by Philip Greenspan
(Swans - August 1, 2005) August 6th will mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, the first atomic bombing of a wartime enemy. Those alive at that time will never forget their initial reaction upon learning of the awesome effects of that abominable weapon. I, a GI expecting transfer to the Far East for participation in the invasion of Japan, was ecstatic. Every GI, in fact everyone whom I knew, was overjoyed. It was obvious. World War II would soon be history. Many lives would be saved. Much suffering would be avoided. "Hooray, hooray, hooray for the bomb and for Harry Truman for using it!"
As time wore on horrifying accounts slipped through the censorship net and the unanimous approval and euphoria kept diminishing as more and more prominent individuals condemned the bombing. Defenders of the decision acknowledged that the A-bomb was indeed an abominable weapon that caused inordinate numbers of innocent people untold suffering, but insisted that its use saved lives and was directed against the country whose unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor started a war.
Individuals who scrupulously examined the evidence that has accumulated over the years are convinced that the bombings were unnecessary. I believe the few items that follow are sufficient to raise doubts about its "necessity" in persons with open minds.
On August 15, 1945, President Harry Truman ordered a detailed study entitled "US Strategic Bombing Survey (Pacific War)." It was headed by twelve prominent American civilians, a select elite group. Its staff of 300 civilians, 350 military officers, and 500 enlisted men examined Japanese records and interrogated top military officers, government officials, industrialists, political leaders, and many hundreds of others throughout Japan. It was completed ten and a half months later on July 1, 1946. I have selected some pertinent sections from the 32 pages of the summary, highlighting points I wish to emphasize.
One hundred thousand people were killed, 6 square miles or over 50 percent of the built-up areas of the two cities were destroyed . . . Early in May 1945, the Supreme War Direction Council began active discussion of ways and means to end the war, and talks were initiated with Soviet Russia seeking her intercession as mediator. . . .The timing of the Potsdam Conference interfered with a plan to send Prince Konoye to Moscow as a special emissary with instructions from the cabinet to negotiate for peace on terms less than unconditional surrender, but with private instructions from the Emperor to secure peace at any price. . . . it seems clear that, even without the atomic bombing attacks, air supremacy over Japan could have exerted sufficient pressure to bring about unconditional surrender and obviate the need for invasion. . . .Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.
How did the most knowledgeable men, the top brass in the military, regard the decision to use the bomb? They almost unanimously condemned it. The roll call includes: General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, supreme allied commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF); General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, supreme allied commander of the South West Pacific Area; Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, chief of staff to the President; General of the Army Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, commanding general of the US Army Air Forces; General Carl "Tooey" Spaatz, chief of staff of the US Air Force and commander US Army Strategic Air Force (USASTAF); Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, and Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King commander in chief of the US Fleet and chief of Naval Operations. Only Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, former assistant secretary of war, acquiesced with the decision, insisting that it was a question for the president and not for the military to decide. Two well-known hawks a step lower in rank also criticized the decision The notorious Major General Curtis E. LeMay, commander of the Twenty-First Bomber Command -- who admitted, according to Robert MacNamara in the film Fog of War, that his awesome bombings were war crimes -- was quoted as saying "The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all." Another no holds barred tough wartime fighter, Admiral William "Bull" Halsey, Jr., commander of the US Third Fleet asserted "The first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment. . . . It was a mistake to ever drop it. . . . It killed a lot of Japs, but the Japs had put out a lot of peace feelers through Russia long before."
The invasion of Japan was scheduled to commence in November. Certainly between the date of the bombing and November there was ample opportunity to test the Japanese willingness to surrender. Several of Truman's advisors were confident that modifying the unconditional surrender provision would do the trick. He was approached at least fourteen times before August 8th to get him to do just that but those attempts failed.
There is abundant evidence to justify the conviction that the bombing was worthless. Yet the somnolent silent majority, too lazy to peruse the available evidence, has remained steadfast in their belief that the abominable act was indeed necessary -- thanks to the military-industrial complex, the super-patriots, and the establishment media that foster the myth.
History is replete with instances where leaders' claims differed from their motives and actions. Bush's current terrorist war is the most recent example. Scandals by both Democratic and Republican administrations over the years attest to deceptions that were exposed. Many others, where speech did not match action, were effectively covered up.
Isn't it probable that Truman knew the A-bomb would not shorten the war? So why did he use it? What could have been his motive?
An extremely rare and propitious -- once in a lifetime -- opportunity arose. The U.S. in sole possession of an unbelievably powerful weapon, a literally earth shattering bomb, would startle the world. Every nation would henceforth carefully ponder every action that might antagonize Uncle Sam. What an advantageous position to be in. The world was his oyster. But Sam would certainly not let on that this was his motive. He would continue to espouse the benevolent bullshit that has been his hallmark since he arrived on the scene. "Shock and Awe" is the neocons' version of the scare the crap out of 'em routine.
Many potential problems were surfacing and would unfold in the post-war period. Chaos reigned in many areas of the world. Indonesians were rebelling against their rightful masters, the Dutch. Rumblings from other colonies soon followed. In Europe the heroic activities of the resistance had gained the approval and trust of the people. They were leading former allies to the political left. Fear of the U.S. might moderate some of the radical forces creating these troubles.
It wasn't long, however, before the damn Soviets had unlocked the secret to the A-bomb. Sam's nuclear advantage had been trumped. Each side now maneuvered for control of various Third World countries, carefully avoiding direct confrontations with each other. Both spent recklessly, each side upping the other to gain new weapons and new spheres of influence. Eventually the Soviets used up all their chips and could no longer ante up for the next round. They not only dropped out of the big time game but their empire slipped away.
The good news for the U.S. was not assessed that way by its military-industrial complex. Without an enemy the public expected a peace dividend -- a substantial reduction in the military budget. This was truly a major problem. A new enemy had to be found pronto before spending was cut. As luck would have it the dictator the U.S. embraced in the Iran-Iraq war was suckered into becoming the latest edition of Adolf reincarnated. Gulf War I came to the rescue just in time.
The war gave Uncle Sam an opportunity to test some of those new deadly playthings that are constantly rolling out of the mass-murder factories. Wars provide the military with the appropriate laboratory to test weapons, tactics, equipment, etc. The guinea pigs are the unfortunate soldiers and innocent civilians, friend and foe alike, who are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The Vietnam War begat a wonder weapon titled, Agent Orange, a biological defoliant that has produced untold suffering in many GIs and even in their children. The military insisted that the weapon had no side effects and denied claims for disability. After years of repeated denials, proof was uncovered that the manufacturers and the military were well aware before their use of the negative health conditions that would develop. The fiasco of Agent Orange illness on the GIs did not deter the military's search for some new more lethal weapon.
Just leave it to those imaginative and resourceful mad scientists. For Gulf War I they were able to come up with a new baby, fanfare please, Depleted Uranium (DU). They took the by-product of the uranium enrichment process; finagled here, there, to the right, left, up, down; threw in a little mumbo jumbo and, voila, a new weapon. And how does son-of-the-A-bomb perform? Beautifully, the military insists. It can pierce the armor of a tank from long distances. But horrendous side effects emerge long after the bodies of unlucky individuals -- soldiers and innocent civilians -- absorb the ubiquitous DU dust that disperses after the weapon has been fired. The military emphatically denies that DU causes health problems. Shades of Agent Orange!
Numerous medical and radiation experts who have delved into the health and medical aspects of radiation and specifically DU conclude that DU causes the malady Gulf War Syndrome (GWS). Although the military denies that conclusion, the VA has granted disability compensation to over half a million Gulf I veterans.
Since DU's first use in Gulf I hundreds of tons equivalent to thousands of Nagasaki bombs have been dropped in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, etc. It pollutes the areas where it settles with toxic radiation that will last for 4.5 billion years. Gulf I was a quickie war that concluded with a handful of GI casualties. Now roughly fifteen years later symptoms of the insidious GWS have arisen in ever increasing numbers of the Gulf I vets. The current war and occupation has lasted almost two and a half years. During that time DU has been spewing its toxicity and GI casualties have exceeded 1,750 dead and 13,000 wounded. If over half of the GI vets of quickie Gulf I are now suffering from GWS, what's destined for the current GIs in fifteen years?
The lies that the Bush gang employed to inveigle the country into war with the encouragement of the super patriots has backfired. None of their predictions -- cakewalk, flowers, hearts and minds, democracy -- panned out. The GIs and the country at large are paying a high price for their duplicity. This result is not unusual. Deceptions have often been repaid with blowback, ergo Vietnam.
Truman's heartless decision to use the A-bomb needlessly killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese but gained the endorsement of super-patriots. The refusal over the years by the establishment to even permit public disclosure of dissenting arguments provided legitimacy to radioactive weapons whose mere use should be designated a war crime! As a result, that ghastly atomic bomb has spawned an offspring, DU, which ironically has devastated the offspring of the WWII generation who were so overjoyed with Truman's decision.