August 6 and 9 are the sixty-fourth anniversaries of America dropping the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, thereby ending World War II. Many liberal churches are holding services to remember this event and to re-commit themselves to world peace.
For a lot of conservatives, the U.S. dropping of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the right thing to do, since it was the only way to bring Japan to surrender. Not all right-wing voices would agree with this proposition, however. In this post, I want to feature quotes by two prominent conservatives who are critical of America’s nuclear bombing of Japan. The first is Joseph R. McCarthy, the much maligned anti-communist Senator whose reputation has made a comeback in right-wing circles, particularly through Ann Coulter’s Treason.
The second conservative is Patrick J. Buchanan. Buchanan is known today as an isolationist, one who thinks America shouldn’t enter wars in foreign countries. But the quote I’ll provide from Buchanan predates his isolationism, for it comes from the time when he was an ardent Cold Warrior.
1. First, the McCarthy quote. In America’s Retreat from Victory: The Story of George Catlett Marshall (Belmont: Western Islands, 1965), McCarthy states:
…how could we take [George C.] Marshall’s word on strategy? If he so overestimated the Japanese as to believe they could fight on for a year and a half after the Germans quit in Europe, how can we replace any reliance upon his estimate of the strength of the Russian empire and its Chinese satellite in eastern Asia at this moment? So the A-bombs fell on Japan and the war was over, although so careful a military critic as Hansen Baldwin believes that the bombs hastened the end of the war, if at all, by only one day. Japan’s fate had been determined long, long before. (51)
McCarthy believes that America was on the verge of defeating Japan before it dropped the Atomic Bombs, making our drastic actions against Hiroshima and Nagasaki unnecessary.
A few pages earlier, McCarthy fleshes out what he means. He laments that George C. Marshall pressured President Roosevelt to bring Russia into the Pacific war, which gave the Soviets significant leverage in their negotiations with the U.S. and Britain. As far as McCarthy is concerned, we didn’t need Russia’s help, for our blockade was choking Japan quite sufficiently. And that’s why McCarthy thinks we could have defeated Japan without the Atomic Bomb.
2. The Pat Buchanan quote is from his 1988 memoirs, Right from the Beginning (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 1988):
Not until the 1986 Economic Summit in Tokyo did I ever visit Japan. Each morning, however, at the magnificent Ohira Hotel, when I came down for coffee and eggs in the nearly empty breakfast room, I was greeted by a pretty Japanese waitress of no more than eighteen. Daily practicing her English on me while I dawdled at the table reading my news summaries, she would suddenly appear and say in her singsong English something like, “Take your time, prease.” Then she would put her hand over her mouth, giggle, and disappear. The thought washed over me: On the night of March 9, 1945, when I was a boy, hating the “Japs” and cheering the Americans on, 334 B-29s under the command of General Curtis LeMay appeared low in the skies over this very place, unloaded their incendiary bombs, and burned to death eighty-three thousand old men, women, and children just like this little girl. My father and the Jesuits, who taught me about Saint Augustine’s requirements for conducting a “just war,” and the proscription against the direct and wanton killing of innocent civilians, were right. No matter the barbarity, the savagery of the Japanese empire, no matter the justice of America’s cause, we had no moral right to kill like that. (34-35)