Monday, May 5, 2008


A collection of 10 photos taken immediately after the atom bomb attack but not released until now give an unsparing look at the aftermath.
The link is here:

I think it's valuable to remember the obscene cost of war. As Robert E. Lee said. "It is good that war is so terrible, lest we grow too fond of it."

Those who would flippantly urge war should remember it's never without costs.

I note this despite the fact I'm not Hiroshima revisionist. Given what they knew at the time, I don't think Truman and his advisers had any choice but to use the weapon. There may be some quibbling over the choice of target, although I rather doubt any purely military target was available. And in the context of World War II, where cities had been ruthlessly bombed since 1940, merely targeting a city does not seem especially remarkable. As devastating as Hiroshima was, it was not the deadliest city bombing of the war. Among more deadly attacks were Dresden and Tokyo.

There's simply no question that Turman could not forgo the chance of ending the war immediately. He couldn't authorize a hugely costly invasion of Japan while keeping the atom bomb in his pocket. How could he justify all those additional Allied (not to mention Japanese deaths to the American people?

And I find arguments that the Japanese were ready to surrender anyway very unpersuasive, even given the benefit of hindsight. It's completely unreasonable to expect Truman and the U.S. government to spot the opportunity, if one existed.

As it was, even after two atom bomb attacks there were Japanese officers who wanted to fight on and there was even an abortive coup by some die-hards. Given the sorry history of violent politics in 1930s Japan, the potential for troublemaking by such die-hards cannot be underestimated.

No, criticism of Truman is unfair and unreasonable and based on hindsight and information he could not know at the time.

But, while justified, the atom bomb attacks were no less horrifying. And that, perhaps, is the real lesson. Even when justified, even when just, war is necessarily an awful tragedy.

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