Thursday, March 17, 2011

Philosophy/Politics: Justifying Wickedness

Let me tell you a story. A long time ago, a great nation was embroiled in a costly war. For every inch of ground gained against their enemy, the nation lost many sons. But they would not back down, they would destroy whatever stood in the way of victory, because God was on their side. And they won, they found the key to victory, they slaughtered hundreds of thousands of the enemies men, women and children. They weren't soldiers, but it sent a clear lesson. We will do whatever it takes to win. The enemy surrendered, the great nation one. God was on their side.

When I tell this story, what is your reaction? Probably, you think the "great nation" acted monstrously. It killed civilians in the name of winning a war. It murdered to achieve its victory.

Unless of course you knew I was talking about the United States bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. You're reaction might have been the same, but some of you will defend what the US did. I know because I've heard it. I know because, sadly, there was a time when I did it.

The logic goes something like this. It was sad, but it had to be done. More lives would have been lost if we hadn't. The Japanese were never going to surrender. They were going to give sharpened sticks to their women and children, fight for every inch of ground.

None of that matters. None of it matters because if using a weapon of mass destruction on a city can be justified, then any atrocity can be justified so long as the end goal is good enough (and presumably succeeds). Don't forget that the Nazi's committed their genocides in the name of establishing a lasting pax romana of German rule. If obliterating over 150,000 civilians in the name of wining a war is justifiable, surely murdering a few million Jews in the name of lasting world peace is. At the very least, surely torturing a few suspected terrorists or jailing a few uppity reporters is.

In the end, we justify the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki not because they were right, but because they were done by us. We were the victors. God is on our side.