense to attempt to make a distinction between embarking on a course of action that will inevitably lead to massive civilian deaths, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If you condemn them, then you must also condemn the popes who called for the crusades. They were not fools. They knew, based on past wars, that countless innocents would die as a result of the crusades, yet they called for them anyway. How civilian deaths in a besieged medieval city are morally justifiable, while civilian deaths in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not, I will leave to masters of causitry. To me, they differ merely in scale, not in morality.



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brendon

posted August 5, 2005 at 6:23 am


If we leave aside for the moment whether or not the use of the bombs could have been moral, and we also leave aside, for the moment, the question of how blurry the lines between combatant and non-combatant were in WWII, I believe the bombing of Nagasaki must at least still be condemned.
As previously mentioned, the Cathedral of Nagasaki was the target that was aimed at. I have seen no one argue this, as it seems to be an obvious historricla fact. Now it seems to me that if any target was clearly and properly non-combatant, it was the Cathedral. Thus, the question of whether or not the use of an atomic bomb can be justified is moot. You cannot aim at a non-combatant target and then argue that the deaths of non-combatants was unintended. The very act of aiming at said target makes this a lie. The fact that an atomic bomb was used is moot. The bombing of Nagasaki targeted non-combatant by the very fact that it aimed at the Cathedral.



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Kevin Miller

posted August 5, 2005 at 6:39 am


Donald: Distinguishing between intention and foresight is not hair-splitting. It is a very basic moral distinction. You just can’t do moral reasoning without making that distinction.



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Donald R. McClarey

posted August 5, 2005 at 7:04 am


“Donald: Distinguishing between intention and foresight is not hair-splitting. It is a very basic moral distinction. You just can’t do moral reasoning without making that distinction.”
Thank you Kevin, you get nicely to the point. When a crusading army besieged a city held by their adversaries they did not intend to kill innocents. Their intent was to capture the city. However, in capturing the city the death of innocents was part and parcel of the strategy. Famine would strike them first: the garrison would always have first call on the food resources in the city. Plague would usually break out and cause immense casualties. Finally, threats would be made to the garrison that if it did not surrender the city would be given over to sack if it were taken by storm, an orgy of rape, pillaging and murder. How do such tactics, largely unopposed by the Church at the time, differ meaningfully from using two atomic bombs to cause the capitulation of a nation? The intent of the bombings was to cause the surrender of Japan. The deaths of the civilians was an appalling byproduct, but I believe the civilian casualties in the besieged city example were no less foreseeable. I think the line between foreknowledge and intent is a much finer one than is usually acknowledged, especially in war.



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Chris Burd

posted August 5, 2005 at 8:06 am


“‘Also, we should not forget that Japan had offered a negotiated surrender.’
“Completely untrue.”
Versus:
“July 1945 – Japan’s peace messages
Still, the messages from Togo to Sato, read by the U.S. at the time, clearly indicated that Japan was seeking to end the war:
* July 11: “make clear to Russia… We have no intention of annexing or taking possession of the areas which we have been occupying as a result of the war; we hope to terminate the war”.
* July 12: “it is His Majesty’s heart’s desire to see the swift termination of the war”.
* July 13: “I sent Ando, Director of the Bureau of Political Affairs to communicate to the [Soviet] Ambassador that His Majesty desired to dispatch Prince Konoye as special envoy, carrying with him the personal letter of His Majesty stating the Imperial wish to end the war” (for above items, see: U.S. Dept. of State, Potsdam 1, pg. 873-879).
* July 18: “Negotiations… necessary… for soliciting Russia’s good offices in concluding the war and also in improving the basis for negotiations with England and America.” (Magic-Diplomatic Summary, 7/18/45, Records of the National Security Agency, Magic Files, RG 457, Box 18, National Archives).
* July 22: “Special Envoy Konoye’s mission will be in obedience to the Imperial Will. He will request assistance in bringing about an end to the war through the good offices of the Soviet Government.” The July 21st communication from Togo also noted that a conference between the Emperor’s emissary, Prince Konoye, and the Soviet Union, was sought, in preparation for contacting the U.S. and Great Britain (Magic-Diplomatic Summary, 7/22/45, Records of the National Security Agency, Magic Files, RG 457, Box 18, National Archives).
* July 25: “it is impossible to accept unconditional surrender under any circumstances, but we should like to communicate to the other party through appropriate channels that we have no objection to a peace based on the Atlantic Charter.” (U.S. Dept. of State, Potsdam 2, pg. 1260 – 1261).
* July 26: Japan’s Ambassador to Moscow, Sato, to the Soviet Acting Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Lozovsky: “The aim of the Japanese Government with regard to Prince Konoye’s mission is to enlist the good offices of the Soviet Government in order to end the war.” (Magic-Diplomatic Summary, 7/26/45, Records of the National Security Agency, Magic Files, RG 457, Box 18, National Archives).
President Truman knew of the messages’ content, noting, for instance, in his diary on July 18, “Stalin had told P.M. [Prime Minister Churchill] of telegram from Jap [sic] Emperor asking for peace” (Robert Ferrell, ed., Off the Record – the Private Papers of Harry S. Truman, pg. 53).
——-
To be fair, the author of the material above suggests that Truman nonetheless “*believed* [his emphasis] the use of atomic bombs on Japan was necessary primarily for the reasons he always gave (to shorten the war and save American lives).
Donald, the Japanese diplomatic approaches are well known to everyone who’s taken the slightest interest in this matter.
If you want to justify the indiscriminate massacre of civilians you can do it. The human capacity for rationalization is infinite.



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Seamus

posted August 5, 2005 at 8:18 am


“Immediate (not cancer) fatalities in Hiroshima 66,000 of which 60% were from burns. Nagasaki immediate fatalities were 39,000 of which 95% were burns. So that’s 76,050 people “incinerated” even if all those people died in fire, which they didn’t.”
This strikes me much the same way as arguments that the Holocaust didn’t kill 6 million Jews, that the real number was more like 5.8 million. Or the old saying that if the Jesuits were accused of killing two men and a dog, would triumphantly produce the dog alive.



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Seamus

posted August 5, 2005 at 8:28 am


“Consequentialism is the (false) belief that it is sometimes OK to do evil in order to prevent a larger evil or achieve a greater good.”
This definition is flawed because it puts the rabbit in the hat. A consequentialist wouldn’t say that it’s sometimes OK to do evil; he’d say that certain acts (usual examples include fornication, adultery, contraception, abortion, euthanasia, killing the innocent generally) are not intrinsically evil, and that their moral status must be judged on the basis of their consequences. Thus, you can’t judge whether dropping the bomb on Hiroshima was right or wrong just by looking at the act in itself (including whether the actors deliberately intended to cause the deaths of noncombatants), but must instead look at how many lives would have been saved. It’s the same argument being used to justify embryonic stem-cell research and therapeutic cloning today.



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Frank Sales

posted August 5, 2005 at 8:29 am


Seamus, you’re right that the number is largely irrelevant when you’re dealing with such mass death. But I’d bet that most people, if asked, would guess that millions died in these attacks. I myself was quite surprised by the article Amy linked to which told of someone who was 700 yards from the blast site surviving. I would have thought the “circle of death” would be 2-3 miles from the centre.



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Samuel J. Howard

posted August 5, 2005 at 8:29 am


“This strikes me much the same way as arguments that the Holocaust didn’t kill 6 million Jews, that the real number was more like 5.8 million. Or the old saying that if the Jesuits were accused of killing two men and a dog, would triumphantly produce the dog alive.”
As opposed to making one’s points by appealing to the repugnance of anti-Jesuit jokes which is in no way an appeal to emotion, but a strictly rational argument?
The poster stated that hundreds of thousands were incinerated by the bombings. The real number is substantially less. This isn’t a question of rounding, but it impeaches the credibility of the person making the arguments.



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 5, 2005 at 8:34 am


Donald, the Japanese diplomatic approaches are well known to everyone who’s taken the slightest interest in this matter.
It’s certainly known that there were attempts to negotiate an end to the war advantageous to the militarist party in Japan. However, whether these constituted an offer that could morally be accepted by the Allies seems open to question. Doing so, under the terms that the Japanese were willing to offer, would have been roughly equivalent to allowing a German surrender that left Hitler in power and the German army un-disbanded.
If you’re willing to accept (with an applicable grain of salt) and article from the Weekly Standard, here’s a good one they just ran on the topic:
http://weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/005/894mnyyl.asp



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Samuel J. Howard

posted August 5, 2005 at 8:36 am


The Cathedral was a landmark spotted from the air. It was Urakami Cathedral and was in fact 1/5 of a mile east of ground zero. It was not the aiming point, the target, or the location of the bombing.
The aiming point was the stadium:
“At the last moment the bombardier, Captain Kermit K. Beahan, caught a brief glimpse of the city’s stadium through the clouds and dropped the bomb.”
(http://www.mbe.doe.gov/me70/manhattan/nagasaki.htm)
The aiming job was actually quite good:
“The hurriedly-targeted weapon ended up detonating almost exactly between two of the principal targets in the city, the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works to the south, and the Mitsubishi-Urakami Torpedo Works (right) to the north. Had the bomb exploded farther south the residential and commercial heart of the city would have suffered much greater damage. … The official Manhattan Engineer District report on the attack termed the damage to the two Mitsubishi plants ‘spectacular.'” (same source)
So they aimed at a stadium and hit military targets.



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Seamus

posted August 5, 2005 at 8:45 am


So stadiums are military targets, too? Who knew?



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Chris Burd

posted August 5, 2005 at 8:48 am


Before I’m misunderstood, let me stress that my last is solely directed at Donald McClary’s previous comment. I won’t argue that Japan was, at that time, on the verge a negotiated surrender that would have been acceptable to the Allies.
I won’t have time to respond to further comments (or anytime before next Tuesday), but there’s one more point I’d like to make. A number of arguments here rely on a rationale for air attacks that made sense earlier in the war, but no longer made sense in August 1945. In the strategic bombing against Germany relied on high-altitude bombing, and frequently night bombing, because the German anti-aircraft defences were highly effective, and in fact took an enormous toll on the lives of Allied aircrew. The Allies couldn’t hit a target any smaller than a city, so any attempt to strike at German industry would involve massive casualties among non-combatants. Most people accept the morality of these raids in the context of the war, and I believe they conform with Catholic just-war doctrine. (Raids that deliberately targeted residential areas with incendiary bombs (like the 1943 raid on Hamburg) raise serious moral issues — and were heavily criticised *at the time.*)
The attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are in yet another category, for the simple reason that Japanese anti-aircraft defences were virtually non-existent by then — a fact that he Enola Gay’s crew remarked on. And so there was no more justification for high-altitude, indiscriminate bombing If the point of the attacks had been to destroy legitimate military and industrial targets, this could have been accomplished through relatively accurate low-altitude bombing with little risk to bombing crews.
Of course, this wasn’t remotely the aim of the nuclear attacks. The civilians casualties were not collateral damage, they were the point. No sophisticated casuistry is needed to appreciate the distinction. The war degraded moral sensibilities on all sides, even the good side.



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Seamus

posted August 5, 2005 at 9:21 am


“I won’t argue that Japan was, at that time, on the verge a negotiated surrender that would have been acceptable to the Allies.”
Of course not, because the Allies were refusing anything other than unconditional surrender. Thus, “a negotiated surrender that would have been acceptable to the Allies” would have been about as likely as a married bachelor.



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Chris Burd

posted August 5, 2005 at 9:31 am


Seamus: Yet in the end, they accepted the condition that the Japanese keep the Emperor. There’s a line of argument that Allies could have secured an earlier surrender if they had made that concession clear.



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David

posted August 5, 2005 at 9:44 am


Here’s a link to another JPII address that touched on Hiroshima:
http://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/jp2wwii.htm



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David

posted August 5, 2005 at 9:48 am


From that address:
“In this spirit I express my deep appreciation and strong support to all modern peacemakers.
I do so especially by reason of the haunting memory of the atomic explosions which struck first Hiroshima and then Nagasaki in August 1945. They bear witness to the overwhelming horror and suffering caused by war: The final toll of that tragedy-as I recalled during my visit to Hiroshima-has not yet been entirely determined nor has its total cost in human terms yet been calculated, particularly when we consider what effect nuclear war has had and could still have on our thinking, our attitudes and our civilization. “To remember the past is to commit oneself to the future. To remember Hiroshima is to abhor nuclear war. To remember Hiroshima is to commit oneself to peace. To remember what the people of this city suffered is to renew our faith in man, in his capacity to do what is good, in his freedom to choose what is right, in his determination to turn disaster into a new beginning.”[15]
Fifty years after that tragic conflict, which ended some months later also in the Pacific with the terrible events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and with the subsequent surrender of Japan, it appears ever more clearly as a “self-destruction of mankind.”[16] War is in fact, if we look at it clearly, as much a tragedy for the victors as for the vanquished.”



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David

posted August 5, 2005 at 9:56 am

Boethius

posted August 5, 2005 at 10:32 am


Victor Davis Hanson has an article on the topic at NRO.
See http://www.nationalreview.com/hanson/hanson200508050714.asp
Here’s a quote for your consideration:
“The truth, as we are reminded so often in this present conflict, is that usually in war there are no good alternatives, and leaders must select between a very bad and even worse choice. Hiroshima was the most awful option imaginable, but the other scenarios would have probably turned out even worse.”



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Seamus

posted August 5, 2005 at 10:44 am


“Hiroshima was the most awful option imaginable, but the other scenarios would have probably turned out even worse.”
Making moral judgments on the basis of how alternative scenarios “would have . . . turned out” is pretty much the dictionary definition of consequentialism. It’s not an option for a Catholic. Remember, as Cdl. Newman pointed out, it is not acceptable for a Catholic to tell a lie or steal a farthing to save the whole world and all its inhabitants; a fortiori, it isn’t permissible to kill noncombatants to save some subset of the entire world.
I found the article in The Weekly Standard very interesting. But ultimately the morality of the bomb cannot turn on new information about whether alternatives would or would not have been successful, any more than the morality of embryonic stem cell research can turn on new information about whether adult stem cells would or would not be just as useful.



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Victor Morton

posted August 5, 2005 at 11:05 am


Making moral judgments on the basis of how alternative scenarios “would have . . . turned out” is … not an option for a Catholic.
Then Catholicism must require absolute pacifism because in war, there are only bad options, all scenarios involve some death to innocents (is Cardinal Newman really saying something that can be understood literally), and these facts are known absolutely to all at all times. And yet, it somehow doesn’t.
I think this august August ritual really boils down to these two grafs.



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James Kabala

posted August 5, 2005 at 11:21 am


After all the shouting, I just wanted to say that Horton’s original post, despite its relative brevity was the best thing on this subject that I have ever read.



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Donald R. McClarey

posted August 5, 2005 at 11:32 am


“Donald, the Japanese diplomatic approaches are well known to everyone who’s taken the slightest interest in this matter.”
And quite well known to me. Factions within the Japanese government were sending out peace feelers. Hard line factions within the Japanese government thought that the time to negotiate was after the Allies had invaded the Home Islands and suffered enormous casualties. The Japanese government as a whole had not made any decision to surrender, either negotiated or not. The proof of this, of course, is that Japan did not surrender even after Hiroshima.



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Seamus

posted August 5, 2005 at 11:44 am


“Then Catholicism must require absolute pacifism because in war, there are only bad options, all scenarios involve some death to innocents (is Cardinal Newman really saying something that can be understood literally), and these facts are known absolutely to all at all times.”
No, no, no. The fact that deaths to innocents will result does not make an option morally unacceptable, if those deaths are not directly willed but are an expected consequence of an action. To think that the expected but unwilled deaths of innocents somehow made an action immoral is just another variety of consequentialism (and it almost inevitably leads to a kind of utilitarian calculus to weigh alternatives and make a choice).
Really, folks, the distinction between the double-effect principle and the ends-justifies-the-means principle is Catholic Moral Philosophy 101. I’d expect the atheist/libertarian crowd over at Reason’s Hit and Run not to understand it (hence their outrage that we would be willin to forego medical research that might save millions of lives). I’m a little dismayed to find Catholics unable to do so.



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Victor Morton

posted August 5, 2005 at 11:59 am


if those deaths are not directly willed but are an expected consequence of an action
But that is psychological gamesmanship and it cuts both ways to boot. There is no way to know objectively what an actor’s state of mind is, and without that, “directly willed”-vs.-“expected consequence” is a distinction without a basis. And in this particular case, you can just as persuasively argue that civilian deaths at Hiroshima were expected consequences. The mere assertion on the part of the actor constitutes its own proof.



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A Philosopher

posted August 5, 2005 at 12:12 pm


May I point out briefly that consequentialism doesn’t have the consequences that are being attributed to it here. Consequentialism, in itself, is only the view that the moral status of an act is a function of the causal consequences of that act. Nothing yet follows about whether “greater good” arguments are morally persuasive — one can, for example, be a consequentialist by way of holding that any act which leads to the death of a person is morally wrong, and such a position won’t allow “greater good” arguments.
The “greater good” arguments are licensed by two optional additions to consequentialism. First, one needs a maximization principle — a thesis that morality requires the maximization of some quality in action. Second, one needs an aggregation principle — a thesis that the calculus of morally relevant qualities proceeds by way of the summation across events and individuals of certain magnitudes. Given these two principles (and a suitable fungibility in the moral arithmetic), the “greater good” arguments will be licensed.
Consequentialism plus maximizing aggregation is roughly equivalent to utilitarianism, although utilitarianism is typically associated also with specific views about what the calculated values are. But the problems with consequentialism plus maximizing aggregation shouldn’t automatically be redounded to consequentialism in general.
I should also point out that the doctrine of double effect has relatively little presence in contemporary work in normative ethics, in large part because the doctrine has a strong tendency to become vacuous. Schematically, pretty much any action A can be brought into conformity with the DoDE by taking one’s end in action to be the satisfaction of one’s desires, and thus taking any distal changes in the world to be merely a foreseeable but unintended effect.



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Mike Petrik

posted August 5, 2005 at 12:14 pm


Some on this thread have asserted, abeit without proof, that the *purpose* of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was precisely to kill innocents. It seems to me this is the key question to which Victor alludes. If intent is a fundamental criterion (and I think Seamus is right in stating that it is) then the moral analysis of these events requires an objective assessment of Truman’s subjective state of mind — an evaluation that cannot always be evaluated with confidence.



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Mike Petrik

posted August 5, 2005 at 12:16 pm


I should have ended with “– an evaluaion that cannot be conducted with confidence.” Sorry.



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Zippy

posted August 5, 2005 at 12:18 pm


But that is psychological gamesmanship…
Anyone who attempts to reduce the intent/foresight distinction – as well as the community/individual (commutative/distributive) distinction – to “psychological gamesmanship” has decided ahead of time to reject what the Church teaches about morality. It may be difficult, and it may be hard to come to an agreement on in particular scenarios, but if it is “psychological gamesmanship” then all of Catholic morality and the natural law is “psychological gamesmanship”.
And frankly it doesn’t surprise me that those who think the natural law and Catholic morality reduce to “psychological gamesmanship” would take refuge in various forms of positivism. It is what the protestants have been doing for centuries.



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Seamus

posted August 5, 2005 at 12:22 pm


“And in this particular case, you can just as persuasively argue that civilian deaths at Hiroshima were expected consequences.”
Expected but not directly willed? Well, maybe. To test that proposition, ask yourself the question I posed earlier: If we had dropped the bomb and failed to destroy the military base and the manufacturing plants that were the ostensible targets, would we have said “Damn, all those civilians killed for nothing”? Or conversely, if we had utterly destroyed the military base and the manufacturing plants but there were, by some miracle, no civilian casualties at all, would we have said, “Mission accomplished 100%, and isn’t it great that we didn’t kill any civilians while we were at it”? I doubt it sincerely. I think it far more likely that we’d have said, in the first case, “That was a good day’s work, and it sure ought to show Hirohito we mean business; too bad we didn’t take out the base while we were at it”, and in the second case, “Well, taking out the base and the factories, but if that’s all we accomplished then we probably didn’t do enough to scare Hirohito into surrendering. Better luck next time.”
And if you really believe the distinction between directly willed consequences, by which the actor brings about his goal, and consequences that are expected to follow from his actions but are not willed by him, then you have rejected a fundamental principle of Catholic moral philosophy. As Bill Cork says over at Tischreden (formerly ut unum sint), it seems that “the Cafeteria is still open” (http://billcork.blogspot.com/archives/2005_07_31_billcork_archive.html#112316127530191943).



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Zippy

posted August 5, 2005 at 12:23 pm


If intent is a fundamental criterion (and I think Seamus is right in stating that it is) then the moral analysis of these events requires an objective assessment of Truman’s subjective state of mind — an evaluation that cannot always be evaluated with confidence.
This is where the commutative/distributive distinction comes in. We are not evaluating Truman’s personal culpability for personal actions. We are evaluating what we were doing as a community. What we were doing as a community is applying the ultimate weapon to indiscriminately kill civilians in such a horrifying fashion that the Japanese would unconditionally surrender. It was every bit as immoral as Dresden, no matter what the decision-makers were personally thinking.



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Victor Morton

posted August 5, 2005 at 12:32 pm


Well, I guess I’ll have the club sandwich … damn, the pickle is already on it. Is the mac and cheese good?



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Mike Petrik

posted August 5, 2005 at 12:37 pm


Zippy,
I honestly don’t understand your last two posts. On the one hand you agree that subjective intent matters, and you formulate a test to prove your point — and I think your test is correct; but on the other hand you say the test must be applied on a commutative basis, but you don’t say how since different Americans would no doubt have had different responses to the questions your test proposes. You cannot circumvent this difficulty by simply asserting that the community purpose was to indiscriminately kill civilians. Such an assertion may be true — I am not in a position to know either way (although my abbreviated Google research turned up nothing to corrobrate your assertion) — but it is by no means self-evident. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if most (I’m not sure how one counts when assessing community intent) Americans would have elected to drop a bomb that only eliminated military bases and plants and killed soldiers if such a weapon was available.



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Zippy

posted August 5, 2005 at 12:52 pm


On the one hand you agree that subjective intent matters, and you formulate a test to prove your point — and I think your test is correct; but on the other hand you say the test must be applied on a commutative basis, but you don’t say how since different Americans would no doubt have had different responses to the questions your test proposes.
There is a tendency I have noticed to hide the morality of public acts of the community behind the subjective intentions of leaders. The case in point now involves the weird notion that we can never really evaluate the morality of dropping the Bomb because we can’t know Truman’s personal psychological states. Many treat the Iraq war the same way, as if it were utterly impervious to moral evaluation without the ability to read George Bush’s mind. By the same logic we should not be able to objectively evaluate the morality of Stalin’s purges because we couldn’t read Stalin’s mind, or the invasion of France because we can’t read Hitler’s.
That is a bunch of nonsense.
The idea of a community having an intention is not a novelty. Having led several small communities in the pursuit of specific objectives I can tell you unequivocally that “what is this group trying to do?” is a rational question with rational answers.
Seamus provided the test in this case:
If we had dropped the bomb and failed to destroy the military base and the manufacturing plants that were the ostensible targets, would we have said “Damn, all those civilians killed for nothing”? Or conversely, if we had utterly destroyed the military base and the manufacturing plants but there were, by some miracle, no civilian casualties at all, would we have said, “Mission accomplished 100%, and isn’t it great that we didn’t kill any civilians while we were at it”? I doubt it sincerely. I think it far more likely that we’d have said, in the first case, “That was a good day’s work, and it sure ought to show Hirohito we mean business; too bad we didn’t take out the base while we were at it”, and in the second case, “Well, taking out the base and the factories, but if that’s all we accomplished then we probably didn’t do enough to scare Hirohito into surrendering. Better luck next time.”
In particular the test of whether we would have considered our mission accomplished if we had not destroyed the military targets at all, but had destroyed the rest of the city and killed as many civilians, is telling. It is possible to deny Seamus’ conclusion – that the military targets were really irrelevent to our intent – in principle, but is it plausible?



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Ronny

posted August 5, 2005 at 1:04 pm


Ever see the famous photo of that little baby crying in the middle of the destruction caused by the Japanese Rape of Nanking?
Speaking of photos, here is a slide show to give some context to this discussion. I especially recommend number 9 as an example of a couple of the bushido warriors that we are often told justified the bombings. Also, I’m sure that all of that empty space in numbers 3 and 10 was packed with soldiers and military complexes before the bombings.



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Ronny

posted August 5, 2005 at 1:08 pm

Ronny

posted August 5, 2005 at 1:10 pm


I give up — you can launch it from the right sidebar for this story.



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Victor Morton

posted August 5, 2005 at 1:24 pm


Roosevelt lied! People died!!



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Mike Petrik

posted August 5, 2005 at 1:27 pm


Zippy,
I see your point, but I hope you aren’t suggesting that I am asserting that we can never evaluate the morality of community acts. What I said was that the “subjective state of mind cannot *always* be evaluated *with confidence*…”, and I intimated the “difficulty” (not universal impossibility) of evaluating the subjective intent of a community.
Indeed, I pretty plainly acknowledged that some intentions (I’ll use your examples involving Hitler and Stalin), individual or community, are easier to evaluate than others. I am not, however, prepared to assume that the community intentions regarding Nagasaki and Hiroshima are as self-evident as you assert. While your assertion is admittedly plausible — and I am prepared to believe it if sufficient evidence is offered — it is also plausible that if a weapon were available that would have only destroyed those cities’ war machine capabilities and only killed or injured members of the military America would have opted instead to use such a weapon. I don’t pretend to know, but your blanket assertion otherwise is not reliable proof to me.



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David

posted August 5, 2005 at 1:34 pm


Here’s a link to what Bishop Wilton Gregory had to say about this matter last year:
http://salt.claretianpubs.org/sjnews/2004/08/sjn0408c.html
“At a time when much of the world is gripped by fear of terrorism and a few voices hint that the time may again come when the United States should call upon its nuclear arsenal to make “quick work” of frightening threats, it is fitting to reassert our commitment to disarmament and the conduct of limited war only as a last resort.”



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Zippy

posted August 5, 2005 at 1:37 pm


…it is also plausible that if a weapon were available that would have only destroyed those cities’ war machine capabilities and only killed or injured members of the military America would have opted instead to use such a weapon.
This is a fallacy. Wishful thinking is not the same thing as intent, a theme I explored some time ago on my blog in the context of an entirely different topic, with another post here. We intend the means we choose, and in this case the means we chose was to drop an atom bomb on a city full of civilians.



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Seamus

posted August 5, 2005 at 1:54 pm


“Roosevelt lied! People died!!”
Well, that’s another way of saying what Claire Booth Luce did.



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Mike Petrik

posted August 5, 2005 at 1:54 pm


Zippy,
Your reasoning, to the extent I understand it, is not compatable with Seamus’s test which your previously endorsed. The hypothetical that I proposed was simply a straightforward way of posing Seamus’s precise question. The bottom line is that both of you have inferred from the act’s consequences its intent and it’s morality. But that is simply engaging in the reverse corrolary of the consequentialism you rightly reject. It simply does not follow logically that because we knew civilians would die that our purpose was to kill civilians. Again, that might be the case. But you seem to think that it is self-evident and therefore without need of proof. I disagree.



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Zippy

posted August 5, 2005 at 2:05 pm


The bottom line is that both of you have inferred from the act’s consequences its intent and it’s morality.
No. We have simply asked whether, as circumstances are adjusted, we would or would not have said “mission accomplished”. Whether we would have undertaken an entirely different mission if we had had different weapons – that is, an exercise in wishful thinking – is irrelevant to evaluating the intent of this mission.
The bottom line is that both of you have inferred from the act’s consequences its intent and it’s morality.
Wrong again. It isn’t the fact that civilians were slaughtered that makes us believe that slaughtering civilians was the intended means. It is the implausibility of the mission being called a failure had there been only slaughtered civilians and no damage to military targets that leads us to conclude that slaughtering civilians was an intended means.



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Zhou

posted August 5, 2005 at 2:10 pm


Just wondering–
did anybody read the comments from the Japanese bishops which I mentioned yesterday in the comments above?
For more from Japan:
The Bombed Madonna, (no, that is not a drunken pop singer).
Asia News article about 60th anniversary.
Asia News article about “hibakusha” (survivors), and teaching today’s children. Unfortunately,

some students think that “peace education” is “dull and boring”.

Kids are kids.



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Chris Burd

posted August 5, 2005 at 2:17 pm


Mike: Given that previous bombing campaigns in Germany unquestionably targeted purely residential areas, I’d say the burden of proof lies on the other side. But maybe I’m just lazy.



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Zippy

posted August 5, 2005 at 2:17 pm


Mike, if my opinion is of no worth to you, perhaps Eisenhower’s will be:
“In 1945 Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment, was I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives.”
Eisenhower, Dwight D. The White House Years: Mandate for Change, 1953-56. Garden City: Doubleday.
McArthur also thought that dropping the atom bomb was militarily unnecessary.



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Mike Petrik

posted August 5, 2005 at 2:26 pm


I fail to see a meaningful logical distinction between your question (would we have regarded the mission as having been accomplished if we had somehow been able to destroy the war machine (plants and soldiers) without harming civilians?) and my hypothetical (would we have elected to use a weapon that would have destroyed such war machine without harming civilians if one was available?), aside I suppose from the temporal distinction. Indeed, my formulation is technically superior insomuch as it makes the evaluation at the time of the decision rather than afterward.
I maintain that it is indeed plausible that the purpose of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was to impair Japan’s war machine rather than kill civilians. I am willing to concede that your assertion is plausible as well. I am also willing to be convinced that my alternative purpose is not plausible. But I have not *yet* read anything that is remotely convincing either way.



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Mike Petrik

posted August 5, 2005 at 2:36 pm


Zippy,
I would suggest that I give your opinion at least as much weight as you give mine.
The problem with your allusions to military opinion is that there was considerable military opinion to the contrary, as is explained in the Weekly Standard article cited earlier by DarwinCatholic. Moreover, it does not seem plausible that we would have dropped the bombs if we honestly thought Japan was willing to otherwise surrender on acceptable terms. Plainly, we thought we would have to invade and sought therefore to save American lives. We can all agree that this calculus alone cannot justify bombing Hiroshima or Nagasaki. But the thoughts of Eisenhower shed no light on the precise question at issue, which is whether one of our objectives was to kill civilians.



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 5, 2005 at 2:44 pm


To second Mike’s comment, if we are talking (as Zippy suggested) about “community will” it seems worthwile to ask: “Would the American people as a whole have regarded a series of massive attacks in which all military and industrial machinery where destroyed while civilians were somehow left unscathed as a success or failure?” I’m sure that Zippy will feel I am engaging in “wishful thinking” but it seems to me highly likely (especially given some of the war weary “everything is the fault of militarism” sentiment that I’ve read from the time) that the American people as a whole would have considered this a success.
Perhaps a further means of testing this hypothesis would be to look at subsequent American actions. While some here have linked to articles that suggest that the primary purpose of dropping the atomic bomb was to slaughter non-white people out of racist aggression, and others have asserted that the Japanese were fully ready to surrender before we dropped the bomb, it seems worthy of note that in point of fact once Japan’s military leaders _did_ surrender, there was no further effort to kill Japanese civilians.



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Zippy

posted August 5, 2005 at 3:13 pm


I maintain that it is indeed plausible that the purpose of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was to impair Japan’s war machine rather than kill civilians.
You can’t conflate ends and means, which is one of the things that wishful thinking does. Someone who has an abortion might well wish that she had some other means in order to bring about a state of being childless. But wishful thinking doesn’t justify an evil intended means. The disagreement is over the intended means. Killing civilians was an intended means in this case (quite clearly), since we would have said “mission accomplished” two minutes after the bombing even if all we had accomplished was the killing of civilians.
It is worth noting that the tactic could have failed, in principle. The Japanese might not have surrendered. But whether our means are successful or not is independent of whether or not they are evil.
…it seems worthy of note that in point of fact once Japan’s military leaders _did_ surrender, there was no further effort to kill Japanese civilians.
I agree. The end was clearly to bring about a surrender and the end of the war. But that end was pursued via intended objectively evil means.



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frank sales

posted August 5, 2005 at 3:21 pm


Ronny,
The scarred mother nursing her scarred baby is of course horrifying, but so would be a picture of an 18 year old boy trying to push his intestines back in while he dies, times a million. Does that perspective help you?



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frank sales

posted August 5, 2005 at 3:35 pm


Mike’s point, Zippy, is that if the whole city had been in the countryside on a picnic and escaped unscathed, then the results of the bombing–taking the city out as a node of production in the war effort and demonstrating a powerful new weapon– would have led to a “mission accomplished” verdict 2 minutes after the bombing. I daresay Truman and the crew of the bomber would greet the news of the fortuitously absent population with relief, not dismay.



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Seamus

posted August 5, 2005 at 3:42 pm


“I should also point out that the doctrine of double effect has relatively little presence in contemporary work in normative ethics, in large part because the doctrine has a strong tendency to become vacuous. Schematically, pretty much any action A can be brought into conformity with the DoDE by taking one’s end in action to be the satisfaction of one’s desires, and thus taking any distal changes in the world to be merely a foreseeable but unintended effect.”
That’s why, in Catholic thought, the double-effect principle can’t be employed to justify an act unless the harm resulting from the act is proportional to the good intended. Thus, the cops can’t just open fire, Fearless Fosdick-style, on a crowded street in order to stop a fleeing criminal, nor would we be justified in nuking Karachi just because we learned that Osama bin Laden was holed up somewhere in that city and we didn’t have any other way to get him.



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Mike Petrik

posted August 5, 2005 at 3:50 pm


Zippy,
Perhaps I’m not making myself clear. I do not think that it is self-evident that we would have said “mission accomplished” had all we done was kill civilians. You are free to believe this, but I don’t think that your belief is shared by everyone knowledgable about the events. But to the extent you are correct, and I have conceded that you may be, then I agree with your ultimate assessment.



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Mike Petrik

posted August 5, 2005 at 3:53 pm


I suspect that Frank’s assessment of Truman et al is correct. But I admit I’m not sure, and I suspect that Frank would admit the same. What I find remarkable is your certainty.



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Mike Petrik

posted August 5, 2005 at 3:55 pm


My last post was directed to Zippy. Sorry if it was confusing.



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Ronny

posted August 5, 2005 at 4:01 pm


The scarred mother nursing her scarred baby is of course horrifying, but so would be a picture of an 18 year old boy trying to push his intestines back in while he dies, times a million. Does that perspective help you?
Given that you refer to what might have been and the picture to what was — no.



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Seamus

posted August 5, 2005 at 4:11 pm


Professor Bainbridge has some interesting and amusing observations in which he mulls over the moral principles governing ius in bello as applied to strategic bombing in another context:
http://www.professorbainbridge.com/2005/06/was_the_bombing.html



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A Philosopher

posted August 5, 2005 at 4:59 pm


Seamus,
The principle of proportionality, unlike the doctrine of double effect, is indeed a substantive moral principle — in fact, it’s just a version of maximizing aggregative consequentialism. But in the combination of proportionality and DoDE, it’s the principle of proportionality that’s doing all the heavy lifting.
Take an arbitrary situation in which action A achieves a desirable effect E at the cost of an undesirable effect U, with E proportionate to U. Intending U would be morally impermissible, but by DoDE, one simply takes the achievement of E as one’s end, and treats U as an unintended but foreseeable side effect. Then DoDE discounts U, and it’s simply left to the principle of proportionality to determine whether the act is permissible.
(The standard move here is to argue that willing the end involves willing the means. But I don’t have to treat U itself as means — I can simply treat some state of affairs which is nomologically sufficient for U, but which is in itself morally neutral, as my means. If this kind of move is globally forbidden, then DoDE collapses into triviality in the other direction. The trick is to thread the needle, allowing certain kinds of means-like causal intermedia to be double-effected and not others, but I think it’s safe to say that the consensus is that the thread just won’t fit through the eye.)



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Seamus

posted August 5, 2005 at 5:43 pm


“Intending U would be morally impermissible, but by DoDE, one simply takes the achievement of E as one’s end, and treats U as an unintended but foreseeable side effect.”
You can’t just arbitrarily “take” E as your end, and U and an unintended side effect. You either had U as your end, or a means to your end, or you didn’t. How do you tell which? By conducting the thought experiment I have twice set forth above. To give an example, when the soldier throws himself on the grenade to protect his buddies from death, is he committing suicide? Well, the answer depends on whether, if the grenade turned out to be a dud, he’d feel that his intention had been thwarted. Since it clearly wouldn’t, you can safely conclude that his death was not an intended result of his act, nor was it the means by which he intended to save his buddies, but it was merely an anticipated but unintended side effect of shielding his buddies from the blast. Similarly, if someone throws a grenade into my room and I snatch it up and throw it out the window into the crowded street, I am not intending the deaths of those killed in the resulting blast, though it might be argued that their deaths, which I clearly anticipated, was disproportionate to the good end (the removal of the danger) that I sought.
Similarly, in the movie “The Great Santini,” when Lt. Col. Bull Meechum rides his plane down in order to make sure it doesn’t crash into an inhabited area, he isn’t willing his own death and thus isn’t guilty of suicide. He’d be delighted if, contrary to all expectation, he was able to walk away from the crash. His death was an anticipated, but unintended (and proportionate) side effect to his guiding the plane safely out of residential areas in order to achieve the end he *was* intending, which was to save many civilians from injury and death.
If, on the other hand, I am Osama bin Laden and I plan the destruction of the World Trade Center by crashing planes into it, if turns out that the WTC was empty when the planes crashed, and the buildings were destroyed without loss of innocent life (let’s hypothesize for the moment that the passengers and crews had been taken off the planes, and let’s leave aside the separate evil of the destruction of property), then I would have said to myself, “Well, I guess bringing down the buildings probably scared the hell out of the infidel Crusaders and Jews, but it really would have been much more effective if I’d managed to kill a large number of them while I was at it.” IOW, my intention *would* have been thwarted, and I would have been directly intending the deaths of those innocents.
This conclusion would not be altered if, contrary to my expectation, upon the destruction of the buildings the U.S. was so spooked that it pulled its troops out of Saudi Arabia, lifted the embargo on Iraq, ceased its support for Israel, and invited me to take over America as the new caliph. That would mean, not that I hadn’t intended the deaths of thousands as a means to my end, but simply that the means turned out to be unnecessary.
Now maybe I could lie to myself and say that the deaths of those thousands wasn’t something I was directly intending, but it would be a lie, and one that might fool me but wouldn’t fool God once I appeared before him.



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Seamus

posted August 5, 2005 at 5:43 pm


In para. 2, that should be “and U *as* an unintended side effect”.



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David

posted August 5, 2005 at 6:14 pm


A Philosopher says:
I think it’s safe to say that the consensus is that the thread just won’t fit through the eye.)
This philosopher has just collapsed on the floor laughing that anyone claiming to be a philosopher would think that there’s a “consensus” among philosophers on just about anything AND that a “consensus” among philosophers (if it existed) would lend weight to any proposition whatsoever.



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A Philosopher

posted August 5, 2005 at 6:35 pm


Seamus,
In your ObL example, suppose ObL has as his end a certain alteration in American foreign policy (or whatever — the end isn’t crucial, since it won’t figure in the application of the DoDE). You present the means to the end as:
(*) The killing of thousands of innocent people.
But suppose ObL thinks of his course of action as taking as the means to the end:
(**) The creation of the belief in the American population that thousands of innocent people have been killed.
He sees, of course, that pursuing (**) will have (*) as an unintended but foreseeable consequence, but applies DoDE to conclude that this is permissible.
So it’s not that DoDE is completely vacuous, but that there’s a serious threat that simply by reconstruing one’s course of action, one can always bring any plan into conformity with it. There is, of course, a psychological question about whether one can form the right intentions. But the psychological difficulty in doing so strikes me as a slender peg on which to hang so much moral weight.
David,
I guess I’m less skeptical about the field than you, although I can certainly understand your view. By “consensus” I certainly don’t mean unanimity; just a sense of the profession. I don’t think such consensi are wholly implausible — I’d say that it’s the consensus of the field that Frege’s logicism failed, that a sense-data analysis of material objects won’t work out, that functionalism is the right theory of mind, and that the best analysis of propositional attitude contexts is a trinary one (I’d probably also say that list is in decreasing order of consensuality). I tried to be relatively noncommital about the epistemic weight carried by consensus, but I do think we’re doing something with all this philosophizing, and that there’s some reason to take seriously what philosophers have to say on an issue.



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Kevin Miller

posted August 5, 2005 at 6:45 pm


AP: I don’t think that reworking of ObL’s intentional acting succeeds. If the way in which he’s trying to cause that belief is via causing the killing, then the killing is intentional, not merely foreseen.



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David

posted August 5, 2005 at 9:12 pm


A Philosopher,
you come into a blog discussion which you know (or should know), is not primarily carried on by academic philosophers. You repeatedly suggest that philosophers, as a community, dismiss the doctrine of double effect as if that should carry any weight at all for this group of readers.
This behavior is nothing more than philosophical bullying. It has no evidential weight here and you should know that.



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David

posted August 5, 2005 at 9:55 pm


For a much less dismissive, but not uncritical, philosophical discussion of the doctrine of double effect, there’s an online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy essay at:
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/double-effect/
As to whether or not there’s a “consensus” of philosophers who dismiss the doctrine, you might examine a 23 page bibliography (with annotations) of philosophical discussion at:
http://www.gwdg.de/~sophia/schroth/bpdw.pdf
It is simply false that the philosophical “profession” has determined that the doctrine of double effect is defunct.



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David

posted August 5, 2005 at 10:22 pm


My, my, there’s even a book published by Notre Dame Press in 2001 entitled The Doctrine of Double Effect: Philosophers Debate a Controversial Moral Principle. It seems there still is a live debate among philosophers about the doctrine.
http://tinyurl.com/dqyaw
And lo and behold, it even contains a section entitled “In Defense of the Doctrine” with contributions by such philosophers as the late GEM Anscombe, the late Warren Quinn, Thomas Nagel, and Phillipa Foot.
I guess they didn’t get the memo. ;0



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Zippy

posted August 5, 2005 at 11:45 pm


So it’s not that DoDE is completely vacuous, but that there’s a serious threat that simply by reconstruing one’s course of action, one can always bring any plan into conformity with it.
In other words, by lying or fooling onesself about one’s intentions one can bring about an apparent formal conformity to a moral precept that depends upon a distinction between intended-foreseen and unintended foreseen consequences.
But of course once one has introduced a lie, or really any sort of inconsistency, all bets are off and we can produce any (formal) result we like.
So, like, big deal.
In any case I rather expect that the act “detonating a nuclear weapon to destroy a whole city filled with civilians” is already an objectively evil act in itself, and in double-effect the chosen means cannot be evil in itself.



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Zippy

posted August 5, 2005 at 11:48 pm


But I admit I’m not sure, and I suspect that Frank would admit the same. What I find remarkable is your certainty.
I find it remarkable that in the case of Hiroshima and Nagasaki anyone at all is the least bit uncertain that we dropped nuclear bombs on cities filled with civilians in order to destroy cities filled with civilians.



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A Philosopher

posted August 5, 2005 at 11:52 pm


Kevin,
The move at this point will be to have ObL reconstrue his plan of action to take his intermediate goal to produce the belief that killings have occurred, with the actual killings being an unintended but foreseeable consequence of that goal. And so on working back, continuing to lift the actio-description up a level, until a morally neutral point is reached, at which point the level drops back down.
David,
My apologies for having given offense. None was intended. Thanks for providing the literature references for those interested in further pursuit of the issue.



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Zippy

posted August 6, 2005 at 12:07 am


My apologies for having given offense. None was intended.
Gee, isn’t that interesting. There must be a factual difference between intended effects and unintended effects. Constructing a formalism contrary to that actual factual distinction is what we non-philosophers like to call false.



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Samuel J. Howard

posted August 6, 2005 at 12:54 am


“Eisenhower, Dwight D.”
Who was not privy to the intelligence on whether Japan was ready to surrender. Stimson was. Eisenhower was Supreme Commander Allied Expedionary Force (the European commander). That’s why he found out from Stimson, because he hadn’t been involved in the decision.
And yes, stadiums are permitted military targets.



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Mike Petrik

posted August 6, 2005 at 7:10 am


Philosopher,
Please know that most posters on this Blog do not respond to sincere arguments, whether good or bad, with unfounded accusations of bullying or sarcastic responses to gracious (and unnecessary) apologies. Blogdom anonymity sometimes has a way of breeding rude behavior even among good Catholics.



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Zippy

posted August 6, 2005 at 8:40 am


…sarcastic responses to gracious (and unnecessary) apologies.
Oh, but my response precisely pertained to the relevant substance of the matter that Philosopher raised. Philosopher’s overall point is that if we ignore the actual fact of intent we can assert whatever we want as our intent and get a free pass from double-effect by avoiding evil in that assertion. But that free pass is a matter of formal construction only — that is, it is a lie, since it depends upon formally labeling something intent which is not, in fact and in the particular case, intent.



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Zippy

posted August 6, 2005 at 8:46 am


And yes, stadiums are permitted military targets.
Permitted by whom?
I personally would not want to be the one explaining to God “gee, we chose to drop a twenty megaton atomic bomb on a city filled with civilians but we didn’t intend to drop an atomic bomb on a city filled with civilians.”
The means we intend are the means that we choose.



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A Philosopher

posted August 6, 2005 at 9:13 am


Zippy,
My point wasn’t that “if we ignore the actual fact of intent we can assert whatever we want as our intent and get a free pass”. Of course no persuasive objections to the DoDE can be raised by adverting to fictitious intentions.
My point was rather than, when someone has before them a course of action forbidden by moral considerations, there will typically (perhaps always) be another course of action, with exactly the same end and with exactly the same material consequences, which is permitted via the DoDE. This alternative course of action is carved out by replacing each intention to pursue a forbidden mean with an intention to pursue some other mean nomologically sufficient for the forbidden mean, but in itself morally neutral. The forbidden mean then drops out as an unintended but foreseeable consequence.
If one doesn’t in fact reconstruct one’s intentions in this way, of course, nothing will be achieved, and the DoDE won’t license the action. This is what you quite correctly observe when you point out the futility of lies about one’s intentions. But if one does perform the reconstruction, then the DoDE licenses the action. This I take to be a serious problem with the DoDE. Perhaps it’s quite difficult systematically to perform the reconstruction (I haven’t spent much trying, myself, so I can’t speak authoritatively). But even if it is, the effectiveness of the DoDE in blocking prima facie unacceptable moral consequences then turns on a point of human psychology that I’m not very happy having hold such weight.



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Zippy

posted August 6, 2005 at 9:16 am


Kiloton. Bloody barbaric metric system.



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Zippy

posted August 6, 2005 at 9:27 am


But if one does perform the reconstruction, then the DoDE licenses the action.
Well, yes, if one lies then one hides the implications of the truth and one can (but not may) do whatever one chooses.
But intent isn’t arbitrarily reassignable, and it isn’t the same thing as what we wish we could do or what we want the judge to think or a subjective self-reassurance that we are trying to do a good thing. Intent is what we actually choose to do.
The means we intend are the means that we choose. Our end was to bring about Japan’s unconditional surrender; the means we chose was to incinerate a city full of civilians. Any claim that (acting as a nation) we didn’t intend to incinerate a city full of civilians as our means to bringing about Japan’s unconditional surrender is manifestly false. If we hadn’t intended to do it we wouldn’t have chosen to do it.



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Mike Petrik

posted August 6, 2005 at 10:50 am


Zippy,
First, I think you mischaracterized Philosopher’s posts, not that your presumed misunderstanding excuses your smart ass response.
In any case I think I agree with your factual assessment, but I really don’t know enough of the relevant history to feel comfortable holding your brand of certainty. For example, isn’t it at least possible that the intention was to incinerate a city full of munitions plants?
My suspicion is that the intention was to shock the Japanese into surrender. Would we have sought to accomplish that by incinerating a city without civilians if that option was available? I really don’t know. Was the incineration of civilians an essential component of the shock? I don’t know that either. I want to believe otherwise, but there is no specific evidence to support such a belief. All in all, my suspicion is that the purpose was to break the will of the Japanese to fight, and to do that by shocking the Japanese, including civilians. And that little thought was given to distinguishing civilians from soldiers. I further suspect that this was because it was assumed, incorrectly, that such a distinction was not possible or relevant given the practical operation of the Japanese nation-state. In other words, I suspect that the death of people was an intended consequence, and no special distinction was made between civilians and soldiers. If this is correct, then it would certainly be morally unacceptable.



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Robert Walsh

posted August 6, 2005 at 10:52 am


Some day, whether 10, 50, or 100 years from now, it seems very possible that terrorists will detonate a nuclear weapon in Manhattan.
I can understand why the temptation for us to drop the bomb in Japan was great. But I fear that ultimately we ourselves will have to live with the consequences of what we have unleashed.



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David

posted August 6, 2005 at 11:44 am


Mike:
If “A Philosopher” had not supplemented his purely philosophical arguments against the doctrine of double effect with a highly contentious appeal to authority (passed off as if it were the merest philosophical common sense), I would not have uttered a peep.
You might consider the context of all of this–a thread about Hiroshima. Somet not all) of those who dismiss the doctrine of double effect find room in their ethical theories for a defense of what was done at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
A Philosopher, who is more anonymous than I (you can figure out my first and last names from the name under which I post and the name at the beginning of my email address), parachutes into this discussion and makes a case against the doctrine of double effect.
I don’t even know what A Philosopher is at in this thread, ultimately. Perhaps he should tell us.
A Philosopher:
Apology accepted. Am I too harsh? If you think so, then I apologize.



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David

posted August 6, 2005 at 11:45 am


“Somet not all)”
should be
“Some (but not all)”



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A Philosopher

posted August 6, 2005 at 12:03 pm


David,
I can’t see that you’ve been harsh at all. You’ve provided a useful counterpoint to my take on the state of the field, and quite rightly pointed out the limitations of what was I hope already a very limited appeal to authority.
I had intended, in entering into the thread, mostly to make the initial point about consequentialism, because I think there’s some interesting life in consequentialist positions that don’t add on maximizing aggregative assumptions, and I don’t like to see consequentialism swept wholly off the stage because of the flaws of one disreputable member of the family. The point about the DoDE was just a side note. My own reading of the thread was that those on both sides of the central moral question were appealing to the principle (with then an embedded debate about what it established in this case), and I wanted to observe that the debate might rest on unsteady ground.
So I wasn’t trying to take a stand on the ethics of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in anything I said. For what it’s worth, my own view is that those bombings were obviously moral atrocities.



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Samuel J. Howard

posted August 6, 2005 at 12:04 pm


“I can understand why the temptation for us to drop the bomb in Japan was great. But I fear that ultimately we ourselves will have to live with the consequences of what we have unleashed.”
This is not a moral argument, but a historical one. No one would have ever made an atomic weapon if we hadn’t dropped one on Hiroshima? I think not. We sought the bomb to defend ourselves against conventionally armed enemies. The Russians sought it to defend themseleves against an atomically armed enemy. Now that both of our countries have the capability to basically end the other and their horrific effects are understood, the weapons have become largely useless for other than apocalyptic and/or total war (they have a bit of detterent effect for conventional war, but not a lot, witness the proxy wars of the last century) However, our conventional forces and other states conventional forces still remain a threat to other nations. Iran seeks the bomb largely to defend itself from our conventional forces, not our nuclear forces, we have no reason to nuke them as our conventional forces are reasonably sufficient to deter them from or retaliate against their possible aggression. Pakistan and India both wanted nuclear weapons to deter against the conventional forces of the other before the other had nuclear weapons. All this would still be the case if we didn’t have nuclear weapons or even if we had never made them.
There was nothing exceptional about our development process other than its speed and security.



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David

posted August 6, 2005 at 12:22 pm


Re: consequentialism
There’s also a Stanford Encycl. piece on that view:
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/consequentialism/



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Samuel J. Howard

posted August 6, 2005 at 12:25 pm


“Permitted by whom?”
Permitted by the laws of war then in force bycustom and treaty.



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David

posted August 6, 2005 at 12:39 pm


Consequentialism, in itself, is only the view that the moral status of an act is a function of the causal consequences of that act.
If you’re sympathetic to this–and this is the view that only the causal consequences of an act are relevant to its moral evaluation–then you’re going to face philosophical and theological objections right at this point.



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Victor Morton

posted August 6, 2005 at 1:40 pm


Minor point. Samuel wrote:
the weapons [of the US & USSR] have become largely useless for other than apocalyptic and/or total war (they have a bit of deterrent effect for conventional war, but not a lot, witness the proxy wars of the last century)
Actually, the greatest blessing nuclear weapons conveyed during the Cold War was that they made conventional war between the superpowers unthinkable, and probably saved hundreds of thousands if not millions of NATO and Warsaw Pact lives. There were several major crises that it was inconceivable would not have resulted in a full-scale shooting war (at least some of them) had great power politics been conducted by the previous custom.
Were it not for the terror nuclear weapons create and the overwhelming incentive they gave to make leaders tread carefully in their conduct of politics, the US would almost certainly have attacked Red China during either the Korea or Vietnam wars; quite probably would have intervened in Hungary in 1956 (Poland 1939 principle here); and certainly would have invaded Cuba either in 1961 (Bay of Pigs) or 1962 (missile crisis). The various Berlin crises would almost certainly have led to some war over Germany. And this deterrent value is true to this day: nobody seriously discusses invading North Korea, because they have nuclear weapons. That’s why the Iranian mullahs have and Saddam Hussein had nuclear programs also.
The proxy wars you mention actually cut the other way — the superpowers certainly encouraged proxies to fight shooting wars both against the superpower directly and the other’s allies. But each superpower was careful not to get involved itself if the other already had, so decisive was the fear of great-power war.
The US aided the mujahedin in Afghanistan, but never sent troops; ditto the Soviets in Vietnam. Also, rather than invade outright, each power was likelier to sponsor coups and/or guerrilla groups to change regimes in Latin America and Africa, from Chile and Nicaragua to Angola and Ethiopia (Soviet-backed). And sometimes the superpowers would even hang their allies out to dry or restrain them for fear of superpower escalation. Examples: Eisenhower undercutting the British and French at Suez in 1956; Nixon restraining the Israelis at the end of the Yom Kippur War with the road to Cairo open; the Soviets pulling out their missiles from Cuba, leaving Castro (who wanted war) with just a secret piece of paper.



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Julia

posted August 6, 2005 at 1:56 pm


Jeff said:
“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.”
I am soooooo glad you are not my president.



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Kevin Miller

posted August 6, 2005 at 4:33 pm


The move at this point will be to have ObL reconstrue his plan of action to take his intermediate goal to produce the belief that killings have occurred, with the actual killings being an unintended but foreseeable consequence of that goal.
That makes no sense. If you intend to produce the belief that killings have occurred – by means of an act that produces the killings – then you can’t reasonably and honestly say that the killings are a consequence of the goal. It has to be the other way around – the killings are the (intended) means to the goal.



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Seamus

posted August 6, 2005 at 5:24 pm


Reason’s Hit & Run has linked to an interesting article in the Miami Herald (http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/opinion/12316979.htm; requires registration) pointing out that for years after the end of the war the opinion that the atomic bombings was immoral was comonly accepted on the political Right. Examples cited in the article are former Pres. Hoover, Henry Luce, David Lawrence (editor of U.S. News & World Report back when that magazine was conservative), the Chicago Tribune (back when it was conservative), even National Review (back when it was conservative).
Certainly Catholics steeped in the just-war tradition (including the much discussed principle that a good end cannot justify intrinsically immoral ends) have long been critical of the decision to drop the Bomb. Examples that come readily to mind include G.E.M. Anscombe (mentioned earlier on this thread) and Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn.



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Zippy

posted August 6, 2005 at 6:43 pm


I think you mischaracterized Philosopher’s posts…
And I think not. He treats double-effect as if it were a mere formalism, and points out that hey presto, when you treat it as a mere formalism and allow “intent” to be arbitrarily set to anything at all (as opposed to setting it to what the actual intent in fact is) that the result is not a substantive moral prohibition. He assumes a priori that double-effect is a meaningless formalism and then (hey presto) produces the result that double-effect is a meaningless formalism. He constructed the stunning result that if you mischaracterize your intentions you can always make the formal (but substantively false, since you have mischaracterized them) claim that they are good. He has shown that if you assume that “intent” is an arbitrary word rather than referring to something that is in actual fact the case that it becomes irrelevant to moral reasoning.
But the fact that you can produce any result you want if you are allowed to start with any premeses at all, including false ones, is only profound inasmuch as it is a common mechanism of self-deception (in general, not limited to double-effect reasoning or even moral reasoning).
…not that your presumed misunderstanding excuses your smart ass response.
Oh, I most certainly haven’t misunderstood Philosopher’s little card trick, I have merely pointed it out for what it is.
And thanks for the concern about my anatomical IQ.



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Donald R. McClarey

posted August 6, 2005 at 9:18 pm


“I can understand why the temptation for us to drop the bomb in Japan was great. But I fear that ultimately we ourselves will have to live with the consequences of what we have unleashed.”
Our use of the a-bomb will be absolutely meaningless to the terrorists who would blow up one of cities with a suitcase nuke. They would do so if we were all granola crunching pacifists. What we do or say makes absolutely no difference to them except insofar as we are able to interfere with their plans for an Islamic ruled world. Our example, one way or another, is less than nothing to them.



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Zippy

posted August 7, 2005 at 5:37 pm


Permitted by the laws of war then in force by custom and treaty.
This sense of “permitted” is morally irrelevant (if not irrelevant in general). If you want to argue that intentionally incinerating a city filled with civilians was not immoral you have to ground that claim in moral premeses: that is, in natural law or Divine law. Unspecified “laws of war” or specific appeals to the authority of formal treaties won’t do. If the US and Japan had a treaty permitting each other to torture captives that would not make it morally permissable to torture captives.



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c matt

posted August 9, 2005 at 4:20 pm


As one of you pointed out, in WWII, Americans 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. Thus obviously aiding the war effort for the Allies.
Another astutely points out that You had a civilian population mobilizing to defend Japan at a horrendous cost to both sides. So, every American buying war bonds, rationing and working in factories building materials helpful to the war would be combatants, right? So dropping an A bomb on NYC would have been justified by the Japanese?



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c matt

posted August 9, 2005 at 4:23 pm


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.
Including those on the Allied side? So, if Al Qaeda nukes Detroit where Hummers and military vehicles are built/designed, he would be justified?



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c matt

posted August 9, 2005 at 4:40 pm


It is the one area where I think Catholic doctrine has not kept up with unprecedented changes in technology over the last 60 years.
Because as we all know, truth changes as technology changes. If its immoral to target noncombatants with a bow and arrow, its immoral to target them with a laser guided missile.



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c matt

posted August 9, 2005 at 5:35 pm


Well, I haven’t any licit options, so screw it. Easy to condemn.
Nance, you need to get a grip. First, Zippy is not “condemning” anyone, he is exposing the immorality of a certain act. Whether one is sufficiently culpable to warrant condemnation is a separate inquiry.
Second, you imply that if licit options are not available to achieve a desired end, that illicit options may be employed. How does that conform to Catholic moral teaching that the ends do not justify the means (or that one may not do evil to achieve good)?



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c matt

posted August 9, 2005 at 6:05 pm


it is also plausible that if a weapon were available that would have only destroyed those cities’ war machine capabilities and only killed or injured members of the military America would have opted instead to use such a weapon.
But part of the point is that such a weapon was not available, the one that was available would destroy indiscrminantly, and we chose to use it anyway.



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