Thursday, August 06, 2009
It is a piece well worth reading in its entirety. Along with Israel, and possibly, Great Britain, the US believes that it can indiscriminately kill large numbers of people to achieve its geopolitical ends. Since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the US has subjected the Koreans, the Vietnamese, the Iraqis, the Afghans, now, increasingly, the Pakistanis, to this sort of violence. By contrast, 9/11 is a mere footnote.
For a great many Americans still, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs are regarded above all with gratitude, for having saved their own lives or the lives of their husbands, brothers, fathers or grandfathers, which would otherwise have been at risk in the invasion of Japan. For these Americans and many others, the Bomb was not so much an instrument of massacre as a kind of savior, a protector of precious lives.
Most Americans ever since have seen the destruction of the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as necessary and effective—as constituting just means, in effect just terrorism, under the supposed circumstances—thus legitimating, in their eyes, the second and third largest single-day massacres in history. (The largest, also by the U.S. Army Air Corps, was the firebombing of Tokyo five months before on the night of March 9, which burned alive or suffocated 80,000 to 120,000 civilians. Most of the very few Americans who are aware of this event at all accept it, too, as appropriate in wartime.
To regard those acts as definitely other than criminal and immoral—as most Americans do—is to believe that anything—anything—can be legitimate means: at worst, a necessary, lesser, evil. At least, if done by Americans, on the order of a president, during wartime. Indeed, we are the only country in the world that believes it won a war by bombing—specifically by bombing cities with weapons of mass destruction—and believes that it was fully rightful in doing so. It is a dangerous state of mind.
Even if the premises of these justifications had been realistic (after years of study I’m convinced, along with many scholars, that they were not; but I’m not addressing that here), the consequences of such beliefs for subsequent policymaking were bound to be fateful. They underlie the American government and public’s ready acceptance ever since of basing our security on readiness to carry out threats of mass annihilation by nuclear weapons, and the belief by many officials and elites still today that abolition of these weapons is not only infeasible but undesirable.
By contrast, given a few days’ reflection in the summer of 1945 before a presidential fait accompli was framed in that fashion, you didn’t have to be a moral prodigy to arrive at the sense of foreboding we all had in Mr. Patterson’s class. It was as easily available to 13-year-old ninth-graders as it was to many Manhattan Project scientists, who also had the opportunity to form their judgments before the Bomb was used.
Consistent with this, it is important to recognize that US military policy has evolved towards inflicting severe hardship upon civilians, as was done in both Iraq invasions, for example, instead of confronting the military capacity of the opponent directly. Admittedly, all the major powers involved in World War II moved in this direction as the conflict was fought, but the US took the principle to the most horrific extreme through the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and its military doctrine is centered around this principle to this day.