While I usually agree with Andrew Napolitano, his claim in “The dangers of a Trump imperial presidency” (Web, Nov. 21) that President Truman “killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki” needs context.
Prior to his decision to order the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Truman was told by George Marshall, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that a U.S. invasion of Japan could cost as many as 500,000 American lives. And many of those “innocent Japanese,” by which Mr. Napolitano means civilians, underwent last-minute training and were prepared to fight the invaders. So, faced with the choice between killing hundreds of thousands of Americans and ending the war quickly, Truman made the proper one. And throughout history presidents have had to make military choices that would end the lives of innocent civilians.
Later in the column Mr. Napolitano writes, “All of these presidential misdeeds were without constitutional authority and without sanction.” The U.S. Constitution states that the president is the commander in chief of the armed forces. That certainly gives him the constitutional authority to order a military strike. What’s more, the Truman decision was sanctioned by Marshall and Truman’s other military aides, as well as later gratefully sanctioned by both the American people and the hundreds of thousands of soldiers whose lives were spared by the decision.
BRUCE G. KAUFFMANN