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Depleted Uranium victim in Afghanistan. A haunting image for those who still retain something of a conscience.

[Editor’s note: On August 6, 1945, the United States initiated the Nuclear Age of Terror with the detonation of a bomb called “Little Boy” over a “non-military target”–the civilian population of Hiroshima, Japan. As many as 220,000 human beings died in the immediate aftermath of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 9, 1945) bombings. Many thousands more would die from radiation poisoning and other consequent effects in the years to come.

Before the bombings, it was estimated that 40,000 American troops might be lost in an invasion of mainland Japan. After the bombings, that figure was continually inflated until President (“plain-speaking,” “give-‘em-hell”) Harry Truman was citing a convenient round number of 1 million by the end of his second term.

Overlooked by those who have sought to “justify” the bombings in terms of the saving of American lives is the fact that Japan was prostrate, had virtually no air-force nor navy, and was seeking to surrender. The “sticking point” with the terms America offered—i.e. “Unconditional Surrender”—was the status of the Emperor of Japan—a deific figure to some Japanese and near-deific to many others. Had the U.S. been willing to ensure the safety of the Emperor, the Japanese military command would have surrendered.

A further “justification” amounts to a simple “chicken or egg” argument. According to such, Japan’s dastardly attack on Pearl Harbor (killing about 3,000 military personnel in a military outpost) more than justified the slaughter of a hundred times that many civilians three and ½ years later. Disregarded in this argument is the precursory events: the fact that the U.S. had embargoed Japan’s supply of oil and scrap metal—essential to Japan’s war efforts in China, efforts which the US had endorsed for several years while war-profiteering rolled in. Embargoing Japan’s oil and scrap metal when the U.S. did meant that Japan’s army of about 300,000 in China would be trapped and the Japanese archipelago would be open to assault from aggressive imperial powers like the United States and the Soviet Union. The embargo was really the first act of aggression in the US-Japanese War; an act which necessitated—in military terms—Japan’s lurch towards the oil fields of Southeast Asia and the “taking out” of military assets at Pearl Harbor.

Truman: his deceptive Missouri boy background hid an accomplished politician and a ruthless determination to defend the “American Way of Life.” The A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki may have been far less an act to spare American lives and much more a move to intimidate the Soviets, at a point in history when the Red Army was the largest fully mobilized military in the world.

Of course, the above ignores the question of “prior knowledge” of the assault on Pearl Harbor; i.e. how much “radar” warning, etc. FDR and others might have had about the “surprise attack” and what steps might have been taken to limit casualties. It does not address the question of “larger motivations” Churchill and FDR might have had in “enabling” the Pearl Harbor attack in order to ensure full US participation in the war against Hitler. (Also unaddressed is the question of how Pearl Harbor and 9/11 correlate in terms of their propaganda and bellicosity values, “prior knowledge,” and even, bizarrely, number of victims, etc.)

Unfortunately, thanks to the Bernaysian propaganda machinery, so effective in propagating the myths of our modern imperial corporate-states, Truman’s specious figure is regularly cited by the un- and mis-informed, and deeper motivations are regularly ignored by the same, as the reality sinks into the memory hole of the last century.

On the 63rd anniversary of the horrific events which have shaped and deformed our modern world, past the geopolitical and military theorizing, the historical and revisionist patternings, it is probably most salutary to frame the events through a poet’s or artist’s eye. Human tragedy and suffering is always best rendered through the individuals who feel the affliction and through those whose response to such affliction advances the moral consciousness of our species.

Gary Corseri, Senior Editor

For Mikio Inoue: Survivor at Hiroshima

By George Bailin

you need to have direction

torn from you,

like your arms, jerked


to make you cry out,

seeing your wrecked fingers

crack on hard spaces,

sagging, falling

as if they were worn.

you need to see light

fail, wrung out,

the colors leaking

orange and blue, yellow,

fractured, flopping and drag-

ging itself

as if ashamed

that it cannot fill the hollow


it does no good to see

my blood, nor my children

silent, dead,

in photographs.

you must know the break-

ing of your own body,

you must feel the hemor-

rhage from your own nose,

your own ears.

you believe no one.

(After decades of a distinguished teaching career in New York and New Jersey, George Bailin has retired to upstate New York to work on a novel. His books of poetry include COUNTERCULTURE, and FIRST STRIKE—from which the above is re-printed. He can be contacted at <gbailin@sacredorchard.org>

  1. The bad Karma accumulated by the Americans must be larger than the Milky Way, and growing, like the universe we inhabit…powerful reminder of the evil this nation rains across the world, still with almost total impunity. How are ordinary Americans to know what’s going on? They live in a pseudo reality, fed constant doses of mind-deadening escapism, trivia and lies, and spend their lives surrounded by “spiritual” leaders that never talk about these things and only want to pick their pockets…beyond tragic: revolting. And that’s the American Way of Life? I’ll always prefer staying in Australia. At least we have no pretensions to being morally superior to anyone.

  2. The final paragraph is a civilized response to a grotesque scene, and likely to be multiplied by X millions, the ways our leaders are heading.

    Additionally, these same leaders are the first to turn up at remembrances and memorials.

  3. A beautifully written reminder of what we have done, and what we need to do to clean up our act. Thanks editors for such eloquent presentation of a disheartening issue. It’s clear that big power politics will go on until true democracy is established. Big Power politics is upper class politics, and it can never aspire to or reach the level of morality required to establish peace, not to mention social justice.

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