Hiroshima and Nagasaki

ÁÎ×Ó¹â Henry C.K.Liu ¹ù¤l¥ú hliu at SPAMmindspring.com
Thu Aug 3 17:19:25 MDT 2000

Louis Proyect wrote:

> The Bombs of August
> By Howard Zinn (www.progressive.org)
> The principal justification for obliterating Hiroshima and Nagasaki is that
> it "saved lives" because otherwise a planned U.S. invasion of Japan would
> have been necessary, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands, perhaps
> hundreds of thousands. Truman at one point used the figure "a half million
> lives," and Churchill "a million lives," but these were figures pulled out
> of the air to calm troubled consciences; even official projections for the
> number of casualties in an invasion did not go beyond 46,000.
> In fact, the bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not forestall an
> invasion of Japan because no invasion was necessary. The Japanese were on
> the verge of surrender, and American military leaders knew that. General
> Eisenhower, briefed by Secretary of War Henry Stimson on the imminent use
> of the bomb, told him that "Japan was already defeated and that dropping
> the bomb was completely unnecessary."
> After the bombing, Admiral William D. Leary, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
> of Staff, called the atomic bomb "a barbarous weapon," also noting that:
> "The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender."
> The Japanese had begun to move to end the war after the U.S. victory on
> Okinawa, in May of 1945, in the bloodiest battle of the Pacific War. After
> the middle of June, six members of the Japanese Supreme War Council
> authorized Foreign Minister Togo to approach the Soviet Union, which was
> not at war with Japan, to mediate an end to the war "if possible by
> September."
> Togo sent Ambassador Sato to Moscow to feel out the possibility of a
> negotiated surrender. On July 13, four days before Truman, Churchill, and
> Stalin met in Potsdam to prepare for the end of the war (Germany had
> surrendered two months earlier), Togo sent a telegram to Sato:
> "Unconditional surrender is the only obstacle to peace. It is his Majesty's
> heart's desire to see the swift termination of the war."
> The United States knew about that telegram because it had broken the
> Japanese code early in the war. American officials knew also that the
> Japanese resistance to unconditional surrender was because they had one
> condition enormously important to them: the retention of the Emperor as
> symbolic leader. Former Ambassador to Japan Joseph Grew and others who knew
> something about Japanese society had suggested that allowing Japan to keep
> its Emperor would save countless lives by bringing an early end to the war.
> Yet Truman would not relent, and the Potsdam conference agreed to insist on
> "unconditional surrender." This ensured that the bombs would fall on
> Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
> It seems that the United States government was determined to drop those
> bombs.
> But why? Gar Alperovitz, whose research on that question is unmatched (The
> Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, Knopf, 1995), concluded, based on the
> papers of Truman, his chief adviser James Byrnes, and others, that the bomb
> was seen as a diplomatic weapon against the Soviet Union. Byrnes advised
> Truman that the bomb "could let us dictate the terms of ending the war."
> The British scientist P.M.S. Blackett, one of Churchill's advisers, wrote
> after the war that dropping the atomic bomb was "the first major operation
> of the cold diplomatic war with Russia."

I met Gar Alperovitz in NY in the early 70s and among other things we discussed
the bombs. There was no doubt on the anti-Soviet factor in the decision.  Truman
tried to tell Stalin about the bomb but Stalin dismissed the message as an
Allied trick.

But the all this still does not explain the second bomb on Nagasaki only three
days later, not allow the Japanese time to act.  What is more, the US had only
two bombs ready and if the Japanese did not budge, the US would have no back up.
  It would have been militarily more logical to wait for a Japanese rejection
before the second and last bomb was used.
Race was definitely a factor and a major factor.

Every time the Neuremberg Trial is mentioned, I think of Nagasaki.  If there
ever was a crime against humanity, that has to be the classic.  It served no
diplomatic or military purpose.  The superiority was already proved by the first
bomb. It was institutional sadism.
For more than 50 years, I have yet to come across any plausable rationalization
for the second bomb.

> There is also evidence that domestic politics played an important role in
> the decision. In his recent book, Freedom From Fear: The United States,
> 1929-1945 (Oxford, 1999), David Kennedy quotes Secretary of State Cordell
> Hull advising Byrnes, before the Potsdam conference, that "terrible
> political repercussions would follow in the U.S." if the unconditional
> surrender principle would be abandoned. The President would be "crucified"
> if he did that, Byrnes said. Kennedy reports that "Byrnes accordingly
> repudiated the suggestions of Leahy, McCloy, Grew, and Stimson," all of
> whom were willing to relax the "unconditional surrender" demand just enough
> to permit the Japanese their face-saving requirement for ending the war.
> Can we believe that our political leaders would consign hundreds of
> thousands of people to death or lifelong suffering because of "political
> repercussions" at home?

The irony is that "unconditional surrender" is an euphemism for the continuation
of the Japanese monarchy.  The Japanese were prepared to surrender if the
Emperor were to be allowed to keep his throne and to enjoy immunity from war
crime charges.  This condition MacArthur gladly granted after the bombs, merely
to make Japan governable and to keep Japnese from going communist.  So the US
domestic political considerations were mere sado auto-eroticism.

> The idea is horrifying, yet we can see in history a pattern of Presidential
> behavior that placed personal ambition high above human life. The tapes of
> John F. Kennedy reveal him weighing withdrawal from Vietnam against the
> upcoming election. Transcripts of Lyndon Johnson's White House
> conversations show him agonizing over Vietnam ("I don't think it's worth
> fighting for. . . .") but deciding that he could not withdraw because:
> "They'd impeach a President--wouldn't they?"
> Did millions die in Southeast Asia because American Presidents wanted to
> stay in office?
> Just before the Gulf War, President Bush's aide John Sununu was reported
> "telling people that a short successful war would be pure political gold
> for the President and would guarantee his reelection." And is not the
> Clinton-Gore support for the "Star Wars" anti-missile program (against all
> scientific evidence or common sense) prompted by their desire to be seen by
> the voters as tough guys?
> Of course, political ambition was not the only reason for Hiroshima,
> Vietnam, and the other horrors of our time. There was tin, rubber, oil,
> corporate profit, imperial arrogance. There was a cluster of factors, none
> of them, despite the claims of our leaders, having to do with human rights,
> human life.
> The wars go on, even when they are over. Every day, British and U.S.
> warplanes bomb Iraq, and children die. Every day, children die in Iraq
> because of the U.S.-sponsored embargo. Every day, boys and girls in
> Afghanistan step on land mines and are killed or mutilated. The Russia of
> "the free market" brutalizes Chechnya, as the Russia of "socialism" sent an
> army into Afghanistan. In Africa, more wars.
> The mine defuser in The English Patient was properly bitter about Western
> imperialism. But the problem is larger than even that 500-year assault on
> colored peoples of the world. It is a problem of the corruption of human
> intelligence, enabling our leaders to create plausible reasons for
> monstrous acts, and to exhort citizens to accept those reasons, and train
> soldiers to follow orders. So long as that continues, we will need to
> refute those reasons, resist those exhortations.

When it comes to the Nazis, the question of German collective guilt was
legitimately raised.  It is not convincing to lament about the US political
structure or the dilemma of presidents.  This is something structural with
capitalist culture, the way Detroit rationalizes the tolerance of preventable
auto death as economically more efficient solutions to costly auto safety.

In Vietnam, it was called kill-ratio.

Henry C.K. Liu

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