The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have always been an important subject to me. My grandfather was a combat engineer in the Pacific during that war. The alternative to bombing Japan was invading it. People, like Greg Mitchell at The Nation, seem to think Japan would have thrown up their hands by that point anyway and that the bombings were not necessary.
The Battle of Okinawa, fought from April to June 1945, says otherwise. The closer we got to Japan, the worse the battles became. In this one campaign, the United States suffered many more deaths than Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
Mitchell doesn't point out that on August 10th, the day after the Nagasaki bombing, the Empire of Japan did not end the war. On August 11th, after two nuclear bombings and being attacked by the U.S.S.R., Japan did not surrender. On August 12th, Japan did not surrender. On August 13th, Japan did not surrender. Mind you, people are dying on every one of these days. On August 14th, Japan did not surrender. On the 15th, after a failed coup attempt by a military faction to continue the war, Japan finally capitulated.
The point here is simple enough: on August 9th, 1945, it was far from obvious to anyone that Japan would give in without another nuclear demonstration.
Had the atomic bombs not been dropped, it seems highly unlikely that Japan would have surrendered without being invaded. The American plan for that invasion, Operation Downfall, would likely have lead to the deaths of millions of Japanese and Americans. My grandfather, as an engineer, would have been key in turning Kyushu into a gigantic, unsinkable aircraft carrier in order to invade Honshu.
When given the choice between my grandfather (a person with no role in creating this war) dying in that invasion, and hence my own nonexistence, or the destruction of a city in the nation that launched this conflict, I feel no moral compunction about supporting the latter. No, nobody is arguing that the atomic bombing was a pleasant experience, but that does not justify having more Americans killed in order to protect the people who launched the war in the first place.
International law and justice is an unholy mess. In the end, the argument against using the atomic bombs is an argument in favor of risking my existence. No muddled argument about non-existing standards of international morality and ridiculous claims about Japan suddenly being willing to surrender will change my mind on this issue.
I, and millions of others, exist because of those bombs. I will not be made to feel guilty because I exist and the expense of a warmongering nation. The innocent people in Nagasaki certainly were wronged, but they were wronged by their own government that viciously attacked other nations, not by the nations that defended themselves.