Re: “Yet another argument over Hiroshima” (editorial, 7-9).
According to the editorial: “Massive bombing and civilian death were built into the murderous logic of World War II. Ultimate responsibility for all the hell unleashed in that war ultimately falls on the people who started it.”
Does the editorial board believe that our massive retaliation was part of that murderous logic, too?
I am a member of Journey of Repentance, the peace delegation the board refers to – a group of 16 people from a number of faith traditions, ranging in age from 15 to 81. What binds us together is our commitment to try to find nonviolent solutions for resolving conflict.
On the journey to Japan on the anniversaries of the atomic bombings, we wish to interact with and hear the stories of the Hibakusha (survivors of the nuclear bombs and their affected offspring). We hope to learn from the witnesses in order to understand both their experience and their path of non-retaliation.
I can understand some of the anger expressed in letters to the editor about repentance or asking forgiveness of the people of Japan.
For so many in our world, it is considered a right and even a duty to retaliate when harm is done a person or nation. An eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth seems to be the automatic and sustained response of many of us and especially our government down through our history.
It is amazing that the myth that the atomic bombings were absolutely essential to ending the war persists even 64 years later.
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote in 1963: “I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to (Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson) my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives” (“Mandate For Change”).
I have become a conscientious objector to all war, whether offensive or defensive – whether of the right, left or center. In 1957 while stationed in Japan in the Navy, I visited Nagasaki. At the epicenter of the bombing was a multistory building displaying thousands of relics, documents and photographs. The displays were poignant and shocking … men, women and children trying to flee the inferno, terrorized.
Several years later after my discharge from the Navy, I entered a Roman Catholic Trappist monastery for seven years. My novice spiritual guide had been an aviator during World War II and had been involved in some of the fire-bombings of 60 Japanese cities.
I shared my misgivings with him about war and violence. He encouraged me to become a conscientious objector to all war. My call to conscience became so clear, I could no longer accept my church’s “just war” teaching. I became a conscientious objector to all war and try to be a conscientious objector also to the things and activities that contribute to war.
Father George Zabelka was the Catholic chaplain who blessed the bomber crews taking off from Tinian Island to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He returned to Japan in August 1984 as “a Christian and a priest” to ask forgiveness from the Hibakusha, the disfigured victims of the bombings, for his part in “bringing you death instead of the fullness of life … for bringing you misery instead of mercy.”
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us to pray thus: “Forgive us our sins” – or as one translation puts it: “Forgive the wrongs we have done to others as we forgive the wrongs others have done to us.”
Notice Jesus teaches us to first confess our sin – not our enemy’s – then in the same breath, to forgive those who have hurt us. It is in asking forgiveness and in forgiving that we come to reconciliation. I believe that without mutual forgiveness there is no reconciliation. If we are reconciled, we have peace.
Tom Karlin of Lakewood is a Navy veteran and retired woodworker. He volunteers with peace organizations dedicated to resolving conflict through nonviolent means.