John Stewart recently agreed with a Daily Show guest that Harry Truman was a war criminal. Later, Stewart retracted his stated opinion and talked about the complexities that went into Truman's decision. This isn't a new contoversy, it started as soon as the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki became known to the public; but it has probably been re-energized by discussions of war crimes charges against George W. Bush and members of his administration.
If you do a Google search for 'Was Harry Truman a War Criminal?' it brings up more than a million and a half sites. So yes it is a very vibrant and current discussion.
When you consider the Japanese navy had already been sunk and the fact that the allied forces were able to fire bomb the major cities of Japan with 'conventional' bombs it certainly asks the question as to whether the first atomic bomb was needed to be dropped on the civilian population of Hiroshima. It is very clear that the second atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki 3 days later was not needed.
Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki it should be noted that the nuclear weapons of today are about 100 times more powerful than those atomic bombs.
There is also an ongoing controversy concerning the reason behind Pearl Harbor.
Big differences between Harry S. and George W.
It is quite clear that John Daly, didn't read up on history first and was just talking out his ass. Truman isn't one of my favorite presidents, but war criminal he is not.
Take a history lesson or two, read a book and you'll clearly see that this is a closed discussion.
It is actually a very vibrant and current discussion. I'm not sure why you chose to reference the verbal/anatomical abnormalities of a professional golfer, but in the spirit of that game I'll give you a mulligan. If the differences are as clear as you state, perhaps you would care to submit a coherent, thoughtful statement on the subject?
You are correct. I have been following John Daly on Twitter, and got my two mixed up.
But let us not mistake the fact that there is an enormous difference between W. and Harry. Harry was for the people, whereas Bush was for himself. To even contemplate that Truman was somehow a war criminal, is a great disservice to the men still entombed in the USS Arizona.
I can't agree with you there. Contemplating the ethics of actions that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people (non-combatants) seems a worthy endeavor. Contrary to your earlier comments, I am very familiar with the subject matter, and have even spoken with WWII pacific theater vets who had mixed feelings on the subject.
If it is a disservice to USS Arizona KIA's (all of whom are deceased) to discuss this, is it also a disservice to Iraq war veterans (most of whom are still alive, though traumatized) to have the same discussion regarding Bush?
Speaking with veterans, and living with survivors of the war are 2 completely different matters. I will respectfully disagree. Thank you, but I will not engage in any conversation that places Harry S. Truman as a war criminal and Bush, a guilty by product. The two are not comparable and yes, to accuse Harry S. Truman of being a war criminal, is disrespectful to those men. I refute that argument based on the facts that Harry S. Truman was a man, who came into the Presidency in a time of great distress and war. Bush made up a war, to be his father's revengeful servant and to make money off American deaths. The two are not comparable.
I agree with you RK. And would also say that it was a more innocent time--culturally so many different ways. Didn't all--or many--who developed the atomic bomb (Einstein, ie) refute its use after the fact? And if I remember correctly, there was something of a race between the two sides to achieve its creation, yes?
A time of great distress and war you say? Doesn't that sound familiar?
So easy to mistake one's own subjective poltical bias for facts (FACTS I SAY!) that simply must be self-evident truths.
Wow, there is some serious, analytical political science right there...
I noticed that you attacked about everything, everybody had to say. But left none of your own analytical political science mastermind thoughts behind. Is this how you debate? Is this what you called intelligent behavior? Please. While you roll your eyes at my comments, turned to a mirror and roll your eyes at your own.
You're kidding, right?
"Harry (first name, like he was an old pal) was for the people, whereas Bush was for himself." As if you are privy to the internal motive and intention of either man. Your political bias has led you to make insupportable pronouncements that in any other context you would probably recognize as completely silly. This is how political discussions of all sorts devolve into "My guy's great!" "Your guy is a poopy head!" nonsense.
Your arrogant, presumptuous attitude aside, I don't know that that issue will ever be "closed."
Jon stewart is in it for the laughs. His pandering to the snobbish liberal elites is what got him his show in the first place. What he says is really not important unless you're an under 30 liberal snob who doesn't have a clue as to how things really happened, and who caused them. In the long run, Truman's decision saved a lot of lives, and you can be certain if the japanese had the bomb they would have used it.
Couldn't agree more. I think people also forget that the Japanese invaded us, and brought WWII to our door steps.
Bush invaded Iraq. Bush invaded Iraq for revenge and money. That's criminal.
I've heard many reasons supporting the decision to bomb, including the unverifiable claim that it saved the lives of 1 million U.S. soldiers. I have yet to hear one that justifies the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.
Right you are, Atomic bombing was done out of pure scientifically experimental curiosity to see nuclear blast consequences.
Truman used the capabilities and technology that was available to him...that's what you do when you're trying to win a war.
But the war had been won. What was gained by slaughtering innocent people? Better terms?
Innocent people??? And what of the men and women on Pearl Harbor, Guam, and many other South Pacific Islands? What of our soldiers forced to defend America? What of them? Were they not innocent before Japan invaded us?
Yes, innocent. What does a baby in Hiroshima have to do with Pearl Harbor?
The men and women you speak of should not have died, but vaporizing civilians didn't correct that.
Have you not read or heard about what the Japanese did to Chinese babies. I could say a lot more on this subject, but I just see it in the same light as discussing religion with haters of all religion. lose/lose proposition and misuse of valuable air and or ink
Yes, you're not wrong...I think that there was an element of overkill happening. No one really knew what the outcome would be. Not the obvious outcome, but the social experiment that was the dropping of those bombs.
I don't think it was for better terms, I think it was a flexing of muscles in a sense...for the benefit of others, like the Soviet Union perhaps?
On its way to almost certainly being won, but not over - obviously.
Right or wrong, there were certainly a number of factors that went into consideration. Not that that justifies one position or another, but I think it's a mistake to try and make it out as a simple matter one way or the other.
Could go along with that - it was certainly a very complex situation, and a lot of it seems to depend upon your relative viewpoint.
The only thing that I am convinced of is that Truman did not make the decision lightly and did what he thought was best. Right or wrong? - I genuinely have no idea. War Criminal? - I suspect not.
Sufi, your thoughtful, contemplative posts are not welcome here. This forum is for hardcore ranters only.
I'm sure it was a complicated decision, made under complex circumstances. My point in starting this discussion was not to brand Truman; what would be the point, we're certainly not going to have a trial. I wanted to, and have modestly succeeded in, comparing a current topic to a relative historical situation. Many (most?)are willing to give Truman the benefit of the doubt considering the circumstances, but not George Bush. There is low level talk about charging Bush administration officials with war crimes. This will almost certainly never happen, but it does make for interesting and meaningful conversation. Do we feel this way about Bush because we've grown to the point that we no longer support a war time president unconditionally? I find it very interesting that some people still think that merely questioning the ethics of decisions that lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths is unreasonable.
Indeed, it has been an interesting debate - my knowledge of WWII history centred upon the European side of the conflict, so I do not know as much about the Pacific conflict as I should. I have learned some new things!
I suspect that the intervening Vietnam Conflict may have been the catalyst behind the changing attitudes - no more 'My Country, Right or Wrong.'
In Europe, we had a similar situation with the Dresden bombing, although that was a little more clear cut. It was almost entirely about 'tit-for-tat' revenge and little to do with strategy. Every British schoolkid studies the ethics behind that particular air-raid.
EDIT: TK - I was laughing at Ron's first sentence, not you!
Are you familiar with the book "Slaughterhouse Five" by Kurt Vonnegut? It centers around the author's experiences as an American soldier who was held as a captive in Dresden during the bombings. Very few people who have actually experienced the horrors of strategic bombing support its use under any circumstances, complex or not.
Must admit, I have never come across that one, although I just Wikied it! At school, we had to read eyewitness accounts of Dresden, and they were heartbreaking. Even taking into account hindsight, that was a disgraceful act, and we lowered ourselves to the same level as the Nazis.
The war wasn't over by a long shot. If you look at the casualties suffered by Allied forces during the Philippines campaign and contrast them with the Okinawa, or heck Iwo Jima for that matter, you see the increasing desperation of the Japanese army. Had we invaded the home islands, well suffice to say I probably wouldn't be here as my grandfather joined up in 1946 and probably would have died by kamikaze in Operation Downfall.
The other option was to starve the Japanese people. Now that would have been a humane thing to do. That's up there with the atrocities of Auschwitz and the Russian Front. It would have been just as brutal as Morgenthau's plan to turn postwar Germany into an agrarian state and prohibiting it to become an industrial power again. That would have condemned tens of millions of Germans to starvation.
War is hell. There's no getting around it. Slowly but surely you become what you fight. That's why you shouldn't start a war so lightly. Ever. Especially since the world has become more industrialized. Not only did we see a massive increase in productivity and the standard of living in industrial nations, we've also seen a massive increase in the destructive potential of war. So what choice would you have made? Do you think you could do any better?
That's one of the easiest questions asked in this thread. Of course I, or anyone else who considered the Japanese citizens to be human beings and not some sub-species could have done much better. The best option would have been to accept the Japanese terms of surrender that had been offered. No invasion, no starving, no U.S. military casualties. The fact that hundreds of thousands had to die simply to produce an unconditional surrender is abhoring.
To consider why two bombs were dropped on Japan you first need to look at the events that took place prior. And I'm not talking about the whole of World War II and atrocities that Japan did by bombing Pearl Harbor, what was inflicted on Asia and the plans for further conquest which involved Australia, but in the declining success they were having in the last chapter of the war.
In advancing against Japan and taking strategic targets such as Iwo Jima and other islands, the loss of life was staggering. The cost of the war was steep, and the closer they got to Japan the heavier the toll.
When you look at the figures for dead soldiers on both sides and also casualties, it meant that a siege and invasion of the Japanese mainland was going to make the war drag on for possibly years longer.
Did Japan deserve a kick in the nuts? Did the Allies need a prolonged war that would cost hundreds of thousands more lives and billions of dollars more?
An invasion of Japan would not have been necessary.
Help me to understand; are you referring to the deaths of innocent victims as a kick in the nuts of Japan?
These deaths were justified by military and economic necessity?
Defeating Japan was a major objective. To have them surrender was the only option. As I can see it, there's only two ways to do that, 1) invade them, 2) hit them hard enough so they won't want to retaliate.
If you were the President of the USA and you had the choice between Japanese deaths or up to 500,000 of your own countrymen, which would you choose?
That question is only instructive if we accept that those were the only two choices.
If you want to pull a few other scenarios from out of a hat, or from your sleeve or maybe out of an orifice, then by all means do.
The Japanese weren't known for surrendering. I'm surprised that it took only two bombs for them to change their minds.
Here's what I'm saying: the Japanese did a lot of horrific things. In fact I can't put into words the atrocities they committed and I don't have the time to make a list. So I'm saying they reaped what they had sown.
Given the fact that I was born well after World War 2 came to an end, and that I'm not closely related to anyone who fought in the war let alone played any decision making processes, I have no idea how you would think that I could say exactly what it was for. I was speaking from opinion.
What is your opinion? Do you believe that the Japanese should have been given a light slap over the wrist and keep their war machine intact?
Yes you can take it to mean that I am convinced there were only two choices.
Is this in reference to the people who had in fact made that decision, or are you talking about people discussing it in this thread? I'm confused by your last sentence.
Um, great. Why did you feel the need to tell me about your family or your birth date?
I think about now would be a good time for you to be quiet and let the adults continue discussing concepts that are obviously beyond your comprehension.
So the only two choices were dropping the atomic bombs or "a light slap over the wrist and keep their war machine intact"?
If you are convinced of that, then I guess you must feel comfortable with your position based on that narrow construct. Seems pretty simplistic to me, but...
Can I take this to mean that you are convinced there were only the two choices then? Such a position seems to give comfort to those who have already decided that they support the decision to drop the atomic bombs.
Japan had offered surrender weeks earlier. They in fact had been defeated. It wasn't an unconditional surrender, which is what Truman needed politically, so it was rejected. The main sticking point was that the Japanese wanted to keep the emperor in place and the U.S. responded that only the unconditional surrender was acceptable.
The choice wasn't between Japanese deaths and American deaths. It was between slaughtering innocent civilians (what exactly were children playing in Hiroshima guilty of?)and epediency. The fact that Japanese were portrayed as sub-humans in our popular media, aided by government propaganda, was the only reason this choice was remotely difficult.
That is not strictly true either. Again we see only categorical positions on what is a complex historical question.
Categorical implies that a point is broad and strictly to one extreme of an issue. I've acknowledged and tried to understand both sides- so I have to disagree with your assessment.
The fact that Japan offered to surrender before the bombings is in fact, using your term, "strictly true." The first offer came shortly after the battle of Midway. The Japanese realized even at that point that they were defeated. Every death after that point, both civilian and military, was over terms of surrender, not the defeat of Japan which MacArthur, Truman, Tojo, Yamamoto et al knew to be a forgone conclusion.
No, there were negotiations going on with certain segments of the government. There were no official offers on the table and the more hardline elements of the government would almost certainly not have agreed to any terms until a good way further. Would it have been recognized as an inevitability even by the hardest liners eventually? That seems very likely, but it is not accurate to suggest Japan was trying to surrender and we wouldn't let them. A gross oversimplification.
Yes, there were "official" (presented by the Japanese foreign minister in Switzerland) offers of surrender. Intercepted communications between Japanese military leaders confirmed that anyone of consequence in Japan's military hierarchy supported surrender. The sticking point was the U.S. insistance of the term "unconditional". An offer of surrender identical to the one that was eventually agreed upon was made in January of 1945. It was rejected by Roosevelt because the terms included provisions for the safety of the emperor, including immunity from war crimes prosecution.
Fact Number One: It was a Kiwi - Sir Ernest Rutherford (Not ironside) who split the Atom and allowed Oppenhiemer to expand upon the strategic military advantage that could be exploited.
Politics aside; under the art of war. (of which All the Japanese public of the day were conditioned to: bushido)
Perhaps millions of lives on all sides (Including KIwis) would have been saved had the art of war been exercised by all parties: With a Chess Board.
So you're saying the bombing of Hiroshima was revenge for Nanjing?
casnt really say, even after reading all your comments, it is a good question though
Harry Truman was President during an actual war. It is debateable whether George Bush was.
Sidebar to TK,
What do you think of Rodney Harrison's comments about Peyton Manning yesterday?
Haven't heard about such comments, to be honest. What did he say? (I'll bet it was good).
Rodney Harrison is going to be an analyst on Sunday Night Football this year along with Tony Dungy. Yesterday on The Jim Rome Show he called Peyton out for going public with his frustrations regarding the Colts' coaching situation,( the status is unclear on their offensive coordinator and line coach, both have retired and been retained as consultants.)
A more entertaining comment regarded the Super Bowl against Carolina. Apparently Rodney knowingly played with a broken arm; he hit Mussie Muhamed with the broken arm, heard it pop twice, and thought it was going to come completely off.
Umm, I eyeballed the thread and did not see any mention of what I think was the major reason for A-bomb use - Truman just tried to outrun Stalin and capture Japan faster - and successeded in this BTW.
Harry Truman is said to have decided on A-bomb to end the war quickly with less human loss. Even after German surrender, it seemed that there was no end to the war in sight on the eastern front. Japan looked invincible. To minimise allied losses and quicken the end of the war, the then US President may have used the nuclear power. He cannot be termed as a war criminal. In a war, two sided are engaged.... one started the war and other ended the war... whom will you brand as criminal? Not certainly the one who ended the war.
The nazis were trying to end the war too. By your logic none of them were war criminals.
Trying to WIN a war THEY started. HUGE difference.
Not to the innocent victims. It doesn't matter to them, they're just dead.
Oh, so we are back to that are we? Innocent victims you say? Was not most of those dead people Japanese? Did they not support their nation's role in the war? Was not some of their sons, fighting Americans to take over the world?
Ron, I'm beginning to think that you actually support Truman and are just trying to play the devil's advocate. That's my opinion. Because you are without a doubt an intelligent person- but your argument is left too wide open for debate. Now if that is the case- to me there is nothing to debate here. I for one do not enjoy debating someone for entertainment sake. Thanks.
Entertainment is not really what I'm looking for. A person who is entertained by discussions involving vaporized babies is a little sick even for my sensibilities.
I think it is dangerous to lump so many people into the "them" category based solely on nationality. (I have seen similar disturbing arguments made in forums discussing immigration). What crime did a baby sleeping in her mother's arms in Nagasaki committ that warrants her death?
As I've stated earlier, I have actually spoken to WWII vets about this issue and gotten a variety of opinions, some surprisingly remorseful, others frighteningly callous. One soldier in particular, an otherwise rational man, even went so far as to state that modern Japanese citizens, born after the surrender, share the blame for WWII crimes and should be punished.
I in no way support the decision to slaughter innocent people to obtain a military objective,then or now, but do recognize the complexity of the circumstances involved in the decision. I have not labeled Truman a criminal, but I am dissapointed that the opportunity to have an official international investigation of the decision to use atomic weapons has passed.
The same is not true for George Bush's decision to invade Iraq. There may not be the political will necessary to begin an inquest, we do after all have other problems, but I believe there is evidence (not yet proof) that crimes were committed. There are similarities, your vehement protests not withstanding, between the two decisions.
It was a huge mistake to not investigate Truman after WWII. I think we are making a similar mistake by not officially investigating Bush now.
For godsake man, I know you've spoken with veterans. I read that before. You must not have read the part where I said, "living" with them is a whole different matter. My grandmother is a Nationalized American, from Germany whose father was killed because he was Jewish and whose mother was killed because she was married to a Jew. Now those people are innocent. The Japs were guilty as hell.
I am a Veteran, Gulf war, USN.
I can add here that innocent is a perspective. When war is going on, as today for instance, citizens are not seen as innocent by the country we are warring against. Innocent children in their mothers arms as portrayed earlier, are collateral damage. Simply put is exactly why war is a last result. War is ugly and nothing more. Those who die in war are to be honored and respected and remembered...in hopes not to do this again. War heroes, as well as babies in mother's arms.
Not to be debated or argued...but maybe shed a tear, or a moment of silence. The sacrifice is too great for chit chat.
"The Japs?" Incredibly ignorant statement.
Would you grandmother have appreciated her people being referred to as "the "Kikes"?
You just did a wonderful job of making my point. It is the ability to identify another people as somehow sub-human that produces decisions to slaughter them wholesale. It happened to people your grandmother knew and to likewise innocent victims in Japan. Stating that either group deserved what they got is indefensible.
You know Ron, just as I was beginning to start reading your hubs and becoming a fan of yours....... you blew it. I thought, here is a person who can and could give opinions on a topic without calling people (who are passionate about something), incredibly ignorant- Man- you just had to go and ruin it with this hatefulness. Thanks but no thanks. Looks like my opinions about you were wrong. And another thing, in my incredibly ignorant family, Japs are Japs. Niggers are niggers and white folk like you, are white. Right. Kikes? Well now as for Kikes? I didn't even know the word existed until now. Thanks for the information. It seems you're well informed on racial slurs.
Your passion certainly does come through in your writing, but without an equal measure of reason, it does reflect ignorance. With opinions such as those, I am proud that you would not become a fan of mine. I of course did not refer to you as ignorant, but rather to your statement. Derogatory, hurtful statements made concerning any race of people are by definition ignorant. Please explain the thoughtful, reflective process that causes you to denigrate people in such a way. As President Obama says, "I'm all ears."
ledefensetech, I noticed from your profile that you are from Cape Girardeau, MO. Is that Rush Limbaugh's home town? Not to infer anything, I just thought I had heard that before.
Yes, it is, but I'm not a native. It's funny the number of people who will seize upon that and make unfounded allegations. There are many people who live here who don't, in fact, like Rush. I ascribe people's willingness to do that to ignorance.
As for where I'm from, that's nowhere really. My dad was an active duty Marine for 21 years so I've lived in places as disparate as California, Massachusetts and Missouri as well as visited or lived briefly in many others like Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Florida, Mississippi, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Kentucky. In addition my mom is a first generation immigrant with family in Mexico, so I've lived and traveled there too. In my travels, I've met all sorts of people and seen all sorts of things, which I draw upon when I write. So really you can't classify what someone stands for just by where they live because you really don't know them.
Come to think of it Truman was from Missouri, too. I didn't care much for his policies as President either.
It's funny but most of the "townies" seem to like him. We do, however, have a state university in town and those kids hate the guy, so it's not quite the Rush love fest an outsider would think it was.
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