Bloodshed on the Horizon?

In a recent article on, Ryan McMaken rightly wonders whether Americans are

willing to drop nuclear bombs (with all their accompanying radiation, fallout, and lung-busting shock waves) and then claim it was worth the lives of some 50,000 impoverished peasants living nearby?

Based upon a review of historical precedent, it would seem that the answer is an unqualified "Yes." And that is a sickening thing.

First, consider the War Between the States. The armies of Forced Union killed thousands upon thousands of Southern civilians. Recall Sherman’s March to the Sea. Homes burned, lives ruined. Mothers forced to prostitute themselves to obtain food for their children.

Today, at least in the North, they sing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" in church. Presumably, most Northern churchgoers are not reflecting upon the barbarous crimes of Sherman, nor that this "hymn" identifies organized state killing with Jesus Christ.

Second, consider the Second World War. As movingly depicted in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, American bombs incinerated thousands upon thousands of innocent civilians. The most poignant scene in the novel, at least to me, concerns the Catholic schoolgirls burned alive by a direct hit on a bomb shelter.

Three cheers for that? To cheer for such an abominable act of killing requires not patriotism, but a perversion of the moral sense.

The allies dropped so many conventional bombs on Dresden that the streets caught on fire. The flames were visible to the allied bombers as they crossed the English Channel to return to base. The fire drew in enough oxygen to create hurricane force winds. Dresden, in short, was truly Hell on earth, creation stained by the horrible acts of Man.

But it was for a good cause!

Blinded by the propaganda of the state, of course, Americans also cheered for events more closely analogous to the subject of McMaken’s concern, namely, the use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Never mind that the Japanese at the end asked only that the Emperor not be tried as a war criminal, and that the monarchy not be abolished, two things the US did not do anyway. Never mind that the United States simply ignored Japanese requests for a negotiated peace, in another violation of just-war doctrine.

No. The manly Americans simply had to incinerate thousands upon thousands of human beings in the two most Christian cities in Japan, to make a point.

There had to be "unconditional surrender," as there had been in the day of Ulysses S. "Unconditional Surrender" Grant. You know, the "great" president who asserted that warfare was the "highest tribunal" known to man.

So much for the rule of law, President Grant.

I am not at all hopeful that Americans will care enough to spare the lives of several thousand Iraqis, Iranians, Koreans, or any other nationality. During the Civil War, Americans slew Americans with seemingly as much concern as was later shown to the Japanese and Germans.

War fever has overridden the rational thought processes of the man on the street. God help the world.