Thursday, August 1, 2013

State Sponsored Terrorism: Another Anniversary

August 6 marks the 68th anniversary of a truly horrific example of state sponsored terrorism.  It was on this date that the United States government dropped a nuclear bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan.  This was followed by an even more callous example of state sponsored terrorism three days later, with the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki.

There was no military reason for these acts of state sponsored terrorism.  This military myth has been exposed for the lie that it is.  Don’t take my word for it: ask Admiral Leahy and General Eisenhower.  That the myth persists, even after such voices as these expose the lie, is a testament to the expert capabilities of the indoctrination schemes of public education and mainstream media.

I have previously written about an eyewitness account to this devastation.  Technically, I guess I didn’t write much of my own material – primarily I cited the testimony of Dr. Shuntaro Hida, a medical officer that survived the crime.  His words add feeling to the pictures.  

The prosecution rests its case.

I will take a similar approach here.  I offer, without comment, the words from three sources: first, the editors of Commonweal, writing just a few short days after the bombing (note the mocking tone of this editorial); second, Paul Boyer, writing for the minority voice – those voices not cheering the act of terrorism.  Finally, a succinct comment from Albert Camus, nicely summarizing this criminality.  All three selections are from the volume “Hiroshima’s Shadow.” 

I will caution: take note how many times the word “we” is used when describing the act, the guilt, and the shame.  Sadly, even in the righteous work of these courageous critics in condemning this state sponsored terrorism, they have contributed to the state-legitimizing language of collective responsibility.


The Horror and the Shame, The Editors of Commonweal
August 24, 1945

Two months ago (June 22) we were writing about poison gas.  We said: “To the Orient we are bringing the latest inventions of our civilization.  There is only one we have not brought.  It is gas.  If we use that we will have brought them all.  Gas is no worse than the flame.  It is only that it is one more weapon.  The last one we have to use.  Until we invent a new one.”  And then we said: “The time has come when nothing more can be added to the horror if we wish to keep our coming victory something we can use – or that humanity can use.”

Well, it seems that we were ridiculous writing that sort of thing.  We will not have to write that sort of thing any more.  Certainly, like everyone else, we will have to write a great deal about the future of humanity and the atomic bomb.  But we will not have to worry any more about keeping our victory clean.  It is defiled.

The war against Japan was nearly won.  Our fleet and Britain’s fleet stood off Japan’s coast and shelled Japan’s cities.  There was no opposition…. Then, without warning, an American plane dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Russia entered the war.  There was no doubt before or after Russia entered the war that the war against Japan was won.  An American plane dropped the second bomb on Nagasaki.

And then we said that this bomb could mean the end of civilization if we ever got into a war and everyone started to use it.  So that we must keep it a secret.  We must keep it a sole property of people who know how to use it.  We must keep it the property of a peace-loving nation….that is what we said about it, after we had used it ourselves.  To secure peace, of course.  To save lives, of course.  After we had brought indescribable death to a few hundred thousand men, women, and children, we said that this bomb must remain always in the hand of peace-loving peoples.  For our war, for our purposes, to save American lives we have reached the point where we say that anything goes.  That is what the Germans said at the beginning of the war.  Once we have won our war we say that there must be international law.  Undoubtedly.

“Victory For What?” – The Voice of the Minority, Paul Boyer.

It was a few days after the war’s end, and the victory celebration that had surged through downtown Chicago was still a fresh memory.  But Fred Eastman of the Chicago Theological Seminary was not in a celebratory mood.  “King Herod’s slaughter of the innocents – an atrocity committed in the name of defense – destroyed no more than a few hundred children,” he wrote bitterly to Christian Century; “Today, a single atomic bomb slaughters tens of thousands of children and their mothers and fathers.  Newspapers and radio acclaim it a great victory.  Victory for what?”  The poet Randall Jarrell, stationed at an air force base in Arizona, had a similar reaction: “I feel so rotten about the country’s response to the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” he wrote a friend in September 1945, “that I wish I could become a naturalized dog or cat.”

Socialist Norman Thomas deplored the “pious satisfaction” of most commentators – including those on the left – at Truman’s announcement.  The atomic destruction of a second city, Thomas wrote, was “the greatest single atrocity of a very cruel war.”

Surely, [Stuart] Chase insisted, Washington could have found a way to achieve its objectives “without this appalling slaughter of school children.”

The New York Herald Tribune found “no satisfaction in…the greatest simultaneous slaughter in the whole history of mankind….”

The Omaha World Herald criticized as “almost sacrilegious” the unctuous tone of Truman’s announcement “in using the name of a merciful God in connection with so Satanic a device.”

“Surely we cannot be proud of what we have done,” wrote David Lawrence in the U.S. News and World Report.  “If we state our inner thoughts honestly, we are ashamed of it.”

Newspapers all over the country…were receiving letters “protesting the killing of the non-combatant civilians in Japan, calling it inhuman, and protesting our disregard of moral values.”  One called the bombing a “stain upon our national life”; another said it was “simply mass murder, sheer terrorism.”

An appalled reader of Time wrote: “The United States of America has this day become the new master of brutality, infamy, atrocity.  Bataan, Buchenwald, Dachau, Coventry, Lidice were tea parties compared with the horror which we…have dumped on the world…. No peacetime applications of this Frankenstein monster can ever erase the crime we have committed.”

Two weeks after Hiroshima, thirty-four prominent Protestant clergymen, including several well-known pacifists, addressed a letter to President Truman condemning the decision.  One of the signers, Harry Emerson Fosdick of New York’s Riverside Church, was particularly outspoken. In an early post-war sermon broadcast nationally, Fosdick declared: “When our self-justifications are all in, every one of us is nonetheless horrified at the implications of what we did.  Saying that Japan was guilty and deserved it gets us nowhere.  The mothers and babies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not deserve it.”  To argue that the “mass murder of whole metropolitan populations is right if it is effective,” Fosdick went on, was to abandon “every moral standard the best conscience of the race ever has set up.”

Another independent religious voice of protest was that of John Haynes Holmes of the nonsectarian Community Church of New York.  The atomic bomb, wrote Holmes in the September 1945 issue of his magazine Unity, was “the supreme atrocity of the ages; …a crime which we would instantly have recognized as such had Germany and not our own country been guilty of the act.”

[From “Atomic Warfare and the Christian Faith,” a report to the Federal Council of Churches in March 1946]: “We are agreed that, whatever…one’s judgment of the ethics of war in principle, the surprise bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are morally indefensible.”

Catholic World, the voice of the Paulist Fathers, called the surprise use of the atomic bomb against civilians “atrocious and abominable” and “the most powerful blow ever delivered against Christian civilization and the moral law.”  All “civilized people,” this September 1945 editorial continued, should “reprobate and anathematize” this “horrible deed.”  Of the argument that the two doomed cities had been given sufficient advance warning, Catholic World said: “Let us not combine cruelty with hypocrisy, and attempt to justify wholesale slaughter with a lie.”

Between Hell and Reason, Albert Camus
August 6, 1945

We can sum up in one sentence: technological civilization has just reached its final degree of savagery.


  1. What's wrong with dropping the atomic bombs? The Americans had an ace in their sleeve and used it. Considering less than 400,000 died from the bombs that means they dished out very little carnage compared with conventional bombs as well as old fashioned guns and knives. Looking at cities today you wouldn't know what happened. Better yet most people like comparing Hiroshima and Detroit and if anything you'd think Detroit must have been bombed and never been able to recover.

  2. This is a crucial way to understand our world and how public opinion is molded. I hope many people come away from reading this article understanding how important this idea is, from as extreme an example as this mass killing. It may be as many as one hundred times as many deaths as on 9/11 or Pearl Harbor. Good work BM. taxes

    1. Thank you, taxes.

      The book by Gar Alperovitz, which I have written about on this site, goes through in exhausting detail both the facts of the bombing, and the creation of the myth. The myth-creating ability in the face of well known and extremely credible critics at the time was stunning. It was eye-opening for me.

    2. World War 2 is estimated to have caused up to 75 million deaths. Thus the atomic bombs only account for ~0.05% of the casualties. It's quite probable that World War 3 was averted as nuclear weapons create a mutually assured destruction. No other weapon creates such fear and thus no one cares when millions die from getting shot, stabbed, burned or shredded by shrapnel. The grim immediate effects of those who survived the initial atomic bombings but died shortly thereafter were actually severely burnt victims, i.e. the same thing that would happen via napalm.

  3. Every terrorist targets civilians and excuses his actions by invoking the Greater Good. Yes, the "conventional" bombings of, e.g., Dresden, Hamburg and Tokyo, were terrorist acts. As were al-Qaeda's attacks on 9/11. It may well be there's something different about the U.S. brand of terrorism, but its apologists' excuses strike me as just that. Universality is the hallmark of morality.

  4. Few years ago I read Thomas Fleming's The New Dealers' War: F. D. R. and the War Within World War II. To me, basically everything we do now, even after so many years, is in some way related to WWII. The years leading to the war, all during the war, and basically the whole time since, Has been one long government created crisis. The better for politicians to take advantage of. From the beginning of the Great Depression to the end of the Cold War is forty plus years of continuous linkage of the thought that patriotism's foremost duty it to assure continuity of government. They found that scaring the people was not as easy without war or its pretense, thus 9/11. taxes