Wednesday :: Aug 9, 2006

The Atomic Swaggerer

by pessimist

Just what kind of a leader could George W. Bush be if it wasn't for the Manhattan Project?

The power of The Bomb isn't just in its properties as an explosive, but also as a tool for international blackmail. Would Iran fear the US today without the means to make Teheran vanish in an instant? Would the American people support the costs of a conventional war in any distant part of the world without it? Would the Russians have had as much to fear from the American paranoiacs who listened to James Forrestal about how the Russians were coming?

But with the Bomb, King George is a Really Big Man on Terra. Everyone is going to listen respectfully to him, no matter how insane his hostile ranting [Axis of Evil], or how blatantly false his lame lines of professed friendliness [Pooty-Poot], for no one wants him to begin the snap count for the 'football'.

Tom Engelhardt, editor of, looks at how this kind of power came to be:

The Hiroshima Stories We Can't Tell
By Tom Engelhardt
August 8, 2006

The Earth was knocked off its axis with America's atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 61 years ago. Americans have never really come to grips either with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki or the nuclear age they ushered in. Was August 6, 1945, the heroic ending to a global war or the horrific beginning of a new age?

[F]or people of a certain age like me, Hiroshima is where it all began.

The bomb still runs like a fissure, but also like an attracting current -- a secret unity -- through our lives. The rent it tore in history was deep and the generational divide, given the experiences of those growing up on either side of it, profound. But any story would also have to hold the ways, even deeper and harder to fathom, in which we lived through it all together in pain, hatred, love, and most of all silence.

The silence is the only way that the perceived 'correctness' of Harry Truman's decision to drop The Bomb on Japan remains unexamined - and unchallenged.

In the thick of war, people assign rigid places to good and evil, always to the benefit of one's own side.
- James Carroll, House of War, p. 62

Without that precedent - long strategically intended during development for the Soviets even though it was Japan that later got to experience it - the history of the world would be very much different, for the US would not have been heeded and obeyed through the fear of experiencing a native version of Nagasaki.

Just because the world wants to forget inconvenient truths, I'm going to post another portion of the ultimate horror tale again this year:

[T]he United States had built three nuclear bombs. They exploded one plutonium bomb in a test in the desert in New Mexico. By August 1945, they were left with one uranium bomb and one plutonium bomb. Although the United States had already tested a plutonium bomb in the desert, that test was conducted on the land surface. The military researchers must have wanted to see what would happen when the bombs were detonated in the air.

The uranium bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the plutonium one on Nagasaki. At the time, the population of Hiroshima was 350,000, and Nagasaki's was 240,000. By the end of 1945, roughly 140,000 people had died in Hiroshima, and 70,000 in Nagasaki.

After bombing Hiroshima, then-U.S. President Harry Truman announced: "We spent $2 billion on the greatest scientific gamble in history--and won."

Nowhere in this victorious speech
is there any hint or acknowledgement
of the hellish horrors the bomb unleashed beneath its mushroom cloud.

Nuclear bombs are devastatingly destructive, but not only that, we know they unleash relentless suffering upon even the survivors of the initial blast. Anyone who entered either Hiroshima or Nagasaki within two weeks of the atomic bombings, the period when residual radiation was still high, is considered an A-bomb victim.

One study tragically predicts that 60 percent to 70 percent of cancer fatalities
that will be caused by radiation exposure from the two atomic bombs
have yet to occur.

The former dean of Nagasaki University, Hideo Tsuchiyama, reached this conclusion based on research collected by the Radiation Effects Research Foundation over 47 years.

A total of 259,556 atomic bomb survivors were alive as of March 31, with an average age 73.9. Since Aug. 6 of last year, Hiroshima recognized the names of 5,350 people as atomic-bomb victims, all of which were added to the cenotaph at the Peace Memorial Park, bringing the total number of the city's victims to 247,787. And this year for the first time, the city added the words 'Many Unknown' to the ledger of victims' names, which was put in a container at the cenotaph.

Today, 61 years since the devastation of Hiroshima, there is more, not less, danger of nuclear war than ever before. Despite the known horrors, nuclear weapons development continues in North Korea, and it is strongly suspected in Iran. And India, Pakistan and Israel have rejected the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki officials have an excellent opportunity to convey the anger of atomic bomb victims... Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba ... will call for a program of action, which will urge 1,403 cities belonging to "Mayors for Peace," an organization headed by Akiba, to press the nuclear powers to confirm which of their cities is targeted, and if they are, to exclude them from the target list.

But realistically, would any nation disclose its top military secrets, such as which cities are in its nuclear sights?

In a Peace Declaration read at the memorial service, Akiba expressed concern over stalled moves toward nuclear elimination and said he expects Japan, the only country to experience the devastation of nuclear warfare, to play a forceful role in such a global campaign.

Among members of the public participating was Jennifer Borio, 34, an American living in Tokyo who is taking a peace studies course at Hiroshima City University. "World leaders should come to Hiroshima to see for themselves the devastation (caused by the A-bomb). Hiroshima inspires people to make the world a better place, though it's ironic that it does," she said.

The city of Hiroshima invited government representatives from 140 countries, of which 35 countries sent delegates. But of the seven declared nuclear powers - Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, Russia and the United States - as well as North Korea and Iran, only Russia and Iran sent delegates. Tibor Toth, executive secretary of the Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, also attended.

Here's some of what they might have learned:

In [Nijyuu Hibaku (Twice Bombed, Twice Survived: The Double Atomic Bomb Victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki)], by director Hidetaka Inazuka, 55, seven survivors who lived through both atomic bombs recount their experiences. These people suffered the terror of an atomic blast, not once--but twice.

For a long time, no one noticed that such double-bombing victims existed.

It was not until last year, after Misako Katani, now 76, donated her memoir to the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims, that their existence was officially noted. After her donation, officials at the Peace Memorial Hall went into their archives and researched other memoirs and data on 130,000 bomb victims. They discovered as many as 160 people who likely suffered injuries from both bombs.

There is no good excuse for this oversight, as Robert Trumbull wrote Nine Who Survived Hiroshima and Nagasaki, published in 1957 by Charles E. Tuttle Company of Tokyo, Japan, from data gathered during the 1950 census conducted by the Atomic Bomb Commission. The only logical explanation for this 'ignorance' is that the Japanese government didn't want to acknowledge that some of its wartime citizens got to experience Hell twice:

When she was a young girl, Katani went to school in Hiroshima. During the war, she was among students mobilized by the military, and she was sent to work in an infirmary. At 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1945, she looked out an infirmary window and saw a bright, blinding flash cut through the sky.

The infirmary was 4 kilometers from ground zero. The blast knocked Katani off her feet. Broken shards of glass were imbedded into her head, and she became the infirmary's first bomb victim to undergo surgery--without anaesthesia.

Her father and younger sister survived, but her mother, another younger sister, and great-grandmother all perished. On Aug. 15, Katami and her younger sister left for Nagasaki, carrying three urns of ashes to be interred in their family tomb. Katani's father was too busy working to go himself.

Bombed on Aug. 9, Nagasaki was also a smoldering ruin when Katani and her sister reached the city. The two young girls walked streets strewn with charred dead bodies. They somehow made their way to the family temple, and placed their mother's, sister's and great-grandmother's ashes in the family tomb. During all this time, the girls' bodies were being bombarded by residual radiation, but they had no way of knowing that. They were totally oblivious to what was happening. Katani thus became one of the "double atomic bomb" victims.

Back in Hiroshima, her gums began to bleed. The bleeding wouldn't stop. She soon lost her hair, and there was blood in her feces. She then fell unconsciousness, but miraculously, she woke up again after a month. Later on, however, after she married, she had three miscarriages.

"Both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were living hell.
I hate nuclear warfare,"

she said in [the] documentary film, [which] was released this year.

Kazuo Matsudaira, 66, is the president of the Nagasaki Shimbun. In 1945, he had been evacuated away from home, but he went to Hiroshima the day after the bombing. He was exposed to radiation while there. A few days later, he returned to Nagasaki, and was in the city when it was bombed.

"Nagasaki must be the last atomic bombing site on Earth," says Matsudaira.

That hope is something fervently shared by every hibakusha (atomic bomb victim).

I write about Hiroshima and Nagasaki each year, and each year we hear the same excuses for the use of The Bomb:

The commonly accepted view in the United States is that the atomic bombings helped hasten the end of the war; thereby reducing the number of casualties had the fighting dragged on. But discussion of responsibility for the destruction wrought by the atomic bombs must also examine the actions of Japanese leaders, who dilly-dallied when it come to ending the war.

War is merciless and brutal. In fighting a war whose outcome will determine the fate of a country, leaders will do everything in their power to win. They will use any and all weapons at their disposal. We cannot expect a country at war to show any kind of restraint. If a country has nuclear weapons, it will use them, unconcerned whether they are nuclear weapons.

There is the Pearl Harbor Revenge justification - 'they started it, so they deserved it!' - for the horrors of Hiroshima, even though the two events differ by orders of magnitude from each other. Truman felt that Japan had crossed some nebulous moral threshhold by attacking, and had no military 'honor' as a result. Ergo, anything the US could do to Japan was to be expected.

No one is going to dispute these assertions on their face. In the context of the time, they were legitimate discussion topics among those planning the war on both sides.

But I got seriously flamed for presenting the position that planning Japan's atomic bombings had a racist component.

In The Rise of American Air Power by Michael S. Sherry, it is said that "the Japanese seemed an enemy by virtue of race." [p.245] Because of this officially-sanctioned division between Good Caucasian Human and Evil Asiatic Sub-human (see any site that covers wartime propaganda), it was possible to ignore certain societal and religious injunctions against the usage of savagery and barbarity (even though the Nazis did evil things on a similar scale as the Japanese, many weapons used against Japan were restricted to the Pacific) because it was easier to perform retribution on the Japanese due to their Asian genetics - 'they aren't like US!'

Such distintions continue to hold a place in American foreign policies. While there is still an artificial genetic differentiation, religious bigotry is again in play ('Christian' v. 'Muslim') as it was in 1942-45 ('Christian' v. 'Shinto' / 'Buddhist' / others ...) as a foil to block the economic justification for taking from those who 'aren't like US!'

On the basis that I believe in no more Nagasakis, and not on the basis of racism or religious bigotry, I can support international efforts to block nations like North Korea and Iran - and terrorist groups - from acquiring nuclear weapons.

But what is being done to rein in those nations which already have them?

As was noted above, seven nations are known to have nukes. Many others are suspected of having them, including the darlings of the PNAC/AIPAC neo-confidence movement, Israel. In every case, once the US had used them in war, every nation that since has openly gotten them has justified them as being defensive in nature. Those who are suspected of possession hint at that justification.

But there is a specific distinction between and among the Known Seven and the Suspected Others - those who play by the rules of the US [Rule # 1 - the US is ALWAYS right! Rule #2 - when in doubt, see Rule #1!!], or who provide mass quantities of profits for US multinationals [need I list them?], are 'allowed' possession without consequence, while those who don't see things Uncle Sam's way [need I list them?] are the subject of threats of first-strike attack.

This is blatant hypocrisy, and to their credit, some are willing to point this out:

The West has forgotten that might is not right
July 26, 2006

The US and its allies do not play by the rules they impose on others, writes Guardian columnist Max Hastings.

MORALITY in foreign policy is often subjective. It is hard to overstate the practical consequences of the West's moral erosion. Morality alone cannot make an international order work.
Few of us, however, want to be represented by governments
that are perceived by most of the human race as pursuing policies
which have no moral basis at all.
The United States Administration is confident that it represents the forces of democracy and freedom, and feels free to do whatever it judges best to promote these fine things. Yet the weakness of this argument is laid bare in Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere. It is understandable that George Bush should have endorsed the Israeli campaign, for no more can be expected from him.

The defeat of terrorism is best achieved through an unglamorous cocktail of politics, diplomacy, intelligence, bribery, police work and special forces operations. Above all, a successful campaign offers the society from which the terrorists are drawn a just political dispensation.

Are you listening, Mr. Olmert?

In a recent article for the International Institute for Strategic Studies journal, Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the school of public policy at Singapore University, analysed the decline of perceived Western legitimacy. His principal argument was that it is essential for the US and its allies to be seen to abide by the same rules that they seek to impose on others.

The world was unimpressed, he said, by US attempts to limit the rising power of China. Osama bin Laden had "successfully delegitimised American power in the eyes of hundreds of millions of Muslims ... One of the key factors in the growing delegitimisation ... is (US) indifference to its impact and to how it is perceived in the eyes of the ... rest of the world."

It is extraordinary to behold the loud, small people who direct US policy today, and contrast them with the towering figures who dominated in the late 1940s. Can Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld come from the same country that produced Dean Acheson, Averell Harriman, George Kennan and George Marshall? The latter forged the policy of containment of the Soviet Union and urged Truman to fight in Korea. Yet all were repositories of deep wisdom and generosity of spirit. They wielded influence in a fashion that determined US policy, in an era when Western command of the moral high ground was hardly disputed in any civilised society.

Higher standards are expected from a sovereign state than a terrorist organisation. Somehow, though surely not under this US President, this is what we must regain.

Maybe it would help if people could truly realize what the NASA photo "Earthrise" ...

photo from

... really means to those of us who live here. We can't continue to make war like there is somewhere else to go, especially now that mankind has to power to turn all that watery blue into blackened soot. That is why, as James Carroll puts it in House of War [p.31]:

'Never Again' ...
the Twentieth Century's great moral injunction,
applying as much to Hiroshima as to Auschwitz

That injunction needs to be heeded in Jerusalem - and in Crawford/Washington. Both are much more powerful than those they confront, and from both, meeting higher standards are expected by the rest of the nations of the world. It's time to show that both nations are worthy of being nuclear powers by taking responsible diplomatic action instead of practicing nuclear terrorist jingoism.

This isn't Teddy Roosevelt's 1906 anymore. It's time to put the Bully Pulpit in the recycling bin. The Big Stick has become The Big Bang, and speaking softly only leads to horrible misunderstandings.


Much uncited material above taken from:

EDITORIAL: Double A-bomb victims

Why couldn't the tragic atomic bombings of Japan in 1945 have been avoided?
Daily Yomiuri, Japan

Nuclear Powers Shun Event for Hiroshima A-Bomb Anniversary
Kyodo News, Japan
August 6, 2006


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