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Don't let the victors define morality – Hiroshima was always indefensible | Kenan Malik

The decision 75 years ago to use atomic bombs was fuelled not by strategy but by sheer inhumanity

“If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.” So said Curtis LeMay after America obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki with two atomic bombs in August 1945.

LeMay was no bleeding-heart liberal. The US air force chief of staff who had directed the assault over Japan in the final days of the Second World War, he believed in the use of nuclear weapons and thought any action acceptable in the pursuit of victory. Two decades later, he would say of Vietnam that America should “bomb them back into the stone ages”. But he was also honest enough to recognise that the incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not regarded as a war crime only because America had won the war.

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