Does Jon Stewart Really Think Truman Was A War Criminal?

Update: Nevermind.

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Unlike many conservatives, I love The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He’s a very funny man, backed by an outstanding research staff.  His views skew hard to the left, but he’s not an America-basher like Michael Moore.

The idea that he’s the primary source of information for legions of college students is a little scary… but anyone who watched the April 28 episode got to see a very spirited and substantive debate on the issue of interrogation techniques.

Because of careful preparation and home-field advantage, Stewart often runs circles around his guests.  But Cliff May of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies more than held his own, and in the process very effectively made the point that different people can honorably draw lines in different places.

In the heat of the debate, Stewart responded to May’s question by saying yes, President Truman was a war criminal because of the atomic bomb attacks.  As Michael Goldfarb points out on the Weekly Standard:

He’s certainly not the only American who would take that view, but it’s a useful reminder that the most vocal and popular criticism of the Bush administration’s war on terror policies comes from people who, if they were being as honest as Stewart, would also judge Lincoln (suspension of habeas), FDR (internment), and Truman (use of nuclear weapons) as war criminals or tyrants or worse.

Somehow I think Stewart would moderate his opinions about Truman if he took a little more time to think about it.  My take? Truman certainly wasn’t a war criminal. The Hiroshima bomb undeniably saved many American lives compared to an invasion, and may even have saved Japanese lives on a net basis.  I’m more troubled by Nagsaki just three days later.

3 thoughts on “Does Jon Stewart Really Think Truman Was A War Criminal?

  1. My friend Elaine has pointed out that two evenings later, to his credit, Stewart acknowledged that calling Truman a war criminal was a “stupid” thing to say.

    So in the words of that great American, Emily Litella: Nevermind.

    Here is the segment where Stewart walks back the accusation. In looking around for the clip, I also saw a portion of the Cliff May interview I had not seen before, in which May says the back and forth with Stewart was the best on-camera conversation he’s had on the topic, including appearances on CNN news shows, etc. It was, in fact, a substantive, hard-hitting discussion.

  2. Neither bomb was necessary, the Emperor of Japan was already in negotiations for surrender. Truman dropped the bomb mainly to test it and show superior American weaponry to the Soviets and others, so if he is not a war criminal, he’s definitely a mass murderer.
    Jon Stewart was forced to apologize.

  3. the Emperor of Japan was already in negotiations for surrender.

    The problem was Hirohito was looking for surrender on his terms. Americans wanted unconditional surrender. By the spring of ’45 the talks had pretty much ground to a halt because there was no middle ground.

    American military leaders shuddered at the thought of having to invade Japan.

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