Wilson D. Miscamble, C.S.C., The Most Controversial Decision: Truman, the Atomic Bombs, and the Defeat of Japan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 174 pp., $94.99, Hardcover.
Reviewed by David A. Wemhoff
Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, dressed in somber hues walked behind a Shinto priest to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo where in late December 2013 he "paid his respects" as Time magazine reported. The Yasukuni Shrine contains the Book of Souls which has the names of nearly two and a half million Japanese, to include more than 1,000 Japanese convicted of war crimes after World War II.The American reaction was swift and severe. In the words of the Wall Street Journal, "a rare admonition" issued from the U.S. "'The United States is disappointed that Japan's leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan's neighbors,' said the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo on its website, in an unusual direct criticism of Japan's leader by its main ally." Abe's actions were something less than an unqualified denunciation of fellow Japanese the Americans deemed to be bad, something the conquerors still expected from the conquered nearly seventy years after Japanese surrender. But there was another and related problem with Abe's actions in the eyes of the Americans. By walking behind a priest of the Shinto religion, which had been the state religion of Japan until 1945 when the American occupiers disestablished it, Abe made clear the importance of Shintoism to the Japanese people and the Japanese state. His actions bore witness to the subordination of the material to the spiritual which is a principle of the natural law, something rejected by the ideology which defines America.
The social re-engineering put in place after the Japanese surrender and at the point of a bayonet, or the American equivalent of a bayonet, was starting to unravel. Japanese national, or ethnic, identity and pride was starting to manifest itself again, and just in time because Japan was suffering a national malaise that even its enemies noted. With a declining birthrate, symptomatic of severe social ills, the Japanese, by some accounts, were on their way to extinction. The seeds of this malaise were in the social re-engineering practiced on the Japanese by the Americans after the unconditional surrender of the Japanese government aboard a U.S. warship. The nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki lead to the Japanese total capitulation, but as new life sprang up unexpected, lush, and verdant in the atomic ash-heaps of Hiroshima and Nagasaki shortly after the attacks, new life was stirring the Japanese soul about seventy years later, and there really was nothing the Americans could do about it. The actions of Abe, imperfect as they may be, evince a desire of the Japanese leadership to have their people live, life comes from on high, and saying yes to life is cooperating with the Almighty. New life is creation, it is love, it is all part of the order of the universe, or, as the editor of this magazine and the Evangelist St. John might put it, part of Logos.
EVIL BUT RIGHT?
The attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the only times in human history that nuclear weapons were used, and these weapons were used, it should be noted, by the first secular state ever devised by man. Wilson Miscamble, a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart, priest, and history professor at the University of Notre Dame, concludes that the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were both necessary and right even if the bombings were immoral, or evil. He claims these bombings saved Japanese and American lives. His conclusion rests on the acceptability or legitimacy of the American war aims which were the unconditional surrender of Japan and the social re-engineering of that society, the fruits of which confront Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today. Accepting as legitimate the American war aims without any serious discussion of them, Miscamble's arguments favoring the use of the nuclear weapons on noncombatants depends on two errors rejected by Catholic morality: that the ends justify the means and that to avoid evil one may do evil. Both arguments are without merit in terms of Catholic morality, an analysis Miscamble never conducts in his book.
Instead, Miscamble accepts as moral authority the opinions of the Jew Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997) about the ideas of Niccolo Macchiavelli (1469-1527). Miscamble opines that Truman's decision was the "lesser of the evils available to him" from the "perspective of over six decades … when viewed in the context of the long and terrible war." However, "Isaiah Berlin in his astute commentary on Machiavelli summed up the argument well: 'One can save one's soul, or one can found or maintain or serve a great and glorious state; but not always both at once.'"
The Notre Dame historian is admitting that the nuclear bombings of noncombatants were evil, but because it was the "lesser of two evils," the decision was "right" which, without any definition of "right," suggests morally acceptable. This goes against the moral teachings of the very religion a Catholic priest is supposed to uphold if not also spread. The Catholic Faith announces a simple principle that is clearly articulated in the 1992 version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC): "The end does not justify the means." (CCC 1753, 1759) And in a slightly different formulation, "'An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention.' (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. praec. 6)." (CCC 1759) (The Catholic Encyclopedia from 1912 made plain that "No end justifies an immoral means.")
Miscamble's calling that which is evil "right" is anything but a "firm and unequivocal condemnation" of the nuclear bombings. This demand for all the faithful comes from the Catechism which refers to Gaudium et Spes and its condemnation of the use of nuclear weapons on civilians: "Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation." (CCC 2314)
Fr. Francis J. Connell, C.Ss.R., known as the Catholic Theologian of America was Dean of the School of Sacred Theology at the Catholic University of America from 1949 to 1958. He was a peritus at Vatican II and he, along with the Holy Spirit, saved the day when it came to Dignitatis Humanae for he insisted that it mention the Catholic Church as the one true Church and the Catholic religion the one true religion, that it plainly state Catholic doctrine stays the same on matters of church and state, and that the norm of all human behavior is the divine positive law. Fr. Connell firmly and unequivocally condemned the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as the bombings of Japanese and German cities. In Morals in Politics and Professions: A Guide for Catholics in Public Life, he cited an article written in 1944 by Fr. John Ford, S.J. (1903-1989) entitled "The Morality of Obliteration Bombing," and published in, of all journals, Jesuit John Courtney Murray's Theological Studies:
It must be confessed regretfully that some of the methods employed in the recent World War cannot be squared with the moral principles of the Catholic Church. For example, the so-called 'obliteration bombing' was nothing else but the murder of noncombatants on a large scale. The climax of this immoral method of warfare was reached when the atomic bomb was used on two residential cities of Japan. Even though these cities contained military objectives which could lawfully be the target of our air attacks, the dreadful havoc wrought concomitantly, the destruction or maiming of hundreds of thousands of innocent persons, has inflicted a permanent blot of shame on the United States.
Connell explained with some emphasis that expediency, as cited by Miscamble for justifying Truman's decisions as "right," is improper:
If a means of waging war is intrinsically wrong, no soldier or sailor may employ it, no matter what may be the consequences to himself. Thus, an aviator commanded to drop his bombs on a merely residential section of a city must refuse even though he will be court-martialed and shot…the law of God takes precedence over expediency, and that if a method of warfare is wrong, it may not be employed, even though it might be conducive to a speedier and more certain victory. Catholics especially must be mindful of this fundamental moral truth, for as the world is going now, the Catholic Church will soon be alone in upholding unchangeable standards of morality.
Miscamble's book and his conclusions, which are anything but a "firm and unequivocal condemnation" of the use of nuclear weapons, threaten to not only cloud this understanding but also to mute the one last defender of the unchangeable standards of morality. His opinions are likely to cause others to do wrong, and that is scandal, a grave sin in itself. (CCC 2287) In the place of Catholic morality and Thomism, Miscamble offers the Talmud, but these are the signs of the times for Notre Dame has always served the powerful or the winners, the real life manifestation of a comment made by the priest in Werner Herzog's powerful motion picture, Aguirre, Der Zorn Gottes (translation: Aguirre, the Wrath of God). The WASPs have been replaced by the Jews as the masters of the Catholics at Notre Dame, and now their morality is propagated by professors and apparently priests alike. This transition is indicative of a tension in America and the West today between the Anglo-American Enlightenment and the belief systems of the Jews, or the Talmud, but I digress.
Miscamble mentions context as justification for Truman's evil becoming right. Judging from what he has written, part of that context is the widespread horror and destruction caused by World War II. In other words, Miscamble engages in relativizing the nuclear bombings by citing other horrible events during World War II, such as the supposed destruction of a number of cities by the Germans and Japanese. Miscamble is saying something that Catholic morality again condemns and that Fr. Connell reminds us: "Two wrongs do not make a right."
Another problem with this approach is that the extent of the damage done by the Germans and Japanese was never as great as that done by the Americans and their Allies. The Americans and their allies developed and used long range high altitude bombers – a weapon the Axis Powers neither had nor developed – for the express purpose of repeatedly targeting civilian populations on a massive scale. With the fire-bombings of Dresden and Tokyo (conservatively 100,000 perished in one night, March 9, 1945), as well as the "obliteration bombing" referenced by Fr. Connell above, the Americans and their allies wreaked havoc on a scale unmatched in modern history. Therefore, in reality, Miscamble's position is that American evil justified more American evil to achieve the goals of the US Government, which goals, or war aims, were in themselves immoral under Catholic teaching.
The war aims of the US Government and those of the Allies, the morality of which Miscamble does not question, were nothing less than the social re-engineering of Germany and Japan, something which Miscamble freely admits. To achieve these war aims, the Japanese had to surrender unconditionally. All of this was agreed to at the Casablanca conference of January 1943 in which FDR and Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and, Miscamble claims, the American public consented to this decision. Unconditional surrender was a term that meant, according to Miscamble, "no negotiation of terms." Germany and Japan "would need to be fully occupied and seriously reformed to uproot effectively the Nazism and Japanese militarism that underlay their rapacious aggression." Unconditional surrender hands a blank check to the enemy, and it is something that is only demanded by a physically superior, and at the same time morally inferior, enemy. The Americans pioneered the concept in modern times with the American Civil War, and associated with unconditional surrender of the Confederate States of America was the total and brutal destruction of the way of life of the American Southerners. The Japanese leadership undoubtedly knew all of this so they stiffened their resolve as they saw the fight become one for survival as the Americans promised to destroy their way of life which had been formed in accordance with a legitimate understanding of the natural law. The continued existence of the Japanese people, which was threatened by an American victory that would lead to re-ordering the society and their demise as a people, was, and is, a proper objective under the natural law. In other words, ethnicity is in accordance with God's plan, and its defense and propagation is moral.
Since Miscamble mentions context, he should have properly examined the events leading up to the start of World War II, and the Japanese prosecution of the war against China, which war was literally fueled by the Americans. But Miscamble did not do this inquiry because to do so would have called into question American war aims and rendered unnecessary and wrong (to use his categories) the invasion of the Japanese islands and the use of atomic weapons.
Robert W. Coakley (1917-1998) was an American historian who wrote the US Army's definitive history of World War II. Military officers read Coakley's American Military History or parts of it at one point or another especially as it had issued as part of the Army Historical Series which in turn issued from the Office of the Chief of Military History, United States Army. Coakley made clear that the Japanese war aims were limited. The Japanese sought to establish under their control a "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere," or an economic block, an idea that Americans have implemented throughout the world over the course of many years, most notably in Latin America, the Caribbean, and now with the Eurozone. Coakley explained the Japanese war aims were to gain a defensive perimeter around conquered territories, and not to stretch beyond that. He also explained that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was meant to keep the Americans from interfering with this strategy:
Japan believed it necessary to destroy or neutralize American striking power in the Pacific, the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor and the US Far East Air Force in the Philippines, before moving southward and eastward to occupy Malaya, the Netherlands Indies, the Philippines, Wake Island, Guam the Gilbert Islands, Thailand, and Burma. Once in control of these areas the Japanese intended to establish a defensive perimeter stretching from the Kurile Islands south through Wake, the Marianas, the Carolines, and the Marshalls and Gilberts to Rabaul on New Britain. From Rabaul the perimeter would extend westward to northwestern New Guinea and would encompass the Indies, Malaya, Thailand, and Burma.
The Americans played a role in encouraging the very behavior which they claimed had to be rooted out of the Japanese people after their unconditional surrender. The Americans supported Japanese aggression against Manchuria and China during the 1930s by selling them oil, but that stopped in July 1941, and shortly thereafter the Japanese decided to push into Southeast Asia for the oil they needed. That region consisted of French and British colonies. Like a billiards or pool player who lines up the cue ball to start a chain reaction by sending other balls into the table's pockets, the US leadership lined up its policy to create mayhem amongst its friends and business clients.
A growing body of research is revealing the American, if not also the British, role in setting the conditions for World War II, if not also provoking the Germans and Japanese to war. Perhaps most notable in this regard is Carroll Quigley's Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time; Professor Michael Hudson's Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire; and Professor Guido Preparata's Conjuring Hitler: How Britain and American Made the Third Reich. The American involvement in bringing about the very evil they then decried is important so as to properly understand why unconditional surrender was demanded, and the decision to use nuclear weapons a foregone conclusion. This is also important to understand all the better that unconditional surrender and the use of nuclear weapons were not justified.
FDR's "Four Freedoms" speech which was his State of the Union Address delivered as required by the US constitution to the Congress and the American people on January 6, 1941. That speech, which has never been repudiated by the US leadership, sets out the reengineering of global societies to conform to a political economy based on the American ideology or Liberalism. This reengineering, after physically destroying the productive capacity of two of the strongest American competitors, places those and other societies under the control of the powerful American banking interests.
FDR said appeasement or peace with the "new order of tyranny" appeared unattainable, and therefore, war was necessary. He called on Americans to prepare for a war that would remake the world according to "four essential human freedoms" in "our own time and generation." These four freedoms, to be implemented everywhere and anywhere in the world were:
The first is freedom of speech and expression, everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way, everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants – everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor, anywhere in the world.
FDR claimed a new world order was to be based on "the greater conception, the moral order." Indeed, from the beginning, America had "been engaged in change – in a perpetual peaceful revolution – a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly adjusting itself to changing conditions…." The American world order was to be one where there is cooperation of "free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society." These societies, based on freedom, are in turn to be based on the "supremacy of human rights everywhere" and America's support of revolutionary movements to permit such "goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them."
The financial elites of England and America, having encouraged the rise of a militant German state and encouraged the Japanese war with China, had an excuse to use military force to subdue the two great independent economic powers of the day. Hoi polloi, like the fathers of many reading this, who would fight and die for these oligarchs or plutocrats and their aggrandizement were given a high sounding purpose to complement an ideology that sent them marching off gladly to the sounds of guns and the horrors of war. This same ideology destroyed all defenses to the further degeneration of American society over the course of the following decades, and allowed for the abortion of the grandchildren of those known as "the Greatest Generation" – the very people who fought World War II to advance FDR's "moral order."
Proportionality governs in setting moral war aims. Under this principle neither the invasion of Japan nor unconditional surrender nor the use of nuclear weapons was moral.
The 1992 version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church discusses just war (2309), and, as it does with countless other topics, only obliquely refers to war aims. In stating the "factors for the legitimate defense by military force," the Catechism states the first factor is to assess whether the "damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain." The second factor deals with "putting an end to it" with "it" referring to the damage caused by the so-called aggressor. The final point is that the "the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated." The idea is that damage or a specific evil is to be remedied or eliminated with a just war. Eliminating an entire people or even inserting into a society the seeds of its destruction, which is what the evidence strongly suggests in the case of American occupation of Japan, is prohibited by this formulation of the just war doctrine because this would not be proportionate to the evils or damages sought to be corrected or remedied. The remedy to the Japanese actions was relinquishment of their control and occupation of China and Southeast Asia, not re-ordering their society so as to destroy it. This goal could have been achieved without invading Japan and without dropping the atomic bomb.
The Catholic Encyclopedia does enter into a clearer discussion of acceptable war aims and it starts with the recognition of the "title and purpose" of war. A state has a "primary title" to go to war if the "state's right…are menaced by foreign aggression not otherwise to be prevented than by war"; an "actual violation of right not otherwise reparable" and third, the need to punish the "threatening or infringing power for the security of the future." Secondary titles may come from a request of another state or people in peril or from the "fact of the oppression of the innocent." The Encyclopedia proceeds to explain that "mere expansion of trade" and "acquisition of new territory" does not give a state a "natural title to wage war upon another state." The Encyclopedia states that the "subject matter of the right of war" is to "enforce submission, implying the acceptance of a final readjustment and proportionate penalty."
Again we turn to Fr. Connell for clarity. In Outlines of Moral Theology, he elaborated on proper war aims in a section entitled "Obligations of Legal Justice":
The Catholic Church teaches that the waging of war is not in itself unjust. However, certain conditions must be fulfilled before a nation may lawfully go to war. There must be a good reason, proportionate to the evils which can be anticipated. Thus the recovery of a large piece of stolen territory, and the ejection of unjust invaders, are just reasons.
The war aims must seek a remedy that is proportionate to the harm suffered. Admiral William Leahy (1875-1959) understood this and he knew the American war aims as to Japan were disproportionate. As Miscamble (to his credit) relates, Leahy questioned these war aims and did so directly to Truman. But Truman would have none of it and dismissed Leahy's comments by claiming that the American people, as represented by their elected representatives, wanted unconditional surrender and occupation of Japan.
Leahy's point though was well-taken. By August, 1945, the U.S.S.R was in the war against Japan and routing the Japanese armies in Manchuria, the US B-29s had been raining bombs on Tokyo and other major cities, a naval blockade was constricting the islands making food and fuel scarce, and the Japanese forces in China and Southeast Asia were effectively being isolated and deprived of needed logistical support. The Japanese were also indicating that they were willing to surrender, but with conditions, the most important of which was to keep the emperor in power and as a god. The Americans could have reached an agreement to end the war in the Pacific without the use of nuclear weapons, but they did not want to do so simply because they had a grander strategy which involved building what Henry R. Luce called "The American Century," or the American empire. The American war aims were themselves immoral and they used immoral means (what Fr. Connell termed "murder") to achieve these war aims.
WHO AND HOW
I first saw Miscamble about nine or ten years ago when I still believed that Notre Dame could be Catholic. He was making a presentation with the late Ralph McInerny and other members of something called the Sycamore Trust which, according to its website, consists of "Alumni protecting Notre Dame's Catholic identity." One's initial view of the Sycamore Trust is that it is based on another vague term that pontiffs and other prelates are so fond of using: "catholic identity." That could mean more guys wearing Roman collars or more crucifixes in the class rooms, but it appears to deal mostly with the perennial sexual issues Catholics love to dwell on – abortion protests, and opposition to "Vagina Monologues." There is some mention of increasing the number of Catholic faculty, but that really does not mean anything. After all, Miscamble is a Catholic priest and with his book he endorses what the Catholic faith denounces. William Dempsey, Class of 1952 and former Clerk to a US Supreme Court Justice and holder of a number of other honors and positions of importance in American society, is the President of the Sycamore Trust. He is one of the well-heeled Catholics who have advanced in a worldly sense by operating from a point of view that holds the American ideology as good in principle.
Every year the University of Notre Dame hosts a reunion weekend. It used to be that alumni, interested people, and groups like the Sycamore Trust could host seminars for the alumni and their families during this weekend in early June of every year, but that all was changed recently and only those individuals and groups that are properly vetted by the authorities at Notre Dame or the Alumni Association are allowed to do so. In any event, nine or ten years ago the Sycamore Trust was putting on a seminar to explain what was happening at Notre Dame. It was the height of indignation at "Vagina Monologues" and people packed the room in DeBartolo Hall. I was present and saw that the panel consisted of Dempsey, Ralph McInerny, a Dr. Susan Biddle Shearer, a recent Notre Dame graduate (I seem to recall), and of course, Miscamble.
Miscamble said a number of things that were calculated to be pleasing to the audience which wanted to believe that Notre Dame could remain, or return to, being Catholic. In that vein, he called on the audience, which like all Americans believed in activism, to write letters to the President of the University telling them of their displeasure with things like the Vagina Monologues. After the panel's pitch, they opened up the floor to questions. I observed one short fellow wearing sweaty workout clothes slowly stand up to make a comment. In the gentle drawl of someone from southern Indiana this fellow said, the purpose of education and especially Catholic education was to save souls. The room erupted in applause and cheers, and the panel, Miscamble included, appeared pleased. Then this fellow with the gentle Hoosier drawl said that if Notre Dame was not going to get the "Vagina Monologues" off campus, then let the President of the University know that you would take your money elsewhere. That brought the house down. Miscamble catapulted out of his seat while McInerny grew visibly angry and redder and redder in the face. Miscamble nervously shouted over and over, while pointing at the fellow in the sweaty workout clothes, "Oh no, don't do that! Don't do that!" In this brief moment, the mask of the charade fell away and the purpose of the Sycamore Trust became clear – to control dissent in a harmless way, something the American psychological manipulators have done so well for so long. Miscamble's role in conducting psychological manipulation, which is inherently dishonest and deceitful, was laid bare, though it is not unexpected given his history.
On the Notre Dame website there is a short biography of Miscamble. Born in 1953 in Australia, Miscamble "received his doctoral degree" from the University of Notre Dame in history in 1980, and in April 1988 was ordained a priest in the C.S.C. order. Since then, he has taught at the university. The biography also mentions Miscamble "served for two years as North American analyst in the Office of National Assessments [ONA], Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Canberra, Australia." The ONA according to its website, has the mission of "Analysing the world; anticipating change; strengthening outcomes for Australia." The ONA is "an Australian intelligence agency" which "provides all-source assessments on international political, strategic and economic developments" and "coordinates and evaluates the work and performance of Australia's foreign intelligence agencies." It also operates with the understanding that information is to be exploited and that relations with foreign intelligence agencies is important.
The Knights of Columbus and Right to Life overlooked all of this and billed Miscamble as an "inspiring international Pro-life speaker, distinguished Notre Dame history professor." He was hosted as a speaker and also as the concelebrant of, of all things, a "Mass for Life" during their "Respect Life Month." This is an odd turn of affairs given that the nuclear weapon use, approved by Miscamble, paved the way for the American occupation that lead to the introduction of abortion into Japanese society. Eamonn Keane from the "Renew America" website recounts this oftentimes historically overlooked fact by quoting from Steven Mosher's book, Population Control: Real Costs, Illusory Benefits. Keane writes:
Steve Mosher again makes a telling point when in referring to Japan's experience with population control, he says: 'Perhaps the first 'successful' population control program was carried out in post-war Japan. Prostrated by the war, Japanese leaders humbly acceded to MacArthur's suggestion that abortion be legalized. While it was publicly maintained that the devastated Japanese economy could not support more people, the general's interest was apparently in fighting the next war — in-utero, as it were. He must have been pleased as the birth rate fell by half over the next few years.' Following through on General MacArthur's advice, in 1948 the Japanese Diet passed the Eugenic Protection Law which made abortion, sterilization and contraception widely available.
Abortion and contraception are weapons of war. Miscamble is a history professor, and he should know that, even if he were not a priest and prominent pro-lifer. When the Japanese leadership balked at unconditional surrender, they probably anticipated that if they agreed to no terms, they were condemning their people to a slow death as they were placing their people at the whim and disposal of the Americans, whose very country's existence is due largely to the genocide of the American Indians. A surrender should mean that the victor will not prosecute war against the vanquished and that a just peace shall ensue, but a number of historians provide evidence that this is not the American modus operandi. Whether the Native Americans, the Confederacy, the Filipinos/Moros, Germans, or others, it is after surrender that the Americans often do their greatest harm to a society. The Japanese experience with the Americans is consistent with that of others. This body of evidence suggests that there is something intrinsic to the American character that is opposed to Logos, which character is based largely on an ideology that I discussed in an earlier article in this magazine.
As a former intelligence officer or analyst, and as a member of the religious order known as the Congregation of the Sacred Heart, a notably Americanist outfit, Miscamble picked up a few tricks along the way. Those tricks become apparent in the course of his book approving the sins of Truman and those who carried out his orders. The most obvious is to call Truman's decision evil, but necessary and right.
Photos are used to slant this book. There are a number of photos of Americans and English political leaders, or scientists and servicemen, thereby strengthening the reader's psychological attachment to these men who planned, ordered, and executed war crimes. These photos depict the Americans and English as smiling or strong or serious or in any of a number of other complementary and sympathetic views. Then there is Miscamble's repeated use of unnecessary adjectives which direct our sympathies accordingly. One of many instances was Miscamble's statement that "George Marshall portrayed the matter correctly" in a reference to the military situation that supposedly justified use of nuclear weapons.
The absence of photographs of the devastation caused by the bombings is also used to slant the book. There are two photos taken at a distance for each of the cities attacked, but these photos were taken after the place had been cleaned up some as evidenced by the cleared streets. There are no photos of the Japanese in Hiroshima or Nagasaki who were wounded or killed by the atomic bombings, and there is no photograph of the Catholic Church in Nagasaki, the Immaculate Conception Catholic Cathedral, also known as the Urakami Cathedral, which Irish Catholic US Army Air Corp Major Charles Sweeney piloting the bomber "Bockscar" used as the point of reference for releasing the 22 kiloton "Little Boy" on August 9, 1945.
The photos of physical devastation are easier than the ones of the devastation wrought on human flesh. Pulitzer Prize winner John Hersey (1914-1993) wrote Hiroshima describing the stories of six people (one of which was a Catholic priest) who lived through the bombing of Hiroshima. Some were incinerated immediately, others lingered for a period with gamma radiation poisoning. Still others endured burns from the heat, and some of those burns were melted eyeballs and melted faces. Shrapnel and debris caused a lot of suffering. Perhaps most notably Hersey explained that those affected by the gamma radiation of the bomb first exhibited yellow spots or swelling, followed by reddening as the day wore on, followed by swelling and purulence. In one instance one of the people in Hersey's book commented on how human skin sloughed off the bodies of the living. Numerous eyewitness accounts described the stoicism of the Japanese people who had been so cruelly hurt by this new weapon without being given any warning. But all of this is just hype according to Miscamble, who claims the Japanese used it for sympathy after the war.
Eleanor Coerr (1922-2010), who wrote children's books, was Canadian, not Japanese, and she wrote a heartrending, and true story of little Sadako Sasaki, who, unusually small and frail at age two and a half years due to the starvation diet of the Japanese people caused by the American blockade, was literally blown through the window of her home by the atomic blast over Hiroshima. Her mother found her alive and two blocks away, but Sadako was one of the 350,000 or so hibakusha, or those harmed by the bombing. Her slow death due to radiation induced cancer at age 12 was recounted by Coerr and is now repeated for the purpose of promoting world peace through education and understanding at the Hiroshima School. While about 100,000 were calculated by the Americans as having died in the two bombings, the effects of the radiation continue to this day. It should be noted that even some of those children in utero at the time of the bombings developed cancers that killed them as they grew.
Shouldn't a prolife Catholic priest be concerned about what happens to children in utero when there are nuclear blasts especially when he supports the efforts of an organization such as Right to Life that claims to defend the right to life from conception to natural death? Shouldn't a prolife priest be against using nuclear weapons? Shouldn't a Catholic priest have compassion for the wounded and suffering? Or should the motto of the pro-life movement, which embraces Miscamble who holds such troubling views and who makes such outrageous statements, be changed to "save the unborn, nuke the rest"?
Miscamble plays up patriotism, whether as an Australian or as an American, but patriotism should not be used to deaden our consciences, which Miscamble's actions suggest is his intent. He demonizes the Japanese, misrepresents their objectives, and ignores a very important pronouncement of the Vatican II Council and of Catholic moral teaching. That is as stated in Gaudium et Spes, section 75, paragraph 4 that patriotism has limits as citizens should "always keep in mind the welfare of the whole human family which is formed into one by various kinds of links between races, peoples, and nations." The welfare of the whole human family is best insured by following the moral order and the Catholic Church is supposed to be the definitive teacher of that moral order. This paragraph of Gaudium et Spes should prompt all Catholics to examine the real nature of Enlightenment states and study the conduct of these states in the world today and for the last 200 years or so. With this knowledge Catholics around the world can engage in concerted action and use their efforts to bring the international community into harmony with the moral order, especially given that as Catholics our loyalty is first to Christ and His Law, and especially since the Council calls on us to do so. This is further important and relevant to our day given that World War V, or the war against Russia, China and India, has begun. While it is currently at the informational and economic stage, it is still a war between nuclear powers and the American leadership is intent on subduing, and most likely, later destroying those societies to reengineer them to be like America.
Certainly Miscamble's book drives home the point that no country should be without nuclear weapons. If Japan had the atom bomb in 1945, they could have inflicted large losses on the Americans, and Truman would have probably not ordered the atomic attack on Japan. Given the American predilection to not only defeat but destroy their enemies, and their willingness to use weapons of mass destruction, foreign leaders could conclude that signing treaties limiting the use or possession of nuclear weapons has to be against the good of their own people. Is this not the conclusion of the Israeli leadership?
Allied with this is something that Jesus said during the Sermon on the Mount which is that "the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you." (Matthew 7:2) So, if it was necessary and right to use nuclear weapons against Japanese civilians because of the militaristic nature of the Japanese, then an opponent of the US could use Miscamble's same rationale to use nuclear weapons against America and the Americans because of their perceived nature and militarism as has become more readily apparent given the last 25 years of US history, or since the fall of the Soviet Union. The US has the largest military budget of any country in the world – over 600 billion dollars per year – with the nearest country to them being China in a distant second with about 110 billion dollars spent on defense each year. Russia recently announced plans to increase its military budget to about 100 billion dollars a year, or less than one-sixth the American military budget.
The Church teaches, and always has, that one joins in the sin of others by praising or approving the sin (CCC, 1868). Truman's use of nuclear weapons was a sin, and Miscamble's treatment of the matter is an approval of this sin. Therefore, the sin is now Miscamble's, made worse by the scandal his book is causing. The Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne South Bend should speak out against Miscamble's book and conclusions, but perhaps he does not know of it yet. The Sycamore Trust could help to maintain the Catholic identity of Notre Dame by issuing a statement of condemnation of Miscamble's conclusions. If it does not, this failure is more evidence that the organization is just another sophisticated means to safely channel dissent away from Notre Dame's Americanism. In any event, whether the Bishop or the Sycamore Trust do their duty or not, it is incumbent on all Catholics to unequivocally condemn the use of the nuclear weapons against Japan, and all sins committed by the Americans and their allies in targeting civilians especially with obliteration or mass bombings directed at noncombatants.
The war aims of unconditional surrender and social re-engineering of Germany and Japan, the indiscriminate bombings of German and Japanese cities, and the use of nuclear weapons against Japan were immoral and sins against God. These things were, and remain, unequivocally wrong. Judica me, Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta: ab homine iniquo, et doloso erue me.
David A. Wemhoff is the author of John Courtney Murray, Time/Life, and the American Proposition: How the CIA's Doctrinal Warfare Program Changed the Catholic Church.
This review was published in the May 2015 issue of Culture Wars.
John Courtney Murray, Time/Life, and the American Proposition: How the CIA's Doctrinal Warfare Program Changed the Catholic Church, by David A. Wemhoff. In 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his famous "Four Freedoms" speech in which he set forth a vision for reengineering societies around the globe. The means was psychological warfare, involving the manipulation of ideas, words and symbols to divide target societies and convince these societies of the ideology that formed America. The most important society America targeted was the Roman Catholic Church. Media mogul Henry R. Luce, founder and publisher of enormously influential magazines like Time and Life, used the CIA's doctrinal warfare program to turn the Catholic Church into a promoter of American ideas. This struggle reached its culmination at the Second Vatican Council with the promulgation of the document Declaration on Religious Liberty. Catholic doctrine did not change, but, defeated at the Council, the Americanists used their media power to win the battle over who got to interpret the Council with disastrous consequences for both the Church and the world. 990 Pages, Hardcover. $59 +S&H. (Price will appear higher when ordering for international delivery to offset increased S&H costs.)
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