HIROSHIMA AND NAGASAKI: BEYOND GOOD ENDS EVIL.
December 7 2006.
LEARNING TO THINK RIGHT BY STUDYING THE ETHICS OF ATOMIC BOMBINGS ON JAPAN.
Abstract and warning: Fanatical pacifism is fascism's best friend and enabler. Many pacific exhibitionists whine about the atomic bombings that snuffed WW2. As we detail below, this is so morally erroneous, from so many angles, that it should be viewed as a poster boy for the incapacity to reason in front of enormity. Nevertheless, the more enormous, the more momentous, and the moment should be seized by reason, not derision. It's true that the bombings were atrocious, but it's even truer that the alternatives were way worse. That's the crux. Mankind has to learn how to minimize evil, not maximize emotional self glorifying satisfaction.
Modern hypertechnology, and a runaway greenhouse heating, will make it necessary to engineer methods to choose the least of all possible evils.
As an example, the choice of France and Britain to declare war to Hitler in 1939 saved civilization. But that tough choice could be viewed by rabid pacifists as the apparent proximal cause of the death of more than 60 million people. Curiously, pacifists rarely think of whining about those sixty millions. Instead they focus, in their little ways, on the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Maybe they feel they found there something to accuse the forces of goodness with.
In truth, it’s the decision of French and British leaders to go to war against fascism which led to Hiroshima and Nagasaki (and literally so, as we will show). But of course, enough was enough, and the only mistake the democracies did is that they were not tough enough, early enough.
It turned out that is exactly what went right with the atomic bombings: at that stage of the fascist instigated war, atomic bombing could not have come early enough, but it was tough enough. “A golden opportunity given by heaven“ (see below). Too bad atom bombs had not been in democratic hands much earlier. If they want peace, pacifists should stop second guessing war, it’s not their place. They tried hard enough at Munich, now they should rest.
Instead of founding morality just on the first deeds which come around, the old fashion way, morality should rest first on hard thinking, to find which deeds matter most, and what they, and their consequences, truly are. It's the thought that counts.
THE SUPERFICIAL ARGUMENT AGAINST THE NUCLEAR FIREWORKS THAT CONCLUDED WORLD WAR TWO:
The San Francisco Chronicle relates the opinion of an old US Navy officer, now a "famed SF poet", about the Nagasaki bombing (SFC, 11/11/06). Ensign Ferlinghetti and two friends took a train up to Nagasaki six weeks after the nuclear bomb had exploded. Says he:
"I saw a giant field of scorched mulch. It sprawled out to the horizon, 3 square miles looking like someone had worked over it like a huge blowtorch. A few sticks from buildings jutted up like black arms. I found a teacup that seemed like it had human flesh fused into it, just melted into the porcelain. In that instant, I became a total pacifist."
The SF Chronicle pursues this way: "It's long been argued that using the atomic bombs to compel Japan's unconditional surrender actually saved millions of lives that would have been lost on both sides had the allies being forced to invade. Ferlinghetti disagrees.
‘It was a monstrous, racist act, the worst the US ever committed. Had the Japanese been white-skinned, those bombs would not have dropped.’"
Such simple emotional logic is all too basic. "Atomic bombing is horrible, Americans use atomic bombing, therefore Americans are horrible racists." Besides being self serving (presumably those who denounce horror and racism enjoy neither), this is logic a two year old would understand all too well: it's horrible, so let's cry, as loudly as possible. There is no doubt that Mr. Ferlinghetti, and the Chronicle, mean well. The problem is that THE ROAD TO HELL IS PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS, AND DRIVEN ON BY EXTREMELY BAD REASONINGS. The "reasoning" above, a form of shrieking, is an example of what not to emulate as a claim to reason. But if one does not follow reason, would I perfidiously add, one follows madness. What else? Even poetry has its reasons...
We will show that all the indications are that, indeed, the atomic bombings saved millions of Japanese at the cost of less than 200,000. We will sketch powerful reasons (some new). Besides, we will dispose of the accusation of racism. Considering the holocaust the Japanese Imperial army spread about, Japan, as a country, got out lightly: 2 million soldiers and 600,000 civilians killed. Total.
In the period 1931-45, a rogue, fascist and right wing, self promoting, coup and assassination prone, mass murdering Japanese Imperial Army was making total war against the Chinese Republic, and leveraged this to seize power in Japan ("Showa Restoration": anyone who spoke out against Japanese imperial expansion was killed).
Under the Japanese Imperial Army assault, China lost at least 3.2 million soldiers, 9 million civilians in the crossfire, and another 8 million indirectly (mostly from starvation). Most Western historians believe at least 20 million died, and some Chinese claim the total deaths were 35 million. The JIA killed millions in other countries too. Considering this, is it not mentally unbalanced, even racist, to obsess about the two flashes of gamma rays which put an immediate end to the mass butchery Made in Japan?
Interestingly, Ferlinghetti's quote above is devious in a deep nationalistic way. The obnoxious assertion is made that the US never committed worse than killing 200,000 with two nuclear bombs. Thus it is implicitly claimed that invading an entire continent (starting with Tennessee, Georgia, etc.), the way the USA did it after gaining independence from Britain, and extinguishing most of its native humanity, was not as monstrous. Millions of the Red Skins, would be worth less than 200,000 Japs. This racial imbalance sounds twisted, when one claims to be giving moral lessons to ... the USA. But it's pretty typical of the old imperialistic, holier-than-thou trick of loudly hiding a huge crime, behind a smaller one. For example the US government, under G. W. Bush, has accused vociferously S. Hussein of monstrous crimes, in part to draw attention away from its own clear violations of international laws and the Geneva Conventions (such as those pertaining to the non destruction of the administration, police and civilian society of the occupied country).
HOW THE ATOMIC BOMBINGS STOPPED THE WAR:
Another problem about claiming that Nagasaki's atomic bombing was "monstrous": the Japanese emperor was able to use it to force the Japanese cabinet to surrender during the long night that followed the destruction of Nagasaki. Decisions in the cabinet were taken by consensus, so it was not easy: several of the decision makers concerned would be called to account for their warmongering, after Japanese surrender (Tojo, the de facto dictator of Japan, tried to commit suicide, failed even that, and was judged, and hanged).
The peace faction seized on the bombing as a new argument to force surrender. Koichi Kido, one of Emperor Hirohito's closest advisors, stated: "We of the peace party were assisted by the atomic bomb in our endeavor to end the war." Hisatsune Sakomizu, the chief Cabinet secretary in 1945, called the bombing "a GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY GIVEN BY HEAVEN for Japan to end the war." One man’s hell is another man’s heaven…
According to these historians and others, the pro-peace civilian leadership was able to use Hiroshima and Nagasaki to convince the military that no amount of skill and fearless combat could help Japan mitigate the terms of surrender against the power of atomic weapons. The simplest inspection of the schedule of decisions in the eight days following Hiroshima shows clearly that it is the explosions of the atomic bombs which brought the peace.
NOTHING BUT ATOMIC BOMBING WOULD HAVE FORCED THE JAPANESE ARMY TO CAPITULATE IMMEDIATELY:
A revisionist Japanese historian, Hasegawa, asserted that the Russian attack in Manchuria was more decisive than the atomic bombings on the Japanese motherland. But the Russians rushed their invasion 60 hours after, and because of, Hiroshima. Thus Hasegawa self contradicts, because he claims the consequence of the cause was more important than the cause. All the more since the change of attitude on the US side, caused by the imminence of nuclear strikes, was perceived on the Soviet side, and thence the Soviets advanced their Manchurian offensive by many weeks. Moreover, Hasegawa himself points out that the Japanese Imperial Army’s value system made it highly unlikely that it would have been convinced by defeat in some distant land to cry uncle to Uncle Sam.
Akio Morita, the founder of Sony, a physicist in weapons development during the war, also concludes that it was the atomic bomb which convinced the Japanese military to agree to peace: "I had known that Japan was losing the war and that continuing the battle was futile, but I also knew that THE MILITARY WOULD WANT TO FIGHT TO THE LAST MAN ... it was shocking to realize that the Americans had done (the atomic bomb). It was obvious that ... our technology had to be primitive in comparison. We might as well give up our research right now. If the Americans can build an atomic bomb, we must be too far behind in every field to catch up. My superior officer got very angry with me."
Admiral Yamamoto pointed out in 1939: "Japanese cities, being made of wood and paper, would burn very easily. The Army talks big, but if war came and there were large-scale air raids, there's no telling what would happen." What happened is that, by June 1944, after more than 1,600 sorties, the US bomber fleet had destroyed 40% of the urban area of Japan's six largest cities (Tokyo, Nagoya, Kobe, Osaka, Yokohama and Kawasaki).
The culturally insane Japanese army leadership wanted, at the very least, to show itself that it was the equal of Samurai of old (who, after all, had thrown the Mongols back into the sea twice, against tremendous odds). Deep down that army had social roots, and wanted to show the world it was aristocratic at heart. Inspired by the noble martial showing of the Nazis, who had just fallen on their sword, exuberantly playing Wagner's Gotterdammerung (dusk of the Gods) in a bombed out Berlin opera house with apocalyptic pleasure, while killing as many people as they could, the would-be Samurai of the Japanese army could be expected to show the same determination, going through the same moves. To be at least as good and noble, and as crazy with martial furor as the white man, was most important to this crowd.
As it was, after the cabinet had decided, and the emperor, the living God, had ordered the surrender of Japan, fanatical army officers TRIED A COUP (against the emperor!). But their heart was not in it, and the coup failed. That heart had been vaporized by nukes, whose very perversity made surrendering to the Americans honorable (since, it could be argued, traditional bushido was obsolete). Still many Japanese army chiefs committed suicide. The entire Kamikaze command embarked in many planes, and flew away, never to be seen again. War minister Anami committed Hara Kiri the very old fashion way, carefully slicing his belly open.
CONVENTIONAL ALTERNATIVES FOR WAR PROSECUTION WOULD HAVE BEEN MUCH MORE DEADLY FOR ALL CONCERNED:
Pursuing the war killed about 7,000 people per day, mostly innocent civilians in areas occupied by the Japanese Imperial Army. So waiting for months was far from a cost free solution in human terms. Moreover, as disorganization, and the fanatical exertions of the fascist JIA military increased, civilian losses would have accelerated considerably, as happened in Europe.
On top of that, the Japanese Imperial Army frantically worked to slow down the tide. With German plans in hand, it tested, and intended to mass produce, fighter jets and rocket planes. Moreover, the JIA was not as clueless as the Nazis, and knew nuclear bombs could be made. It had no less than three independent programs to make them, and may even have tested such a device in August 1945 (in North Korea...). The JIA intended to have some radioactive devices to welcome American landings (the Russian attack in Korea may have disrupted this plan, however). The subject was so sensitive that it was kept secret for decades from the American people (so as not to hinder the post war Japan-US friendship). Within seconds of the Hiroshima blast, Japanese physicists observing some characteristic red streaks in the rising mushroom knew that it was a uranium fission bomb.
To prevent further extension of that increasingly deadly war, constant bombing on Japanese industrial centers, i.e., Japanese cities, would have had to keep on going. The Japanese fascists would have reacted by dispersing their war industry, as the Nazis had. The Allies anticipated this. So the conventional assault on Japan in its next phase intended to disrupt land transportation by aerial bombing, a method that had been used massively, and highly successfully, in Europe. Because Japan is all mountains and islands, the effect on food distribution might have led to 10 million deaths by starvation during the following winter, according to the US planners. Comparatively, the nuclear volatilization of Japan war making before it could be dispersed was much more human.
Put simply, the assault of Japan by Allied ground forces, island by island, would have caused FAR MORE civilian deaths and suffering than the use of atomic bombs on two cities (by a factor of at least 50!). An invasion or blockade would have severely damaged Japan's agriculture and other economic infrastructure (as happened in Europe). Besides, there were millions of Japanese army soldiers occupying a lot of Asia. In French Indochina alone, Japanese army actions had already killed more than one million people. It was time to put a stop to it all.
OLD MORALITY WAS FOUNDED ON DEEDS ONLY, WHEREAS THE POST-THERMONUCLEAR MORALITY SHOULD PAY MORE ATTENTION TO DISCRIMINATIVE THINKING:
Drawing ethics from the visual shock of nuclear scorching is romantic, as superficial as can be: the deed is hard to look at, therefore the deed has got to be bad. By that token, open heart surgery should be morally indefensible.
Emotion-at-first-sight morality is as obsolete as can be. Most bigots live by it. Conventional morality emphasizes deeds, bad, and good, and assumes their faces say what they are, and what they do. But deeds can lie. Our world is immensely complex; it is often unclear when a deed is bad, or good, because it is not clear what its consequences are. As the long term consequences of deeds become increasingly lost in the distance, it's not clear what they mean. THE WAYS OF GOD WERE MYSTERIOUS, THOSE OF CIVILIZATION ARE EVEN MORE SO.
If morality can't even tell what the consequences of an act are, how can it tell us whether that act is good or bad? How can morality talk, if it does not know whether what it is talking about is good or bad? ABSENT DUE RECOGNITION TO THE PROBLEM OF COGNITION, THE OLD MORAL SYSTEMS ARE BECOMING INCREASINGLY SENILE, just as brains struck by Alzheimer's disease, cluttered with amyloid plaques, unable to process reality.
These days, people seem to be a bit too obsessed by non discrimination, a catchy mood to adorn oneself with, especially if one is mentally lazy. But it should not be forgotten that INTELLIGENCE IS ALL ABOUT DISCRIMINATION, and that NO INTELLIGENCE IMPLIES NO MORALITY. Japanese revisionists indiscriminately refer to Japan's holocaust in Asia as the "historical problem". To this day, they have a problem discerning reality, and that is useful to them, so they keep on playing dumb. Just as well, the US, unwilling to fight fascism in 1937, suppressed the reality of what happened at Nanjing (deliberate deadly attack of the JIA on USS Panay, killing US sailors, plus 300,000 civilians massacred in cold blood).
THE OKINAWA BATTLE AND ITS ATOMIC CONSEQUENCES:
On April 1, 1945, a 183,000 strong US Tenth Army landed on Okinawa, with 22,000 tons of supplies provided each day. The island harbored 300,000 civilians. Only 196,000 civilians were found alive after the battle. Some were forced to fight; many were misled into it by propaganda: women attacked soldiers with spears. Civilians gathered around grenades, and exploded them. 107,539 Japanese soldiers were killed in action. Another 24,000 were sealed in caves (sometimes on their own). Only 10,755 Japanese soldiers were captured or surrendered. This massacre is all the more striking because the landings were unopposed, and a lot of the action resulted from a deliberate will to inflict as much mayhem as possible on US forces.
It would seem that about 235,000 Japanese died at Okinawa, more than half of those present before the battle. American losses included 34 ships sunk, 60% of US armor and 763 planes, destroyed. In just one action, 153 US tanks were demolished. More than 12,500 US soldiers were killed, and 36,000 wounded. It was by far the bloodiest battle of the Pacific war. Eight week later, Japan was philosophically enlightened by "a weapon that shone".
US strategists changed course after Okinawa. They preferred not to wait for the Soviet intervention in fall, and the next phase of the conventional bombing, and the first landing on the main islands. Most military historians believe that Okinawa led directly to the atomic bombings. Victor D. Hanson states this explicitly in his book "Ripple of Battle": "because the Japanese on Okinawa, including native Okinawans, were so fierce in their defense (even when cut off, and without supplies), and because casualties were so appalling, many American strategists looked for an alternative means to subdue mainland Japan, other than a direct invasion. This means presented itself, with the advent of atomic bombs, which worked admirably in convincing the Japanese to sue for peace, without American casualties. Ironically, the American conventional fire-bombing of major Japanese cities (which had been going on for months before Okinawa) was far more effective at killing civilians than the atomic bombs and, had the Americans simply continued, or expanded this, the Japanese would likely have surrendered anyway. Nevertheless, the bombs were a powerful symbolic display of American power, and the Japanese capitulated, obviating the need for an invasion of the home islands."
JAPANESE AUTHORITIES' DELIBERATE INACTION LED TO A HIGH LOSS OF INNOCENT LIVES:
Submitted to massive Allied bombing since a raid on Berlin by the French in spring 1940, the Nazis had years to disperse a lot of industry in the countryside, in the forests and below mountains, and so they did. Not so in Japan.
Since most of military industry was concentrated inside cities, JAPANESE CITIES WERE VALID MILITARY OBJECTIVES. It was the responsibility of Japanese authorities to evacuate, from those places where they conducted crucial war efforts, non necessary personnel, such as civilians not supporting the war, and especially CHILDREN. Clearly, it was not America's fault, if the Japanese had left children and innocent civilians among military installations. (although systematic evacuations had reduced Hiroshima's population by more than a third). Two thousands Japanese Americans (stuck in Japan by its surprise attack) died at Hiroshima, and hundreds of POWs (considering how many non Japanese were in the cities, should not one wonder whether the JIA's was using human shields, as it said it would?).
On July 29, 1945, Truman said that: ”I have ordered Sec. of War, Mr. Stimson … that (the atomic bomb) be used so that military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children … the target will be a purely military one.”
Wishful thinking. The problem was that all ships were sunk, all good pilots had been shot down, all the military and its weapons were buried, and all was left supporting it in plain sight was a military industrial complex spread within cities.
Leaflets were dropped by the Americans over cities before they were bombed, warning people, and urging them to escape to the countryside. Though many, even within the Air Force, viewed this as a form of psychological warfare, a significant element in the decision to produce and drop warnings was to assuage American anxieties about the extent of the destruction created by this new war tactic (unfortunately, leaflets were dropped on Nagasaki only the 10th, because initially the bombing was to happen the 11th, but was advanced to the 9th by Colonel Tibbets, with 5 days of very bad weather coming).
Hiroshima and Nagasaki were high worth military objectives. Hiroshima, the 9th Army headquarters, had been left untouched. A small bombing on Nagasaki (Aug 1), on the port, had resulted in stray bombs falling on a hospital. It was the first bombing on Nagasaki, it caused concern, and many people, including schoolchildren, were evacuated to rural areas.
THE NUCLEAR BOMBINGS AND THEIR FATALITIES:
A bomb with 6.4 kilograms of plutonium was dropped over Nagasasaki’s industrial valley on August 9. Forty-three seconds later it exploded at 469 meters above the ground exactly halfway between the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works in the south and the Mitsubishi-Urakami Ordnance Works (Torpedo Works) in the north. This was in the middle of the Urakami industrial valley and a major portion of the city was protected by intervening hills. The resulting explosion had a blast yield equivalent to 22 kilotons of TNT. The high altitude of the nuclear fission insured that the fireball did not touch the ground, considerably reducing the local fall out and creation of deadly long lived radioactive nuclides (which instead went in the stratosphere to be dropped on the US mainland…). This seems to have reduced (local) deaths from radio nuclei to just a few hundreds (by supernumerary cancer deaths, over a few decades). It’s the explosion itself which mostly killed people, not long term radiation poisoning.
There have been no scholarly consensus on exactly how many people were killed by the nuclear bombs, because scholars tend to be scared of serious controversies.
According to high estimates, about 80,000 of Nagasaki's 250,000 residents were killed, including 10,000 from acute irradiation (from gamma rays and neutrons at the time of the blast) in the following weeks, and up to 60,000 were injured. Other estimates say about 40,000 dead (22,000 on the first day, 17,000 in the next four months: that’s the more precise estimate). This was less than the death toll at Hiroshima (15Kt from an inefficient uranium gun bomb, but a flat city, 90,000 killed, at most, according to Hiroshima police). The most accurate estimates give a grand total of 130,000 dead within 4 months, adding both bombs. The real numbers are somewhat higher, but depends upon unknown numbers of soldiers, (Korean) slaves, and prisoners present. It’s unlikely that the grand total would be more than 210,000, exactly what Japanese occupation killed in other countries officially, each month. These mathematics of death are not immoral, far from it. Mitigating horror requires measuring it, and its causes. Pacifists who do not want to mitigate horror are liars, with deep, sinister agendas from the dark side.
Much higher estimates of the atomic death toll deliberately lie by confusing fatalities and casualties. Many POWs were in the area. 24 Australians survived, 1.5 kilometer from Nagasaki ground zero, and many lived to a ripe old age. There has been a tendency to attribute all deaths of all people who witnessed atomic fireworks to the later, but it makes no medical sense: only some local rain brought down some serious radiation in a few places; modern medicine has strict evaluations of the carcinogenicity of radiation, and those say that, aside from the initial flash (the acute irradiation), there was relatively little radioactive poisoning (only hundreds could have died from long term radiation poisoning).
(Nuclear terrorists would probably use a ground exploding (hence “dirty“) bomb, and that would be a completely different situation, with lots of radiation poisoning. Also, from 1952 to 1962, amounts of fission products discharged into the atmosphere by irresponsible fission-fusion-fission bomb tests were of the order of more than ten thousand times greater than all the radioactivity unleashed by Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and they spread death and destruction worldwide. Not everything atomic is good, but it‘s another subject.)
The conventional bombing of Tokyo on March 8, 1945, had killed more than 100,000 in a firestorm. Tokyo was the place where most of the Japanese war industry was located, so, once again, it was a valid military objective. It was the most destructive bombing ever. The greatest destruction was immediately east of the imperial palace, where the war was conducted from. So the warmongers, who had been waging world war since their 1931 invasion of Manchuria, could fully appreciate the consequence of their actions, and, hopefully deduce something, as they finally did on the night of August 9. Seeing 20 square miles of Tokyo go up in smoke in February and March may have helped, though.
On the other hand, the equanimity of the fascists, facing such heavy punishment, show that a more shocking treatment was needed. Actually the fascists were not moved by Hiroshima. It’s only the quick follow up with Nagasaki which unnerved them.
(Tokyo bay was considered for a first nuclear bombing, but it was correctly assessed that the frantic warmongers would decide an explosion there was some trick, and may even have got used to the “weapon that shone”, and it was better to demonstrate a weapon that worked.)
Unbalanced, maybe even rabid, pacifists are invited to compare the losses from US atomic bombings with the losses fanaticized Japanese incurred at Okinawa, of their own deliberate madness. The losses at Okinawa, scaled up, meant that at least 50 million Japanese would have died during an invasion. The Japanese armed forces had stocked up gigantic reserves of ammunitions and weapons (just one cave east of Tokyo contained 5,000 planes to use for kamikaze attacks). The fascists were eager to fight to death. The army chief of staff, an aesthete of sorts, wrote a moving poem on the beauty of 100 million flowers being cut down (namely the beauty of most Japanese dying, Okinawa style). Ironically, man-made rising suns vaporized the plans of fascists obsessed by the rising sun.
THE COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE POPULATIONS OF THE FASCIST COUNTRIES WHICH STARTED WW2:
Recently the US leadership went crazy, and invaded a country for shameful reasons, spreading everything bad, short of outright cannibalism. Using massive propaganda, including absurd lies and amazing fantasies, from a corrupt media, the leaders got support of the vengeful population, most of it so uncritical that thinking hard became bad manners, or even a sin. At first little inclined to recognize the crime they had been invited to become accomplice to, the American people reconfirmed their support for the criminal madness by voting erroneously in 2004. Finally, though, helped by evidence for the increasing mayhem in Iraq, Americans saw the light, and threw the immoral nuts out in 2006. Good, but it was high time.
Before WW2, the mental and cultural retardation of the populations in which it festered allowed fascism to take power in three countries which had the means to cause world wide havoc: Italy, Germany and Japan. In the first two, the fascists acceded to power by constitutional means. Germany and Japan had been more than flirting with fascism for two generations. Soon Hitler ingratiated himself with many Germans (and the US plutocrats he was doing business with) by an economic program that mostly consisted in stealing Moshe to pay Heinz. The case of Japan was different, because there were no elections: a top military fascist clique grabbed power ruthlessly, by leveraging its invasion of China (a bloody counter coup by lower army ranks failed). There was less complicity in the criminal enterprise by the average population.
Italy, Germany and Japan suffered, but also psychologically prospered, under their dreadful governments, for years. There was codependency between the fascist government and the populace supporting it.
But the fascists could not stop: THE JUSTIFICATION FOR FASCISM IS WAR, SO WAR THERE HAD TO BE, FOR FASCISM TO GO ON. The fascists rekindled (world) war in 1931/36/37 (invading China, Rhineland, Ethiopia, Spain). The world war killed 62 million people (that’s the old official number; in truth more: many refugees died unaccounted for, and the USSR, trying to impress, lied about the full extent of its losses, which were about 50% larger than announced, it seems).
Although it's not fashionable to speak of collective responsibilities, collective responsibilities there were. It’s a responsibility of a population of a country to not let that country go on a world wide rampage.
Many in the populations of Italy, Germany and Japan aided and empowered the war, causing the death of more than 50 million non Italians, non Germans and non Japanese. Most such people lived in cities. Tough, but true. Too many people in the cities heavily bombed by the Western Allies were not that innocent. It was their moral duty to rebel, it was their crime to cooperate, and it was a crime to find nothing wrong with everything wrong. Yes, being gullible is a crime, when it’s organized crime which gives the orders. The fascist governments were just organized gangs, it was plain to see, should one want to have eyes. The fact the fascists tried to hid in their cities behind innocents and children makes their case worse.
Many Italians realized their crime, and Italy, pushed by her own population, switched sides ASAP. The case of Japan was different, once again, because it is the civilian leadership which revolted against the fascist leadership of the Japanese Imperial Army. Helped crucially by Nagasaki, within hours, the emperor was able to sway the cabinet in an orderly surrender.
In Germany, the Nazis, who had fanatical support from many youth they had programmed to death, surrendered only after Germany had been overrun completely. This caused millions of deaths in Europe whose only reason was pure hatred, and the orgiastic aesthetics of inflicting death. Yes, millions of the dead were Germans, but by then Hitler and his minions hated Germans too.
THE ATOMIC BOMBINGS WERE NOT RACIALLY MOTIVATED, THE IDEA CAME FROM FRANCE:
US emotions about Japan, far from hatred, played the other way; Kyoto was the most obvious prime target left in Japan, but the US War Secretary, Stimson, refused to atom bomb it, because of its beauty, and because he (and others in the US military such as the Chief of Staff) were strongly opposed to bombing civilians, and, besides, Kyoto was so wonderful for honeymoons. It's not like a bunch of WASP Americans had contrived especially horrendous devices to mass exterminate yellow monkeys. Far from it.
The nuclear bomb program was started by the French War Ministry in January 1938, to use against the Nazis. It was pursued in Britain, and then moved to the USA ("Manhattan"), still with the Nazis in mind. But the Nazis were unaware that nuclear bombs could be made, whereas 1935 Chemistry Nobel Laureate Irene Joliot-Curie, a French woman, was so aware of it, she launched the nuclear effort. Because she was French, and a woman, she is religiously ignored to this day by male Anglo-Saxon thinkers, a clear case of racism and sexism, with the consequence of giving an erroneous inception to the chain of events that led to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Joliot Curie had realized and demonstrated the old alchemical dream of the transmutation of elements, by fabricating new radioactive elements (thence, the Nobel). The nuclear bombs, especially the plutonium implosion types, depended upon these.
WAS JAPAN’S PUNISHMENT HARSH ENOUGH TO HAVE LEARNED DEEP ENOUGH?
Aerial bombings against German cities killed at least 750,000 civilians. It's not clear how many exactly. For example, Dresden had about 650,000 people before the war (more than twice Hiroshima or Nagasaki). Nazi propaganda claimed that 300,000 died. Sturdy recent estimates put the number around 25,000 (but that might not count all refugees). More German civilians died from aerial bombing than did Japanese civilians, even after including the atomic bombings. Million more German civilians died in military actions on the ground, millions more were wounded and forever exiled from their birthplaces. After the war, a great national questioning led to in depth German de-fascization. Japan did not suffer as much, and did not learn as much.
Many Japanese civilians were working like bees inside their cities, supporting a world war instigated and initiated by the Japanese Imperial Army in 1931. This Japanese war service led to, it seems, to at least 40 times more civilians killed in foreign countries Japan had attacked than got killed in Japan.
Many people were responsible for this Asian holocaust in a big way, and they were all Japanese. Conveniently, Japan had never signed any of the Geneva Conventions. Japan “accepted” (but did not “approve“) the Tokyo Trials, and other trials of Japanese war criminals (there were more than 2,200 such trials throughout Asia, resulting in 4,400 convictions and 1,000 executions). Japan had first victoriously warred against China in 1894/95, and annexed Korea in 1910: attacking others had become a deeply ingrained cultural habit of modern, fascist, Japan.
After 1945, the USA, desiring to make peace with the powerful in Japan, rather than punishing them, did not try to extirpate as many of those responsible as was done with the fascists in Germany. So the existence of Japanese fascism was never fully recognized in Japan itself to the extent it deserved. Many “Class A war criminals” acceded to the highest functions after the war. Kishi, one of them, became Prime minister in 1958. His 52 year old grand son, Shinzo Abe, in turn became Prime minister of Japan in 2006, and some may wonder whether Japan got enlightened enough in 1945 to disregard enough of its old ways. Apparently not.
In 1978 “Class A war criminals” were enshrined at Yasukuni Shrine. The cultural point thus enshrined at Yasukuni was that “war service” is above piddling considerations such as mass, war criminal behavior (in other words: we learned nothing!). The Japanese fascists had scored, once again, and the Prime Minister soon went to pray there.
Emperor Hiro Hito, though, was not amused. Although he had persisted in calling Tojo a “loyal servant”, paying respects to war criminals, for the whole planet to see, was one immorality too far, even for him. Hiro Hito wanted to make clear he refuted such exuberance in the culture of fascism: he refused to visit the shrine after the enshrinement of the war criminals there. Hiro Hito had enough of a core justification which had enabled Japanese fascism to reach such heights during his reign.
Fascists believe morality is subservient to war (that is exactly what they wanted to symbolize by the enshrining mass murderers at Yasukuni in 1978). Democrats believe war is an instrument of a higher morality (hence the atomic bombings to end the war ASAP, and at the lowest cost in human lives).
Conclusion: THERMONUCLEAR MORALITY NEEDED NOW:
The universe is nuclear powered. No future in burning stuff as cavemen did. The divine complexity of long term consequences is our fate now.
Nuclear power, far from being particularly sinister, is how the universe works. Fascism, on the other hand, is how civilization cannot work, and will surely disappear. Nuclear energy has to be used, fascism has to be crushed. Both wills added up at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That fascism can only be subdued by the local space-time application of an even greater fascism is just intrinsic to the art of war.
The atomic bombings were pieces and parcels of the tragedy of fascism running amok in the 20C. France and Britain had to go to war, because they saw clearly the long term consequences of letting fascism chose the time and place of battle. As soon as France and Britain declared war, world war, it was obvious thousands of children would die. Instead millions died, because the USA just waited selfishly until its fascist friends found it sleeping in its lair, and did what they did best.
Some will insist: ”what of all the children?” Well, the fascists had left them in the cities where they were busy with their Armageddon factories, preparing more megadeath. It’s not as if the world had attacked the Japan of the Imperial Army by surprise. And even then, a morally responsible Japanese government should have got the little ones out of the cities, because there war was conducted.
As hinted above, considering the gigantic holocaust of the war, the nuclear bombs did not kill that many people. They roughly killed as many as the Tokyo bombing, and as many as the number of soldiers that France lost in in combat the five weeks after May 10, 1940. Those French soldiers did not want people to be killed, that is exactly why they were fighting. Not that they had a choice, because the democracy had drafted them. (The French soldiers bloodied the fascists badly, causing great losses, especially among their officers, and, consequently, the fascists were then unable to invade Britain, and could not muster a larger force to attack the USSR. Still, neither the French soldiers nor the Tokyo bombing stopped fascism. But the nuclear bombs stunned it, in one blow.)
Some will say: ”what if the bombs had killed 100 times more people?”. Well, they did not. The alternatives would have. And the fascists had killed close to a thousands times more, before. And they would have killed much more, had they not been weakened, wasted and devastated , and finally stopped, by massive aerial bombing.
Some will say: “do not the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki condone all nuclear bombings to come?” Well, no. They show why non proliferation of the capability of making nuclear bombs is so important.
And there are worse things than nuclear war, such as Japanese Imperial military fascism, as we saw, or as the runaway greenhouse heating, the ultimate sin, since it would boil the whole planet.
Since the “West” does not have (yet) absolute military control of Earth, the possibility exists that it would need to take out underground terrorist WMD installation of the biological or chemical type, and nukes would be the only safe way to do so.
Nukes are about force, and force in the service of survival of humankind is no sin. Pacifism in the name of ongoing fascism is a sin, though. TO FIGHT EVIL, WE HAVE TO GO BEYOND GOODNESS. (This is no really a new message, being within all great religions, and good parenting; so why not as a guide to good bombing?).
Ms. I. Joliot-Curie was a dedicated pacifist (she was the co-founder of the World Peace Council), but she was also one of the top, hard thinkers of the 20C, and she saw the long term consequences of doing nothing as the fascists were doing everything. When she went to see the French War Minister (Jan. 1938), to explain to him nuclear bombs could be made, he exclaimed: “Why did you not come earlier?“ Well better late than never. Thankfully, the fascists were much more slow to understand advanced physics.
It’s no accident fascism was late in its understanding of nuclear science: FASCISM MAKES STUPID, DEMOCRACY MAKES INTELLIGENT. Contrarily to what Albert Camus thought, nuclear bombs did not represent technology running amok, out of control, but, instead, they represented intelligence crushing stupidity, with whatever it took.
August 8 1945, Camus addressed the bombing of Hiroshima in an editorial in the French newspaper “Combat”: "Mechanized civilization has just reached the ultimate stage of barbarism. In a near future, we will have to choose between mass suicide and intelligent use of scientific conquests … This can no longer be simply a prayer; it must become an order which goes upward from the peoples to the governments, an order to make a definitive choice between hell and reason." Very good, except the “ultimate stage of barbarism” was NOT the anti fascist nuclear bombing, but what made the anti fascist nuclear bombing NECESSARY. (In a related vein, it was regretted after the war that the Allies did not bomb Auschwitz; of course it was not to join in the holocaust, but to hinder it, as it would have.)
The fundamental problem was that the “ultimate stage of barbarism“, the “mechanized civilization“ , the unintelligent “use of scientific conquests” had been chosen earlier, deliberately, over a period of years, by the fascist governments, when they made their peoples into killing machines, and by these peoples, as they went along, thinking fascism was the greatest invention since sliced bread. In particular the fascists perverted the very making of minds, especially young minds, by feeding them with lies, using advanced technology to do so. Such were the fundamental perversions of science and mechanization. Relative to all these, the use of the nuclear bombs, in THAT particular context were just a particular surgery which killed the cancer of fascism.
(Such perverse use of advanced media technology could be observed in the frantic media neofascist (also known as neocon) built up to the US invasion of Iraq. A flood of one sided view of the universe oriented towards aggression of foreigners was showered on the American people, who did not seem to ever get enough.)
Atomic bombing terminated the world war, the fascist Japanese Imperial Army was forced by the civilians to capitulate immediately. Anyone who has honestly considered the chronology of these few hours knows this. The total cost in human lives may have been not any higher than that of the conventional bombing of Tokyo of March 8, 1945. It was one the boldest victories ever in the “art of war” (to speak like a famous old Chinese).
US decision makers also thus warned Stalin, and fascists to come, that, next time, the West would not hesitate to use maximum force, i.e., nukes, early enough to stop fascism before it went as far as it just had. Next time, democracy would not play the game with rules the fascists had made. Actually, not playing the fascists’ game according to their little rules was exactly why France stood in the way of Hitler in 1939 (Britain was a corollary in the French defense treaty with Poland).
In May 1945, Stalin had 600 divisions in Europe, and the US only 62. Amazingly, Stalin had been offered half of Europe at Yalta (to the indignation of the French). Truman had not been consulted, though, and he detested Stalin. As it was, Hiroshima precipitated the Soviet attack on Japan. As it was, the Soviets thereafter never doubted that the western democratic powers would do whatever it would take to stop fascism: pushed too far, they would shoot fisrt. Soviet invasion plans in Europe under Brejnev anticipated to leave Britain and France untouched, because the Politburo did not doubt those two, and the US, would strike back with nuclear weapons. And they would have. In 2006 France announced she is morally, strategically and technically ready to nuke states supporting mass terrorism (the French nuclear delivery system was retooled to allow a graduated nuclear response, using smaller nukes in the beginning).
When US public opinion turned against the cruel nonsense that drove the American war in Vietnam, common sense about the atomic bombings was the object of vengeful revisionism. It's understandable, but it does not make it right. It's ALWAYS BAD MORALITY TO REPLACE COMMON SENSE BY NONSENSE. "Make love, not war" is a cute slogan, but those uttering it would not have been around if their parents had not made war. So, in too broad a context, it's more than hypocritical, it's idiotic.
All indications are that the democratic atomic bombings over Japan saved millions of lives. The Japanese fascists could not emulate the Nazi fight to death: there was no more fight to be had. The nuclear strikes were just, efficient and highly moral, because such was the cause of the democracies. That's it. It does not mean that atomic bombs exploded by fascists would save millions too. Quite the opposite.
If atomic bombs had been ready, and dropped on Hitler's cities in August 1944, there is little doubt that the German army and people would have forced the Nazis to capitulate immediately, saving millions. The Allies would have nuked cities involved in war production; one straight down on all the top Nazis (namely on Berlin) would have helped. Monstrous? Yes. But the alternative, as it was, a fight to death, was way much more monstrous. The megadeath that happened cannot be attached to peculiar places, because it was spread all over. People can't remember what they can't name.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki are a good occasion to reflect on what a better morality ought to be. It needs to give a greater place to emotion to shake the old ways up, true. The greatest threat against morality and the biosphere is now RUNAWAY GREENHOUSE HEATING. Biotechnology or physics, soon to save trillions of man-years, could, if misused, cost trillions of the same. So lots of complex decisions, a lot of THINKING, lay immediately ahead. The definition, and interest, of democracy is that everybody contributes more brainpower in the decision and consulting process, improving its quality.
Emotions are crucial to thinking, because they spur logic along, and suggest new logic, and allow jumping wildly where logic has never been before. But that does not mean the spur of emotion should replace the causality of logic.
Once one is addicted, and has loudly admitted to the domination of emotion, emotions reign, and especially the strongest one, which is hatred. One can see this above: the ancient "famed poet", "total pacifist", accuses, and slurs, wise decision makers with "the worst racist act". It's so unwarranted, as we elaborately demonstrated that it's hatred which is showing up below the "pacifist" cover. Once emotion, hence hatred, thrives below, it will surface somewhere.
The morality we need cannot let itself be overwhelmed by screaming, whining or insulting others each time we get scared, or baffled. That's for sure. Nor is paralysis through analysis appropriate.
Whereas the case of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is morally cut and dry, not all moral cases connected to WW2 are so.
In particular the issues of collective and individual moral responsibilities are much more intricate and revealing. The case of Admiral Yamamoto comes to mind. Yamamoto was the chief of the Japanese Navy. Washington and Harvard educated, he was against the war. Still, he implemented it. He struck a tragic figure. Could he have done more to oppose the war? That is a much more interesting question than whether Hiroshima and Nagasaki ought to have been avoided (as we saw, by August 1945, they ought not). We will never know what Yamamoto would have done in 1945, because he died in combat in 1943. But he was an early advocate of a preliminary to modern morality, namely the need to go beyond tradition in honesty and transparency, both logical and emotional. One cannot escape the impression that he was bidding his time until the day when he could strike down the fascists who held power in Japan.
Morality is relative and appropriate, not absolute and dumb. The ground of morality lies in refined, correct comparisons (truth is the ground of morality, just as it is the ground of science). It's the moral relative which constitutes the moral absolute (just as the theory of relativity in space-time physics is an absolute theory of relative appearances). If we want to act morally, we have to be able to compare intelligently, and choose the least of all possible evils. Because it is not the best of all possible worlds. Anything else is just dumbness of the mind and ruin of the soul.
December 7 2006.