Monday, August 09, 2010

Hansai

I have been accused of being “high-minded.” I must be saying “You may not do evil that good may come,” which is a disagreeably high-minded doctrine. The action was necessary, or at any rate it was thought by competent, expert military opinion to be necessary; it probably saved more lives than it sacrificed; it had a good result, it ended the war. Come now: if you had to choose between boiling one baby and letting some frightful disaster befall a thousand people—or a million people, if a thousand is not enough—what would you do? Are you going to strike an attitude and say “You may not do evil that good may come”? (People who never hear such arguments will hardly believe they take place, and will pass this rapidly by.)
[G. E. M. Anscombe, "Mr. Truman's Degree".]

On this day in 1945, American forces dropped the plutonium-based "Fat Man" bomb over the Catholic district in Nagasaki. The bomb exploded within 500 meters of the Urakami Cathedral. At least 40000 people, and perhaps as many as 70000, died within one minute of the bombing. There's a famous book by Takashi Nagai, called The Bells of Nagasaki, which describes the event and its aftermath. Nagai was himself a survivor of it, and was asked later that year to deliver the Funeral Address at the Requiem Mass for the dead; in it he referred to the Catholics who had died as a hansai, which is the word used in Japanese for a whole burnt offering -- a holocaust.

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