Hiroshima And Nagasaki 70 Years On

By any rational appraisal the deployment of nuclear weapons against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the 6th and 9th of August 1945 clearly fell under the definition of crimes against humanity. Over one hundred thousand were killed and hundreds of thousands more were injured or otherwise effected by the long-lasting physical and psychological effects of the bombings. Combating and defeating the evil of Japanese imperialism with an almost greater evil (“almost” because more civilians died at the hands of the Armed Forces of the Empire of Japan between 1937 and 1945 than through the actions of the United States Armed Forces) was no justification for releasing the atomic genie from its academic prison, even with the exigencies of the Second World War.

However the madness has not gone away, if only slightly receded, as this video animation by the Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto aptly illustrates:

“This piece of work is a bird’s eye view of the history by scaling down a month length of time into one second. No letter is used for equal messaging to all viewers without language barrier. The blinking light, sound and the numbers on the world map show when, where and how many experiments each country have conducted. I created this work for the means of an interface to the people who are yet to know of the extremely grave, but present problem of the world.”

 

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11 comments

  1. I am not convinced that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were crimes against humanity. They were extremely unfortunate, but I do not buy the argument that Japan was on the verge of surrender and I believe that it took the use of atomic weapons to persuade the Japanese high command that its cause was hopeless.

    Given the tenacity with which the Japanese fought in the Pacific, it would seem almost guaranteed that had the US been forced to invade Japan itself the death toll for both the Americans and Japanese – including Japanese civilians – would have been staggering. Even after Hirohito agreed to surrender following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki there was an attempted coup by members of the Japanese Ministry of War and the Imperial Guard in an effort to fight on.

    I also wonder why Hiroshima and Nagasaki are singled out over the fire bombings of locales such as Tokyo and Dresden. Yes, the former had much longer-lasting effects, but I wonder if they didn’t also alert the world to the horrors of atomic warfare and prevent someone like McArthur from being allowed to unleash a barrage of atomic weapons a few years later during the Korean War.

    Obviously, Truman’s decision was a controversial one, but I would imagine those who had been under the thumb of Imperial Japan for years, such as the peoples of Korea, China and Manchuria, along with other parts of Asia, didn’t have too many qualms about the use of such weapons.

    1. I think you’re right in the sense that Japan may have contemplated a negotiated peace in 1945 but never a surrender. It would certainly have sought to retain most if not all of its conquests. Probably such negotiations would have failed, necessitating further conflict.

      On the other hand the slaughter at Hiroshima and Nagasaki cannot be justified by saying that it saved tens of thousands of American or Allied military lives. The Geneva Convention and international law, even in its nascent state some 70 years ago, does not recognise such distinctions. If we accept the immorality and illegality of deliberately bombing civilian population centres (with the intention of inflicting mass casualties) as a policy of state in whatever context we cannot have exemptions. After all such charges formed the basis of the post-war trials and executions or imprisonments of Third Reich leaders, both high and low.

      You cannot put Luftwaffe officers on trial for the London blitz while ignoring Hiroshima and Nagasaki – or Dresden. That at least is my thoughts on it though I appreciate others differ.

      On McArthur, once the atomic toy was available to play with it was inevitable that there would be figures who wanted to do so. India has nukes, so Pakistan must have nukes. Israel has nukes so Iran must have nukes. Even the Argentinians and Brazilians tried to get in on the act.

      It’s a miracle that we haven’t seen nuclear exchanges since ’45.

      1. So, and I ask this respectfully, would it have been better to have had tens of thousands of Japanese civilians, or more, die from conventional weapons over a period of weeks and months, as happened in Germany in 1945, rather than through the two atomic bombs, with the difference being that there were no commensurate Allied casualties? I understand that the latter left significant after-effects that killed many later on but did the US not owe it to its own citizens and soldiers to take a path that resulted in lesser casualties to its own people considering it was not the aggressor?

        1. CBC, very fair question to which the answer is probably – unpalatable as it may seem – yes. Otherwise any gross act by a nation or government could be justified on all sorts of predictive grounds. After all the mess in Iraq was partly based on the whirlpool theory popular in hawkish Neo-Conservative circles which argued that an Iraqi ground war would suck in “militant Islamists” to a military theatre of the US’s own choosing where it could destroy its enemies at leisure. A second 9/11 would thereby be prevented. How successful was that?

  2. My understanding is the Japanese were suing for peace before these bombs were dropped.
    IIRC something like 90% of the Japanese Merchant Navy ships were sunk during WW2.Before this A bomb.
    Japan is a nation of many islands..They couldn’t last.
    They couldn’t feed themselves..They were trying to make aviation fuel out of pine needles.
    This was not a country in any fit state to stand up to the USA.

    “The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace. The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military point of view, in the defeat of Japan.” Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet

    Also the US airforce dropped ariel mines in Japanese ports..this with the U.S submarines would have finished off Japan
    So, it is a case of lack of co-ordination between an airforce and a Navy which the Japanese had to pay for.
    This kind of happens all the time in military adventures.
    Herman Goering of the Nazi camp refused the Kreigsmarine an air arm of it’s own for example
    which hindered the Nazis in many ways. and contributed to their defeat. ( battle of the Atlantic)

    Also a point of curiousty.. The Allies would never have left Hitler as head of State of Post War Germany.
    But they let the Japanese Emperor continue on as leader. Thus they could have achieved the same without the A bomb

    I believe the A Bomb was nothing to do with Japan..It was to do with the USSR..
    Saying Look what we can do to Stalin.

  3. Also a quote from US airfoce officer Curtis Le MAy

    General Curtis LeMay, the tough cigar-smoking Army Air Force “hawk,” stated publicly shortly before the nuclear bombs were dropped on Japan:

    “The war would have been over in two weeks. . . . The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all.”

  4. Everyone always rushes into the debate on whether or not the bombing of civilian targets saved lives in the end, but I am truly horrified to see the animation by Isao Hashimoto. Within my lifetime, several hundred nuclear explosions have been unleashed on our planet outside of war time. The destroyed land, the radiation, the horrible waste of money and ressources. 2053 nuclear explosions in 70 years. Shocking but necessary knowledge.

    1. Sylvaingrandcerf, that’s what I took from the video graphic. The sheer amount of nuclear explosions, and the way they match up (testing) viz. the US and old Soviet Union, or France and Britain, or India vs. Pakistan. Rivalries – even amongst nominal allies – driving production and testing.

      1. Yes – not destroying that abomination right after WW2 and before they got nukes was a big mistake.

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