Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Dark Anniversary

A couple of days ago, Norm Geras noted the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima with thoughts I second. Geras was responding to a piece in the Guardian by Oliver Kamm, who wrote that "Our side did terrible things to avoid a more terrible outcome," and that as horrific as the result was, "abjuring the bomb would have caused greater suffering still." Geras argues:
Even if one thinks the calculation does convincingly establish how any US president would have acted, it doesn't show that it wasn't a war crime. It is not a legitimate act of war to save the lives of your own soldiers by the mass bombing of civilians, and to reason simply from the 'realism' of what was to be expected in the situation prevailing is to suggest that the laws of war only apply when it's easy to uphold them, but otherwise must give way to utilitarian calculation. On that basis you might as well scrap those laws.
Like most people, I think September 11 changed some of my previous political thinking. In certain ways, it pushed me rightward. But I remember thinking, almost immediately after that day, or even during it, about the more total destruction caused by the bombing of Japan, and how killing innocent civilians on any scale -- much less that one -- is essentially unforgivable, even if refraining would cause equally terrible and unforgivable results. This is nothing more than a longer way of stating the "no winners in war" cliche, so... as you were.


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