In August 1945 nuclear bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Many thousands were killed instantly and many more died of Radiation sickness and other long term disorders such as thyroid cancer and leukaemia.
The exact number of dead and injured may never be known but estimates range at between 100,000 and 180,000 for Hiroshima and between 50,000 and 100,000 for Nagasaki.
The use of such terrible weapons in war time is linked to other fundamental ethical questions about war:
- Is it ever right to go to war?
- When is it right to wage war?
- What is the moral way to conduct a war?
It is this last question that concerns us here. Focussing on how wars are conducted rather than if they should be, has led to the creation of international codes such as the Hague and Geneva conventions and guidelines on what constitutes a war crime.
Is the use of weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, biological and chemical) always wrong?
Are these weapons intrinsically evil due to the indiscriminate death and destruction linked to their use?
Where are the nuclear weapons now?