I am sending this in response to Henry K’s letter (November 2018) about dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The history of the decision on where to drop the atomic bombs clearly shows that civilian targets were deliberately chosen—one reason being for the shock value to the Japanese military. It’s true that, even in a war, the deliberate targeting and destruction of a completely civilian population is an atrocity. The fact that we might consider it justified because the enemy has also committed atrocities does not make it any less so. A cruel, evil act is just that, regardless of the justification.
Yes, these were atrocities committed against Japanese citizens. The dictionary defines atrocity as “an extremely wicked or cruel act, typically one involving physical violence or injury.” One of the adjectives listed is evil.
I’m not saying the US military made the wrong decision in this case. It is probable that dropping the bombs saved millions of lives, but we will never know since other solutions were not attempted. I think the United States did realize this and over subsequent years after the war, during the occupation and the healing time thereafter, we have made an effort to atone for the bombings.
I just want to make the point that there is a real danger of not correctly identifying our evil acts. If we do not see the evil, we may believe that committing such acts is acceptable because the ends justify the means. The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes St. Thomas Aquinas: “‘An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention.’ The end does not justify the means” (CCC 1759).
—Bob H., IN