Hiroshima and Nagasaki seventy years on

This article is a translation of "Zeventig jaar Hirosjima en Nagasaki"

This morning antiwar.com posted an item that Michelle Bachman, former member of the House of Representatives and a past presidential candidate, on the basis of the Bible’s Zechariah 12:3, has declared that the Iran agreement is a sign we have reached the end of times, and that we should be grateful to live this moment. At the same time, the field of current Republican presidential hopefuls is being led by Donald Trump, a dangerous madman compared to whom Ronald Reagan was a moderate. His Democratic opponent would be Hilary Clinton, who has presented herself as a war candidate already several times. 

We have come a long way since the American air force reduced two civilian targets in Japan to ashes in August 1945, leaving hundreds of thousands of dead after the atomic bombardment.

According to the official account, which keeps being rehashed, this bombardment ended the Second World War in Asia. But the Dutch member of the war crimes tribunal that tried the Japanese leaders, B.V.A. Röling, the capitulation had already been decided and the only stumbling block was the question whether the emperor would be able to stay on. From the record of the last cabinet meeting, a day after Nagasaki, it transpires that the bombing of that city was not even discussed, no wonder for those who know about the fire-bombing of other Japanese cities with their many wooden houses.

There is no doubt that there was little appetite, especially in the U.S. Army, to begin a land invasion of the Japanese islands. But much more important as an explanation of the bombardment was the argument of the Truman administration that this would intimidate the Soviet Union, or as Secretary of State Byrnes put it, the bomb would make the Russians a lot more manageable in Europe.

Truman and Byrnes had taken office after the death of president Roosevelt in April and hailed from the racist US South, where the anti-Japanese mood was most intense. For politicians and manufacturers this was further bolstered by the damage incurred by the local textiles industry due to Japanese competition before the war.

Another economic consideration, one that explains why two bombs were dropped, was that two different types had been developed. The uranium bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima had been produced by a consortium of Eastman Kodak and Union Carbide, whilst the plutonium bomb for Nagasaki had been made by Du Pont de Nemours, both of course on the basis of scientific research at Los Alamos. Once we know that the first order by the US Air Force after the war was for 400 plutonium bombs, it is obvious that there were enormous interests at stake and a bomb that had not been tried would have had less of a chance to be purchased.

Meanwhile Obama according to the Huffington Post has launched a thirty-year programme to modernise the entire nuclear arsenal of the United States, at a cost of just below one trillion dollars. Even disregarding the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to him for reasons people are still puzzling about, this modernisation violates the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970. This treaty is not only intended to prevent new nuclear powers from joining the existing ones, but also imposes an obligation on all signatories with nuclear arms to demolish their atomic arsenals. So it is not Iran that is violating the treaty (and neither are Israel, India and Pakistan, because they never signed it), but the existing nuclear powers—first of all the United States, the only country ever to use atomic weapons and therefore guilty of a major war crime, now 70 years ago.

Kees van der Pijl

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