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August 6, 2003

Happy Hiroshima Day, everyone.

I used to live in Livermore, and every year on this date, there's a big anti-nuclear protest there. I guess I'm an ass, because I look at the history and agree with the use of the bomb at that time under those circumstances. To me, it's pretty simple:

First, you have to ignore property damage and all other factors other than human life. I consider human life more important than anything else. A Japanese guy's life is worth the same as an American's, so let's look at the total number of human lives lost in various scenereos:

1) Use the nukes (The scenereo that happened): By most estimates, about 50,000 people died from the blasts at each of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. More died later from after-effects like radiation. Still more died in the long term from cancer many years later. The largest estimate I've ever seen was a total of about 250,000 people dying from the combined bombs.

2) Conventionally invade Japan: By the estimates at the time and cooberated by modern historians, we sould have lost on the order of 200,000 troops invading Japan. The Japanese military and civilian deaths would have been astronomical. Most likely, they would have been in the millions. They were teaching their schoolchildren how to charge american Marines with bamboo sticks toward the end of the war. It would have been many, many more deaths than the nukes proved to be.

3) Air raid Japan from Okinawa until they surrender: They didn't even surrender when we droped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima. What on earth makes you think they'd surrender from a continuation of conventional air-raids that they had been enduring for the past 3 years already? The war would never end at that rate, and Japan's unchecked killing of Chinese civillians, already in the 10s of millions, would have continued. Many more than 250,000 would have died from that alone.

4) Stop fighting entirely and make peace: Japan was not the pleasant noble country it is today. At that time it was ruled by a brutal racist military clique. If we had sued for peace, and somehow gotten the USSR and England to go along with it, Japan would have used it to re-arm, rebuild, and when ready, attack anew. The war continues, and one of the other options would have to be used.

5) Japan was going to surrender anyway: Their terms for surrender were that the military would disarm themselves, there's be no war crimes trials, they'd keep the land they took in China, returning only the stuff they took from the US, their current regime would remain in charge, and no foreign troops would occupy Japan. Unacceptable by any standards to any of the allies. Especially China who had lost about 60 million civillians to brutal Japanese occupation and had a few war crimes trials in mind.

So my view is that 250,000 lives lost was the cheapest way to end the war. We had to use the nukes.



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