12 September 2008

Evil for the sake of good

“The decision to use evil for the sake of good requires that the decision-maker be willing to bear the brunt of evil.”
[Quote from Bernhard Schlink’s novel Homecoming.]

Should the United States have dropped the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Was it morally right to kill and injure hundreds of thousands of people with a single command? Was this wanton murder any different from Hitler’s Nazi Germany? After dropping the first one on Hiroshima to prove the point, was the second bomb on Nagasaki necessary?

These questions have been debated since August 1945 to no conclusive end. If we are to go by the fact that the United States has, till date, refused to apologise to the people of Japan for dropping the atom bombs, then we can be sure that the United States feels that they were justified in their action. It was, after all, to shorten the war and save thousands of lives!

It’s interesting to note that the atom bomb was actually intended for Hitler’s Germany. Hitler was evil and had to be stopped. Hitler’s own atomic programme had to be stopped. Even Albert Einstein – an advocate of peace – had urged the United States in their atomic-bomb research by writing to President Franklin D Roosevelt himself.

But Germany lost the war in Europe and surrendered to the Allied Forces in May 1945 – three months before the atom bomb was ready for use. So, Japan became the obvious target.

The United States still claims – as they did back in 1945 – that the dropping of the two atom bombs compelled Japan to surrender and bring World War 2 to its end. And so it did. On 15 August 1945, in his acceptance of surrender speech, Emperor Hirohito of Japan said, “The enemy now possesses a new and terrible weapon with the power to destroy many innocent lives and do incalculable damage.”

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