Those are the infamous words of Bob Lewis, co-pilot of the Enola Gay, following the world's first use of a nuclear weapon. What have we done, indeed.
Sixty-five years on, the dropping of the bombs is still being debated, and there are persuasive arguments to be made for and against.
When we talk about the strategy and reasoning behind dropping the bombs we ignore the all important human factor in the world's first use of nuclear weapons-- the unspeakable horror of the attack. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki instantly wiped out hundreds of thousands of lives and the suffering of the survivors continues to this day.
As Howard Zinn notes, the use of nuclear weapons was made possible through years of dehumanizing the enemy that prepared the public for the use of such weapons. When the enemy isn't seen as human, it's easy to dismiss their deaths as necessary.
One aspect of WWII that is forgotten is that at Casablanca in 1943, the Allies made the deliberate and systematic targeting of civilian populations in Germany and Japan a part of their bombing campaign. Even if you believe the war to be a just and righteous war, how does the indiscriminate bombing of civilians make one righteous? How does one justify such a thing?
I ask this question because Hiroshima wasn't a military target and I'm not convinced that that not using the bomb would have resulted in the deaths of half a million or a million more Allied soldiers. I believe history will not be kind to the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and ultimately see them acts of terrorism and a crime against humanity.