At a recent get-together it was suggested that in war it might sometimes be justified to kill, say, 150,000 people to save more. I vehemently rejected this suggestion, in fact it made me extremely angry.
The most obvious reference to a real-life situation is the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, which immediately killed well over hundred thousand innocent men, women and children, and over the past 71 years has killed many more with cancers, and caused children to be born deformed. This was a heinous crime by the Americans which can never, ever be justified.
The next part of the claim can never be proven, i.e. that it ‘saved’ even more lives. The fact is the Americans committed this genocidal crime, not the Japanese. Whatever the Japanese did previously to POWs, etc. it cannot be said the atomic bombs prevented them killing even more people than these bombs did. On the contrary, if it was these two atomic bombs which caused the Japanese to surrender, why on Earth did the Americans have to agree to the humiliating terms of this surrender? They had to let Emperor Hirohito remain on the Chrysanthemum Throne and guarantee he would never be brought before a War Crimes Tribunal. So 140,000+ innocent people were killed, born deformed, had cancers induced in their bodies but Hirohito escapes Scot free. Not only that, but the Japanese had suffered similar civilian casualties in the conventional bombing of Tokyo, yet did not surrender. Kamikaze pilots were sacrificing their own lives for the Emperor. Such was the adoration of the Japanese for their Emperor they would die for him. The two bombs were more likely dropped before the end of the War in the Far East to demonstrate the awful power of the new weapon America had developed to the world, but in particular to the Soviet Union, which then quickly acquired atomic and then hydrogen bombs of its own. The other reason for the atomic bombing of the two Japanese cities was probably revenge for Pearl Harbor.
On a more general note, can it ever be justified to kill innocent people to save more lives? I say it never can because, for a start, you can never prove it would save more lives. It is an extremely dangerous policy to follow, which could be used by any despot or dictator – they could kill millions and say they did it to save even more lives.
It is said that in war such difficult decisions have to be taken, but I am a pacifist and reject all war under any circumstances. We then have to define ‘war’ itself. I can see there are situations where force has to be used, even lethal force. I would define these as special operations by the secret services, SAS, etc., or simply international policing operations, targeting the guilty rather than innocent civilians. Not using indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear weapons, conventional bombs, landmines, etc.. There are occasions, of course, when innocent people get killed, such as when police are dealing with a siege with hostages and the kidnapers, who are killing the hostages, die along with some of the hostages, some shot by the police accidentally or caught in the cross-fire. This is completely different to deliberately targeting thousands or hundreds of thousands of totally innocent civilians in order to induce fear, or out of revenge.
I am a pacifist (being against war, but reluctantly supporting carefully targeted operations against those committing atrocities), but I’m also a Spiritualist. I happen to know, from researching Near Death Experiences and After Death Communications, that we all face a Life Review when we die. This Life Review is not a particularly scary experience, but rather a learning and enlightening experience. We do not simply see our whole lives flash past, but outside of Earth Time we experience every action, every thought, everything that happened in our lives not only from our own perspective, but from the perspective of all those we inter-acted with. So if we helped someone in some way, we experience what they felt, but also the effects of our negative actions. For most of us this is no big deal, but if we dropped atomic bombs which killed hundreds of thousands of people and caused cancers and deformities in others it could be quite a heavy Life Review, even though as a First World War soldier said in an After Death interview via the Direct Voice Medium Leslie Flint it would be those who ordered the killing who would feel most responsibility. However carrying out orders which result in genocide is not acceptable, as was stated at the Nuremburg Trials of Nazi War Criminals.
There are many ways to deal with dictators and those committing atrocities. I am not going to detail them all here as we all know them perfectly well. All I’ll say is individuals have been targeted by special forces many times. Also take the role of the civilian police in a siege situation. Do they bomb an entire street or area in order to kill the gang or the terrorists who caused the siege? No, they surround the premises and then make an attack, and although some hostages may get killed or injured in the raid, there is no deliberate killing by the police of totally innocent people.
War is the breakdown of normally civilized behavior. Atrocities and genocide, committed for whatever reason, cause hatred and reprisals. It is a never-ending cycle of violence. We must find more civilized ways of dealing with situations.
Finally, it is a sobering thought whether or not you are a Christian (I’m not), that Jesus Christ lived in an occupied country and told his disciples not to resist the occupiers but rather to render unto Cesar that which be Cesar’s (taxes in this instance), and also he told Peter to put away his sword when he used it against a Roman Centurion, as those who live by the sword shall perish by the sword. Jesus was a pacifist, and that’s good enough for me, he was a great Spiritual leader who taught by example. In the ultimate self-sacrifice he apparently died in a crucifixion, though this cannot be confirmed. I don’t believe, if indeed he did die in this way, it was anything to do with absolving us of responsibility for our actions. Spiritualists believe in personal responsibility and progress open to all souls.
I have come to believe that this life here on Earth is largely a virtual reality, as nothing is what it seems. For instance, everything solid around us, including our own bodies, are largely empty space, they just appear and feel solid to us. Therefore everything that happens here could well be a sort of drama acted out to learn lessons and develop spiritually. By reducing ourselves to the lowest level and copying the genocidal practices of others, we are not learning lessons, we are not developing spiritually, and we are inviting reprisals and therefore continuing an ever more violent, never-ending series of atrocities and genocidal actions by both ourselves and others.