Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

August 1945: Let’s Talk About Terrorism

On August 6, 1945, the United States of America became the first — and, to this day, the only — nation to use atomic or nuclear weapons in actual hostilities (as opposed to testing). The unconditional surrender of Japan quickly followed, bringing an end to World War II.

For 70 years now, the anniversaries of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings have occasioned debate on whether or not those bombings were necessary, and whether or not they were justifiable.

Many World War II veterans  — and others — stand on simple necessity to justify the bombings. A US invasion of Japan’s home islands, they argue, would have entailed a million or more US military casualties, and even more Japanese civilian casualties than are attributed to the atomic attacks.

The argument is facially persuasive.  As of August 1945, my grandfather and my wife’s father were both serving in the US Navy in the Pacific.  There certainly existed a non-trivial likelihood that either or both of them would have died in subsequent battles had the war not ended. For obvious reasons, we’re grateful they came home alive.

The persuasiveness of the argument fades when we consider the facts: Conditional surrender had been on offer since late 1944, the condition being that Emperor Hirohito remain on the throne. The US fought two of the war’s bloodiest battles — Iwo Jima and Okinawa, at a cost of tens of thousands of Americans killed — then unleashed Little Boy and Fat Man on Japan’s civilian population, rather than accept that condition. But once the war was over, Hirohito was allowed to remain Emperor.

That aside, words mean things, and neither our happiness at our ancestors’ survival nor any military argument for insisting on unconditional surrender and dropping atomic bombs to get it changes the character of what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Terrorism, per WordNet, is “the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature.” The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings meet that definition in spades.

US president Harry S. Truman  ordered, consciously and with premeditation, the murder of somewhere between 100,000 and 250,000 civilians in pursuit of his political goal of unconditional  Japanese surrender.

Whether or not an act constitutes terrorism doesn’t depend on whether or not its goals are laudable. Every terrorist and supporter of terrorism in history, save a handful of thorough nihilists, has justified his or her atrocities on the basis of the desired outcomes, claiming that a few innocent lives sacrificed now means more innocent lives saved later.

But innocent lives are not ours to sacrifice. Murder is murder and terrorism is terrorism, no matter what nationalist or patriotic colors we wrap them up in and no matter what ribbon of “necessity” we stick atop them.

Even if we accept the “necessity” argument for the murders at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they remain something to regret and to mourn, not something to justify or to celebrate.

More articles by:

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

October 22, 2018
Henry Giroux
Neoliberalism in the Age of Pedagogical Terrorism
Melvin Goodman
Washington’s Latest Cold War Maneuver: Pulling Out of the INF
David Mattson
Basket of Deplorables Revisited: Grizzly Bears at the Mercy of Wyoming
Michelle Renee Matisons
Hurricane War Zone Further Immiserates Florida Panhandle, Panama City
Tom Gill
A Storm is Brewing in Europe: Italy and Its Public Finances Are at the Center of It
Suyapa Portillo Villeda
An Illegitimate, US-Backed Regime is Fueling the Honduran Refugee Crisis
Christopher Brauchli
The Liars’ Bench
Gary Leupp
Will Trump Split the World by Endorsing a Bold-Faced Lie?
Michael Howard
The New York Times’ Animal Cruelty Fetish
Alice Slater
Time Out for Nukes!
Geoff Dutton
Yes, Virginia, There are Conspiracies—I Think
Daniel Warner
Davos in the Desert: To Attend or Not, That is Not the Question
Priti Gulati Cox – Stan Cox
Mothers of Exiles: For Many, the Child-Separation Ordeal May Never End
Manuel E. Yepe
Pence v. China: Cold War 2.0 May Have Just Begun
Raouf Halaby
Of Pith Helmets and Sartorial Colonialism
Dan Carey
Aspirational Goals  
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail