"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." — Elie Wiesel

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Why Americans Believe that Bombing Hiroshima was Necessary

Editor's Note: This is a guest column by Gary Kohls, MD. Gary G Kohls. Kohls is a retired physician who practiced holistic mental health care, dealing extensively with the totally preventable and difficult to treat reality known as posttraumatic stress disorder, which is always a consequence of violence. He is a member of the Community of the Third Way (a local Every Church A Peace Church affiliate) and the Just Peace Committee of Peace Church UCC in Duluth, Minnesota.

August 6, 2015, is the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, a civilian city that had minimal military value, despite the claims of President Truman when he announced the event to the American people.

The whole truth of what the Nuremburg tribunal would later help define as an international war crime and a crime against humanity has been heavily censored and mythologized ever since war-weary Americans in 1945 accepted the propaganda that the bombings were necessary to shorten the war and prevent the loss of a million US soldiers during the allegedly planned November 1945 invasion.

Of course, the reason that the United States wasn’t sanctioned like Germany was for the Jewish holocaust was that America was the victor and the occupier and thus it was in charge of making and enforcing the rules in the New World Order.

The United States military ambushed the equally defenseless Nagasaki City three days later with the second atomic bomb to ever be used against a civilian population (that no longer had any military value to Japan). “Fat Man”, the plutonium bomb named after Winston Churchill, was detonated before the Japanese leadership fully understood what had happened at Hiroshima.

My high school history teachers all seemed to be ex-jocks who weren’t athletically talented enough to make it to the majors. The main chance for them to continue playing games for pay was to join the teaching profession and coach high school athletics. American history was of secondary importance in many small town high schools but it hardly made the list of interests for coaches, who reluctantly accepted the job; and so my classmates and I “learned” our lessons from some very uninspired, very bored and/or very uninformed teachers who would rather have been on the playing field.

In my coach’s defense, the history books that they had to teach from had been highly censored in order to promote patriotism; and so we “learned” that most everything that the “noble” British colonizers and “honorable” US empire builders ever did in the history of warfare was self-sacrificing, democracy-promoting and Christianizing - and that everything their freedom-seeking, revolutionary colonial victims did was barbaric, atheistic and evil. Anybody who resisted colonial oppressors was treated as a terrorist.

It was from these history books that we learned about the “glorious” end of the war against Japan via nuclear incineration. Everybody in my high school, including myself, swallowed the post-war propaganda hook, line and sinker.

Of course, I now realize that my classmates and I, just like most other Americans (including the volunteer or conscripted members of the military), have been na├»ve victims of “lies our history teachers taught us”. In their defense, those teachers had been misled in their own schooling by equally mis-informed teachers who got their information from a variety of dis-informers who wrote the books: and those authors were the war- and empire-justifying militarists and assorted uber-patriotic pseudo-historians who had been duped into believing the myth of American exceptionalism.

Not included in that group of true believers were the 50,000 WWII American soldier-members of the “Greatest Generation” who, in many cases, logically and understandably deserted or went AWOL during their war service, a reality that has been conveniently censored out of our consciousness.

One of General Douglas MacArthur’s first acts after taking over as Viceroy of Japan was to confiscate or otherwise destroy all the photographic evidence documenting the horrors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He imposed total censorship over journalists who wanted to report to the world about what had really happened at Ground Zero, again proving the old adage that “the first casualty of war is truth”. Embedding journalists in the US military so that only America-friendly reportage happened wasn’t the original idea of General Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf in Gulf War I.

Back in 1995, the Smithsonian Institution was preparing to correct some of the 50-year-old pseudo-patriotic myths about the Pacific War by staging an honest, historically-accurate display dealing with the atomic bombings from the Japanese civilian perspective.

Swift, vehement and well-orchestrated condemnations directed at the Smithsonian historian’s plans to tell unwelcome truths about war came from right-wing pro-war veterans organizations, the GOP-dominated Congress at the time, and other militarist groups (such as Newt Gingrich’s paymaster Lockheed Martin, one of many war-profiteering merchants-of-death multinationals whose profits and products depend on Congressional and Pentagon largesse). Gingrich actually threatened to stop federal funding of the Smithsonian, thus forcing it to censor-out all of the contextually important parts of the real story. And so the pseudo-patriotic myths about Hiroshima and Nagasaki continue to be preserved to this very day.

We historically-illiterate Americans are blocked, again and again, from learning historical truths about the American Empire - and the control that the military and multinational corporations have over it. Anything that might shake voter confidence in – or incite grassroots revolution against - the unelected ruling elites, the Pentagon or the conscienceless transnational corporations (that control our two major party politicians, the mainstream media and the “invisible hand of the market”) is verboten.

The Smithsonian historians did have a gun to their heads, of course, but in the melee, we voters failed to learn an important historical point, and that is this: the war in the Pacific could have ended in the spring of 1945 without the need for the August atomic bombings, and therefore there might have been no Okinawa bloodbath that senselessly doomed thousands of American Marines.

And there would have been no need for an American land invasion of Japan in November. Indeed, in the 1980s, released top secret records revealed that the contingency plans for a large-scale US invasion (planned for no sooner than November 1, 1945) would have been unnecessary.

To the victors go the spoils, and the American victors were the ones running the war crimes tribunals and thus also determined the content of my history text books.

American intelligence agencies, with the full knowledge of President Roosevelt’s and President Truman’s administrations, were fully aware of Japan's search for ways to honorably surrender months before Truman gave the fateful order to incinerate Hiroshima.

Japan was working on peace negotiations through its ambassador in Moscow as early as April of 1945, with surrender feelers from Japan occurring as far back as 1944. Truman knew of these developments because the US had broken the Japanese code even before Pearl Harbor, and all of Japan's military and diplomatic messages were being intercepted. On July 13, 1945, Foreign Minister Togo wrote: "Unconditional surrender (giving up all sovereignty, including the deposing of Emperor Hirohito) is the only obstacle to peace."

Truman’s advisors knew about these efforts, and the war could have ended through diplomacy by simply conceding a post-war figurehead position for the emperor (who was regarded as a deity in Japan). That reasonable concession was - seemingly illogically - refused by the US in their demands for unconditional surrender, which was first demanded at the 1943 Casablanca Conference between Roosevelt and Churchill and then reiterated at the Potsdam Conference between Truman, Churchill and Stalin. Still, the Japanese continued searching for an honorable peace through negotiations.

Even Secretary of War Henry Stimson said: “the true question was not whether surrender could have been achieved without the use of the bomb but whether a different diplomatic and military course would have led to an earlier surrender. A large segment of the Japanese cabinet was ready in the spring of 1945 to accept substantially the same terms as those finally agreed on.” In other words, Stimson knew that the US could have ended the war before Hiroshima.

After Japan officially surrendered on August 15, 1945, MacArthur allowed the emperor to remain in place as spiritual head of Japan, the very condition that forced the Japanese leadership to refuse to accept the earlier, humiliating, “unconditional surrender” terms.

So the two essential questions that need answering in order to comprehend what was going on behind the scenes are these: 1) Why did the US refuse to accept Japan's only demand concerning its surrender (the retention of the emperor) and 2) why were the atomic bombs used when victory in the Pacific was assured?

There are a number of factors that contributed to the Truman administration’s fateful decision to use the atomic bombs.

1) Investment. The US had made a huge investment in time, mind and money (a massive 2 billion in 1940 dollars) to produce three bombs, and there was no inclination - and no guts - to stop the momentum.

2) Revenge. The US military and political leadership – as did many ordinary Americans - had a tremendous appetite for revenge because of the Pearl Harbor “surprise” attack. Mercy wasn't in the mindset of the US military, the war-weary populace or even of average American Christians and their churches. The missions against Hiroshima and Nagasaki were accepted as necessary, with no questions asked, by most of those folks who only knew the sanitized, national security state version of events. Most Americans wanted to believe the cunningly-orchestrated propaganda.

3) A “use it or lose it” mentality and scientific curiosity. The fissionable material in Hiroshima's bomb was uranium. The Trinity test bomb (exploded on July 16, 1945) and the Nagasaki bomb were plutonium bombs. Scientific curiosity was a significant factor that pushed the project to its deadly completion. The Manhattan Project leaders were curious. “What would happen if a city was leveled by a single uranium bomb?” “What would happen if plutonium was used?” Now that the war against Nazi Germany (the original intended target) was over, the most conscientious scientists felt that the bombs should not be used against civilian targets.

4) “Orders are orders”. Actually, the military decision to drop both bombs had been made well in advance of August 1945. Accepting the surrender of Japan prior to their use was not an option if the experiment was to go ahead. It should be obvious to anybody that the three-day interval between the two bombs was unconscionably short if the purpose of the first bomb was to force immediate surrender. Japan’s communications and transportation capabilities were in shambles, and no one, neither the US military nor the Japanese high command, fully understood what had happened at Hiroshima. (It is a fascinating fact that the Manhattan Project had been so top secret that even MacArthur, commanding general of the entire Pacific theatre, had been kept out of the loop - until July 1)

5) The Russians. Stalin had proclaimed his intent to enter the war with Japan 90 days after V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day, May 8, 1945), which would have been two days after Hiroshima was bombed. Indeed, Russia did declare war on Japan on August 8 and was advancing eastward across Manchuria when Nagasaki City, the center of Japanese Christianity, was incinerated.

Certainly Russia was still feeling the sting of humiliating defeat and the loss of territory from the disastrous Russo-Japanese War of 1905 when they were beaten by upstart Japan. Elephants and ego-bloated nation-states have long memories, especially when they lose an argument, lose a fight or are embarrassed in public. Witness the 150 year old enduring promise from segregationist devotees of the Confederate flag like Dylan Roof, the KKK, and the White Citizen’s Councils that “The South Will Rise Again”; or consider the rabid right-wing, sociopathic NeoNazis all around the world in their devotion to Adolf Hitler and their symbol of fascism, the Swastika.

The US didn't want Japan surrendering to Russia and thus sharing the spoils of war. Russia was soon to be one of only two world superpowers - and therefore a future enemy of the United States. So the first "messages" of the Cold War were sent by the US to the USSR on August 6 and 9, 1945: “Stalin, stay away from Japan’s carcass. We own it. And besides, we have the bomb.”

Russia didn’t receive the spoils of the Pacific War that they had anticipated, and the two superpowers were instantly mired in the multi-trillion dollar stalemated nuclear arms race and the multitude of proxy wars that regularly risked the total extinction of humanity. What also happened along the way was the moral bankruptcy of both of the paranoid super-power nations that insisted on fighting the stupid cold war, a war that was fueled by war-profiteering corporations and borrow and spend economics.

An estimated 80,000 innocent civilians, plus 20,000 weaponless young Japanese conscripts died instantly in the Hiroshima bombing raid. Hundreds of thousands more suffered slow deaths and disabilities from agonizing burns, radiation sickness, leukemia, anemia, thrombocytopenia and untreatable infections. The Japanese survivors and their progeny suffered a fate similar to the survivors and progeny of America’s “Atomic Soldiers”. (Atomic Soldiers were those soldiers who were exposed, in the line of duty, to the hundreds of nuclear tests in the 50s and 60s or to the depleted uranium that the US military used in the two Gulf Wars.) Each of those groups were afflicted with horrible radiation-induced illnesses, congenital anomalies, genetic mutations, immune deficiencies, cancers and premature deaths, still going on to this very minute.

(Another shameful reality that has been covered up is the fact that 12 American Navy pilots, their existence well known to the US command prior to the bombing, were instantly incinerated in the Hiroshima jail on that fateful day.)

So the official War Department-approved, highly censored version of the end of the war in the Pacific was added to an ever-lengthening list of myths that we Americans have been continuously fed by our corporate-controlled military, political and media opinion leaders. In the process, the gruesomeness and cruelty of war has been cunningly propagandized so that we consumers of information see only the glorification of American militarism.

Among the other censored out realities include what really happened in the US military’s participation in the destabilize-and-conquer campaigns and coups d’etat in Ukraine, Honduras, Venezuela, Libya, and bloody invasions and/or occupations of Korea, Iran, Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia, Lebanon, Granada, Panama, the Philippines, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Haiti, Colombia, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc, etc. This list doesn’t necessarily cover the uncountable secret Pentagon/CIA covert operations and assassination plots in the rest of the world, where some 150 “sovereign” nations have been coerced into allowing the building of American military bases (permission lavishly paid for by bribes or threats of economic or military sanctions).

But somehow most of us still hang on to our shaky "my country right or wrong" patriotism, desperately wanting to believe the cunningly-orchestrated myths that say that the war-profiteering corporate elite (and the politicians, military leaders and media talking heads who are in their employ) only work for peace, justice, equality, liberty and “making the world safe”, not for democracy, but for predatory capitalism.

While it is true that the US military has faced down the occasional despot, with necessary sacrifice from dead and incurably-wounded (in body, mind and spirit) American soldiers and veterans, more often than not the rationalizations for going to war are the same as those of the "godless communists", the anti-American “insurgents” and “freedom fighters” who just want us Yankees to go home where we belong.

August 6 and 9, 1945 are just two more examples of the brain-washing that goes on in all "total war” political agendas, which are consistently accompanied by the inevitable human death and destruction that is euphemistically labeled “splendid slaughter”, "collateral damage" or "friendly fire".

It might already be too late to rescue and resuscitate the (mythical?) moribund humanitarian, peacemaking America that we used to know and love. It might be too late to effectively confront the corporate hijacking of liberal democracy in America. It might be too late to successfully bring down the arrogant and greedy ruling elites who are selfishly dragging our planet down the road to destruction. The rolling coups d’etat orchestrated by the profiteers of what I call Friendly American Fascism may have already accomplished its goal.

But I suppose there is always hope. Rather than being silent about the destabilizing conflicts that the war-mongers are provoking all over the planet (with the very willing assistance of Wall Street, the Pentagon, the weapons industries and their lapdogs in Congress), people of conscience need to start learning the whole truth of history, despite the psychological discomfort that they may feel (cognitive dissonance) when the lies that they had been led to believe can’t be believed any more. We need to start owning up to America’s uncountable war crimes that have been orchestrated in our names.

And so the whistle-blowers among us need to rise up in dissent, go to the streets in protest and courageously refuse to cooperate with those sociopathic personalities that have gradually transformed America into a criminal rogue state. Like Nazi Germany or Fascist Japan, rogue nations throughout history have been eventually targeted for downfall by its billions of angry, fed-up, suffering victims who live both inside and outside its borders. That fate awaits America unless its leaders confesses their sins, honestly ask for forgiveness and truly promise to join the peace-loving human race.

Doing what is right for the whole of humanity for a change, rather than just doing what is profitable or advantageous for our over-privileged, over-consumptive, toxic and unsustainable American way of life, would be real honor, real patriotism and an essential start toward real peace.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Nuclear Age at 70; Time for Mandatory Retirement!

Yesterday marked the anniversary of the day in which the world entered the atomic age. On July 16, 1945, at 5:29:45 AM at the Alamogordo Test Range, on the Jornada del Muerto (Journey of Death) desert, in the test named Trinity, the experimental device known as the "Gadget" was detonated, creating a light "brighter than a thousand suns." A mere 6 kilogram (13.2 pound) sphere of plutonium, compressed to supercriticality by the surrounding high explosives, created an explosion equivalent to 20,000 tons of TNT (20 Kilotons). It was a stunning sight.

No one who saw it could forget it, a foul and awesome display.
- Kenneth Bainbridge, physicist
Was this, as thought nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer, the beginning of the end? These scientists had "become death", and they had created what could become (quite literally) "the destroyer of worlds"(Oppenheimer quoted a verse from the Bhagavad Gita which read, "I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.")

Less than a month after the Trinity test, the United States dropped two atomic bombs - on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - that killed over 100,000 people in less time than it took me to type a few of these words. As many as 220,000 were dead from the effects of radiation by the end of 1945. Even today, 70 years later, survivors (the Hibakusha) and subsequent generations suffer the effects of radiation.

From its horrific beginnings the nuclear arms race has led humanity down a perilous road of preparation for its own destruction. Scientists have continued to seek the power of gods, creating ever more destructive nuclear devices over the years, and military planners continued asking for more of these awful weapons in every shape and form (and method of delivery).

The fall of the Berlin Wall provided an extraordinary opportunity for the U.S. to reach out to Russia to begin the process of bilateral disarmament that would have sent a clear signal to other nuclear armed nations, as well as the non-nuclear nations, that it was time to rid the world of the weapons of humanity's demise.

So why didn't this happen? The U.S. was so set on taking hold of the former Soviet republics, controlling resources in the region, and weakening the new Russian state that it barely throttled back on its nuclear weapons program. Oh yes, we cut back on the overall numbers of nuclear warheads and some delivery vehicles, Yet, the ICBM forces stayed (for the most part) on alert, and ballistic missile submarine (Trident) patrols have remained at near-Cold War levels to this day.

The nuclear weapons infrastructure has been in the process of rebuilding in recent years, a new generation of ballistic missile submarines is in the works, and other delivery systems are on the drawing boards. Is it any wonder then that other nations, including Russia, are building up their nuclear forces?

Of course, for the U.S., all this nuclear weapons modernization is about projecting force in our insane colonial quest to control resources around the world. The irony is that nuclear weapons do not provide any real security at all; they are only a liability, and their eventual use will mean the end of life on Earth as we know it. Don't future generations deserve better?

With the very real threats posed by Global Warming and its associated Climate Change, shouldn't we be spending our precious human and financial capital on works that will help humanity adapt and find sustainability in what will be a difficult enough future?

A new Cold War is brewing as the bomb approaches its 70th birthday. Is it not time to send this demonic creature into forced retirement and to transition the entire nuclear weapons infrastructure to sustainable industries and jobs to build a positive future for humankind?

Here in Washington State we have Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor and the Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific. Bangor is home port to 8 of the nation's 14 ballistic missile (Trident) submarines, and the two facilities together represent the largest operational concentration of nuclear weapons in the U.S., and possibly anywhere in the world.

Trident is a first-strike weapon system designed during the height of the earlier Cold War in the bad old days of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Those days are long gone, and with them any possible argument for the concept of Strategic Deterrence that continues to justify our nation's continued nuclear weapons modernization.

The Navy's plans for a successor to Trident, known as the OHIO Class Replacement, SSBN(X) or as I call it, "New Trident," are moving full speed ahead. Of course, the Russians are responding and building their submarine fleet (and the associated missiles) back up.

This madness must stop, or we will be assuring the eventual destruction of everything we hold dear. Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action has, for nearly four decades, resisted the Trident nuclear weapons system and worked for the abolition of all nuclear weapons, while grounding its work in the study and practice of nonviolence.

This August we will remember the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on this 70th anniversary and continue to work to retire Trident and all nuclear weapons. 70 years is long enough (or perhaps I should say far too long).

Wherever you may be this August, I invite you to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings and begin or continue your work (in whatever way you are able) to rid the world of the scourge of nuclear weapons. There are events around the country, and you click here to find one thanks to Physicians for Social Responsibility.

While you're reading this, consider taking one of the actions (at the top of the right-hand column of this blog) to help build a nuclear weapons free world. You can also check out (and get involved at) our campaign to stop production of New Trident at NO To NEW TRIDENT.

Towards a peaceful retirement for the nuclear age,


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Nuclear weapons contradict every principle of humanitarian law (Judge Weeramantry)

Editor's Note: I recently attended the Peace and Planet Conference in New York, held just prior to the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.  At its first plenary, Jackie Cabasso, director of Western States Legal Foundation, read the following message on the illegality of nuclear weapons from Judge Christopher Weeramantry. Judge Weeramantry was one of the 15 judges on the International Court of Justice that rendered the famous advisory opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons in 1996.

The Total Illegality of Nuclear Weapons
The Imperative Need for Their Abolition
24 April 2015
Judge Christopher Weeramantry
Former Vice-President, International Court of Justice
Co-President, International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms
Weeramantry International Center for Peace Education and Research
Colombo, Sri Lanka
It gives much pleasure to send a message to the Peace and Planet Conference, held by civil society on the eve of the 2015 NPT Review Conference.

Never since the human race evolved has it faced a danger so devastating to all its past achievements and so destructive of its future expectations as it faces today. Thousands of weapons are today assembled in the arsenals of the world, each of which, even by itself, is fraught with greater peril to all humanity and to future generations then all the brutality of all the weapons cumulatively used in the wars of past centuries. The cruelty of all the tyrants of the past pales into insignificance in comparison with the proven cruelty of the nuclear weapon.

Yet, the legal professions of the world, the governments of the world, the religious assemblies of the world, the educational systems of the world and the general public of the world, who should be crying out from the rooftops for the immediate abolition of the weapon, are not even heard in the corridors of power.

It is amazing that this danger should have continued not merely to exist but also to expand in intensity through nearly three generations after the brutality of the weapon was demonstrated to all the world through its use in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We, who should now be at the very apex of human civilization, seem on the contrary to be ready at a moment’s notice to plunge all humanity into the very depths of brutality.

This is what the nuclear weapon means to every citizen on planet earth and every citizen who will inhabit the planet for a thousand generations to come. Future generations, whose inherent rights to health and a pure environment are being trampled under-foot by our generation, would raise their hands in disbelief that a weapon of such known brutality should have been permitted to remain on the planet. They would be even more shocked to know that these weapons were permitted to increase in intensity through three generations, and even more surprisingly through three generations during which human rights and the rights of future generations have been the subject of much attention.

The next time a nuclear weapon is used it will not be on a helpless target, with no possibility of retaliation. In a world of multiple conflicts, of proliferation of nuclear weapons, of
burgeoning terrorist movements, of spreading knowledge regarding their manufacture, of easy availability of raw materials and of a plenitude of funds for this purpose, the need for control and elimination of nuclear weapons is a thousand times greater than it was in the days of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Moreover, when the weapons start flying in both directions, all scientific studies make it patently clear that a nuclear winter will result, blotting out sunlight from large sections of the planet, devastating crops, depriving all humanity of food and reducing human life to the darkness of the Stone Age.

It is remarkable also that world religions and systems of humanitarian thought for thousands of years have condemned the use of hyper-destructive weapons. For example Hinduism, over three thousand years ago, condemned the use of a hyper-destructive weapon which was said to have the potential to ravage the enemy’s countryside and decimate its population. The Lateran Council in the twelfth century condemned the use of even the crossbow as being too cruel to be used in warfare. Islamic law condemned even the use of a poisoned arrow.

Humanitarian law has for centuries condemned the use of weapons that cause unnecessary suffering. Yet, strangely enough, the nuclear weapon defies all these prohibitions and hangs like the sword of Damocles over the entire human race. The Dum-dum bullet which explodes on entering the victim’s body was condemned in the 19 century as too cruel to be used amongst civilized nations, yet strangely enough the nuclear weapon persists.

The weapon contradicts every principle of humanitarian law, every principle of international law and every principle of religious teaching. Either its days are numbered or the days of human civilisation are numbered.

It is for us to make the choice.