incineration of hundreds of thousands, and the slow death by radiation sickness
of tens of thousands more, morally unacceptable? The nerve of these "revisionists"!
Why, they must be Commies or unrepentant hippies to believe such a thing, and
sure enough, as it turns out:
these historians many of whom came of age during the Vietnam era, when
trashing America was all the rage in academia consider Truman and others
who approved the bomb's use to be nothing less than war criminals."
we are told, is "nonsense." All those deaths, and possibly more, were justified
by "military necessity": to hear them tell it, without the bombing of Hiroshima
and Nagasaki, World War II might well be going on to this day.
of the job qualifications for being a New York Post editorial writer is
a complete ignorance of history, as well as an amorality that might be called
Murdochian, as this little screed makes all too clear. For the myth of "military
necessity" as a justification for the incineration of two cities has been convincingly
debunked by the so-called revisionists, who have shown that the decision to drop
the bomb was opposed by an impressive list of Truman's top commanders, General
Douglas MacArthur among them. In The
Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, historian Gar Alperovitz reveals that
Truman's chief of staff, Admiral William Leahy, chief of Naval Operations Admiral
Ernest J. King, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Admiral William "Bull" Halsey,
Rear Admiral Lewis L. Strauss, commanding general of the U.S. Army Air Forces
Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, General Claire Chennault of the Flying Tigers, Army Strategic
Air Forces Commander Carl Spatz, and Army Air Force General Curtis "Bombs Away"
Lemay, all challenged the military necessity argument. Among Truman's top advisors,
Secretary of State Stimson, Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy, former Ambassador
to Japan Joseph Grew, Navy Under Secretary Ralph Bard, and the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, all took issue with the decision in one way or another. In 1963, Dwight
Eisenhower told Newsweek that "it wasn't necessary to hit them with that
TO MASS MURDER
were a lot of alternatives: Truman could have demonstrated the power of
the bomb without wiping out several hundred thousand civilians. He could
have altered the Rooseveltian insistence on unconditional surrender. At the time,
the US was intercepting all Japanese coded messages, and deciphering them, and
Truman knew that this was the main obstacle to Japan's peace party. British Prime
Minister Winston Churchill urged Truman to relent and allow the Japanese to surrender,
keeping their Emperor system and their honor intact. But it was no go. When Truman
stook the reins, US pronouncements on the subject did not significantly deviate
from the unconditional surrender formula, and were purposefully vague.
argument against the "military necessity" rationale is that even after the bombing
of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the Japanese refused to surrender. Nagasaki was still
burning as the Japanese Cabinet met to consider the question: the vote was 12
in favor of surrender, with 3 against and 1 undecided. Since unanimity was required,
the war was not stopped until Emperor Hirohito personally intervened. He was persuaded
to do so by the proponents of peace within the Japanese government, who were given
the upper hand not by the dropping of the bomb but by the understanding that the
Emperor system would be preserved by the Allied victors.
is underscored by General MacArthur's belief that a full-scale invasion of Japan
would be necessary even after the atom bombs were dropped. For, as many of Truman's
political and military advisors informed him, the Japanese considered their Emperor
to be a god, and could never permit his demise or that of his dynasty. As Japan's
Prime Minister Suzuki announced on June 9, 1945, "Should the emperor system be
abolished, they [the Japanese people] would lose all reason for existence. 'Unconditional
surrender', therefore, means death to the hundred million: it leaves us no choice
but to go on fighting to the last man." It was only the Emperor's understanding
that the Chrysanthemum Throne would be retained that gave the peace party the
trump card: otherwise, those who preferred national self-immolation to surrender
would almost certainly have won out.
THE MEMORY HOLE
panel set up by President Truman to study the Pacific war issued a report, the
United States Strategic Bombing
Survey, in July 1946, which declared,
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, Japan would have surrendered even if atomic bombs had
not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion
had been planned or contemplated."
report was suppressed, ignored, and shoved down the Memory Hole.
OF THE VICTORS
in wartime is the justice of the victors. This is why the war crimes of the Allies
were not allowed to be introduced into evidence at the Nuremberg trials, or the
trials of the Japanese leaders. It is why evidence of NATO's war crimes will be
dismissed out of hand by the International Criminal Tribunal when they put Slobodan
Milosevic in the dock.
CODE OF LEK
explaining why, in the face of opposition from the military, as well as top officials
in his administration, Truman ignored the religious and moral traditions of Western
civilization, we are back to the Code of Lek and the ethical norms of New York's
concrete canyons (and Washington's corridors of power) where revenge is considered
the sweetest liquor. This cultural ethos was reflected in a radio address given
August 9, after Nagasaki fell victim to the fire from heaven, in which Truman
found the bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us
without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and
executed American prisoners of war, against those who have abandoned all pretense
of obeying international laws of warfare."
here was the great guardian of democratic liberal values, the chief executive
and symbol of the West's triumph over the powers of totalitarian darkness, exhibiting
a lust for inflicting pain bordering on the pathological. A more overt appeal
to savagery can hardly be imagined. Equating the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
with the wholesale vaporization of innocent civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki
would be funny to someone with a really grotesque sense of humor. In any
case, it is not as if the inhabitants of those unfortunate cities had any say
in determining the military policies of their leaders.
may have had his own doubts about the morality of the decision, but in the end
domestic political considerations won out over ethical concerns. Never mind about
highfalutin' ethical principles, let's just get the job done: this sort of pragmatism
is supposedly synonymous with the American Way. It was, however, a degeneration
of the American character that only occurred at the turn of the century, after
World War I, waves of immigration, and the vulgarization of the culture had already
eroded the foundations of our old Republic. That such a barbaric act as the fiery
immolation of two Japanese cities is, today, being justified and even celebrated
in the US is proof positive of our advanced state of moral decadence.
great horror is that this heinous deed was committed against Japan, a civilization
as far removed from our own as the streets of New York are from the African savannas.
It's at times like these that I tend to believe the wrong side won the war in
the Pacific. Just think: if we all woke up one day living in some alternate history,
as in Phillip K. Dick's The
Man in the High Castle, our cultural malaise would disappear overnight.
Instead of listening to the latest loutish lyrics of Eminem, American teenagers
would be contemplating the subtle beauty of the Japanese tea ceremony. If contemporary
Japan is any clue, the crime rate would be cut by 95 percent, and the literacy
rate would skyrocket. Certainly everyone's manners would improve. All in all,
life would be far more civilized, imbued with a gentility that would make the
New York Post an impossibility.
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