Forgive us our Transgressors

What do you mean, we shouldn’t terrorize a terrorist—If it’ll keep some of us from getting blown up let’s scare the daylights out of him!  By waterboarding or any other means. This is war, after all, and this guy, now he’s been caught, still wants his buddies to kill us.

And as much as I hate to bring this up as it’s something we dont’ like to talk about, I’ll bet the folks objecting to the waterboarding are the same ones who think we shouldn’t have dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We’ve been quiet about this for too long, as if we had something to be ashamed of, when it was entirely necessary for our self-preservation. And if we hadn’t dropped the bombs, do you know how many MORE of our military would’ve died? One million! This was the estimate given to President Truman by our military leaders. I’ve sometimes heard muttering over the years about what a terrible thing we did but nobody ever fully explained to me, until recently, why we did it. That makes me wonder how it’s being taught in the schools.

In a radio broadcast after the bombs were dropped, President Truman said “I realize the tragic significance of the atomic bomb. . . having found the bomb, we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international laws of warfare. We have used it in order to shorten the agony of young Americans. We shall continue to use it until we completely destroy Japan’s power to make war. Only a Japanese surrender will stop us.”

Japan refused to surrender and continued to rely heavily on suicide attacks on the American troops and the warships that covered them, several thousand aircraft being adapted for those attacks. Other methods of suicide attack included dynamite-filled crash boats, guided human torpedoes, guided human rocket bombs and specially trained ground suicide units carrying explosives. Even their civilian population was drilled in guerilla tactics, including children. Two days before the first bomb was dropped American aircraft dropped leaflets on Hiroshima warning the citizens to expect terrible destruction to be visited upon their city because Japan had refused to surrender, but the warning was ignored.

On September 11, 2001 we were besieged by a sneak attack on the World Trade Center by terrorists, almost sixty years after the Japanese made a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Both Japan and the terrorists relied heavily on suicide attacks, first by planes, with the terrorists gaining control of our planes and the Japanese with their own planes, both using them as human torpedoes on a one-way trip to infamy. So it’s okay if they kill themselves in their frenzy to kill us but we aren’t supposed to scare the terrorists?

In 1945 we recognized, as President Truman said, the “tragic significance of the atomic bomb” and began working to contain this awesome power so the world would never again be faced with such destructive forces.  But in our zeal to do the right thing we have become too compassionate towards our enemies.  Regardless of our justification for the actions of August, 1945, we must still feel a deep need to compensate for what we had to do.  Why else would we be pushing on the brakes in all the wrong places?

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