Photo by Mrs. Gemstone

On the seventieth anniversary of the U.S. use of the atom bomb against Japan, Gar Alperovitz believes the most important lessons have not been learned.

The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6, 1945, and August 9, 1945, respectively, “opened the way to entrusting frail human beings—indeed, one human being, whoever happens to be President—with the power to literally destroy the world,” he tells me. “Such trust is not warranted.”

Alperovitz is the author of “The Decision To Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth,” the definitive work questioning the bombings. He says the accepted notion that there was no alternative is wrong.

“There were two obvious alternatives, fully understood by the President and his advisers long before the bombs were used,” Alperovitz says. “The first was simply to tell the already largely defeated Japanese—who were signaling a willingness to surrender through many channels—that they would be allowed to keep their Emperor, who they believed to be a god. The second option was simply to await the expected Soviet declaration of war set for August 8.”

Given these two options, he notes, “virtually every top World War II military leader—including General, later President, Eisenhower—went public after the war denouncing the decision as totally unnecessary.”

So why did Truman drop nuclear weapons on Japan? A big part of the reason was to send the Soviets a message, as revealed by a top scientist who worked on the Manhattan Project that devised the bomb.

“More important was to demonstrate to the world—and particularly to the Soviet Union—the newly acquired might of the United States,” Nobel Peace Prize-winner Joseph Rotblat wrote for the Progressive Media Project in 2002. “I personally happened to find this out, directly from the mouth of General Leslie Groves, the head of the Manhattan Project, who said in a casual conversation in 1944, ‘You realize, of course, that the main purpose of the project is to subdue the Russians.’ ”

The American people’s understanding of the issue has been changing. Popular opinion on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been modifying, slowly but surely, over time.

“In 1945, a Gallup poll immediately after the bombing found that 85 percent of Americans approved of using the new atomic weapon on Japanese cities,” states a Pew report from earlier this year. “In 1991, 63 percent of Americans voiced the view that the atomic bomb attacks on Japan were a justified means of ending the war. In the current Pew Research Center survey, 56 percent of Americans still believe the use of nuclear weapons was justified; 34 percent say it was not.”

Alperovitz says that we need to make concerted efforts to make sure that nothing like Hiroshima and Nagasaki ever happens again.

“There is great irrationality in the world, especially in the Middle East—and between Pakistan and India—and there thousands of warheads, many on high alert,” he says. “It is time for a radical renewal of anti-nuclear organizing.”

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Comments

On this 70th anniversary of the a-bombs, the myth that they ended the war will continue to be repeated. Seven hours before the Nagasaki bomb, according to "Tommy's Wars: Paradise to Hell and Back" (Amazon) the USSR declared ware against Japan, as determined the previous February at Yalta. Previously neutral in the Pacific theater, the USSR entry meant the defeat of Japan in all its holdings on Asia mainland and war useless. That is why it accepted unconditional surrender a week later. The bombings were factors, but among several minor factors in the decision. Less than a year later, the US military determined they were of no military use. But, the needed to test them on someone, why not someone we demonized as "Japs" and the "Yellow Peril," maniacal, buck-toothed subhumans. Just as we ask that Japan apologize to China for its war crimes, so should we apologize for this even worse one. Look for it next year at this time, the last of the Obama presidency.
On July 24th at the Potsdam Conference, Truman approached Stalin about the use of a powerful weapon on Japan. The next day, Atlee would replace Churchill and Churchill knew what was about to happen. It was a sensitive issue, if Truman would say too much, Stalin would expect details. Say too little and it would not have any impact. The goal for Truman was to stop Stalin from doing to Japan, what he had to Berlin — devastation. President Truman said to Stalin, “We have a new weapon of unusual destructive force.” Stalin replied to Truman, “Make good use of it against the Japanese” He had little reaction. With his message delivered, Truman and the two world leaders went on with the business at hand: the Potsdam declaration of surrender, issued to Japan on the day of Churchill’s departure. Japan refused to surrender. Preparations for Little Boy began. On August 6th at 4:00am Tokyo time, the Japanese received a declaration of war from the Soviet Union. Manchuria had been invaded the night before, and this would ensure the Japanese knew Stalin was at their door. Four hours later, Little Boy dropped on Hiroshima with the equivalent force of 20,000 tons of TNT. Of the 350,000 people there at the time, well over 100,000 died instantly. There was no response from Tokyo as they believed the US could not have more than one or two more atomic weapons. Japan chose to endure more atomic bombs — which was true, only one more existed. The Chief of the Japanese Navy General Staff Admiral Soemu Toyoda then stated, "There would be more destruction but the war will go on." Japan refused to surrender. Preparations for Fat Man began. The target now is Kokura, a large munitions plant. On August 9th, cloud cover and smoke blocked their view. At that point Nagasaki was selected for the target. Of some 250,000 people, near 50,000 died immediately. Of course many more would die later due to wounds and radiation. Formal surrender from Japan then occurred. The surrender came on August 14th. The Emperor then made his speech to the Japanese people in private, his advisers made two recordings of it and these were taken to two different radio stations for safety. It was broadcast in Japan at noon. Stalin's invasion was planned for August 15th. Col. Rollin Reineck of the 73rd Bomb Wing on Saipan in 1945 said, "War is an atrocity. The real war against the Japanese Military Regime only lasted nine months, from November of 1944 to August of 1945. Using conventional bombs we destroyed 172 square miles of urban industrial areas, yet both atomic bombs together only destroyed 3% of that: some six square miles. We there not to win a war but to stop it." -- From The Taking of Saipan, SpecialBooks.com Douglas Westfall, American Historian
Nice one in CALIFORNIA California

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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).


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