Letter to the Editor

I mentioned on August 6th that I had written an op-ed piece in our local paper. It was a response, as you will see, to a guy who wrote that if there is ever another terrorist bombing, we should nuke every city that has ever harbored a terrorist.
Likewise, a U.S. Senator has recently stated that if there is another attack, we should nuke Mecca. This is so outrageously provacative and unethical that even hawkish, conservative blogs and talk radio are condemning it.
Here is a link to the Viewpoint blog of my friend Dick Cleary-an avid supporter of the war–who has weighed in on the limits to war and the appropriate consideration of the death of civilans. He kindly suggests that we not judge too harshly the leaders in Truman’s circles who made the hard call to destroy Hiromshima; he offers a good bit of perspective, even if I think his concern about the innocent ought to be sounded with more outrage. Still, it is a thoughtful piece, and an indication of strong ethical thinking on the political right.
My piece, below, was featured in our local paper as a Hiroshima reflection, but do recall it was crafted in reply to one particular letter to the editor, so it bears that specificity. I hope it at least is enough to cause us to pause today, the 60th anniversary of Nagasaki. There, you may know, the steeple of the only cathedral in that country was the target. Nagasaki was the most Christianized city in Japan, the home of a large convent. Peaceful, missionary-minded nuns were the first to be incinerated.

Op-Ed Column
York Sunday News
With the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima upon us, we should hope to see renewed conversations about the ethics of nuclear weapons.
One such letter, by Mr. H. Darius Gray, however, left me annoyed, offended, and horrified.
I was annoyed that Mr. Gray simply gets his facts wrong. He says with great assurance that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved U.S. lives. This may be so, but we do not know. The Japanese had already agreed to surrender (if they could keep their Emperor) but we insisted upon unconditional surrender (a demand considered unethical by classic Ò just warÓ teaching, by the way.) Some of those involved suggested we unleash the atomic horror over the ocean to see if that, too, might lead to greater clarity in negotiations. My own father was poised in the South Pacific used to say that some guys then even thought that. There is no doubt that the Japanese were brutal; it simply is not a matter of historical fact how things might have played out differently without the incineration of those two cities. Helpful conversations about this need to admit that.
I was offended that Mr. Gray writes with such self-righteous passionÑhe is ÒsickenedÓ, he says, by what he calls anti-Americanism. He has no right to judge the patriotism of those of us who, out of a desire to honor the best instincts of our country, and, for some, our deepest religious convictions, oppose bombing civilians. To tar those of us who argue for a moratorium on nuclear weapons with such a brush is rude and inaccurate. He may think that all peacemakers hate our beloved land, but he is wrong.
One of the first, clear voices against nuclear war that I ever heard was from an impeccably patriotic civil servant who was somewhat of a mentor to meÑa Republican Senator, a military man who was on the first boatload of troops to go into Hiroshima days after the bombing. Mr. GrayÕs glib talk about being sickened by peaceniks would most likely not be so nasty if he had to look Senator Mark Hatfield in the eyes as he recalls being literally sickened by the horror of walking through that rubble. Few who have actually seen or touched the dead children of warfare are so eager to lightly advocate such thingsÉ
I was truly horrified, though, by seeing one of the vilest things I have read in this paper in recent memory. Mr. Gray says he works in the health care profession, and says he has three children. Surely in his medical work he offers kindness to decent folks—the frail elderly, handicapped kids, heroic young adults with chronic illness; would he wish them harm? I am sure that he would not. With his own children, I am sure he is tender. And yet, he says that if there is another terrorist attack we should nuke every town that harbored terrorists. Towns that are made up of kids, kids not that much different than our own.
Just wipe out the sick, the elderly, the decent, the children? That is called genocide, Mr. Gray, and is profoundly evil. To wipe out innocent civilians even if it can be known that their town leaders are in cahoots with terrorists is so illogical and uncaring, I wonder what kind of soul would say such a thing.
Imagine, if you will, that somebody in York ÒharboredÓ terrorists. Suppose, worse, that even the town fathers had something to do with it. Hard to imagine, here, I know, but in some town, somewhere in the world, just such a scenario is reality. And now look carefully at your dear children, Mr. Gray. Do you think your children deserve to die a horrible death because somebody you donÕt even know harbors terrorists that you donÕt believe in? Look at your wife, your children, your patients, your home, your history. Destroy it all because of something somebody else did, even if you are not responsible? Those of you who cheered his letter, are you willing to incinerate the innocent for the sake of revenge?
When things like this are spoken in public it is time to search our hearts. The years to come will be no doubt hard and foreign policy questions are admittedly complex. I pray that this bellicose attitudeÑkill the children, and be Ã’thrilledÓ of it—is not held by many in our good land. I pray that those who have spoken such wickedness would re-consider their attitudes and ask why we would ever, ever, justify intentionally, massively killing unarmed civilians, the sick, the frail, the elderly, the children. That is what has been proposed. It is on the table. It is what we did twice already. In the name of God, we must say, Ã’Never again.Ó It is never right to mass-murder children. Never. Never. Never. Never


4 thoughts on “Letter to the Editor

  1. I’d be intereted to hear what you have to say about two new books i saw recently. 1. The Good Life by Charles Colson and Harold Fickett 2. Lies That Go Unchallenged in Popular Culture by Charles Colson and James S. Bellgreat letter, there are some wacky people out there, well then again, the refomed tradition has its own wackiness…

  2. Geg,For those reading in over our shoulders, I want to be clear—the books you asked about are not about the ethics of war or the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings. Just in case anybody wondered…These are similiar to the worldview that Colson promotes in the book that he did with Nancy Pearcy (she wrote most of it, as is well-known in our circles) How Now Shall We Live? It is thoughtful, solid, a bit conservativistic, Kuyperian/Schaeffer-esque but with a strong emphasis on the anti-thesis. (That is, rather than mostly celebrating the goodness of common grace and seeking to build bridges with any pleasant normativity that’s out there, it is a bit more concerns about the too-typical accomodation to culture that is prevelent in the American church and reminds us to be critical thinkers.)So they are both fine.Interestingly, the paperback about culture seems to be mostly drawn from HNSWL and is arranged in a cool nearly q & a format. The other, though, is a new hardcover and the publishers tell us that it is aimed at seekers, rather a worldviewish apologetic inviting thoughtful folks into a conservative Christian world and life culturally-engaged vision. I think it looks pretty good, with it’s care not to presume a Christian reader.Thanks for asking.By the way–you are right, there are quite a lot of crazy folk out there, but when U.S. Senator’s public call for bombing Mecca we must be vigilant. And how many evangelicals do you know who refuse to play the pragmatistic numbers game and justify the intentional targeting of civilian populations?Keith Pav, who many know I debated a bit at Gideon’s blog, has a very good piece on why he, as a serious just warrior, believes the bombing of H & N to be immoral. But he is a rare bird. Most folks just say it had to be, it saved lives, sad but necessary. We have to raise the bar on the ethical conversation about these things. Thanks!Byron

  3. Bill:Great to hear from you!!Yes, it was published on Sunday, alongside a “pro” Hiroshima piece that was written by a relative of one of the bombadeers…a pretty sad column, really, not terribly well argued. The picture they ran alongside the column makes me look like a wild-eyes maniac, though, which is a little creepy.Your encouragement means much!Byron

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