Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
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07-02-2014, 11:49 AM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
cjlr, I think sporehux may have a point. I think that the potential long term effects of the use of atomic weapons was known but the US government and others were callous about it.

One only has to look at the long term use of atmospheric testing of bombs to conclude they did not really care. Consider the case of the "downwinders" in Utah.
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07-02-2014, 07:18 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
(07-02-2014 11:49 AM)JAH Wrote:  cjlr, I think sporehux may have a point. I think that the potential long term effects of the use of atomic weapons was known but the US government and others were callous about it.

One only has to look at the long term use of atmospheric testing of bombs to conclude they did not really care. Consider the case of the "downwinders" in Utah.

Eh.

As I mentioned in my reply to sporehux:

In 1945? No one knew the consequences.

The physics to describe them did not exist. The medical knowledge did not exist.

It's not that they didn't care.
They didn't know.

That's a distinction worth making.

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07-02-2014, 07:20 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
(07-02-2014 11:42 AM)Chas Wrote:  
(06-02-2014 11:47 PM)cjlr Wrote:  Yes. And I would agree with that.

And I do not.

The atrocities committed by the Japanese have no moral, ethical, or humanitarian justification. There is an ethical argument for using the atomic bomb, as you yourself pointed out.

What I meant to say by that is that as bad as A might be it's still clear that B would be worse.

Given a choice between bad and worse I'll take bad any day. That doesn't make it less bad. But it sure as hell makes it [i]less worse[/li].

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07-02-2014, 08:23 PM (This post was last modified: 07-02-2014 08:43 PM by JAH.)
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
cjlr, I must point to the article linked to in one of sporehux's posts. One has to read past the bit about the woman who died and parts of her body were confiscated by the US to find that as early as the 1930's nuclear scientists were aware of the risks of exposure to excess radiation. They may not have known exactly what the risk was and how much exposure was damaging but they knew of the risk.

Recently the San Francisco Chronicle publish a story about a WWII vet who was sent into Hiroshima shortly after the bombing. He drank local well water and many years later developed a cancer. He had applied to the VA for a disability (I assume so his medical expenses could be covered) and it took massive intervention to get that disability.

I cannot find confirmation on the web so consider that regarding the following. I have seen documentation that indicates in the post war period soldiers were used as guinea pigs to determine their effectiveness after a nuclear strike. They would be in sheltered positions near a nuclear test and then sent into the area to determine how they would perform.

I stand by my statement above. Those in power knew but did not care about the secondary consequences of using the atomic bomb. Not that the US was alone in this disregard.

Edit: I went back and confirmed you are a nuclear physicist. I will provide you with an anecdote. My uncle born 1916 with a PhD in organic chemistry (or at least chemistry) remarked to me directly or maybe my brother that he had numerous colleagues who were missing fingers or other body parts from experiments that had gone wrong. There was in that era a certain disregard for safety and a willful ignorance of the consequences of certain actions.

From my own experience as an engineer I could offer the very graphic difference between safety practices from the 1930's to the present. Noting that current ones can be somewhat amusingly overboard.
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07-02-2014, 08:34 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
(07-02-2014 08:23 PM)JAH Wrote:  cjlr, I must point to the article linked to in one of sporehux's posts. One has to read past the bit about the woman who died and parts of her body were confiscated by the US to find that as early as the 1930's nuclear scientists were aware of the risks of exposure to excess radiation.

They were not.

I am a physicist. I know all about the nucleons.

They were not.

That's how they found out.

By studying those who did end up exposed. But it took a lot of work. And it wasn't until the '50s at the earliest that anyone on Earth had much idea.

(07-02-2014 08:23 PM)JAH Wrote:  They may not have known exactly what the risk was and how much exposure was damaging but they knew of the risk.

That radiation was a thing, yes.

That radiation was the thing we now know it to be, absolutely not.

They wouldn't have filmed John Wayne's Ghengis Khan flick The Conqueror the way they did, had they known, I can tell you that.

(07-02-2014 08:23 PM)JAH Wrote:  Recently the San Francisco Chronicle publish a story about a WWII vet who was sent into Hiroshima shortly after the bombing. He drank local well water and many years later developed a cancer. He had applied to the VA for a disability (I assume so his medical expenses could be covered) and it took massive intervention to get that disability.

That actually demonstrates what I was saying.

Nobody knew.

That's why none of the risks were acknowledged at the time.

'Course, if you're trying to get bureaucracy to recognize something after the fact, you're gonna have a bad time.

(07-02-2014 08:23 PM)JAH Wrote:  I cannot find confirmation on the web so consider that regarding the following. I have seen documentation that indicates in the post war period soldiers were used as guinea pigs to determine their effectiveness after a nuclear strike. They would be in sheltered positions near a nuclear test and then sent into the area to determine how they would perform.

I stand by my statement above. Those in power knew but did not care about the secondary consequences of using the atomic bomb. Not that the US was alone in this disregard.

Those in power did not know.

I say that because I can say with absolute certainty because the scientists in question did not know.

And lest I have to belabour the point (hi, G!) that is a bad thing. And yet it is the truth.

The assumption was that an air burst (as in Hiroshima and Nagasaki) would scatter the radiation byproducts; theory at the time was that said byproducts would last for several days only. That's not true, but not a person alive on Earth in 1945 understood the physics of it. I assure you.

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07-02-2014, 08:53 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
cjlr, please check out my edited post. I will accept that what the necessary amount of exposure to nucleons could be damaging was not clearly understood. I remain convinced from personal experience that many in power did not care.

Shall we agree that allowing this discussion to drift to far from the strategic question is not beneficial. This comment is certainly not an attempt to avoid your comments.

Perhaps I should start a thread on safety in the workplace including in nuclear laboratories. That aught to bore everyone to shit.
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07-02-2014, 08:59 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
(07-02-2014 07:20 PM)cjlr Wrote:  
(07-02-2014 11:42 AM)Chas Wrote:  And I do not.

The atrocities committed by the Japanese have no moral, ethical, or humanitarian justification. There is an ethical argument for using the atomic bomb, as you yourself pointed out.

What I meant to say by that is that as bad as A might be it's still clear that B would be worse.

Given a choice between bad and worse I'll take bad any day. That doesn't make it less bad. But it sure as hell makes it [i]less worse[/li].

The Japanese killed at least 5.4 million civilians, with some estimates as high as 20 million. That is way more bad.

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07-02-2014, 09:06 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
(07-02-2014 08:53 PM)JAH Wrote:  cjlr, please check out my edited post. I will accept that what the necessary amount of exposure to nucleons could be damaging was not clearly understood. I remain convinced from personal experience that many in power did not care.

Shall we agree that allowing this discussion to drift to far from the strategic question is not beneficial. This comment is certainly not an attempt to avoid your comments.

Perhaps I should start a thread on safety in the workplace including in nuclear laboratories. That aught to bore everyone to shit.

Yes, I certainly agree with your edit. That (apparent) carelessness was the order of the day is regrettable, and the consequence was suffering for a great many people.

Should it come to it I have immediate personal anecdata from older colleagues who worked in Deep River in its heyday. Safety as we would recognize and demand it did not exist.

This cannot be blamed on malice; it rests on ignorance.

To re-align discussion: my position is based on several premises.

The foundational premise is of utilitarianism - this, I think, is where PoolBoyG breaks off. Insofar as I think a wrong act can be the lesser of available evils for all concerned, its innate moral repugnancy notwithstanding - condemnation of wars may prevent them if held universally but certainly does not end them if espoused only unilaterally.

So,
A: the sooner the surrender of Japan occurred, the greater the demonstrable benefit to not only the people of Japan but all those remaining under Japanese occupation
B: the use of the atomic bombs in close succession and in concert with the Soviet Manchurian Strategic Offensive significantly hastened the final surrender of Japan
A+B -> the use of the atomic bombs was therefore the least worst option open to the Supreme Allied Command in August 1945.
Also (subordinately) C: the full consequences of the use of nuclear weapons (re: radioactive contamination and besides the nature of the weapons themselves as a difference in kind rather than scale) were not seen as we see them today.

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07-02-2014, 09:12 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
(07-02-2014 08:59 PM)Chas Wrote:  
(07-02-2014 07:20 PM)cjlr Wrote:  What I meant to say by that is that as bad as A might be it's still clear that B would be worse.

Given a choice between bad and worse I'll take bad any day. That doesn't make it less bad. But it sure as hell makes it [i]less worse[/li].

The Japanese killed at least 5.4 million civilians, with some estimates as high as 20 million. That is way more bad.

Indeed. From the research I've done 20 million is more like the median number, should one include the human misery attributable to deprivation and disruption resulting from the occupation(s).

For all the shit the Allies did (never mind the Soviets) I'm still of the opinion that World War II was among the least morally ambiguous conflicts in human history.

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07-02-2014, 09:27 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
cjlr, I will again state that you have made your point well about the strategic necessity of the atomic bombs. If again, I do not necessarily agree. We should leave the bit about who knew what and when about the long term effects of their use to another debate. Perhaps around the use of nuclear power considering recent events in Japan.

Chas, by logical (extreme) extension we should have dropped all available bombs, including atomic, on Japan to teach them a lesson. Killing their civilians being justified because of all the civilians they had killed.
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