December 18, 2000
Ed. Note: We strongly recommend that you first read the introduction to this essay by Rick Rozoff.
"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom."
On July 16, 1945, U.S. President Harry Truman, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the Soviet Union's Joseph Stalin met in Potsdam, Germany to discuss surrender terms for the Japanese and Russia's planned entry into the Pacific campaign. Stalin had received communications outlining a conditional surrender that would allow Japanese Emperor Hirohito to remain as a ceremonial functionary.
On the same day, approximately 230 miles from Los Alamos, New Mexico in the Jornada del Mueto valley at the "Trinity" test site, the world's first atomic bomb was detonated. After viewing the horrific explosion the director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, J. Robert Oppenheimer, quoted the Bhagavad-Gita: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."
Scientists working on plutonium production at the "Metallurgical Project" laboratory at the University of Chicago debated whether the atomic bomb should be used against Japan. A committee chaired by Nobel laureate James Franck urged the United States to demonstrate the new weapon on a barren island. Conversely, another all-civilian group named the "Interim Committee", chaired by Secretary of War Henry Stimson, advised that the weapon be used directly.
However, Stimson also stated "I am inclined to think that there is enough such chance to make it well worthwhile our giving them a warning of what is to come and a definite opportunity to capitulate. We have the following enormously favorable factors on our side, factors much weightier that those we had against Germany: Japan has no allies; Her navy is nearly destroyed and she is vulnerable to a surface and underwater blockade which can deprive her of sufficient food and supplies for her population; She is terribly vulnerable to our concentrated air attack upon her crowded cities, industrial and food resources; She has against her not only Anglo-American forces but the rising forces of China and the ominous threat of Russia."
"During his (Secretary of War Henry Stimson's) recitation of the relative facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings: first, on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly, because I thought that our country should avoid shocking the world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of "face." The secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude". General Dwight D. Eisenhower
President Truman's private journal and correspondence written at the time of the bombings indicate that contrary to his public justification of the bombings as the only way to end the war without a costly invasion of Japan, Truman had already concluded that Japan was about to capitulate. Whether or not he was correct in this estimate of when the war would end, the fact that he held this view at the time he made his decision to use the atomic bombs is clearly set down in his own hand.
"I cannot speak for the others but it was ever present in my mind that it was important that we have an end to the war before the Russians came in...Neither the President nor I were anxious to have them (the Soviets) enter the war after we had learned of this successful (atomic) test." James Byrnes, Secretary of State 1945-47
"Mr. Byrnes did not argue that it was necessary to use the bomb against the cities of Japan in order to win the war...Mr. Byrnes view (was) that our possessing and demonstrating the bomb would make Russia more managable in Europe." Leo Szilard, Nuclear Physicist
"The use of the atomic bombs was precipitated by a desire to end the war in the Pacific by any means before Russia's participation. I'm sure if President Roosevelt had still been there, none of that would have been possible." Albert Einstein
According to Admiral William D. Leahy, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and President Truman's Chief of Staff: "The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons... In being the first to use it [the atomic bomb], we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages."
In early 1946, Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson appointed a committee charged with drafting an international agreement to avert a nuclear arms race. Under the terms of the plan, the U.S. would stop making nuclear weapons, dismantle existing weapons, and transfer its nuclear materials to an international authority after the Soviet Union had agreed to an in-depth inspection and verification program. The Soviets were developing nuclear weapons and wanted dismantlement first and inspections later.
The disagreement has led to the largest and most dangerous military extravaganza the world has ever seen. The U.S. alone has spent approximately five trillion dollars on nuclear weapons.
Notes: All but one quote are taken from Hiroshima's Shadow edited by Kai Bird and Lawrence Lifschultz from Pamphleteer's Press, Stony Creek, Connecticut - 584pp, ISBN 0-9630587-3-8 - Published 6 August 1998 - http://www.danford.net/shadow.htm. The Admiral William D. Leahy quote is taken from the essay Why the atomic bomb wasn't necessary to end the war by Janet Bloomfield, British Coordinator of the Atomic Mirror and a consultant to the Oxford Research Group in Oxford (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Michael W. Stowell is chairperson of The City of Arcata Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Commission, Humboldt County, CA. When interviewed by the Arcata City Council for a position on the NWFZ Commission, Michael was asked why he wanted to participate. His answer was that 40 years ago when he entered grade school, the boys lavatory was in the basement of the school, and on the wall was a sign that read "Nuclear Fallout Shelter." When he asked what the sign meant, he was frightened by the answer.
Many events have occurred in the last 40 years that have caused the concerns about nuclear weapons to become widespread and Michael believes that serving with Arcata's NWFZ Commission is a fine opportunity for expressing his concern and acting upon it.
[Ed. Note: The City of Arcata, incorporated in 1858, is located in Humboldt County, on California's Redwood Coast, at the juncture of California Highway 101 and 299 West. The city is approximately 289 miles north of San Francisco, 150 miles west of Redding and 760 miles north of Los Angeles. The 1990 census reported Arcata's population as 15,197 and the county population as 119,118.]
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