Commemorating Hiroshima, the KNOW Way

The local anti-war activists had their downtown vigil to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. I was probably the only one in the crowd who thought Truman’s decision was defensible and tracked down the Kalamazoo Gazette reporter.

She did accurately capture my words, but I’m not sure my intent came across very well (there’s a reason I blog rather than do public speaking . . . I tend to babble),

Brian Carnell, who also attended the event, holds different views. Carnell said people at such events seem to paint the bombing as a “spur-of-the-moment decision” and “forget the enormity of Japan’s crimes.”

“If it wasn’t for Hitler, Japan’s crime would have been one of the worst in human history,” Carnell said.

Carnell said promoting peace as an absolute is not realistic.

“Idealizing peace without any kind of moral context is problematic,” Carnell said.

One of the leaders of the Kalamazoo Nonviolent Opponents of War, Tom Small, was wearing a t-shirt with a saying to the effect that violence is always criminal. In making my case to the reporter I noted that this the United Nations satisfied Small’s requirement when it abandoned Muslims at Sebrenicia. They didn’t fire a single shot to defend those who came to the UN safe havens.

And, of course, the Sebrenicians were slaughtered. KNOW and Small embrace an idiotic form of pacifism and whose effect is to empower those who engage in violence. Under KNOW’s formulation, every act taken by the Allied powers during World War II was immoral and criminal.

And I was, frankly, angry to see the attack on Japan discussed as if, one day, Truman just woke up and for no good reason decided to nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So there were readings of poems by survivors of Hiroshima, but no time for the millions and millions of victims of Japanese aggression.

It is odd that parts of the Left like this rail on and on about the horrors imposed by the Christian Right on this country, but today finds the U.S. war against a murderous religious dictatorship to have been unjust.

Photos and video to follow later this week.


Shadows of death Atomic bomb hit Hiroshima 60 years ago. Emily Walker, Kalamazoo Gazette, August 7, 2005.

Peace Activists Have Selective Memory When Commemorating Horrors of World War II

I opened up the newspaper yesterday to see that the local anti-war group, Kalamazoo Non-Violent Opponents of War, is planning a vigil to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Whether or not you agree with the decision to drop the atomic bomb, the results of doing so were certainly horrific, but in their zeal to commemorate that event, activists appear to have selective amnesia about the context of that event and other horrors in the Pacific.

Anyway, this is the letter I fired off to the local Gannett rag,

Editor, Kalamazoo Gazette,

It was interesting to read that Kalamazoo Nonviolent Opponents of War and other local peace groups are holding a vigil to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, which killed more than 90,000 people.

Perhaps someday KNOW and other groups might consider holding a vigil for the estimated 10 to 30 *million* people murdered by Japan during its 1937-1945 occupation of China.

Japan’s slaughter in China was not stopped by protesters carrying signs through the streets of Nanking, but rather through the overwhelming application of military force — including the two atomic bombs — by the Allied nations.

Given that KNOW holds weekly downtown protests featuring people holding signs with slogans such as, “War Is Wrong Whatever The Outcome,” a few million dead victims of Japanese aggression is apparently an inconvenient fact, best left unmentioned.

Search Engines: Garbage In, Garbage Out

I am an unabashed Google cheerleader. As far as I’m concerned, Google is one of the crowning achievements of human civilization — if you know what you’re doing, almost any question can be answered by Google. Of course, if you don’t know what you’re doing, then using Google is no better than taking lessons from that urban legend spam about how some terminally ill kid wants to set the record for most greeting cards.

A lot of people have taken to bitching about Google, but most of the complaints I see are from people who simply haven’t taken the time to figure out how to use the search engine, or (more frequently) make rookie mistakes that would hurt them regardless of what search engine or offline system they were using for research.

Take Scott Middleton — please. Middleton is offered up by the Register’s resident anti-Google nutjob, Andrew Orlowski, as a prime example of just how unreliable Google and other search engines are. But Middleton’s problem is actually his own ignorance about what he is searching for.

Middleton wanted to see what sort of information about World War II he could track down, so he typed in “Guadal Canal” in Google and, not surprisingly, received very poor search results in return. Middleton concludes that it is shameful that there should be such poor search results for such a key World War II battle.

Except, there was no battle of “Guadal Canal.” There was, however, a battle of “Guadalcanal.” If you search Google on the correct name of the battle, you will find very helpful links in the first 10 results, including a chronology of the battle, complete with maps and other information.

Is it Google’s fault that Middleton thinks that Guadal Canal is some sort of canal system, instead of knowing that Guadalcanal is the name of small island in the Pacific?

No, but even so, Google tries to compensate for its users’ ignorance. If you search on “Guadal Canal,” Google helpfully asks “Did you mean Guadalcanal?” So even if, like Middleton, you don’t know the first thing about World War II battles, Google will step in and try to set you straight.

At some point you have to ask the user to resort to some sort of common sense or basic attention to detail. If people like Middleton want information about Sony, but search on Sanyo, there’s not much that even the best system can do to help.

Garbage in, garbage out.


Our kids deserve better than a Google™ future. Andrew Orlowski, The Register, September 20, 2004.

Sympathy for Leni Riefenstahl?

Reuters ran a story recently about Leni Riefenstahl’s upcoming 100th birthday in which Hitler’s favorite director thinks her post-World War II treatment was unfair.

As a young woman she struggled for fame as a ballet dancer, an actress and later as a film director. She sought out Nazi dictator Hitler, who commissioned “Triumph of the Will,” and “Olympia,” her pioneering film record of the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

This artistic link to the Nazis, as well as rumors of a romantic link with Hitler, which she has always denied, made Riefenstahl a pariah after the war.

Asked if she was unfairly cast out from her profession, she said: “Yes, I agree 100 percent.”

She defends her movies during the Nazi era as art and said she does not deserve to be forever condemned for this past.

Actually she does deserve to be “forever condemend” for her Nazi past.


Turning 100, Leni Riefenstahl Speaks About New Film. Adam Tanner, Reuters, July 16, 2002.

Is It Okay to Intentionally Kill Civilians?

Fredrik Norman points to this rant by Andrew Dalton about whether or not it is ever appropriate during a war to intentionally target civilians. The short version is that most libertarians say that it is never appropriate, while some Objectivists assert that it is:

Dalton writes,

LIBERTARIAN WATCH: The one thing that seems to unite all libertarians—other than their nominal support of “liberty”—is their disdain for Objectivism. For instance, Charles Oliver writes,

Most people accept that some civilian casualties are inevitable in war, and the fact that civilians might die isnÂ’t necessarily a good reason to forego any particular military action. Does this mean that we can, as the Ayn Rand Institute folks urge, deliberately target civilians?

He continues on with usual “No, that would make us terrorists too” arguments. But he leaves out two important contexts. The first is that deliberately targeting civilians (as opposed to killing civilians incidentally during an attack on a military or industrial target) is an extreme act that would not be justified in most military actions. It was justified during World War II, when our enemies had both the will and the means to destroy us utterly. Oliver takes issue with the mass destruction of Dresden and Hiroshima, but would he even be alive today to complain if the Allies had not destroyed those cities?

Note that what we are not talking about here is collateral damage. Everyone who accepts some sort of just war theory acknowledges that civilians are going to be killed inadvertently in war. But the issue before us is whether or not there is any situation in which it would be okay to say, “There are some noncombatant civilians over there — lets bomb them to get this war over with.”

Dalton cites to examples where civilians were intentionally bombed by Allied forces during World War II — Dresden and Hiroshima — and implies that some of us might not even be alive if it weren’t for these two bombings. Dalton needs to check his premises.

Both Dresden and Hiroshima were bombed when the ultimate outcome of the war was clear.

Dresden was firebombed on Feb. 13-14, 1945 and estimates put the number of dead civilians at 35,000-150,000. Ironically, many of those killed in Dresden were refugees who were fleeing the advance of the Soviet Army into Germany.

There have been a number of efforts to offer military purposes behind the bombing of Dresden, but the decision to bomb the city seems to have been heavily influenced by Bomber Command head Arthur Harris who was an advocate of the use area bombing of civilian areas to demoralize the population and hasten a surrender.

Hiroshima, of course, was nuked on August 6, 1945. U.S. President Harry Truman made the decision to bomb Hiroshima and then Nagasaki based largely on estimates that an invasion of Japan by Allied forces would result in enormous Allied casualties.

The issue at Hiroshima was not the survival of the free, democratic West, but rather how the occupation of Japan could be accomplished with a minimum number of casualties to Allied military forces.

The problem is that in most just war theories, combatant nations are not allowed to slaughter civilians in order to spare combatants. The claim that combatants should be allowed to target civilians is at the heart of the argument for terrorism.

Among those justifying Palestinian suicide bombers who target Israeli civilians, for example, a common refrain is that given the might of the Israeli military, the Palestinians have no choice but to target Israeli civilians.

For Dalton, on the other hand, if anything the U.S. government does not target civilians enough:

Now, with the way that the war had been fought up to that point, there was no good reason to believe that the Taliban would fall so easily. In simple terms, we got lucky. We didn’t get lucky in Vietnam. The fact is, our government was too concerned with civilian casualties (and the worthless opinions of our Arab “allies”) to fight the war in a manner that would ensure a certain victory. And the jury is still out on what kind of victory we got.

Of course the Vietnam example shows the flip side of the argument against targeting casualties. Civilian casualties — especially those inflicted by the series of corrupt South Vietnamese governments supported by the United States — seriously undermined support for the U.S. within Vietnam. In fact, if anything intentionally targeting civilians does not seem to demoralize a civilian population and hasten an end to a war as much as it seems to stiffen the resolve and support of civilians for even the most wretched of governments.

It is difficult to argue that civilians should never be targeted — in fact nuclear deterrence relies on just such a targeting and I think that can be defended on grounds of efficacy and proportionality. But I’ve never seen a convincing argument that the attacks on Dresden, Hiroshima or Nagasaki were morally just.


Libertarian Watch. Andrew Dalton, April 21, 2002.

Of Norwegian Nurses and Nobel Prizes

Recently a lot of weblogs have been outraged over comments made by Norwegian Hanna Kvanmo who sits on the Nobel Peace Prize committee. Kvanmo expressed regrets that the committee had awarded Israel’s Shimon Peres the award — but, of course, she apparently thinks Yasser Arafat has done a standup job of upholding the prize’s values.

Fredrik Norman fills in the rest. Ms. Kvanmo’s position is a bit easier to understand in light of her activities during World War II.

On April 9, 1940, Nazi Germany invaded Norway and conquered it in about two months. Kvanmo was one of about 1,000 young Norwegian women who joined the German Red Cross and went to work on the eastern front taking care of Nazi soldiers.

While the Nazis were rampaging across Europe, leaving death and destruction in their wake, Kvanmo chose to spend the war helping to treat war criminals (among other things, Kvanmo and others treated the wounds of members of the SS).

At the end of the war, many of these nurses were returned to Norway where they were sentenced to varying terms of prison for aiding the enemy.

Leave it to a woman who aided the Nazi war effort to lecture the rest of the world about peace.