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Sunday, Aug. 9, 2009

A-bombings 'were war crimes'

'Mass killing of civilians by indescriminate bombing' condemned by International Peoples' Tribunal

Guilty.

News photo
Lives extinguished: Faces of some of the hundreds of thousands of atomic-bomb victims mutely gaze out at visitors to the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall.

Sixty-two years after the first atomic weapon was tested in New Mexico, international jurors issued a verdict on the atomic bombings, finding U.S. leaders guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Judgment Of The International Peoples' Tribunal on the Dropping of Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (July 16, 2007)

" . . . the Tribunal finds that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki violated the principles prohibiting the mass murder of civilians, wanton destruction of cities and villages resulting in excessive death not justified by military necessity. Therefore, these acts constitute War Crimes . . . " The following is the text of an interview with Yuki Tanaka , research professor at the Hiroshima Peace Institute, editor of "Bombing Civilians" (2009) and an organizer of the tribunal.

Why did you decide to organize the tribunal?

I wanted to place Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the wider history of bombing civilians. They are the worst cases, but we want to establish the principle that mass killing of civilians by indiscriminate bombing is criminal, anywhere.

Also, the atomic bombings were not dealt with at the Tokyo Tribunal (the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, 1946-48). The Allies did not want to be accused of war crimes involving the bombing of civilians because they had engaged in so much of it in Europe as well as Japan.

News photo
Yuki Tanaka, an organizer of the International Peoples' Tribunal JUN HASEGAWA

I worked to establish a tribunal in order to raise the issue of the criminality of the atomic bombings to counter the U.S. argument that they were necessary to end the war.

It is important to focus on the criminality of the acts regardless of the strategic or tactical reasons.

What impact do you hope to have?

When I talk to groups in the United States, they say the atomic bombings were necessary to end the war.

I reply that if I have a sick child requiring expensive medicine I can't afford, and then I rob and kill a neighbor to get the money and buy the drug and save my child's life, the murder is still a crime even if it was to save my child. So a good reason for committing a crime does not justify a criminal act.

Killing 70,000 to 80,000 people in one second . . . isn't this a massacre and crime that clearly violates international law? No matter the reason, a crime is a crime.

The U.S. needs to admit its wrongdoing and apologize for the same reason Japan needs to apologize to the Chinese. It is important to educate people in the U.S. that killing large numbers of civilians is a crime not to be repeated, but it has been continuously repeated in Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East. This is not a problem of the past, it is still a problem in the present. This is educational for Japanese too, because if you want Americans to admit and atone for their crimes, Japan also must do so.

What is your goal?

Our main goal is reconciliation with the U.S. In order to reconcile, the U.S. must first recognize that it committed crimes and apologize. Otherwise there can be no reconciliation. The hibakusha (atomic- bomb survivors) want an apology, and for them this is a necessary condition for reconciliation. If the U.S. did so it would improve the relationship tremendously.

In Prague, U.S. President Barack Obama (in a speech on April 5) became the first president to accept some responsibility for the atomic bombings, saying that the U.S. must accept moral responsibility by abolishing nuclear weapons. This took many Japanese by surprise, but there is still the matter of legal responsibility. Once the criminality of atomic weapons is established it will be easier to abolish them.

So at the government level there already is reconciliation, but not among the victims. The hibakusha are not reconciled, and are still waiting for an apology. Even after they die, the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the descendants of hibakusha will still demand justice and keep the issue alive, just as in Nanjing the Chinese have sustained their campaign for justice. It won't fade away. The past continues to haunt the present.

The U.S. has sought refuge in the concept of collateral damage to justify civilian casualties. It makes it seem that such deaths are an inevitable and unavoidable cost, an inadvertent consequence — whereas they are the main target. Bombings of civilians has been accepted to some extent as normal in war. It is a crime.

People here hope that Obama will visit Hiroshima later this year and make a clear apology and accept legal responsibility, not only moral responsibility, but that is unlikely.

The entire verdict of The International Peoples' Tribunal can be accessed at www.k3.dion.ne.jp/~a-bomb/indexen.htm

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