Some things, you hear on the teevee, and right away, your heart sinks, because you know you'll never be able to unhear them. Like today! On Hardball! With Pat Buchanan. Yeesh.
Basically, host Chris Matthews was having a debate on the torture doctrine with Buchanan and Jonathan Turley, when Buchanan trotted out an idea that I hadn't ever heard before, probably because it's insane, maybe!
BUCHANAN: It is not a moral evil. You got a right to kill people. You got a right to kill people. Is waterboarding Sheikh Khalid Mohammed is a worse thing than dropping two atomic bombs on people and burning 120,000 people to death? Sending 40,000 more to death by radiation. To convince the Japanese cabinet to change its mind? What was worse?
To debate which of these incidents was "worse" is beside the point. I think that both, obviously, have a degree of awfulness to them. But there are important distinctions between the two, the important one being that the people who made the decision to drop the A-Bomb assumed the moral weight of their decision. They didn't follow up their decision with denials, or pretense. They didn't hide what they'd done in documents that came to light years later. There's no need to "investigate" what happened. No one had to have their hands forced, to explain what had been done. And no one has escaped the dread of atomic weapons being used again.
More to the point, I don't think that any of the people who made that decision to drop the bomb on Japan did so with the thought that one of the net benefits would be that the dimensions of acceptable atrocity would be expanded. If the A-bomb makes waterboarding a detainee okay, it surely makes waterboarding an American okay. It surely makes slaughtering hundreds of thousands of Tutsis, with machetes, okay. It surely makes taking 52 American diplomats hostage in Iran for 444 days okay.