Friday, August 6, 2010

An Ugly Anniversary

Caption: The Gembaku Dome in Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped. It was about the only thing left standing in Hiroshima on August 7th, 1945.

Image credit: Fg2/Wikimedia

It's August 6 again, and so we end up discussing the bombing of Hiroshima yet again:

[H]istory is not going to judge us kindly for this crime against humanity. Never again.

6 August 1945

Certainly, by the terms of the Geneva Convention of 1949, Hiroshima would have been a war crime. By those same rules, though, Poland, Nanking, Pearl Harbor, London, and The Phillipines would have been war crimes. So would Hamburg and Tokyo. I don't think that History will judge any of the major participants in World War II well by that standard.

I tried to provide some context for why the bomb was used last year. Every decision the Allied leaders faced in the campaign against Japan in 1945 involved hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths. Some involved millions. There were no good choices. We can argue until the cows come home about whether they made the best choice. Arguing that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were somehow special crimes, given the list I've provided and all the ones I didn't include in it, ignores the context in which they occurred.

The important thing to remember is that this is how war is. It's chaos waged by fanatics and desperate people, and it never will turn out the way you want. We need to hold that thought firmly in our minds whenever we contemplate war. We haven't done that very well recently.

That doesn't bode well for avoiding such things in the future.

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