history, opinion, War, War Crimes

A Word on the Atomic Bombing of Japan in 1945

White-stripe-Mark-ROTHKO

The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare in the future are frightening. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.” —-Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff To President Truman

“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

“[T]he widespread image of the Japanese as sub-human constituted an emotional context which provided another justification for decisions which resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands.”—Historian James J. Weingartner, The Pacific Historical Review

“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.”

—–President Dwight David Eisenhower in his memoirs, “The White House Years

***

I do believe that what the US did Atomic Bombing Japan in 1945 amounts to a crime against humanity on par with the Holocaust or the Rwandan Genocide. No one “needs” to atomic bomb another nation, lives “saved” by using a bomb instead of an invasion is a non sequitur argument and is based on the racist, propagandistic and self serving assumption that the Japanese people (a sophisticated, advanced, and as philosophical and moral a people as any one Earth) would fight to the death to a person. We murdered 300,000 people, maimed hundreds of thousands more, and terrorized millions. Added to the 1 Million+ killed in the Napalm Firebombings of 67 large and medium sized Japanese cities this amounts to a genocide, even within the context of war, as over 90% of those killed in the bombings were civilians and non-combatants.

We condemn, rightly, the Wehrmacht and the Imperial Japanese Army for their atrocities against civilian populations and non-combatants, but we do not hold ourselves to the same standard because from our perspective, we were the “good guys”. In the case of the war with Imperial Japan, there were no good guys: Both nations, U.S. and Japan, were brutal, hegemonic, imperial and colonial powers in the Pacific, and both were fighting for influence in South East Asia and the South Pacific for its strategic location and natural resources. The Japanese were brutal and committed genocidal acts during and before the war. So did the United States. One does not excuse the other. However, we must acknowledge the part we play in the course of human events, and we must, if we are to hold on to any claim of being a moral nation and people, acknowledge the evil that we have committed and which was committed in our name. There were no winners in the Pacific War, none save for those at the very top of the military, political, and business worlds.

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