NYTimes.com Article: Blood on Our Hands?

khare at alumni.caltech.edu khare at alumni.caltech.edu
Wed Aug 6 22:13:26 PDT 2003

This article from NYTimes.com 
has been sent to you by khare at alumni.caltech.edu.

Fascinating. And from Kristof, no less... I have to say that from my own study of the subject over the years, I have to come down on the side of dropping it, personally. For better or worse, I can't imagine the land invasion going well, nor the firebombings continuing...


khare at alumni.caltech.edu

/-------------------- advertisement -----------------------\

Explore more of Starbucks at Starbucks.com.

Blood on Our Hands?

August 5, 2003


Tomorrow will mark the anniversary of one of the most
morally contentious events of the 20th century, the atomic
bombing of Hiroshima. And after 58 years, there's an
emerging consensus: we Americans have blood on our hands. 

There has been a chorus here and abroad that the U.S. has
little moral standing on the issue of weapons of mass
destruction because we were the first to use the atomic
bomb. As Nelson Mandela said of Americans in a speech on
Jan. 31, "Because they decided to kill innocent people in
Japan, who are still suffering from that, who are they now
to pretend that they are the policeman of the world?" 

The traditional American position, that our intention in
dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and then Nagasaki was to
end the war early and save lives, has been poked full of
holes. Revisionist historians like Gar Alperovitz argue
persuasively that Washington believed the bombing
militarily unnecessary (except to establish American
primacy in the postwar order) because, as the U.S.
Strategic Bombing Survey put it in 1946, "in all
probability" Japan would have surrendered even without the
atomic bombs. 

Yet this emerging consensus is, I think, profoundly

While American scholarship has undercut the U.S. moral
position, Japanese historical research has bolstered it.
The Japanese scholarship, by historians like Sadao Asada of
Doshisha University in Kyoto, notes that Japanese wartime
leaders who favored surrender saw their salvation in the
atomic bombing. The Japanese military was steadfastly
refusing to give up, so the peace faction seized upon the
bombing as a new argument to force surrender. 

"We of the peace party were assisted by the atomic bomb in
our endeavor to end the war," Koichi Kido, one of Emperor
Hirohito's closest aides, said later. 

Wartime records and memoirs show that the emperor and some
of his aides wanted to end the war by summer 1945. But they
were vacillating and couldn't prevail over a military that
was determined to keep going even if that meant, as a navy
official urged at one meeting, "sacrificing 20 million
Japanese lives." 

The atomic bombings broke this political stalemate and were
thus described by Mitsumasa Yonai, the navy minister at the
time, as a "gift from heaven." 

Without the atomic bombings, Japan would have continued
fighting by inertia. This would have meant more firebombing
of Japanese cities and a ground invasion, planned for
November 1945, of the main Japanese islands. The fighting
over the small, sparsely populated islands of Okinawa had
killed 14,000 Americans and 200,000 Japanese, and in the
main islands the toll would have run into the millions. 

"The atomic bomb was a golden opportunity given by heaven
for Japan to end the war," Hisatsune Sakomizu, the chief
cabinet secretary in 1945, said later. 

Some argue that the U.S. could have demonstrated the bomb
on an uninhabited island, or could have encouraged
surrender by promising that Japan could keep its emperor.
Yes, perhaps, and we should have tried. We could also have
waited longer before dropping the second bomb, on Nagasaki.

But, sadly, the record suggests that restraint would not
have worked. The Japanese military ferociously resisted
surrender even after two atomic bombings on major cities,
even after Soviet entry into the war, even when it expected
another atomic bomb - on Tokyo. 

One of the great tales of World War II concerns an American
fighter pilot named Marcus McDilda who was shot down on
Aug. 8 and brutally interrogated about the atomic bombs. He
knew nothing, but under torture he "confessed" that the
U.S. had 100 more nuclear weapons and planned to destroy
Tokyo "in the next few days." The war minister informed the
cabinet of this grim news - but still adamantly opposed
surrender. In the aftermath of the atomic bombing, the
emperor and peace faction finally insisted on surrender and
were able to prevail. 

It feels unseemly to defend the vaporizing of two cities,
events that are regarded in some quarters as among the most
monstrous acts of the 20th century. But we owe it to
history to appreciate that the greatest tragedy of
Hiroshima was not that so many people were incinerated in
an instant, but that in a complex and brutal world, the
alternatives were worse.   



Get Home Delivery of The New York Times Newspaper. Imagine
reading The New York Times any time & anywhere you like!
Leisurely catch up on events & expand your horizons. Enjoy
now for 50% off Home Delivery! Click here:


For information on advertising in e-mail newsletters 
or other creative advertising opportunities with The 
New York Times on the Web, please contact
onlinesales at nytimes.com or visit our online media 
kit at http://www.nytimes.com/adinfo

For general information about NYTimes.com, write to 
help at nytimes.com.  

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

More information about the FoRK mailing list