Tuesday August 4, 2015
On the 70th anniversary of the US government’s nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there are still people coming out in favor of the bombings. They’re saying that since the bombings shortened the war by bringing a quick surrender of Japan in World War II, the targeting of those two cities was morally and legally justified, especially since it saved the lives of US soldiers who would have been killed in an invasion of Japan.
If those killings were justified, then was it wrong for the Army to criminally prosecute Army Lt. William Calley for killing innocent people at My Lai during the Vietnam War? Couldn’t the same have been said of his actions — that by killing the residents in that Vietnamese village, who were considered to be communists, he was helping to bring the war to a speedier end? Why was Calley treated as a war criminal rather than praised and glorified, as President Truman has been for targeting the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
The reason that Calley was prosecuted was that it is a war crime for a soldier to intentionally kill innocent civilians.
This might come as a shock to some people, but in war there are rules. If a soldier violates those rules, he is subject to criminal prosecution. The adage “anything goes” does not apply to war, not even if enemy soldiers are violating the rules.