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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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August 10, 2005

Nagasaki

Greg Robinson, the academic who wrote the fine history By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans, has made one of the more intelligent comments about all the argument over the bombing of Hiroshima 60 years ago. He is not particularly supportive of the bombing of Hiroshima, nor am I, but in his web log, he says, “To me, the United States committed a far greater crime in the dropping of an atomic bomb on Nagasaki than on Hiroshima.”

The strongest argument for bombing Hiroshima was to raise the ante of destruction and death and thereby shorten the war. It wasn’t just to show we had the atomic bomb, because we could have done that in someplace other than a city, and maybe saved 100,000 human lives. It was to show we had the bomb and were willing to kill 100,000 people, most of them civilians, with one explosion. I am not proud of this decision (or others like it in that war, including the firebombing of Germany), but I do acknowledge that there was an argument for it.

That argument is much weaker for dropping a second bomb. The argument for Nagasaki bomb is, “well, we had to show them we didn’t just have one.” Were the Japanese going to think that? In all of World War II, or any other war in human experience, was there ever an explosive of which a belligerent could make only one? And it does not matter that the Nagasaki bomb was of a different type than the Hiroshima bomb. The political leaders of Japan were not going to know or care about the difference between uranium and plutonium, and it really didn’t matter that we knew how to make both kinds. One kind was plenty.

We dropped the second one because we had it, we were at war, and that’s what you did in a war. There wasn’t a lot of thinking about it. And, 60 years later, that second bomb is very hard to justify.

Respond to Bruce.

 
Posted by Bruce Ramsey at August 10, 2005 11:13 AM



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