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Was the use of the atomic bomb on Japan in WW2 a crime agaist humanity?

 
 
Reply Fri 16 Oct, 2009 02:22 am
I am aware that there has already been a thread around this topic, but I would like to approach the topic from a different angle

Many politicians state that the use of the atomic bomb on Japan at the very end of WW2 was both a war crime and a crime against humanity,

I remember Oppenheimer s famous word "I am death the destroyer of world, we have known sin" like most of his peers he was appalled at the destructive power of the bomb.

What do the members of the forum have to say on the topic??
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Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 Oct, 2009 04:49 am
@Alan McDougall,
Some points to consider:

1) The firebombing of Tokyo, Osaka, and numerous other Japanese (not to mention German) cities was far larger a human catastrophe than the two atomic bombs.

2) WW2 was an enormous, complex event that in itself can be seen as multiple unprecedented crimes against humanity. Some of them were utterly beyond a historical or moral justification -- the military aggressiveness, the genocides, the mass starvation of populations, the disruption of treaties. Others were performed for the primary purpose of ending the conflict. The mere fact that this question keeps getting asked should clue us in that whether or not we judge it as a crime, it was unquestionably a military tactic and strategic maneuver that had the undeniable purpose of ending hostilities with Japan.

You cannot make the same statement about the Rape of Nanking.

So I can't call it a crime against humanity in that same sense. It was less a crime against humanity than the Soviet-German land war, which consumed tens of millions of civilians from starvation, cold, and paramilitary violence. It was less a crime against humanity than the Siege of Leningrad, which killed 5-10 times the number who died in the atomic bombings combined. It was less a crime against humanity than the Japanese atrocities against Korea and Manchuria.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 Oct, 2009 06:31 am
@Alan McDougall,
Alan McDougall;97835 wrote:
I am aware that there has already been a thread around this topic, but I would like to approach the topic from a different angle

Many politicians state that the use of the atomic bomb on Japan at the very end of WW2 was both a war crime and a crime against humanity,

I remember Oppenheimer s famous word "I am death the destroyer of world, we have known sin" like most of his peers he was appalled at the destructive power of the bomb.

What do the members of the forum have to say on the topic??


People can state whatever they like. But the notions of "war crime", and "crime against humanity" are fairly well-defined. The question is whether the dropping of the bomb falls under those definitions. Otherwise, the issue you raise becomes unresolvable.

---------- Post added 10-16-2009 at 08:34 AM ----------

Aedes;97849 wrote:
Some points to consider:

1) The firebombing of Tokyo, Osaka, and numerous other Japanese (not to mention German) cities was far larger a human catastrophe than the two atomic bombs.

2) WW2 was an enormous, complex event that in itself can be seen as multiple unprecedented crimes against humanity. Some of them were utterly beyond a historical or moral justification -- the military aggressiveness, the genocides, the mass starvation of populations, the disruption of treaties. Others were performed for the primary purpose of ending the conflict. The mere fact that this question keeps getting asked should clue us in that whether or not we judge it as a crime, it was unquestionably a military tactic and strategic maneuver that had the undeniable purpose of ending hostilities with Japan.

You cannot make the same statement about the Rape of Nanking.

So I can't call it a crime against humanity in that same sense. It was less a crime against humanity than the Soviet-German land war, which consumed tens of millions of civilians from starvation, cold, and paramilitary violence. It was less a crime against humanity than the Siege of Leningrad, which killed 5-10 times the number who died in the atomic bombings combined. It was less a crime against humanity than the Japanese atrocities against Korea and Manchuria.


Of course, that X is worse than Y doesn't make Y not horrible too. Just not as horrible.
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 Oct, 2009 06:48 am
@kennethamy,
If it is war, then it is horrible and criminal. Let's get that together first. There is no such thing as a just war, only some wars that become so terrible that they must be expanded so that they may be ended (the two world wars are fine examples).
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 Oct, 2009 06:58 am
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas;97865 wrote:
If it is war, then it is horrible and criminal. Let's get that together first. There is no such thing as a just war, only some wars that become so terrible that they must be expanded so that they may be ended (the two world wars are fine examples).


Of course there is such a thing as a just war. The Second World war against Hitler was a just war. But the issue here is not whether the war itself was just. The issue here is whether the war was justly conducted, and, specifically, whether the dropping of the bomb was just. It is wrong to lump all wars together and just condemn them all. There are important differences, even if all wars are bad. The American Civil War, fought partly to end slavery is another case in point of a just war. There is a thread on the idea of a just war. I suggest you read it.
0 Replies
 
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 Oct, 2009 08:17 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;97860 wrote:
Of course, that X is worse than Y doesn't make Y not horrible too. Just not as horrible.
Missing the point.

The whole concept of Crimes against Humanity was conceived (along with War Crimes and Crimes against Peace) because of a certain basic level of protection for human life and well-being. No tactical act of war has ever been legally judged as a crime against humanity, to my knowledge. This is generally reserved for paramilitary or nonmilitary operations that occur outside the scope of the military engagement.

So the question is really whether it's a war crime, not a crime against humanity.

As an act of war the atomic bombs were unremarkable in scale -- they were remarkable only in efficiency and technology. I believe that indiscriminate bombing in general is a war crime, and the a-bombs were but two of countless such acts in WWII, a war that lacked precision bombing. Knowing what we do now about the effects of radiation, any subsequent use of them would be appropriately considered a war crime. But I'm not sure I can come to that judgment based on what was understood at the time.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 Oct, 2009 08:28 am
@Aedes,
Aedes;97879 wrote:
Missing the point.

The whole concept of Crimes against Humanity was conceived (along with War Crimes and Crimes against Peace) because of a certain basic level of protection for human life and well-being. No tactical act of war has ever been legally judged as a crime against humanity, to my knowledge. This is generally reserved for paramilitary or nonmilitary operations that occur outside the scope of the military engagement.

So the question is really whether it's a war crime, not a crime against humanity.

As an act of war the atomic bombs were unremarkable in scale -- they were remarkable only in efficiency and technology. I believe that indiscriminate bombing in general is a war crime, and the a-bombs were but two of countless such acts in WWII, a war that lacked precision bombing. Knowing what we do now about the effects of radiation, any subsequent use of them would be appropriately considered a war crime. But I'm not sure I can come to that judgment based on what was understood at the time.


What point did I miss? I don't think I said whether or not it was either, nor that the issue was the one or the other. I simply pointed out that Whether X is worse than Y shows nothing about how bad Y was. So, even if X is worse than Y, and X is a war crime, Y may still be a war crime. Only not as bad as X. Therefore, arguing that Y is not a war crime because X is a war crime, and X is worse than Y, is fallacious. And I think that is what you were arguing.
0 Replies
 
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 Oct, 2009 11:09 am
@Alan McDougall,
Again, both misreading and missing the point.

If our discussion is about whether X should fit a moral or legal principle, then you are guilty of arbitrariness when you exclude simultaneous events that were clearer examples of this principle.

If you want to argue that the bomb was a crime against humanity, then you are forced to justify why you haven't included a million other examples from WWII that people rarely contend to be such a crime.
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 Oct, 2009 12:17 pm
@Alan McDougall,
Yes but WWII was full of crimes against humanity. War itself is a crime against humanity. At least the bomb had the effect of ending the war. Its not black or white but an ugly shade of gray.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 Oct, 2009 01:08 pm
@prothero,
Bayoneting an unarmed enemy, is a crime but who would dare condemn that man if he had entered Auschwitz and seen the horrors. War is the most distasteful activity man can pursue but given certain circumstances we are all capable of criminal acts. Its never grey its black.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 Oct, 2009 05:29 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes;97919 wrote:
Again, both misreading and missing the point.

If our discussion is about whether X should fit a moral or legal principle, then you are guilty of arbitrariness when you exclude simultaneous events that were clearer examples of this principle.

If you want to argue that the bomb was a crime against humanity, then you are forced to justify why you haven't included a million other examples from WWII that people rarely contend to be such a crime.


You mean that suppose I think that murder deserves the death penalty, and if someone thinks that robbery deserves the death penalty, I need to show why robbery does not deserve the death penalty in order to show that murder does? Why?

Just what principle are you talking about?
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 Oct, 2009 10:01 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;97990 wrote:
You mean that suppose I think that murder deserves the death penalty, and if someone thinks that robbery deserves the death penalty, I need to show why robbery does not deserve the death penalty in order to show that murder does?
Kenneth, you pay such little attention to anything you quote and respond to that all I can say is go back and read my posts again. It's like you're responding to someone else.
0 Replies
 
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Oct, 2009 12:15 am
@Alan McDougall,
War is a "crime against humanity"
Would you not have used "the bomb"?
Would you have launched a land invasion of Japan instead?
Would that have been less a crime against humanity?
The death of one innocent child or noncombatant is a "crime against humanity" but?
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Oct, 2009 09:44 am
@prothero,
prothero;98035 wrote:
War is a "crime against humanity"
Would you not have used "the bomb"?
Would you have launched a land invasion of Japan instead?
Would that have been less a crime against humanity?
The death of one innocent child or noncombatant is a "crime against humanity" but?


Used without any analysis of its meaning, the term, "crime against humanity" has emotional and very little if any, descriptive content, which is why it is being used on the thread to mean just any event that happens to horrify the poster. For example, someone called making biofuels a "crime against humanity" recently. The notion is discussed on the internet. It needs only to be looked up. Otherwise, the term will be spread around like peanut butter, and mean something like, "I don't like it" (whatever it is). The intentionally caused death of a child may be very evil, but it is not a crime against humanity.
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Oct, 2009 11:06 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;98100 wrote:
Used without any analysis of its meaning, the term, "crime against humanity" has emotional and very little if any, descriptive content, which is why it is being used on the thread to mean just any event that happens to horrify the poster. For example, someone called making biofuels a "crime against humanity" recently. The notion is discussed on the internet. It needs only to be looked up. Otherwise, the term will be spread around like peanut butter, and mean something like, "I don't like it" (whatever it is). The intentionally caused death of a child may be very evil, but it is not a crime against humanity.


Well if it is legal analysis we are after: Someone will have to provide a definition of "crimes against humanity" which was in effect and agreed to at the time of WWII. In general the victors in the war got to define "crimes against humanity and prosecute the losers for violating them.
The winners not only get to write history they get to define "war crimes" as well.

How many innocent lifes must be lost to constitute a "crime against humanity"? and in what manner, by what method?
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Oct, 2009 12:01 pm
@prothero,
prothero;98135 wrote:
Well if it is legal analysis we are after: Someone will have to provide a definition of "crimes against humanity" which was in effect and agreed to at the time of WWII. In general the victors in the war got to define "crimes against humanity and prosecute the losers for violating them.
The winners not only get to write history they get to define "war crimes" as well.

How many innocent lifes must be lost to constitute a "crime against humanity"? and in what manner, by what method?


The question is whether there is an objective analysis of the term.Then, we can see what (if anything) the term applies to. One thing is clear, though, the killing of one child, however evil and bad it might be, would not be a "crime against humanity". The word is not that vague. After all, the term is a technical term, and was not in general use before it was invented in a particular context. So, I suppose that the legal meaning would be central. Otherwise, people will call anything they please, a "crime against humanity", and it will begin to lose its meaning, like "The Holocaust". A term that can mean anything quickly begins to mean nothing much. It is to prevent people from using the term just for their own purposes, that we have to pay attention to an objective analysis of the term.
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Oct, 2009 12:45 pm
@Alan McDougall,
There are some situations that can't be brought to resolution through non-violent means. Once we enter that realm of the lose/lose scenario, all bets are off.
0 Replies
 
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Oct, 2009 01:48 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;98144 wrote:
The question is whether there is an objective analysis of the term.Then, we can see what (if anything) the term applies to. One thing is clear, though, the killing of one child, however evil and bad it might be, would not be a "crime against humanity". The word is not that vague. After all, the term is a technical term, and was not in general use before it was invented in a particular context. So, I suppose that the legal meaning would be central. Otherwise, people will call anything they please, a "crime against humanity", and it will begin to lose its meaning, like "The Holocaust". A term that can mean anything quickly begins to mean nothing much. It is to prevent people from using the term just for their own purposes, that we have to pay attention to an objective analysis of the term.

You keep claiming what is not "a crime against humanity".
Do you have a definition to offer about what the criteria for "a crime against humanity"is?

---------- Post added 10-17-2009 at 12:54 PM ----------

I mean if vaporizing a few hunderd thousand people in a few seconds with a single weapon dropped from a single plane is not a "crime against humanity" what is?
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Oct, 2009 11:49 pm
@Alan McDougall,
It may have been rational. It may even have been justified.
It is still a "crime against humanity".
0 Replies
 
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Oct, 2009 05:25 am
@xris,
kennethamy;97866 wrote:
Of course there is such a thing as a just war. The Second World war against Hitler was a just war.


I disagree that the Second World War was a just war. There was nothing of justice in the aggression of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, and nothing just in the pusillanimous responses of world powers when these two jingoistic regimes began their brutal campaigns of conquest.

To call the ultimate intervention of allied powers, which only occurred after their own interests were at stake rather than the interests of some other nation, a just response is to ignore the not insignificant lack of justice in their early mishandling of bellicose Japan and Germany.

I specifically mentioned the first two world wars as instances of expanding a war in order to end a war being pragmatic responses to war. However pragmatic, however reasonable, there is nothing in this to assert a moral justification (which is justice) for war in the first place. Instead, there is a moral justification for ending the war, which often requires the expansion of war as in the case of both world wars.

kennethamy;97866 wrote:
But the issue here is not whether the war itself was just. The issue here is whether the war was justly conducted, and, specifically, whether the dropping of the bomb was just.


And I contend that it is impossible for there to be a justly conducted war because war, by definition, is unjust in the first place.

This notion of justly conducted war is a chivalric ideal hangover, and a dangerous one. It allows each side to claim glory and righteousness in acts of unmitigated brutality when, instead, each side should recognize the absolute barbarism of violent practices and feel shame for being forced into such a situation by some earlier lack of understanding and proper handling.

kennethamy;97866 wrote:
It is wrong to lump all wars together and just condemn them all. There are important differences, even if all wars are bad.


Reread your own words: all wars are bad, right after it is wrong to condemn all wars. But you know quite well yourself that all wars are rightly condemned as bad.

Sure, each war is unique, but each war is also similar. And the most significant similarity is that all wars are actually avoidable - that we humans neglect to avoid them is a fault of our own. Trying to add justice as an element of this faulty behavior is no more than an attempt to make ourselves feel better about our own inability.

kennethamy;97866 wrote:
The American Civil War, fought partly to end slavery is another case in point of a just war.


First, the American Civil War was not fought to end slavery, but fought in order to maintain slavery as an institution in the southern states. Again, the war was avoidable, but pusillanimous politicians refused to adequately address the problem of slavery - a lineage of politicians running back to those present or influential at the First Constitutional Convention. This includes great heroes Jefferson and Madison and so many others. By the 1850's, war was eminent unless the problem of slavery was solved. Instead of solutions, mild compromises put off the looming conflict, inflating the conflict into a death match for the southern way of life.

No, the Civil War was not a just war.
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