Thursday, August 6, 2015

Hiroshima: We Must Reflect And Repent

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima by the United States government. I have no interest in mincing words today; it was a despicable act of barbarism and a crime against humanity. Harry Truman and anyone else complicit in bringing it about is not a hero but a war criminal.

There is never a good excuse to kill 100,000 innocent people. Yes, I've heard the excuses--it was done to save lives, to end the war, to send a message to the Soviet Union--all of them are pathetic, not to mention historically untenable. Regardless, committing mass slaughter to save an unknown number of soldiers and civilians in a theoretical invasion of Japan is still mass slaughter. Committing mass slaughter to bring about a speedier end to a war is still mass slaughter. Committing mass slaughter to send a message to another country that we could blow them all to Kingdom Come is still mass slaughter. And these justifications fail to consider the real questions, like why exactly Japan needed to be invaded in the first place. They were done.

You see this is what total war does to a society--it excuses murder and turns the world into a giant game of Risk, that can only be won or lost. There is no middle ground, only people who get in the way. We go on and on about how World War II was the "good war," the "necessary war," fought by the "greatest generation" because our enemies did horrific things. The Holocaust, Nanking, Pearl Harbor--these were indeed acts of evil--but they do not excuse the way in which we retaliated. World War II was a scourge, a travesty, a tragedy of epic proportions, and it was capped off by the most irresponsible use of technology in human history, something we can't mindlessly blame on the Nazis or "Japs." World War II was the absolute repudiation of Christian values by everyone involved, and only opened the door for more unjust and brutal wars to be waged since.

You may think of me as unpatriotic, and you are free to think that. But I believe in patriotism, in wanting what is best for my country, in standing up for the founding principles of my country. What I reject is nationalism, a blind love for a political entity. The United States is just that--a state, a government. It is not God. It is prone to tyranny, oppression, and violence as all governments are. So when my government commits acts of heinous aggression, like it did 70 years ago, I will speak out against it with all the strength I have. I will still love my homeland, I will still love the people of my homeland, I will still mourn the deaths of those killed from my homeland (including my Uncle Hancel, who was at Pearl Harbor), but I will not defend acts of evil by my government, whether they be the President who issues the orders or the pilot who drops the bombs.

I will also mourn the deaths of those killed who happened to have the misfortune of living in a country led by an enemy of our government. The horror that must have been experienced by the poor souls in Hiroshima that day, and Nagasaki three days later. Human beings vaporized, incinerated, melted, blown to bits, crushed, gassed...utterly annihilated. Survivors afflicted with massive doses of radiation, burned and maimed. Homes, livelihoods, loved ones lost forever. Worlds of potential instantly turned into dark chasms of hopelessness and despair.

So pardon me for not rallying behind the next threat trumpeted by the warmongers trying to start yet another conflict. I desire for Iran to be nuclear-free as much as the next guy, but it's hard to take the American government seriously in its bid to prevent that when it has produced tens of thousands of nuclear warheads over the years and remains the only entity to ever use them on a populace.

I yearn for a day when we can harken back to the fundamental principles of Christianity, when we can stand up for life and liberty at all times and in all places. May we take this grim anniversary not to celebrate but to reflect and repent, and to strive to follow the Savior when he said, " Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."


  1. D&C 98 is the Lord's law of retaliation. It is a good read.

    I personally believe that Roosevelt knew Pearl Harbor was coming, and that the US entrance into the war was a secret combination.

    That being said, I studied the nuking of Japan in college. In fact, a final exam question I remember writing despite the years that have gone by is to justify or condemn the bombing with factual examples. My choice then remains my choice now. If it were me, I would command the bombing occur. The blame for the situation is not to be placed on the US, but the Japanese leaders. They had convinced their people that the Americans would rape them and torture them to death. They had convinced their people to fight to the last man, woman, and child, using guerrilla tactics. This is not theory, it happened on every island in the pacific that the allies took from the Japanese. The only options to end the war were either to firebomb Japan over time, creating far more suffering for the Japanese people than the atomic option, or exercising the atomic option. Any other option would just have caused a very very long amount of suffering on the Japanese islands. The resolution of the Japanese is evident by the several stories of soldiers marooned on remote islands who continued to kill any passers by for decades after the war. They refused to believe Japan had lost, and refused to abandon their orders.

    I remain open to persuasion on this point, but I don't see any evidence so far that suggests there was any other option.

    1. I completely meant to respond to you when you posted this, Rob, and never got around to it. Guess that's what happens when I slack on my blog.

      I love the perspective you add to the bloggernacle, but I must say I completely disagree with you on this. Yes, Imperial Japan was brutal, and yes, many of its citizens at the time were maniacal (guess that's what happens when you worship an emperor). But it still doesn't excuse the fact that it was the United States who dropped the bombs on population centers. For all its crimes, Japan did not attack U.S. civilians. Not because they were more humane, but that's really beside the point. The U.S. took the war to noncombatants, and those involved are indeed accountable for the actions they took, which go directly against instructions given in the aforementioned D&C 98. Even if one were to believe Japan fell under the parameters given in that section to eventually go to battle (I do not), there was no commandment from God sanctioning such a war, much less going after civilians in a foreign country. It mirrors the account given in Mormon 3:10-11, in which the Nephites desired to go after their enemies (who were were indeed vicious) in enemy lands. That is the point at which Mormon did "utterly refuse" to command his armies. If we really intend to live by the Book of Mormon, we cannot ignore this.

      As for the end of the war, there was no reason Japan needed to be held to such strict terms of surrender, particularly the insistence by Western leaders on removing Hirohito from power. (He ended up staying in power anyway.) And the Japanese did not capitulate because of the firebombing and nuclear campaigns, it was because they discovered that the Soviets, who they thought they could engage some sort of truce with, were about to enter the Pacific war via Manchuria. Japanese leaders, though split between hardliners and moderates, realized they had lost the war. The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey concluded as much shortly after the war that Japan would have surrendered even without an Allied land invasion, even without the dropping of nuclear bombs, by the end of 1945.

  2. We did firebomb them, hundreds of thousands of them under command of General Curtis LeMay, a psychotic maniac bent on annihilating the Japanese race. We burned men, women, children, and the elderly by the thousands in Tokyo and surrounding cities.... All before dropping the Nuke. Some estimate that 500,000 Japanese were killed in these raids. This is not war, this is genocide. There is no excuse for exterminating hundreds of thousands of innocents. The Japanese didn't surrender because they didn't want what happened in Germany in 1918 under the treaty of Versailles, war reparations, hyperinflation, and disarmament... Honestly who can blame them. Truman was advised against dropping the bomb by General McCarthur and even his own chief of staff admiral Leahy. They said you don't win wars by bombing women and children.... J. Reuben Clark condemned the bombings in general conference as "fiendish butchery." Make no mistake, America committed an act of mass murder that day.

    1. Discovering President Clark's sermon was one of the key influences in bringing me to a reconsideration of my long held popular opinion of the "propriety" of the bombings, especially what the Spirit whispered to me in line with 2 Nephi 28:31 when it validated his statement about God not forgiving (or at least not easily) and also his phrase you quoted above, "fiendish butchery".

      There were some things that Pres. Clark supported that I, and the church, no longer support (priesthood restrictions, etc.), but the Holy Ghost was clear, that on this topic, making war and terror on innocent civilians, Pres. Clark was spot on.

  3. In August of 1945 my father, a Navy pilot, was on orders to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska to participate in the final assault and invasion of Japan. I had long believed that the Atomic bombings probably saved his life, and made my life possible (I was born 8 years later). After years of study and reflection, I no longer believe this.

    The Japanese government had been trying to negotiate a surrender since at least the end of the war in Europe, but the Allies, led by the US, refused to consider anything except unconditional surrender; that is, until after the Atom bomb makers got to test their new "toy" on real cities full of real people, almost all of them innocent civilians. Then suddenly, it was ok to accept the only condition the Japanese were asking for, to retain the Emperor on his throne as a figurehead. Indeed, the two cities that were Nuked were specifically reserved from the conventional firebombings that had destroyed almost all other major Japanese cities so they could be used to test the Atomic bombs. In two strokes, the US destroyed all claim to any morality greater than that exhibited by Germany, Japan, or even the USSR with all of Stalin's mass murders.

    I remember reading a statement of an Apostle lamenting the ongoing coarsening and breakdown of society and morality since WW2, without apparently being able to pinpoint the cause of this trend, which was our participation in the war, and how we conducted it with mass terror bombings of civilians, both with conventional weapons and nuclear weapons.

  4. To your list of well-intentioned Allied leaders who bear a heavy burden in the war, include Winston Churchill, who insisted on the firebombing of Dresden, Germany.

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