The Violence Below

I have long considered it self evident that Harry Truman committed War Crimes when he used atomic bombs on two Japanese cities.

No effort was made to spare the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians and I am always amazed that anyone would see this as anything other than a War Crime.

Andrew Sullivan points to Julian Sanchez’s response to some musings by Martin Goldfarb – who seems to suggest that there is room for comfortable disagreement on the Truman issue:

Serious people have debated Truman’s decision for 60 years, but even those who disagree with that decision rarely describe it as “criminal.” And if it was criminal, whatever crimes the left alleges of President Bush seem pretty trivial in comparison. – Goldfarb

Goldfarb seems to suggest that if Truman indeed committed War Crimes then that means whatever crimes G.W. Bush committed are trivial in comparison and therefore……. what?  He did not define his conclusion which appears to be that because Truman did something bad, Bush ought not to be investigated or indicted.

But the over-riding factor is the magnitude of human suffering caused by the decision to use these weapons.

Sullivan adds:

The grainy mushroom cloud pictures – abstract black and white photos akin to snapshots of volcanic ash – showed nothing of the violence below; these pictures were taken by the military and released to the press. Unflattering stories on the bombings were censored. The true horror of the atomic blasts wasn’t recognized until much later and never made it into the American public’s imagination the way Abu Ghraib did.

Exactly. Many of us in the west refuse to ackowledge what happened on the ground, where the unspeakable violence and suffering has always been obscured by guilt driven revisionist history and the omnipresent soul searing image of the mushroom clouds.


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