70th Anniversary of Hiroshima August 7, 2015Posted by wmmbb in Modern History.
Yesterday marked the seventieth anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Not content, another atomic bomb, three days later, was dropped on Nagasaki.
When crimes go unrecognized, other crimes are given licenced. Fundamentally, the issue is the rule of law, and whether the nation state system will continue and human beings perish, either by nuclear war or climate change.
“What gets in your blood?” the editor asked.
“The whole culture,” Dylan answered.
What do you mean? What are you saying? the editor asked. He kept pushing Dylan to explain where rock and roll came from.
Finally, when push came to shove, Bob Dylan gave the definitive answer.
“The atom bomb fueled the entire world that came after it,” Dylan said.
“[The U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima],” he continued, “showed that indiscriminate killing and indiscriminate homicide on a mass level was possible, whereas if you look at warfare up until that point, you had to see somebody to shoot them or maim them, you had to look at them. You don’t have to do that anymore.”
“The atom bomb fueled all aspects of society [after that],” he said. “I know it gave rise to the music we were playing. If you look at all these early performers, they were atom-bomb-fueled. Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, Elvis, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran…”
So in your recent music, the editor asked, you’re still dealing with the cultural effects of the bomb?
“I think so,” Dylan responded. [RS/May 3-17, 2007]
And then John Dear comments:
In other words, everything changed with Hiroshima. That’s what Bob Dylan reminds us.
It takes a great artist to state the obvious, to show us the truth about ourselves.
We vaporized hundreds of thousands of people at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he says, then we ignored it or denied what we did, so we went numb and then people like Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Elvis starting screaming and then everyone started screaming, and now we’re all screaming and numb and insane. We never dealt with what we did, and so we remain numb or we scream or we’re violent and give in to our collective insanity.
Everything has happened because of what we did at Hiroshima.
Is this claim larger than evidence suggests? The mass killings of the industrial wars, beginning with the American Civil War and the First World War are written out of history, as are the contrived mass famines during the British Raj in India. Similarly, other events during the Second World War. There has been no contrition on the part of the killers, who seem to die comfortably in their beds after ordering and pressing the button. At the same time the Soviet Commander who refused orders goes mostly unremarked.
On August 9, 1945, President Harry Truman delivered a radio address from the White House. “The world will note,” he said, “that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians.” He did not mention that a second atomic bomb had already been dropped on Nagasaki.
Truman understood, of course, that if Hiroshima was a “military base,” then so was Seattle; that the vast majority of its residents were civilians; and that perhaps 100,000 of them had already been killed. Indeed, he knew that Hiroshima was chosen not for its military significance but because it was one of only a handful of Japanese cities that had not already been firebombed and largely obliterated by American air power. US officials, in fact, were intent on using the first atomic bombs to create maximum terror and destruction. They also wanted to measure their new weapon’s power and so selected the “virgin targets” of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In July 1945, Secretary of War Henry Stimson informed Truman of his fear that, given all the firebombing of Japanese cities, there might not be a target left on which the atomic bomb could “show its strength” to the fullest. According to Stimson’s diary, Truman “laughed and said he understood.”
The president soon dropped the “military base” justification. After all, despite Washington’s effort to censor the most graphic images of atomic annihilation coming out of Hiroshima, the world quickly grasped that the US had destroyed an entire city in a single blow with massive loss of life. So the president focused instead on an apologia that would work for at least the next seven decades. Its core arguments appeared in that same August 9th speech. “We have used [the atomic bomb] against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor,” he said, “against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international laws of warfare. We have used it in order to shorten the agony of war, in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans.”
By 1945, most Americans didn’t care that the civilians of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had not committed Japan’s war crimes. American wartime culture had for years drawn on a long history of “yellow peril” racism to paint the Japanese not just as inhuman, but as subhuman. As Truman put it in his diary, it was a country full of “savages” – “ruthless, merciless, and fanatic” people so loyal to the emperor that every man, woman, and child would fight to the bitter end. In these years, magazines routinely depicted Japanese as monkeys, apes, insects, and vermin. Given such a foe, so went the prevailing view, there were no true “civilians” and nothing short of near extermination, or at least a powerful demonstration of America’s willingness to proceed down that path, could ever force their surrender. As Admiral William “Bull” Halsey said in a 1944 press conference, “The only good Jap is a Jap who’s been dead six months.”
In the years after World War II, the most virulent expressions of race hatred diminished, but not the widespread idea that the atomic bombs had been required to end the war, eliminating the need to invade the Japanese home islands where, it was confidently claimed, tooth-and-nail combat would cause enormous losses on both sides. The deadliest weapon in history, the one that opened the path to future Armageddon, had therefore saved lives. That was the stripped down mantra that provided the broadest and most enduring support for the introduction of nuclear warfare. By the time Truman, in retirement, published his memoir in 1955, he was ready to claim with some specificity that an invasion of Japan would have killed half-a-million Americans and at least as many Japanese.
Over the years, the ever-increasing number of lives those two A-bombs “saved” became a kind of sacred numerology. By 1991, for instance, President George H.W. Bush, praising Truman for his “tough, calculating decision,” claimed that those bombs had “spared millions of American lives.” By then, an atomic massacre had long been transformed into a mercy killing that prevented far greater suffering and slaughter.
Truman went to his grave insisting that he never had a single regret or a moment’s doubt about his decision. Certainly, in the key weeks leading up to August 6, 1945, the record offers no evidence that he gave serious consideration to any alternative.
The Rock and Rollers may have been screaming but the PR machine kept whispering sweet nothings and fostering the sickness of nationalism. Violence breeds sanitised violence, however insane. With this history blowing at our back, we should not see the despicable treatment of refugees, including what may be in effect murder of individuals, and the apparent myopia of turning away from the reality of climate change as benign political calculations. There is afterall for each and all a duty of care.
Theodore Van Kirk, the navigator and last survivor of the Enola Gay, declares. ” It was Easy” – and therein is a story: