By Robert Sheer: A Statement of Peace, or an Epitaph?
August 6 marks 68 years since the United States committed what is arguable the single gravest act of terrorism that the world has ever known. Terrorism means the deliberate targeting of innocent civilians, and targeted they were, with the cutely named "Little Boy" atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima at a location and time of day when, as the Strategic Bombing Survey commissioned by President Harry Truman conceded, "nearly all the school children were at work in the open," a perfect opportunity for mass incineration. "That fateful summer, 8:15," the mayor of Hiroshima recalled at a memorial service in 2007, "the roar of a B-29 breaks the morning calm. A parachute opens in the blue sky. Then suddenly, a flash, an enormous blast, silence - hell on earth. The eyes of young girls watching the parachute were melted. Their faces became giant charred blisters. The skin of people seeking help dangled from their fingernails. Others died when their eyeballs and internal organs burst from their bodies. Hirochima was a hell where those who somehow survived envied the dead. Within the year, 1400,000 had died." It was followed three days later by the "Fat Man" bomb leveling Nagasaki, with a comparable disastrous impact on a largely civilian population that had no effective control over the decisions of the emperor who initiated the war. Nagasaki was a last-minute substitute for Kyoto, which Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson ordered spared because he had fond memories of his honeymoon in that city a couple of decades earlier. The devastation of those two cities was so gruesome that our government banned the showing of film footage depicting the carnage we has caused. We have never been very good at challenging our nation's own reprehensible behavior, but if we don't take proper measures of the immense extermination wrought by two small and primitive nuclear weapons as compared with today's arsenals, we lose the point as to why they must be banned. We are the country that designed and exploded these weapons that are inherently implements of terrorism in that, as the nuking of Japan amply demonstrated, they cannot distinguish between civilian and combatant. For those who believe that honorable ends absolve a nation of evil means, there is the argument that the bombings shortened the war, although the preponderance of more recent evidence would hold that the Soviet entrance into the war against Japan two days after Hiroshima was a more decisive factor. But the basic assumption of universal opposition to terrorism is a rejection of the notion that even noble ends justify ignoble means, and a consistent opposition to the proliferation, let alone use of nuclear weapons, must insist that they are inherently anti-civilian and therefore immoral.