©The Japan Times
Tokyo, Japan
November 1, 1998

Two wrongs don’t make a right

Don MacLaren (“Troubling memories of the past,” Oct. 25) says, “a good argument can be made for using nuclear weapons on Japan,” but he certainly doesn’t make one. It’s true that Japan and Germany were developing atomic weapons. It’s also undeniable that had either of them used such weapons on civilians (as the United States did), the Allies would have considered this a war crime. That American leaders could commit such acts with impunity makes a mockery of the Far East Military Tribunal.
          The U.S. should have blockaded Japan before resorting to atomic bombs. This is not just the opinion of “revisionist” historians, but also that of some of President Harry Truman’s own advisers. A blockade is a legitimate military tactic; bombing of civilians is not. The U.S. has used blockades and embargoes more extensively than any other nation in history. Starving Japanese civilians would not have been the responsibility of the U.S. military, but rather of the stubborn Japanese leaders who, of course, would have had the option to surrender at any time.
          To suggest, as MacLaren does, that using atomic bombs was a humane way to end the war quickly is ludicrous and an insult to the memory of the civilian victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was a needless, vicious act, nothing more. The U.S. was already pursuing an immoral campaign of terror by bombing civilian population centers (in defiance of international law). The introduction of the atomic bomb did not fundamentally change this policy. It was simply seen as a new bomb to drop on people.
          By criticizing the atomic bombings I am not defending or apologizing for Japanese atrocities. But a crime is a crime, even if the U.S. president says it was “the correct decision.” The people of the U.S. need to open their eyes to the facts of the bombings, and the U.S. government needs to take responsibility for this brutal act. MacLaren is worried about how future generations will examine the past. I’m worried about how this generation denies it.

Todd Strickland
Umi, Fukuoka