Depleted Uranium victim in Afghanistan:
Atomic Bomb Cloud over Nagasaki:
History taught in the USA often claims that the Uranium-bombing of the civilian population of Hiroshima and the plutonium testing on the citizens of Nagasaki was necessary to end the war quickly. This is untrue:
The Hiroshima Myth
by John V. Denson
Every year during the first two weeks of August the mass news media and many politicians at the national level trot out the "patriotic" political myth that the dropping of the two atomic bombs on Japan in August of 1945 caused them to surrender, and thereby saved the lives of anywhere from five hundred thousand to one million American soldiers, who did not have to invade the islands. Opinion polls over the last fifty years show that American citizens overwhelmingly (between 80 and 90%) believe this false history which, of course, makes them feel better about killing hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians (mostly women and children) and saving American lives to accomplish the ending of the war.
The best book, in my opinion, to explode this myth is The Decision to Use the Bomb by Gar Alperovitz, because it not only explains the real reasons the bombs were dropped, but also gives a detailed history of how and why the myth was created that this slaughter of innocent civilians was justified, and therefore morally acceptable. The essential problem starts with President Franklin Roosevelt’s policy of unconditional surrender, which was reluctantly adopted by Churchill and Stalin, and which President Truman decided to adopt when he succeeded Roosevelt in April of 1945.
Hanson Baldwin was the principal writer for The New York Times who covered World War II and he wrote an important book immediately after the war entitled Great Mistakes of the War. Baldwin concludes that the unconditional surrender policy ". . . was perhaps the biggest political mistake of the war . . . . Unconditional surrender was an open invitation to unconditional resistance; it discouraged opposition to Hitler, probably lengthened the war, costs us lives, and helped to lead to the present aborted peace."
The stark fact is that the Japanese leaders, both military and civilian, including the Emperor, were willing to surrender in May of 1945 if the Emperor could remain in place and not be subjected to a war crimes trial after the war.
This fact became known to President Truman as early as May of 1945. The Japanese monarchy was one of the oldest in all of history dating back to 660 B.C. The Japanese religion added the belief that all the Emperors were the direct descendants of the sun goddess, Amaterasu. The reigning Emperor Hirohito was the 124th in the direct line of descent. After the bombs were dropped on August 6 and 9 of 1945, and their surrender soon thereafter, the Japanese were allowed to keep their Emperor on the throne and he was not subjected to any war crimes trial. The Emperor, Hirohito, came on the throne in 1926 and continued in his position until his death in 1989. Since President Truman, in effect, accepted the conditional surrender offered by the Japanese as early as May of 1945, the question is posed, "Why then were the bombs dropped?"
The author Alperovitz gives us the answer in great detail which can only be summarized here, but he states, "We have noted a series of Japanese peace feelers in Switzerland which OSS Chief William Donovan reported to Truman in May and June . These suggested, even at this point, that the U.S. demand for unconditional surrender might well be the only serious obstacle to peace. At the center of the explorations, as we also saw, was Allen Dulles, chief of OSS operations in Switzerland (and subsequently Director of the CIA). In his 1966 book The Secret Surrender, Dulles recalled that ‘On July 20, 1945, under instructions from Washington, I went to the Potsdam Conference and reported there to Secretary [of War] Stimson on what I had learned from Tokyo – they desired to surrender if they could retain the Emperor and their constitution as a basis for maintaining discipline and order in Japan after the devastating news of surrender became known to the Japanese people.’" It is documented by Alperovitz that Stimson reported this directly to Truman. Alperovitz further points out in detail the documentary proof that every top presidential civilian and military advisor, with the exception of James Byrnes, along with Prime Minister Churchill and his top British military leadership, urged Truman to revise the unconditional surrender policy so as to allow the Japanese to surrender and keep their Emperor. All this advice was given to Truman prior to the Potsdam Proclamation which occurred on July 26, 1945. This proclamation made a final demand upon Japan to surrender unconditionally or suffer drastic consequences.
Another startling fact about the military connection to the dropping of the bomb is the lack of knowledge on the part of General MacArthur about the existence of the bomb and whether it was to be dropped. Alperovitz states "MacArthur knew nothing about advance planning for the atomic bomb’s use until almost the last minute. Nor was he personally in the chain of command in this connection; the order came straight from Washington. Indeed, the War Department waited until five days before the bombing of Hiroshima even to notify MacArthur – the commanding general of the U.S. Army Forces in the Pacific – of the existence of the atomic bomb."
Alperovitz makes it very clear that the main person Truman was listening to while he ignored all of this civilian and military advice, was James Byrnes, the man who virtually controlled Truman at the beginning of his administration. Byrnes was one of the most experienced political figures in Washington, having served for over thirty years in both the House and the Senate. He had also served as a United States Supreme Court Justice, and at the request of President Roosevelt, he resigned that position and accepted the role in the Roosevelt administration of managing the domestic economy. Byrnes went to the Yalta Conference with Roosevelt and then was given the responsibility to get Congress and the American people to accept the agreements made at Yalta.
When Truman became a senator in 1935, Byrnes immediately became his friend and mentor and remained close to Truman until Truman became president. Truman never forgot this and immediately called on Byrnes to be his number-two man in the new administration. Byrnes had expected to be named the vice presidential candidate to replace Wallace and had been disappointed when Truman had been named, yet he and Truman remained very close. Byrnes had also been very close to Roosevelt, while Truman was kept in the dark by Roosevelt most of the time he served as vice president. Truman asked Byrnes immediately, in April, to become his Secretary of State but they delayed the official appointment until July 3, 1945, so as not to offend the incumbent. Byrnes had also accepted a position on the interim committee which had control over the policy regarding the atom bomb, and therefore, in April, 1945 became Truman’s main foreign policy advisor, and especially the advisor on the use of the atomic bomb. It was Byrnes who encouraged Truman to postpone the Potsdam Conference and his meeting with Stalin until they could know, at the conference, if the atomic bomb was successfully tested. While at the Potsdam Conference the experiments proved successful and Truman advised Stalin that a new massively destructive weapon was now available to America, which Byrnes hoped would make
Stalin back off from any excessive demands or activity in the post-war period.
Truman secretly gave the orders on July 25, 1945 that the bombs would be dropped in August while he was to be in route back to America. On July 26, he issued the Potsdam Proclamation, or ultimatum, to Japan to surrender, leaving in place the unconditional surrender policy, thereby causing both Truman and Byrnes to believe that the terms would not be accepted by Japan.
The conclusion drawn unmistakably from the evidence presented, is that Byrnes is the man who convinced Truman to keep the unconditional surrender policy and not accept Japan’s surrender so that the bombs could actually be dropped thereby demonstrating to the Russians that America had a new forceful leader in place, a "new sheriff in Dodge" who, unlike Roosevelt, was going to be tough with the Russians on foreign policy and that the Russians needed to "back off" during what would become known as the "Cold War." A secondary reason was that Congress would now be told about why they had made the secret appropriation to a Manhattan Project and the huge expenditure would be justified by showing that not only did the bombs work but that they would bring the war to an end, make the Russians back off and enable America to become the most powerful military force in the world.
If the surrender by the Japanese had been accepted between May and the end of July of 1945 and the Emperor had been left in place, as in fact he was after the bombing, this would have kept Russia out of the war. Russia agreed at Yalta to come into the Japanese war three months after Germany surrendered. In fact, Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945 and Russia announced on August 8, (exactly three months thereafter) that it was abandoning its neutrality policy with Japan and entering the war. Russia’s entry into the war for six days allowed them to gain tremendous power and influence in China, Korea, and other key areas of Asia. The Japanese were deathly afraid of Communism and if the Potsdam Proclamation had indicated that America would accept the conditional surrender allowing the Emperor to remain in place and informed the Japanese that Russia would enter the war if they did not surrender, then this would surely have assured a quick Japanese surrender.
The second question that Alperovitz answers in the last half of the book is how and why the Hiroshima myth was created. The story of the myth begins with the person of James B. Conant, the President of Harvard University, who was a prominent scientist, having initially made his mark as a chemist working on poison gas during World War I. During World War II, he was chairman of the National Defense Research Committee from the summer of 1941 until the end of the war and he was one of the central figures overseeing the Manhattan Project. Conant became concerned about his future academic career, as well as his positions in private industry, because various people began to speak out concerning why the bombs were dropped. On September 9, 1945, Admiral William F. Halsey, commander of the Third Fleet, was publically quoted extensively as stating that the atomic bomb was used because the scientists had a "toy and they wanted to try it out . . . ." He further stated, "The first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment . . . . It was a mistake to ever drop it." Albert Einstein, one of the world’s foremost scientists, who was also an important person connected with the development of the atomic bomb, responded and his words were headlined in The New York Times "Einstein Deplores Use of Atom Bomb." The story reported that Einstein stated that "A great majority of scientists were opposed to the sudden employment of the atom bomb." In Einstein’s judgment, the dropping of the bomb was a political – diplomatic decision rather than a military or scientific decision.
Probably the person closest to Truman, from the military standpoint, was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral William Leahy, and there was much talk that he also deplored the use of the bomb and had strongly advised Truman not to use it, but advised rather to revise the unconditional surrender policy so that the Japanese could surrender and keep the Emperor. Leahy’s views were later reported by Hanson Baldwin in an interview that Leahy "thought the business of recognizing the continuation of the Emperor was a detail which should have been solved easily." Leahy’s secretary, Dorothy Ringquist, reported that Leahy told her on the day the Hiroshima bomb was dropped, "Dorothy, we will regret this day. The United States will suffer, for war is not to be waged on women and children." Another important naval voice, the commander in chief of the U.S. Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations, Ernest J. King, stated that the naval blockade and prior bombing of Japan in March of 1945, had rendered the Japanese helpless and that the use of the atomic bomb was both unnecessary and immoral. Also, the opinion of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz was reported to have said in a press conference on September 22, 1945, that "The Admiral took the opportunity of adding his voice to those insisting that Japan had been defeated before the atomic bombing and Russia’s entry into the war." In a subsequent speech at the Washington Monument on October 5, 1945, Admiral Nimitz stated "The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace before the atomic age was announced to the world with the destruction of Hiroshima and before the Russian entry into the war." It was learned also that on or about July 20, 1945, General Eisenhower had urged Truman, in a personal visit, not to use the atomic bomb. Eisenhower’s assessment was "It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing . . . to use the atomic bomb, to kill and terrorize civilians, without even attempting [negotiations], was a double crime." Eisenhower also stated that it wasn’t necessary for Truman to "succumb" to Byrnes.
James Conant came to the conclusion that some important person in the administration must go public to show that the dropping of the bombs was a military necessity, thereby saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers, so he approached Harvey Bundy and his son, McGeorge Bundy. It was agreed by them that the most important person to create this myth was Secretary of War, Henry Stimson. It was decided that Stimson would write a long article to be widely circulated in a prominent national magazine. This article was revised repeatedly by McGeorge Bundy and Conant before it was published in Harper’s magazine in February of 1947. The long article became the subject of a front-page article and editorial in The New York Times and in the editorial it was stated "There can be no doubt that the president and Mr. Stimson are right when they mention that the bomb caused the Japanese to surrender." Later, in 1959, President Truman specifically endorsed this conclusion, including the idea that it saved the lives of a million American soldiers. This myth has been renewed annually by the news media and various political leaders ever since.
It is very pertinent that, in the memoirs of Henry Stimson entitled On Active Service in Peace and War, he states, "Unfortunately, I have lived long enough to know that history is often not what actually happened but what is recorded as such."
To bring this matter more into focus from the human tragedy standpoint, I recommend the reading of a book entitled Hiroshima Diary: The Journal of a Japanese Physician, August 6, September 30, 1945, by Michiko Hachiya. He was a survivor of Hiroshima and kept a daily diary about the women, children and old men that he treated on a daily basis in the hospital. The doctor was badly injured himself but recovered enough to help others and his account of the personal tragedies of innocent civilians who were either badly burned or died as a result of the bombing puts the moral issue into a clear perspective for all of us to consider.
Now that we live in the nuclear age and there are enough nuclear weapons spread around the world to destroy civilization, we need to face the fact that America is the only country to have used this awful weapon and that it was unnecessary to have done so. If Americans would come to recognize the truth, rather than the myth, it might cause such a moral revolt that we would take the lead throughout the world in realizing that wars in the future may well become nuclear, and therefore all wars must be avoided at almost any cost. Hopefully, our knowledge of science has not outrun our ability to exercise prudent and humane moral and political judgment to the extent that we are destined for extermination.The survivors of the bombings are called Hibakusha (被爆者, Hibakusha?), a Japanese word that literally translates to "explosion-affected people". The suffering of the bombing is the root of Japan's postwar pacifism, and the nation has sought the abolition of nuclear weapons from the world ever since. As of 2005, there are about 266,000 hibakusha still living in Japan
A number of notable individuals and organizations have criticized the bombings, many of them characterizing them as war crimes or crime against humanity. Two early critics of the bombings were Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard, who had together spurred the first bomb research in 1939 with a jointly written letter to President Roosevelt. Szilard, who had gone on to play a major role in the Manhattan Project, argued:
- "Let me say only this much to the moral issue involved: Suppose Germany had developed two bombs before we had any bombs. And suppose Germany had dropped one bomb, say, on Rochester and the other on Buffalo, and then having run out of bombs she would have lost the war. Can anyone doubt that we would then have defined the dropping of atomic bombs on cities as a war crime, and that we would have sentenced the Germans who were guilty of this crime to death at Nuremberg and hanged them?"
A number of scientists who worked on the bomb were against its use. Led by Dr. James Franck, seven scientists submitted a report to the Interim Committee (which advised the President) in May 1945, saying:
- "If the United States were to be the first to release this new means of indiscriminate destruction upon mankind, she would sacrifice public support throughout the world, precipitate the race for armaments, and prejudice the possibility of reaching an international agreement on the future control of such weapons."
- "Mechanized civilization has just reached the ultimate stage of barbarism. In a near future, we will have to choose between mass suicide and intelligent use of scientific conquests[...] This can no longer be simply a prayer; it must become an order which goes upward from the peoples to the governments, an order to make a definitive choice between hell and reason."
In 1946, a report by the Federal Council of Churches entitled Atomic Warfare and the Christian Faith, includes the following passage:
- "As American Christians, we are deeply penitent for the irresponsible use already made of the atomic bomb. We are agreed that, whatever be one's judgment of the war in principle, the surprise bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are morally indefensible."
In 1963 the bombings were the subject of a judicial review in Ryuichi Shimoda et al. v. The State. On the 22nd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the District Court of Tokyo declined to rule on the legality of nuclear weapons in general, but found that "the attacks upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused such severe and indiscriminate suffering that they did violate the most basic legal principles governing the conduct of war."
In the opinion of the court, the act of dropping an atomic bomb on cities was at the time governed by international law found in the Hague Regulations on Land Warfare of 1907 and the Hague Draft Rules of Air Warfare of 1922–1923 and was therefore illegal.
As the first military use of nuclear weapons, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki represent to some the crossing of a crucial barrier. Peter Kuznick, director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University in Washington DC wrote of President Truman:
- ”He knew he was beginning the process of annihilation of the species. It was not just a war crime; it was a crime against humanity."
Kurznick is one of several observers who believe that the U.S. was largely motivated in carrying out the bombings by a desire to demonstrate the power of its new weapon to the Soviet Union. Historian Mark Selden of Cornell University has stated "Impressing Russia was more important than ending the war in Japan."
- "It is clear that the use of nuclear weapons, which cause indiscriminate mass murder that leaves [effects on] survivors for decades, is a violation of international law".
Iccho Itoh, the mayor of Nagasaki, declared in the same hearing:
- "It is said that the descendants of the atomic bomb survivors will have to be monitored for several generations to clarify the genetic impact, which means that the descendants will live in anxiety for [decades] to come. [...] with their colossal power and capacity for slaughter and destruction, nuclear weapons make no distinction between combatants and non-combatants or between military installations and civilian communities [...] The use of nuclear weapons [...] therefore is a manifest infraction of international law."
- "A fair reading of the treaty [the Rome Statute concerning the ICC], for example, leaves the objective observer unable to answer with confidence whether the United States was guilty of war crimes for its aerial bombing campaigns over Germany and Japan in World War II. Indeed, if anything, a straightforward reading of the language probably indicates that the court would find the United States guilty. A fortiori, these provisions seem to imply that the United States would have been guilty of a war crime for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is intolerable and unacceptable."
Although bombings do not meet the definition of genocide, some consider that this definition is too strict, and that these bombings do represent a genocide. For example, University of Chicago historian Bruce Cumings states there is a consensus among historians to Martin Sherwin's statement, that "the Nagasaki bomb was gratuitous at best and genocidal at worst."
Historical accounts indicate that the decision to use the atomic bombs was made in order to provoke an early surrender of Japan by use of an awe-inspiring power. These observations have caused some commentators to state that the incident was an act of "war terrorism". Michael Walzer wrote, "... And, finally, there is war terrorism: the effort to kill civilians in such large numbers that their government is forced to surrender. Hiroshima seems to me the classic case." This type of claim eventually prompted historian Robert Newman, a supporter of the bombings, to argue that the practice of terrorism is justified in some cases.
Those who argue that the bombings were unnecessary on military grounds hold that Japan was already essentially defeated and ready to surrender.
One of the most notable individuals with this opinion was then-General Dwight D. Eisenhower. He wrote in his memoir The White House Years:
- "In 1945 Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives."
Other U.S. military officers who disagreed with the necessity of the bombings include General Douglas MacArthur (the highest-ranking officer in the Pacific Theater), Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy (the Chief of Staff to the President), General Carl Spaatz (commander of the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific), Brigadier General Carter Clarke (the military intelligence officer who prepared intercepted Japanese cables for U.S. officials), Admiral Ernest King, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations, Undersecretary of the Navy Ralph A. Bard, and Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet.
- "The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace. The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military point of view, in the defeat of Japan." Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
- "The use of [the atomic bombs] at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender." Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to President Truman.
The United States Strategic Bombing Survey, after interviewing hundreds of Japanese civilian and military leaders after Japan surrendered, reported:
- "Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated."
The survey assumed that conventional bombing attacks on Japan would greatly increase as the bombing capabilities of July 1945 were ...a fraction of its planned proportion... due to a steadily high production rate of new B-29s and the reallocation of European airpower to the Pacific. When hostilities ended, the USAAF had approximately 3700 B-29s of which only about 1000 were deployed.
Had the war gone on these and still more aircraft would have brought devastation far worse than either bomb to many more cities. The results of conventional strategic bombing at the cease-fire were summed up thusly:
- "...On the basis of photo coverage, intelligence estimated that 175 square miles of urban area in 66 cities were wiped out. Total civilian casualties stemming directly from the urban attacks were estimated at 330,000 killed, 476,000 injured, and 9,200,000 rendered homeless." General Haywood S. Hansell
General MacArthur has also contended that Japan would have surrendered before the bombings if the U.S. had notified Japan that it would accept a surrender that allowed Emperor Hirohito to keep his position as titular leader of Japan, a condition the U.S. did in fact allow after Japan surrendered. U.S. leadership knew this, through intercepts of encoded Japanese messages, but refused to clarify Washington's willingness to accept this condition. Before the bombings, the position of the Japanese leadership with regards to surrender was divided. Several diplomats favored surrender, while the leaders of the Japanese military voiced a commitment to fighting a "decisive battle" on Kyūshū, hoping that they could negotiate better terms for an armistice afterward. The Japanese government did not decide what terms, beyond preservation of an imperial system, they would have accepted to end the war; as late as August 9, the Supreme War Council was still split, with the hard-liners insisting Japan should demobilize its own forces, no war crimes trials would be conducted, and no occupation of Japan would be allowed. Only the direct intervention of the emperor ended the dispute, and even then a military coup was attempted to prevent the surrender.Historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa's research has led him to conclude that the atomic bombings themselves were not even the principal reason for capitulation. Instead, he contends, it was the swift and devastating Soviet victories in Manchuria that forced the Japanese surrender on August 15, 1945.
The United States expected to have another atomic bomb ready for use in the third week of August, with three more in September and a further three in October. On August 10, Major General Leslie Groves, military director of the Manhattan Project, sent a memorandum to General of the Army George Marshall, Chief of Staff of the United States Army, in which he wrote that "the next bomb . . should be ready for delivery on the first suitable weather after 17 or 18 August." On the same day, Marshall endorsed the memo with the comment, "It is not to be released over Japan without express authority from the President." There was already discussion in the War Department about conserving the bombs in production until Operation Downfall, the projected invasion of Japan, had begun. "The problem now [13 August] is whether or not, assuming the Japanese do not capitulate, to continue dropping them every time one is made and shipped out there or whether to hold them . . . and then pour them all on in a reasonably short time. Not all in one day, but over a short period. And that also takes into consideration the target that we are after. In other words, should we not concentrate on targets that will be of the greatest assistance to an invasion rather than industry, morale, psychology, and the like? Nearer the tactical use rather than other use."
The truth about Hiroshima
I had terrible nightmares of Atomic weapons growing up as a child of the cold war and I avoided studying World War 2 in high school history as it troubled me. As a result, I never understood how or why Japan came to be an enemy in a war that was against the Nazis in Germany.
I learned, in visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, that before the Atomic bombing, Japan was at war with China and was spending 80% of its national economy on military spending. The people of Japan were forced into working to support the war. Children as young as 13 (boys and girls) worked in manufacturing, school children were given military training disguised as exercise, to have them ready for deployment. Clothing and Food items were rationed severely, with families given coupons and dressed in uniforms. The people of Japan were suffering under the control of their own government, who was even trying to enforce Mind Control to curb any anti-war intentions.
Hiroshima was a city populated by workers. Before the bomb destroyed the city, the government released an air raid warning and school children, those too young to work in the manufacturing plants, were evacuated. Those 13 or older stayed behind to continue working to support the war.
Before visiting the museum, I knew only the rhetoric that Japan was out of control during World War 2 in their bid for world domination. They wouldn’t listen to reason, nothing could be done and there was nothing left to do, someone had to take action and the US dropped the bomb on Hiroshima that ended the war.
While it can be argued that no one knew what the effects of the atomic bomb on a populated city would be, I’ve never felt satisfied with the arguments for killing so many people. As described in the peace museum, there had never before been such a mass slaughter of people in one moment, and I wonder if there has been anything like it since, other than in Nagasaki, the recipient of the other A-bomb dropped three days after.
The museum in Hiroshima contains letters, diary entries and documents from the US side, clearly showing that the bombs were dropped precisely because the effects were not known. In fact, the 2 bombs dropped on Japan were not even the same type of A-bomb. One was Uranium and the other Plutonium. Japan and the innocent people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were used as Guinea Pigs. The US claimed there were no choices, but from reading the correspondences between various US officials, it’s obvious there were other choices. Also evident is the written declaration that no warning was issued. Many US officials felt that a warning, and a demonstration of the effects of the A-bomb before one was deployed, would give the Japanese government the chance to make an informed decision, but regarding the use of the A-bomb, Japan never had that chance.
The people of Japan had no idea what they were facing. So when the radiation-filled black rain began to fall in the days following the destruction of Hiroshima, those still living in the devastation, living with coarse, dry throats, dying of thirst and severe burns, opened their mouths to the rain and lapped up paddles of black water, only to become violently ill and if the burns didn’t kill them slowly the ensuing cancer surely did.
White wall stained by black rain
Hiroshima was chosen as a candidate because it was populated by workers, and plenty of them. Plenty, that is, of children aged 13 and 14 working in the manufacturing plants. A list of potential targets had Hiroshima at number 1 position. Kyoto, a potentially more politically strategic target had been wiped from the list because the US wanted to occupy Japan immediately following the bombings, and they knew that bombing Kyoto would be too nationally sensitive and might stop the Japanese government from submitting to the US. Worse, they might have surrendered to the Russians, instead.
The bombs were dropped hastily, in fact the US government was concerned the Japanese might surrender before the US had a chance to test their weapons. Globally, there was a race for supremacy. I’m amazed, now I think about it, that all at the same time every one wanted the grand title of number 1. The Nazis wanted it, Japan wanted it, the Russians wanted it and the US wanted it too. It looks like the US won, but only because they gave Einstein sanctuary from the Germans. There are so many ways World War 2 could have played out, if only small details had been different, or timelines hadn’t intersected each other so exactly. Regardless, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the race in a shocking climax.
Victims of terrible burning in makeshift hospitals
We now know, because those two bombs were dropped and we have seen what happened, how destructive and horrifying Atomic warfare is. Despite it, following World War 2, Russia and the US raced to dominate the world through a steady build-up of Nuclear Weapons they could use to threaten each other and this led to that Cold War and the nightmare visions I had as a child of Reagan and the little red-button that I imagined would destroy us all. The Cold War ended in the 80s and yet, still, these countries and now Britain, India, Pakistan, France and China (and possibly others) have joined the fray.
Every time a nuclear weapon is tested, the Mayor of Hiroshima writes a letter in protest trying to remind the leaders of these countries of the atrocities of the weapons that they continue to build. Why can’t we just take it from those who know, it’s NEVER going to be justifiable to use that kind of weapon again, it certainly wasn’t justifiable the first 2 times. So much for weapons of Mass Destruction, those in glass houses etc. The US remains the only country to have used nuclear weapons in warfare, I hope the mistake is never repeated, but how can we ever be sure when the technology and the weapons continue to be developed?
The last of Sadako's paper cranes, and the ones that will never be folded
June 18, 2007
By Carolyn Baker
In the seventh year of the current presidential administration which has eviscerated more aspects of the Bill of Rights and U.S. Constitution than any previous administration in American history, I recently had the opportunity of viewing a new documentary “Uncivil Liberties: What Lies Between Liberty & Security”, written and directed by Thomas Mercer. I am pleased to offer my review of the film; however, it is not possible for me to authentically review this work of art or any other pertaining to civil liberties without attaching to it my own addendum of the history of attacks on the well being of its citizens by the United States government.
Unlike Robert Greenwald’s “Unconstitutional” or Aaron Russo’s “America: From Freedom To Fascism”, Mercer’s film is not a documentary but fiction, closer in purpose to the genre of “Star Wars”, “Farenheit 451”, or “Brazil.” It is intentionally murky in its message, filled with purposeful ambiguity, devoid of stark contrasts between good guys and bad guys, with everything in shades of gray. Every character has his/her faults—like life.
Mercer’s DVD jacket states that “Political intrigue abounds in a complex upside down world as militia assassin, Mike Wilson, secretly decides t renounce the violence his job demands, and Homeland Security Official, Cynthia Porter, purposely sabotages a government spying operation. Consequently, both must now face paying the price for betraying the organizations they had faithfully served.”
According to Mercer, the over arching message of his film is about taking a personal stand of conscience even when doing so goes against community values and places one at great personal risk. The quality of filming is excellent as is most of the acting. For having such a low budget, Mercer did exceptionally well in producing a high-quality film. I believe that this film is well-suited for presentation to an individual or an audience of individuals who are not politically sophisticated but are just beginning to question the contradictions with which their government is replete—or perhaps even individuals who overall have few complaints about their government. Unlike a documentary “Uncivil Liberties” does not hit viewers in the face nor arm them with evidence, but rather stirs the pot gently by raising questions subtly and indirectly. It may be ideal for Americans who ingest mainstream media and have bought into the propagandistic litany of “you gotta give up your liberties in order to be safe.” The film poignantly portrays what happens to Cynthia Porter after living her life within such a paradigm.
My wish for viewers of “Uncivil Liberties” is that the “graduate” to “America From Freedom To Fascism” as soon as possible, but they may not be able to do so without the bridge that “Uncivil Liberties” could provide them in order to do so.
While it is true that the current administration’s violations of civil liberties is unprecedented, it is also true that the ruling elite of America from its inception have always been reluctant to fully commit to the principles of a democratic republic. When the Founding Fathers, those rich white boys who drafted the Constitution, were ready to send it to the states to be ratified, they were confronted with so-called “radicals” of the small business and working classes who insisted that the document contain a Bill of Rights. Kicking and screaming to the contrary, the founders eventually capitulated to those demands and agreed to insert the first ten amendments.
The United States is an embarrassingly young nation. Unlike citizens of European or Asian societies that have existed for centuries, Americans remain pathetically naïve about the forces that drive their government and its corporatist apparatus. They have not witnessed incarceration in ghettoes or gulags or mass liquidations and purges such as Eastern European nations did under Hitler or as the Soviet Union did under Stalin. With extraordinary assistance from its leaders, Americans have managed throughout the twentieth and into the twenty-first centuries, to persevere in denial about two things: 1) The reality that their government has become a full-fledged, bona fide, card-carrying empire, and 2) That their government is making war not only on other nations in other places, but that it is unequivocally making war on them in every facet of their lives.
In the face of the end of hydrocarbon energy, climate change, and global economic meltdown, denial of these two realities is nothing less than terrifying.
Nevertheless, I believe that if we briefly consider the confluence of the corporation and government from 1865 to the present, we will not only not be surprised by the unfolding of events, but we will comprehend that events could not have unfolded otherwise, given the fundamental assumptions regarding economics and the federal government’s role in them.
[The following information is further detailed and carefully documented in my book, U.S. HISTORY UNCENSORED: What Your High School Textbook Didn’t Tell You.]
First, we need to define empire: “A political unit having an extensive territory or comprising a number of territories or nations and ruled by a single supreme authority.”
Many individuals do concur that the United States is an empire and that it is covertly targeting its own citizens in the same manner that it blatantly claims to target radical Islamic fundamentalist terrorists domestically and around the world. However, the majority of Americans are decreasingly able to deny that the human and economic drain produced by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ostensibly as a “result” of the September 11 attacks, the unprecedented shredding of the Constitution and individual civil liberties sanctioned by the Patriot Act that we are now witnessing, the assault on the poor and middle class in issues of employment, health care, pension funds and retirement savings, inflation, and of course, the astronomical federal deficit, and some 4 trillion dollars “missing” from the federal government are formidible assaults on themselves. For any conscious, truth-seeking American, our contemporary milieu demonstrates that each of us is the empire’s next meal.
In a 2003 article by Mike Ruppert “Eating The Chosen People” which became Chapter 23 in his extraordinary book Crossing The Rubicon, he articulated a litany of methods in which the U.S. government, in tandem with its ruling elite, is devouring its citizens, its infrastructure, and its ecosystem. But this is what empires do; that’s their job.
But while all of this has become painfully obvious during the past seven years, a clear analysis of U.S. history from the end of the Civil War to the present moment reveals that the current monster’s DNA components were circulating throughout the organism, never dormant but undetected by all but those who were being engulfed by them or those whose political, historical, and ethical lens enabled them to read the tea leaves of burgeoning tyranny.
Let us begin in 1864 with the famous quote from Abraham Lincoln only a few months before his death.
I see in the near future a crisis approaching thatunnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety ofmy country. . . . corporations have been enthroned andan era of corruption in high places will follow, and themoney power of the country will endeavor to prolong itsreign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republicis destroyed.
Post-Civil War America witnessed unprecedented, exponential growth of coporations—not only a proliferation in the amount of them, but an augmentation of prodigious power among them. Many readers are no doubt familiar with the Santa Clara vs. Southern Pacific Railroad decision by the Supreme Court in 1886 which declared that the corporation was legally equivalent to a PERSON with regard to protections afforded by the 14th Amendment. As if this ruling were not frightening enough, add to this reality the social philosophy of America’s corporate tycoons in the late-nineteenth and early- twentieth centuries. The majority, including John D. Rockefeller, E.H. Harriman, Andrew Carnegie, and John Harvey Kellogg were proponents of eugenics or selective breeding set in motion by the desire to eliminate “undesirable’ human beings. The “Robber Barons”, as historian Matthew Josephson called them, contributed vast sums of money to the junk science of eugenics, and forced sterilization of the mentally ill and other “undesirables” which continued into the 1970s.
It is during this era that we see massive exploitation of immigrants and workers in American industry, the absence of health and safety regulations that would protect workers and consumers, and the proliferation of monopolies that decimated small business and other kinds of competition. Enter Theodore Roosevelt on his white horse, a so-called Progressive, who resoundingly terminated these egregious abuses and ushered in a more equalitarian society—or so traditional American history teaches us.
Historians have made much of the political, economic and social changes brought about in American society by Progressivism. While it is true that the amount of government regulation of industry passed by legislators in response to popular demands was unprecedented, it is also true that the Progressive movement repeatedly failed to question the fundamental underpinnings of the capitalist system and, in fact, aspired to make government function as an “ideal corporation.” Many revisionist historians, such as Gabriel Kolko, speculate that because the essential nature of capitalism was never questioned by the Progressives, regulation was put into place which brought about limited, specific reforms for the well being of workers, consumers and the poor, but which actually served to contain protest movements and maintain order and thereby, ultimately served business interests. In his book, THE TRIUMPH OF CONSERVATISM, Kolko uses the term “political capitalism” to describe the fundamental underpinning of American society that the Progressive movement did not challenge. He says:
It was capitalist social relationships, not just economic factors that triumphed—the assumption that certain individuals, because of heritage, ethnicity, socio-economic status, etc. had the right to accumulate phenomenal wealth at the expense of other human beings and the environment. Although certain individuals who embraced socialism challenged the social relationships of political capitalism, by and large, progressives did not.
The crucial factor in American experience was the nature of economic power which required political tools to rationalize the economic process, and that resulted in a synthesis of politics and economics.
The Post-World War I 1920s saw an epidemic of the symbiosis of government and corporations, with a great deal of assistance from the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913, so that on the eve of the Great Depression in 1929, America is nothing less than a corporate state, which Mussolini said was the essential definition of fascism. Three presidents in a row, Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover stated unequivocally that “The business of America is business.” In 1922, General Motors made a conscious decision to kill the trolley system in a number of cities, not just Los Angeles, and over the course of the next two decades, succeeded in making the automobile the nation’s preferred method of transportation.
We should not then be surprised with America’s fascination with fascism in the 1930s and the countless corporate entities in the United States which helped finance the Third Reich. In 2002, the Village Voice ran a fabulous series by Edwin Black, author of IBM And The Holocaust, entitled “Final Solutions” which explained IBM’s punch card system that facilitated the Reich in calculating and monitoring its Jewish population and making sure the trains ran on time.
But while Germany was busy exterminating Jews, gay and lesbian people, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, the United States was experimenting on African American males infected with syphilis in a small town in Alabama. As part of its study, the Tuskegee Experiment denied treatment to some 150 men who later died of the disease, along with several of their wives who had also been infected. As in the days of Progressivism, another Roosevelt entered the morass of human suffering in the United States and instituted a New Deal that did in fact alleviate a great deal of the nation’s misery. Yet, once again, political capitalism was neither explored nor challenged, and as Howard Zinn summarizes:
When the New Deal was over, capitalism remained intact. The rich still controlled the nation’s wealth, as well as its laws, courts, police, newspapers, churches, colleges. Enough help had been given to enough people to make Roosevelt a hero to millions, but the same system that had brought depression and crisis—the system of waste, of inequality, of concern for profit over human need—remained.
Retired Army Special Forces Sergeant and Vietnam Veteran, Stan Goff says that:
It is now very clear that Franklin Roosevelt developed financial designs on the colonies of the British Empire, and that he maneuvered throughout the war to let others - particularly the Soviet Union, but also England and France - take the brunt of Hitler's aggression to weaken them, while he built up the geographically war-immune US industrial base, and positioned the US to be a post-war creditor and the new super-power.
It is crucial to understand, however, that the “cure” for the Great Depression was not the New Deal, but rather World War II, entered by the United States after Pearl Harbor in 1941. It would not be the last war that America’s ruling elite would enter in order to distract from or ameliorate its economic woes.
The war was concluded in the first week of August, 1945 after two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. Meanwhile, strange things were happening in Oakridge, Tennessee. The world would not know exactly what those strange things were until a curious journalist, named Eileen Welsome, began polking around in some dusty boxes of stored documents at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the early 1990s. Published in 1993, Welsome’s Pulitzer-prize-winning book, THE PLUTONIUM FILES, documents numerous radiation experiments on human beings in the 1940s. Meanwhile, the Central Intelligence Agency was conducting secret experiments with LSD on human beings without their knowledge in a now-infamous program called MK ULTRA which also used hypnosis, electroshock therapy, and psychosurgery and which continued into the 1970s. A more elaborate list of secret experiments of this nature can be found online by Googling “Secret U.S. Human Biological Experimentation.”
The most enduring legacy of World War II was the corporate state transformed into the military industrial complex—a term first uttered by Dwight Eisenhower in his farewell speech in 1961, five years after a relatively unknown Texas geophysicist named Marion King Hubbert predicted that oil production in the United States would peak between the late 1960s and the early 70s. But who cared? America was busy fighting a Cold War, sending men to the moon, and fine-tuning its robust empire. But in order to achieve all of this, more ravaging of its citizenry would be required. One of the most significant events in the twentieth century was the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency in 1947 which was forbidden by law to operate within the United States, but almost from the moment of its creation it began violating that law and has never stopped doing so.
Hence, in addition to the 58,000 expendable offspring annihilated in Southeast Asia between 1963 and 1975, America financed its voracious escapades of the 1970s and 80s with extensive opium and cocaine trafficking in Southeast Asia and Latin America which found its way in gargantuan quanities to the streets of American cities by way of obscure, podunk places like Mena, Arkansas and more familiar, official locations like Ft. Hood, Texas. The human and economic capital of South Central Los Angeles was devastated with a CIA-engendered crack-cocaine epidemic, but the Department Of Housing and Urban Development fared well and perfected the lessons learned in this incipient pilot program to assist in the largest theft in the history of the world up to that time, the Savings and Loan debacle.
This particular juncture in American history is especially important because the modus operandi of the empire distinctly changes in flavor.
- In 1981 National Security Decision Directive 1 (NSDD 1) was signed by President Ronald Reagan which would re-organize the National Security Council (NSC) which is the arm of the CIA in the White House. Subsequently, a second document called NSDD 2 would be signed, formalizing the establishment of a Special Situation Group (SSG) crisis management staff chaired by Bush.
On Sunday, March 22, 1981, the Washington Post published the headline “WHITE HOUSE REVAMPS TOP POLICY ROLES; Bush to Head Crisis Management”. The Post continued:
Partly in an effort to bring harmony to the Reagan high command, it has been decided that Vice President George Bush will be placed in charge of a new structure for national security crisis management, according to senior presidential assistants. This assignment will amount to an unprecedented role for a vice president in modern times.
- In 1986, in an effort to overcome traditional agency reluctance, President Reagan issued Executive Order 12615 requiring departments and agencies to establish and fulfill ambitious privatization goals. The order also created the Office of Privatization within the Office of Management and Budget to oversee the program, and established an independent Commission on Privatization to study and recommend opportunities for privatization within the federal government. Although few, if any, of the recommendations that emerged from this effort were enacted at the time, several of the programs first proposed, developed, and advocated by the Reagan Administration (the Alaska Power Marketing Administration, the U.S. Enrichment Corporation, the National Helium Reserve, and the Naval Petroleum Reserve at Elk Hills, California) eventually were approved for privatization by the 104th Congress and the Clinton White House. When completed, these privatization divestitures yielded more than $3 billion in revenues to the federal government.
This constructed a closer relationship between the Presidency and the Central Intelligence Agency than had existed since the creation of the CIA in 1947, and the use of private corporate contractors to do government work secretly (ostensibly for reasons of national security) created two very negative realities:
- Private corporate contractors do not have to be accountable for the work they do or how they use the money allocated to them and
- A black budget could be created in which government money is being spent without the oversight of Congress and the American people. This was a recipe for fraud and corruption to become standard operating procedure in the federal government.
Thus, the empire’s economic devourment of its own citizens which had been going on since at least the end of the Civil War had now become institutionalized.
With the assistance of a president whose symbiosis with corporate America was palpable, despite his rhetoric about championing the middle class, the 1990s gave us the global economy, NAFTA, and the Walmartization of the world, resulting in energy-consumption on steroids. In 1997, a more blatant advocate of geo-strategic hegemony, Zbigniew Brzezinski, also a Democrat, published his infamous THE GRAND CHESSBOARD, detailing the manner in which the United States should dominate the world politically, economically, and militarily, particularly, Eurasia, the precise area where the U.S. military has been engaged during the past six years for the last remaining drops of oil on the planet.
In a 2006 poll taken nationwide, 84% of Americans believe that the U.S. government is not telling the truth in its official story regarding the September 11 attacks.
Whereas shortly after the September 11 attacks it was common to hear virulent opposition by Americans to the theory that the U.S. government orchestrated the attacks because “our government would never harm its own citizens”, in the light of the assaults on the citizenry of America enumerated above, it is less common, to hear this rebuttal and more common, in my experience, to hear comments like “I think it was an inside job” or “there’s something fishy about it that doesn’t add up”—comments that only a few of us dared utter six years ago.
But the empire’s war on its citizens did not begin with 9/11. A scrupulous analysis of American history from 1865 to the present underscores the reality that the United States government has repeatedly harmed or attempted to harm its citizens on innumerable occasions. Not mentioned above, but particularly relevant to September 11, was the Pentagon’s Operation Northwoods in 1962 which proposed a U.S. military attack on un-manned military planes disguised as commercial airliners and blowing up ocean liners, inflicting heavy casualties, then blaming the tragedies on Castro in order to incite pro-war sentiment among the American public in order to wage war on Cuba.
The current administration, marinated in petroleum, is probably the most blatant in devouring the citizens of the empire since American colonists lived under the domination of Great Britain. I will not recite the litany of its abuses; we are living them even as I speak. While each one seems more egregious than the last, it may well be that the most reprehenisble is the fact that this administration has been well aware of Peak Oil and global warming and is doing nothing about them—at least for the citizens of the empire. Bush, Cheney, and former CIA Director, James Woolsey, flaunt their solar-paneled bunkers and their infinite supply of food and water to the media, yet Peak Oil remains one of the best-kept secrets in America.
History will indeed record that in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, a small group of ruling elite in the most powerful nation on earth, which consumed the largest amount of hydrocarbon energy on the planet, were well aware of natural phenomena called Peak Oil and global warming, and knowing full well the catastrophic consequences of that phenomenon, they bunkered their own homes with solar panels and infinite quantities of food and water, yet failed to disclose information vital to the health and safety of all life forms worldwide and the ecosystems themselves.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is a crime against humanity.
At this moment in history we are witnessing the convergence of three phenomena that is unprecedented in human history: Peak Oil, climate chaos, and global economic meltdown. That convergence changes all the rules and will force humankind to think and act outside any previously-known boxes, and the fundamental underpinning of all attempts to navigate this daunting convergence will be local solutions.
Yet even as I write those words, I am well aware that in a country where the government and ruling elite have made war on the citizenry for at least 142 years, the titans of power who are bunkering down in preparation for chaos have also devised elaborate strategies for controlling it. To what extent will that warfare on the citizenry pale by comparison the crimes of September 11? How fast can viewers of “Uncivil Liberties” upgrade their awareness to the futuristic but highly plausible realities of “Children Of Men”? If the planet and its inhabitants survive for another twenty years, will Americans reflect on the “good ole days” of 2007 and smile sullenly at the term “civil liberties” which in 2027 will have become meaningless and archaic in a ghastly, totalitarian dystopia of extinction, violence, and repression?
I hold little hope for a mass awakening of consciousness from the comatose American consumeristic, petro-dependent, throw-away, entitlement trance in which this society appears immured. Rather, I am inspired and buoyed by small groups of individuals who are willing to seize their options, utilizing the civil liberties they now have and the innate inner authority at the core of their humanity from which all liberty flows, in order to partner with others who are willing to tell the truth about what human beings are doing to this planet--and in so doing, provide an alternative for themselves.
As all authentic revolutionaries and mystics well know, it isn’t about how long one lives, but about who is doing the living. Empire can only enslave and destroy, but its citizens have the option to disconnect from the empire and its paradigm. Thomas Paine told us in 1775 that we have the power to begin the world over again. In 2007 we may not have the power to begin the world over again, but we do have the power to begin our world again. The only new paradigm will be the one we create, and that is the civilest of liberties!