Although historians have debated the issue for decades, Jon Stewart has no question about this controversial matter: former President Harry S. Truman is a war criminal for dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945.
Such was discussed on Tuesday's "The Daily Show" with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies' Clifford May in a lively exchange about interrogation procedures.
Although it was not aired on Tuesday due to the length of their extraordinary conversation, the entire interview was posted at Comedy Central's website in two parts (video part II embedded below the fold, relevant section at 5:40, h/t Hot Air):
JON STEWART: I try and draw the line where our country has drawn it for 200 years.
CLIFFORD MAY: Do you think in World War II we did not inflict pain and suffering on suspects in the war in Japan?
STEWART: I would hope we didn't waterboard people. I would hope we didn't...
MAY: We did do Hiroshima. Do you think, do you think Truman is a war criminal for that?
MAY: You do?
MAY: Okay. This is a, this is a...
STEWART: Here's what I think of the atom bombs. I think if you dropped an atom bomb fifteen miles offshore and you said, "The next one's coming and hitting you," then I would think it's okay. To drop it on a city, and kill a hundred thousand people. Yeah. I think that's criminal.
Of course, as May pointed out later, at stake for both countries was a prolonged war that might have been responsible for far more deaths potentially into the millions on both sides. What wasn't discussed was how the Truman administration apparently entertained a threatening trial run offshore, but this was scrapped due to a number of concerns including the possibility that one or both of the bombs mightn't have worked and that Japan mightn't have surrendered even if the offshore explosion transpired.
This after all was a new science never tested in combat conditions. As such, what if the offshore explosion had worked, but failed to evoke a Japanese surrender followed by the second bomb NOT going off? Then, the successful explosion did nothing, and the war continues.
This ongoing moral debate aside, regardless of whether one feels Truman should have done something other than what he did, calling him a war criminal 64 years later is just pathetic.
That said, these unedited interviews are well worth your time, so much so that May admitted at the end that it was the best televised discussion he's had on this issue to date (part I below):