Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
Despite preliminary testing in the New Mexican dessert in the early summer of 1945 I think it is fair to say that no one could possibly have fully understood the horror of an atomic blast - especially a detonation over an urban area - before it was actually done in August 1945. This undermines all anti-atomic bomb arguments that feature the barbarism and the absolute ethical horror of it. On August 19th Yasuko Okayama wrote, “One thing is clear: Using atomic bombs is an absolute evil no matter how much prudence a country is said to exercise,” (“No amount of prudence”), and Y. Inamoto bemoaned American use of rhetoric “to justify the act of dropping the most lethal weapon ever developed on innocent people,” (“U.S. whitewash of the bombings”).
I don’t think it is “clear.” In hindsight it is easy - too easy, I think - to call atomic/nuclear weapons the greatest evil, the most lethal weaponry, and the decision to use them as the most immoral act imaginable. The easy social acceptance that this position currently enjoys in the world obscures what I think are two greater truths. First, that conventional warfare is in fact the greater evil, accurately speaking, because Hiroshima and Nagasaki pale in comparison to the destruction of Coventry, Dresden, Berlin and Tokyo by non-nuclear weapons. Second, how things looked at the time were like this: the Second World War in the Pacific was a war that Japan started, that Japan waged in a particularly heinous and criminal fashion, and that Japan stubbornly refused to give up long after its cause was lost. The fatal flaw of saying that the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were unnecessary because America could have forced a far more peaceful resolution to the conflict through blockade of the Japanese islands at that point is that it grossly under estimates the will of people to suffer for what they believe in. With little doubt, the Japanese would have fought on without the shock of Hiroshima and
Defeat by America is arguably the best thing to have happened to Japan in its history. Likewise, it is arguable that Japan deserved a lot more destruction than U.S. forces meted out. And, let’s not confuse the factual events of history by introducing innocent civilian casualties as a mitigating element. The Second World War was a total war and no one was “innocent.”
But I could be wrong.
Published on Sunday, August 26, 2007 as “’Greatest evil’ is not apparent.”
Around the anniversaries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki each August many activists get near hysterical about their admirable anti-nuclear agenda. Their strongest position is not the terribleness of the decision to use atomic weapons against Japan in the first place, I think, as it is accusations about the after effects of radiation, which last thousands of years. I think my proposition remains valid and true. Conventional arms have killed far more than atomic/nuclear arms, and focusing primarily on the greater potential of atomic/nuclear weapons - a potential - distracts us from the reality of conventional weapons. While the anti-nuke community is fighting the nukes, the conventional stuff is still being used. The killing never ceases. So is the problem the threat of nuclear war or the reality of actual war? Certainly the former is serious, but the latter is more serious and ever-serious.
On Sunday, September 4, 2011 Masayuki Aihara of Fukushima wrote:
Putting Japan in America’s place
Regarding Hiroaki Sato’s august 28 article, “Gratuitous’ bombing of a defeated enemy,” I’d like to make a few comments as a Japanese who is very interested in history. There are said to be several reasons whey the United States used the atomic bomb on Japan, including that the U.S. wanted to intimidate the Soviets and that it wanted to see the effects of a bomb blast on a population. We are told that some U.S. leaders were dead set against use of the bomb because of the feared effects on people and that they worried that U.S. would be hated by all nations if the bomb was dropped.
Another reason given is that Japan wouldn’t surrender, so the U.S. had no choice except to use the “special” type of bomb.
I also know there were domestic reasons. The U.S. president, for example, feared that taxpayers would be angry over the billions of dollars spent on research and development of the bomb if it was not even used. Then there was the racist card: In those days the U.S. definitely looked down on the Japanese as inferiors
- just as Japan looked down on the Chinese and the Koreans.
Some criticize what the U.S. did to Japan. But I always think of what Japan would have done to the U.S. if it had developed the atomic bomb first. Just look at what Japan did to the Chinese in the name of biochemical experiments involving “Unit 731.” Horrible! There’s no word for it. From what I understand, Japan’s wartime leader, Gen. Hideki Tojo, would not have surrendered (if the emperor at the time had not intervened).
It was refreshing to read such a letter because it is uncommonly rare to hear a Japanese admit such things - I mean, admit that the U.S. had a reason for using the atomic bomb, a pretty good reason, that the Japanese would probably have done no differently if the tables were turned, that Japan’s stubborn refusal to surrender was both real and a contributing factor in America’s decision to use the bomb, plus an admission of the existence and work of the notorious Unite 731.