By Matthew Rothschild on August 04, 2005
Unhappy Anniversary of the Bomb
By Matthew Rothschild

August 4, 2005

This week marks the 60th anniversary of the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and it's not an anniversary to celebrate.

From the historical record, it's becoming increasingly clear that these atomic bombs—which killed more than 200,000 people immediately—were unnecessary.

Now I know a lot of old vets will tell you that the bombs saved hundreds of thousands of lives by forestalling a bloody invasion of the island.

My uncle was a commander in the Pacific, and he always made that argument.

But the argument is no longer holding.

First of all, if the United States had detonated a demonstration bomb on an unpopulated island and proved to Japan how lethal these weapons were, it's possible that the Japanese government would have surrendered.

And secondly, the event that had the most to do with that ultimate surrender was the Soviet Union declaring war on Japan on August 8, two days after the Hiroshima blast, argues Professor Tsuyoshi Hasegawa in a new book entitled Racing the Enemy.

The Japanese had long understood that once the Soviets joined the battle, the war was over. They were looking for assurances that Emperor Hirohito would remain in power, and if they got such assurances, they were prepared to surrender. The last thing they wanted was the Russian army, a historical enemy, to be occupying the country, writes Hasegawa.

For a while, the United States wanted the Soviets to join the effort against Japan. But once the U.S. came up with the bomb, Washington felt it no longer needed the Soviets to enter the war. In fact, it wanted the Soviets to bug out, historian Gar Alperovitz contends.

The Hiroshima bombing on August 6 was therefore as much an effort to preempt the Soviets, and to scare them into a submissive position at the dawn of the Cold War, as it was to bring the war to a speedy conclusion.

Anyone who argues for the utility of the Hiroshima bombing has to come to terms with Nagasaki three days later, which appears utterly senseless and sadistic.

"I knew a single word that proved our democratic government was capable of committing obscene, gleefully rabid and racist, yahooistic murders of unarmed men, women, and children, murders wholly devoid of military common sense," wrote Kurt Vonnegut in Timequake. "I said the word. It was a foreign word. That word was Nagasaki."

Or, as the Onion put it in Our Dumb Century, "Nagasaki bombed ‘just for the hell of it.’"

Now, 60 years later, the possibility that the United States would once again recklessly use nuclear weapons cannot be discounted. We have leaders in Washington who view atomic weapons as just another hammer in the toolbox.

Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld are dead set on "modernizing" our nuclear weapons, and they are preparing scenarios for their use.

Bush's national security doctrine allows him to drop nuclear bombs on any nation that possesses weapons of mass destruction. The Administration has been contemplating the "tactical use" of nuclear weapons. And, according to a recent article in the American Conservative, Cheney has instructed the Pentagon to come up with a plan for "a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons."

During the Manhattan Project, the nuclear scientists were aware that they were playing with the worst kind of fire imaginable. General Dwight D. Eisenhower himself argued against using the bomb, and after the war he famously said: "It wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing."

Such awareness does not seem to have registered with Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, who are well on their way to making this another dumb century.

And we're the dumb ones if we let them do it.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Readers Respond

From: "eugene mc crimmon"

Date: August 12, 2005 8:45:55 PM CDT

To: editorial@progressive.org

Subject: The A bomb

60 years later, everyone becomes a Monday night quarterback.I was a combat Marine in the Pacific, and never heard anyone bitch about the use of this weapon. The Japs were ruthless. Check out the "Rape of Nanking" for starters. The "Pleasure Women", the beheading of our airmen. I didn't care what it took to end that war. If you weren't there, then you don't really know what that war was like. When I first went in to combat I was a kid just 18,. When I came home I was a old man of almost 21. Like old Bull Halsey, said "Kill Japs, Kill Japs, Kill More Japs"

Gene Mc Crimmon

Section: 

Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

More

Subscribe to The Progressive and Get A Free 2015 Calendar

The luckiest break Democrats have had in the 2014 election cycle—a political twist so significant that it could...

The Ebola crisis has revealed severe deficiencies in how the American health care system works, experts say.

Earlier this year, Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus declared that the 2014 midterm elections were shaping...

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project

Newsletter