The Power of Apology

Whether or not you are a Christian, this author’s view makes ethical sense to me. I’ve become upset many times by the views of people parroting the old propaganda about how killing those in Hiroshima and Nagasaki “saved more American lives”, “shortened the war” etc. We don’t know that. We can’t know that. Some believe it to be true. Some don’t.

Killing innocent people is not justified, and can’t be (in my view) by unprovable hypotheses about the positive effect the killers ASSUME the killings will have (or did have) upon future events. There were tens of thousands of children under age five killed in the two atomic bombings. There were hospitals in both cities that were obliterated. Even if you subscribe to the idea that Japan had ordered “every man, woman and child to fight to the death”, it seems insane to assume infants, toddlers and hospital patients could ever have been a threat.

Historians are on both sides of this issue. Some say the documentary evidence makes it crystal clear that once Russia declared war on Japan between the two bombings, Japanese high command sued for peace, believing they would get better terms from the Americans – thus making the bombing of Nagasaki completely unnecessary (i.e. mass murder). Other historians downplay the influence of Russia’s military actions on the outcome of the war with Japan.

I’m not a historical expert. I’m examining the question from a philosophical position of pacifism, one that rejects the theory of “just wars”.

The Workshop

I have admit, I haven’t followed American news much at all since being here.  It’s pretty much what shows up on my MSN homepage and Facebook feed.  But something, other than the horror that is the presidential campaigns for both parties, caught my eye the last few days.  Not from a lot of people, not the headline by far, but just enough to sadden me once again at the state of the American Church.

obama apologyA few of my friends have posted at how appalled they are that President Obama dared to apologize to the people of Japan for dropping the atomic bomb on them in WWII.  They point to how it saved hundreds if not thousands of lives which would have been lost in battle.  They argue that Japan deserved it after attacking Pearl Harbor.  They shout that in war, you do what you have to do and make no…

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Filed under Ethics and Morality, forgiveness, politics

14 responses to “The Power of Apology

  1. Thanks for the reblog! Glad you liked it.

  2. Genie

    Targeting civilians is a war crime.

    • That’s certainly how I see it too. However, many people believe it was justified for the reasons mentioned previously. If you accept that some wars are (or can be) just, it’s not hard to get to the sometime necessity of targeting civilians.

      • Genie

        Aerial bombardment and international law:
        ‘Air warfare must comply with laws and customs of war, including international humanitarian law by protecting the victims of the conflict and refraining from attacks on protected persons.[1]

        These restraints on aerial warfare are covered by the general laws of war, because unlike war on land and at sea—which are specifically covered by rules such as the 1907 Hague Convention and Protocol I additional to the Geneva Conventions, which contain pertinent restrictions, prohibitions and guidelines—there are no treaties specific to aerial warfare.[1]

        To be legal, aerial operations must comply with the principles of humanitarian law: military necessity, distinction, and proportionality:[1] An attack or action must be intended to help in the military defeat of the enemy; it must be an attack on a military objective, and the harm caused to civilians or civilian property must be proportional and not excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.”

        I do not believe for one second that all of America was in danger from Japan, therefore, the force (2 nuclear bombs that targeted civilians) used was beyond excessive.

        • I’m not a lawyer, and the article re-blogged isn’t really about the legality of the action, even though my added introduction touched on that. It’s interesting information though, even if it is off-topic, so thank you for offering it.

  3. It’s hard to understand the value of teaching history if we maintain we never made any mistakes. Al Franken has a chapter in one of his books where he addresses conservatives who claim any criticism of America’s past means you hate or don’t support America against its enemies. He makes a pretty convincing list of positives and negatives. Marshall Plan: good. Red Scare: bad. The negatives deserve to be studied. What were the flaws in our institutions, education, media, and group think that allowed us to make a mistake that seemed so obvious in retrospect.

    • Can’t add much except to agree. I did take one college course called “20th Century Revolutions” that compared the way historians in different countries wrote about recent past wars. That professor’s position was that you have to examine and study conflict events from the views of all sides in order to find truth, since there’s a strong tendency to bias toward the importance and relative goodness of your own country’s acts.

      • It’s important to study the perspective of the other side. We like to shout down anyone who tries to take a nuanced perspective on the ‘bad guys,’ but history doesn’t teach us anything useful about our own choices if we lump people into good and bad categories. If Hitler was born bad and simply wanted to do evil, there aren’t any lessons for us to learn that might inform the potential corruption of our own leaders.

        • My answer to the old philosophy problem of “If you could go back in time, would you kill Hitler?”, was that if I could go back in time, I would go to when he was rejected for art school, and provide him with employment counseling. He didn’t really look for others to blame for his (therefore Germany’s) troubles until he was rejected as an artist by the academic establishment, and spent time living in slum rooms, selling watercolor postcards for pennies on the street. Hunger and sleep deprivation can lead to all kinds of odd, extreme perceptions about the world.

      • Sca Jack

        My brother tells me that you need to read at least three versions of a story to get at the truth of what really happened. In college I took an English/Religion course in which the Gospels were analyzed in a close-reading literature fashion. It was fascinating when the veil of bias and subjectivity was rolled back, the reality becomes clearer. Try reading Pravda, China Daily, the NY Times and the Guardian’s coverage on the same topic.

  4. Carolyn Koppel

    my feelings too!

  5. Deb

    Being American should NOT mean never having to say you are sorry. How sad that this is associated with weakness when it can be a sign of true greatness.

  6. Once Truman became aware of the devastation in Hiroshima, why wasn’t he appalled? Why did he still deem it necessary to nuke Nagasaki?

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