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Lesson from Nagasaki: Lighten up on Dark Tourism

“I see those people from Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the news every year and I wonder why they just can’t let it go. Hasn’t it been long enough already?”

These words were spoken to my wife recently by a Japanese co-worker when we returned from Nagasaki. This attitude might seem startling to peace activists in Japan and throughout the world who participate in memorial events every year on August 6th and 9th, but it is a sobering reminder that many people in Japan and throughout the world have let the memory fade, not even knowing what they don’t know about the perils of nuclear weapons as they exist in today’s world.

In a consumer society based on employment in a military economy, the institutions people pass through in their formative years do very little to teach history, political consciousness or the meaning of citizenship. Whatever lessons exist are delivered as tedious, obligatory lectures, followed by multiple choice tests. Lessons might also have come from elders in the form of scoldings about how tough things were during the war, how “you youngsters” have no idea and so on. The only thing worse than no history lessons is bad history lessons. Japanese people, in particular, may be inured to them because of an overdose of obligatory exposure to the rituals of remembrance.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki also invoke uncomfortable feelings of shame about losing the war, and shame about responsibility for it. The hibakusha and all the memorials in the two bombed cities evoke these conflicted feelings, so many Japanese would rather turn away, just as many Americans would rather turn away for inverse reasons.

While living in Japan I have met people who talked about visiting Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but they never mentioned the atom bomb. The only thing they wanted to talk about was the local foods they ate, or maybe a visit to Dejima, the old Dutch and Portuguese trading post in Nagasaki that used to be the most famous thing about the city. They talked about these visits like they would talk about a visit to any other place. Likewise, residents of the two cities have millions of good reasons to appreciate everything that happened before the war and after it, all the things that make their cities just like other cities. No one wants their city to be just about that one traumatic thing that happened one day long ago.

I had lived in Japan for many years before I visited either Hiroshima or Nagasaki, partly because I had other priorities, and partly because it just felt a little strange to visit a place just for that. I knew the history quite well, but I still questioned my motives. I finally went when I had someone to visit there, someone who just happened to be a historian who specialized in the cultural impacts of nuclear technology.

That was Robert Jacobs, who was interviewed on a local Hiroshima English language podcast shortly after President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima on May 27, 2016. During the interview he shed some light on why people are becoming less reluctant to visit traumatized places and engage in what has recently become known as “dark tourism:”

I met a religious studies scholar… who said… dark tourism has replaced religious pilgrimage… Going to places where history happened, especially traumatic history happened… gives your life more authenticity… This has been on the rise, and it’s partly a way to infuse our lives with meaning and connection to a world that is often at a distance from us…  to infuse your own life with a deeper sense of the importance of peace because you’ve been to some place where peace is so important. It’s an emotional and a spiritual renewal to go to places like that, and the use of the word “dark” doesn’t mean that there is a dark meaning. It just means that it’s sites of historical trauma. People go there not to gawk at trauma or death but because these are the sites that resonate in our mythology of the world we live in. Religious sites don’t resonate so much the way that they used to, but people like to visit places that give their lives a sense of being connected to mythic things. In our lives the mythic things are often large historical tragedies, and in coming to a place like Hiroshima… “dark” just implies a place where a dark thing happened, but the motives of the people who come here is to increase their sense of connectedness and their sense of meaning… People will invoke having been to Hiroshima as a means of having authority. They will say, “I’ve been to Hiroshima… I can tell you about how bad nuclear weapons are…” These are empowering reasons that people visit… The phrase “dark tourism” certainly doesn’t imply that the motives of people are in any way dark. [1]

There could be a downside to claiming authority just because one has visited a place where something bad happened. It depends on what one learns about the entire context of the traumatic event. Visitors to Hiroshima could leave with widely divergent interpretations of what happened there in 1945. In the end there is much to be said for a pilgrimage to a local library in order to connect and infuse one’s life with a deeper connection to history.

I can say that my visits to Hiroshima and Nagasaki achieved something that was missing in all that I knew about what happened there in August 1945. No matter how much I had learned from books and films and second-hand reports, it didn’t become fully real in a certain sense until I could confirm it with my own senses, when I stood at ground zero, walked through the cities, visited the museums, and talked to eyewitnesses to the events. That’s what is meant by “connection.”

One of the great things about both cities is the streetcars. They still run down the routes that existed in 1945, and though they must have been rebuilt and refurbished many times since then, they haven’t been modernized. They look, and feel, and sound just like the streetcars of old, and they are the means by which most visitors get from the central train stations to the atomic bomb memorial sites.

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On August 8th I rode the streetcar in Nagasaki with my wife and son, from downtown to the Urakami district where the museum and hypocenter are located. As we got closer the streetcar became very crowded, as groups of students were in town to attend the annual memorial the next day. I was standing, and my wife and son were sitting. A white-haired woman in her late eighties got on. She was stooping over a cane, but she pushed her way through the crowded aisle with considerable force. I tapped my son and told him to give up his seat. She took it with quick smile of gratitude then immediately began to talk to my wife:

Everyone’s going to the Peace Park today. That’s good. Good to see so many young people here… I wasn’t here that day. I was living down the line in Sasebo, but I had been called up to work in a factory here. For some reason I didn’t have to go to work that day. But then later I was told to get to Nagasaki and report for work. I got down to Sasebo station, and when that train from Nagasaki came in, people just fell out of it and collapsed right there on the platform, never got up again. Piles of them, blackened and sick. They just spilled out of the train car. I’ve never seen people in such a horrid state. Every city was getting bombed. We expected it, but obviously something very strange had happened in Nagasaki. I didn’t ride the train that day, but I went later… Sorry, I’m talking a lot, but I have to. Tomorrow the prime minister will come and make his speech again. So useless. We are really disappointed in him. I never used to talk to strangers like this, but now I talk to everyone because we have to. There are so few of us left.

Obviously, this is a translation and a paraphrase of a conversation recalled by my wife and related to me when we got off the streetcar. The reader may think I’ve embellished it, but this was the gist of it: the determination to tell the story, the need to condemn the present direction of the country, and thus the loss of all concern about what anyone might think about the unsolicited sharing of these stories with strangers on a streetcar. Looking back on it now, it seems to be the best way to explain to that smug, ignorant co-worker why people can’t and don’t have to “just get over it.” The experience also taught me why people should dare to be “dark tourists” and take in everything they see and hear when they visit places of historical trauma, whether it’s Auschwitz, Hiroshima or Wounded Knee. In this case, there was nothing like getting the story firsthand on a Nagasaki streetcar.

Our short visit to the city had other highlights. I was invited to join a study tour led by the historian of American University, Peter Kuznick (co-author of The Untold History of the United States), and there I met his students and others from Kyoto’s Ritsumeikan University. A famous spokesperson for the  hibakusha community was also there, 71-year-old Koko Tanimoto Kondo, who has devoted her life to speaking about the atomic bombings in both Japanese and English. Her father was Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto, [2] a Methodist minister who was portrayed in John Hersey’s Hiroshima, the first report that exposed American audiences to the horror of what had happened on the ground on August 6th, 1945. [3][4] Reverend Tanimoto began a campaign to have nations dedicate August 6th as World Peace Day, and Koko, who was only eight months old at the end of the war, continued her father’s mission as she grew older.

Another hibakusha, Kazutoshi Otsuka, spoke to the study group about the life he has devoted to telling the world about the necessity of abolishing nuclear weapons. He was ten years old at the time of the blast, and survived because he was at the edge of the zone of worst damage and was indoors at the time. He emerged from the debris that had fallen over him to find the city in ruins, utterly transformed from what it had been just a short time ago. The downtown area had been spared, but in Urakami almost all the buildings and thousands of people had just vanished. The last human voice he heard before the blast was his friend calling from outside, “The cicadas are singing. Let’s go catch some.” Did he die instantly in the blast? Did he run home and get caught in the fires? Did he die more slowly from radiation? Mr. Otsuka searched for his friend for a long time afterward, but it became obvious that he had vanished on the wind just like the last words he had spoken. For seventy-one years, while he has told his story to all who will listen, Mr. Otsuka has carried with him those simple words of invitation from his friend to enjoy a summer day.

The most famous icon of the atomic attacks is the Hiroshima Dome, one of the few structures left standing, but one which was almost demolished in the rush to rebuild the city and erase all signs of what had happened there. Those who wanted it saved had a hard time convincing city hall that it would be worthwhile to preserve it. There is nothing similar in Nagasaki, except for some portions of the walls of Shiroyama Elementary School near the hypocenter. Like the dome in Hiroshima, its position directly under the blast allowed it to be not completely demolished by the lateral blast force. After the fires were out, the remnants of the school on a small hill stood as the only desolate reminder of all that had been in this section of the city called Urakami. However, it wasn’t as photogenic as the Hiroshima Dome, and Nagasaki is more out of the way and receives fewer visitors, so it never became an iconic symbol of the atom bomb. In any case, the rebuilt school still functions as a school, so it wouldn’t be able to deal with a constant stream of visitors.

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The original wall with the new school built around it.

We learned that every year on August 9th the school holds a remembrance ceremony for students, the community, and any visitors who wish to attend. The students all come back for a day from their summer vacations and dress up in formal attire in the 30-degree humidity. It is a mourning ceremony, so the adults wear black funeral suits and dresses.

My wife and I decided to get up early on the 9th and take our son to the ceremony. We had attended many Japanese school ceremonies with our children before, and this one was just like all the rest, but so different from all others as well.

A steep staircase leads up to the school, and Koko Tanimoto was already there at the top, beaming a welcoming smile to us. There was something from her father in that smile because she made it feel like we were being welcomed to church on a Sunday morning. We walked around the grounds and looked inside the restored section that holds artifacts and memorials for the disappeared. In a grove of trees just off the sports ground they still sometimes find bone chips a few inches down in the soil.

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After the ceremony, a teacher talks to a group of students about the grove. 

In his speech at the ceremony, the principal said everything one would expect at such an occasion, going over the events of that day and the weeks and months that followed, and the eventual rebuilding of the school and the city. Several times he mentioned “passing the baton,” stressing to the children their heavy responsibility to carry on the memory that all other graduates of the school have carried into their adult lives.

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Shiroyama Elementary School, in the days after the bombing.

Around the third time I heard that word baton, I began to feel uneasy about it. I started to wonder how many people had gone through that school wondering “Why us?” They didn’t drop the bomb. They didn’t ask for this burden, and they must wonder why the whole country and the whole world is not doing more to pass this baton to future generations. I didn’t visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or make friends in the peace movement, suffering from any delusions that it is easy to change the world. I think most of my fellow travelers and the hibakusha feel the same. We know what we are up against, and we know how badly the masters of war have betrayed us. The hibakusha’s commitment to peace makes for a paradoxical taboo against expressing anger and rage, but I suspect the survivors have reached old age bitterly aware that the world has done far too little to act on their call for the elimination of nuclear weapons. It must feel like cruel mockery as they reach their later years. There were many hopeful periods, such as the thaw between Khrushchev and Kennedy that was emerging just before JFK’s assassination, or the end of the Warsaw Pact in the late 1980s, but each time, to borrow a line from Leonard Cohen, the holy dove was caught again, bought and sold, and bought again. [5]

There must have been very many angry hibakusha over the decades, people who kept their rage contained within them, people who drank, people who became outcasts or extremists, but the openly angry people never got invited to official ceremonies. One can only speculate about the motives of the anonymous person who threatened to bomb Shiroyama Elementary School and other schools in Nagasaki in August 2016 (at least there was an advance warning), but it speaks to a very perverse disdain that exists in some people toward the victims rather than the perpetrators. [6]

Overt anger has been kept out of sight, but an acceptable outlet for covert anger is mainstream politics, where those in the ruling party dream of restoring the glory of the empire and their notion of “national honor” while accumulating plutonium from “the peaceful atom” and biding their time under American subservience. This is how contemporary Japanese society developed its neurotic ambivalence about its history and place in the world.

The various forms of anger have been reported by other writers who know the experiences of hibakusha well. Shortly after President Obama’s speech in Hiroshima, the journalist and filmmaker John Pilger had this to say:

… the cynicism of great power and great reckless power, in many respects is expressed at Hiroshima where… all the evidence shows that both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were sacrificed as America’s first expressions of violent power in the Cold War that was then underway. So for Obama to go and talk about the atomic bombs as if God dropped them… He used the passive voice… and really quite vomitus language like “we must have the courage to care.” So [according to Obama] no one dropped the atomic bombs. The United States certainly didn’t kill all those hundreds of thousands of people. It didn’t cause all that suffering. It’s something that we should all express sympathy to. It was like a kind of high mass and the great divinity was there, but not the United States. That [the US] is not to blame. That’s been Obama’s role as a PR man extraordinaire, and he came into power and people fell on their knees… This was a kind of second coming. There was a problem for the last few years with re-igniting Afghanistan and Iraq, and destroying Libya and so on, but the fawning has begun again as Obama’s time in office nears an end, and for people, for journalists to report–as I say the deeply cynical action of Obama and the United States in Hiroshima the other day–to report it without the context of all those survivors–and I’ve interviewed many of them–of how angry they were… they’re polite people and they’re very elderly… but they were angry. [7]

Two months later The Mainichi reported more precisely on this anger in describing how the secretary-general of the Japan Confederation of A-and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations regretted his initial praise of Obama’s speech when he had time to read an accurate translation the next day:

Terumi Tanaka, 84, was in attendance on May 27 this year when Obama was making what was the first visit of a sitting U.S. president to Hiroshima…

There was an interpreter for Obama’s speech, but the speech was not handed out on paper… Sentences from the latter part of the speech, such as his reference to a future in which “Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known … as the start of our own moral awakening,” had stuck with him, and he praised the sentence as “excellent words.” He noted, however, that he was “disappointed” that Obama had said, “We may not realize this goal (of a world without nuclear weapons) in my lifetime.” The next morning… Tanaka opened a page containing the Japanese translation of the speech. It began, “Seventy-one years ago, on a bright cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed.” Tanaka was stunned. “Death did not ‘fall from the sky.’ This is making the death abstract. This is absolutely unacceptable,” Tanaka thought. While on board the train he opened his laptop and began to write his “Essay of Regret.” As he typed, erased and retyped, he says, “I began to get angry and stopped midway. They ‘created’ the death. As a sign of apology, I want them to eliminate nuclear weapons,” he says. [8]

Another expression of this anger came from Setsuko Thurlow, a hibakusha who has lived for many years in Toronto. She was received at the White House in June, where she met the man who wrote the Hiroshima speech and hand-delivered a message for the president in which she listed the concrete measures that need to be taken to make the speech amount to more than aspirational fluff:

  1. Stop the U.S. boycott of international nuclear disarmament meetings and join the 127 countries that have endorsed the Humanitarian Pledge to create a new legal instrument and new norms for a nuclear weapons ban treaty as a first step in their elimination and prohibition.
  2. Stop spending money to modernize the US nuclear arsenal, a staggering $1 trillion over the next three decades, and use this money to meet human needs and protect our environment.
  3. Take nuclear weapons off high alert and review the aging command and control systems that have been the subject of recent research exposing a culture of neglect and the alarming regularity of accidents involving nuclear weapons. [9]

Much more could be said by the hibakusha community about issues not relating directly to disarmament, such as the worsening mistrust between the nuclear powers and the proliferation of conventional military power that leads so many nations to favor the “cheap and easy” asymmetrical nuclear deterrent. [10] The obstacles to peace are stacked high, and anger seems to be the only logical response. But I will hold onto the memory of  Koko Tanimoto smiling at the top of those stairs at Shiroyama, greeting the late pilgrims like me who’ve finally decided to make this simple journey.

Notes

[1] J.J. Walsh, interviewer, “Professor Bo Jacobs on the Obama Visit,” Get Hiroshima, May 30, 2016, 18:00~

[2] “Hiroshima Survivor Meets Enola Gay Pilot,” This is Your Life, 1955. The full interview with Reverend Tanimoto can be viewed on YouTube.

[3] Robert Jacobs, “Reconstructing the Perpetrator’s Soul by Reconstructing the Victim’s Body: The Portrayal of the ‘Hiroshima Maidens’ by the Mainstream Media in the United States,” Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific, Issue 24, June 2010.

[4] Tadatoshi Akiba, L. Wittner and T. Taue, “Why Hiroshima and Nagasaki Day Events Matter,” Asia Pacific Journal, August 1, 2007.

[5] Leonard Cohen, “Anthem,” The Future, Columbia Records, 1992.

[6] “‘Hibakusha’ talks scrapped after Nagasaki bomb threat,” Asahi Shinbun, August 18, 2016.

[7] Afshin Rattansi, interviewer, “ISIS in Fallujah & World War III with John Pilger (Episode 350 of Going Underground),” Russia Today, June 4, 2016. What John Pilger described as a “passive voice” construction could more accurately be called a usage of an intransitive verb which conceals the agent of the action. The speech writer had various syntactical choices available: President Truman ordered the bombs to be dropped or The crew of the Enola Gay dropped the bomb, The bomb fell or, at the level of greatest possible abstraction, Death fell from the sky.

[8] Terumi Tanaka, “Hibakusha: A-bomb sufferers’ group official regrets praising Obama speech,” The Mainichi, August 2, 2016.

[9] To Barack Obama from Setsuko Thurlow, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, August 6, 2016.

[10] Richard Rhodes, Arsenals of Folly: The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007), 101. Many who favor nuclear deterrence believe that it has prevented a third world war that would have been fought with a massive arsenal of conventional weapons, with millions of casualties. In this argument, a nuclear arsenal is preferable, and it comes at a bargain price for nations large and small. Rhodes’ book argues for abolition of nuclear arms, but he noted how their “low cost” (not considering what economists call “externalities”) became a rationale for their development: “Nuclear warheads cost the United States about $250,000 each: less than a fighter bomber, less than a missile, less than a patrol boat, less than a tank.”

Source:

Nuclear Free by 2045?

https://nf2045.blogspot.fr/2016/08/lesson-from-nagasaki-lighten-up-on-dark.html

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August 21, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Why Japan? The racism of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings

“Were he alive today, Dr. King would still be using the ‘unarmed truth’ to warn that we stand at the very precipice of the hell of thermonuclear self-immolation … We must transform the world power struggle from the nuclear arms race to a creative contest to harness man’s genius for the purpose of making peace and prosperity a reality for all.”

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How the US saw the Japanese people in 1942

As we remember the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki this month 71 years ago, we have largely forgotten the racist propaganda that made it possible, writes LINDA PENZ GUNTER. We have likewise sanitised history to exclude the voices of African Americans who loudly protested the use of nuclear weapons, connecting them to American colonialism abroad and racism at home.

This month 71 years ago, the US cropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on August 6 and 9 respectively.

‘Racism’ is probably not the first word that springs to mind as we reflect on these terrible events, and their immediate and ongoign aftermath.

But according to a fascinating book by Vincent J. Intondi, published last year and entitled African Americans Against the Bomb, it was the recognition of those bombings as an act of racism that drew African Americans into the nuclear disarmament movement and future wars that kept them there.

As Intondi explains in his introduction, “Black activists’ fear that race played a role in the decision to use atomic bombs only increased when the United States threatened to use nuclear weapons in Korea in the 1950s and in Vietnam a decade later.”

This singling out of non-white enemies for the use or threat of atomic weapons drew African Americans not only into the nuclear abolition movement, Intondi contends, but into a form of social activism that connected many issues of civil and human rights on a global, rather than national scale.

The black anti-nuclear campaign: airbrushed out of history

“Since 1945, black activists had made the case that nuclear weapons, colonialism, and the black freedom struggle were connected”, writes Intondi.

African Americans recognized colonialism “From the United States’ obtaining uranium from the Belgian-controlled Congo to France’s testing a nuclear weapon in the Sahara”, Intondi writes. It was the use and continued testing of the atomic bomb, “that motivated many in the black community to continue to fight for peace and equality as part of a global struggle for human rights.”

Those who joined the struggle against nuclear weapons included Martin Luther King, Jr., of course, but also W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson and many others. Yet it is rarely their faces that are evoked when there is discussion of the Ban the Bomb marches or, later, the rise of SANE/Freeze.

Perhaps no one better embodied that clear understanding of the link between the struggle for peace and justice and the arms race than Bayard Rustin, posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013 by President Obama.

Yet despite Rustin’s outspoken role for peace and disarmament, the word ‘nuclear’ never appears in his Wikipedia biography. Rustin’s leadership in the anti-nuclear movement, like that of many of his fellow African Americans, has vanished from the history books. But not from Intondi’s.

Dehumanising an entire people

The debate about whether the US was justified in dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki persists today. The most widely accepted – but ferociously challenged – argument in favor is that it was necessary to force the surrender of Japan and thus end World War II.

But the underpinnings of racism are glaringly obvious. Intondi quotes poet Langston Hughes asking the question voiced by many others; why did the United States not drop the atomic bomb on Germany or Italy?

The answer can be found in the appalling and vitriolic anti-Japanese sentiment Intondi cites, whipped up to dehumanize an entire population. This includes the illustrious Time magazine which declared that “The ordinary unreasoning Jap is ignorant. Perhaps he is human. Nothing … indicates it.”

Clearly, these were slurs with which the African American community were all too familiar. It enabled them to empathize with the innocent victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and, more broadly, with those around the world oppressed by colonialism.

Consequently, according to Intondi, the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan was viewed through a very different lens by the African American community than by white America. Du Bois recognized immediately what the legacy of Hiroshima and Nagaski would be. It would lead, he warned, to a corporate conspiracy of profiteering that would impact the working people of the US the most severely.

“Big business wants war to keep your mind off social reform”, Intondi quotes Du Bois as saying at a 1950 Harlem press conference. “It would rather spend your taxes for atom bombs than for schools because in this way it makes more money.”

All we are saying, is give peace a chance

Today, the US is still spending far more on atomic weapons than schools. The Obama administration announced a $1 trillion spending plan over the next 30 years to “upgrade and refurbish” nuclear weapons. (Recently, an Obama spokesman hinted that the president may seek to considerably reduce that bill before leaving office.)

But the voices of African Americans like Robeson, Du Bois, Dorothy Height, Dick Gregory and others are no longer leading the nuclear disarmament movement. Today’s nuclear abolition crowd is largely white, progressive and almost entirely grey-haired.

Why did they disappear? Many African Americans in the anti-nuclear movement of the 1950s and ’60s were firmly on the Left, some members of, or fellow travelers with, the Communist Party. The McCarthy witch hunts and general Red baiting, forced a retreat on all fronts, including among some African Americans, Intondi suggests.

Some hung on for a while. Twenty years after King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, at an August 1983 anniversary march, the official platform still proclaimed the importance of nuclear disarmament, as Intondi quotes in his book:

“Were he alive today, Dr. King would still be using the ‘unarmed truth’ to warn that we stand at the very precipice of the hell of thermonuclear self-immolation … We must transform the dynamics of the world power struggle from the nuclear arms race to a creative contest to harness man’s genius for the purpose of making peace and prosperity a reality for all … We call upon the American public to turn the arms race into a ‘peace race’ utilizing the existent and evolving movements in the United States as its foundations.”

Black lives matter!

But the peace was never run. Prosperity did not come for many, especially in the African American community. Anti-nuclear activism did finally persuade President Reagan to change course, but nuclear weapons were not abolished in the US or in any country that already possessed them. Others like Israel, India and Pakistan, developed them.

The notion that nuclear weapons were ‘necessary’, or a ‘deterrent’, despite the protests and all evidence to the contrary, held sway then and continues to do so today.

Many others have abandoned the cause as well. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are now 71 years in the past, and even though we face the ever-present threat of instant annihilation by the accidental or deliberate use of nuclear weapons, the sense and understanding of this persistent threat has subsided.

For the African American community, priorities changed. Although segregation came off the statute books, it persisted. Opportunities for African Americans grew, but not enough, and for too few. Huge swaths of the population continued to languish in ghettoized neglect. There were periodic explosions – the riots of Watts, Newark, Washington – but not enough action to bring the community fully out of poverty and discrimination.

A fundamental grasp of the depths of racism by the non-black community in the US was never achieved. This led to the misunderstanding of meaning and intent behind the Black Lives Matter movement, the absence of that tiny word ‘also’ leading to criticism, amendment and even hostility.

Recognising the contribution of African Americans

The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a decision that could be made because the US government and its propaganda team seared into the collective American psyche the idea that the Japanese people were, as US General Joseph Stilwell said at the time and most vilely, “bowlegged cockroaches”. The US press, as we have seen from the Time quote, were right behind him.

Then the photos began to emerge – of burned children with their skin hanging off; of bodies charred or even vaporized; of the agonizing deaths from radiation sickness. And there was Sadaki Sasaki and the 1,000 origami peace cranes she folded before her death at 12 from leukemia ten years after the bomb was dropped on her hometown of Hiroshima.

Those images galvanized a movement. But they also evoked recognition and empathy among thousands of African Americans who saw the racism for what it was and provided the motivation for their substantial but largely unheralded contribution to the nuclear abolition movement.

http://www.theecologist.org/campaigning/2988010/why_japan_the_racism_of_the_hiroshima_and_nagasaki_bombings.html


 

Linda Pentz Gunter is the international specialist at Beyond Nuclear, a Takoma Park, MD environmental advocacy group.

http://www.theecologist.org/campaigning/2988010/why_japan_the_racism_of_the_hiroshima_and_nagasaki_bombings.html

August 20, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

How US Hiroshima Mythology Insults Veterans

The government’s official pretexts for incinerating Hiroshima and Nagasaki still dominate public opinion. In 2005, a Gallop poll reported that 57 percent of people surveyed in the US believed the bombings were justified and legitimate. The myth retains its usefulness. President Obama’s proposed 30-year, trillion-dollar program to rebuild the nuclear weapons production establishment can only go ahead if taxpayers hold fast to the idea that something good can come from the mass destruction of civilians.

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The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all.”

Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay, WWII Air Force Commander of the 21st Bomber Command, Sept. 20, 1945.

With President Obama’s May 27 visit to Hiroshima, reporters, columnists and editors generally adhered to the official story that “the atomic bomb…ultimately spared more Japanese civilians from a final invasion,” as Kaimay Yuen Terry wrote for the Minneapolis StarTribune, or that, “Without it, more Japanese would have died in a US assault on the islands, as would have tens of thousands of Americans,” as Mike Hashimoto wrote for the Dallas Morning News.

The dropping of the bombs stopped the war, saved millions of lives,” Harry Truman wrote in his memoir Truman Speaks. Oddly, historians have found no record of any memo, cable, command projection or study, military or civilian, where this estimate was suggested to him. In his book The Invasion of Japan, historian John Ray Skates says, “… prophecies of extremely high casualties only came to be widely accepted after the war to rationalize the use of the atomic bombs.” And historian Martin J. Sherwin has “cited a ‘considerable body’ of new evidence that suggested the bomb may have cost, rather than saved, American lives. That is, if the US had not been so determined to complete, test, and finally use the bomb, it might have arranged the Japanese surrender weeks earlier, preventing much bloodshed on Okinawa.”

Obama — uttering not a word about the historical controversy roiling since 1945 — perpetuated the rationalization, cover-up, and nostalgia that guarantees the US will never apologize for the needless and experimental massacre of 200,000 Japanese civilians. As Hashimoto wrote, “No apology [is] needed for sparing lives on both sides…”

The New York Times reported vaguely that, “Many historians believe the bombings on Hiroshima and then Nagasaki, which together took the lives of more than 200,000 people, saved lives on balance, since an invasion of the islands would have led to far greater bloodshed.”

While “many” historians may still believe this, the majority do not. As noted by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s chief historian J. Samuel Walker: “The consensus among scholars is that the bomb was not needed to avoid an invasion of Japan and to end the war within a relatively short time. It is clear that alternatives to the bomb existed and that Truman and his advisers knew it,” Walker wrote in the winter 1990 issue of Diplomatic History.

Five years earlier, historian Gar Alperovitz wrote in Atomic Diplomacy, “[P]resently available evidence shows the atomic bomb was not needed to end the war or to save lives — and that this was understood by American leaders at the time.” Further declassification made his lengthy history, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of An American Myth (Knopf, 1995) even stronger on this point.

Admirals and Generals Debunk the Myth

Contrary to Gov. Sarah Palin’s claim that Obama’s visit to Hiroshima “insults veterans,” the fiction that the atomic bombs ended the war is the real insult to the people who actually fought and won the war against Japan. The official myth that incinerating Hiroshima and Nagasaki forced Japan’s surrender ignores and obscures the fact that combat veterans and bomber crews defeated Japan well before August 6, 1945 — by sacrificing so mightily in dangerous bombing raids and in bloody battles for Midway, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and elsewhere. Dozens of high-level military officers have testified to this fact.

Most of the ranking officers who directed the war in the Pacific have never agreed that the atom bombs were conclusive. Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay, Commander of the 21st Bomber Command, speaking publicly and for the record Sept. 20, 1945, said unequivocally: “The war would have been over in two weeks without the Russians entering and without the atomic bomb.” Pressed by a reporter who asked, “Had they not surrendered because of the atomic bomb?” Gen. LeMay — who directed the destruction of 67 major Japanese cities using mass incendiary attacks — said flatly, “The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all.”

Likewise, Gen. George Kenny, who commanded parts of the Army Air Forces in the Pacific, when asked in 1969 whether it was wise to use atom bombs, said, “No! I think we had the Japs licked anyhow. I think they would have quit probably within a week or so of when they did quit,” Alperovitz recounts in The Decision.

Alperovitz’s research found that Adm. Lewis Strauss, special assistant to WW II Navy Secretary James Forrestal, wrote to the naval historian Robert Albion Dec. 19, 1960 “from the Navy’s point of view, there are statements by Admiral King, Admiral Halsey, Admiral Radford, Admiral Nimitz and others who expressed themselves to the effect that neither the atomic bomb nor the proposed invasion of the Japanese mainland were necessary to produce the surrender.”

In Mandate for Change, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower wrote that when Secretary of War Henry Stimson told him atomic bombs were going to be used, “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…”

President Truman’s Chief of Staff, Adm. William Leahy, adamantly agreed. As Robert Lifton and Greg Mitchell, report in Hiroshima in America: 50 Years of Denial, Leahy said, “It is my opinion 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 because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons….” Lifton and Mitchell also note that Henry “Hap” Arnold, Commanding General of the Army Air Forces, said in his memoirs, “It always appeared to us that, atomic bomb or no atomic bomb, the Japanese were already on the verge of collapse.”

Answers to questions about the need of the atomic bombings were given early on, but some were kept secret. “[T]he US Strategic Bombing Survey published its conclusion that Japan would likely have surrendered in 1945 without atomic bombing, without a Soviet declaration of war, and without an American invasion,” Alperovitz reports in The Decision. The historian spent 30 years studying the issue and has revealed that a 1946 study by the Intelligence Group of the War Department’s Military Intelligence Division — discovered in 1989 — “concluded the atomic bomb had not been needed to end the war” and “judged that it was ‘almost a certainty that the Japanese would have capitulated upon the entry of Russia into the war.’”

The government’s official pretexts for incinerating Hiroshima and Nagasaki still dominate public opinion. In 2005, a Gallop poll reported that 57 percent of people surveyed in the US believed the bombings were justified and legitimate. The myth retains its usefulness. President Obama’s proposed 30-year, trillion-dollar program to rebuild the nuclear weapons production establishment can only go ahead if taxpayers hold fast to the idea that something good can come from the mass destruction of civilians.

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/08/09/how-us-hiroshima-mythology-insults-veterans/

August 14, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a third nuclear atrocity: the corruption of science

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From August 6, 2015

Following the atomic bombs exploded over Japan in 1945 a second crime against humanity took place, writes Chris Busby: the deliberate falsification of science to hide the dangers of ionising radiation, perpetrated to quell public opposition to a new age of nuclear bombs and energy. The fraud continues to this day, but finally the truth is winning out.

On the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, articles are appearing everywhere discussing the historical, philosophical, scientific, public health and social meaning of this event (I almost wrote ‘war crime’).

The bombings can be extrapolated onward in time through the atmospheric testing fallout and Chernobyl, to the more recent contamination in Japan after Fukushima.

Today, the analysis of the health risks from the Japanese A-Bombs is being cleverly twisted to provide a rationale for the development of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not just some historical tableaux that we can weep crocodile tears over, and discuss as socio-historic phenomena.

They are here today, present as ghosts, in all the manipulations and devious calculations made by the international radiation risk agencies and nuclear-industry scientists giving results that continue to permit the release into the environment of the same deadly substances that emerged for the first time in 1945.

Abusing Hiroshima to deny nuclear bomb health damage

I am currently presenting a case for the British Atomic Test veterans in the Royal Courts of Justice in London. The case pivots on the faulty radiation and health risk model that is based on the Lifespan Study of the Japanese A-Bomb survivors.

This model, of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), is used by the Ministry of Defense in the courts to deny responsibility for the cancers in the Nuclear Test Veterans and the congenital disease in their children and grandchildren.

However, the Hiroshima model also predicts that those exposed to radiation and fallout from future nuclear ‘exchanges’ would suffer little downstream genetic damage. Thus the Doctors Strangelove and the generals can argue that a nuclear war is winnable and that the increases in cancer and genetic effects in those exposed to Depleted Uranium (DU) in Iraq somehow don’t exist.

The bogus analysis of the health outcomes from Hiroshima has left the world with a major public health problem. In an effort to refute the mounting evidence, the ICRP model was relaunched by The Lancet to coincide with the Hiroshima anniversary.

A whole issue is given over to the presentation of wacko accounts of the health consequences of Hiroshima, Chernobyl and Fukushima through articles (at least partly) written by those who hold the reins of the ICRP chariot. The key issue is accurately described at the start:

“The linkages between Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Fukushima are thus more than just symbolic, having shaped current health management practices, and the institutions that run them, as well as public responses to these events.”

However, these current health management practices are wildly in error.

Nuclear war

Everyone has seen the photos of Hiroshima. The primitive Uranium-235 bomb ‘Little Boy’ that fell on Hiroshima with an explosive power of 13 kilotons (13,000 tons of TNT, the conventional chemical explosive) flattened the city and killed some 80,000 people of which 45,000 died on the first day.

Within four months the death toll was about 140,000. Three days after Hiroshima, a 20kT Plutonium bomb ‘Fat Man’ was dropped on Nagasaki (Why? Did the US think perhaps the Hiroshima bomb might have been overlooked?). Both weapons were mostly made of Uranium.

Note that. Since then, from 1950, a study of the survivors by the US funded Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission ABCC (and later the Radiation Effects Research Foundation) has defined the relationship between radiation dose and cancer.

In passing, recall that the explosive power was 13 kilotons. Anyone who wants nightmares should buy the standard work:The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, by Samuel Glasstone, the physical chemist. The more recent versions of this book have a nifty little plastic calculator in the back where you may, by rotating the bezel, inform yourself of the radii of blast, radiation dose, building destruction etc. for any size of bomb.

The US has spent lots of money and time blowing up stuff in the Nevada and Pacific test sites to obtain these data. Modern thermonuclear warheads, of which there are currently some 15,000, pack about 800kT. Just one of these jobs would put paid to most of New York, Tehran or Jerusalem.

I visualize some poor civil defense chief sitting in a shelter somewhere desperately twisting the scales on this pretty ‘Nuclear Bomb Effects Computer’ (developed by the Lovelace Research Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico) whilst waiting for the ground to disappear.

Nuclear war is not longer unthinkable

The problem we have in the world in 2015 is that the economic system and power relations between countries encourages those taking big decisions to think in terms of geopolitical strategies that include the use of nuclear weapons.

There are potential resource wars; there are food-production issues following changes in global weather patterns, there are technological developments in what were historically manipulatable countries. Nuclear weapons are now in the hands of nine nations including three which are not party to the non-proliferation treaty (and why should they be?): India, Pakistan and North Korea.

Negotiations with Iran are currently argued to be “of tremendous importance” in a region where Israel has the nuclear potential to wipe out all the local Arab states at a sitting. The Russians have massive nuclear capability and are being baited on their borders in Ukraine by NATO and those who control NATO.

This shit-stirring now has moved to the Baltic States. I live in Latvia, and this Spring I saw a new tank with a Latvian flag rolling though the center of Ropazi, a small town 40km west of Riga near where I live. Every day, the sky overhead had big helicopters and transport aircraft, donated to the Latvians by the US. Why?

The Baltic States and Poland are conscripting armies to defend the motherland against invasion by the Russians. What’s going on? Those who sow the wind reap the whirlwind, my grandmother would say. Let us hope not.

A systematic cover-up of nuclear dangers

In all the high level strategic thinking that is associated with this nuclear warmongering, the post attack population death yields from fallout are computed according to the ICRP risk model. But that Hiroshima model is a chimeric construction, built in the Cold War to back up the atmospheric testing.

The observable effects (increases in infant mortality, the 1980s cancer epidemic) were covered up following a 1959 agreement between the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health Organization, which left the IAEA, the nuclear physicists, the bomb makers, the deniers of Chernobyl and Fukushima effects, in charge of the research into health.

And so it remains today with The Lancet article ‘Long-term effects of radiation exposure on health‘, co-written by particle physicist Richard Wakeford, ex-head of research of British Nuclear Fuels at Sellafield, nuclear industry representative on the UK CERRIE committee, member of the ICRP, adviser to the Japanese on Fukushima, and so forth.

The evidence from real studies of the offspring of the test veterans, and the soldiers and civilians exposed to Depleted Uranium, is that a nuclear war will be the end of life on earth as we know it.

The test veterans have a 10-fold excess risk of children with birth defects, 9-fold in the grandchildren. Although millions will be blasted away, the real outcome will be global sterility, cancer and malformation. All the Mad Max stuff but worse: Hollywood got it right.

Evidence and errors in the Hiroshima lifespan studies

If you find that there is a doubling of breast cancer or child leukemia in those living downwind of a nuclear power station, at an ‘estimated dose’ less than external background, the ICRP model tells you that the effect cannot be due to the releases from the power station because the dose is too low.

The epidemiologist Martin Tondel found in 2004 that there was a significant excess cancer risk in Northern Sweden after Chernobyl. He was told to shut up because what he found was impossible: In other words, the dose was too low.

The same in Belarus and Ukraine where my colleague Alexey Yablokov has collected together an enormous compilation of peer reviewed evidence of appalling effects. Most recently we see the Hiroshima-based denials in the case of thyroid cancer in Fukushima prefecture (see below).

The study groups for the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) probe were assembled in 1950. Thus there were five years in which those who were badly affected by the radiation could die. The study was of a “healthy survivor” group, something which the late Dr Alice Stewart demonstrated.

But that is not the worst accusation. There were roughly 109,000 individuals recruited, including six dose groups from 0 to 200 rad (0-2+ Gy) and two Not in City (NIC) groups, the 4,607 Early Entrants (NIC-EE) and 21,915 Late Entrants (NIC-LE).

These NIC groups should have been the controls, but they were not. If you look at the reports you find they were abandoned as being ‘too healthy’. The final exposure groups were defined by how far they were from the detonation.

But all groups were exposed to residual radioactivity from the bombs. The US and ABCC denied (and still denies) this. There were internal exposures to all the groups whatever their external dose had been at the detonation.

Uranium: a genetic poison that targets DNA

The origin was the “black rain” which contained Uranium-235, Uranium-238 and particularly Uranium-234, which is the missing exposure, and is probably responsible for most of the cancer effects in all the survivors. We know that the Uranium was there because it was measured by Japanese scientists in 1983.

A recently declassified US document tabulates the enormous U-234 content of the enriched Uranium used in the bombs, codename: Oralloy. The Uranium nanoparticles in the Hiroshima (and Nagasaki) black rain were available for inhalation by all the exposure groups in the ruins of Hiroshima for years after the bomb.

All the bombs were made of Uranium, about 1 ton per Megaton yield. For all those tests in Nevada, the Marshall Islands, Kazakhstan, Christmas Island, the results were the same: down came the nanoparticles to be inhaled by anyone nearby and distant.

Why does this matter? New research has been carried out on Uranium. We find that Uranium targets DNA through chemical affinity. This causes terrible and anomalous genetic damage, out or all proportion to its “dose” as calculated by ICRP. Other fallout components also bind chemically to DNA, e.g. Strontium-90, Barium-140.

Those exposed: Uranium miners, Gulf Veterans, Test Veterans, DU civilians, Nuclear Uranium workers, Nuclear Site downwinders, all suffer chromosome damage, cancer, leukemia, heart disease, the works. All this is published, as are the results of laboratory and theoretical studies showing mechanisms. But in the Lancet: nothing.

S L Simon and A Bouville who wrote the article on the health effects of the nuclear testing did not even mention Uranium there, nor in their epic 2010 study of the Marshall Islands exposures. The Nevada site data that they used for their baseline calculations ignored it totally.

In 2012, I made a presentation for the Marshall Islanders at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, attacking the Simon et al analysis. In their Lancet nuclear test article, Simon and Bouville major on Iodine effects. So let’s look at those.

Scientific evidence from Fukushima: massive excess of thyroid cancers

In Fukushima Prefecture, surveys have confirmed 103 thyroid cancers in 380,000 18-year olds (25 or so are still being checked out). The Lancet article by Wakeford et al. presents an excess Relative Risk culled from the Hiroshima studies of 0.6 per Sievert (Fig 2 p 473). In the very same issue, the maximum thyroid dose was given as 18mSv with the median dose as 0.67mSv.

So in the two years of screening, if everyone screened got the maximum thyroid dose of 18mSv we should expect an increase of 0.018 x 0.6 = 0.011, a 1.1% increase in the background rate. This background is about 1 per 100,000 per year or 7.6 in two years in 380,000. So the radiation should increase this to 7.7 cases (i.e. one extra case in 10 years).

There are 103, that is 95 more cases than expected, an error in the ICRP model of 95/0.14 = 678-fold. That is, there are 678 times more thyroid cancers than the Hiroshima-based ICRP model predicts.

This calculation is based on what was written in The Lancet – but nobody made the calculation. This on its own should show the authorities (and the public) that the game is up. But instead of doing the simple calculation, another article in The Lancet, written by Geoff Watts, praises the work of those at Fukushima Medical University, who are busy telling everyone that the increases in thyroid cancer cannot be caused by the radiation.

In other words, once again, the predictions from Hiroshima are believed, rather than the evidence in front of their eyes. It’s a kind of mass hypnosis (or maybe not).

Finally, someone is trying to get to the truth of the matter

In case you think this is all mad stuff, there does at last seem to be some measure of concern evolving in this area of internal radiation, though no one in The Lancet articles mentions it. The European Union radiation research organization MELODI has finally moved into action, led by the French radiation protection agency IRSN.

The matter was raised (by me) at the inaugural MELODI conference in Paris in 2011, but nothing seemed to develop. I said that there are likely to be dose estimation problems associated with internal exposure to nuclides which bind to DNA, and particularly Uranium; that this potentially falsified the Hiroshima risk model.

A hugely expensive European research project has now been proposed. It is CURE: Concerted Uranium Research Europe. In the report launching this development in March 2015 the authors wrote: a large scale integrated collaborative project will be proposed to improve the characterization of the biological and health effects associated with uranium internal contamination in Europe.

In the future, it might be envisaged to extend collaborations with other countries outside the European Union, to apply the proposed approach to other internal emitters and other exposure situations of internal contamination, and to open the reflections to other disciplines interested in the effects of internal contaminations by radionuclides.

In the future, Hiroshima should not be remembered not just for the destruction of its inhabitants, but also for being the flag for the epidemiological cover-up of the biggest public health scandal in human history, whose victims number hundreds of millions – in cancer deaths and miscarriages, infant deaths, loss of fertility and the introduction of genomic instability to all creatures on Earth.

Let us pray that it will not be allowed to sanction the final nuclear exchange, on the mistaken prediction that such an event will be winnable.

 


 

Chris Busby is an expert on the health effects of ionizing radiation. He qualified in Chemical Physics at the Universities of London and Kent, and worked on the molecular physical chemistry of living cells for the Wellcome Foundation. Professor Busby is the Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk based in Brussels and has edited many of its publications since its founding in 1998. He has held a number of honorary University positions, including Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Health of the University of Ulster. Busby currently lives in Riga, Latvia.

http://www.theecologist.org/campaigning/2977669/after_hiroshima_and_nagasaki_a_third_nuclear_atrocity_the_corruption_of_science.html

August 11, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Hiroshima Bombing 71st Anniversary

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Colorful lanterns float down the Motoyasu River near the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima’s Naka Ward on the evening of Aug. 6, 2016, in memory of the victims of the U.S. atomic bombing of the city in 1945 and in prayer for peace around the globe. Hiroshima marked the 71st anniversary of the bombing with numerous memorial services across the city. Among attendees at the peace ceremony held at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park were representatives from 91 countries and the European Union.

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Colorful lanterns float down the Motoyasu River near the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima’s Naka Ward on the evening of Aug. 6, 2016.

August 9, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Nagasaki commemorates 71st anniversary of atomic bombing

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Students of Nagasaki Municipal Yamazato Elementary School sing at Nagasaki Peace Park during a memorial ceremony for the Nagasaki atomic bombing, on Aug. 9, 2016.

 

NAGASAKI (Kyodo) — Nagasaki began marking Tuesday the 71st anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of the city, with Mayor Tomihisa Taue expected later in the day to urge international society to draw upon collective wisdom in order to realize a world without nuclear weapons.

Full text of Nagasaki peace declaration on 71st anniversary of atomic bombing

http://mainichi.jp/articles/20160809/p2g/00m/0dm/054000c

In his Peace Declaration to be delivered at an annual ceremony in the city’s Peace Park, at which representatives of 53 nations and the European Union, as well as the United Nations, will attend, Taue plans to urge the Japanese government to enshrine into law its three non-nuclear principles of not producing, possessing or allowing nuclear weapons on Japanese territory.

He will also urge the government to create a nuclear weapons free zone as a security scheme without relying on nuclear deterrence.

In his speech, Taue plans to touch on the significance of U.S. President Barack Obama’s Hiroshima visit in May and call on the leaders of all countries to visit Nagasaki and Hiroshima to see the reality of atomic bombings.

Three days after the United States dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, it dropped a second nuclear weapon on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945. An estimated 74,000 people died from the bombing and its aftereffects by the end of the year.

The number of hibakusha — atomic bomb survivors with documents certifying they experienced a nuclear attack in 1945 — at home and abroad stood at 174,080 as of March — of which 32,547 lived in Nagasaki — and their average age was 80.86.

The Nagasaki city government has confirmed the deaths of 3,487 hibakusha over the past year, bringing the death toll to 172,230.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160809/p2g/00m/0dm/016000c

 

August 9, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

The Bomb Didn’t Beat Japan … Stalin Did

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May 30, 2013

Have 70 years of nuclear policy been based on a lie?

The U.S. use of nuclear weapons against Japan during World War II has long been a subject of emotional debate. Initially, few questioned President Truman’s decision to drop two atomic bombs, on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But, in 1965, historian Gar Alperovitz argued that, although the bombs did force an immediate end to the war, Japan’s leaders had wanted to surrender anyway and likely would have done so before the American invasion planned for Nov. 1. Their use was, therefore, unnecessary. Obviously, if the bombings weren’t necessary to win the war, then bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki was wrong. In the 48 years since, many others have joined the fray: some echoing Alperovitz and denouncing the bombings, others rejoining hotly that the bombings were moral, necessary, and life-saving.

Both schools of thought, however, assume that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with new, more powerful weapons did coerce Japan into surrendering on Aug. 9. They fail to question the utility of the bombing in the first place — to ask, in essence, did it work? The orthodox view is that, yes, of course, it worked. The United States bombed Hiroshima on Aug. 6 and Nagasaki on Aug. 9, when the Japanese finally succumbed to the threat of further nuclear bombardment and surrendered. The support for this narrative runs deep. But there are three major problems with it, and, taken together, they significantly undermine the traditional interpretation of the Japanese surrender.

Timing

The first problem with the traditional interpretation is timing. And it is a serious problem. The traditional interpretation has a simple timeline: The U.S. Army Air Force bombs Hiroshima with a nuclear weapon on Aug. 6, three days later they bomb Nagasaki with another, and on the next day the Japanese signal their intention to surrender.* One can hardly blame American newspapers for running headlines like: “Peace in the Pacific: Our Bomb Did It!”

When the story of Hiroshima is told in most American histories, the day of the bombing — Aug. 6 — serves as the narrative climax. All the elements of the story point forward to that moment: the decision to build a bomb, the secret research at Los Alamos, the first impressive test, and the final culmination at Hiroshima. It is told, in other words, as a story about the Bomb. But you can’t analyze Japan’s decision to surrender objectively in the context of the story of the Bomb. Casting it as “the story of the Bomb” already presumes that the Bomb’s role is central.

Viewed from the Japanese perspective, the most important day in that second week of August wasn’t Aug. 6 but Aug. 9. That was the day that the Supreme Council met — for the first time in the war — to discuss unconditional surrender. The Supreme Council was a group of six top members of the government — a sort of inner cabinet — that effectively ruled Japan in 1945. Japan’s leaders had not seriously considered surrendering prior to that day. Unconditional surrender (what the Allies were demanding) was a bitter pill to swallow. The United States and Great Britain were already convening war crimes trials in Europe. What if they decided to put the emperor — who was believed to be divine — on trial? What if they got rid of the emperor and changed the form of government entirely? Even though the situation was bad in the summer of 1945, the leaders of Japan were not willing to consider giving up their traditions, their beliefs, or their way of life. Until Aug. 9. What could have happened that caused them to so suddenly and decisively change their minds? What made them sit down to seriously discuss surrender for the first time after 14 years of war?

It could not have been Nagasaki. The bombing of Nagasaki occurred in the late morning of Aug. 9, after the Supreme Council had already begun meeting to discuss surrender, and word of the bombing only reached Japan’s leaders in the early afternoon — after the meeting of the Supreme Council had been adjourned in deadlock and the full cabinet had been called to take up the discussion. Based on timing alone, Nagasaki can’t have been what motivated them.

Hiroshima isn’t a very good candidate either. It came 74 hours — more than three days — earlier. What kind of crisis takes three days to unfold? The hallmark of a crisis is a sense of impending disaster and the overwhelming desire to take action now. How could Japan’s leaders have felt that Hiroshima touched off a crisis and yet not meet to talk about the problem for three days?

President John F. Kennedy was sitting up in bed reading the morning papers at about 8:45 a.m. on Oct. 16, 1962, when McGeorge Bundy, his national security advisor, came in to inform him that the Soviet Union was secretly putting nuclear missiles in Cuba. Within two hours and forty-five minutes a special committee had been created, its members selected, contacted, brought to the White House, and were seated around the cabinet table to discuss what should be done.

President Harry Truman was vacationing in Independence, Missouri, on June 25, 1950, when North Korea sent its troops across the 38th parallel, invading South Korea. Secretary of State Acheson called Truman that Saturday morning to give him the news. Within 24 hours, Truman had flown halfway across the United States and was seated at Blair House (the White House was undergoing renovations) with his top military and political advisors talking about what to do.

Even Gen. George Brinton McClellan — the Union commander of the Army of the Potomac in 1863 during the American Civil War, of whom President Lincoln said sadly, “He’s got the slows” — wasted only 12 hours when he was given a captured copy of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s orders for the invasion of Maryland.

These leaders responded — as leaders in any country would — to the imperative call that a crisis creates. They each took decisive steps in a short period of time. How can we square this sort of behavior with the actions of Japan’s leaders? If Hiroshima really touched off a crisis that eventually forced the Japanese to surrender after fighting for 14 years, why did it take them three days to sit down to discuss it?

One might argue that the delay is perfectly logical. Perhaps they only came to realize the importance of the bombing slowly. Perhaps they didn’t know it was a nuclear weapon and when they did realize it and understood the terrible effects such a weapon could have, they naturally concluded they had to surrender. Unfortunately, this explanation doesn’t square with the evidence.

First, Hiroshima’s governor reported to Tokyo on the very day Hiroshima was bombed that about a third of the population had been killed in the attack and that two thirds of the city had been destroyed. This information didn’t change over the next several days. So the outcome — the end result of the bombing — was clear from the beginning. Japan’s leaders knew roughly the outcome of the attack on the first day, yet they still did not act.

Second, the preliminary report prepared by the Army team that investigated the Hiroshima bombing, the one that gave details about what had happened there, was not delivered until Aug. 10. It didn’t reach Tokyo, in other words, until after the decision to surrender had already been taken. Although their verbal report was delivered (to the military) on Aug. 8, the details of the bombing were not available until two days later. The decision to surrender was therefore not based on a deep appreciation of the horror at Hiroshima.

Third, the Japanese military understood, at least in a rough way, what nuclear weapons were. Japan had a nuclear weapons program. Several of the military men mention the fact that it was a nuclear weapon that destroyed Hiroshima in their diaries. Gen. Anami Korechika, minster of war, even went to consult with the head of the Japanese nuclear weapons program on the night of Aug. 7. The idea that Japan’s leaders didn’t know about nuclear weapons doesn’t hold up.

Finally, one other fact about timing creates a striking problem. On Aug. 8, Foreign Minister Togo Shigenori went to Premier Suzuki Kantaro and asked that the Supreme Council be convened to discuss the bombing of Hiroshima, but its members declined. So the crisis didn’t grow day by day until it finally burst into full bloom on Aug. 9. Any explanation of the actions of Japan’s leaders that relies on the “shock” of the bombing of Hiroshima has to account for the fact that they considered a meeting to discuss the bombing on Aug. 8, made a judgment that it was too unimportant, and then suddenly decided to meet to discuss surrender the very next day. Either they succumbed to some sort of group schizophrenia, or some other event was the real motivation to discuss surrender.

Scale

Historically, the use of the Bomb may seem like the most important discrete event of the war. From the contemporary Japanese perspective, however, it might not have been so easy to distinguish the Bomb from other events. It is, after all, difficult to distinguish a single drop of rain in the midst of a hurricane.

In the summer of 1945, the U.S. Army Air Force carried out one of the most intense campaigns of city destruction in the history of the world. Sixty-eight cities in Japan were attacked and all of them were either partially or completely destroyed. An estimated 1.7 million people were made homeless, 300,000 were killed, and 750,000 were wounded. Sixty-six of these raids were carried out with conventional bombs, two with atomic bombs. The destruction caused by conventional attacks was huge. Night after night, all summer long, cities would go up in smoke. In the midst of this cascade of destruction, it would not be surprising if this or that individual attack failed to make much of an impression — even if it was carried out with a remarkable new type of weapon.

A B-29 bomber flying from the Mariana Islands could carry — depending on the location of the target and the altitude of attack — somewhere between 16,000 and 20,000 pounds of bombs. A typical raid consisted of 500 bombers. This means that the typical conventional raid was dropping 4 to 5 kilotons of bombs on each city. (A kiloton is a thousand tons and is the standard measure of the explosive power of a nuclear weapon. The Hiroshima bomb measured 16.5 kilotons, the Nagasaki bomb 20 kilotons.) Given that many bombs spread the destruction evenly (and therefore more effectively), while a single, more powerful bomb wastes much of its power at the center of the explosion — re-bouncing the rubble, as it were — it could be argued that some of the conventional raids approached the destruction of the two atomic bombings.

The first of the conventional raids, a night attack on Tokyo on March 9-10, 1945, remains the single most destructive attack on a city in the history of war. Something like 16 square miles of the city were burned out. An estimated 120,000 Japanese lost their lives — the single highest death toll of any bombing attack on a city.

We often imagine, because of the way the story is told, that the bombing of Hiroshima was far worse. We imagine that the number of people killed was off the charts. But if you graph the number of people killed in all 68 cities bombed in the summer of 1945, you find that Hiroshima was second in terms of civilian deaths. If you chart the number of square miles destroyed, you find that Hiroshima was fourth. If you chart the percentage of the city destroyed, Hiroshima was 17th. Hiroshima was clearly within the parameters of the conventional attacks carried out that summer.

From our perspective, Hiroshima seems singular, extraordinary. But if you put yourself in the shoes of Japan’s leaders in the three weeks leading up to the attack on Hiroshima, the picture is considerably different. If you were one of the key members of Japan’s government in late July and early August, your experience of city bombing would have been something like this: On the morning of July 17, you would have been greeted by reports that during the night four cities had been attacked: Oita, Hiratsuka, Numazu, and Kuwana. Of these, Oita and Hiratsuka were more than 50 percent destroyed. Kuwana was more than 75 percent destroyed and Numazu was hit even more severely, with something like 90 percent of the city burned to the ground.

Three days later you have woken to find that three more cities had been attacked. Fukui was more than 80 percent destroyed. A week later and three more cities have been attacked during the night. Two days later and six more cities were attacked in one night, including Ichinomiya, which was 75 percent destroyed. On Aug. 2, you would have arrived at the office to reports that four more cities have been attacked. And the reports would have included the information that Toyama (roughly the size of Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1945), had been 99.5 percent destroyed. Virtually the entire city had been leveled. Four days later and four more cities have been attacked. On Aug. 6, only one city, Hiroshima, was attacked but reports say that the damage was great and a new type bomb was used. How much would this one new attack have stood out against the background of city destruction that had been going on for weeks?

In the three weeks prior to Hiroshima, 26 cities were attacked by the U.S. Army Air Force. Of these, eight — or almost a third — were as completely or more completely destroyed than Hiroshima (in terms of the percentage of the city destroyed). The fact that Japan had 68 cities destroyed in the summer of 1945 poses a serious challenge for people who want to make the bombing of Hiroshima the cause of Japan’s surrender. The question is: If they surrendered because a city was destroyed, why didn’t they surrender when those other 66 cities were destroyed?

If Japan’s leaders were going to surrender because of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, you would expect to find that they cared about the bombing of cities in general, that the city attacks put pressure on them to surrender. But this doesn’t appear to be so. Two days after the bombing of Tokyo, retired Foreign Minister Shidehara Kijuro expressed a sentiment that was apparently widely held among Japanese high-ranking officials at the time. Shidehara opined that “the people would gradually get used to being bombed daily. In time their unity and resolve would grow stronger.” In a letter to a friend he said it was important for citizens to endure the suffering because “even if hundreds of thousands of noncombatants are killed, injured, or starved, even if millions of buildings are destroyed or burned,” additional time was needed for diplomacy. It is worth remembering that Shidehara was a moderate.

At the highest levels of government — in the Supreme Council — attitudes were apparently the same. Although the Supreme Council discussed the importance of the Soviet Union remaining neutral, they didn’t have a full-dress discussion about the impact of city bombing. In the records that have been preserved, city bombing doesn’t even get mentioned during Supreme Council discussions except on two occasions: once in passing in May 1945 and once during the wide-ranging discussion on the night of Aug. 9. Based on the evidence, it is difficult to make a case that Japan’s leaders thought that city bombing — compared to the other pressing matters involved in running a war — had much significance at all.

Gen. Anami on Aug. 13 remarked that the atomic bombings were no more menacing than the fire-bombing that Japan had endured for months. If Hiroshima and Nagasaki were no worse than the fire bombings, and if Japan’s leaders did not consider them important enough to discuss in depth, how can Hiroshima and Nagasaki have coerced them to surrender?

Strategic significance

If the Japanese were not concerned with city bombing in general or the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in particular, what were they concerned with? The answer
is simple: the Soviet Union.

The Japanese were in a relatively difficult strategic situation. They were nearing the end of a war they were losing. Conditions were bad. The Army, however, was still strong and well-supplied. Nearly 4 million men were under arms and 1.2 million of those were guarding Japan’s home islands.

Even the most hard-line leaders in Japan’s government knew that the war could not go on. The question was not whether to continue, but how to bring the war to a close under the best terms possible. The Allies (the United States, Great Britain, and others — the Soviet Union, remember, was still neutral) were demanding “unconditional surrender.” Japan’s leaders hoped that they might be able to figure out a way to avoid war crimes trials, keep their form of government, and keep some of the territories they’d conquered: Korea, Vietnam, Burma, parts of Malaysia and Indonesia, a large portion of eastern China, and numerous islands in the Pacific.

They had two plans for getting better surrender terms; they had, in other words, two strategic options. The first was diplomatic. Japan had signed a five-year neutrality pact with the Soviets in April of 1941, which would expire in 1946. A group consisting mostly of civilian leaders and led by Foreign Minister Togo Shigenori hoped that Stalin might be convinced to mediate a settlement between the United States and its allies on the one hand, and Japan on the other. Even though this plan was a long shot, it reflected sound strategic thinking. After all, it would be in the Soviet Union’s interest to make sure that the terms of the settlement were not too favorable to the United States: any increase in U.S. influence and power in Asia would mean a decrease in Russian power and influence.

The second plan was military, and most of its proponents, led by the Army Minister Anami Korechika, were military men. They hoped to use Imperial Army ground troops to inflict high casualties on U.S. forces when they invaded. If they succeeded, they felt, they might be able to get the United States to offer better terms. This strategy was also a long shot. The United States seemed deeply committed to unconditional surrender. But since there was, in fact, concern in U.S. military circles that the casualties in an invasion would be prohibitive, the Japanese high command’s strategy was not entirely off the mark.

One way to gauge whether it was the bombing of Hiroshima or the invasion and declaration of war by the Soviet Union that caused Japan’s surrender is to compare the way in which these two events affected the strategic situation. After Hiroshima was bombed on Aug. 6, both options were still alive. It would still have been possible to ask Stalin to mediate (and Takagi’s diary entries from Aug. 8 show that at least some of Japan’s leaders were still thinking about the effort to get Stalin involved). It would also still have been possible to try to fight one last decisive battle and inflict heavy casualties. The destruction of Hiroshima had done nothing to reduce the preparedness of the troops dug in on the beaches of Japan’s home islands. There was now one fewer city behind them, but they were still dug in, they still had ammunition, and their military strength had not been diminished in any important way. Bombing Hiroshima did not foreclose either of Japan’s strategic options.

The impact of the Soviet declaration of war and invasion of Manchuria and Sakhalin Island was quite different, however. Once the Soviet Union had declared war, Stalin could no longer act as a mediator — he was now a belligerent. So the diplomatic option was wiped out by the Soviet move. The effect on the military situation was equally dramatic. Most of Japan’s best troops had been shifted to the southern part of the home islands. Japan’s military had correctly guessed that the likely first target of an American invasion would be the southernmost island of Kyushu. The once proud Kwangtung army in Manchuria, for example, was a shell of its former self because its best units had been shifted away to defend Japan itself. When the Russians invaded Manchuria, they sliced through what had once been an elite army and many Russian units only stopped when they ran out of gas. The Soviet 16th Army — 100,000 strong — launched an invasion of the southern half of Sakhalin Island. Their orders were to mop up Japanese resistance there, and then — within 10 to 14 days — be prepared to invade Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s home islands. The Japanese force tasked with defending Hokkaido, the 5th Area Army, was under strength at two divisions and two brigades, and was in fortified positions on the east side of the island. The Soviet plan of attack called for an invasion of Hokkaido from the west.

It didn’t take a military genius to see that, while it might be possible to fight a decisive battle against one great power invading from one direction, it would not be possible to fight off two great powers attacking from two different directions. The Soviet invasion invalidated the military’s decisive battle strategy, just as it invalidated the diplomatic strategy. At a single stroke, all of Japan’s options evaporated. The Soviet invasion was strategically decisive — it foreclosed both of Japan’s options — while the bombing of Hiroshima (which foreclosed neither) was not.

The Soviet declaration of war also changed the calculation of how much time was left for maneuver. Japanese intelligence was predicting that U.S. forces might not invade for months. Soviet forces, on the other hand, could be in Japan proper in as little as 10 days. The Soviet invasion made a decision on ending the war extremely time sensitive.

And Japan’s leaders had reached this conclusion some months earlier. In a meeting of the Supreme Council in June 1945, they said that Soviet entry into the war “would determine the fate of the Empire.” Army Deputy Chief of Staff Kawabe said, in that same meeting, “The absolute maintenance of peace in our relations with the Soviet Union is imperative for the continuation of the war.”

Japan’s leaders consistently displayed disinterest in the city bombing that was wrecking their cities. And while this may have been wrong when the bombing began in March of 1945, by the time Hiroshima was hit, they were certainly right to see city bombing as an unimportant sideshow, in terms of strategic impact. When Truman famously threatened to visit a “rain of ruin” on Japanese cities if Japan did not surrender, few people in the United States realized that there was very little left to destroy. By Aug. 7, when Truman’s threat was made, only 10 cities larger than 100,000 people remained that had not already been bombed. Once Nagasaki was attacked on Aug. 9, only nine cities were left. Four of those were on the northernmost island of Hokkaido, which was difficult to bomb because of the distance from Tinian Island where American planes were based. Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, had been removed from the target list by Secretary of War Henry Stimson because of its religious and symbolic importance. So despite the fearsome sound of Truman’s threat, after Nagasaki was bombed only four major cities remained which could readily have been hit with atomic weapons.

The thoroughness and extent of the U.S. Army Air Force’s campaign of city bombing can be gauged by the fact that they had run through so many of Japan’s cities that they were reduced to bombing “cities” of 30,000 people or fewer. In the modern world, 30,000 is no more than a large town.

Of course it would always have been possible to re-bomb cities that had already been bombed with firebombs. But these cities were, on average, already 50 percent destroyed. Or the United States could have bombed smaller cities with atomic weapons. There were, however, only six smaller cities (with populations between 30,000 and 100,000) which had not already been bombed. Given that Japan had already had major bombing damage done to 68 cities, and had, for the most part, shrugged it off, it is perhaps not surprising that Japan’s leaders were unimpressed with the threat of further bombing. It was not strategically compelling.

A convenient story

Despite the existence of these three powerful objections, the traditional interpretation still retains a strong hold on many people’s thinking, particularly in the United States. There is real resistance to looking at the facts. But perhaps this should not be surprising. It is worth reminding ourselves how emotionally convenient the traditional explanation of Hiroshima is — both for Japan and the United States. Ideas can have persistence because they are true, but unfortunately, they can also persist because they are emotionally satisfying: They fill an important psychic need. For example, at the end of the war the traditional interpretation of Hiroshima helped Japan’s leaders achieve a number of important political aims, both domestic and international.

Put yourself in the shoes of the emperor. You’ve just led your country through a disastrous war. The economy is shattered. Eighty percent of your cities have been bombed and burned. The Army has been pummeled in a string of defeats. The Navy has been decimated and confined to port. Starvation is looming. The war, in short, has been a catastrophe and, worst of all, you’ve been lying to your people about how bad the situation really is. They will be shocked by news of surrender. So which would you rather do? Admit that you failed badly? Issue a statement that says that you miscalculated spectacularly, made repeated mistakes, and did enormous damage to the nation? Or would you rather blame the loss on an amazing scientific breakthrough that no one could have predicted? At a single stroke, blaming the loss of the war on the atomic bomb swept all the mistakes and misjudgments of the war under the rug. The Bomb was the perfect excuse for having lost the war. No need to apportion blame; no court of enquiry need be held. Japan’s leaders were able to claim they had done their best. So, at the most general level the Bomb served to deflect blame from Japan’s leaders.

But attributing Japan’s defeat to the Bomb also served three other specific political purposes. First, it helped to preserve the legitimacy of the emperor. If the war was lost not because of mistakes but because of the enemy’s unexpected miracle weapon, then the institution of the emperor might continue to find support within Japan.

Second, it appealed to international sympathy. Japan had waged war aggressively, and with particular brutality toward conquered peoples. Its behavior was likely to be condemned by other nations. Being able to recast Japan as a victimized nation — one that had been unfairly bombed with a cruel and horrifying instrument of war — would help to offset some of the morally repugnant things Japan’s military had done. Drawing attention to the atomic bombings helped to paint Japan in a more sympathetic light and deflect support for harsh punishment.

Finally, saying that the Bomb won the war would please Japan’s American victors. The American occupation did not officially end in Japan until 1952, and during that time the United States had the power to change or remake Japanese society as they saw fit. During the early days of the occupation, many Japanese officials worried that the Americans intended to abolish the institution of the emperor. And they had another worry. Many of Japan’s top government officials knew that they might face war crimes trials (the war crimes trials against Germany’s leaders were already underway in Europe when Japan surrendered). Japanese historian Asada Sadao has said that in many of the postwar interviews “Japanese officials … were obviously anxious to please their American questioners.” If the Americans wanted to believe that the Bomb won the war, why disappoint them?

Attributing the end of the war to the atomic bomb served Japan’s interests in multiple ways. But it also served U.S. interests. If the Bomb won the war, then the perception of U.S. military power would be enhanced, U.S. diplomatic influence in Asia and around the world would increase, and U.S. security would be strengthened. The $2 billion spent to build it would not have been wasted. If, on the other hand, the Soviet entry into the war was what caused Japan to surrender, then the Soviets could claim that they were able to do in four days what the United States was unable to do in four years, and the perception of Soviet military power and Soviet diplomatic influence would be enhanced. And once the Cold War was underway, asserting that the Soviet entry had been the decisive factor would have been tantamount to giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

It is troubling to consider, given the questions raised here, that the evidence of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is at the heart of everything we think about nuclear weapons. This event is the bedrock of the case for the importance of nuclear weapons. It is crucial to their unique status, the notion that the normal rules do not apply to nuclear weapons. It is an important measure of nuclear threats: Truman’s threat to visit a “rain of ruin” on Japan was the first explicit nuclear threat. It is key to the aura of enormous power that surrounds the weapons and makes them so important in international relations.

But what are we to make of all those conclusions if the traditional story of Hiroshima is called into doubt? Hiroshima is the center, the point from which all other claims and assertions radiate out. Yet the story we have been telling ourselves seems pretty far removed from the facts. What are we to think about nuclear weapons if this enormous first accomplishment — the miracle of Japan’s sudden surrender — turns out to be a myth?

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August 7, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Giving Voice to Survivors from Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Fukushima

In Japan the Hibakusha are the exposed–exposed to the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Now more then ever are the words of the Hibakusha crucial to hear as we contemplate exactly what happens when a nuclear bomb is dropped. Ari’s project documents their testimony. He is in a unique position to do so because his grandfather, Jacob Beser, was the only man in the world to serve as a crewman on both B-29s that dropped the atomic bombs.

In a two-part series, Hibakusha: The Nuclear Family examines the social impact of nuclear technology in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Fukushima.

Hiroshima – Today, with some distance of time and perspective, we can think about Hiroshima with a more balanced compassion than a few decades ago. It has become possible to reflect on not only the justification for the first dropping of an atomic bomb on a populated city, but also on how that impacted the many thousands of people caught up in the blast and its aftermath.

It was a bombing American hearts decided was justified — but which minds have largely disconnected from in terms of consequences for humanity. This was evident when the current Republican candidate for President allegedly questioned why we don’t use our nuclear weapons for a third time.

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Yoshie Oka returns to the bunker where she survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima

Next January, either Donald J. Trump or Hillary Rodham Clinton will receive the nuclear football from President Obama. Either one of seemingly the two most controversial people in modern U.S. political history is going be in charge of our nuclear codes, a certain outcome of this election we should be most concerned about.

Seventy-one years ago my grandfather Jacob Beser was flying in the back of a B-29 listening to the radio. He wasn’t listening to Beyonce—He was listening to frequency. He was monitoring a device that was going to end the war. This is what he trained for. This is what he knew and was prepared to die for. If anything went wrong, he was told to eat the device’s frequency code, written on a small piece of paper.

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Sumiteru Taniguchi holds up photos of himself immediately after the bombing of Nagasaki. A prominent advocate for nuclear abolition, he was nominated for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize.

None of that was necessary. He did his job right, and he saw what men were capable of. He saw it twice, over Nagasaki too, and he never expressed guilt about it. But he, like the rest of America, disconnected from the reality of the human suffering 32,000 feet below. He, like the majority of his countrymen, believed in their hearts it was necessary.

When my grandfather looked out the window, he likened the mushroom cloud to sand in the water, the way it billows along the shoreline in the tide. He couldn’t connect with the children in the streets or the people as they packed in train cars on their way to work. He couldn’t connect to the horrors they would experience and live with for the rest of their lives.

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Suano Tsuboi moments before meeting President Obama in Hiroshima during the historic Presidential visit to the city on May 27, 2016.

Can we make those connections, America? Can we stop saying “What about Pearl Harbor” long enough to look at what World War II brought humanity to accomplish? Can we ask ourselves, “What will it take to bring us there again?”

I am not asking for a justification. I am not asking for an apology. I am asking that we listen to the stories of the atomic bomb survivors as a testimony to the evils of nuclear war.

Today I invite you to my Facebook community, Hibakusha: The Nuclear Family, where you can learn about what it was like under the mushroom clouds. I’ve called it a Blogumentary. It is an interactive online documentary that begs you to remember what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What happened to the people there could happen to any of us. Listen to their words, not as Japanese, and not as Americans, but as people.

Ari M. Beser is the grandson of Lt. Jacob Beser, the only U.S. serviceman aboard both B-29s that dropped atomic bombs on Japan in World War II. He traveled through Japan with the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship to report on the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the fifth anniversary of the Great East Japan earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima. Beser’s  storytelling gives voice to people directly affected by nuclear technology today, as he works with Japanese and Americans to encourage a message of reconciliation and nuclear disarmament. His new book, The Nuclear Family, focuses on American and Japanese perspectives of the atomic bombings.

http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2016/08/05/blogumentary-giving-voice-to-survivors-from-hiroshima-nagasaki-and-fukushima/

 

August 7, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Documentary debunks the myths of the official US justification to drop the atomic bombs

71 years ago today, the US Empire murdered 150,000 innocent human beings in Hiroshima to threaten & dominate the entire world.
Our documentary debunks the myths of the official US justification to drop the atomic bombs.

Obama’s high-profile trip to Hiroshima was accompanied by a media storm that gave endless justifications for the US use of the atomic bomb on Japanese civilians. The myths are widely accepted in society, and underpin the notion of American exceptionalism.

Abby Martin interviews Dr. Peter Kuznick, co-author with Director Oliver Stone of the bestselling book and HBO series “The Untold History of the United States,” about the real story behind the use of the atomic bombs—as well as the untold history of Imperial Japan, its role today for the US Empire, and the danger for new war on the horizon.

August 7, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , , | Leave a comment

Why did Japan surrender in World War II?

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There is contentious debate among scholars about why Japan surrendered in World War II. Some believe the Aug. 15, 1945, declaration was the result of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It’s possible that these finally pushed Emperor Hirohito (posthumously called Emperor Showa) to break the deadlock in the Supreme War Council and accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration for unconditional surrender issued by the Allied leaders on July 26, 1945. In that declaration, there was a promise of “prompt and utter destruction” if the armed forces of Japan didn’t surrender. The use of weapons of mass destruction causing the incineration of large swaths of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in quick succession backed up that threat, highlighting the futility of continuing the war. Emperor Hirohito’s intervention on the side of those favoring capitulation was crucial to winning over those hardliners who didn’t. In this narrative, the dawning of the nuclear age brought peace. It also allowed military leaders to save face, since they could claim that the war was not lost on the battlefield, and agree to surrender to spare the Japanese people from more suffering.

This meant abandoning ketsu-go, the strategy of fighting one last decisive battle intended to inflict so many casualties on a war-weary America that it would relax its demands for unconditional surrender and negotiate a peace. This would, at a minimum, safeguard the Emperor, and potentially preserve the armed forces and shield them from prosecution for war crimes. This strategy was affirmed in June 1945 as the gruesome and bloody Battle of Okinawa was winding down. Reinforcements had been transferred from Manchuria to bolster the defense of Kyushu where the U.S. was expected to attack next.

In February 1945, Joseph Stalin met with Allied leaders in Yalta, promising to attack Japan three months after Germany’s surrender. He kept his promise, and Soviet troops invaded Manchuria in the wee hours of Aug. 9 before the Nagasaki bombing later that day. This came as a shock to Japanese leaders who had been trying throughout July that year to engage the Soviets as brokers in a peace deal with the Allies.

Soviet entry into the war was an alarming development for a military leadership that vowed to keep fighting to save the Emperor. The fate of the czar at the hands of communists, and prospects for a punitive Soviet occupation, influenced the calculus of surrender.

In February 1945, the Japanese military conducted a survey that concluded that Japan could not win the war. But they were not squeamish about the suffering of the Japanese public — more than 60 Japanese cities were subjected to extensive firebombing in 1945, displacing, maiming and killing several hundred thousand civilians. Military leaders could not contemplate the ignominy of surrender, so they compelled their nation to continue fighting a war that was already lost, subjecting the Japanese to horrific suffering that they could have ended far sooner.

Historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, in his 2005 book “Racing the Enemy,” provides compelling evidence that the Pacific War ended due to the entry of the Soviets, not the atomic bombings. Having tasted defeat at the hands of the Soviets twice in the late 1930s in Manchurian border clashes, the generals knew that the new front meant further resistance was futile.

Sheldon Garon, a professor of history at Princeton University, takes issue with Hasegawa’s contention that the military was insouciant about Japanese suffering and ready to fight to the last civilian. Recently, Garon gave a talk in Tokyo about an ongoing book project focusing on how the war was lost for Germany and Japan.

He argues that the U.S. was surprised by Japan’s sudden surrender, noting that by Aug. 19, 1945, America would have had three more atomic bombs ready and had six more in production — it did not anticipate a swift end.

According to Garon, the Japanese military was deeply concerned by worsening conditions in Japan because they were undermining the war effort. Authorities, for example, planned the evacuation of a few hundred thousand school children to spare them the urban conflagrations, but were not prepared for the mass exodus of adults who bailed because they knew the military could not protect them. Roads out of Tokyo were clogged with these refugees: 8.5 million fled Japanese cities in the final five months of war, paralyzing transport networks.

This rural-escape survival strategy meant demoralized workers were abandoning factories, compounding existing shortages of war-related production.

According to Garon, these acts of sabotage also meant that an orderly society was no longer obeying orders, responding to accumulating signs of impending defeat. Alas, many of these unlucky refugees fled to smaller cities, and thus were subject to more bombings as America moved onto second-tier targets. The U.S. dropped leaflets warning of impending strikes, and then delivered, stoking fear and undermining faith in the government.

Officials were also demoralized by Germany’s surrender, and the horrific fight to the end that Adolf Hitler insisted on, subjecting his people and cities to a relentless pounding.

Garon observes that the Germans fought like samurai, sacrificing all even when they knew it was for a losing cause. While much is made of Japanese authorities training women and children to resist U.S. invaders with bamboo staves, Garon notes that none ever did so. In contrast, Germany took desperate measures, resorting to full mobilization and deploying these untrained conscripts to battlefields where many died or were injured.

Japan’s diplomats in Europe were shocked by the devastation of Germany and conveyed their concerns about Hitler’s “fighting to the finish” strategy. They advised against emulating the Germans, and thus implicitly counseled surrender for the national interest. But finding an exit with dignity proved elusive.

Garon attributes Japan’s delayed surrender to military intransigence and diplomatic incompetence, a dithering that subjected Japan to needless devastation.

Finally, it was the Soviet entry into the war and the atomic bombings that precipitated a hasty surrender. But it was overdue because the signs of defeat, including a devastating series of setbacks on the home front, had been gathering for some time: endless fire bombings, growing shortages of food due to the U.S. blockade “Operation Starvation,” bereaved families and the subversion of people voting with their feet. There was no appetite for suffering the fate of the Nazis or subjecting the nation to more nightmarish ruination.

As the public — no longer willing to endure — soured on the war, what choice did the Emperor and his advisers have if the Imperial Household was to survive?

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2016/08/06/commentary/japan-surrender-world-war-ii/#.V6Z_DkmCsXg.facebook

August 7, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

A-bomb survivors’ leader says Japan shares blame, too

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Terumi Tanaka, secretary general of Japan Confederation of A-and H-bomb Sufferers Organizations, speaks during an interview in Tokyo on May 11.

The debate over whether U.S. President Barack Obama should apologize to Japanese survivors of America’s atomic bombings in World War II made Terumi Tanaka think: What about his own government?

Tanaka, secretary-general of Japan Confederation of A-and H-bomb Sufferers Organizations, was 13 when the United States dropped its second atomic bomb on Nagasaki city on Aug. 9, 1945, three days after the first on Hiroshima.

He was at home on a mountainside and survived, but lost five relatives in the blast. His family lived in an anti-firebombing shelter until Japan surrendered six days later.

“To be honest, I think Mr. Obama should apologize to the survivors,” said Tanaka, 84, a retired engineering professor. “I’ve seen my relatives die in front of my eyes, which I never forget.”

He added, though, that Japan also should take some of the blame.

“Japan started the war and kept dragging it on,” he said. “The government should fully take responsibility for our suffering.”

The Japanese government offered little help for survivors until the confederation he now leads was established in 1956 to demand support. A year later, a national medical compensation law was enacted, but because of stringent standards, dozens of survivors are still fighting in court to get recognized as victims.

Referring to the White House stressing that Obama’s visit Friday is not to revisit history, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for future-oriented relations with the rest of Asia, Tanaka said: “You can see the future and move on only when you squarely face the past and come to terms with it.”

Excerpts of video interviews with Tanaka, another Japanese atomic bomb survivor and U.S. veterans are available at http://apne.ws/243ZLSD.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201605250047.html

May 26, 2016 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment