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Opinion

Opinion

Letter: Moral choice

May 12, 2013

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To the editor:

Should we have surrendered to Japan because nuclear war is too horrific? Unlike ersatz moralist Joe Douglas (“Missile message,” Public Forum, May 4) I do not think the Polaris missile display in Centennial Park symbolizes misguided patriotism. Mr. Douglas committed a false choice fallacy when he described the incontestable devastation of Hiroshima. He failed to recognize the vastly larger cost of any other course of action open to Truman. Blockade of Japan would have starved the most vulnerable of Japan while the bushido-driven military held out. Casualties on both sides in a land battle in Japan would have far exceeded the huge loss of life on one side from both atomic weapon attacks. Mr. Douglas failed to cite the fact that we were later able to peacefully demobilize (rather than kill or maim) more than 6.4 million armed Japanese troops.

In 1945 a Japanese officer said, “When the enemy actually lands, if we are ready to sacrifice a million men we will be able to inflict an equal number of casualties upon them. If the enemy loses a million men, then the public opinion in America will become inclined towards peace, and Japan will be able to gain peace with comparatively advantageous conditions.” (“The Last Great Victory” by Stanley Weintraub, p. 127)

The benefit of the prompt cessation of hostilities in 1945 gained by two nuclear weapons, avoided a savage ground war in Japan and thereby saved the lives of millions of noncombatants, allied troops and Japanese soldiers. Many of those Japanese saved from death created a friendly ally and the third-most productive economy in the world. The Polaris display reminds us of Truman’s correct and historic moral choice.

Comments

Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

How many...... perhaps a million have since died from cancer since the radioactive blasts? Yes tons of contamination as a result of the blasts that never can be cleaned up. Radioactive weapons contamination lives for thousands of years. How many are still dying as a result of those blasts is the question?

Our soldiers in the war for world wide oil control have be exposed to radiation by way of depleted uranium weapons dust in the air. Which has left behind tons of soil contamination for innocent people to be exposed. This contamination is alive and dangerous to the point whereby some parents perhaps should consider not having babies. Those parents are Americans and those in the war zones native to their respective communities.

One thing is certain no one can run from the radio active wastes left behind that remain alive for thousands of years. Radioactive waste cannot be seen. This is also a huge problem with nuclear power plants. Cancer often does not become visible for 25 years or more after the fact.

Uranium should be left in the ground instead of refined for war and huge profits = the moral choice.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

The decision did not reflect party line voting.

BTW what about the defenseless men..... as well? The majority of humans on the planet do not support war as a means toward peace. A policy of coexist and respect might work.

It seems to be the heads of state desires to be all powerful that brings nations to war. Nothing ever substantial.

As always Uranium should be left in the ground instead of refined for war and huge profits = one moral choice.

notaubermime 1 year, 7 months ago

I am a firm believer that with horrific events, it is completely unjustified to exaggerate and make things up to make the events appear worse than they are.

There is no way that one million people died two cities with a combined population of perhaps 500,000 people (at the time of the bombings).

There isn't any evidence to suggest that radiation persisted in amounts that would effect human health. Atomic weapons do not leave the same sort of radioactive contamination that nuclear meltdowns do. The radiation from an atomic weapon disperses much more quickly.

Measurements of radioactivity taken at the two sites today is essentially the same level as the background radiation that we are all exposed to.

There are a lot of people who died in these events. Dancing on their graves to score political points is not a "moral choice" in my book..

Frederic Gutknecht IV 1 year, 7 months ago

Who cares? Caring means more mouths to feed, when we have no means to feed mouths...with ANYTHING but propaganda and lies, or high fructose corn syrup (GODsyrup). There are more important issues at hand. Humans used to live for only about 40 years. That's our design in this world, but you can PAY to live longer. What is the value of the life of humans living over 40 years for those who live a bit longer than expected? There is nothing there without an evaluation of life that will never be supported by the living masses. We are the puppets of kings and queens. We are the puppets of ourSELVES! Perhaps we need to die. It is not worth thinking about but it IS our destiny.

Abdu Omar 1 year, 7 months ago

It wasn't the democrats who made that judgment. Truman won the election and became the President. The people chose him over Daly. That means that not just democrats but republicans put their trust in him and he made the decision to end the war. I, personally, hate war, think it is totally avoidable, and think it is a senseless loss of life when started. What gains do we get from war? Iraq produced exactly what? Afghanistan what? Grenada What? Vietnam what? Millions dead for a cause that was unmanageble and fruitless.

"It is good that war is so terrible, else we would become too fond of it", Robert E. Lee

Armstrong 1 year, 7 months ago

You should pass that " wisdom " on to the future Hitler's, OBL's, Stalins.... I'm sure they would be very interested in a passive victim.

msezdsit 1 year, 7 months ago

".....Blockade of Japan would have starved the most vulnerable of Japan..."

Why, of course it would be more humane to vaporize them.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

To this day so many forms of cancer cannot be identified to a source. How in the world can any definite information be applied regarding long term impacts of atomic bomb explosions? Of course those who made the decision would want to portray minimal impact of such I contend.

Nuke power people also like to minimize the impacts of accidents. Therefore we are left with speculation.

Varying opinions are of course out there. http://www.commondreams.org/headlines.shtml?/headlines03/0131-03.htm

http://www.atomicarchive.com/Effects/effects17.shtml

http://www.motherearth.org/nuke/begin2.php

https://www.wagingpeace.org/articles/1997/00/00_babst_consequences.php

notaubermime 1 year, 7 months ago

The radiation at the sites can be measured by anyone and the equipment one needs to measure it is readily available.

A cover-up on these sorts of events is not really feasible. I would imagine that the Soviets wanted to portray a minimal impact of Chernobyl, or that the US would want to portray a more minimal impact for the thermonuclear detonation at Bikini Atoll. These places are still uninhabitable because you can't hide dangerous levels of radiation.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 7 months ago

I've no doubt that Truman considered many of the hypotheticals Mr. Kelly listed in his letter. But they were hypotheticals then, and they are hypotheticals now, not facts as Mr. Kelly attempts to assert.

Liberty275 1 year, 7 months ago

If we had surrendered right after Pearl Harbor, I bet we'd have more sushi resturaunts and squid-flavored ice cream.

America just needs to do what other countrues tell it to do, then we won't have any more war. That would be so great!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 7 months ago

As long as we're engaged in hypotheticals, here's another possibility of what would have happened if the US hadn't entered WWII (which would not have required any sort of "surrender.")

Japan would have consolidated control over most of China and SE Asia, Indonesia and the Philippines, maybe even taken India, but they would have been way too overextended to maintain that control and fight off the various nationalist insurrections (such as the ones that occurred in Indochina and Korea after the Allied victory.)

Germany may have consolidated control for awhile longer, perhaps even taken Britain for a while. But what lost the war for them was also overextending its reach, especially in its war against the Soviet Union--- it was their war of attrition with the Soviets that primarily beat the Nazis, not the US and Britain.

Armstrong 1 year, 7 months ago

OR. We could all be speaking German or Japanese. Hypothetically of course.

"it was their war of attrition with the Soviets that primarily beat the Nazis, not the US and Britain" BTW, huge slap in the face to all who served, pretty low Boz.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 7 months ago

Facts can be pesky things when they get in the way of ideologically based mythology, eh?

And the fact is, the Germans had much more of their military based on the Eastern Front, and sustained much larger casualties there, than they did on the Western Front, and the Soviets had more casualties than all of the other Allied countries combined.

Armstrong 1 year, 7 months ago

yea, yea we know. Gutless and avoid war at all costs blah blah. thanks for the riveting insight

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 7 months ago

It was a hypothetical, not an "insight." You're just arguing with the straw men dancing in your head. What else is new?

Liberty275 1 year, 7 months ago

So Germany and Japan would be the world superpowers today. They could share Eurasia. All the non-aryans and the Chinese would have been exterminated. Nice world you have going there.

Remind me to never let you babysit my dogs.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 7 months ago

I said nothing of the sort-- nearly the opposite, as a matter of fact. You and Armstrong should get together and have a play date for your straw men.

Liberty275 1 year, 7 months ago

Had America not entered the war, Japan would exterminated the Chinese. Who is hoing to rise up in China when there are no Chinese left. The same goes for europe. Had the nazis won, they would have killed all the opposition across Europe and Russia. Who is to fight Hirler if everyone is a Nazi?

At that point only the western hemisphere is free from them, but they were already in parts of South America. Why do you think they were there?

It would be just a manner of time anyway as Germany was already working on their own nuclear program and would have shared it with Japan.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 7 months ago

Bozo, let's play this hypothetical game a little further. You say Germany and Japan would have expanded further for "a while", but then succumbed to the inevitable forces of nationalistic insurrections. I have no problem with that line of thinking. The only problem I have is that you neglect to consider what would be happening during that "a while". Given the history of behavior of both the Japanese and Germans at that time, that "a while" would be just long enough to cause the deaths of tens of millions of civilians. And that assumes that the "a while" of which you consider lasts no more than a half-decade or so. If the "a while" lasts longer, then the tens of millions becomes hundreds of millions.

"A while" can have some pretty nasty side effects when dealing with such brutal regimes.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 7 months ago

I hate to break the news to you, but tens of millions of people died even after we entered the war.

And the fact remains that it was primarily the eastern front that destroyed the Nazis, with the help of US armaments and munitions and other aid-- something that could have been supplied without the US entering the war directly.

And guess what happened in eastern Europe after the Soviets defeated the Nazis? (hint-- it was no picnic.)

jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

Japan attacked us - do you really think we shouldn't have responded to that at all?

I'm all for peace and diplomacy, but if we're attacked, then we're defending ourselves, which is one of the basic uses of force/violence I find acceptable (along with defending others).

Mike Ford 1 year, 7 months ago

moral imperialism.....ignoring consequences and facts and acting emotionally.... wrong then and the cause of trillions of dollars of debt now from ignoring the histories of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan and not acting objectively. the reason half of this country is immune to intelligence or facts. like building a presidential library for a president who likely didn't learn much from reading because he read elementary level books like much of his constituency.

verity 1 year, 7 months ago

If you want to go all hypothetical, what would have happened if such a destructive "peace" hadn't been imposed on Germany after World War I? What would have happened if Europe hadn't rushed to war after the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand? Perhaps neither of the World Wars would have happened. We don't and can't know.

Liberty275 1 year, 7 months ago

"If you want to go all hypothetical, what would have happened if such a destructive "peace" hadn't been imposed on Germany after World War I?"

Maybe the "peace" wasn't destructive enough in WW1. If the allies had done to Germany the first time what they did the second time, there would have been no second time.

Look back at wars we have fought. When we beat down a country hard, they become our best allies. When we fight halfway or can't win decisively, they remain festering enemies for decades.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 7 months ago

So, you're saying what we really need is just a whole lot more death and destruction-- if we could just destroy a few thousands of villages in order to save them, it'd be pure bliss out there.

Liberty275 1 year, 7 months ago

Look at history. The countries we beat soundly are among our best allies and first world countries that we rebuilt. The countries we didn't do so well against are festering slums and generally unfriendly towards us.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 7 months ago

You mean Germany and Japan, right? Two countries that were highly developed and industrialized before the war, and who, with US help, returned to what they already knew quite well after the war.

Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 7 months ago

The "destructive peace" that was imposed on Germany after World War I was nowhere near as financially destructive as the "destructive peace" that was imposed on France by Germany after the Franco-Prussian war of 1879, which united the German principalities into the nation of Germany.

And before that there was another war, and before that another, and another, clear back to cave man times. I think it has something to do with most cultures being so ethnocentric.

History is mostly the record of a series of wars.

Mike Ford 1 year, 7 months ago

liberty.....the only thing to libya is the weakness of the gop and their imagination of a scandal...of course with their intellectually challenged constituency imagination is fact. are you proof of this? Furthermore Germany wasn't the cause of WW I. Serbia was. Instead of punishing Serbia or Austro-Hungary the Versailles Treaty punished Germany with reparation which they actually paid in full in the 1980's. That treaty drove Germany into such economic depression that a person like hitler was palatable. It looks like the gop now is trying so hard to stymie Mr. Obama like a bunch of haters and drive this country back into the bush putting us in the ditch years and get one of their crazies to become palatable to the non thinking constituency of this country. Pay much attention liberty or do you just repeat made up facts?

Liberty275 1 year, 7 months ago

The scandal is that people you pay to do a job lied to you about about Libya drom day one. If you don't care, that's your problem.

The GOP is doing what they are supposed to do. They are stopping a president from passing leftist legislation.

Besides, Obama is a lame duck. When he had dun control slapped down by the congress, he was made irrelevant. At least he was a better president than Carter.

Water 1 year, 7 months ago

This topic reminds me of the conversations about changing the name of Missouri Street in Lawrence because of Kansas-Missouri history. I think it was stemmed more from a college sports rivalry. Ergo, a self-referential child's egoic wounding.

The Polaris missile is there to commemorate a time in our history. Whether or not we can agree with the decisions and actions of their time, isn't necessarily the point. It's presence reminds us that some decisions are just tough.

pti3 1 year, 7 months ago

A related issue: secret nonconsensual radiation experiments reported in Missouri:

"Secret human testing: Victims in St. Louis speak, demand answers" http://www.ksdk.com/news/article/344422/3/Victims-of-secret-human-experiments-in-St-Louis-demand-answers Copied from site; "...the Army selected the poor and powerless, and exposed them to potentially harmful chemicals without their knowledge or consent."

"Missouri's two U.S. Senators, Democrat Claire McCaskill, and Republican Roy Blunt, are demanding more information about the secret human testing. But so far, the Army remains silent. The problem for the government is that survivors remember and for the first time are sharing their stories in hopes someone will listen and perhaps be held accountable."

See also the author's published research: The Manhattan-Rochester Coalition, research on the health effects of radioactive materials, and tests on vulnerable populations without consent in St. Louis, 1945--1970 by Martino-Taylor, Lisa, Ph.D. http://gradworks.umi.com/35/15/3515886.html

Bob Forer 1 year, 7 months ago

My father was a navigator and side gunner on a B-17. His entire crew sat for months at Scott Field in St. Louis waiting for orders to be shipped overseas. Shortly after the nuclear bombs were dropped, he like hundreds of thousands of other servicemen, were unceremoniously, but honorably discharged and sent home to their families. The war was over!!!

Later my father learned that he, like most of his similarly situated comrades, would have lead the planned invasion of Japan. Casualties had been projected in the hundreds of thousands.

Yes, for me it is very personal. I have absolutely no problem with the decision to drop the two bombs.

Satirical 1 year, 7 months ago

For the sake of argument...

If dropping the bomb on Japan was ethical, why have we not done it since then, and why would we not even consider doing it today, unless faced with our own destruction?

Bob Forer 1 year, 7 months ago

For the sake of argument, what is ethical about war itself?

Until we acknowledge that there is absolutely nothing at all humanly ethical about warfare, we will continue to engage in war, regardless of whether it is justified by the reality of the then existing circumstances.

Liberty275 1 year, 7 months ago

If the Russian navy amsased off of New York and started firing you don't think we'd nuke their navy? What do you think Kennedy was going to do before Khrushchev blinked?

pti3 1 year, 7 months ago

It is simplistic to say "there is absolutely nothing at all humanly ethical about warfare" - (self defense?) the Geneva Convention among others outline ethical conduct for ex: prohibit unethical treatment of prisoners including torture. I realize the discussion is about dropping nuclear bombs on heavily populated cities - and the 'ethics' of that which even if you think it was okay- saying you have no problem with that is a little shocking. And then more problematic ethical issues came out of the atomic bomb including secret human experiments - many of which have not been accounted for as the recent report shows (above). And these were done in the name of the war that followed. What will be uncovered in 60 years that is classified today and found out by accident as is what happened with the recent exposure of horrific human experiments the US gov conducted on the most vulnerable Guatemalans in 46-48?

"CDC Report on Findings from the U.S. Public Health Service Sexually Transmitted Disease Inoculation Study of 1946–1948, Based on Review of Archived Papers of John Cutler, MD, at the University of Pittsburgh" http://www.hhs.gov/1946inoculationstudy/std_inoc_study.pdf

Bob Forer 1 year, 7 months ago

"saying you have no problem with that is a little shocking."

You obviously have no clue as to the significance of context. Let me give you another example so you might be educated.

Suppose i am hiking in the wilderness by myself and a boulder falls on my arm, trapping me. I have the choice of dying, or cutting of my arm with a serrated blade from my swiss army knife to live. I choose cutting off my arm. I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH THAT--in the context of the two limited choices I had. Dying, or cutting off my arm.

Liberty275 1 year, 7 months ago

Can't you build an anti-gravitational unit to pick the rock up off your arm? Dreamworlds always have choices.

Mike Ford 1 year, 7 months ago

liberty.....have you heard of this scandal? US Ambassador Steven was Chinook Indian from Oregon. His ancestors met Lewis and Clark in 1804-05. He was a descendant of Chief Comcomly. His tribe had it's federal recognition terminated under House Resolution 108 in 1954-55 during the Eisenhower Administration. When the termination policy was repudiated by President Nixon in 1972 the Menominee Tribe was restored to federal recognition as were numerous Oregon Tribes under President Carter in the late 1970's. The head of the BIA under President Clinton, Kevin Gover, Pawnee, was okay with the Chinook tribe of Ambassador Stevens being restored to federal recognition in 1999-2000. However, when the Bush Administration came in they unexpectedly reversed the federal acknowledgement of the Chinook, Duwamish, and a couple of Connecticut tribes due to the pressure applied by anti-Indian republicans like Frank Wolf of Virginia and the Abramov scandal. US Senator and longtime US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs member John McCain stood by and did nothing as US Ambassador Steven's Chinook Tribe was assailed by gop policies on Indians during the Bush Administration. Being one of the fox network quoters you probably know nothing of this liberty but that's to be expected. Keep blowing smoke...only your fellow deniers believe you.

pti3 1 year, 7 months ago

Sych: thanks for explaining. No need for insults though. This paper gives interesting background on what went in to the decision to nuke 2 cities:

Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The Decision to Drop the Bomb By Jung Oh http://www.umich.edu/~historyj/pages_folder/articles/Hiroshima_and_Nagasaki.pdf

Excerpt from conclusion copied below: "Given the complexity of the decision, it is no wonder that perhaps no other events during World War II have generated as much scholarly controversy in recent memory than the atomic bombing of Japan. In analyzing the various motivations contributing to Truman’s decision, many factors merit consideration. They are, but not limited to, military reasons, desire for atomic diplomacy ( “impressing” the Soviets), racism, the need for a number of scientists to validate their work, fear of Congressional investigation for a two billion dollar expenditure, and the immeasurable momentum of the Manhattan Project itself in propelling the administration to use the bomb. No serious historian today fully believes that the bomb was used primarily as a means of saving American lives. In considering the counterfactual in which the bomb would not have been used, historians conclude that the bomb’s impact in achieving military objectives was quite nebulous. If the bomb was used with the intent of gaining leverage in..."

Bob Forer 1 year, 7 months ago

"No need for insults?" You characterized my statement as "shocking." Is that not an insult as well. I merely responded in kind.

And by the way, I hope you understand that all historical accounts are invariably biased based on the historian's personal proclivities, especially when it comes to analyses and conclusions.

I goggled the author's name and found nothing. Apparently, it is a student's paper, perhaps a grad student. If you are going to cite "academic" authority in support of your position, you might have a little more credibility if you cite a peer reviewed article or a book authored by a well known scholar. There are dozens of published accounts of the decision, including many books, all by distinguished historians. An obscure graduate student named Jung Oh is not on that list.

Leslie Swearingen 1 year, 7 months ago

Interesting. I Googled Jung Oh and found found quite a lot. He has received a doctorate from the University of Michigan and his essay on the dropping of the bomb was printed in the Michigan Journal of History, as were several others. This makes him just as credible as any other historian, in my view.

Bob Forer 1 year, 7 months ago

Links please. I could not find anything.

Bob Forer 1 year, 7 months ago

Found it.

So you consider the Michigan Journal of History an eminent journal on history and and Mr. Oh as credible as any other historian?

Funny, but here is the self-description of the journal as found on the web site.

."an undergraduate-run publication housed at the University of Michigan, which seeks to publish historically themed research papers in an online journal. Those students who are currently enrolled in an undergraduate institution or who have graduated within one semester of their submission may submit papers for consideration.'

My apologies. I was wrong. Mr. Oh wrote this as an undergraduate, which explains why it has no footnotes but instead a bibliography, which I might add, is very sophomoric.

Obviously this so-called Journal is not a "scholarly journal" as that term is commonly understood. Scholarly journals are typically published by widely recognized Professional Associations or Major Universities. Most of the articles published are written by Professors in the field, and are extensively footnoted and subject to stringent peer review by other similarly situated professionals.

An on-line "journal" run by undergraduate students publishing the work of other undergraduates is hardly "scholarly," unless you are one of those folks who consider Wikipedia "scholarly."

I prefer scholarly history written by established professors and peer reviewed by other established professors to an obscure undergraduate on-line publication which publishes many authors who are not old enough to buy a beer.

But that's just me.

pti3 1 year, 7 months ago

Dear Sych: you can disagree with the paper - but it might be a stretch to say on the info you presented that a University of Michigan journal, even a student run one, is not credible. Feel free , if it is worth it to you, to address what you find problematic with it. It might not be the entirety of truth - nothing is (even many articles in eminent peer reviewed journals). And I did not say you were shocking, just the statement you made, and you addressed that. All the best to you.

Bob Forer 1 year, 7 months ago

Considering the enormous amount of papers, books, and articles written on the subject by preeminent scholars, most intelligent folks would give very little credence to a short paper written by an undergraduate student and "published" in an obscure on-line student-run "journal."

But then again, some folks get their news from Faux News or the National Enquirer.

And by the way, most of the theories expounded in that paper have been debunked by serious scholars. For example, for many years certain scholars posited the theory that the bomb was dropped on Japan and not Germany because of racist considerations. (i.e., yellow people vs. white people). Completely incredible, as respected research has demonstrated that the war in Europe ended before the bomb was ready to be used.

I won't take any of my time to address the other "theories" raised by Mr. Oh, just as I wouldn't waste my time rebutting the absurdities expounded by the pundits at Faux News.

pti3 1 year, 7 months ago

Apparently some (at least one) of the student's theories are shared by a very credible scholar.

A Conversation with Tsuyoshi Hasegawa http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTwbEy...

Bob Forer 1 year, 7 months ago

If you look long enough and hard enough you can always find an "expert" who supports a certain position.

So what?

pti3 1 year, 7 months ago

I have not looked long or hard. But did a quick google search on ethics of bombing Japan - right there was the UC Davis professor Dr. Tsuyoshi Hasegawa's work - oh, and on the same issue (and perspective) is an article in todays NY Times - see the science section. Mr. Kelly might take a look too:

For Witness to Nagasaki, a Life Focused on Science http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/05/12/science/for-witness-to-nagasaki-a-life-focused-on-science.html?from=science

Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 7 months ago

I read through all the comments, and there was a lot of discussion about atomic weapons. But, the Polaris missile on display in Centennial Park generates the most interest in children who know nothing of atomic weapons.

And to children, it's just a pretend rocket ship, and nothing more.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 7 months ago

Japan's main rationale for the war was to have Asia ruled by Asians. Sure, they thought themselves superior in every way to other Asians, but the Europeans they were attempting to remove from Asia felt the same way about those other Asians-- for centuries. The US had similar racist sentiments about the inhabitants of our only overt colony in the Philippines. And the racist propaganda produced by Hollywood for the sole purpose of dehumanizing the Japanese during the war was about as blatant as it could be.

So, what was your point?

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