How the Hiroshima Lie Endangers American Lives


For six decades Americans have been snookered into complacency over the war crimes committed by the U.S. government in its total war against the Japanese public. Lulled to sleep with the deceit that the atomic bombings saved the lives of a million American boys. In a recent column marking the 60th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing that just past, Max Boot, a reliable neocon apologist for total war, asked in lovely little piece of written excrement called, 'Why Feel Guilty About Hiroshima?' (Max Boot? Is that a real name? It sounds like some B-movie villain. Maximilian von Boot or something, complete with a monocle, Kaiser moustache and a hunting falcon on his arm.) Max Boot is one of those neocons who seem to embrace as a calling the principle of "why practice evil in secret when you can practice it openly." Although he adds that he 'remain[s] troubled by the deliberate killing of civilians, whether by the United States or by its enemies,' this apparent display of conscience didn't prevent him from applauding and defending the nuking of Japanese civilians as just a further evolution of the doctrine of total war embraced by both the Allies and the Axis. Boot points out that '[b]y the time the Enola Gay took off, at least 600,000 Germans and 200,000 Japanese had already been killed in Allied air raids. Conventional explosives had reduced all of the major cities of both countries to rubble. In the end, no more than one-third of the total Japanese deaths from air raids ' and just 3.5% of the total land area destroyed ' could be attributed to Fat Man and Little Boy.' Boot is fully aware that these constituted war crimes; in fact, he seems to revel in this display of U.S. murderous power. '[T]o avoid the implication that they were guilty of 'terror' bombing, Allied leaders claimed they were simply 'de-housing' German workers or eliminating 'cottage industries' that supported the Japanese war effort. But they knew perfectly well that bombing was so inaccurate that hitting anything, even a major war plant, required saturating a large area ' including plenty of civilians ' with high explosives or incendiaries.' [emphasis added] And to compound Boot's delight in the massacre of civilians is his reliable regurgitation of the lies pounded into the American psyche over the past 60 years. 'It is hard to imagine how many more GIs and Tommies would have perished in 1944-45 had Anglo-American leaders flinched from using all the means at their disposal to hasten the end of the war. Indeed, if the U.S. had staged a blood-drenched invasion of Japan while holding back its atomic arsenal, President Truman would have been indicted for that decision too.' Boot suggests that we shouldn't be disturbed at all by the carnage unleashed against defenseless people. After all, 'there wasn't much soul-searching at the time. In 1945, 85% of Americans approved of a step deemed necessary to end the war and head off a costly invasion of Japan.' Could it be that this high approval rating was in part achieved by not giving the public the correct information about the end of the war against Japan? What worth is a poll number when the people polled are not allowed to have the facts involved? The truth is that the atomic bombers didn't end the war. Japan was already crippled by late 1943. With the Allied embargo and unremitting submarine warfare, the government of Japan was desperately trying to arrange a negotiated peace. In April 1945, it tried to offer terms for peace through the Vatican, and again in July through its ambassador to the Soviet Union, a U.S. ally. Both times it was met with the demand for Unconditional Surrender, a device that had already prolonged the war in Europe and would do so again in the Pacific. When they learned of it, U.S. Admirals Leahy and King, and Generals Arnold, Eisenhower and LeMay believed that the bombing was unnecessary. Einstein opposed the use of the bomb, declaring 'We can only hope that we have not put dynamite into the hands of children.' Japan, at the time that the world's first atomic bomb was dropped, as J. Robert Oppenheimer, director of the Manhattan Project, said in November 1945, was "an essentially defeated enemy.' Even after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (which incidentally killed an eighth of Japanese Catholic Christians, something the holy bombers among the Christian Right don't seem too broken up about), the Japanese government still persisted in fighting the war. It was only when a former U.S. ambassador to Japan convinced the Truman administration to pledge that the monarchy would survive that Japan surrendered more than a week after the Hiroshima bombing. The lie that the bombings prevented an invasion of Japan similar to the invasion of Normandy was invented as justification after the war ended. And as we see, Japan would have surrendered peacefully months before, if not a year or more before August 1945, if only the Allies had not embraced the evil murderous doctrine of unconditional surrender. It was McGeorge Bundy who invented the figure of one million troops for a 1947 Harper's magazine essay he'd ghostwritten for the Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson. Bundy later confessed that he had pulled the one million figure out of thin air in order to justify the bombings. It says something about those who invented the myth that Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved the lives of one million U.S. troops, and those who continue to use this discredited defense today continue to disgrace themselves by justifying the murder of innocent civilian men, women and children in order to save the lives of soldiers. But there is another more sinister aspect and consequence of the Hiroshima lie. And that is the rationale and justification it affords to Osama bin Laden. The openly stated goal of al-Qaeda is the acquisition and use of one or more nuclear weapons. Atomic bombs after all, as Oppenheimer himself said, "are weapons of aggression, of surprise and of terror." Oppenheimer understood after Hiroshima that nuclear weapons threaten American cities as well. 'Of course it could be done," Oppenheimer told a Senate committee, "and people could destroy New York." The blanket of fear and terror that Americans have been put through by the Bush Administration and its branches in the mass media following 9/11 has as its centerpiece fear of nuclear attack by a shadow enemy. Bin Laden repeatedly refers to the Hiroshima atomic bombing in his speeches. Bin Laden, like the neocons and the other defenders of nuclear genocide, clearly believes the atomic attacks coerced the Japanese government into surrender. And bin Laden clearly believes, and even says that he is planning one, an atomic attack on one or more American cities will similarly coerce the U.S. government into surrendering and abandoning its occupation of the Middle East. That is a consequence of continuing the Hiroshima Lie.

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Adam Young's picture
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