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

 
 
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Oct, 2009 09:14 am
@Alan McDougall,
Our military response during WWII (and the Soviet response, the British response, and all the involved allies) WAS just. That is not synonymous with WWII being just. It was a war that was manufactured by two highly aggressive, militaristic states, namely Germany and Japan. WWII was not a creation of the allied powers, whether or not certain actions could have prevented it.

prothero;98035 wrote:
War is a "crime against humanity"
Not according to international law. Maybe according to basic human decency it is, but you'd better define your terms if you want us to answer this one. Remember, at Nuremberg they specifically had separate charges for "Crimes against peace" (like unjustified invasions, violation of treaties, attacking noncombatant states), "war crimes" (like killing prisoners of war, failing to protect civilians), and "crimes against humanity" (genocide, ethnic cleansing).

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.
Here you are, as published in the London Charter of the International Military Tribunal, 8 August 1945.

The Avalon Project : Charter of the International Military Tribunal

---------- Post added 10-18-2009 at 11:50 AM ----------

Here are current definitions according to legal documents at the International Criminal Court.

http://www.icc-cpi.int/NR/rdonlyres/9CAEE830-38CF-41D6-AB0B-68E5F9082543/0/Element_of_Crimes_English.pdf
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Oct, 2009 11:13 am
@Alan McDougall,
0 Replies
 
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Oct, 2009 12:32 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes;98284 wrote:
Not according to international law. Maybe according to basic human decency it is, but you'd better define your terms if you want us to answer this one. Remember, at Nuremberg they specifically had separate charges for "Crimes against peace" (like unjustified invasions, violation of treaties, attacking noncombatant states), "war crimes" (like killing prisoners of war, failing to protect civilians), and "crimes against humanity" (genocide, ethnic cleansing).

Charter of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg
(b) WAR CRIMES: namely, violations of the laws or customs of war. Such violations shall include, but not be limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity;
(c)CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY: namely, murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war; or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated.

One could argue it was "an inhumane act committed against a civilian population."

One could also argue it was "the wanton destruction of a city, town or village devastation not justified by "military necessity"

But overall it seems a little like the state departments careful avoidance of the term "genocide" for Rawanda, and the Bush teams careful avoidance of the term "torture" in discussing interrogation techniques. The legal technicalities miss the larger moral question.

Since the thread asks about "dropping an atomic weapon on Japan" consider the above comments directed to that act not to the war itself.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Oct, 2009 12:49 pm
@prothero,
prothero;98158 wrote:
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?


I did not say it was not. In order to know the meaning of a term, it is just as important to know what the term should not be applied to as it is to know what the term should be applied to.

The term, "crime against humanity" is not a term in common use, so common use cannot be appealed to for its meaning as it can be for most other terms. Apparently it was invented in 1915. But here is part of what Wikipedia says about it:

Crimes against humanity, as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Explanatory Memorandum, "are particularly odious offences in that they constitute a serious attack on human dignitywar crimes, but may fall short of falling into the category of crimes under discussion." or grave humiliation or a degradation of one or more human beings. They are not isolated or sporadic events, but are part either of a government policy (although the perpetrators need not identify themselves with this policy) or of a wide practice of atrocities tolerated or condoned by a government or a de facto authority. Murder; extermination; torture; rape and political, racial, or religious persecution and other inhumane acts reach the threshold of crimes against humanity only if they are part of a widespread or systematic practice. Isolated inhumane acts of this nature may constitute grave infringements of human rights, or depending on the circumstances,
0 Replies
 
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Oct, 2009 02:51 pm
@prothero,
prothero;98323 wrote:
One could argue it was "an inhumane act committed against a civilian population.

One could also argue it was "the wanton destruction of a city, town or village devastation not justified by "military necessity"
Yes, that could easily be argued.

But then you run into the conundrum of arbitrariness. FAR more cities were destroyed by land warfare than air bombing during WWII, at least in the European theater of operations. And far more people were killed in air attacks using conventional weapons. 40,000 civilians in Stalingrad, 50,000 in London, hundreds of thousands in Dresden, Munich, Tokyo, Osaka, etc.

So why should we highlight the atomic bombs and not all the other "wanton destructions of cities, towns, and villages"?

Also, how can you argue against the military necessity of Hiroshima and Nagasaki without arguing pro/con military necessity of countless other destroyed cities?

Budapest, Warsaw, Kiev, Minsk, Kharkov, Sebastopol, Leningrad... all cities that were partially or completely destroyed, and it's the beginning of an enormous list.

Quote:
Since the thread asks about "dropping an atomic weapon on Japan" consider the above comments directed to that act not to the war itself.
I hear you, but I still have to ask why we're talking about particulars without getting the general principle straight.
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Oct, 2009 05:45 pm
@Aedes,
[QUOTE=Aedes;98368] But then you run into the conundrum of arbitrariness. FAR more cities were destroyed by land warfare than air bombing during WWII, at least in the European theater of operations. And far more people were killed in air attacks using conventional weapons. 40,000 civilians in [/QUOTE]
Aedes;98368 wrote:
Stalingrad, 50,000 in London, hundreds of thousands in Dresden, Munich, Tokyo, Osaka, etc.

I hear you, but I still have to ask why we're talking about particulars without getting the general principle straight.
To me it would seem the general principle is
When the target becomes the civilian population and the goal is
To terrorize and demoralize the civilian population you have crossed the line.

The line was crossed by both sides in the war and on multiple occasions.
The inadvertent deaths of civilians in attempting to strike at targets of legitimate military value like factories, rail lines, airports, command centers, is one thing but the deliberate carpet bombing of civilian population centers constitutes a "war crime" and a "crime against humanity".

[QUOTE=Aedes;98368] So why should we highlight the atomic bombs and not all the other "wanton destructions of cities, towns, and villages"?[/QUOTE]
I think what is frightening about the bomb is the relative ease with which the destruction was accomplished. It did not take hundreds of planes and aircrew, thousands of bombs and hours and days to happen. One plane, one bomb, a few minutes and total destruction of a major city. You have to admit even though morally and strategically the acts might be equivalent there is something frightening and impressive about the bomb. In the modern age it is the fear of a single nuclear weapon in the hands of terrorists which remains the most frightening scenario.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Oct, 2009 06:00 pm
@Alan McDougall,
Isn't it obvious that the term, "crime against humanity" is a highly emotionally charged term, so that people will tend to apply it to what happens to horrify them? We need an emotionally neutal analysis of it. But that will never happen. So, there is likely to be disagreement over whether Hiroshima is a CAH any more than is the fire bombing of Dresden or Tokyo which cannot be rationally settled.
0 Replies
 
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Oct, 2009 07:00 pm
@Alan McDougall,
I think the deliberate destruction and targeting of civilian population centers versus the targeting of "military targets or military support facilities" is a rational criteria and
saying that "civilians" are a target of military value" does not wash.

That is also primarily the criteria used in the "legal" definitions of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Oct, 2009 07:51 pm
@Alan McDougall,
Hiroshima and Nagasaki had strategic military value -- that's not even questioned -- though by August 1945 the targets of greatest military strategic value had already been attacked, and to make the most dramatic demonstration of the bombs they did choose large urban targets rather than, say, a small military base. There is no evidence that they were targeted specifically to kill civilians, and they rejected targets like Kyoto that were of zero military value and extreme cultural importance.

More people died in one night in Dresden than died in Hiroshima. So I'm not sure the "ease" of Hiroshima's destruction is in comparison to such overwhelming difficulty destroying cities by conventional means.

And carpet bombing / area bombing was just as indiscriminate as a nuclear bomb (perhaps even more so).

But in retrospect we understand the radiation effects, the increasingly terrible magnitude of newer nuclear weapons, and the existential implications of nuclear armament, of which Hiroshima was the prelude.

So can we judge whether Truman et al were committing a crime against humanity based on what we only later understood? If we're judging their moral decisionmaking, are we to put Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the same moral plane as, say, the Battle of Britain, in which fewer people died but the Germans specifically targeted civilians?

---------- Post added 10-18-2009 at 09:58 PM ----------

prothero;98401 wrote:
saying that "civilians" are a target of military value" does not wash.

That is also primarily the criteria used in the "legal" definitions of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Agreed. But again you are stuck with hundreds or thousands of non-nuclear examples of mixed military/civilian targets of devastating military operations.

This is different than the SS burning the entire city of Warsaw to the ground as a response to a partisan operation that had already been vanquished.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2009 06:40 am
@Aedes,
We can not imagine the mind of a defender who feels he has to bomb a city full of civilians for the benefit of victory. It is o so easy to condemn but you have to live that history to contemplate the enormity of it. My father witnessed the bombing of Canne and lived through the bombing of docklands in east London, he only knew it was absolutely terrifying. On the outskirts of Canne he lay in a ditch for hours while bombs fell all around him. After that he told me the rest of the war was reasonably peaceful. What is the answer to aggression, do you modify it to fit the moral views of historians who have never felt that raw feelings of horror.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2009 07:11 am
@xris,
xris;98452 wrote:
We can not imagine the mind of a defender who feels he has to bomb a city full of civilians for the benefit of victory. It is o so easy to condemn but you have to live that history to contemplate the enormity of it. My father witnessed the bombing of Canne and lived through the bombing of docklands in east London, he only knew it was absolutely terrifying. On the outskirts of Canne he lay in a ditch for hours while bombs fell all around him. After that he told me the rest of the war was reasonably peaceful. What is the answer to aggression, do you modify it to fit the moral views of historians who have never felt that raw feelings of horror.


Was your father in the invasion of Normandy in 1944, and was that why he was in Caen? But what I don't understand is who was bombing him. Were the Germans able to do any bombing?
xris
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2009 08:31 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;98458 wrote:
Was your father in the invasion of Normandy in 1944, and was that why he was in Caen? But what I don't understand is who was bombing him. Were the Germans able to do any bombing?
No the allies were doing the bombing,he was just to close to, for comfort. I have still got the crucifix he found in the ditch, when he was taking cover, he carried it with him for the rest of the war.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2009 08:42 am
@xris,
xris;98476 wrote:
No the allies were doing the bombing,he was just to close to, for comfort. I have still got the crucifix he found in the ditch, when he was taking cover, he carried it with him for the rest of the war.


Yes. Scary. Especially when it is friendly fire. Good for him.
0 Replies
 
Alan McDougall
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Oct, 2009 12:52 am
@Alan McDougall,
One of the justifications to drop the bomb was the Japs had committed horrendous war crimes on the USA and so they deserved what they got.

But the bombs were dropped on specially selected cities for the density of urban population for the most shock and horror effect (Hiroshima and Nagasaki)

They were not dropped on military or industrial targets and it is this fact that makes the whole event more horrifying
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Oct, 2009 04:24 am
@Alan McDougall,
Alan McDougall;98703 wrote:
One of the justifications to drop the bomb was the Japs had committed horrendous war crimes on the USA and so they deserved what they got.
That is a rationalization made by some people, but not a justification made by Truman. If the US wanted maximum carnage they would have hit Osaka and Tokyo.

Alan McDougall;98703 wrote:
But the bombs were dropped on specially selected cities for the density of urban population for the most shock and horror effect (Hiroshima and Nagasaki)
That is true, but retribution for war crimes is not the reason.

Alan McDougall;98703 wrote:
They were not dropped on military or industrial targets and it is this fact that makes the whole event more horrifying
They were military and industrial targets. They were also urban targets. The US wanted both. This is partially why they quite famously spared Kyoto.
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Oct, 2009 06:12 am
@Alan McDougall,
Alan McDougall;98703 wrote:
One of the justifications to drop the bomb was the Japs had committed horrendous war crimes on the USA and so they deserved what they got.

But the bombs were dropped on specially selected cities for the density of urban population for the most shock and horror effect (Hiroshima and Nagasaki)

They were not dropped on military or industrial targets and it is this fact that makes the whole event more horrifying


Both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were railroad centers, and staging grounds for Japanese troops.
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Oct, 2009 12:25 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;98724 wrote:
Both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were railroad centers, and staging grounds for Japanese troops.

yes, there were some targets of military value in both cities. That does not justify the deliberate destruction of the entire city and the immolatin of such large numbers of civilian causalties, both of which were predictable. You can bet if the Japanese had won the war the Americans behind these decisions would have been prosecuted for "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity"
You do not get to destroy an entire village and kill all the inhabitants to eliminate a couple of terrorists. It is a matter of proportionate response.
A basic prinicple of the laws of warfare and the rules of engagement.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Oct, 2009 06:09 am
@prothero,
I could be corrected on this but the decision was made to show how destructive a weapon it was, so to end the war abruptly. Every day the war continued , thousands of imprisoned troops and civilians were dying. Thousands of American and allied troops were fighting and dying, on many fronts. If the war had continued with the attack on main land japan in a conventional manner, with all the associated aerial bombing etc. many more would have died.

My only reason to oppose it, why not just the one and on a scale the war lords could have seen and been convinced, without the large numbers of civilians casualties, but then it is easy with history as your view finder.
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Oct, 2009 06:21 am
@prothero,
prothero;98930 wrote:
yes, there were some targets of military value in both cities. That does not justify the deliberate destruction of the entire city and the immolatin of such large numbers of civilian causalties, both of which were predictable. You can bet if the Japanese had won the war the Americans behind these decisions would have been prosecuted for "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity"
You do not get to destroy an entire village and kill all the inhabitants to eliminate a couple of terrorists. It is a matter of proportionate response.
A basic prinicple of the laws of warfare and the rules of engagement.


I was replying to the allegation that they were not military targets. But the cities were not bombed because they were military targets (in the narrow sense of that term). As for proportionate response, the issue here is, proportional to what? Attacking the enemy's capacity to wage war? No? Proportional to forcing an end to the war? Perhaps.
0 Replies
 
oralloy
 
  0  
Reply Wed 19 Oct, 2011 07:03 pm
@Alan McDougall,
Alan McDougall 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??


Hard to see how it could be a crime against humanity without targeting civilians, and the cities were bombed because of their military significance. So definitely NO on the issue of "crime against humanity".

The laws of war do require care to avoid killing civilians (proportionality, etc), and it seems likely that these rules were violated, so I'd say YES on the question of "war crime".

But it's a gray area. I'm sure there are defensible arguments that it was not a war crime either.

And in any case, it was not nearly as bad as the horrific crimes that Japan was committing, which the A-bombs were ultimately trying to stop.
0 Replies
 
 

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