War, killing citizens. We see this ethical issue specifically

War, as people who have experienced it, is hell. ?War is cruelty and
you cannot refine it, ?
wrote General William T. Sherman of the Union Army upon making his decision burn
down Atlanta during the Civil War. One principle reason why war is said to be
hell is the impact it has on innocent civilians. In addition to ruin the lives
of armed combatants, war also consumes the lives of those who are not participating
in the fighting. For example, for many major wars, half of the casualties
happen to be from civilians. But is it ever right to targeting citizens is
immoral during war? The humanitarian answer would
be no, but there are some arguments leading to conclusion of killing citizens. We
see this ethical issue specifically during World War II, when the United States
decided to drop two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. The bombing
caused many deaths but also clearly marked the end of the long war. But was the use of the
atomic bombs on Japan in August 1945, right?

Nearing the end of World War II, President Truman
had to make an ethical decision regarding whether to use his newest atomic
bombs. “The general rule of war is that only people fighting you are legitimate
targets of attack, so whoever is not fighting should not be attacked for this
violates their human rights” (Downes). According to the Principles of the Just
War, “it us unjust to fire upon non-combatants and you should
avoid them at all costs” (Principles of the Just War). Along with Truman, his military
leaders such as Generals George Marshall and Henry L. Stimson were trusted by
American people to end the war as quickly as possible before more lives are
lost. As he witnessed the dropping of the nuclear bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer
could only think about a Hindu scripture when he said in his speech, “Now I
have become death, the destroyer of worlds”.

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For the past three centuries, war has taken a
turn and has been involving citizens especially in the past century. During World War I, the British’s blockade on
Central Powers caused much starvation and disease which eventually led to the
death of one million of innocent civilians. In World War II, Germany killed
over 6 million Jews and millions of others. But nothing can compare to the
massive death toll that was caused by the two atomic bombs. On August 6, 1945 and August 9,
1945, the first and second bomb was dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima
and Nagasaki. A day after, the Japanese had surrendered. We see the extreme
effects of the bombs and the killing of innocent lives that it disgusts the
scientists who created the bomb. Albert Einstein stated in 1996, “I made
one great mistake in my life – when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt
recommending that atom bombs be made, but there was some justification – the
danger that the Germans would make them”. After World War II, actions were taken at the Geneva Conventions that developed international
treaties that contains the most important rules that limit the barbarity of

            The governments only choose to target civilian
populations for two main reasons: in desperation to end the chance of losing
more military casualties, or a desire to seize an enemy territory. Franklin D. Roosevelt
was the president for majority of the war before his passing and knew the power
of the atomic bomb behind Albert Einstein’s letter to him, “A single bomb of
this type, might as well destroy a whole port together with some of the
surrounding territories.” With Germany now out of the war and everyone seeking
the end of the war, Truman’s decision to use the bomb on Japan was more
considered. It may have ended the war faster, but if he went with other options
it may have saved many civilian lives. President Truman’s options all had the
risk of losing more American lives. The options involved either a full invasion
of the Japanese mainland or the full blockade of the island that would force
the unconditional surrender of Japan. His
decision was mainly based on the estimate of half a million Allied casualties
likely to be caused by invading the home islands of Japan. There was also the
likely death rate from starvation for Allied prisoners of war and civilians as
the war dragged on well into 1946. He was doing what was best for American

            Citizens have ethical responsibility
because they can vote for whoever they want to represent them. Moral actors
such as President Truman and his generals were elected to their position to the
job of ending the war quickly and to establish peace. When choosing his
decision, he knew he had to deal with the consequences of people who were
against his decision. He was under pressure
from the government and the people of America, he feared that if he didn’t drop
the bombs, he would jeopardise him winning the election so he had to justify
spending so much on the atomic project and giving America its revenge for Pearl
Harbor. Also, there was a political motive in dropping the bombs because of the
power of the Russians, Truman wanted to prevent any spreading of communism from
Stalin and stop him from expanding into Asia. However, the main reason was to
save the lives of Americans.

            The world had
concluded that Truman did the right things. In my opinion, he did do the right
thing because you would’ve never knew how the future would have been if they
did not drop it. The
life lost on those two days is unbelievable, but if we had invaded instead, the
consequences would have been devastating. Many Japanese and American lives were
saved. In essence, the atomic bombs used in World War II against Japan did not
only destroy lives, but it saved them. The use of nuclear weapons is a horrible
crime against humanity. 


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