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"
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?
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.