THE WISDOM FUND: News & Views
August 3, 2005
Green Left Weekly

Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Worst Terror Attacks in History

Truman agreed at a meeting that Japan was 'looking for peace'. His senior generals and political advisers told him there was no need to use the A-bomb. But the bombs were dropped anyway. 'Impressing Russia was more important than ending the war'.

by Norm Dixon

August 6 and August 9 will mark the 60th anniversaries of the US atomic-bomb attacks on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In Hiroshima, an estimated 80,000 people were killed in a split second. Some 13 square kilometres of the city was obliterated. By December, at least another 70,000 people had died from radiation and injuries.

Three days after Hiroshima's destruction, the US drooped an A-bomb on Nagasaki, resulting in the deaths of at least 70,000 people before the year was out.

Since 1945, tens of thousands more residents of the two cities have continued to suffer and die from radiation-induced cancers, birth defects and still births.

A tiny group of US rulers met secretly in Washington and callously ordered this indiscriminate annihilation of civilian populations. They gave no explicit warnings. They rejected all alternatives, preferring to inflict the most extreme human carnage possible. They ordered and had carried out the two worst terror acts in human history.

The 60th anniversaries will inevitably be marked by countless mass media commentaries and speeches repeating the 60-year-old mantra that there was no other choice but to use A-bombs in order to avoid a bitter, prolonged invasion of Japan.

On July 21, the British New Scientist magazine undermined this chorus when it reported that two historians had uncovered evidence revealing that "the US decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ... was meant to kick-start the Cold War [against the Soviet Union, Washington's war-time ally] rather than end the Second World War". Peter Kuznick, director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at the American University in Washington stated that US President Harry Truman's decision to blast the cities "was not just a war crime, it was a crime against humanity".

With Mark Selden, a historian from Cornell University in New York, Kuznick studied the diplomatic archives of the US, Japan and the USSR. They found that three days before Hiroshima, Truman agreed at a meeting that Japan was "looking for peace". His senior generals and political advisers told him there was no need to use the A-bomb. But the bombs were dropped anyway. "Impressing Russia was more important than ending the war", Selden told the New Scientist.

While the capitalist media immediately dubbed the historians' "theory" "controversial", it accords with the testimony of many central US political and military players at the time, including General Dwight Eisenhower, who stated bluntly in a 1963 Newsweek interview that "the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing".

Truman's chief of staff, Admiral William Leahy, stated in his memoirs that "the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender."

At the time though, Washington cold-bloodedly decided to obliterate the lives of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children to show off the terrible power of its new super weapon and underline the US rulers' ruthless preparedness to use it.

These terrible acts were intended to warn the leaders of the Soviet Union that their cities would suffer the same fate if the USSR attempted to stand in the way of Washington's plans to create an "American Century" of US global domination. Nuclear scientist Leo Szilard recounted to his biographers how Truman's secretary of state, James Byrnes, told him before the Hiroshima attack that "Russia might be more manageable if impressed by American military might and that a demonstration of the bomb may impress Russia".

Drunk from the success of its nuclear bloodletting in Japan, Washington planned and threatened the use of nuclear weapons on at least 20 occasions in the 1950s and 1960s, only being restrained when the USSR developed enough nuclear-armed rockets to usher in the era of "mutually assured destruction", and the US rulers' fear that their use again of nuclear weapons would led to a massive anti-US political revolt by ordinary people around the world.

Washington's policy of nuclear terror remains intact. The US refuses to rule out the first use of nuclear weapons in a conflict. Its latest Nuclear Posture Review envisages the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear "rogue states" and it is developing a new generation of "battlefield" nuclear weapons.

Fear of the political backlash that would be caused in the US and around the globe by the use of nuclear weapons remains the main restraint upon the atomaniacs in Washington. On this 60th anniversary year of history's worst acts of terror, the most effective thing that peace-loving people around the world can do to keep that fear alive in the minds of the US rulers is to recommit ourselves to defeating Washington's current "local" wars of terror in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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[Norm Dixon is a former editor of Australia's leading radical newspaper, Green Left Weekly, and continues to write regularly on the impact of US foreign policy and the real nature of the"war on terror".]

"9/11: U.S. Accuses Iran, Plans Nuclear Attack," The Wisdom Fund, July 21, 2003

Amy Goodman and David Goodman, "Hiroshima Cover-up: How the War Department's Timesman Won a Pulitzer," CommonDreams.org, August 10, 2004

Patrick J. Buchanan, "Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki: Terror on a Monumental Scale," CommonDreams.org, September 1, 2004

[But the U.S. had already crossed a terrifying moral threshold when it accepted the targeting of civilians as a legitimate instrument of warfare. --David M. Kennedy, "Hiroshima: Crossing the Moral Threshold," Time, August 1, 2005]

Amy Goodman and David Goodman, "The Hiroshima Cover-Up," Baltimore Sun, August 5, 2005

[The most enduring lie is that the atomic bomb was dropped to end the war in the Pacific and save lives. "Even without the atomic bombing attacks," concluded the United States Strategic Bombing Survey of 1946, "air supremacy over Japan could have exerted sufficient pressure to bring about unconditional surrender and obviate the need for invasion. 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 ... 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 National Archives in Washington contain US government documents that chart Japanese peace overtures as early as 1943. None was pursued. A cable sent on May 5, 1945 by the German ambassador in Tokyo and intercepted by the US dispels any doubt that the Japanese were desperate to sue for peace, including "capitulation even if the terms were hard". Instead, the US secretary of war, Henry Stimson, told President Truman he was "fearful" that the US air force would have Japan so "bombed out" that the new weapon would not be able "to show its strength". . . .

Since 1945, the United States is believed to have been on the brink of using nuclear weapons at least three times. In waging their bogus "war on terror", the present governments in Washington and London have declared they are prepared to make "pre-emptive" nuclear strikes against non-nuclear states. With each stroke toward the midnight of a nuclear Armageddon, the lies of justification grow more outrageous. Iran is the current "threat". But Iran has no nuclear weapons and the disinformation that it is planning a nuclear arsenal comes largely from a discredited CIA-sponsored Iranian opposition group, the MEK - just as the lies about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction originated with the Iraqi National Congress, set up by Washington.--John Pilger, "The lies of Hiroshima live on, props in the war crimes of the 20th century," Guardian, August 6, 2005]

[Hiroshima did contain an important military base, used as a staging area for Southeast Asia. But the bomb had been aimed at the very center of a city of 350,000, a continuation of the American policy of bombing civilian populations in Japan to undermine the morale of the enemy.--Greg Mitchell, "The Day After Hiroshima: How the Press Reported the News -- And the 'Half-Truths' That Emerged," editorandpublisher.com, August 7, 2009]

"Atomic Cover-Up: The Hidden Story Behind the U.S. Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki," democracynow.org, August 9, 2011

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