Law School Discussion

Who is the terrorist?


Who is the terrorist?
« on: August 06, 2004, 07:48:56 AM »

The Targeting of Civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki
by Anthony Gregory, August 6, 2004

The U.S. government has killed civilians for well over a century. During the Civil War, General William Tecumseh Sherman waged war on civilians in Atlanta. During the Philippine Insurrection at the turn of 20th century, U.S. forces killed about 200,000 civilians, and even had a policy to shoot anyone more than ten years old who dared to resist the U.S. occupation of the Philippines. During World War II, the Allies ruthlessly firebombed Dresden and Tokyo and other cities in Germany and Japan, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent non-combatants.

But there was nevertheless something special about Hiroshima, and its sequel of mass horror, Nagasaki.

People still defend Harry Trumanís atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on pragmatic grounds. Trumanís defenders say that the bombings saved far more lives than they extinguished. They concede that the bombing was an act of targeting civilians, but insist that it was for the worthy goal of ending the war.

Before even examining the plausibility of this argument, we have to acknowledge the argumentís essence. In effect, to rationalize the targeting of non-combatants as the best method of bringing about a greater good is to make excuses for state terrorism. Terrorism, if it means anything, is a method by which civilians are the targets of violence for the purpose of achieving political goals. Having Imperial Japan surrender, even if a worthy goal, was nevertheless a political one, and the targeting of innocents to achieve that goal was an act of terrorism.