August 06, 2005

60th anniversary

The AP's Eric Talmadge serves up what may be a "typical" remembrance of the Hiroshima A-bombing:

Hiroshima marked the 60th anniversary of the first atomic bomb attack Saturday with prayers and water for the dead and a call by the mayor for nuclear powers to abandon their arsenals and stop "jeopardizing human survival."

A flock of doves was released into the sky. Then wreaths and ladles of water - symbolizing the suffering of those who died in the atomic inferno - were offered at a simple, arch-shaped stone monument at the center of the park.

Outside the nearby A-Bomb Dome, one of the few buildings left standing after the blast, peace activists held a "die-in" - falling to the ground to dramatize the toll from a bombing that turned life to death for more than 140,000 and forever changed the face of war.

The remainder of the article is all more or less about remembering "the horror" of the nuclear bombings. No mention is made of the horror an invasion of Japan would have witnessed. Or of Japan's World War II atrocities throughout southeastern Asia. However, Time's David Kennedy, in an article titled "Crossing the Moral Threshold," (most of the online article is only available for premium content members; however, I have the hardcopy magazine version) makes several interesting points. First, the atomic bombings were essential to ending the war. Countering what I had posted previously, Kennedy notes that

Japanese scientists assessing the Hiroshima damage doubted that the Americans could possibly have harvested enough radioactive material to make more than a few bombs. It was even likely, they said, that Hiroshima was a one-off stunt that could not be repeated. (This deprecation of the magnitude of the US Bomb program suggest how ineffective a demonstration would have been.)

Second, Kennedy points out that the real moral question is the targeting of civilians during wartime, not the atomic bombings in and of itself. He notes that "66 of Japan's largest cities [were consumed] and as many as 900,000 civilians -- many times the combined death tolls of Hiroshima and Nagasaki" were killed in "standard" firebombing raids.

Kennedy ends by stating the "US had already crossed a terrifying moral threshold when it accepted the targeting of civilians as a legitimate instrument of warfare. That was a deliberate decision, indeed, and it's where the moral argument should rightly focus."

Posted by Rhodey at August 6, 2005 12:42 PM | TrackBack

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