• The Myth of Hiroshima

    June 16, 2017

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    Posted in: Hooper's War

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    With rare exception, the question of whether the atomic bombs were necessary to end World War Two is debated only deep within the safety of academic circles.

    Could a land invasion have been otherwise avoided? Would more diplomacy have achieved the same ends without the destruction of two cities? Could an atomic test on a deserted island have convinced the Japanese? Was the surrender instead driven primarily by the entry of the Soviets into the Pacific War, which, by historical accident, took place two days after Hiroshima—and the day before Nagasaki was immolated?

    But it is not only the history of the decision itself that is side stepped. Beyond the acts of destruction lies the myth of the atomic bombings, the post-war creation of a mass memory of things that did not happen.

    The short version of the atomic myth, the one kneaded into public consciousness, is that the bombs were not dropped out of revenge or malice, immoral acts, but of grudging military necessity. As a result of this, the attacks have not provoked or generated deep introspection and national reflection.

    The use of the term “myth” is appropriate. Harry Truman, in his 1945 announcement of the bomb, focused on vengeance, and on the new, extraordinary power the United States alone possessed. The military necessity argument was largely created later, in a 1947 article defending the use of the atomic bomb, written by former Secretary of War Henry Stimson, though actually drafted by McGeorge Bundy (later an architect of the Vietnam War) and James Conant (a scientist who helped build the original bomb). Conant described the article’s purpose at the beginning of the Cold War as “You have to get the past straight before you do much to prepare people for the future.”

    The Stimson article was a response to journalist John Hersey’s account of the human suffering in Hiroshima, first published in 1946 in the New Yorker and later as a book. Due to wartime censorship, Americans knew little of the ground truth of atomic war, and Hersey’s piece was shocking enough to the public that it required that formal White House response. Americans’ general sense of themselves as a decent people needed to be reconciled with what was done in their name. The Stimson article was quite literally the moment of creation of the Hiroshima myth.

    The national belief that no moral wrong was committed with the atomic bombs, and thus there was no need for reflection and introspection, echoes forward through today (the blithe way Nagasaki is treated as a historical after thought – “and Nagasaki, too” – only drives home the point.) It was 9/11, the new Pearl Harbor, that started a series of immoral acts allegedly servicing, albeit destructively and imperfectly, the moral imperative of saving lives by killing. America’s decisions on war, torture, rendition and indefinite detention are seen by most as the distasteful but necessary actions of fundamentally good people against fundamentally evil ones. Hiroshima set in motion a sweeping, national generalization that if we do it, it is right.

    And with that, the steps away from the violence of Hiroshima and the shock-and-awe horrors inside the Iraqi prison of Abu Ghraib are merely a matter of degree. The myth allows the world’s most powerful nation to go to war as a victim after the tragic beheadings of only a small number of civilians. Meanwhile, the drone deaths of children at a wedding party are seen as unfortunate but only collateral damage in service to the goal of defeating global terrorism itself. It is a grim calculus that parses acts of violence to conclude some are morally justified simply based on who held the knife.

    We may, in fact, think we are practically doing the people of Afghanistan a favor by killing some of them, as we believe we did for tens of thousands of Japanese that might have been lost in a land invasion of their home islands to otherwise end World War Two. There is little debate in the “war on terror” because debate is largely unnecessary; the myth of Hiroshima says an illusion of expediency wipes away any concerns over morality. And with that neatly tucked away in our conscience, all that is left is pondering where to strike next.

    Japan, too, is guilty of failing to look deep into itself over its own wartime atrocities. Yet compared to the stunning array of atrocities during and since World War Two, the world’s only use of nuclear weapons still holds a significant place in infamy. To try and force the Japanese government to surrender (and no one in 1945 knew if the plan would work) by making it watch mass casualties of innocents, and then to hold the nation hostage to future attacks with the promise of more bombs to come, speaks to a cruelty previously unseen.

    For President Obama to visit Hiroshima without reflecting on the why of that unfortunate loss of lives, acting as if they occurred via some natural disaster, is tragically consistent with the fact that for 71 years no American president felt it particularly important to visit the victimized city. America’s lack of introspection over one of the 20th century’s most significant events continues, with 21st century consequences.




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  • Recent Comments

    • chuck said...

      1

      OBomber, Nobel Peace Prize winner. Vote D or R ? Read Peter, and “War Is A Racket”. Educate…

      06/16/17 9:13 AM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...

      2

      Food Not Bombs.

      06/16/17 9:29 AM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...

      3

      Will we see food deflation to calm the people? Could it be a positive Social change?

      06/16/17 9:33 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      4

      If Trumpie dropped the Mother of all bombs because his poll numbers were softening, what will he do when the FBI starts arresting his cronies?

      06/16/17 10:11 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      5

      North Korea, I am looking at you.

      06/16/17 10:11 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      6

      So this is how the world ends, with a BANG. Better get your obituary in order. Kelly Anne already wrote hers:

      “But look at Twitter,” Conway continued. “If I was shot and killed tomorrow, half of Twitter would explode in applause and excitement — this is the world we live in now.”

      06/16/17 10:25 AM | Comment Link

    • jim hruska said...

      7

      PVB,
      Has any Japanese official ever lain a wreath on the Arizona memorial?
      Have they ever provided compensation to the US Army slaves who had worked in their wartime industries?
      Have their leaders ever visited the Tomb of the Unknown soldier?
      jim hruska

      06/16/17 10:46 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      8

      DOJ Rosenstein seems concerned that Trumpie has the codes to the nukes:

      Americans (read : fearless leader) should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials,’ particularly when they do not identify the country — let alone the branch of agency of government — with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated. Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations. The Department of Justice has a long established policy to neither confirm nor deny such allegations.

      So PLEASE Mr. Presidense, dont do anything crazy, for God’s sakes.

      06/16/17 10:49 AM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...

      9

      Have the Patriots, etc. of the U.S. and Japan (and too many others) ever been at peace with death? Hungry?

      06/16/17 10:50 AM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...

      10

      If each of us, all sides, had Nukes, would it wage peace. RIP Helen Thomas, and her question to Obomber on the M.E… Have a nice day.

      06/16/17 10:55 AM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      11

      Well…..

      Just to be novel…… On topic, that is……

      The United States had spend so much cash in European theater…. We did not have the cash for an extended war in the Pacific…..

      Plus…… No matter the crap about really happened….. There was the revenge aspect….

      M

      06/16/17 6:05 PM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      12

      Rich……

      Your comments below……. Just exactly HOW….. Do you tie those quotes to a fear of Trump having the nuclear launch codes ??????

      Explain that please??????

      “Rich Bauer on June 16, 2017 at 10:49 said:
      DOJ Rosenstein seems concerned that Trumpie has the codes to the nukes:
      Americans (read : fearless leader) should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials,’ particularly when they do not identify the country — let alone the branch of agency of government — with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated. Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations. The Department of Justice has a long established policy to neither confirm nor deny such allegations.
      So PLEASE Mr. Presidense, dont do anything crazy, for God’s sakes. ”

      M

      06/16/17 6:07 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      13

      Mitch,

      I was giving Trumpie the benefit of the doubt that Rosenstein wasnt referring to the Russian prostitue golden shower tape.

      Trumpie would probably bomb Russia then.

      06/16/17 6:15 PM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      14

      RoseRich.

      Its the little blue pill your supposed to take on Friday’s…. Not the orange one….

      As I Recall…. PVB wrote quite the stimulating essay saying pretty much the the same thing, with out the gloss, as Rosenstein…..

      Pretty much saying…… If the source is not identified…. The source does not really exist….

      I’m sure Peter would be agreeable to reposting the essay…. Just in case, Tuesday’s green pill did not work….

      M

      06/16/17 9:00 PM | Comment Link

    • Bruce said...

      15

      HELL, 2 Jap nukes’ introspection pale beside the approximately 1,000 atomic bombings we conducted On 0URSELVES from the Nevada “test” site; N0 Reflection there, either except in the trinitite mirrors left on the desert floor (not to mention Pacific blowback of reflective fallout from our “peaceful” nukes’ export to Fukushima)! Queen Hell CLINTON can attest to its reflex From Teh GRAVE ! A little introspection : https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CobbNIkWYAA5vWm.jpg und, a hole lotta tombstone reflection for US: http://www.agreenroadjournal.com/2016/03/radchick-hillary-clinton-emails-reveals.html

      06/16/17 10:36 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      16

      Bruska- point made. I think both nations consider themselves exceptional. Even though the Japanese “lost” WWII (they sure as hell won the peace which counts more in my book) they never did the “introspection” thingee. That is only for losers. Winner don’t need to look within to examine any possible flaws.

      06/17/17 9:48 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      17

      JP,

      The US is without a doubt or exception exceptionally stupid. And every day we try to prove it to the world.

      06/18/17 12:15 PM | Comment Link

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