Edgar L. Jones on War

I was reading the latest issue of The Atlantic and came across an interesting quote which was contained in Benjamin Schwarz’s review of a recent study of bombing campaigns during WWII.  The author is Edgar L. Jones who was a veteran and reporter for the magazine in the last years of the Pacific War.  From a 1946 report:

"We consider ourselves to be more noble and decent than other peoples, and consequently in a better position to decide what is right and wrong in the world.  What kind of war do civilians suppose we fought, anyway? … As victors we are privileged to try our defeated opponents for their crimes against humanity; but we should be realistic enough to appreciate that if we were on trial for breaking international laws, we should be found guilty on a dozen counts.  We fought a dishonorable war, because morality had a low priority in battle.  The tougher the fighting, the less room for decency…"

2 comments… add one

  • Interesting quote. Even though wars might have issues of morality as root causes i.e. freeing the slaves, stopping communism, or getting rid of a deranged dictator the actual act of war is immoral. I think it would be the rare soldier who actually thinks about the moral reason for the war while he is plunging a knife into someone’s heart. Kill or be killed. There’s nothing moral in that…just simple survival.

  • Anonymous Jun 7, 2006

    Interestingly, the original poster decided to render into ellipses the most scintillating part of Mr. Jones’ piece:

    ‘What kind of war do civilians think we fought anyway? We shot prisoners in cold blood, wiped out hospitals, strafed lifeboats, killed or mistreated enemy civilians, finished off the enemy wounded, tossed the dying into a hole with the dead, and in the Pacific boiled the flesh off enemy skulls to make table ornaments for sweethearts, or carved their bones into letter-openers.’

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