Truman on Trial: Guilty





Mr. Jones is adjunct instructor of history at Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina.

Defense counsel Ron Radosh suggests that a case"based on a highly legalistic and a-historical citation of Article 6 of the Nuremberg Charter" is insufficient to convict Harry Truman of war crimes for the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Just as the Nazis and the Japanese were liable for war crimes, Truman is guilty for"violations of the laws or customs of war" through the"wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity." Prosecutor Philip Nobile makes clear that Truman sought simply to ravage Japan, devastating cities so completely as to shock Japan into unconditional surrender. This"wanton destruction" was enough for this juror, but Nobile further proves that the bombs were unnecessary as Japan teetered on the edge of surrender in late 1945. Still, he continues, with the planned invasion of Japan months away, Truman possessed numerous other alternatives to the bomb. Finally, Nobile maintains that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not of strategic significance (evidenced by the lack of attention paid to them during previous air campaigns), and thus"not justified by military necessity." Based on the Charter, the precedents of Nuremberg and Tokyo, and Nobile's evidence, Truman's guilt is indubitable and a larger fight is hereby commenced.

For this historian, a"guilty" verdict takes a much needed shot at the growing anti-intellectualism of the Bush era. While some argue that arsenic is not harmful and global warming is a socialist conspiracy against divine industrialization, Radosh suggests that individuals who denounce the decisions of past"heroes" are un-American and intellectually bankrupt. He degrades Nobile's unique interpretation as an attempt"to rewrite the verdict of history by forging a new consensus," and denounces revisionism as a-historical. Unfortunately for Radosh, however, Nobile and history march forward. Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt, and Margaret Jacob argued convincingly that the revising of history may provide"the only way to move forward, perhaps not on a straight line of progress into the future, but forward toward a more intellectually alive, democratic community, toward the kind of society in which we would like to live." (Telling the Truth about History, 1994) Arguments like Nobile's allows us to do just that.

Non-historians may also take great comfort in this decision. Radosh argues that this debate itself is reflective of frivolous"left-wing" history and dictated by an"anti-American political agenda." That is neither the case for this exercise, nor for this verdict. If fact, the opposite is true. What was good for the Nazis at Nuremberg and the Japanese in Tokyo is also appropriate for Truman. Might does not make right. To the victors should not go the history. Power must not triumph over reason. America cannot be exempt from international rules because, despite Radosh's appeal to patriotism in lieu of candor, there is nothing more American than the promise of equal justice under the law.


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Chelsea Nicole Boucher - 2/28/2011

I disagree with you because I don't feel like there is enough evidence to support your verdict of not guilty. Truman is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty and the prosecution and yourself have seemed to assume guilty until proven innocent. There is no proof on either side that the bombs were necessary or not and through that logic, Truman is still innocent and waiting to be proven guilty be sufficient evidence.


The Real Bologna - 8/6/2002

You angry sausage taster! How dare you mispell bologna?
P.S. (the only one I have) You should really disagree with someone out of PRINCIPLE, not PRINCIPAL, pal. I guess you were thinking it wouldn't make the light of day though, huh?


Baloney Man - 8/7/2001

You said..

"For this historian, a "guilty" verdict takes a much needed shot at the growing anti-intellectualism of the Bush era. While some argue that arsenic is not harmful and global warming is a socialist conspiracy against divine industrialization, Radosh suggests that individuals who denounce the decisions of past "heroes" are un-American and intellectually bankrupt. He degrades Nobile's unique interpretation as an attempt "to rewrite the verdict of history by forging a new consensus," and denounces revisionism as a-historical. Unfortunately for Radosh, however, Nobile and history march forward. Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt, and Margaret Jacob argued convincingly that the revising of history may provide "the only way to move forward, perhaps not on a straight line of progress into the future, but forward toward a more intellectually alive, democratic community, toward the kind of society in which we would like to live." (Telling the Truth about History, 1994) Arguments like Nobile's allows us to do just that.

Non-historians may also take great comfort in this decision. Radosh argues that this debate itself is reflective of frivolous "left-wing" history and dictated by an "anti-American political agenda." That is neither the case for this exercise, nor for this verdict. If fact, the opposite is true. What was good for the Nazis at Nuremberg and the Japanese in Tokyo is also appropriate for Truman. Might does not make right. To the victors should not go the history. Power must not triumph over reason. America cannot be exempt from international rules because, despite Radosh's appeal to patriotism in lieu of candor, there is nothing more American than the promise of equal justice under the law."

I ASK ...

So what does Bush, global warming and arsenic in water have to do with Truman's decision to drop the bomb in 1945 ?

One can argue the "right" or "wrong" the "need" or "no need" the "morality" or "immorality" of dropping the bomb ad infinum.

Facts are :

Japan was an enemy of the USA that was planning to KILL MORE CITIZENS of the USA (those CITIZENS were not only Husbands, Fathers, Brothers and Sons they were also VOTERS, not to mention that their Wifes, Mothers, Sisters and Daughters voted too. Truman you see understood Opinion Polls a long time before Clinton. Seems most voters didn't want to see, Sons, etc..., dead on some beach or rice paddy in Japan)

USA had a weapon that might reduce the need to invade Japan and therefore spare both Japan and USA more dead citizens

USA used said weapon

Japan quit (I'm not very intelligent so I didn't think to use capitulated) before an invasion

Why must you go back to 1945 and play with the facts in-order to fight "divine industrialization" and other things that you think are bad in 2001 ?

Your very logic scares me. Let me see if I understand this...

Bush likes arsenic and global warming
The bombs contributed to global warming (see Kyoto Treaty -
Authored by the
eminent Dr. Seuss M.D.)
So Truman must be a murderer
Because "divine industrialization" was the deciding factor in why the USA won the war and why you can work in beautiful Boone at a USA TAX PAYOR funded job
So Al must have really won the 2000 election after all

I don't think your party would elect Harry S. today, or that Harry S. would be in your party today.

And finally, I ask you what about the rest of "us" who do not want to live in your "more intellectually alive, democratic community, toward the kind of society in which we would like to live".

Some of "us" would like to live in the original Republic (read constitutional republic, before your ilk killed it) before there was a big Federal Government that took "our" money and gave it to "other people" (translate : you people) so that they could :
kill "their" unborn children;
not work;
teach "our" children that this and other totally amoral socialist drivel is "OK" and that we should all feel good about ourselves.

How is that for a start to intellectually alive democratic debate ?

Remember before you call foul....

In a democracy, my points are just as valid as yours...

So no need to use bad words...

P.S. - This is my first flame. I don't know whether to feel
satisfied or just feel dirty.

P.S. II - Maybe the "growing anti-intellectualism" of today is
that some of us are tired of our "learned" collegiate
types (and most people who align with the democratic
party) telling the rest of us what to think. We
particularly don't like "our" objections to "your"
proclamations being categorized by you as : Racist,
Sexist, Nazi, anti-Semitic, Homophobic,
you-fill-in-the-blank Hater or whatever-phobic

Some of us would like to think that we disagree with
you out of PRINCIPAL and not just our petty
ignorance.

P.S. III - I doubt this will ever see the light of day on the
website as it doesn't conform to current vogue PC
Etiquette.