This past week the world commemorated one of the grimmest anniversaries in human history—the atomic bombs that leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing over 200,000 people. Today is the 75th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki.
Despite the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,’ which was formally adopted at the United Nations three years ago (though unsurprisingly all nine nuclear powers, as well as Japan and Canada astoundingly, aren’t signatories), we are on the cusp of another, much more dangerous nuclear arms race. Will humanity ever rid itself of these ultimate evil weapons of war?
Man as a whole is the context, and nationalism was the sub-context of the atomic bombings of the Japanese cities. Japan started the war with the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. America finished it with the unnecessary nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Whenever I hear the terrorist criminality of 9.11 being compared to Pearl Harbor, I wince, as do all people of conscience, American or otherwise. Pearl Harbor, while a dastardly attack, was a military target by one nation-state against another. America calls the flattening of the Twin Towers “ground zero,” but it cannot be compared atomic flattening of the twin cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
With hindsight, we can have discernment while eschewing judgment, much less blame. If he had lived would FDR have used the bombs? We’ll never know, but Truman, a small man (though not nearly as small as Donald Trump), was in the wrong job at the wrong moment.
It is remarkable that those who were directly affected and suffered enormously from the loss of family and radiation sickness, the hibakusha, have been very forgiving of the Americans who used the bomb on them.
For example, as has been reported, Setsuko Thurlow, who was 13 in Hiroshima when her school was flattened, questioned the God worshiped by so many Americans. But at a school founded by Kiyoshi Tanimoto, a Methodist pastor profiled by the journalist John Hersey in “Hiroshima, she was surrounded by Christian adults who supported her emotionally.
“Because of them, I was able to deal with that crisis and came out of that trauma,” said Thurlow, who married an American, earned a degree in sociology, and moved to Toronto.
The sharpest criticism of Thurlow comes from Japan: “Somehow you have to universalize your message,” said Yuki Tanaka, a retired research professor at the Hiroshima Peace Institute, “not just talk about your own sadness and pain.”
The least we Americans can do, after decades of lies and rationalization, is display some pangs of conscience, as the pilot of the weather plane, Claude Eatherly, who gave the go-ahead for bombing Hiroshima, did until the end of his life.
I knew a Marine that was sent to Nagasaki after it was bombed, and spent a few weeks there. They had no protection, since the long-lasting effects of radiation were unknown at the time. His daughter believes, nearly 40 years after his death from cancer, that those weeks in Nagasaki killed him.
So Americans have suffered too, though morally more than physically, from the bombings. The decades of rationalization that followed the unnecessary use of nuclear weapons slowly accumulated in the body politic, contributing to emotional arteriosclerosis the America people.
The Marine I knew was a decent and well-liked man. Near the end of his life, he talked for the first time about his involvement in the battle for Tarawa, the aftermath in Nagasaki, and seeing women jump off the cliffs of Saipan clutching their children, because of the terror for American soldiers that had been instilled in them by the Japanese military. But he was still cut off from his emotions, and relayed the details with a clinical detachment that made the events all the more horrifying.
It is fitting and proper that the bombings are prompting a deeper reflection during the pandemic.
The twin viruses of Covid and Trumpism have revealed the underside of America, the truths that can no longer be denied.
Japan was beaten; the bombs were dropped to show Stalin’s Russia the power we possessed. The American soul rot, which, as always, flows first and most from lies, began after the atomic bombings, have culminated in a president who can do nothing but lie.
Forty-six years later, the straw that broke the Spirit’s back in America came with the fabricated Persian Gulf War, after Hussein was tacitly green-lighted to annex Kuwait for what he believed was repayment for being America’s boy in the 80’s during the Iran-Iraq war.
The Good Gulf War killed a quarter million Iraqis to less than 200 Americans so we could test out the latest generation of Stealth Bombers and laser-guided bombs. Detonations are yet to come, not just for America but for humanity as the USA implodes from a tiny virus malevolently mismanaged by a small man.
It’s not a question of if but when nuclear weapons will be used again. Then will humankind finally make the turn away from war, and abolish weapons of mass destruction altogether? Only if a sufficient minority of people in the world are inwardly prepared.