The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was an act of state-sponsored terrorism. That sounds harsh and not at all right to American ears. After all, we stopped the Nazis and then we stopped Imperial Japan, stomping the Japanese so badly that they still officially don't have a military (good news though, we will spend ourselves our of existence to defend Japan so they don't have to). Terrorism is what them Arabs and other people with funny names do, not what America does. Not so fast my friend. One of the prime definitions of the word "terrorism" is: Violence against civilians to achieve military or political objectives. That is exactly what happened and it doesn't make much difference to the civilians being killed if the plane was a commercial flight flown into a building in New York or a B-29 dropping a bomb on Hiroshima. Keep in mind that in both Germany and Japan, the U.S. used mass firebombing of cities to break the will of the people. The difference of course was that the U.S. and our frienemies the Soviets were already closing in on Berlin while we firebombed the Germans while an invasion of Japan proper was still in the works. Thanks to the fact that Hitler was nuts and the Red Army and the U.S. army were rampaging toward Berlin, German surrender was rendered moot. The Japanese however were more recalcitrant and harder to get to, even though the atomic bombing were preceded by months of firebombing of Japanese cities, including a raid on Tokyo that might have killed outright more people than the Hiroshima bombing, although firebombs don't have the radiation impact that the atomic bombs did, burning people alive in their homes.
Militarily you can justify the atomic bombings. After all the goal was to force Japan to surrender and save American lives. Civilians always have and always will die in war in disproportionate numbers. I would not have wanted to be a civilian family in Germany that had a visit from Soviet troops or Americans because the stories are out there and they are ugly, often as ugly as the atrocities commited by the Japanese and Germans (I don't count the Italians because they were really useless in the war). Like I said, the goal was achieved. The Japanese surrendered, we won, the world was saved, USA! I am not minimizing the facts like the simple playground excuse of "They started it" and the reality of invading Japan leading to a lot of lives being lost among military and civilian alike. The Japanese were brutal in war, from the Bataan Death March to the practice of using teen-aged girls from occupied areas as "comfort women", a clever euphemism for sex slaves. Although less well documented than the Holocaust, Japanese war crimes are nausea inducing. Make no mistake, I am absolutely saying that the world as a whole is better off because we won and they lost although it is a lot more complicated. World War II didn't happen in a historical vacuum, just like the War on Terror isn't the result (entirely) of events since 9/11. I am personally glad that we got the bomb before the Nazis did (and also that Hitler was unhinged enough to invade the USSR, splitting his forces and changing history). That doesn't change the reality that the United States used terrorism as a weapon to subdue the Japanese people and we do history and humanity no favors by pretending that it was anything other than an atrocity, even if it was a "necessary" one. There are still many lessons to be learned today from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and I don't mean the lesson of "Don't mess with the U.S.".
The bitter irony of the United States being the only nation to use an atomic weapon in war while scolding others for seeking to gain access to the same is not lost on me and becomes more grating every year. I really don't want Iran to gain access to a nuclear weapon but I also am not super keen on Israeli already having them, or India or Pakistan or France or even the good ole U.S. of A. since we actually used them. After the Iraq invasion and occupation came up empty on WMDs, we could have sent the inspectors to America because we have them all over the central part of the country in innocuous looking concrete bunkers in Wyoming and Nebraska.
The Japanese people still remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We need to remember them as well, not as an opportunity to pat ourselves on our collective backs but as a bitter reminder of the cost of war that perhaps will dissuade us or at least give us pause before we get into the seemingly inevitable next war. We seem to look back with nostalgia on the days of World War II and have been trying to recreate that heady feeling by getting into war after war ever since. Korea. Vietnam. Iraq. Afghanistan. Countless smaller wars and a decades long Cold War where only the threat of mutually assured destruction kept the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. from lobbing nukes at one another.
We like to pray for God to "bless our troops" and thank Him for our freedom but we must remember: The "freedom" you enjoy was purchased with the currency of dead women and children. That is an uncomfortable truth but a truth nevertheless.
The lesser of two evils is still evil. Remember Pearl Harbor but also remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Dresden and countless other places. Remember the mother in Dresden burned alive alongside her baby in a carriage. Remember the dead in Hiroshima and those maimed so horrifically that I couldn't bring myself to post a picture of them. If you are also a Christian remember the words of Christ...
"But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. (Luke 6:27-29)