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The Myth Behind Hiroshima
3 August 2002
This August 6th and 9th will mark the 57th anniversary of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It's a time for contemplation and reflection on the part of the American public. We are still coming to grips with our reprehensible past, and have yet to face the enormity of what our government has done.
This year, as always, there will be a few token comments lamenting the regrettable deaths of civilians, countered by further justification of the rightness of the act. It is widely and fervently believed that this attack was necessary to defeat the Japanese and end World War II. But such belief is a myth, originating as government propaganda and perpetuated by each U.S. administration since Truman.
Every year a spate of newspaper editorials from World War II veterans and others vehemently defend the destruction of the two "enemy targets." These authors evidently are still persuaded by the official line that the bombs were dropped as a last resort to prevent a horrific loss of American lives. That was, and in some cases continues to be, the position of history texts and mainstream media.
But numerous books and the now-declassified relevant government documents belie such assertions. There is strong evidence that most decisive factors already pointed to a successful conclusion of the war without the use of the bombs or a large invasion force. A more accurate assessment indicates that the bombs were detonated in the pursuit of scientific and technological knowledge and to intimidate a powerful and intransigent Soviet Union. Some historians suggest that the weapons were used mainly because we had them and we wanted to see (and demonstrate to the world) what they could do.
These are sobering and disturbing conclusions, however valid. We Americans would much prefer to believe that we simply took the necessary and appropriate action to end a brutal conflict. We don't want to admit that we incinerated and irradiated all those human beings for any other than the most noble of imperatives. We adamantly resist the imputation that our misguided and misinformed leaders coldly sacrificed so much life (enemy or ally) to further their own purposes.
Yet the facts are there. I won't go into all the evidence, but look for yourself. Read the quotes, the journal entries, the historical record. Until we face the facts courageously and humbly, until we dispel the official myth, the likelihood increases that it will happen again. There are powerful interests that want to make the use of nuclear weapons acceptable and plausible. We must ask ourselves how much restraint we can expect from the current nuclear-advocating and war-embracing leadership.
It's time we finally faced the truth. Especially in the recent advent of public admission of misbehavior (e.g., the Catholic Church and the IRA), it is incumbent upon us and our leaders to speak the truth and put an end to the myth that justifies this unjustifiable act of nuclear aggression. Specifically, we need an official declaration of what we all sense intuitively but so far have refused to acknowledge: this nation was wrong to use nuclear weapons against those cities for reasons which we now know to be suspect.
M. Renan Talieva