Posts Tagged ‘Hiroshima and Nagasaki’

A Guide to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Attacks

Seventy years ago, the United States committed one of the most horrific atrocities in military history. Why?

Jacobin   August 9, 2015
The atomic bomb exploding in Nagasaki, Japan. Corbis

The atomic bomb exploding in Nagasaki, Japan. Corbis

Seventy years ago today, the United States detonated a plutonium implosion-type atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Nagasaki, killing between 40,000 and 80,000 people.

It was only the second time an atomic weapon had been used in warfare. The first time had occurred three days before, when the United States dropped a uranium gun-type atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Between 90,000 and 170,000 people died in that attack.

It was one of the greatest wartime atrocities ever perpetrated. The United States political and military establishment unleashed all the destructive power of the most potent weapons ever created on two civilian populations of little strategic importance. It was a brutal show of force that announced the arrival of the new American superpower and helped establish the stakes of the Cold War.

As a State Department memo written during the Carter administration explained, “the Soviets know that this terrible weapon has been dropped on human beings twice in history and it was an American president who dropped it both times. Therefore, they have to take this into consideration in their calculus.”

The nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki remain two of the most shameful moments in US history. Perhaps because of this lingering shame, they are too often left understudied. Often they are dismissed as acts of simple naivety — as if President Truman were unaware of the murderous potential of his Space Age super-weapons — or alternatively as an act of wanton callousness, evacuating these events of their political content.

In this short primer, Jacobin briefly describes the attacks, their aftermath, and the continuing relevance of nuclear weapons on the global stage today.

Did the US have to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end the war?

No. There is no truth to the common argument that the United States military had to use nuclear bombs on Japanese civilians to end World War II.

American leaders at the time understood well that they had other options. In fact, Truman mentions this in his memoirs, recalling his worry that, should American atomic tests fail, the Soviet ground invasion of Japan would precipitate the Japanese surrender, thus amplifying Soviet influence in East Asia. The Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US military had begun planning a detailed ground invasion of their own, a strategy deliberately developed to avoid the use of nuclear warfare in the Pacific.

But more importantly, Japan was profoundly isolated in the region and in the world following the surrender of Nazi Germany. The Japanese state had already begun to collapse, with military and executive bureaucracies in disarray. The Soviet declaration of war — which occurred on August 8, between the bombing of Hiroshima and the bombing of Nagasaki — so panicked Japanese Prime Minister Kantarō Suzuki that, when he was advised not to plan a military response to the imminent invasion, he reportedly replied, “then the game is up.”

Whatever cynical agenda motivated the American leaders’ decision to annihilate hundreds of thousands of Japanese lives with new-fangled apocalypse technology, it wasn’t out of an interest in preventing further suffering. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was geopolitical posturing at its most barbaric, a catastrophic display of military capability engineered to send a message to the Soviet Union and other powers unfriendly to global US hegemony.

It wasn’t about ending the war. It was about announcing American willingness to use doomsday weapons on civilian populations. In August 1945, President Truman and the American establishment held a gun to the head of the entire world. And that gun remains in place to this day.

The atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan. Library of Congress

The atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan. Library of Congress

What were the effects of the bombings?

At about 11:00 on the morning of August 9, Kermit Beahan — an American bombadier who would later describe the attack as “the best way out of a hell of a mess” — found a hole in the clouds above Nagasaki and dropped the atomic bomb. It took about forty-six seconds to fall. When it exploded there was an overwhelming flash of light, followed ten seconds later by a deafening roar.

Speaking to the Houston Chronicle years later, Beahan would describe the aftermath of the explosion, saying, “’I saw a mushroom cloud bubbling and flashing orange, red and green. It looked like a picture of hell. The ground itself was covered by a rolling black smoke.”

The temperature under the explosion has been estimated to exceed 3,000 degrees centigrade — hot enough to incinerate human bodies. Sharp heat rays carried enormous amounts of radiation, which were imperceptible in the moment but would have devastating health effects. The risk of developing leukemia has been estimated at 46 percent for those exposed to  atom bomb radiation.

The obscenity of the nuclear attacks is illustrated in vivid detail in the testimony of survivors, known in Japan as hibakusha.

Emiko Fukahori was only seven-years-old at the time of the bombing, which occurred as she played in a shady bamboo grove close to Nagasaki:

I was totally absorbed in playing when I heard the sound of an airplane (a B-29). I somehow immediately knew it was an enemy aircraft. … When the bomb exploded, the first one into the shelter was Sumi-chan, then me, and then a third child. The last girl was incinerated and died on the spot. When I was going into the shelter, I felt the heat on my back, so I escaped the fate of the third child by just a hair’s breadth.

When I left the shelter, the adults had been burnt all over their bodies, and were gasping for breath. The surrounding area had completely changed– all the large moso bamboo trees had been knocked down. A woman covered in blood was calling for help as she came up from below, which frightened me. …

Fukahori’s older brother also survived the explosion. But, like many who experienced the bomb’s lethal radiation, his health began to deteriorate soon afterward.

He started suffering nosebleeds about a week after the bombing. They called a doctor, and my aunt put a wash basin by his side and stayed up all night taking care of him. But the bleeding from his gums and nose grew worse, and he finally died on the 22nd.

Before he breathed his last, he complained that his stomach and legs hurt very much. I was sleeping next to him, and he told me to bring a knife because an atomic bomb was lodged in his stomach. I couldn’t bear to watch him suffer, so I got up to get him a knife, but my uncle scolded me.

My brother’s corpse had no blood at all. It was as white as a wax dummy. My mother died in Nagasaki at about the same time, and my sister and younger brother died weeping over her body. I was told they held the funeral for all three on the same day.

Horrific symptoms of this kind were widespread.

Tatsuichiro Akizuki was a young doctor at a Nagasaki medical center 1.4 kilometers from the explosion’s epicenter. At the time of the explosion he was working at the hospital, and recalls yellow smoke billowing in through the building’s collapsed stories. It didn’t take long for the wounded to begin approaching the hospital.

About 10 or 15 minutes later, throngs of wounded people streamed up the hill to the hospital. The people in the nearby fields and streets looked as if they had all been burned white, and they had somehow lost their clothes. They staggered towards us, heads in their hands, calling for help. The people who came later were different. Their faces were blackish and had swollen like pumpkins. You couldn’t tell the men from the women. They all stopped to wash off in the river, started walking again, and then stopped to wash off again. Then they all fell flat on their faces and stopped walking. There were a lot of blackened corpses by the river’s edge. …

There were corpses in which the heads had been split open, and intestines were spilling from their abdomens. Most of the others had burns–on their face and back, their legs and calves, or their chest and abdomen. The people who were in the fields and paddies turned around to look behind them when the flash from the bomb came, and they were burned on their face and back at the same time

He provided round-the-clock treatment to thousands of bomb victims, encountering symptoms he had never seen before and that he was entirely unprepared to treat.

Starting about the third day, patients turned black and had diarrhea. They told me that blood had come from their mouths, which had turned purplish. By the fourth or fifth day, I thought this might have been dysentery or peliosis. But some of those people had not been wounded in the bombing, and I began to get suspicious and had a sense of foreboding.

The effects of the bombing lingered long after the morning of the August 9, 1945. Amnesty International estimates that by the end of 1945, 70,000 people had died in Nagasaki as a result of the bombing. In the 40 years that followed, 24,000 more would perish as a result of radiation toxicity and burning.

On November 2, Japan signed the instruments of surrender, effectively surrendering control of the Japanese state and economy to the American establishment.

What did the American public think?

The unprecedented horror of nuclear warfare — so recklessly unleashed by the American executive without so much as a pale imitation of democratic decision-making or regard for human life — managed to cut through even the patriotic bravado of the World War II homefront. Though conservative elements of the public — and most of the military establishment — welcomed the use of the bombs and praised Truman’s choice to deploy such novel killing instruments, Americans were overwhelmingly disquieted by the attacks.

Even Truman felt the need to backpedal a little bit when the extent of the devastation became clear. Instead of the chest-pounding typical of wartime presidents, he offered a lukewarm statement that approaches, but stops short, of an apology — the political equivalent of a grimace and a shrug:

I realize the tragic significance of the atomic bomb … It is an awful responsibility which has come to us … We thank God that it has come to us, instead of to our enemies; and we pray that He may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purposes.

But even American Christian organizations — hardly known for their willingness to contradict the president or criticize the military — weren’t willing to concede this faux-theological justification for such careless destruction of human life. In 1946, the Federal Council of Churches issued a strongly-worded statement that read:

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.

Internationally, the response was even graver. Unsurprisingly, the bombings found little support among the millions of people living in Third World nations who now witnessed the scale of US cruelty during wartime, and who imagined their own hamlets, ports, and cities in the place of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And a war-weary Europe was largely unimpressed with the careless savagery of the American military, having recently seen their own cities demolished by bombs while the United States mainland remained entirely untouched.

The human effects of the bombings were so shocking that almost no one could celebrate them uncritically without inviting criticism from the Left, Right, and center.

But, true to form, the jingoistic American enchantment with US military capacity proved strong enough to make hometown heroes out of some participants in the nuclear attacks, including the navigator of the Hiroshima bomber Enola Gay, who was uncritically celebrated in his small Pennsylvania town’s local paper as recently as last year.

Ground Zero in Hiroshima, Japan. US Army

Ground Zero in Hiroshima, Japan. US Army.

What effects have the bombings had on global politics?

Following the introduction of nuclear weapons to the arsenals of the world’s largest military powers, a strong international movement for nuclear disarmament emerged, lambasting global leaders as careless cynics who had put humanity on the path towards annihilation. With the horror witnessed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki fresh in the minds of many, the movement quickly gained traction and became a real force in international politics, helping to encourage the passage of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1970 and contributing the commonly-used peace sign to the lexicon of popular political symbols.

In 1982, one million people demonstrated in New York City’s Central Park, demanding a bilateral end to nuclear arms testing in an effort to de-escalate the Cold War. It has been celebrated as the largest political demonstration in American history.

But despite this pushback, nuclear capability continues to be a potent bargaining chip in diplomatic negotiations. The United States occupies the ironic position of self-appointed moral gatekeeper of nuclear technology worldwide — as if the country’s spectacular demonstration of the bomb’s destructive potential in 1945 granted the US an historical right to determine who gets to have it and who doesn’t. And this has served to obscure the United States’ continued interest in developing increased nuclear capability and repeated flouting of its own treaties limiting nuclear weapons manufacturing.

Most recently, the international community has witnessed American saber-rattling in response to Iranian nuclear ambitions, and the specter of nuclear warfare has been used twice to justify US military interventions in Iraq.

How should we remember the bombings?

The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki offer a powerful reminder of the savagery of war. And the unilateral decision of the military and executive branches to develop nuclear weapons and launch the devastating attack offers insight into the power mechanics of the US state.

But despite the richness of these political conclusions — and the vital importance of building towards a world free of the possibility of nuclear war — there are moments when all we can do is mourn.

We mourn the hundreds of thousands of lives lost in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as socialists and as human beings.

Jonah Walters is a researcher at Jacobin.

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Why Americans Have Been Duped over the Use of the Atomic Bomb

Paul Ham

HNN   November 9, 2014

One day somebody in high office in Washington will have the intellectual honesty to acknowledge, if not apologise for, a grotesque distortion of the truth that the Truman Administration visited on the American people in the pages of Harper’s Magazine in 1947.

In an article bearing the name of Henry Stimson, the then octogenarian former War Secretary, and written by Truman fixers, the American government invented the notion that the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were ‘our least abhorrent choice’, avoided a land invasion of Japan and saved hundreds of thousands of American lives (a figure the media rounded off to ‘a million’ soon after publication).

This line of thinking has since insinuated itself into the public consciousness as the official version of the history of the nuclear destruction of two cities, in which 100,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed instantly and hundreds of thousands have since succumbed to cancers linked to radiation poisoning.

Yet, the Harper’s defense of the bomb was a gross political deception. It recast the story of the use of the weapon in soothing phrases the American public wanted to hear, and which have, for 70 years, been accepted as the atomic gospel, or, as historians like to say, the orthodox version of history (as distinct from revisionist versions that post-date Stimson’s original deception).

In fact, the Harper’s article was itself the first revision of history. It has since been replayed in thousands of news articles, history texts and online commentary, by a thoroughly gulled media and mainstream America, who have gorged themselves on this Hollywood ending to the war, the atomic slam dunk that avenged Pearl Harbor.

They all repeat, more or less, the Truman Administration’s original lie: that the atomic bombs forced Japan to surrender unconditionally, ended the war and saved hundreds of thousands if not a million American lives. So entrenched is this line of thinking in America that any deviation is branded ‘revisionist’ and hence inadmissible, perversely ignoring the fact that the ‘orthodox’ line grotesquely revises the facts and is the original travesty of the truth.

To demonstrate how far that travesty plays out, we need to compare the actual narrative of the last days of the war with Stimson’s 1947 reconstruction. In so doing, we do not expect to change the minds of the present and older generation, who will admit no deviation from their line on the bomb whatever evidence is thrown in their path. We hope merely to enlighten younger and/or future generations of Americans who are less susceptible to the lies of politicians and the compassionless hatred of the post-war generation.

In 1947, President Truman and members of his administration were concerned at the cumulative voices of churches, scientists, a few prominent journalists and the embryonic anti-nuclear movement, who felt they had been misled over what actually happened to the people of Hiroshima on 6th August and Nagasaki on 9th August, 1945, and were concerned at the alarming evidence of radiation sickness in the cities’ populations two years after the end of the war (cases of lymphoma linked to the bombs would peak in the early 1950s).

The Truman administration, on the suggestion of James B. Conant, a Harvard professor who had been closely involved in the bomb’s development, decided to try to quell these concerns by commissioning a long article, in Stimson’s redoubtable name, sourced to a memorandum from his assistant, Harvey Bundy, and written largely by Harvey’s precociously clever son, McGeorge. General Leslie Groves, the head of the Manhattan Project (which built the bomb) and several senior officials edited the draft. The article, “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb,” first appeared in the February 1947 issue of Harper’s, was reprinted in major newspapers and magazines, and aired on mainstream radio. It purported to be a straight statement of the facts, and quickly gained legitimacy as the official, ‘orthodox’ case for the weapon.

The Harper’s article (and a parallel piece in the Atlantic Monthly by Karl Compton) introduced the American public to the tendentious idea that the atomic bomb ‘saved’ hundreds of thousands (perhaps «several millions,» Compton claimed) of American lives by preventing an invasion of Japan. The article’s central plank was that America had had no choice other than to use the weapon. There was no way to force the Japanese to surrender other than to drop atomic bombs on them. By this argument, the atomic bombings were not only a patriotic duty but also a moral expedient:

“In the light of the alternatives which, upon a fair estimate, were open to us,” Stimson/Truman wrote, “I believe that no man, in our position and subject to our responsibilities, holding in his hands a weapon of such possibilities for accomplishing this purpose and saving those lives, could have failed to use it and afterwards looked his countrymen in the face. The decision to use the atomic bomb brought death to over a hundred thousand Japanese. No explanation can change that fact and I do not wish to gloss over it. But this deliberate, premeditated destruction was our least abhorrent choice. The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki put an end to the Japanese war. It stopped the fire raids, and the strangling blockade; it ended the ghastly specter of the clash of great land armies.”

Editors and the public warmly approved: here, they felt, was an honest justification for this horrific weapon: the A-Bomb did good, in the end. The Harper’s article put the American mind at ease, slipped into national folklore, and the Stimsonian spell appeared to tranquillize the nation’s critical faculties on the subject.

Yet the article’s case for the use of the weapon was profoundly flawed. Most erroneously it argued that a land invasion of Japan and the atomic weapons were mutually exclusive – a case of either-or. This nexus was made up after the war. In 1945, it was never a case of “either the bomb or the invasion.” The question did not arise. The facts show that in early July 1945, about two weeks before the bomb was tested, Truman and senior military advisers abandoned plans to invade Japan. The success of the atomic test had no bearing on this decision. In fact, Truman had already decided that it made no sense to risk American lives invading a nation that was already comprehensively defeated, ringed by the US navy blockade, possessed few supplies or raw materials, and was being daily flattened by General Curtis LeMay’s conventional firebombing air raids, which had already burnt down 66 Japanese cities (including the air strike on Tokyo on 9-10 March 1945, which incinerated more than 100,000 civilians in a single night and is today remembered as the single most deadly bombing raid in history).

Basic errors of fact and sins of omission compounded this monstrous deception. The article was plain wrong, for example, to claim that the ‘direct military use’ of the bomb had destroyed ‘active working parts of the Japanese war effort’. This was post-facto propaganda. Nobody on the powerful Target Committee (set up in early 1945 to decide which cities to target with the first nuclear weapons) pretended that Hiroshima was a military target of any significance: its barracks were barely functioning in 1945 and more than 90 per cent of Hiroshima’s war-related factories were on the city’s periphery. Hiroshima was shortlisted for nuclear destruction for very different reasons: in mid-1945 it remained a pristine city, full of ‘working men’s homes’ as yet undisturbed by LeMay’s conventional air raids. Its annihilation would thus show off the weapon’s destructive force, and supposedly ‘shock Japan into submission’. The Harper’s article made no mention of this, peddling the notion that ‘workers’ homes’ could somehow be construed as legitimate military targets.

As to Stimson’s claim that America used the bomb reluctantly – ‘our least abhorrent choice’ – suggesting that Washington and the Pentagon had wrestled painfully with alternatives, the facts demonstrate precisely the opposite. Everyone involved in making the bomb wanted, indeed hoped, to use the weapon as soon as possible, and gave no serious consideration to any other course of action. The Target and Interim Committees (the latter set up to examine the control of nuclear weapons after the war) swiftly dispensed with alternatives – for example, a warning, a demonstration, or attacking a genuine military target. In fact, Secretary of State James Byrnes rejected most of these possibilities in a few minutes over lunch in the Pentagon. No doubt they were fraught with risks, and possibly unworkable, but if Truman was serious about considering alternatives to the bomb, he might have more closely examined them.

Byrnes argued that a prior demonstration of the bomb would imperil the lives of Allied POWs whom the Japanese would move to the target area (the US Air Force had shown no such restraint during the conventional air war, which daily endangered POWs); that a demonstration may be a dud (unlikely, given the successful test of the plutonium weapon near Alamogordo, and the fact that Manhattan scientists saw no need even to test the gun-type uranium bomb used on Hiroshima); they had only two bombs so had to use them (untrue – at least three were prepared for August, and several in line for September through to November); and that there were no military targets big enough to contain the bomb (Truk Naval Base was considered and rejected; no other military target was seriously examined except Kokura, a city containing a large arsenal. The attempt to bomb it was abandoned due to bad weather, and Bockscar, the delivery plane, dropped the weapon on Nagasaki instead). In short, the use of the bomb was an active choice, a desirable outcome, not a regrettable or painful last resort, as Truman insisted. Every high office-holder believed, and supported, its use at the time: ‘I never had any doubt it should be used,’ Truman said on many occasions. The Harper’s phrase ‘our least abhorrent choice’ thus grossly misrepresents a gung-ho, diabolically zealous, enterprise.

Stimson’s least persuasive claim was that the atomic bombs prevented hundreds of thousands of American casualties (dead, wounded and missing). This number has since been rounded up to 1 million or ‘millions’, and has become a particularly stubborn zombie. Yet a school child’s arithmetic is enough to do the job of killing it: in 1945, the number of American (and allied) combat troops earmarked for the planned (but never approved) invasion of Japan numbered about 750,000. That is well short of a million, of course. Yet for the sake of clarity, let’s believe the post-war consensus of a million casualties. If true, that means every American soldier would have been killed, wounded, or MIA during the land invasion of Japan. The notion is absurd, of course, and hardly reflects well on the fighting ability of the US armed forces, who would have confronted a hungry and demoralized nation whose airforce and navy had been destroyed, and whose skies were totally controlled by American bombers and fighters. Yes, Japan retained substantial ground forces, as well as the fierce loyalty of its people, but they were undersupplied, ill-equipped and lacked artillery and air cover: sitting ducks, in other words, to US strafing raids.

In truth, the actual estimate of likely casualties of a land invasion, drawn up by the Joint Chiefs in a meeting with Truman in July 1945, was 31,000. The count was later lifted to between 60,000-90,000, nowhere near the post-war estimate of up to one million, which can now be seen for what it was: a post-facto justification for the bomb, conjured by Washington out of thin air, to ease America’s troubled conscience.

The Harper’s article also claimed, wrongly, that the atomic bombs had forced Japan to ‘unconditional surrender’. While the bombs obviously contributed to Japan’s general sense of defeat, not a shred of evidence supports the contention that the Japanese leadership surrendered in direct response to the atomic attacks. On the contrary, when they heard of the annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan’s hardline militarists shrugged off the news – that a ‘special bomb’ had destroyed two more cities – and vowed to continue fighting.

If you disbelieve this, read the Minutes of the epic meetings of the samurai leadership in August 1945. The ‘Big Six’, the ministers who ran Japan from a bunker beneath Tokyo at the time, barely acknowledged Nagasaki’s destruction when a messenger arrived with the news on 9th August. The messenger, who had interrupted their meeting to discuss Russia’s invasion of Japanese occupied territory the day before, was abruptly dismissed. The loss of another city of civilians was hardly of interest. In fact, state propaganda responded to Hiroshima and Nagasaki by girding the nation for a continuing war – against a nuclear-armed America.

Nor would a nuclear-battered Japan consider modifying its terms of ‘conditional surrender’. The Big Six clung stubbornly to their last condition – the retention of the Emperor – to the bitter end. A regime that cared so little for its people except insofar as they served as cannon fodder in a last, miserable act of national seppuku; a nation so fearful of the Soviet Union that it sent message after message to Moscow imploring it to intervene and start peace negotiations (on Japan’s terms, of course, which Truman rightly rejected); a people so steadfast in their refusal to yield that they were preparing to defend their cities against further atomic bombs – this was not a country easily ‘shocked into submission’ by the sight of a mushroom cloud in the sky (and it is worth remembering that, the day after, Tokyo had no film or photographs of the bomb; only US pamphlets and military reports claiming it had been used).

A greater threat – in Tokyo’s eyes – than nuclear weapons drove Japan finally to contemplate a (conditional) surrender: the regime’s suffocating fear of Russia. The Soviet invasion on 8 August crushed the Kwantung Army’s frontline units within days, and sent a crippling loss of confidence across Tokyo. The Japanese warlords despaired; Russia, their erstwhile ‘neutral’ partner, had turned into their worst nightmare: the invasion invoked the spectre of a Communist Japan, no less. Russia matched iron with iron, battalion with battalion. This was a war that Tokyo’s samurai leaders understood, a clash they respected – in stark contrast to America’s incendiary and atomic raids, which they saw as cowardly attacks on defenceless civilians.

In the end, Japan surrendered conditionally, on 14th August, after Washington had agreed to Tokyo’s final terms: that Emperor Hirohito would be allowed to live, and the Imperial Dynasty, to continue. This condition the US government effectively met in the Byrnes Note, sent on 11th August, two days after Nagasaki’s destruction. In sum, the atomic bombs had had no direct influence on Tokyo’s decision, despite Hirohito citing the ‘cruel weapon’ in his surrender speech (one of the more grotesque pieces of propaganda in this sorry episode).

In the end, what are we left with? America used the bomb, without warning, in an attempt to extract ‘unconditional surrender’ from a defeated foe, ‘manage’ (ie draw a line against) Russian aggression in Europe and Asia, and avenge Pearl Harbor, as Truman and Byrnes later said. The bomb achieved none of those goals (unless the neutron saturation of two cities is accepted as proportionate punishment for Pearl Harbor). In fact, Tokyo surrendered with its sole condition intact; and Russia, unperturbed by the first use of atomic weapons in anger, continued to stamp and snort and foment communist revolution around the world, before rushing to join the nuclear arms race.

In short, the Truman administration’s attempt, in Harper’s magazine, to justify the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has no basis in fact, and was merely a post-facto piece of propaganda. Yet it has been accepted as ‘orthodox’ history. Let us call it by its correct name: a ‘revision’ of the truth, which is a polite way of saying it was a pack of lies. This article asks the reader do reconsider the source of those lies. Nothing, no twisted logic or ethical somersault or infantile ‘they started it’ etc can justify the massacre of innocent civilians. We debase ourselves, and the history of civilisation, if we accept that Japanese atrocities warranted an American atrocity in reply.

Paul Ham is an Australian historian who specialises in the 20th century history of war, politics and diplomacy. His latest book is «Hiroshima Nagasaki» (Thomas Dunne, 2014).

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Hiroshima: What People Think Now

HNN  August 8, 2010

Hiroshima Peace Memorial, also known as the A-Bomb Dome. The atomic bomb which destroyed Hiroshima detonated almost precisely above the building. Credit: Wikipedia

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