I'm not sure why the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been on my mind. Possibly I caught the end of a documentary last week. Certainly my family has always had a brief (and admittedly tenuous) link with Hiroshima in that my mother used to have a penfriend there. Sadly, she died of leukemia some years ago. And yes, it was as a result of the bombings. I'm not sure of the state of play now but back when my mother was a teen in the 60's people were still dying as a result of illnesses caused by radiation and the fall-out (literally) from the bomb.
Now, I can remember talking to an old war horse about ten years ago who'd fought in WWII. Back then, just before I'd met him, well into his retirement, he had taken a trip to Japan and undertaken a tour of the islands that took in the old military installations. He came home totally convinced that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were absolutely justified. "They were completely dug in," was his evaluation, "There was no way we'd ever have got them out; the war would have dragged on for years and years with thousands of lives lost. The A bomb was the only way."
I kind of quashed my misgivings at the time and let it go. He'd fought in the war and lost friends; I hadn't. What the hell did I know? Was it for me to say he should have given more? More blood? More years?
Now though, isolated in my own thoughts and my own 21st century world I can look back on it and feel a little braver.
It was wrong. Totally wrong.
To bomb innocent civilians - women, children, babies, the poor, the rich, doctors, plumbers, thieves, dentists, whatever - was wrong. Their only misfortune was to be Japanese at a time when the allied forces were at war with Japan. They were as loyal to their country as our countrymen were to ours. There is no crime or blame in this.
To kill these civilians was unjustified. Just as the Blitz in the UK was wrong. Just as our firebombing of Germany was wrong. I can understand why it was done. But it was wrong. There is something truly heinous about bombing the very people that all those soldiers were fighting and dying to protect and preserve.
And don't we all agree now in this modern world of ours? Isn't that why we voice such outrage when terrorists target innocent civilians? Civilians who are as innocent as those who lived in Hiroshima, or Coventry, or Dresden? Isn't that why our militaries now have to be so damned careful in choosing only military targets to hit? Why they have to show footage of their bombing campaigns on TV to prove to us that, look, we're only hitting military installations, not civilians?
This isn't squeamishness. It's the modern world at last showing some signs of being answerable to a popular moral outlook even in the face of dirty, bloody war. Well, things don't suddenly become immoral. They either are or they're not. Period.
I don't doubt that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki hastened an end to the war. I don't doubt that the soldiers at the time were relieved and thanking God for delivering them from a campaign that had become hell on earth. But - and I don't mean to sound callous when I say this - they were soldiers. They'd in some way agreed to fight. To partake in that hell. Civilians, by their very definition do not do that. They were just trying to live.
They should not have been used as political collateral.
It was wrong.