Could the bombing of Hiroshima be considered a war crime?


Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
Well it's a war crime regardless of whether the ends of committing the crime justified the means and I think they did. Doesn't mean it wasn't a war crime simply because we think it was the right decision. If a war crime saves considerably more lives than it takes, then committing a war crime is the correct decision, it's even the moral decision and there is no question that this decision saved more lives than it killed. It's still a war crime though, and one of the more clear cut examples at that.
But if, as you say, it saves more lives than it takes then is it a crime rather than the lesser of two evils?
Jan 2016
Even if you could prove it, it still wouldn't be a war crime.
A war crime is something the breaks the existing rules of war, the use of the Atomic bombs didn't.
Maybe not, but mass genocide surely. Either way doesn't matter, like anyone of importance is even alive who would have made the call to take charges even IF they were charged. I was speaking hypothetically here.


Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
Stockport Cheshire UK
Let's go by your logic: A jew that buys US war bonds is financing the US war effort and therefore is not a civilian and hence a legitimate target. Therefore, the jews killed in the holocaust included many taxpayers who would have been financing the allied war effort. Hence, the Holocaust is perfectly legitimate since a lot of those jews were not really civilians.
Your analogy falls down because killing a non resisting civilian in captured territory was a recognised war crime in both World Wars, but killing a civilian in a defended town behind enemy lines by bombardment wasn’t.
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Jan 2014
Santiago de Chile
It is a different question whether or not they are substantially war crimes or whether we could or should be punished for it. If an act(that couldn't possibly have been made a war crime earlier since it wasn't even known to exist) was made a crime specifically because of a said unprecedented event, clearly it was a war crime. Of course given the US's power and the dominating position we were in,even without ex post facto no one is getting punished for it. Post ex facto is meant to protect people from being punished for something before it became a crime, it doesn't make an act that's a war crime one year any less bad in another year. I don't think what's really being argued here is whether we are legally liable for the war crime though but rather the substance of the act.

Another question though is whether the first instances of crimes like poision gas or atomic warfare are even what post ex facto is really for. You'd think post ex facto applies to things that are legal one year and illegal the next to stop people for being punished for acts that were once considered legal. These sorts of crimes were never legal because they never existed and you can't right a law banning a crime you don't know is physically possible. For example is it legal to blow up a planet(not earth hypothetical far away planet) just because it currently isn't something that is possible and that hasn't been addressed?
Ex post facto absolutely does prevent an event from becoming a war crime after it happened though, that's sort of my point. By calling it a war crime you are applying the 1949 rules retroactively to 1945.
Jun 2017
Ex post facto absolutely does prevent an event from becoming a war crime after it happened though, that's sort of my point. By calling it a war crime you are applying the 1949 rules retroactively to 1945.
Well the law is a means of dictating one's moral code, as it's banning certain actions and punishing them for a reason. Law without morality and purpose is just a bunch of random pointless rules, laws exist for reasons(whether those reasons are good, bad or based on corruption or political motives is another story). Of course you are technically right, and I didn't really say you weren't, but I think this example is against the spirit and intent of the post ex facto doctrine, not that it couldn't be successfully applied. I would argue though that the UN practically makes the permanent veto members of the Security Council exempt from being punished for anything anyway and that this whole thread is about the act we did and whether or not it is a crime on substance, not whether or not we could get off on procedural grounds. I don't think whether or not we could be convicted post ex facto is people really are disputing here though regardless.
Jul 2016
War crimes are not defined by morality or feelings. They are defined by crimes that occur in warfare. A crime is a violation of law. In the context of war, a law is defined either nationally (Articles of War, standing orders, etc), or internationally (Geneva Convention, Hague, etc).

What orders or laws were violated that made Hiroshima and Nagasaki war crimes?

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