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Would you consider the atomic bombs a war crime?

Discussion in 'Atomic Bombs In the Pacific' started by thecanadianfool, May 5, 2012.

  1. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    I think the flaw in the original question is the assumption that any civilian casualties in a war constitutes a war crime. I think that is a faulty assumption. Virtually every military weapon ever used has resulted in civilian casualties. If the OP's definition of "war crime" were true, war would be a war crime. In that case, this whole discussion is pointless. :rolleyes:

    One of the problems with this type of discussion is that there is no common agreement on what the terms mean. So, what do we mean by "war crime"?
     
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  2. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    Here is an old post of mine, which sort of gets into the "idea" of war crimes as opposed to crimes themselves.

    The concept that aggression itself in war is a crime is intimately connected with the distinction between "just" and "unjust" war. "Unjust" war means (in essence), aggressive war, and includes especially aggression made in violation of a solemn pledge (treaty) NOT to attack. The distinction between just and unjust war goes back well over 2,000 years. And it had been defined, recorded, and insisted upon, by Roman statesmen and jurists in antiquity; also (later) by the two most influential "doctors” of the Catholic Church, St. Augustine in the 5th century and St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century; then by the father of the modern law of nations, Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), and finally by Spanish scholastics as well as French and German writers near the end of the so called "age of enlightenment".

    Approximate precedents for the proposition that "crimes against peace" are punishable have literally existed for millennia. The Senate of Rome (while it was still a Republic) requested the extradition for trial of Hannibal for inciting other nations to make war upon Rome, and of Brutulus Papius of Samnium for attacking Rome in breach of an existing treaty. Both those men committed suicide when cornered (Hitler was in “good company”!). In 1474, Sir Peter of Hagenbach, governor of Breisach, was tried by a court composed of Austrian and Swiss judges and executed for having waged a "terroristic war". So the definition of a “war crime” has been an ongoing and evolving concept for a LONG time.

    Probably the first war crimes trial in recorded history in the technical sense (non-Church) of the term would be the punishment for the transgression of the accepted laws of war through a secular judicial procedure. And this would seem to have been the trial by an English court in 1305 of the now celebrated Sir William Wallace. When he was accused and convicted of; “…waging a war of extermination against the English population (genocide), ‘sparing neither age nor sex, monk nor nun.’ “ Since the latter part of the Middle Ages, customs and practices have evolved which eventually led to our modern laws of war, as obtuse as they may seem, at times.

    In the words of a leading British jurist, Lord Wright of Durley (Robert Alderson Wright), then chairman of the United Nations War Crimes Commission, "…there have been hundreds of cases in which national military tribunals have tried and convicted enemy nationals of breaches of the laws of war”. To illustrate, he pointed out that during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, the Germans executed numerous French francs-tireurs (irregular combatants) for violations of the “laws of war”. And that the convictions and executions of these Frenchmen were upheld as "being proper within the then accepted 'laws of war'."

    Backtracking many years, in the USA, as early as 1842, Daniel Webster (United States secretary of state), declared: "The laws of war forbid the wounding, killing, impressing into the troops of the country, or enslaving or otherwise maltreating the prisoners of war unless they have been guilty of some (other) grave crime, and from the obligations of this law no civilized state can discharge itself. War crimes can be punished, not only by the organs of the country of which the offender is a citizen, for example, a guard who tortures, or a camp commander who orders the torturing of, prisoners of war will in a civilized country be court-martialed by his own authorities, but also by the enemy. The right of the enemy to try a war crime suspect has been uncontested throughout the centuries. In fact, since the rules of war are now international law, such enemy suspects may be tried, and, if found guilty, punished even by a nation which has not passed any legislation for such procedures."

    The United States Supreme Court stated shortly after the Civil War (Dew v. Johnson): "What is the law which governs an army invading an enemy's country? It is not the civil law of the invaded country; it is not the civil law of the conquering country; it is the law of war. War crimes are very serious offenses."

    Then they stated that; "All war crimes are subject to the death penalty, although a lesser penalty may be imposed. Not only military personnel are bound by the laws of war. Hence, any civilian may also become guilty of a war crime. For example, a businessman participating in the plunder of enemy property. Even in the heat of war, persons suspected of war crimes may not be punished without their guilt being properly established. To shoot them out of hand constitutes itself a war crime."

    Also the first official, recognized; "crimes against humanity" trial came out of the US Civil War as well in the trial of the Commandant of the Andersonville POW camp for the captured Union enlisted men. Oddly enough the trial of the Commandant of the Elmira POW camp for the mis-treatment of captured Confederate soldiers for “crimes against humanity” is forgotten, or overlooked even though the outcome was the same. So the “winners” (Union) tried both the “losers” and their “own” winners. It seems obvious that "crimes against humanity" existed (as a concept) nearly a full century before the Nazis ever darkened the earth with their thoughts and deeds.

    The concept of bombardment of cities could only be a "war crime", under existing international law at the time was if the city was undefended or declared an "open city" and NOT defended. Paris wasn't subjected to bombardment, but other cities which declared themselves to be "open" were bombed by the Luftwaffe. I'm not sure if the USAAF or the RAF, or the VVS did the same, but I wouldn't doubt it.
     
  3. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    If this sort of topic is to have any value it can't be just an opinion based one. The question then is considering the conventions of warfare in place at the time would the following be considered violtions of them?
    No.

    Irrelevant.
    This is a completely different question than whether or not it was a war crime. Indeed morality is a very complex issue and based at least to some extent on ones religion and culture. In this case however the anwer is again no as it was intended among other things to limit civilian casualties and it did so.
    Stalin lacked the transpot capability to move significant numbers of troops to the home islands without US help.
    Technically irrelevant but as others have pointed out is saved many more Japanese civilians than it killed. The "hundreds of thousands" is also a bit off if I recall the latest stats.
     
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  4. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    My "salute" button seems to be non-functional at the moment. It doesn't register a Salute (even though I'm not out of them), but goes to Blog this post for some reason. Can't give you rep., have to spread it around or something, and a "Like" is my only option. Good post "lwd".
     
  5. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Oddly enough the trial of the Commandant of the Elmira POW camp for the mis-treatment of captured Confederate soldiers for “crimes against humanity” is forgotten, or overlooked even though the outcome was the same. So the “winners” (Union) tried both the “losers” and their “own” winners.

    Indeed it has, I haven't been able to find anything about it; could you provide some detail or a link to more information?

    I'm also curious about Dew v. Johnson and ".....the law which governs an army invading an enemy's country? I don't imagine the Supreme Court was referring to the Civil War as invading an enemy's country; what was this case in reference to? Thanks.
     
  6. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    The whole point is(as has been mentioned countless times)that the people who are suggesting that the use of the A Bomb was wrong are using anachronisms :they are using the (IMHO politically correct) opinions of today to judge what happened 67 years ago and this is totally useless:the opinion of 2012 about H +N has no value :in 1945;H + N were considered as legal,and,that's the only think that's important .
    These people also are starting from a moral :rolleyes: POV(having no notion of war of course): but the A Bomb was not more immoral/moral than the use of poison gas in WWI,or the use of machine-guns,or of submarines,or of gunpowder in the Middle Ages.
    No one has claimed that the air attacks on Coventry,London,Liverpool,etc were war crimes ,although they resulted in civilian losses.If an air-attack which resulted in 2000 civilian losses was no war crime,why should an air-attack which resulted in 50000 civilian losses,be considered as a war-crime .
    IMHO,the claim that 2000 civilian losses were no war crime,and 50000 civilian losses are a war-crime,is not only absurd,but also hypocritical.
    A war without civilian losses is impossible,and,as long as the civilians were not targetted intentionally,there is no war crime .
     
  7. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    The incident at the Elmira POW camp was referenced in a college resource book I used named War Crimes, War Criminals, and War Crimes Trials; by Norman Tuturow. I don’t have it to hand, since it is a reference book from my Alma Mater that I used in a paper. I have no idea where you might find it. Certainly not online.

    My reference to Dew v. Johnson is from the first edition of the book War Crimes and Justice, by Howard Ball. On page 5 of the introduction of the book. I chose it because it was brief and to the point, didn’t look into the veracity of it regrettably, so that could be the author’s statement coupled with my taking his word for it. I didn’t go back and verify any of this post graduation with my B.A., sorry ‘bout that guys. I wasn't questioned by my prof. on the paper's reference biblio., and I wrote the paper in the 1990s after all.
     
  8. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    I think the only thing to go on is the Geneva convention as written at the time. Not as amended since. And I know some did not sign it. If they were the winners then that would not matter, if they are the losers then not signing it doesn't preclude the signing winners enforcing it. Tough, but thats life.
     
  9. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    3 exemples to clarify the whole dispute
    1) in may 1940;a women with her 2 daughters(the eldest married later my uncle) was running away from the lists( a stupid thing) and,of course,was landing in a cross-fire (Germans and British shooting at each other with machine-guns),suddenly,both sides stopped the shooting,waiting till the woman and her children had leaved .Now,if the German/British officer had ordered his men to continue the shooting,would that be a war-crime ? Of course:not .
    2)At the same time,my mother,her brother and my grand-parents are were running away from the fighting (not a wise thing),result:they landed in a column of refugees,which was fired upon by German fighters .A war crime ? Of course:not
    3)In april 1943,the USAAF was attacking a factory (producing trucks for the WM)in a suburb of Antwerp,the attack failed:the bombs fell on a school,resulting in 1000 deaths(mostly children).A war-crime? Of course not.
    In the 3 exemples,the civilians were not targetted intentionally,thus,there was no war crime .
    The same happened with Hiroshima and Nagasaki .
    But,I have no illusions,there always will be a lot of .......wanting to reopen this can of worms .
     
  10. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    The Japanese had "signed" but not ratified the POW amendments to the Geneva Convention when WW2 started. Meaning their representatives in Switzerland had signed, but the Diet (Japanese parliament) had not ratified it, nor had the Emperor. Of course the US hadn't gotten through the process either, but FDR committed us to honoring the thing anyway. We (America) did, Japan didn't.
     
  11. Volga Boatman

    Volga Boatman Dishonorably Discharged

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    The 'Bombs' a war crime?

    The major crime of the Pacific war was the Imperial Japanese government fighting on uselessly when it was obvious to even the most casual observer that they were licked. When Saipan fell in mid 1944, Prime Minister Tojo resigned on the spot with the comment "Hell is on us." It was one of the few sensible acts that this politician perpetrated. He should have used the moment to inform the rest of the country that it was a CRIME to continue. For reasons best known to themselves, these idiots kept fighting for another YEAR. Some people never learn.

    And right he was. What the Japanese people had to put up with when General Curtis E. LeMay arrived to reorganise the air war was indeed hell on earth. The only way of stopping it, INSTANTLY, was unconditional surrender. The Suzuki cabinet dithered about for months, more concerned with 'face' and 'reputation' than they were with sparing the long suffering Japanese civilians any amount of suffering. Reports from Germany were filtering back to give them every indication of exactly what was in store for the cities of Japan, but this was ignored.

    Dropping the Bomb a whole lot sooner would have achieved the results it obtained a whole lot sooner, no doubt about it. The Bomb put the fear of God into the leadership of Japan, once they figured out exactly what it was and how it came to be dropped on them alone.

    The crime was to continue the conflict after all hope was gone.

    Truman had the unique position of unleashing a weapon of mass destruction for PEACE.

    MANY soldiers and civilians on both sides heaved a massive sigh of relief.

    BTW: The operation to invade Honshu and Kyushu was to be codenamed OLYMPIC and CORONET respectively. Where did you get operation Downfall from?
     
  12. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    The two of them together were part of Operation Downfall. Olympic was to be the first operation, and Coronet was to be the second part of the total and completion of; Operation Downfall. I've got a link to that if you are interested.

    Goto:

    http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/operation_downfall.htm




     
  13. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    "Downfall" was the codename for the invasion of Japan. It was split into two sub-operations, Coronet and Olympic. Do a google search on it, or get a book. Hastings discusses it in "Retribution", if I recall correctly. "Downfall" is used far more often than Olympic or Coronet, and is the more general term.
     
  14. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Actually I believe some of the clauses specifically stated that they only applied to signators and others that they would be considered as generally binding if enough states signed on to it.
     
  15. thecanadianfool

    thecanadianfool Member

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    Unfortunatly you are right about that one, genocide is unfortunatly A common factor in the human race, for example the Rwandan genocide against the Tutsis, and of course the infamous final solution of the Jewish question.
     
  16. antfreire

    antfreire Member

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    Which of the beligerent nations would not have used the bomb if they got it first? Would Churchill say "no it would be a war crime? Would Stalin? Perhaps Hitler?What would have been the reaction of the american people if after the war the press would have published that half a million Allies casualties could have been prevented if Truman had ordered the use of the atomic bombs on Japan?
     
  17. Victor Gomez

    Victor Gomez Ace

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    Perhaps 1/2 million people.....perhaps more as there could have been complications, had Russians got involved in it(possibly wanting a foothold on other continents), had we had military difficulties with weather, supply lines, production of needed invasion items....all things were a gamble. Loss of life is very hard to predict without many complications. We were very lucky our predictions with the bomb's use did indeed work out to be very close to estimates.
     
  18. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member

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    As a most ironic aside and in no way an attempt to belittle the events being discussed but several years ago I received a link to a photo essay on Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as Detroit , Michigan. Hiroshima and Nagasaki appear to be clean, very modern, prosperous thriving cities and though the images of Detroit were no doubt selective, there are many areas of Detroit that look like Cologne just after the war when most of the standing ruins were being leveled and piles of rubble being mounded up. Detroit I have seen over the years, areas of prosperity and areas like the Cologne post war. My last visit to Cologne showed a well restored city, my visit to Detroit , last, showed little change. The point of the pictures entitled "Who really won" was a bit sensational journalisticly but seeing pictures of Hiroshima and Nagasaki showed me the resilience of mankind. I have seen much of Europe but nothing of Japan, a void I wish I could fill.

    As to the thread at hand, I think it was a truly necessary thing to do but I can feel not joy in it even though it saved perhaps millions of lives. True dead is dead but dying comes in many forms. Why I have a handful of do not resuscitate orders !!!
     
  19. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    I would have more respect for the Japanese position on this if they weren't so obviously milking the bombings. Anyone who was there, and dies, is put on the bombing victim list. Traffic accident? They go on the list. Suicide? On the list. Tsunami victim? On the list.
     
  20. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    The thing to remember is that the Allies were very much responsible for the reconstruction and prosperity that follwed WW2 in both Germany and Japan. Ironically the pitfalls of Detroit are directly proportiaonate to the influx of foreign goods (vehicles) and their effect on the economy. Irony
     

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