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GERMANY: Carpet and precision bombing

Precision bombing is presumably strategic or tactical. Cameron Sawyer says: "Strategic bombing is bombing for strategic results -- the destruction of cities and infrastructure as distinguished from bombing in tactical support of other military operations. But to be more precise, I should have said the bombing of cities for the purpose of destroying them and killing civilians, which I consider morally closer to what the terrorists did on September 11 than to what armies do to each other in battle. I think it is morally indefensible, even when "the other side started it".

This kind of bombing is the opposite of precision bombing, which I do not consider an illusion at all. Precision bombing the way we practice it today is directed at targets of direct military significance, and one tries to avoid, rather than to cause, civilian casualties. The results achieved from this kind of precision bombing compared to the number of accidents and misses which kill civilians is impressive. This is a totally different activity from what we did to German cities in WWII, which was basically just terrorism, with dubious military results to boot.

As to the fire bombing of Japanese cities, and the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, I cannot approve Truman's logic. No country has the right to achieve military goals (no matter how justified or even noble the final goal) by the mass murder of innocent civilians. The case of Nagasaki is particularly tragic -- I believe the circumstances have already been posted on, so I won't take up space by retelling them. If we believe that we had the right to vaporize tens of thousands of perfectly innocent mothers, children, grandmothers, and grandfathers in order to achieve some military goal we felt an absolute moral right to achieve, then we have to say the bin Laden had just as much a right to destroy the World Trade Center. In bin Laden's case, we say that the ends do not justify the means. That's right -- the WTC attack was an abomination. But the WTC attack would be no less of an abomination if the goal were more clearly noble (to us!) -- the means themselves are abominable. The same with Hirsoshima".

RH: An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth: Countries should realize what may await them if they start military atrocities. If the desired result can be achieved with fewer casualties, so much the better.

Ronald Hilton - 1/30/03