Cold War Ideology and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

I learned of a new author, Andrew Alexander, the same year he died. I came across him because of a book he wrote on the Cold War, America and the Imperialism of Ignorance: How America Won the War and Lost the Peace – US Foreign Policy Since 1945. I’ll add that book to my reading list for all Americans, even if Oprah doesn’t include it in her book club list.

Alexander was highly critical of Cold War policies and propaganda (and its continuing influence), having seen it as some combination of ignorance and delusion. But he was no radical activist, academic revisionist, or dogmatic ideologue trying to defend left-wing politics. Besides being a respectable editor, journalist and columnist for The Daily Mail, he was a Tory conservative (and once a Conservative candidate), Thatcher neoliberal, right-wing British patriot, and hardline anti-communist. As Simon Jenkins at the Guardian puts it, “No one could possibly call him leftwing, let alone a pacifist appeaser. He has no illusions about the evil of Stalin or Mao, any more than he has about Saddam and al-Qaida.” David Duff, in an Al Aribaya News article, states it simply when he calls Alexander “a crusty Tory of the old school.”

Alexander’s social circle included many in the British political and economic elite. He wasn’t some nobody attacking his perceived superiors in hoping to make a name for himself. His career has been well established for a long time. His is not an angry commentary from an outsider, but a set of long considered concerns directed toward his own ideological peers and political associates. He makes this clear in the dedication to his book: “To my numerous friends in the Conservative Party whose relentless belief remains to this day that the Cold war arose from the aggressive ambitions of the Kremlin, thwarted by the bold response of our American friends. Their refusal to contemplate any other explanation has spurred me on in this, my survey of US foreign policy over the last sixty-five years.” His book was an offering to friends, not an attack against enemies. It was his love of country that made him take this issue so seriously, as he worried about the costs wasted and damages done.

It is interesting to read the views of someone like him. It is hard to imagine a conservative of that variety in the corporate media of the United States. From a Guardian article more than a decade old, he offered this gem (The Soviet threat was a myth):

“One can, of course, understand why few in the west want the orthodox view overturned. If that were to happen, the whole edifice of postwar politics would crumble. Could it be that the heavy burden of postwar rearmament was unnecessary, that the transatlantic alliance actually imperilled rather than saved us? Could it be that the world teetered on the verge of annihilation because post-war western leaders, particularly in Washington, lacked imagination, intelligence and understanding? The gloomy answer is yes.”

That is a damning conclusion, especially considering it comes from a conservative. To give some perspective, here is a passage from his book’s first chapter, The Flawed Cold War Orthodoxy (Kindle Locations 137-154):

“A wider look at history shows that a strongly interventionist US foreign policy is nothing new – though the current power to intervene globally is. A century ago, an American incomprehension of the outside world was exemplified by President Woodrow Wilson, so determined to remake countries in the American image after the First World War. His mixture of benevolence and ruthlessness may be summed up in a dispute with Mexico in 1913, when he announced ‘I will teach the Latin-Americans to elect good men’ followed by bombarding the town of Vera Cruz. His gunboat diplomacy intensified such feelings of nationalism and anti-Americanism that Germany hoped to make Mexico an ally in an attack on the USA in 1917 – famously exposed in the Zimmermann telegram, decoded by London.

“In 1945, the USA dedicated itself in Wilsonian language to bringing ‘democracy and freedom’ to the countries occupied by the Soviets at the end of the Second World War. The goal was high-minded. But there was a puzzling refusal to acknowledge the Soviet claim that two invasions by Germany in twenty-seven years made the firm control of Eastern Europe essential to Russian security. Truman insisted on seeing the Soviets as the determinedly expansionist enemy of the free world almost from the day he assumed office. They were, he said, ‘planning world conquest’.2

“The United States over which he presided had emerged from the Second World War with a military and economic supremacy unparalleled in history. Of the three powers which defeated the Axis alliance, the USA was unique in ending the war wealthier than when it began. By contrast, Britain’s income was down by a third with much of its overseas assets sold to buy armaments from the USA. In the case of Russia, which had been responsible for destroying the vast bulk of Hitler’s forces, the loss of income was immeasurable. Soviet statistics, always dubious, have never provided a wholly reliable picture of national income. But the scale of the devastation, involving at least twenty-two million and possibly twenty-seven million military and civilian deaths, speaks for itself.

“There was in fact no evidence in 1945 that the Soviet Union had a sinister plan to conquer the West. The threat perceived by Truman and others was imaginary – though no less powerful for that – stoked up by years of fearing the deadly spread of Communism.”

Alexander is able to write with such authority because he has gone to the direct words of Stalin and others. Mining records that weren’t available to earlier historians and journalists, his writings on the Cold War includes many telling quotes. What becomes clear is that Stalin was simply another nationalist despot with nationalist concerns. He worried about his own power and position, and of course he took seriously his role as leader of the country he ruled. He was a Russian nationalist, not an ideological communist and Trotsky internationalist (Stalin, by the way, assassinated Trotsky). Alexander states this in no uncertain terms (Kindle Locations 195-202):

“Given the German invasions, it would not have mattered whether the government in Moscow had been Communist, Tsarist or Social Democrat. It would still have insisted on firm control of these countries through which invasion had come; and bound to regard with deep suspicion any attempts to prevent it. In any case, Moscow could never forget that it was British and French policy in the interwar years to make Eastern Europe a barrier against the Soviet Union, even to consider – crucially – allowing Hitler a free hand against Russia. Colonel, later President, de Gaulle noted that even after the start of the Second World War:

“Certain circles saw the enemy in Stalin rather than Hitler. They busied themselves with finding means of striking Russia, either by aiding Finland or bombarding Baku or landing at Istanbul, much more than in coming to grips with Hitler.”

There is an intriguing insight about Stalin and non-Russian revolutions. Alexander explains that (Kindle Locations 161-165):

“Stalin’s attitude to the so-called world proletarian revolution is essential to understanding his personal and political motivation. He was, like the despot throughout the ages, principally concerned with his own survival rather than with ideological issues. He abandoned the grand global ambition of the world proletarian revolution in 1924 when he proclaimed that, henceforth, the aim was to be ‘socialism in one country’. To believe that he remained at all times a devout ideologue is to misread his character.”

One suspects those who saw Stalin as an ideologue were maybe projecting their own dogmatic tendencies. These Western ruling elites wanted an ideological war, whether or not Stalin wished to participate. “The determination of the West to see every Soviet move as explicable in terms of the pursuit of the world proletarian revolution provides one of history’s great ironies: the West took Communist doctrine more seriously than Stalin” (Kindle Locations 180-181). These ideologues were eventually able to force the hand of the Soviets to join this game of ideological battle, as they insisted on goading the Soviet government into aggression. In discussing the “European powers’ readiness to follow the American lead,” Alexander makes the point that “ironically…” (Kindle Locations 114-121),

“the launch of the Cold War by the USA did in due course bring into existence the very danger which had been imagined. It made frantic defence measures seem sensible. Threatened by President Truman, Russia responded by a vigorous programme of rearmament and an even tighter clampdown on Eastern Europe. With the refusal of the USA to respond to peace initiatives launched by the Soviet leadership on the death of Stalin in 1953, the Kremlin fought back under the new and more assertive leadership of Nikita Khrushchev. American and Western power in general was challenged wherever it could be found. It became rational to talk of a Communist threat and of the danger of a Soviet Union with a nuclear armoury. What was inaccurate was the assumption that a new military threat had come into being when the wartime allies finally came face to face in Germany.”

I sometimes find myself talking about the Cold War. I’m on the tail end of the Cold War generations, when that era was winding down. It’s just a childhood memory to me, mostly as portrayed in the fictionalized accounts of Hollywood movies and tv shows. I sense how different older Americans often respond to Cold War history. What to me just seems like propaganda to many who are older seems tangibly real. The ideological terms of capitalism versus communism so fully define and determine their sense of reality.

I found it interesting that even the Soviets talked about defending freedom and democracy from American greed, immorality, and destructiveness. Both sides were often making similar arguments. I’ve come to the conclusion that it never was about ideology. You can see evidence of that in how easily formerly communist Russia and Maoist China have come to embrace variants of capitalism.

It seems to me that the greatest threat to the United States has always been fascism, not communism. You can also see the evidence of that in how easily this country has taken on forms of crony capitalism, corporatism, and inverted totalitarianism. But it isn’t an ideological issue, per se. It is partly just about power and in the US power has always been tied up with capitalism, not any opposing ideologies. Even the most left-wing progressivism in the US merely sought to reform capitalism and did so to protect against anything further left.

Plus, I see the cultural angle being so much more important. That is seen with Stalin. He was a Russian nationalist, first and foremost, through and through. The United States has never been an ethnically homogeneous country like any of the communist countries or, for that matter, any of the traditionally fascist countries. Diversity has been a great protection for the US against the worst forms of authoritarian takeover.

In terms of Russia and Eastern Europe, there was never much of an issue, since only a small part of America’s population comes from that part of the world. The main reason fascism was a threat in this country wasn’t even the dominance of plutocratic capitalism, but because so many Americans came from countries that became fascist. Many German-Americans, the single largest ancestry in the US, proudly marched in the streets carrying flags and banners with the swastika. The characteristics of the American people that resonated with fascism were cultural rather than ideological. Even ignoring ancestry and issues of national loyalty, this resonance included America’s populist folk religiosity, a defining feature of fascism and quite opposite of official communist ideology. The same social and political forces that brought fascism to Europe also brought the German Bund and Second Klan to America.

Yet we go on arguing about ideology. It never was about ideology. It still isn’t. So many ideological debates ring hollow. Like the Cold War, the culture wars were simply a spectacle of distraction. Most Americans agree about most things. There is no grand ideological conflict in America, although there is a class war between the economic elite and everyone else (Joe Bageant made the argument that 60-70% of Americans are actually working class, those with little economic freedom and self-determination), but a class war in raw form is still not directly an issue of ideology. There certainly isn’t any threat of communist takeover. Even Bernie Sanders is simply a moderate mainstream social democrat and not a radical dogmatic ideologue.

I doubt the ideological Cold War will end until the last person with living memory of that era has left this earth. It has been such a powerful force in ruling over our collective psyche, strangling our ability to imagine anything else. We can only hope that with historical distance its grip will loosen and its influence fade.

* * *

8/11/19 – I came across further supporting evidence for the case made by Andrew Alexander. Two other authors, Michio Kaku and Daniel Axelrod in their book To Win a Nuclear War, make a related argument.

From early on in WWII, there were already Western leaders who saw Stalin, not Hitler, as the real enemy. And they wanted to find a way to eliminate the perceived Soviet threat by any means necessary, even if it required an unprovoked and unjustified attack that would have been an illegal and unconstitutional war of aggression, basically the same as the Nazis attacking other countries.

As the Nazis followed the American example of eugenics, the US wanted to follow the German example of modern imperialism. If these bloodthirsty psychopaths had been successful in decimating Russia, the Nazis might’ve won the war since it was the Soviets more than anyone else who broke the back of the German forces.

[Text below from linked articles.]

Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the Spies Who Kept a Criminal US with a Nuclear Monopoly from Making More of Them
by Dave Lindorff

It was the start of the nuclear age. Both bombs dropped on Japan were war crimes of the first order, particularly because we now know that the Japanese government, which at that time was having all its major cities destroyed by incendiary bombs that turned their mostly wooden structures into towering firestorms, was even before Aug. 6, desperately trying to surrender via entreaties through the Swiss government.

The Big Lie is that the bomb was dropped to save US troops from having to invade Japan. In fact, there was no need to invade. Japan was finished, surrounded, the Russians attacking finally from the north, its air force and navy destroyed, and its cities being systematically torched.

Actually, the US didn’t want Japan to surrender yet though.Washington and President Harry Truman wanted to test their two new super weapons on real urban targets, and even more importantly, wanted to send a stark message to the Soviet Union, the supposed World War II ally which US war strategists and national security staff actually viewed all through the conflict as America’s next existential enemy.

As authors Michio Kaku and Daniel Axelrod, two theoretical physicists, wrote in their frightening, disturbing and well researched book To Win a Nuclear War: The Pentagon’s Secret War Plans (South End Press, 1987), the US began treacherously planning to use its newly developed super weapon, the atom bomb, against the war-ravaged Soviet Union, even before the war had ended in Europe. Indeed a first plan, to drop 20-30 Hiroshima-sized bombs on 20 Russian Cities, code named JIC 329/1, was intended to be launched in December 1945. Fortunately that never happened because at that point the US only had two atomic bombs in its “stockpile.”

The describe how as the production of new bombs sped up, with 9 nuclear devices by June 1946, 35 by March 1948 and 150 by January 1949, new plans with such creepy names as Operations Pincher, Broiler, Bushwacker, Sizzle and Dropshot were developed, and the number of Soviet cities to be vaporized grew from 20 to 200.

Professors Kaku and Axelrod write that Pentagon strategists were reluctant to go forward with these early planned attacks not because of any unwillingness to launch an unprovoked war, but out of a fear that the destruction of Soviet targets would be inadequate to prevent the Soviet’s still powerful and battle-tested Red Army from responding by over-running war-ravaged Europe in response to such an attack—a counterattack the US would not have been able to prevent. These strategists recommended that no attack be made until the US military had at least 300 nukes at its disposal (remember, at this time there were no hydrogen bombs, and the size of fission bomb was  constrained by the small size of the core’s critical mass). It was felt, in fact, that the bombs were so limited in power that it could take two or three to decimate a city like Moscow or Leningrad.

So the plan for wiping out the Soviet Union was gradually deferred to January 1953, by which time it was estimated that there would be 400 larger Nagasaki bombs available, and that even if only 100 of these 25-50 kiloton weapons hit their targets it could “implement the concept of ‘killing a nation.’”

The reason this epic US holocaust never came to pass is now clear: to the astonishment of US planners and even many  of the US nuclear scientists who had worked so hard in the Manhattan Project to invent and produce the atomic bomb (two types of atomic bomb, really), in August 29, 1949 the Soviets exploded their own bomb, the “First Lightning”: an almost exact replica of the “Fat Man” Plutonium bomb that destroyed Nagasaki four years earlier.

And the reason the Soviet scientists, brilliant as they were but financially strapped by the massive destruction the country had suffered during the war, had been able to create their bomb in roughly the same amount of time that the hugely funded Manhattan Project had done was primarily the information provided by a pair of scientists working at Los Alamos who offered detailed plans, secrets about how to work with the very tricky and unpredictable element Plutonium, and how to get a Plutonium core to explode in a colossal fireball instead of just producing a pathetic “fizzle.”

The Beginning
Go back to the end of World War II — to the days when the weaponization of nationalism was just beginning to crystalize as an American foreign policy strategy.
by Yasha Levine

Ira didn’t fully grasp the convoluted politics and history of the various Eastern European nationalist groups living in the camps, but UNRRA staff informed him that many of them were most likely Nazi collaborators and fascists.

They came from all over — from Ukraine, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Yugoslavia. It was hard to figure out who was who in the confusion, and no one in power made any real effort to sort them out. But it was clear many had worked with and for the Nazis — either participating in genocide, administering the occupied territories, running death camps, or serving in the SS and various ethnic auxiliary battalions.

Now they refused to be repatriated. They knew it would be a death sentence. So they were just hanging around, hiding their Nazi past, and mooching off the UN, all while thugging it up all around town. They were biding their time. The smart ones were actively trying to sell their services to any intelligence agency willing to buy.

If so many of them were suspected of being Nazi collaborators, why were they getting the VIP treatment? And why were Jews living in squalor?

The answer gradually emerged as Ira met with military and UN officials.

Wherever he went, he was told the same thing: We’re gearing up for a fight against communism and the Soviet Union. This is the next big war — the “real” war for democracy against a barbaric communist menace.

He described a conversation he had with Sir Frederick Morgan, a British general who ran UNRRA operations in Germany from an opulent country mansion filled with butlers and Latvian servant girls.

He leaned over and pointed a long forefinger at me for dramatic effect.

“Hirschmann,” he said in a sort of confidential half-whisper, “to all intents and purposes we are at war with Russia now. You don’t have to have shooting to have a war. This time the Germans will be on our side. And this time our plan will work.”

I asked him to explain what he meant.

General Morgan was growing expansive. He needed little urging. “Each day the Russians become stronger and the British weaker. The time to destroy the Russians is now.”

I had the feeling that he was speaking “from the book”; that he represented the British War office, which in co-operation with the British Foreign Office, wanted to set the stage for an all-out drive against the Soviet Union.

Morgan pulled out a pencil and began drawing lines on the tablecloth to indicate where the next military battles would be fought. I recalled Kathleen McLaughlin’s “scoop” on World War III and began to get an inkling as to her sources. As he sketched the new battlefield of the next war on the white linen tablecloth, the jigsaw puzzle fell into place; the dim picture came into focus. Here were the plans, the slow building, brick by brick, of the edifice which finally would topple upon us and take us all to our doom. . . .

It seems that Poland was again to be the battlefield. She was to be anvil upon which the hammers of the Western armies would strike. For good reason, then, the policy boys all along the line were repairing fences, putting top Nazis back into power, doing their best to see that German people were not hurt, that rightist Poles were strengthened, that all who wished to return to Poland were bottled up in Germany, their minds poisoned, their fears intensified, their point of view warped, until they were ripe for use.

The British, said Morgan, had learned much in the last war. They would succeed where Napolean and Hitler had failed.

As Ira was made to understand, to fight the commies the Allies needed a strong, economically stable Germany. That’s why denazification efforts had been scrapped and Allied military command was busy putting former Nazis back in charge of industry to “reconstitute the German economy as quickly as possible.” This new war footing against the Soviet Union was also why military officials didn’t want to seize German property for Jewish survivors. They thought giving Jews anything at the expense of German citizens strained relations and caused bad blood between them and a vital new ally.

48 thoughts on “Cold War Ideology and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

  1. I must admit that my views had been leaning in this direction long before having come across this book. But Alexander was able to put my thoughts in a larger perspective, something I always appreciate. He is a good guide to this area of global politics and history.

    My knowledge and understanding of the Cold War has been limited. Most of those older than me are too caught up in ideology to think straight. Most of those younger than me are too uninformed and indifferent to have much opinion, beyond vague opinions, often ideologically driven as well. My own upbringing puts me on the cusp of the Cold War and post-Cold War eras, which has left me feeling confused and ambiguous about it all.

    I always sensed I wasn’t getting the full picture. That is the one advantage my generation had. We got a clear sense of the power of propaganda, with just enough personal distance to hold it at arms length, at least for some of us. Anyone younger than me simply can’t comprehend how all-consuming was the Cold War worldview. Even in the form of late Cold War fiction, it ruled the imagination of the American mind.

    Maybe that is why a British perspective was helpful. Plus, I’ve always been fond of a certain no-nonsense Tory attitude. Alexander was highly critical of Reagan, which is interesting as he praised Thatcher. An even more malcontented Tory was Henry Fairlie, another one of Reagan’s detractors. Somehow Tory views at times can come off sounding like liberalism when responding to the reactionary right-wing nature of American politics.

  2. I was thinking about why this confusion was so prevalent. It probably wasn’t just ideological ignorance and obtuseness on the part of Westerners. The incomprehension was surely mutual.

    During the 19th century, every major power in the world was an ethno-nationalistic empire. Everyone understood that the battle lines were drawn on cultural divides. That had begun to change with the rise of the multicultural former colonial states.

    A country like the US had to find a new means of uniting a country when ethnic homogeneity was lacking. But the seed of this was planted during the revolution, when ideology came to the forefront. The American Revolution could be seen as the first battle between the newly forming ideological nation-state and an old ethno-nationalistic empire, as some of the American colonies lacked WASP majorities. The US, once it was founded, didn’t take long to show its own imperialistic tendencies in expansionism, even if it wouldn’t gain the full power to act on it until the 20th century.

    The Cold War was maybe a continuation of this centuries old conflict. Russia hadn’t ethnically changed much since its own imperial era. It remained a culturally insular country. It would have been surprising if a Russian despot like Stalin had acted differently than any Russian despot had ever acted. Stalin simply wanted the Russian empire back, that old ethno-nationalist project. He had no interest in ruling over Western Europe or any other part of the world, since only Eastern Europe was the only part of the world that either had military or cultural significance for defense of the Russian ethno-nationalist project.

    Someone like Hitler was a bit different. Germanic culture was more widely influential and widespread. All of Western Europe and Anglo-America were Germanicized, ever since the Germanic tribes swept across the Western world. Germans could easily sense the cultural familiarity of the countries they sought to take over. That wasn’t the case with the Russians, who had spent their history fighting against Western influence, from Napoleanic Wars to World Wars. Expansionism was in the cultural mindset of Westerners in a way it wasn’t in the Russian mindset, at least in terms of Europe.

    The US brought the Western worldview to its furthest extreme of cultural imperialism and ideological expansionism. As a multicultural immigrant country, the US saw all or at least much of the world as part of its cultural territory. That had its origins in the British empire, but it took the American experiment to bring it to fruition.

    Americans in particular and Westerners in general couldn’t understand a country like Russia and its old ethno-nationalistic imperial aspirations. And undoubtedly Russians couldn’t understand a country like the US, where political and economic ideology had replaced traditional ethnic culture. The Cold War was nothing more than this mutual incomprehension.

    • American and Western leaders could only understand someone like Stalin through their own biases. They projected Western aspirations onto him. They assumed that he would attempt to do what they themselves would want to do in his position. They simply couldn’t believe that his imagination could be so limited as to merely want to rule Russia and control the border countries around Russia.

      Certainly, American leaders had bigger dreams than that in wanting to rule the world. Those American leaders needed Stalin and the Soviets to be scarier than they were in order to justify America’s own scary vision of global power. The American ruling elite assumed someone had to rule the world. It never occurred to multicultural and multinational Americans that ethnic nation-states and cultural regions could be left to rule themselves.

      How dare the Russians try to control their old imperial territories of Northern and Eastern Europe! Even as the Americans sought to reclaim the imperial territorial might and global aspirations of their British forebears. Everyone must be forced to trade with the US and under terms favorable to the US. No national economy should be allowed to be independent or control its own trade routes, besides of course the US.

  3. yeah, it suddenly showed up again, didn’t it, the Cold War? Like the Reagan/Gorby thing was nothing but a photo op. It’s East VS West, as always, sort of, right? But also, in the sense, that Oriental means ancient. (Joseph Campbell counted Egypt as Orient and never Occident because of it’s relative geographic isolation from Asia and Europe and and its society stayed ancient world right up to and possibly beyond classical times, God-Kings and whatnot . . . ) It’s east VS West and modern VS ancient . . . I’m sure you’re right, if it wasn’t Left VS Right it would have been something else.

  4. The land over which invasions was launched stretches all the way to the Atlantic and Med. coasts of France. I suppose it would be natural for Stalin to advance at least that far.

    But wait… Was Finland such a big threat that it had to be invaded? Who had ever crossed Finnland to invade the USSR? That was quite arguably the opening salvo in WWII. Or was it When Stalin and Hitler together partitioned Poland? Now you have Soviet and Nazi soldiers nose to nose on the same conquered state. I guess Belarus, Ukraine, and the Baltic states weren’t enough buffer between them?

    Logically, Britain and France had as much reason to declare war on the Soviet Union as they did on Germany. A long history of expansion into neighboring sovereign territories capped by an invasion of Poland. A political ideology based more on the worship of a megalomaniacal leader than any underlying principle – and completely inimical to western liberal democracy. Stalin had already murdered millions of his countrymen in purges. Hitler had hardly even gotten started on it at the time. The two dictators were tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum. They both had eyes on the same prize and that was total dominance in Europe plus Stalin had his sights set on Asia as well.

    Hitler was a far greater threat to the west. The decision was made to wink at the Soviets and even prop them up when they were in danger because Hitler had a very real shot at taking Europe at the time and the threat from Stalin was farther down the road.

    • I’m not a fan of imperialism. That is why I’m often critical of US foreign policy that has increasingly become imperialistic over time.

      The fact of the matter is that the Soviet Union was mostly an updated version of the Russian Empire. Both Finland and parts of Poland had been included in the territory of the Russian Empire. Stalin wanted to reclaim the imperial territories that had accumulated over centuries.

      But Western Europe had never been a part of the Russian Empire. And there is no indication Stalin ever wanted or had the capacity to invade Western Europe, as this was a fantasy or rhetoric invented by Western rulers.

      • Japan was bombed with nukes because we needed them to surrender immediately. Obviously killing millions of Japanese conventionally wasn’t doing it. Tojo and the military leadership were still planing on fighting to the last man even after two bombs were dropped. It was a hook for Hirohito to hang his hat on and he very nearly did not get his surrender message out.

        If we did not quickly occupy Japan, it was very possible the Soviets would invade. They had a massive military presence in the area. We would end up having to partition Japan as we partitioned Korea.

        At the time, the military perspective on the atomic bomb was it was just a bigger bomb. We can drop one bomb and kill a hundred thousand people in a day or we can drop ten thousand and do the same thing. We’d already visited nuclear levels of destruction on several cities in both theaters using conventional weapons. The notion that we wouldn’t have used them on Germany (or Stalin’s forces) if we had needed to is absurd. The dead of Hamburg and Dresden are proof that we could be just as violent against white people.

        We were ready to drop as many as 12 total A-bombs on Japan by November 1945. Good thing they surrendered.

        The belief that atomic weapons were not appropriate as a warfighting tool evolved gradually. It didn’t really gain acceptance until the number of available warheads hit hundreds and the long-term effects became more widely known. The “tactical” utility of small atomic bombs still has adherents today.

        It was thought a realistic fear at the time that WWII might continue with a direct conflict with the Soviets, whether by calculation – or a misstep that spirals out of control. Soviets might decide to take France as well as Germany, either to neutralize yet another historic threat to Russia or to reshape the continent into satellite states. Patton was arguing that the Soviets would be at war with us soon enough regardless of what we did so we ought to take the initiative now while we still had the chance. There was even talk of reactivating the Wehrmacht of which we could probably get 10 weakened divisions.

        Western commanders greatly overestimated Soviet strength but we only know that with hindsight. We can see in hindsight that while the Red Army of the time outnumbered the Western allies substantially in front-line troops, armor, and artillery, it wouldn’t count as much against us as it did against the Germans. You can’t lose 13% of your national population as war dead without penalty. They didn’t have much of an air force or navy. Their industrial base was weakened, our was safe and strong, and we could build nuclear bombs.

        The result would be even more bloody than the war against Germany but I can’t see them coming out as winners. That doesn’t mean the commanders at the time saw it that way.

        That doesn’t mean it didn’t seem very possible at the time.

  5. Hi Again Benjamin.
    In this reply it is probably best to lay out ‘my own store’ as it were.
    Born 1951 and lived all my life in the UK. Politics in the Heart very Hard Left probably close to the communism espoused by Lenin; in the Head ‘Democracy is a poor form of government, but all the rest are so much worse’. Also a life time of reading History has given me a rather pragmatic ‘Realpolitik’ streak, could be mistaken as cynical.
    For instance I can upset a number of people with a view that the use of Atom bombs on Japan was an inevitability born out of a combination of factors and has its comparisons in the policy of Genghis Kahn’s. But that’s for another time.
    Thus this is my own overview, narrowing down on the 20th century.
    The Long History of thousands of years suggest the relationship between states and the internal dialogue which goes on in a state are fraught with complexities; the latter replete with varying factions of belief and self-interest. For the USA being a relatively new nation the experiences and national-memories (the gestalt if you like) are arguably fresh and not honed or embittered by the hardness the hubris of a longer duration can bring.
    From a European perspective the shift in the atmosphere of hostility after WWII was nothing new. It is almost a given for allies to fall out, even going to war; the Second Balkan War of 1913 being a classic example. Some historians would even argue that there was no true separation between WWI & WWII only a lowering of the scope of military activity. Thus Cold War approach in the USA was mirrored in the then USSR and spread out amongst partner states; Britain and France still trying to come to grips with the fact that their influences were fading.
    One ‘kick-back’ in Western Europe being I suspect a nascent resentment across the political spectrum that we were no longer a collection of ‘Top Nations’. It was all USA / USSR. This was darkly comic within The European Left where there was an article of faith that only the USA did wrong, the USSR were the mis-understood good guys (In fact this continued until the past couple of years when in appeared Russian money was helping out the Conservative Party and Boris Johnson – now they are ‘bad’ guys again). This of course was mirrored in the European Right- though Trump and MAGA’s antics have stretched faith in the USA.
    Another interesting, salutary parallel one might say is the comparison of the USA & USSR/ Russian experiences of the late 20th to opening decades of the 21st Century. Both came out of WWII as supreme powers and arbiters on the World Stage, both with their cultch of troublesome client states, and both not knowing what to do with China. By the arrival of the 1990s both had been humbled militarily by far lesser nations, and both were having internal crisis as where to go next.
    Out of this swirl Russia fell back to the dependable Holy Mother Russia view, and I agree with you on Stalin, very close to some of the grimmer Czars. So strong a pull is this today it can be observed, it is not Putin’s Russia, but Russia’s Putin (We have to bear in mind though Stalin was a Georgian, but seemed to have ditched that identity early on).
    For the USA facing social upheavals, and more military set-backs the old theme of the White Supremacists with tenuous and selective links to The Old and New Testaments have arisen once. Blind to the fact that they can no longer impose an iron will on the USA as a whole. This in History is nothing new. Nations rise and fall torn apart by internal tensions or simply fading into lesser states.
    There is nothing new in the American Experience, the tragedy being there was promise there but the every restless follies of Humanity took hold. It is a shame. So much more could have been crafted.

    • I too am someone with a ‘realist’ streak that, at times, gets mistaken by certain others as cynicism. I can be highly and harshly critical, when in a certain mood that is more common than I might prefer. As such, I don’t disagree with your general approach and attitude. In response to what you wrote, let me break it down into bite-sized pieces and then I’ll comment on each. I apologize in advance for my typical long-winded and opinionated writing style.

      “For instance I can upset a number of people with a view that the use of Atom bombs on Japan was an inevitability born out of a combination of factors and has its comparisons in the policy of Genghis Kahn’s. ”

      I realize you suggested that, “that’s for another time.” But I’ll briefly offer a view. I guess it depends on which factors one considers. It wasn’t inevitable in a military or geopolitical sense, in terms of material necessity, although useful as setting an example. Still, one could argue it was akin to being inevitable as based on the cultural history of colonial imperialism, Western hegemony, and bigoted racism. If the population targeted had been white Westerners, such atomic bomb attacks never would’ve happened. That goes without saying.

      But it wasn’t merely because the Japanese are brown people who are geographically distant and possessing an entirely distinct culture. To connect it back to the above post, the US had planned a far worse aggressive and illegal atomic bombing of innocent citizens in the hope of eliminating the Soviets after WWII. Eastern Europeans had a long history of being likewise perceived as foreign and inferior, particularly in the US. The US elite, in feeling full of themselves, thought they could do anything and get away with it. It was the naivete of a young nation.

      Though, interestingly, Japan was rehabilitated as a semi-autonomous quasi-colony and client state because US elites saw China as a greater threat. Japan was needed as a site for building a military base, in defending against and containing China. So, like Germany, US money went to rebuilding Japan and for similar reasons. The Ottoman Empire didn’t receive such treatment in WWI, but quite the opposite in being dismantled and turned into territorial prizes for the Western empires.

      As a side note, Western leaders hoped the remnants of Nazi Germany could be made into allies against the Soviets, as some were already planning the Cold War before WWII had yet ended. In fact, many pro-fascist Western elites always thought the Soviets were the ultimate enemy, even before WWII had begun. That is why they hoped to destroy the post-war Soviets while they were still devastated and weak from dealing with the Nazis. The Bush political dynasty, by the way, both earlier profited from business ties to the Nazis and later played a key role in obtaining employment in the US government for Nazi war criminals.

      None of this should be surprising. The US always had more in common (ethnically, culturally, politically, and economically with Nazi German and Fascist Italy than with Eastern Europe, before or after the Russian Revolution. In some ways, the fact that Japan was a capitalist empire might’ve made it easier for the US to imagine the Japanese as potential allies. Certainly, in the post-war period, capitalism helped tie together the Western world in including not only Western Germany but also Japan, Israel, etc.

      That was the impossible challenge Stalin faced in seeking to maintain alliance and trade with the West. He may have been able to imagine it, as most Russians and other Eastern Europeans identified as Europeans. They might have seen themselves as possessing some common bond with Western Europeans that had been cemented through the common cause of war with a common enemy, not to mention centuries of a common European history (Christianity, peasants’ revolts, Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, colonial imperialism, revolution, industrialization, scientific progress, etc).

      But that perception was not mutual. Many Westerners, particularly among the political and economic elite, simply could not imagine the Soviets as friends and did not want to be friendly. The sense of Manichaean conflict and existential threat was more perceived as a cultural and imperial war than a mere ideological difference, despite the fact that Stalin had no desire to impose his ideology or political order on the West. It didn’t matter. There can be no alliance between the opposing forces in a Clash of Civilizations. That is why it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. It was thought of as inevitable and so became inevitable because no alternative could be imagined.

      “For the USA being a relatively new nation the experiences and national-memories (the gestalt if you like) are arguably fresh and not honed or embittered by the hardness the hubris of a longer duration can bring.”

      I’ve often expressed thoughts along those lines. And it’s come up in various posts and in the comments sections. There has been no seriously massive consequences to American policies so far, at least not as felt among most Americans. Neither the Vietnam War nor the War on Terror was ever personally experienced by the general public, as the majority of events were distant with a quality of abstraction and detachment, only something to be seen through mediated narratives, like any other entertainment show.

      “From a European perspective the shift in the atmosphere of hostility after WWII was nothing new. It is almost a given for allies to fall out, even going to war”

      Sure, history is full of examples of that. But history is also overflowing with examples of the complete opposite and other variations. Britain was once an enemy of Ireland, America, France, Spain, etc. Yet all of these are now perceived as part of a singular Western Civilization that has allowed for strong alliances. Even in the early 19th century, some of those former enemies were quick to look past old aggressions and transgressions.

      Nonetheless, alliances do shift quite a bit over time. But others seem long lasting. The British Empire and the US remained closely linked in numerous ways despite the American Revolution and the War of 1812. Then these two superpowers, along with France, fought on the same side of two world wars without any falling out. So, it’s not an absolute given that allies fall out, at least not in the short term.

      It’s hard imagining these Western powers and long-term military allies taking opposing sides in any near future war. But it might happen considering the possibility of American instability and decline. If and when that happens, you can come back to my blog and say, I told you so!

      In any case, your point might still stand, if only partly applicable as we’re discussing here. Stalin was seemingly being overly optimistic and apparently misguided in underestimating the pro-fascism and anti-communism of the Western oligarchs. It didn’t matter what he wanted. They were seeking total world domination of Western corporatocracy. There was no room for non-aggression, cooperation, and mutual benefit.

      “Some historians would even argue that there was no true separation between WWI & WWII only a lowering of the scope of military activity.”

      I tend to see the world in that light, as continuous change across history, rather than discontinuous events that rupture history. A similar argument was made by Kevin P. Phillips in his book The Cousins’ Wars. He sees a direct ongoing link between the English Civil War, the American Revolution, and the American Civil War. I’d go even further and take it back to the English Peasants’ Revolt. Furthermore, it is easily argued that the original conflict has never been resolved and is waiting for the next iteration of mass violence.

      It is far from limited to a single country or ethnic culture, such as Anglo-American society. One can broaden that argument in seeing all of the European peasants revolts as having been a widespread reaction to the Black Death’s disruption of the feudal order that allowed new proto-modern ideological rhetoric and class identity. This is partly why these powerful events so transformed Europe. The peasants’ revolts were the predecessors and the originating causal force that in a way let loose much of the later tumult: Protestant Reformation, radical civil wars, open class wars, colonial revolts, slave rebellions, numerous successful and failed revolutions, etc.

      This also contributed to the emergence of colonial imperialism, privatized capitalism, and the enclosure movement. The ruling elite felt so desperate that they ended up doing more to dismantle the ancien regime than ever did any rebellious peasants or revolutionary colonists. It reached its climax in the early modern period when began nation-building with entirely new ethno-nationalist identities that never before existed. Without that, there never would’ve been the kind of warfare that happened in Europe from the 17th to 20th centuries.

      “One ‘kick-back’ in Western Europe being I suspect a nascent resentment across the political spectrum that we were no longer a collection of ‘Top Nations’. It was all USA / USSR.”

      That is probably true. The British Empire, more than any other, would’ve felt this most potently. The sun finally set on centuries of imperial ambitions. But the British could hold onto power by piggybacking on the American Empire, which after all was essentially just a new version of the British Empire where the center of power was relocated — not that necessarily comforted the once powerful British ruling elite and the once proud imperial subjects. The sacrifice of lives and wealth during WWII would’ve made a bitter victory, as the once great empire was left devastated and weakened.

      That surely reinforced Andrew Alexander critical stance toward the Cold War. The UK had been pulled into the geopolitical machinations of the US, maybe as much or more a pawn than an ally in the game of global chess. The British people were recruited into a fight that wasn’t theirs, a fight that in fact didn’t need to happen because it had been based on lies. To have another country’s propaganda manipulate one’s entire society has to be disheartening, particularly for a self-identified patriotic civil servant and statesman who dedicated his life to his country, a country that not long before had been one of the leading powerhouses.

      “This was darkly comic within The European Left where there was an article of faith that only the USA did wrong, the USSR were the mis-understood good guys”

      I don’t know much about the European Left, except mostly in generalities. But, to consider a specific example, there were leftists like George Orwell who hated the authoritarianism of Italian Fascism, German Nazism, and Soviet Stalinism. And so, maybe from an attitude of realpolitik, he sided with his own country in the UK-US neo-imperial alliance of the Cold War. One might wonder what he would’ve thought of Andrew Alexander’s take on the Cold War. Orwell infamously turned in at least one list of potential Soviet actors and co-conspirators, along with other communists, Marxists, and fellow travelers.

      So, Orwell obviously didn’t think the USSR could do no wrong. I don’t know how many other European leftists were like him. But my sense is that a pro-USSR attitude has tended to be weak in the US, for various reasons. In American culture and particularly on the left, there has always been influential strains of anarchism, libertarianism, and populism. Most American leftists seem to have early on turned against the Soviets when it was revealed some of the brutal authoritarianism that was going on there. Growing up in the late Cold War, I never heard any Americans defending or making excuses for the Soviets, although I didn’t go to college until after the Soviets fell.

      “We have to bear in mind though Stalin was a Georgian, but seemed to have ditched that identity early on”

      Yep, I know that. There are many meanings to the Russian identity, far from limited to some limited and artificial notion of ethno-nationalism, as all such identities are modern social constructs. For someone like Stalin, being a Russian nationalist probably was more about a nostalgic memory of the former greatness of the Russian Empire that he sought to rebuild. It’s the same nostalgic vision certain Welsh, Scottish, and Irish might have once felt for the British Empire shortly after its decline, even though they weren’t English.

      “This in History is nothing new. Nations rise and fall torn apart by internal tensions or simply fading into lesser states.”

      Indeed, it is nothing new. American history is short. And the only thing shorter is American memory of American history. In particular, the reactionary mind tends to get lost in nostalgic fantasies and historical revisionism. Such reality-distorting amnesia, however, increases the vulnerability to decline. Anxiety leading into a death spiral of moral panic, yet another self-fulfilling prophecy of existential threat and conflict.

      “There is nothing new in the American Experience, the tragedy being there was promise there but the every restless follies of Humanity took hold.”

      Yes and no. The American experiment really was something never before seen. No prior country had ever been founded on mass revolt driven by ideological rhetoric and a republican constitution of abstract principles, radical ideals, and utopian visions. The American revolutionaries and founders really had no clue what they were doing, what would result, or how it might actually work. It was a truly mad experiment. The tragedy is precisely because of its optimistic beginnings. But, yeah, “restless follies of Humanity” seem to always take hold.

  6. I read your reply with great interest Benjamin, and am eager to respond, but need to give this time and thought to ensure this is a mature and measured response. It may even be one which comes in a series. Ie: History. War/Politics. The American Experience.
    Currently I am checking for last-minute glitches to the ‘Kindling’ of the final book in a Fantasy Trilogy; this story has had many false starts and the serious work on the final format began in 2014 (ish). Based on the results of the previous two volumes the response will be slim. But it will be mine, and that is all any fiction writer should aspire to.
    There is also a lot of catching up on other friends’ WP blogs to be done.
    So expect a reply (replies?) over the next 7 days.
    Best wishes

    • That’s a very good question. And my immediate response is to feel amused. The reason is that I always have numerous writing projects going on. There are probably hundreds of drafts waiting to be worked on. I start several posts for each one I actually complete and publish. But there are more recent writings I’ve been working on and thinking about.

      As often is the case, I have some thoughts rumbling around about health, diet, and nutrition; along with related issues of lifestyle and environment. Some of my previous posts on these topics have been more practical while others more speculative. Such posts tend to fall in line with certain themes and subjects: nutrient-density, low-carb diets, ketosis, agriculture, industrialization, food systems, dietary recommendations or laws, addiction, etc. If you want to see an earlier example of one major doozy, here is the link:

      The Agricultural Mind

      As for the present, there is one potential post I’ve had in mind. It is based on a theory that has been developing over the years, as related to the above linked post. Obviously, health of the public is closely related to the healthy of the body politic; and hence it is closely related to the health of the entire society, in terms of both social and political issues. So, influence and control can be exerted at many points within the sociopolitical system. This can be shown and supported in various areas of evidence.

      The most obvious example has to do with a specific study I came across years ago. The researchers looked at multiple small populations in relatively isolated villages, which allowed them to compare them as distinct and separate populations. In these places, they were able to strongly correlate the rate of parasite load (i.e., how many parasites individuals have on average) with the level of authoritarianism (as measured in tests that were given). That is an intriguing pattern and it shouldn’t be surprising.

      It is most probable that this is not a unique quality contained within the genetics of parasites, as an evolved trait to cause their hosts to have a particular political predilection. Rather, it’s more likely a side effect of any health risk or other perceived threat, specifically where the fight or flight response is constrained or even thwarted because the threat is difficult or impossible to detect. So, instead, the evolved trait as instinctual response would be within the human biological system. A population can protect itself against parasites and infectious diseases through strong means of social control and isolation, enforcement of rules/norms and policing boundaries.

      We can see a similar pattern shown in personality research and that tells us much about what politics means in a more fundamental sense of human experience. Political persuasion is most defined by social issues and not economic issues, as the latter tends to involve superficial or deceptive rhetoric whereas the former goes more to the heart of individual and shared identity. So, when speaking of ‘liberalism’, we are primarily referring to social liberalism which is essentially identical to anti-authoritarianism, a point I will get to shortly.

      But keep in mind that on some social issues the American public is more ‘liberal’ than even the DNC elite (e.g., most Americans stated support for same sex marriage for many years while the likes of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama explicitly stated they did not support it), as all of the US elite are relatively authoritarian if in different ways. Also, to put it in greater context, think about how social conservatism is the common feature of all authoritarian regimes, even those supposedly ‘left-wing’. Like the Nazis, the Stalinists oppressed and persecuted social liberals: feminists, LGBTQ activists, libertines, free speech advocates, outspoken intellectuals, independent scholars, radical artists, etc; basically anyone who didn’t conform to conservative social norms.

      If this kind of thing interests you, I’d recommend Sam Apple’s recent book, Ravenous, about the Nazis and cancer research. He focuses in on the public health angle that was experienced as mass anxiety, moral panic, and existential threat. Hitler was a hypochondriac who was obsessed with social purity and dietary purity, largely as a response to the trauma of watching his mother die from cancer. During the 1800s, there were skyrocketing rates of cancer and other “diseases of civilization”; and the problem only got worse in the early 1900s. Cancer is literally about the body growing out of control and so it was the perfect metaphor for a society that felt out of control. The response, of course, was to enforce control by authoritarian means.

      This was the context for the rise of authoritarianism at that time. All of the Western and European countries were being hit hard by public health crises that coincided with mass urbanization and industrialization with the attendant poverty, stress, social destabilization, overcrowding, pollution, dirty water, unhygienic conditions, dietary changes, etc.

      But, as always, some demographics (the poor, minorities, immigrants, etc) were hit the hardest by the changes. This was the force behind eugenics, to contain or banish or eliminate the supposedly inferior and dangerous populations that were perceived as cancerous, infectious, and parasitical within the body politic. Whatever economic policies were taken, the same basic socially conservative authoritarianism was the result.

      Yet, in this same period, most non-Western populations remained healthy and, in accordance with my theory, did not experience any major rise in authoritarianism. This remains true for certain isolated groups like hunter-gatherers adhering to traditional diets and lifestyles. The Amazonian Piraha, for example, are among the healthiest and most anti-authoritarian populations around today.

      We should keep this in mind as a contrast to our own society, since public health crises are an even greater concern today than a century ago. For the first time since data was kept, the average American lifespan is stalling and, among some demographics (particularly the poor and rural), is actually declining. Yet, back in the 1700s and 1800s, Americans were known as the healthiest people in the ‘civilized’ world. Maybe this is behind the recent uptick in authoritarian demagoguery.

      This relates to our present discussion about the topic of this post. The US was not exempt from the public health crisis that became a moral panic most strongly in the late 1800s and into the early-to-mid 1900s, although it began earlier in the 19th century. This coincided with a health, diet, and fitness craze; as a response not only to concerns of physical health but also of mental health (e.g., neurasthenia). See:

      The Crisis of Identity

      A great example is that of the Seventh Day Adventists advocating vegetarianism and a high-fiber diet. The Adventist and eugenicist Dr. Harvey Kellogg operated a famous sanitarium for this purpose and he started a now even more famous cereal company. The Adventists believed that there was a social decline, moral dissolution, and emasculation caused by bad diet and sexual deviancy (e.g., masturbation). This appears to have been based on the Christianized Galenic humoralism from the Middle Age food laws, and the purpose of social control was the same.

      This era of anxiety continued into the decades following. Those like the dentist Weston A. Price were publishing their thoughts on public health in the 1930s, and he was specifically comparing industrialized and traditional populations in terms of measured nutritional levels, dental health, bone development, and infectious diseases. When WWII rolled around, the US draft forced the issue to the surface because government officials suddenly realized how sickly was the American population. A large percentage of US males were unfit for service, which further exacerbated fears about emasculation in a hyper-masculine culture.

      That was a very bigoted era with eugenics still alive and kicking. It also contributed anti-ethnic and anti-immigrant attitudes. Ethno-nationalism was also taking hold during the world war era among the general population, in a way never seen before. And ethno-nationalism, as a social construction and a social order, required authoritarian social control right from the beginning. One of the means of accomplishing this was by defining which people were ‘other’, most specifically: Eastern Europeans, Southern Europeans, and Asians (as these were the main areas of growing and competing industrialization).

      There is another aspect to consider, as likewise happening over recent centuries and going into overdrive this past century. It is the rise of extreme disparities of wealth, power, and resources as never before existed anywhere in the world. This has everything to do with authoritarianism, without a doubt. But high inequality is not only about material and political conditions in the simplest sense. The divide of haves and have-nots also plays out in the access (or lack thereof) to free time, non-stressful conditions, green spaces, recreational opportunities, clean air and water, nutritious food and supplements, and quality healthcare.

      Go back to the pervasive and expanding rates of “diseases of civilization”. This has been a problem across society, even among the rich, as some factors affect us all if to varying degrees. But the sad reality is the worst outcomes have always been seen among the segregated, oppressed, impoverished, and disenfranchised. Still, high inequality societies are shitty all around. Keith Payne, in The Broken Ladder, shows how the chronic stress of high inequality creates social and psychological dysfunction, closely related to authoritarianism.

      I forgot to get around to personality research. Thinking about Payne’s analysis reminded me of it. Conservatism (as a psychological mindset and as a social position), one can argue, is more or less equivalent to what others call the reactionary mind. This is supported by some studies. Conservatives argue that conservatism is right and true because people supposedly become more conservative with age. Similarly, some conservatives state that a conservative is simply a liberal who has been mugged.

      There is sort of a truth that is being indicated, if misunderstood. Liberalism operates on higher order thinking (abstraction, critical thought, etc) and so requires greater cognitive load. Indeed, people do lose cognitive capacity with age and are more easily overloaded. Any stress or impairment will cause cognitive overload. That is why socially conservative authoritarianism is a typical response during stressful times.

      But one can do this in simpler ways as well. Research shows that just give a liberal enough alcohol that shuts down much of their cognitive capacity and they predictably will express more conservative attitudes (e.g., prejudicial opinions about gender, racial, ethnic, and religious stereotypes. Liberalism, as such, is a hothouse flower that requires perfect conditions to be maintained and to thrive. One of those conditions is low inequality.

      From Augustine to Adam Smith, it’s been long understood that a free society is not possible where disparities are too great. Maybe conservatives intuitively understand this in their active support of increasing and enforcing such divides. A number of scholars in this area, including Payne, have noted that high inequality mimics the experience of poverty by creating a worldview of scarcity, real or perceived. So, one of the most powerful ways of eliciting social conservatism and authoritarianism is by enforcing false scarcity. Mark Fisher discusses this in Post-Capitalist Desire.

      To hook this back into my theory, this goes hand in hand with public health crises as moral panics where health itself and the resources that support it are experienced as being limited within a zero sum game. As such, the health of one’s group must be protected from those who would harm it or take it away. This is experienced even more starkly when public health is felt to be in a decline and so what little health is left must be protected at all costs. This is what gets called authoritarianism.

      • A comprehensive overview Benjamin of a very complex subject.
        As we can see by the actions of some, during the Pandemic there is a rejection of evidence. The denial that in the matrix which is Life something can turn up which is hostile to one group is a manifestation of fear that Humanity itself is not above the various forces and tides which are part of this planet.
        There is also a rather reactionary and naïve political undertone which is a warning as to what happens when Conspiracy fabrications take root in a culture.
        So we come back to the issue of Health, which in turn is linked to Education. And then we have folk at the grass roots who complain The Education is a lie or indoctrination as witnessed not just with Covid but also during the Ebola outbreak 2013-2016 in both cases Health Workers were (are) attacked.

        • Yeah, my thoughts and theory are quite applicable to the present situation of Covid-19 pandemic. As many have noted, such an infectious disease would be less of a threat if the global population wasn’t already so sickly and immunologically compromised.

          Most of the diseases and health conditions that are comorbidities are part of what is called metabolic syndrome: obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver, etc. Growing evidence, as surveyed by Sam Apple in Ravenous, indicates that cancer is another metabolic disease; and indeed it is also one of the Covid-19 comorbidities.

          Health and education, without a doubt, do go together. I’d note that, as health falls in line with disparities, so does education. Most Americans simply are ignorant and propagandized. As noted in other comments here, I perceive the World War and Cold War generations as the most propagandized in American history. The comments here demonstrate that it’s impossible to discuss the politics and military actions of that era without old propaganda seeping in.

          But there is also the close link to conspiracy theories as well. And it should be pointed out that there is an interesting part of the effective and widescale propaganda campaigns of the past. The CIA and KGB both intentionally spread conspiracy theories to muddy the waters. This gave them cover to commit actual conspiracies. Then the CIA did something even more devious. They used corporate media to accuse as a conspiracy theorists anyone who pointed out these actual conspiracies.

          This is magnified by the derangement and dysfunction of high inequality. Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson are some of the leading scholars on inequality who have shown how it negatively affects physical and mental health. But Keith Payne’s work is the most insightful about the mental health aspect. Under the stress and pressure of a divided society, people are drawn into paranoia, fantastical thinking, etc — basically, the reactionary mind.

          What makes it so difficult to deal with all of this is that the government has been proven, by their own released documents, to engage in conspiracies. Unfortunately, this fact is used by unstable minds to justify their irrational and bigoted belief in such things as QANON and cultural Marxism.

          By the way, there is one relevant detail to the observations of Weston A. Price, something I’ve noted in other posts on this blog. I mentioned above that he studied nutritional levels in the diet, specifically as related to the development, structure, and health of bones, jaws, and teeth. If you look around modern populations, you’ll quickly notice how malformed people are: thin bones, asymmetrical features, crowded teeth, underbites, pigeon toes, fallen arches, etc.

          But there was an observation that Price also shared. In the healthiest communities following traditional diets of nutrient-dense animal foods, people tended to demonstrate consistent pro-social behavior, what he called “moral health”. These people were friendly, kind, helpful, generous, hospitable, etc. This is the stuff out of which is built a culture of trust. People trust each other because they act in ways that prove they are trustworthy. The thing is this is only seen in physically healthy populations.

          These wouldn’t be people to be prone to fear, anxiety, paranoia, hate, bigotry, xenophobia, etc. That is why I often bring up the Piraha as a strong piece of evidence. They show the same pro-social behavior and moral health. They don’t appear to have any mood disorders, suicide is completely unknown, and homicide is extremely rare.

          In many decades that Daniel Everett knew them there was only one death that happened during a Piraha fighting with a guy from a foreign tribe. And he was banished for killing a foreigner because Piraha, by identity and social norm, don’t kill people. The banishment, however, was self-enforced because of public shame. There are no systems of laws and governance, no positions of authority to judge and punish the guilty.

          That reminds one of an incident from some years ago. There was a leak, the Panama Papers, about various world leaders and famous figures who had secret overseas bank accounts where they were hiding money and evading taxes. Most of the guilty faced no criminal charges and they acted shameless about their anti-social behavior, except in one case.

          In Iceland, the Prime Minister was named in the leak and so stepped down by his own free will in admission of his moral wrongdoing. That would never happen in the US with its greater inequality and weaker culture of trust. There is no president in recent history that would’ve felt public shame for doing such a thing, much less feel morally compelled to step down from power.

          • The problems you have raised have origins in many facets of Human Nature.
            A flaw in one nation or community can be found in the history of others. Citing these can be a minefield in itself as folk will rise in defence or offense when giving the examples, because it upsets their own perceptions of the world. Thus to compare the contemporary acts of A with those of B and ask why B is not subject to criticism will cause supporters of criticism of A to accuse you of ‘whataboutism’ a new word which seems to translate into ‘Don’t complicate my mindset’. In short equitable resolution based on trust is not a universal.
            In navigating my own thought processes through the world an affinity with the perceptions in Realpolitik and Realism (International Politics) was found. This supported a suspicion I had held for a very long time that the fundamental faults lay in the Human mindset. If one group was supplanted by another, that group in the short or long run could be as equally unsatisfactory as the previous. Conflict be it military, political or economic were constants.
            My own opinion based on the Long History of Life on this planet is that Humanity’s abilities to perceive and innovative have outstripped its ability to judge Cause and Effect. In evolution a species either adapts or evolves or reaches a stage where an extinction effect comes into effect, either through decline or that inability to adapt.
            In many areas Humanity is trying, but the overall propensity to violent reaction when faced with a problem or the hording of resources by one group for some nascent survival instinct is hampering progress.

          • Dear Benjamin and Roger,

            I had wanted to comment here much earlier but time is always running away from me. Besides, there is so much to read here.

            Benjamin, I am very impressed that you have taken such a keen interest in revealing to us the unorthodox and counter-prevailing claims of Andrew Alexander’s book entitled “America and the Imperialism of Ignorance: How America Won the War and Lost the Peace – US Foreign Policy Since 1945”.

            It will be very helpful to your readers to mention that the book was first published on 6 September 2011, and that his article entitled “The Soviet threat was a myth” on 19 April 2002.

            I would like to inform both of you that from Hoosier, Political Analyst, Assoc Prof. and Muckrake Podcaster comes the book entitled “American Rule: How a Nation Conquered the World But Failed Its People“, regarding how the confederacy survived the civil war and still exerts a great deal of sociopolitical and military influence within and without the USA.

            For your information: “Jared Yates Sexton is a political analyst and author whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, Politico, Salon, The Daily Beast, and elsewhere. He is the author of The People Are Going To Rise Like The Waters Upon Your Shore: A Story of American Rage, The Man They Wanted Me To Be: Toxic Masculinity and a Crisis of Our Own Making, and most recently American Rule: How A Nation Conquered The World But Failed Its People. Currently, he is the co-host of The Muckrake Podcast and serves as an associate professor of creative writing at Georgia Southern University.”

            Here is another one that may be of great interest to you:


            By the way, Benjamin, my offer to incorporate your views and insights still stands as I await your commenting on the post proper of “💬 Misquotation Pandemic and Disinformation Polemic: 🧠 Mind Pollution by Viral Falsity 🦠“.

            Happy November to both of you very soon!

            Yours sincerely,

          • The name Jared Yates is not familiar. But his books sound like the kind of thing that would be of interest. Certainly, it’s easy to imagine an argument for the claim that the Confederacy lasted longer in some form.

            As for your post, there have been good intentions to return to it. The only problem is life and distractions get in the way. One work day leads to the next and then weekends get preoccupied with family and friends.

          • I’m focusing on the late Andrew Alexandra’s article ‘The Soviet Threat Was A Myth’ as a way into the interesting ongoing debate over the USA’s recent history ‘laying out my stall’ my stall as it were. This is also an illustration of how tangled politics can get because (1) The late Mr Alexander was a UK Conservative and follower of Margaret Thatcher (2) I am a very hardened Socialist Left-Winger getting close to a form of Communist. And yet we appear to be arguing from non-traditional stances. As Benjamin knows my stance tends to be within Realpolitik and takes in histories before the 20th Century thus using the Realism approach of International Politics. So here we go.
            The second paragraph of Alexandra’s opens with “The Cold War began within months of the end of the second world war”. Yes, in international relations this would be a given. The fall of Napoleon led to some very tense negotiations between Allies in Vienna from 1815 -1816. The First Balkan War led to the Second Balkan war when the allies fought each other over the Otterman Empire spoils. The First World War ended for the Western Allies in 1918, for the new nations of the East, Russia, Greece, Turkey and Finland the conflicts continued over boundaries, borders, minorities and political futures. The missing point here is that allies have conflicting agendas which arise sometimes during the war and if not will in the aftermath. There was high suspicion of the motives not just West vs East but Britain vs USA and not forgetting France’s injured pride. The USSR was not misjudged; this was the classic clash of interests. It should also be borne in mind during this era Communist parties were active in for example France, Italy and Greece, with the USSR’s boundaries in Ukraine nationalist groups would tie up security forces in the 1950s. Mutual suspicions were rife. Basically both sides suspected the other of not conventional warfare (Despite Patton’s ridiculously over optimistic notions) but subversion and guerrilla warfare.
            This paragraph ends with a breath-takingly callous idea Any postwar Russian government – communist, tsarist or social democratic – would have insisted on effective control at least of Poland, if not of larger areas of eastern Europe, as a buffer zone against future attacks. This assumes the nations of Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Rumania and the Baltic States could be handed over to the USSR the sane way as Czechoslovakia was to German in 1939. Never mind what the populations felt on the subject. Alexandra then contradicted himself later on by asserting the USA insisted “that no one would be allowed to interfere with US policy in Latin America”. This is curiously a traditional European Left-Wing stance of the latter half of the 20th Century ‘USA can do no right, the USSR can do no wrong’. Whereas the action by both powers were typical of the Spheres of Influence posturing of many centuries, mirrored by the objection to the other side doing the same.
            To suggest that Churchill at this stage was a force behind Western Policy was to inflate his legend. In 1945 he had been cast out of power in the General Election. His sounding off to Anthony Eden was typical of the man’s adventurist streak, something his government and military commanders often had to reign in. And as far as the USA policy makers were concerned something to be avoided like a plague. His Iron Curtain Speech is a classic, but again he was not in power at that stage, however since there was no little free movement of populations between East and West at the time was an arguably acceptable statement, although coloured by Churchillian rhetoric, which was always powerful (and well-rehearsed). It should also be taken into account in his more reflective moments Churchill could be pragmatic, I cite the following after June 1941 “If Hitler was to march into Hell, I would at least make a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons”
            To be critical solely of, Truman was to fail to realise (1) The arguments above, that allies fall out (2) The nascent suspicion which one nation’s population has for another with a very alien form of government. This is also mirrored in the USSR’s Russian-centric government. The American saw another dictatorship taking over Europe. The USSR saw yet another threat to their borders, which had been going on since arguably the 1600s. Both side’s cultural inheritances at great variation to the other viewed the other with suspicion. It should also be borne in mind fresh in the USA’s memory was Pearl Harbour, surprise attacks were possible from any direction. While the USSR was counting the cost of the June 1941 surprise invasion (to Stalin) by Germany. Both worried it might happen again. Mutual suspicion. Again nothing new here folks.
            To continue to the cite the USA as at fault and to consider the USSR has extenuating circumstances, which we witness in the quote “The invasions of Hungary in 1956 and of Czechoslovakia in 1968 were brutal acts, but were aimed at protecting Moscow’s buffer zone.”…That means again it’s fine for the USSR but not the USA. In terms of studying International Politics that will simply not do. They were, in the Cold War, the largest Power groups with a number of client states and allies of one sort or another. They both intervened in other nations in one form or another and ploughed blood and treasure into military endeavours or adventures. And that is not taking China into account (arguably the nation at present out in front).
            The Cold War was never a myth it was as real as the Balance of Powers which held the major powers of Europe in check from each other’s throats from 1870 until 1914. Though to blame one side for its presence is to ignore the age old tensions and anarchies (ie one rival cannot control another rival or potential rival’s reactions) played out across the global over the many centuries of Human Government.
            Oddly I rest my case for the Defence of the USA as sole cause of the Cold War.
            (There are far more dangerous threats to the USA’s structure on the horizon; that was Business as Usual. Now it is the time to look inwards, there are demons stalking your land, far worse than anything the CIA, FBI or business would have tolerated)

          • Dear Roger and Benjamin,

            For some reason, this long comment by Roger seems to have been submitted twice, as I received a notification that the second one, which is identical to the first, was submitted just a few hours ago.

            Roger, you are invited to peruse my post entitled “🏛️⚖️ The Facile and Labile Nature of Law: Beyond the Supreme Court and Its Ruling on Controversial Matters 🗽🗳️🔫🤰🧑‍🤝‍🧑💉“, published at


            This post has been continually improved. I welcome your input and am curious to know what you make of my said post as well as your perspectives on those matters discussed in the post, where I look forward to savouring your feedback.

            Happy September to both of you!

            Yours sincerely,

          • On WordPress, I’ve never seen deleting one comment causing subsequent responses deleted. But I have noticed that on other platforms. Anyway, I intentionally looked at the two comments to see which one you had responded to.

          • Hi SoundEagle.
            Thanks for your message.
            I’ll get back to you in a day or so.
            We’re currently coming down from having to abandon a long look forward to holiday.
            Car mechanics- half way on our journey out.

          • We have a conflict of visions. You believe that cynical determinism, almost Manichaean fatalism, is realism. But I take it as naive realism and ideological realism. From my perspective, it feels like an edifice of assumptions, generalizations, and narratives projected onto the past. And, obviously, you think those with an opposing view are incorrect and misguided. There doesn’t seem to be any basis of discussion because the disagreement between us is primarily philosophical, not factual.

          • Well (long drawl) I would contend with the statement “obviously, you think those with an opposing view are incorrect and misguided.”. After all it was necessary to point out that justifying the USSR’s buffering of other nations and pressuring them to suit its own purposes is hardly the argument to use when being critical of USA policy. It would have been a far more convincing argument to draw parallels between the two protagonists in that era, and then to compare them with other imperial rivalries over the ages. To lay the blame solely on the USA is to ignore the actions of the USSR. It does not necessitate saying one is ‘good’ and one is ‘evil’. Simply that ‘this is what they do’ then being critical of the two for condemning the other.
            We have to accept the flaw is fundamental in the actions and operations of nations as a whole. There are very rare occasions when one or two can be blamed; the WWII alignment being one where both Germany and Japan engaged in racial persecutions on an industrial scale in the former and a simple daily social approach in the latter and this was because of the warped ethoses gripped by the nations; that said no one came out of that war with clean hands- but then in wars no one does.

          • When we are dealing with the subject of the Cold War, which was a confrontation between two opposing power blocks the examination of both sides motivations and stances is not meaningless. To accept one’s actions as acceptable but the other as not is.

          • You bring up the point of how people can be defensive. That is true and one could argue that is most readily apparent when the reactionary mind has taken hold. Reactionary psychology is a defense mechanism against real or perceived threats, but more specifically a defense mechanism when threats are hard to perceive and discern, isolate and control. Projection and scapegoating is a compensatory mechanism when the real problem can’t be dealt with; as a way of giving an outlet for stress that otherwise would be overwhelming. It invents a reason to appease the need for the world to make sense.

            Sadly, it’s those most lost in the reactionary mind that are most in need of this understanding while being the least able to understand, as in anxiety-driven reaction the mind shuts down in how people isolate themselves. They close ranks and circle the wagons. Symbolic pseudo-tribalism often takes hold where people come to identify with an abstract category (typically race, ethnicity, nationality, and/or religion), as opposed to identifying with concrete relationships (i.e., the black or Jewish family living next door, rather than being treated as neighbors and friends, are seen as a foreign and invasive threat).

            This is opposite of social liberalism that does not see the greatest risk as being those other people but, instead, as being what threatens (and, if resolved, benefits) us all in common. So, in understanding reactionary authoritarianism from within social liberalism, it is not about judging others as morally weak and socially inferior. Those afflicted are themselves victims of a dysfunctional society, even when they are also acting as victimizers in worsening the very conditions that have harmed themselves. That is the saddest part, the victimization cycle.

            The problem we face is not those other people, as if all that is needed is to fix or remove them; i.e., the reactionary response that even those on the political left can fall prey to. Reactionary is not an inherent trait and state of being but context-dependent. The emphasis on health is because of how bad it’s gotten in our shared society. In the US, one analysis of data concluded that 88% of Americans are metabolically unfit, hardly a problem limited to one demographic or group or party. That is based on how many people have one or more of the health conditions described under metabolic syndrome, with many considering insulin resistance as the key link to all of the others.

            Other diseases, not limited to cancer, are also being implicated. Closely related to metabolic syndrome are inflammatory conditions and autoimmune diseases (e.g., osteoarthritis). Mood disorders, Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis have all shown reversal of symptoms with the use of the ketogenic diet, in combination with other treatments (see: Bredesen Protocol, Wahls Protocol, etc). Some have started to refer to Alzheimer’s as Type 3 diabetes because it involves insulin resistance in the brain. And, like depression, brain inflammation is also common in Alzheimer’s.

            This is why nutritional ketosis is an advantage. With insulin resistance, the body loses the capacity to use glucose. Ketones are an alternative energy source that can be used. Also, ketones are anti-inflammatory. One of the things with inflammation is, as with mood disorders, is it can make you feel uncomfortable and irritable. In any of these serious diseases, depression often results as a secondary problem. Besides having a disease being depressing, the overall inflammation contributes to a general sense of shittiness in one’s own body.

            This would be particularly true of the inflammation seen with autoimmune disorders, which are one of those diseases running rampant. An autoimmune disorder is the body attacking itself, as the immune system loses the ability to discern friend from foe. Depending on what gets attacked determines the resultant disease. But not all are deadly. Consider allergies, not typically a life-threatening condition. Yet it make one’s life miserable. Worse still, if allergies go untreated for long enough in childhood, it can predispose the individual to emotional sensitivity for the rest of their lives.

            All aspects of health are inseparable within the body-mind and, as can be argued, also inseparable within the body politic. Public health might be the cornerstone of any healthy society. That is determined not only by diet, of course, but also other factors of lifestyle and environment. Think about the vast rise in industrial toxins that mostly hits the poor and minorities, since they are forced to live in the most polluted areas and because politicians have a habit of placing toxic dumps in poor minority communities. This is one of the many dark sides of high inequality.

            The consequences are severe. To consider a specific example, a heavy metal like lead can cause damage to an individual but also can devastate entire communities (e.g., some of the innocent people shot by police in recent years lived in communities with higher rates of lead and personally had higher rates in their bodies, similar to the higher lead toxicity rates in prisoners).

            Lead toxicity not only results in many physical health problems and symptoms (asthma, cardiovascular disease, hearing loss, headaches, muscle and joint pain, etc) for just as bad or worse are the neurocognitive and psychological effects (weakness, tiredness, irritability, aggressiveness, impairment of impulse control, brain damage, stunted brain development, lowered IQ, memory loss, distractability, etc). This contributes to numerous community problems as well, including worsening police interactions (even the police in those communities probably have higher rates of lead toxicity).

            This can be measured in terms of loss of lifetime income for the individual and also in increased violent crime in the affected population. Imagine trying to build a culture of trust and functioning democracy in an impoverished and disenfranchised community while struggling against mass lead toxicity caused by authoritarian levels of disparities of wealth and power, not to mention militarized police and mass incarceration (see Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow).

            The underlying inequalities and inequities reminds me of a comment I once came across. An older American remembered that, in his childhood, he had been taught in public school that high inequality was proof that a society had become a banana republic. As the US was lower inequality at the time, this was taken as a sign of America being actually free and democratic, and hence taken as a point of civic pride. It’s interesting that, as far as I know, this fact is no longer taught. It certainly was not part of my own public education in the ’80s-to-’90s when corporatocratic neoliberalism reigned, the so-called End of History.

            There are many stressors that can affect populations. As disparities and divides can create the unhealthy conditions of authoritarianism and the reactionary, there can be the opposite directionality of causation as pointed out above. Less than optimal environmental factors can elicit the psychological and social responses that create and reinforce inequality and hierarchy. Two examples have long been on my mind.

            To go back to the pacifist and egalitarian Piraha, a comparison can be found nearby in the Amazon. In a neighboring region, there lives the Yanomami who became notorious for their violence and aggression, although there is debate about complicating factors that we will ignore for our purposes here. One of the main differences is that the Piraha have little encroachment and conflict in their traditional territory over the past centuries. The Yanomami, on the other hand, live in a border region that has been riven with violent conflict for a very long time. That they’ve become more hierarchical and authoritarian is maybe a predictable result of long-term stressors outside of their control.

            As a corollary, contrast bonobos and chimpanzees. Many people have claimed humans as inherently violently in relying on studies of chimpanzees. But the fact of the matter is the peaceful and matriarchal bonobos are evolutionarily close to chimpanzees and as genetically similar to humans. Like the Piraha and Yanomami, there is a difference of environment. Chimpanzees have long lived in an area of encroachment, poaching, and civil war where they’ve regularly been targeted by humans. These are not natural conditions. Bonobo, on the other side of the Congo River, haven’t had such long-term victimization and severe trauma.

            Rather than genetic determinism, the better explanation for the divergent cultures and social behavior is environment. The common feature, from this perspective, is chronic stress as unhealed trauma; particularly widespread stress in relation to intergenerational trauma. The more stressors involved and the more pervasive they are, then, the worse and more entrenched the trauma. This is demonstrated, for example, by Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Even when all obvious confounders are controlled for, the higher rate of ACEs strongly correlates to long-term negative outcomes: poverty, crime, abuse, undereducation, etc.

            Keep in mind, though, that it doesn’t necessarily matter so much what kind of stress. Sure, malnutrition and lead toxicity can harm the brain and nervous system, along with much else, but so can general social stress. Trauma comes in many forms. And research shows that even low-level stress, if chronic, is more traumatizing than even a much worse larger event, such as a single incident of rape or violent attack. That is why high inequality is so damaging, as it is a constant background stressor that affects every area of life and shapes every aspect of society. But many modern stressors are pervasive in that manner.

            You might sense why I’d push back against “perceptions of Realpolitik and Reaslism”. The fundamental faults do not necessarily “lay in the Human mindset” or at least no more so than do the fundamental potentials of moral and pro-social behavior. Human nature contains many ways of responding, depending on what is being responded to. The problem is that, even though humans have evolved to respond well and effectively to smaller or shorter term stressors, there is nothing in our evolved instincts to handle pervasive, chronic, and traumatizing stress that extends across vast populations and across multiple generations.

            That is why so often the problems persist — as you say, “If one group was supplanted by another, that group in the short or long run could be as equally unsatisfactory as the previous.” That has often been true in the modern world, particularly in the high inequality societies. But, no, conflict has not been a constant across all societies and across all time. There are many examples of lower inequality societies that have not followed this pattern. Even the Scandinavian social democracies didn’t start that way but came to greater inequality and lower stress after an earlier period of conflict during which the citizenry successfully fought to enact egalitarian practices and democratic reforms.

            A more dramatic example is that of Portugal, as discussed by Johann Hari in Chasing the Scream. Not that long ago, it was a violent police state. Like the US, there was no fully functioning democracy. So, militarized police, war on drugs, and mass incarceration were used for social control of the oppressed, impoverished, and disenfranchised. Much of the public became treated as an enemy, contagion, or problem to be threatened, punished, contained, removed, and/or eliminated. Yet an amazing thing happened. The military generals decided to no longer support the police state. They brought their troops and tanks into the capitol, and then they did nothing. The public finally came out of their homes and authoritarianism was peacefully replaced by social democracy.

            As for the “Long History of Life”, I guess it depends how long back one is looking. Most societies have not had any detrimental effects caused by an ability to perceive and innovate that has outstripped their ability “judge Cause and Effect”. Humans have been around for hundreds of thousands of years without any major problems for most of that time. Even today, the few remaining traditional societies are usually capable of maintaining sustainable lifestyles, as long as they also maintain traditional access to territories of hunting grounds, water, and other natural resources.

            It is true that, once occurs an existential threat of survival, “In evolution a species either adapts or evolves or reaches a stage where an extinction effect comes into effect, either through decline or that inability to adapt.” But it’s not clear that modern urbanization and industrialization has much to do with normal species evolution. No species, not even in most of human existence, ever before came to this point of so quickly and dramatically altering the entire biosphere. As such, violent reaction as we know it in its extreme forms likewise seems more of a phenomenon of modernity, related to why we should make a distinction between (modern, reactionary) conservatism and (pre-modern, non-reactionary) traditionalism, similar to a distinction between (modern, reactionary) fundamentalism and (pre-modern, non-reactionary) orthodoxy.

            That issue then goes back to public health. We are still dealing with the repercussions of the megafauna die-off and the agricultural revolution, the two main events that caused a severe decline in human health and longevity, but also precipitated a new kind of society that led to where we now find ourselves. Ever since, there has been a somewhat steady rise of the “diseases of civilization” that went into overdrive these past centuries, until it became an overwhelming moral panic in recent generations. Part of this has to do with overpopulation, closely related to mass urbanization and concentration. Consider that the rates of psychosis are presently going up among the youth raised in urban areas. Increasing number of people are literally going insane from the intense pressure of modern life.

            None of that is inevitable. We’ve collectively made decisions to create a particular kind of society, or rather those in power made decisions that so many of us chose to acquiesce to, if such acquiescence involved indoctrination and coercion. Yet, within both traditionalism and modernity, still other societies have shown there are entirely different options that appear to be functional and increase the likelihood of sustainability. We know the healthy conditions that create a healthy society. And we have research that supports this understanding, not to mention living examples that demonstrate it. It’s possible we may learn from our mistakes to create a new kind of society, but it’s also possible we could self-destruct or simply slowly decline.

          • Sorry for the delay in replying to this Benjamin. For some reason it did not figure on my notifications. Which I am putting down to another WP quirk, such as changing my replies to spam (an episode from a few years back).
            Whereas I am convinced by themes of poor diet (and its numerous reasons- poverty, lack of perception, ease of access to name a few) my somewhat gloomy, you might say misanthropic view of Human Nature’s flaws remain. Some of them being being quite unconscious; the Elephant Birds being exterminated by human activity of over-hunting. Others being hubris, such as the enigmatic Moai statues on Easter Island being evidence of a society obsessed with image. Sweden can be citied along with Denmark as two of the most socially contented societies in the developed world; however there is always the foreboding shadow such as the Swedish Democrats which are nationalists, anti-immigrant and hold 62 seats in the Swedish Parliament making them the third largest; as Zhou Enlai said when commenting about the Left wing riots in Paris in 1968 and their impact on French politics ‘Too early to say.’ In short my view is that societies rise, seem to adopt an equitable fair method, then fall or they display innovations which fade.
            It could therefore be argued that a poor diet and health issues are not causes but symptoms of the deeper flaws. War, (I must get around to that subject for you), prejudice, persecution, opportunism, factionalism appear to be constants throughout Human Civilisation, along with Capitalism, Greed and Selfishness; these are constants throughout Human History. Thus I would argue against the idea that Humanity has existed for Hundreds of Thousand of years without causing major problems, we have to assume that because we have no written records Paleontologist specialising in our ancestors are still discovering, evaluating and debating earlier societies and their social structures. In the perspective of Life upon this planet and the life-line of other species ours in quite short, thus we need to evaluate a ‘Whole Picture’; were the seeds of our current problems sewn when Homo Sapiens first evolved? Are we failing to shake off the toxic mix of advanced abilities with those of earlier instincts? (Some habits of Chimpanzee tribes can be quite distressing to view from a human perspective).
            Of course trying to say ‘Hey guys be nice, be more responsible’ is not going to overwhelm the current waves of violent reactionary and banditry movements sweeping the Globe. How we get out of that is an issue beyond my comprehension.
            I’ll conclude by suggesting what you are witnessing in the USA is not unique; it is in world history simply and harshly ‘Your turn’>
            Try and survive it folks. History is warning you. Ignorance and Greed do not make for a stable society.

          • Apparently, what seems realistic to you does not seem realistic to me. Or, rather, I tend to perceive a more open-ended reality, that is neither inevitably pessimistic nor inherently optimistic. I withhold ultimate conclusion about most of it, even when I offer tentative interpretations and hypotheses. My tendency is to see the world, including human nature, in terms of potentials and probabilities to be explored and discovered, not known certainties and conclusions.

            For example, considering some statues as being evidence of obsession with image feels like projecting cultural biases on a foreign and unknown society, and so eliminating the power of mystery that would elicit further curiosity. That explanation could be true, although I’d want to see anthropological and sociological evidence in support of such a claim. Equally or more likely, to my mind, is that the statues simply represented or involved religious ritual, ancestral worship, spiritual guardians, mnemonic systems, etc. I see no reason to preferentially privilege an interpretation without strong evidence for doing so.

            That said, it is true that there is more evidence “that a poor diet and health issues are not causes but symptoms of the deeper flaws.” Still, as one could argue, that is a secondary explanation that only looks at recent historical events. The decline of human health began with the agricultural revolution. The deeper flaw of diet and health, it would appear, is the food system itself which is inseparable from the entire social order and cultural mentality (see The Agricultural Mind). Modern industrialized society has merely built on those older foundations with their even deeper flaws.

            For most of these complex societal issues, I don’t see it as necessary to limit our selves to a single explanation in the first place. That is why I contrasted the Piraha and Yanomami, the Bonobos and the Chimpanzees. Neither kind of culture proves anything absolute, quite the opposite. What it shows is the immense potential and plasticity within the primate psyche and social behavior.

            But, if I were to emphasize one over the other, I’d point to evidence that shows that mass violence was rare until relatively recent history. The first evidence of trained soldiers, standing armies, large-scale warfare, and brutal sacrifice was not seen until the late Bronze Age, right before it collapsed (also true in Europe; see Building and Battling in Ancient Europe). Civilization had existed for millennia before that.

            The conditions of extreme stress and intergenerational trauma has not been the norm for most of human evolution or even most of civilization. Nonetheless, the reactionary and authoritarian response to such atypical conditions are a part of our shared human nature. It’s an adaptive response to deal with harsh conditions when we have to, even if they are more the exception than the rule. All of modern society is part of those exceptional conditions. But, even if it is not the human norm for most of human existence, it’s still the social reality we have to deal with.

            The point in realizing that this is abnormal is not get lost in right-wing ideological realism. The very defining feature of leftist thought is that humans are inherently egalitarian or, at the very least, inherently in possession of such potential. If we profoundly misunderstand human nature, we’ll make a bad situation worse.

    • Well, I guess I gave you a rough draft of the piece I’ve been in the process of developing. Although stated as evidence-based theory, it does have a strong element of the personal in it. Much of my thinking originates in my own experience and observations, as they evolve over time in what I come to learn and understand. I claim no ultimate unbiased ‘objectivity’ and ‘neutrality’.

      Talk of social conservatism, the reactionary mind, and authoritarianism isn’t only about those other people. This understanding is not based on a partisan approach, as both main parties can fall prey to it. And, on the personal level, these same patterns of thought and behavior have cropped up in my own life experience. None of us is immune to any of it. That is precisely why it is so relevant and concerning.

      It stands out in my own mind because of my slightly unique upbringing. My parents are moderate conservatives, if more conservative than the average American. But, when they were young parents, they were going through a socially liberal phase, even as they’ve maintained a general economic conservatism (or, in the case of my business-minded father, a slow shift from neoliberalism to libertarianism).

      They’ve tended to vote for Republican, though not always. Even recently, they simply could not bring themselves to vote for Trump the first time around. Yet the right-wing echo chamber, from Fox News to Jordan Peterson, fear-mongering about the Democrats being Stalinists and cultural Marxists brought the reactionary mind in them and so they did, with some reluctance, vote for him in the last election (i.e., lesser evilism).

      It really is amazing how much their views have changed over time, as a result of media-driven fear and anxiety; if combined with a typical decline in cognitive ability and hence increasingly prone to cognitive overload. They both grew up around old school working class Democrats who disliked the GOP as the party of the rich. But, when my parents early on moved up the ladder of career status and socioeconomic class, they embraced the other side of that very same sense of class war. And it coincided with the rise of right-wing media.

      It’s fascinating how this affects identity over time and changes the relationship to past identity. My parents, now in their late 70s, have developed amnesia about how liberal they used to be. Some years back, my father told me on multiple occasions about how my mother used to be pro-choice on the abortion issue (actually, most Americans and most Christians were pro-choice in the early-to-mid 20th century, until the Shadow Network, right-wing media, and culture wars; but even then, it’s not clear a majority ever embraced anti-choice in demanding the overturn of Roe v. Wade).

      At the time, my father also mentioned that my mother didn’t remember her former pro-choice support and would deny it. In fact, she has become a rabid anti-choice advocate in calling people baby-killers who supported her own previous view (it never changes her mind when I point out that research shows that abortion bans don’t actually decrease the abortion rate and sometimes do the opposite in increasing it, just illegal and more dangerous). But what is even more interesting is that now my father now also claims to have no memory of having told me any of this.

      Their new right-wing identity has erased their own past identity, as the two identities can’t co-exist in the same consciousness. This happened not only because of powerful right-wing rhetoric of moral panic drenched in fear and anxiety. The Reagan Administration was ending when our family moved from a liberal college town in Iowa to a military city in the Deep South, the former having been low in inequality, social conservatism, and authoritarianism while the latter was high. Shortly after this move, right-wing media like Fox News suddenly became a dominant force, as did a new breed of GOP elite taking control (under Newt Gingrich’s misleadership).

      Still, back in my childhood of the ’70s and ’80s and lingering into the ’90s, my parents always went to liberal churches that even performed gay marriage services. It’s ironic that my conservative parents raised my brothers and I to be good liberals, as my parents really were much more socially liberal in the past and so exhibited a general liberal-mindedness. Then again, Republican politicians were also, in many ways, fart less right-wing back then as well, particularly Reagan who for example was the first president to invite an openly gay couple to stay over night at the White House.

      Observing all of this firsthand has given me much to think of. And it did affect me as well, not only my parents. Having lived in the Deep South for the last years of youth and first years of young adulthood (8th grade to some college), I did begin to internalize elements of conservatism or at least would occasionally repeat things my dad had picked up from right-wing media. But I was unaware of this until much later when I moved back to the much more moderate Midwest.

      Even to this day, I can sense this tug of conflicting worldviews within me, in spite of improvements in my life (diet, exercise, etc). Like anyone, I occasionally feel stressed and overwhelmed, fearful and anxious, depressed and defensive from family conflict (much of it caused by mental illness), work (in the context of high inequality, capitalist realism, and social Darwinism), divisive politics (from corporate media and corporatocratic party elites), or just a generally shitty society (i.e., reactionary and authoritarian) that I can feel trapped in.

      When this happens, the inner reactionary right-winger comes out in me. It’s so easy, without realizing it, to allow takeover a mindset of scarcity, us vs them, Manichaean dogmatism. My preferred social liberalism of tolerance of differences gets quickly shut down and I don’t respond well. This is challenging for all of us since we live in an unhealthy society. That is why I’ve come to realize it’s all the more important to take care of my personal health and, as much as is possible, to maintain healthy conditions in my immediate environment (e.g., avoiding social media).

      A socially liberal mindset is not an easy thing to maintain in American society, as compared to a Scandinavian social democracy. Even though most Americans hold a lot of liberal, progressive, and often outright leftist views, it doesn’t always translate into optimally liberal-minded behavior and ways of relating because of the traumatizing effect of chronic stress, which is inherently an anti-liberal force. This leads to a lot of weird reactionary derangement, not limited to the far right fringe but found all across this high inequality society.

      It makes for some rather confused politics. Let’s consider one area. One of the ways social liberalism needs perfect conditions is with a culture of trust, a common feature of Scandinavian social democracies. And related to this is tolerance, but tolerance can only operate where it has become a social norm. The one and only thing that social liberalism cannot tolerate, while remaining socially liberal, is intolerance itself; but neither can social liberalism force people to be tolerant. So, that means what is required is that the vast majority of people in a population must willingly choose to be tolerant, as part of the normative cultural identity. Otherwise, social conservatism will prevail and authoritarianism will seep in.

      About confused politics, this is the territory of the reactionary mind, maybe even a requirement of it. The most important takeaway from Corey Robin’s scholarship is how reactionaries can co-opt almost any rhetoric, tactics, identity, labels, etc. Similar to the attempted confiscation of ‘classic liberalism’, this has been seen with ‘libertarianism’ that originated as a form of anarcho-socialism in the European left-wing workers’ movement. And it has been demonstrated by alt-right race realists and genetic determinists who took over ‘Human Biodiversity’ (HBD), a system of thought that was created explicitly as a critique of race realism and genetic determinism.

      Property is Theft: So is the Right’s Use of ‘Libertarian’

      The Many Stolen Labels of the Reactionary Mind

      Reactionary Revolutionaries, Faceless Men, and God in the Gutter

      Convoluted Conservative-Mindedness

      Conservative Liberals

      Let’s consider another case of reactionary co-optation and obfuscation. In attacking all potential enemies as ‘postmodernists’, reactionary right-wingers conflate postmodernism with modern ideologies like Marxism and early feminism, even though these are in complete opposition (the former challenging meta-narratives and the latter advocating them). At the same time, many have noted that many on the reactionary right, particularly alt-right, have embraced relativistic rhetoric styled along the lines of postmodernism in order to dismiss the very modern Enlightenment project they accuse of being postmodernist, while using the obfuscation to slip in their own preferred modern meta-narratives.

      Much of this isn’t necessarily intentional deception, insincerity, and bad faith. Such intentions would require fuller awareness of self and others that is lacking among so many reactionaries. I’d go so far as to argue that the reactionary mind is, by nature, a divided mind (related to a theory of mine that I call symbolic conflation). And it is dependent on a divided society. This is why so many people in a high inequality society, even on the social and political left, can be pulled into the reactionary mind without realizing it. The sickliness of such a society is both a result and a cause, as part of a vicious cycle of reaction across such divides (reacting to reactionaries is like wrestling a pig; both you and the pig get muddy).

      Sometimes clarification is necessary when I’m speaking about such things, as most mainstream language seems to have been spiked with the meaning-destructiveness of reactionary rhetoric. This is why I distinguish social issues from economic issues, as otherwise liberalism and conservatism cannot be understood as mindsets and worldviews. Social conservatism, as I’ve argued, is instead more linked to authoritarianism broadly, no matter the claim about economic ideology and much else.

      [Anyway, were Stalinism and Nazism really communism and fascism or, instead, were they merely two differing forms of neo-imperialism with a new worker-serfdom caste that was hidden behind false economic rhetoric? As far as that goes, isn’t the US also neo-imperialism at this point, likewise with a caste-like permanent underclass? And, similarly, was Maoism really communism or rather neo-imperialism built on neo-Confucianism?]

      For damn sure, social conservatism is not traditionalism, in the way fundamentalism is not orthodoxy. This was an insight I first gained from the scholarship of Karen Armstrong. She made clear that recent Islamic terrorists are rather heterodox. Many of them embraced libertine behavior in flouting orthodox rules, mores, and traditions. She said this was intentional as their purpose was to bring on the End Times by inciting God’s wrath and forcing His hand. That is to say such fundamentalists are a variation of reactionaries.

      The point is that all of this is part of modernity, along with not only urbanization and industrialization but also the changes in food systems, substance use/abuse, etc. In this light, I’d root the reactionary mind in addictive experience (see Johan Hari’s Chasing the Scream where he describes the addict as the ultimate isolated individual, that is to say divided from others), especially with everyday stimulants like sugar, caffeine, and nicotine (along with drugs like cocaine that once were more commonly sold on the open market; i.e., Coca-Cola). Addictive drugs are what made modernity possible, so I’ve argued elsewhere.

      The Drugged Up Birth of Modernity

      To Put the Rat Back in the Rat Park

      Rationalizing the Rat Race, Imagining the Rat Park

      Hunger for Connection

      On a more concrete level, this comment will end with another element of personal experience that also works back into the importance of health, specifically in terms of the embodied and extended mind. Hunter-gatherers typically have senses of identity and personal space that extends into the immediate sensory environment they are immersed in. This would relate to a non-reactionary mindset that is non-stressed and more open to the world around them.

      But it also has to do with something so simple as not wearing much. They live outside and are constantly in sensory contact with the world, including direct contact of their feet with the ground. They are literally grounded with a sense of connection where self, relationships, and world are inseparable. Besides little clothes and often nothing on their feet, they rarely have much in terms of walls with the floor usually just being the earth below them.

      This is something that has been at the back of my mind for a very long time. Ever since childhood, I’ve spent a lot of time outside, much of it barefoot and shirtless. I like the feel of grass beneath my feet, sun on my skin, and the smells of nature in my nose. This might not be mere preference, though, as far as health goes.

      Consider a great book on the topic, The Secret Life of Your Microbiome by Alan Logan and Susan L Prescott. The authors go into many studies that show the impact on having access to green spaces. People heal faster when they can see plants outside a window, are more likely to walk if there are trees in a neighborhood, have better health outcomes when they do forest breathing, etc.

      A more recent read of mine is Earthing by Clinton Ober, Martin Zucker, and Stephen Sinatra. Our skin is electrically conductive and the earth is filled with electrons. The purpose of antioxidants is simply to carry electrons into the body to prevent the damage of free radicals that lack an electron and will steal one from elsewhere in the body, causing a free radical cascade. Just by standing barefoot on the ground your body will get all the extra electrons it needs without any need for antioxidants.

      The problem is that humans now spend so much of their time with non-conductive material (modern footwear, carpeting, wooden floors, etc) between their feet and the earth. This situation has only existed for less than a century. Besides that, the kind of shoes people wear today are highly unnatural and cause strange gaits that cause joints to become weak and stressed. As someone trained in massage, I pay a lot of attention to how people hold and move their bodies. Many people look ungrounded, awkward, and malformed; although some of this probably relates to nutritional deficiencies; check out the work of Weston A. Price).

      All of this fascinates me, as you might’ve noticed. And there really is a massive amount of intriguing evidence. You can see that in many of the posts I’ve written about how diet effects us and what this might mean at the level of neurocognition, psychology, and society. Besides my writings on the agricultural mind, check out:

      Ketogenic Diet and Neurocognitive Health

      Physical Health, Mental Health

      Diets and Systems

      “Yes, tea banished the fairies.”

      Autism and the Upper Crust

      Dietary Health Across Generations

      Old Debates Forgotten

      Welcome to information overload! That is what you get for asking what writing projects I’ve been working on. My entire blog is a continuing writing project.

  7. Everyone has a right to their own opinion, of course. But, with all due respect, not all opinions are equally informed and equally worthy, much less equally moral. It’s hard to deny that, whether or not war crimes and crimes against humanity (according to then existing international laws and agreements), the atomic bombing and prior firebombing of Japan was, at the very least, among the greatest acts of terrorism in history, if not the defining example. Some have even called it genocide.

    There is another related issue. Americans in the war and post-war period felt that retributive punishment against the Japanese was desirable. This was based on the belief that the Japanese were racially inferior to whites and based on the belief that the Japanese deserved to suffer for having attacked the US. Even ignoring the racist bigotry that motivated these acts of cruelty and atrocity, it cannot be denied that the rationalization was propaganda-enforced ignorance.

    The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a response to the US cutting off Japan from needed trade, specifically fuel. This was an act of war, in terms of legal definitions. The US had essentially declared Japan as an enemy to be punished before the Japanese had done anything to the US. This forced the hand of the Japanese government. If they had surrendered to this act of US imperial aggression and authoritarianism, they would’ve become powerless. Attacking Pearly Harbor was a defense of their own autonomy, as it was an attack on the foreign military force that had cut them off.

    That isn’t to justify Japan’s own imperial aggression and racist authoritarianism that also involved mass atrocities, equally deserving of judgment and condemnation. But the point remains that, until the US committed an act of war against Japan, the Japanese military had committed no act of war against the US (similar to the Southern states being the initial aggressors in the American Civil War). Furthermore, the atomic bombs weren’t necessary to end the war and, in fact, did not end the war as it was ultimately the fear of the Soviets that caused the Japanese to surrender. Arguments aside about who ended the war, there is no doubt that the US started the war with Japan.

    Anyway, the military intelligence and military leadership during and after the war admitted that the bombing served no military purpose, that it was unnecessary. And records show that the real purpose always was about targeting civilians, that is to say terrorism. There is neither a moral rationalization nor realpolitik justification that can explain away such vast moral depravity. The authoritarian and militaristic rhetoric to dismiss the moral and legal culpability has been part of a propaganda campaign of the military-media-industrial complex. Anyone who tries to defend the indefensible is, at best, a victim of such propaganda.

    This is an example of why the American public and other Westerners are so ignorant about the larger world, and rightfully have become so feared and hated worldwide. If the American Empire ever had a moral compass before it became an empire, it was lost long ago. Some, like Thomas Jefferson, thought the founding documents themselves lacked moral foundation because the founders didn’t understand the central principle of a democratic republic, of a free society.

    And, certainly, our government ever since has often acted more like an authoritarian empire. It should not be surprising such atomic horrors would be committed in such a society, after fully becoming an empire as the Anti-Federalists had hoped to prevent. Brutality is what empires have always done. Why did anyone think the American Empire would be different? Obviously, many Americans believe that is fine, as the support for military imperialism and state terrorism has tended to be high among the general public, particularly the older generations.

    Think of all the dozens or hundreds of millions killed by US actions over the past centuries: wars of aggression, state terrorism, genocide, slavery, sanction-caused mass death, overthrow of democracies, arming terrorist/paramilitary groups, supporting dictators, etc. Do the loved ones of those killed, not to mention all those maimed and traumatized, care that all that suffering was caused by fascism and imperialism as opposed to Stalinism or Maoism?

    Our willful ignorance and collective amnesia is no excuse; not even campaigns of censorship, propaganda, and historical revisionism removes our moral responsibility (see: Monica Brau, The Atomic Bomb Suppressed). Maybe it’s time to further improve the teaching of history — interestingly, public support for the atomic bombings has decreased across the generations as school textbooks have become more fair, honest, and truthful about the atomic bombings. With that in mind, maybe it’s also time our public officials admit to our government’s past moral failures or, better yet, apologize.

    It’s long past the point of being directly and absolutely honest about the atomic bombings of Japan and so many other issues. No matter what anyone thinks about the true or false reasons given at the time, it can’t be denied that such acts are unacceptable by today’s standards and we have not only a right but a responsibility to hold accountable actions done within living memory. Indeed, if similar mass atrocities happened, they would be illegal (e.g., war crimes and crimes against humanity) according to international treaties the US has signed.

    Besides, it’s not merely of the past for the past, when forgotten or misunderstood, is repeated. The firebombing and atomic bombings of WWII set the pattern that justified the state terrorism of killing of millions of innocent people in the War on Terror in response to the religious terrorism that killed a few thousand civilians. Each mass atrocity of the American Empire sets the stage for future mass atrocities at ever greater levels of death count, of victimization and traumatization.

    Anyway, I am from now on adding defenses of war crimes, crimes against humanity, state terrorism, and genocide to my list of the morally unspeakable, that which is not welcome in respectable company and moral society. Any comments from now on that defend the indefensible will be deleted and, if the individual persists, they will be banned from further commenting (the treatment of arguments of ‘inevitability’ might be different, depending on the specifics, assuming no justification is stated or implied). As a left-liberal, I’m all about tolerance. But the one thing liberalism cannot tolerate is intolerance. And mass murder is the ultimate intolerance.

    This blog heeds closely to a strong moral standard, but that moral standard is adjusted over time and so won’t be retroactively enforced. Therefore, all present comments that have been approved will remain approved. This is a new addition to the blog’s comment policy and only applies to comments henceforth. For further info, see the comment policy page:

    Comment Policy

    About why this moral standard has been adopted and applied to the comment policy, the below pieces fully and in great detail explain why this debate is now mostly a non-debate, as far as morality goes. Old tired arguments will be put to bed. But, of course, open intellectual and informed discussion of actual history remains relevant and welcome.

    If one is to discuss the reasons given for justifying undeniable state terrorism (such as perceived realism and/or necessary realpolitik, along with assumed inevitabilities), put it in an historical context, including the present context of what we know now that past propagandized generations did not. Admit to the facts and then we can work from there, even if we agree to disagree about interpretations of those facts. What is off the table of debate, however, is denial or dismissal of the basic facts.


      “…If terrorism is the massacre of innocents to break the will of rulers, were not Hiroshima and Nagasaki, terrorism on a colossal scale?”
      Hiroshima, Nagasaki & Christian Morality – Patrick J. Buchanan, August 2005

      “…The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a war crime worse than any that Japanese generals were executed for in Tokyo and Manila. If Harry Truman was not a war criminal, then no one ever was..”
      Hiroshima and Nagasaki – Ralph Raico, 2001

      “The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a criminal act on an epic scale. It was premeditated mass murder that unleashed a weapon of intrinsic criminality ”
      The Lies Of Hiroshima Are The Lies Of Today – John Pilger, 6 August 2008

      “I voiced to him [Stimson, US Secretary of War] my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the [atom] bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of such a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that movement, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of ‘face’.”
      Dwight D. Eisenhower: The White House Years: Mandate For Change, 1953 – 1956 Doubleday & Company Inc., New York, 1963, pp. 312-313

      “Throwing a bomb is bad,
      Dropping a bomb is good;
      Terror, no need to add,
      Depends on who’s wearing the hood.”
      R. Woddis ‘Ethics for Everyman’
      quoted in What is Terrorism: Law & Practise

      Many historians have argued that the atomic bombing of Japan at the end of World War II was not necessary and unjustified. There have been several key reasons developed to support this position, such as:

      It was inhumane.
      It caused too much destruction.
      It killed too many innocent people, including children.
      It was unnecessary as Japan was essentially defeated.
      Japan was seeking surrender.
      It was not universally supported in the United States.
      The United States could have done something else.
      The United States should have waited longer between the two bombs.
      It was used more to scare the Soviet Union than to defeat Japan.
      It led to the modern atomic age and the threat of nuclear warfare.

      The difference in viewpoints between the United States and Japan is obvious — one country dropped bombs on the other, after all — but there are also some more subtle things going on. Last year, WorldViews took a look at how the bombings were taught in countries all over the world. They have long been a major topic of study for Japanese and American children. But, in recent years, the way the bombings are taught to Americans has shifted, with more emphasis put on the bombs’ human toll and not just the strategic value.

      “The textbook has walked away from this idea that it speaks with this omniscient voice and it tells you facts,” Christopher Hamner, a history professor at George Mason University, told WorldViews. “Textbooks will have documents from both sides. They acknowledge that there are multiple perspectives.”

      This change may have contributed to a generational shift seen in Pew’s research: Just 47 percent of Americans 18 to 29 years old said the use of atomic weapons was justified when asked last year, compared to 70 percent of those 65 or older.

      In a YouGov poll just published, 45 per cent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 said that president Truman had made the wrong decision, against 41 per cent who approved. The margin was slightly narrower among 30 to 44-year- olds – 36 per cent to 33.

      The picture is dramatically different in older age brackets.

      Respondents between 45 and 65 supported the bombing, 55 per cent to 21 per cent. Over-65s backed Truman 65 to 15 per cent. Among the population as a whole, 45 per cent were in favour of the bombing, 29 per cent against. The figures can tellingly be compared with Gallup results in August 1945 suggesting that 85 per cent of Americans were content with the bombing, only 10 per cent opposed. (In the same poll, a remarkable 23 per cent said that they wished that more atomic bombs had been dropped before the Japanese had had a chance to surrender.)

      The archival record makes clear that killing large numbers of civilians was the primary purpose of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima; destruction of military targets and war industry was a secondary goal and one that “legitimized” the intentional destruction of a city in the minds of some participants. The atomic bomb was detonated over the center of Hiroshima. More than 70,000 men, women, and children were killed immediately; the munitions factories on the periphery of the city were left largely unscathed. Such a nuclear attack would be illegal today. It would violate three major requirements of the law of armed conflict codified in Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions: the principles of distinction, proportionality, and precaution. There could be great pressure to use nuclear weapons in future scenarios in which many American soldiers’ lives are at risk and there is no guarantee that a future US president would follow the law of armed conflict. That is why the United States needs senior military officers who fully understand the law and demand compliance and presidents who care about law and justice in war.

      To me, the debate obscures an absolute moral truth: It’s never acceptable to terrorize and kill masses of civilians. We have soldiers for fighting wars. Inflicting pain and death on hundreds of thousands of peaceful citizens to save the lives of even our own troops is criminal, period.

      It is hilarious and ridiculous to see so many white ass Americans justifying the worst crime against humanity committed in all history… But it’s not surprising. They are always looking for silly and far-fetched excuses to justify their atrocities, such as the crimes committed in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and dozens of countries around the world. If Japan deserved both bombs for its atrocities committed over 30 years, how many nuclear bombs does the United States deserve for its atrocities committed over 70 years?

      Terrorism, despite continual abuse, is a word like any other. It has an actual definition: violence against a civilian target undertaken to send a political message. It is not merely a slur to be affixed willy-nilly to whomever, as geopolitical needs dictate.

      On August 6th 1945 Washington dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. One hundred fifty thousand civilians were incinerated or condemned to slow and terrible deaths by radiation exposure (as immortalized in the Japanese manga and animated film Barefoot Gen). On August 9th, the Truman Administration released a plutonium core atomic bomb over Nagasaki, killing an additional 75,000 people.

      A justifying mythology was immediately crafted and remains firmly lodged in popular understanding — at least in the U.S. The bombs were dropped, reluctantly, to save the lives of U.S. servicemen fighting Japan. Perhaps a half million (Truman’s claim) would have died before Japan would have unconditionally surrendered had the U.S. not deployed the bombs. The story has long been debunked, but with little popularization. If fact, Japan was already prepared to surrender, having only a few (trivial next to hundreds of thousands of lives) conditions. The actual reasons the bomb was dropped, included, as Gar Alperovitz has long argued, intimidating Russia and to demonstrate U.S. power on the world stage. Any street gangster would recognize the dynamic. There was also a concern to forestall any further Soviet influence in Asia. Thus the motive was political and the target was civilian. It is a textbook case of terrorism. Perhaps the preeminent example.

      I can’t believe anyone would try to say otherwise…

      A “crime against humanity” is a pretty soundly defined concept. Intentinally dropping a nuke on civilian populations with the intention of killing as many people as possible is totally within the definition. Did it end up.saving lives? I hear arguments that it did. Regardless the veracity of the arguments. A crime against humanity doesn’t stop being one of you have good justifications. Also, those arguments don’t actually pan out. But that’s a topic for another question.

      Was the Japanese empire a nasty-ass entity that had commited atrocities? You bet. How does that give anyone the right to do the same to them? <- (Rethorical question. It doesn’t)

      Crimes against humanity weren’t part of international law at the time. Strikes against civilian population was a pretty common tactic for the allied. Britain routinely carpet-bombed quiet neighborhoods in Germany, killing tens of thousands of civilian in a few hours, in order to demoralize the population. Was that terrorism? Hell yes. The axis didn’t have the exclusively on nastiness. “Crimes against humanity”, “terrorism” are concept that don’t depend on an historical context, even less on which side we’re on. The cleansing of the European Jewish population was just as criminal under Hitler than under the Spanish Inquisition (I bet you weren’t expecting that). Was the extermination of the original American population a crime against humanity? It better be, lest the concept lose all its meaning.

      Maybe the most life-effective way of defeating ISIS is to assassinate the family of suspected militants. That wouldn’t make it less of a crime.

      “The ends justified the means” is a really washed out excuse to justify crimes against humanity.

      We now come to the crux of the problem. The perpetrators of the greatest “terror attacks” ever cannot be called “terrorists” because they are the ones who decide upon who to be called a “terrorist” and who to be called a “warrior”.

      America is arguably the most powerful empire of our times. And the most powerful empire will obviously be the most influential one. Influential in terms of setting the world view; setting the global agenda; setting the narrative.

      What and how you and I will think, what kind of world view we should have, who we identify as our allies and who we dread as our enemies – it’s the empire of our times that decides. And that empire is America. How dare we call them “terrorists”?

      It’s not that the American empire is not critical of its illegal misdeed and misadventures. But it does so in a subtle way. Empire has a savvy fleet of spin doctors or (dis)information warriors who establish milder interpretations of America’s sheer acts of terror.

      For example, the Hiroshima-Nagasaki terror attacks are described as “bombings”; the terror sweep in Iraq is called an “invasion”; a similar wave of terror in Afghanistan is dubbed “occupation”; the terror-laced toppling of elected governments in South America is called “covert operations”; the acts of financial terrorism against Iran and Russia are called “economic sanctions”, and so on.

      It’s all about the jugglery of words. That’s the power of empire: shaping the narrative through the art and craft of wordplay to redefine criminal acts of the state.

      An interesting example is worth a mention. There was a time when the American press used to project Osama bin Laden as a “warrior” when the Soviets had to be chased out of Afghanistan. Yet, many years later, the same US media targeted Laden as a “most wanted terrorist” following the disgusting 9/11 terror attacks in America.

      The point of the piece, I would like to emphasize, is not necessarily to “second guess” what was done in 1945. It is, rather, to point out that we tend to constrain our view of the possibilities generally to one of two unpleasant options. Many of those who defend the bombings seem to end up in a position of believing that 1. there were no other options on the table at the time except for exactly what did occur, and 2. that questioning whether there were other options does historical damage. As a historian, I find both of these positions absurd. First, history is full of contingency, and there were several explicit options (and a few implicit ones) on the table in 1945 — more than just “bomb” versus “invade.” These other options did not carry the day does not mean they should be ignored. Second, I think that pointing out these options helps shape our understanding of the choices that were made, because they make history seem less like a fatalistic march of events. The idea that things were “fated” to happen the way they do does much more damage to the understanding of history, because it denies human influence and it denies choices were made.

      Separately, there is a question of whether we ought to “judge” the past by standards of the present. In some cases this leads to statements that are simply non-sequiturs — I think Genghis Khan’s methods were inhumane, but who cares that I think that? But World War II was not so long ago that its participants are of another culture entirely, and those who say we should not judge the atomic bombings by the morality of the present neglect the range of moral codes that were available at the time. The idea that burning civilians alive created a moral hazard was hardly unfamiliar to people in 1945, even if they did it anyway. Similarly, I will note that the people who adopt such a position of historical moral relativism never seem to apply it to nations that fought against their countries in war.


      The New York Times published Anne Harrington’s moving story about Maj. Claude Eatherly, the pilot of the reconnaissance plane for the Enola Gay, who spent the rest of his life haunted by his role in what he considered an immoral attack. The Wall Street Journal, in contrast, published an op-ed by former Los Alamos laboratory official John C. Hopkins, who claimed that the bombing saved an estimated 5-10 million Japanese civilians and 400,000-800,000 American soldiers who could have died in an invasion and was therefore “the lesser of two evils.”

      The Hopkins claim was the most recent inflation of estimates building on what Rufus Miles called the “myth of half a million American lives saved.” Secretary of War Henry Stimson originally claimed in his famous 1947 Harper’s article that an invasion was expected to produce “over a million American casualties [wounded and killed] to American forces alone” (emphasis added). Winston Churchill, in his memoirs, claimed instead that the invasion would have produced one million American fatalities and an additional 500,000 thousand allied fatalities. But the serious historians studying this issue come to a different conclusion, finding that the range of estimates of U.S. deaths in the 1945 military records was significantly lower than the mythical half a million figure.

      Commentators who continue to claim that the Hiroshima bombing was the lesser evil rely on a flawed assumption: that unconditional surrender was the only acceptable outcome. Those who perpetuate the myth of unconditional surrender forget that U.S. decision-makers in 1945 considered other ways of ending the war with Japan. Weighing the lives lost from the atomic bombings against the potential lives lost in an American invasion of Japan ignores the possibility that the war could end with neither an invasion nor nuclear attacks.

      At the Potsdam Conference, Stimson recommended that the U.S. modify the unconditional surrender terms to signal to the Japanese government that Emperor Hirohito would not be put on trial. Truman rejected this advice, and the Potsdam Declaration instead stated that “[t]here must be eliminated for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest” and warned that “stern justice shall be meted out to all war criminals.”

      This decision to insist on unconditional surrender in the Potsdam Declaration was critical. After the atomic bombings and the Soviet entry into the war, the Japanese government stated that it was ready to surrender, but only on the condition that nothing in the peace agreement “prejudices the prerogatives of his majesty as a sovereign ruler.” Through a carefully crafted letter, Truman signaled to the Japanese that the emperor would not be subject to war crimes trials. Hirohito, understanding that a private deal had been offered, joined the “peace party,” and called for his government to surrender immediately.

      As is true with all counterfactuals, we can’t know with certainty whether the Japanese government would have surrendered without the dropping of the bomb if this compromise had been offered when Stimson suggested. Among the many tragedies of Hiroshima, however, is that Truman refused to try this diplomatic maneuver earlier.

      The accepted wisdom in the United States for the last 75 years has been that dropping the bombs on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and on Nagasaki three days later was the only way to end the World War II without an invasion that would have cost hundreds of thousands of American and perhaps millions of Japanese lives. Not only did the bombs end the war, the logic goes, they did so in the most humane way possible.

      However, the overwhelming historical evidence from American and Japanese archives indicates that Japan would have surrendered that August, even if atomic bombs had not been used — and documents prove that President Truman and his closest advisors knew it.

      The allied demand for unconditional surrender led the Japanese to fear that the emperor, who many considered a deity, would be tried as a war criminal and executed. A study by Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s Southwest Pacific Command compared the emperor’s execution to “the crucifixion of Christ to us.”

      “Unconditional Surrender is the only obstacle to peace,” Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo wired Ambassador Naotake Sato, who was in Moscow on July 12, 1945, trying to enlist the Soviet Union to mediate acceptable surrender terms on Japan’s behalf.

      But the Soviet Union’s entry into the war on Aug. 8 changed everything for Japan’s leaders, who privately acknowledged the need to surrender promptly.

      Allied intelligence had been reporting for months that Soviet entry would force the Japanese to capitulate. As early as April 11, 1945, the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s Joint Intelligence Staff had predicted: “If at any time the USSR should enter the war, all Japanese will realize that absolute defeat is inevitable.”

      Truman knew that the Japanese were searching for a way to end the war; he had referred to Togo’s intercepted July 12 cable as the “telegram from the Jap emperor asking for peace.”

      Truman also knew that the Soviet invasion would knock Japan out of the war. At the summit in Potsdam, Germany, on July 17, following Stalin’s assurance that the Soviets were coming in on schedule, Truman wrote in his diary, “He’ll be in the Jap War on August 15. Fini Japs when that comes about.” The next day, he assured his wife, “We’ll end the war a year sooner now, and think of the kids who won’t be killed!”

      The Soviets invaded Japanese-held Manchuria at midnight on Aug. 8 and quickly destroyed the vaunted Kwantung Army. As predicted, the attack traumatized Japan’s leaders. They could not fight a two-front war, and the threat of a communist takeover of Japanese territory was their worst nightmare.

      Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki explained on Aug. 13 that Japan had to surrender quickly because “the Soviet Union will take not only Manchuria, Korea, Karafuto, but also Hokkaido. This would destroy the foundation of Japan. We must end the war when we can deal with the United States.”

      While a majority of Americans may not be familiar with this history, the National Museum of the U.S. Navy in Washington, D.C., states unambiguously on a plaque with its atomic bomb exhibit: “The vast destruction wreaked by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the loss of 135,000 people made little impact on the Japanese military. However, the Soviet invasion of Manchuria … changed their minds.” But online the wording has been modified to put the atomic bombings in a more positive light — once again showing how myths can overwhelm historical evidence.

      Seven of the United States’ eight five-star Army and Navy officers in 1945 agreed with the Navy’s vitriolic assessment. Generals Dwight Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur and Henry “Hap” Arnold and Admirals William Leahy, Chester Nimitz, Ernest King, and William Halsey are on record stating that the atomic bombs were either militarily unnecessary, morally reprehensible, or both.

      No one was more impassioned in his condemnation than Leahy, Truman’s chief of staff. He wrote in his memoir “that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender …. In being the first to use it we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages.”

      MacArthur thought the use of atomic bombs was inexcusable. He later wrote to former President Hoover that if Truman had followed Hoover’s “wise and statesmanlike” advice to modify its surrender terms and tell the Japanese they could keep their emperor, “the Japanese would have accepted it and gladly I have no doubt.”

      Before the bombings, Eisenhower had urged at Potsdam, “the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.”

      The evidence shows he was right, and the advancing Doomsday Clock is a reminder that the violent inauguration of the nuclear age has yet to be confined to the past.

      “The use of the atomic bomb, with its indiscriminate killing of women and children, revolts my soul,” he wrote. “The only difference between this and the use of gas (which President Franklin D. Roosevelt had barred as a first-use weapon in World War II) is the fear of retaliation.”

      Those harsh words, written three days after the Hiroshima bombing in August, 1945, were not by a man of the American left, but rather by a very prominent conservative—former President Herbert Hoover, a foe of the New Deal and Fair Deal.

      In 1959, Medford Evans, a conservative writing in William Buckley’s strongly nationalistic, energetically right-wing magazine, National Review, stated: “The indefensibility of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima is becoming a part of the national conservative creed.” Just the year before, the National Review had featured an angry, anti-atomic bomb article, “Hiroshima: Assault on a Beaten Foe.” Like Hoover, that 1958 essay had decried the atomic bombing as wanton murder. National Review’s editors, impressed by that article, had offered special reprints.

      Those two sets of events—Hoover in 1945 and National Review in 1968-69—were not anomalies in early post-Hiroshima U.S. conservatism. In fact, many noted American conservatives—journalists, former diplomats and retired and occasionally on-duty military officers, and some right-wing historians and political scientists—criticized the atomic bombing. They frequently contended it was unnecessary, and often maintained it was immoral and that softer surrender terms could have ended the war without such mass killing. They sometimes charged Truman and the atomic bombing with “criminality” and “slaughter.”

      Yet today, this history of early anti-A-bomb dissent by conservatives is largely unknown. In about the past 20 years, various American conservatives have even assailed A-bomb dissent as typically leftist and anti-American, and as having begun in the tumultuous 1960s. Such a view of postwar American history is remarkably incorrect.

      The somewhat racialised argument goes that the Japanese adhered to a “bushido” warrior ethic of sacrifice, considered surrender to be dishonourable, and were committed to the notion of “total war”, in which every man, woman and child would be mobilised for war, armed with rudimentary bamboo spears if need be. In other words, the Japanese, having rejected all opportunities to surrender, had vowed to fight to the bitter end. Consequently the planned invasion of Japan, Operation Downfall, would have resulted in much higher casualty figures. The US anticipated losing up to 1m US soldiers during the invasion, alongside another 10m Japanese deaths.

      However, none of this cold calculation detracts from the fact that the bombings were indisputably heinous acts of state terrorism, fitting the standard definition almost perfectly: the use or threat of violence against civilians, to instil fear and achieve a political goal. Indeed, the Secret Target Committee in Los Alamos proposed that the large population centres of Kyoto or Hiroshima should be deliberately targeted for the “greatest psychological effect,” and to ensure the bombs’ “initial use was sufficiently spectacular for the importance of the weapon to be internationally recognised”.

      Incidentally, this curious phrasing also points to the true targets of the bombs – the Soviet Union. This atomic diplomacy was effectively a display of strength and a warning to Stalin, representing the opening salvos of the Cold War.

      The selection of the cities to be bombed was also more akin to a scientific experiment, rather than a purely strategic military calculation. The nominated cities had thus far been left deliberately untouched during the regular nightly bombing raids, in order to accurately assess the full capacity and damage inflicted by the atomic bombs.

      The decision to use the bombs was also predicated on racist and dehumanising attitudes towards the Japanese. The Japanese were frequently depicted as “yellow vermin”, “living snarling rats” or “monkeys”. Indeed, the dehumanisation was such that the mutilation of Japanese soldiers became widespread. US servicemen frequently removed ears, teeth and skulls as grisly war trophies. Even President Roosevelt was infamously sent a letter opener carved from a Japanese bone by a US congressman. It was easier to drop inhumane weapons on those who were not really human to begin with.

      But perhaps the greatest condemnation of the bombings is that they were unnecessary on the eve of the inevitable Allied victory, as the 1946 United States Strategic Bombing Survey later concluded. The Japanese were militarily exhausted and on the verge of defeat at this stage. In addition to staggering casualty figures, and extensive devastation of infrastructure through the aerial bombardment and firebombing campaigns, the naval blockade codenamed Operation starvation had also completely crippled the wartime economy.

      Yes, unconditional surrender was publicly rejected by Japan’s leaders. However, privately, they were also making desperate entreaties to the then neutral Soviet Union, to mediate peace on more favourable terms. The Japanese would also have been keenly aware that the collapse of Nazi Germany had worrying implications for the redeployment of Allied forces.

      The “betrayal” by the Soviets, who declared war on Japan on 9 August, just before Nagasaki was bombed, was the final straw. The Soviet army quickly defeated the Japanese in Chinese Manchukuo, crushing any vestige of hope that Japan might survive the conflict intact.

      There is little disagreement that the atomic bombings constituted war crimes, even amongst its architects. As the US Secretary of Defence, Robert S. McNamara, famously reflected: “If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.”

      Surely 70 years is long enough for us to put to rest the tired canard of the lesser of the two evils, and recognise the true gravity of this crime against humanity.

      A STORY THAT the U.S. government hoped would never see the light of day finally has been published, 60 years after it was spiked by military censors. The discovery of reporter George Weller’s firsthand account of conditions in post-nuclear Nagasaki sheds light on one of the great journalistic betrayals of the last century: the cover-up of the effects of the atomic bombing on Japan.

      On Aug. 6, 1945, the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima; three days later, Nagasaki was hit. Gen. Douglas MacArthur promptly declared southern Japan off-limits, barring the news media. More than 200,000 people died in the atomic bombings of the cities, but no Western journalist witnessed the aftermath and told the story. Instead, the world’s media obediently crowded onto the battleship USS Missouri off the coast of Japan to cover the Japanese surrender.

      A month after the bombings, two reporters defied General MacArthur and struck out on their own. Mr. Weller, of the Chicago Daily News, took row boats and trains to reach devastated Nagasaki. Independent journalist Wilfred Burchett rode a train for 30 hours and walked into the charred remains of Hiroshima.

      Both men encountered nightmare worlds. Mr. Burchett sat down on a chunk of rubble with his Baby Hermes typewriter. His dispatch began: “In Hiroshima, 30 days after the first atomic bomb destroyed the city and shook the world, people are still dying, mysteriously and horribly – people who were uninjured in the cataclysm from an unknown something which I can only describe as the atomic plague.”

      He continued, tapping out the words that still haunt to this day: “Hiroshima does not look like a bombed city. It looks as if a monster steamroller has passed over it and squashed it out of existence. I write these facts as dispassionately as I can in the hope that they will act as a warning to the world.”

      Mr. Burchett’s article, headlined “The Atomic Plague,” was published Sept. 5, 1945, in the London Daily Express. The story caused a worldwide sensation and was a public relations fiasco for the U.S. military. The official U.S. narrative of the atomic bombings downplayed civilian casualties and categorically dismissed as “Japanese propaganda” reports of the deadly lingering effects of radiation.

      So when Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter George Weller’s 25,000-word story on the horror that he encountered in Nagasaki was submitted to military censors, General MacArthur ordered the story killed, and the manuscript was never returned. As Mr. Weller later summarized his experience with General MacArthur’s censors, “They won.”

      Recently, Mr. Weller’s son, Anthony, discovered a carbon copy of the suppressed dispatches among his father’s papers (George Weller died in 2002). Unable to find an interested American publisher, Anthony Weller sold the account to Mainichi Shimbun, a big Japanese newspaper. Now, on the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombings, Mr. Weller’s account can finally be read.


      The first official sentence about the bombing of Hiroshima was a lie. President Truman’s statement began by describing a city with approximately 300,000 people living in it as “an important Japanese Army base.” The archives show destroying the military potential of Hiroshima was more of a fig leaf than the primary objective. Truman’s description purposefully obscured an inconvenient truth. Everyone involved in the decision knew the bomb would obliterate the city and kill or maim as many as 100,000 non-combatant men, women and children.

      US General Leslie Groves, who micro-managed the development and use of the atomic bomb, placed a gag order on the attacks. He wanted to control the reporting to prevent “ruinous” comments from “would-be world-savers.” Groves had already selected William Laurence of the New York Times to serve as what he called “a suitable newspaperman.” Laurence, who talked about the bomb like a religious devotee, was granted exclusive access to the Manhattan Project and a seat on the plane that bombed Nagasaki. In return, he let Groves edit his articles before releasing them to the press.

      Secretary of War Henry Stimson warned Truman there was “a growing feeling of apprehension and misgiving as to the effect of the atomic bomb even in our own country.” As Japanese reports of the grotesque effects of radiation began to appear in US press accounts, Stimson organized a public relations campaign to forestall the possibility the United States might “get the reputation for outdoing Hitler in atrocities.”


      Truman lifted wartime controls on the US press after Japan surrendered. But General Douglas MacArthur, who assumed control of occupied Japan, imposed his own restrictions, including a ban on travel to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. George Weller of the Chicago Daily News snuck into Nagasaki. He intentionally “eschewed all the horror angles” but MacArthur’s censors still refused to release his articles.

      Wilfred Burchett, the only other reporter to skirt the travel ban, by-passed the censors and published his first-hand account of what he called the “atomic plague” irradiating Hiroshima. MacArthur confiscated his camera and kicked him out of Japan. He also ordered other reporters to move to Yokohama where he could better control their activities.

      Burchett’s article was picked up by newspapers all over the world. Groves’ second in command, General Thomas Farrell, held a press conference in Tokyo to refute Burchett’s claims about radiation. Truman sent written requests to US editors and broadcasters asking them not to publish reports on the atomic bomb without clearing them with War Department.

      Akira Iwasaki, a Japanese filmmaker, directed a post-war project to document what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The US military arrested his cameraman and confiscated his film. MacArthur then banned all filming in the two cities and ordered all film shot prior to the ban be turned over to the occupation government.

      The US Strategic Bombing Survey initiated its own film project led by Lieutenant Daniel McGovern. He took possession of Iwasaki’s film and hired Iwasaki and his crew. The documentary they created was classified and disappeared for more than 20 years. McGovern later claimed US authorities buried the film because it “showed the effects on man, woman and child.”

      With rare exception, the question of whether the atomic bombs were necessary to end World War Two is debated only deep within the safety of American academic circles: could a land invasion have been otherwise avoided? Would more diplomacy have achieved the same ends without the destruction of two cities? Could an atomic test on a deserted island have convinced the Japanese? Was the surrender instead driven primarily by the entry of the Soviets into the Pacific War, which, by historical accident, took place two days after Hiroshima—and the day before Nagasaki was immolated?

      But it is not only the history of the decision itself that is sidestepped. Beyond the acts of destruction lies the myth of the atomic bombings, the post-war creation of a mass memory of things that did not happen.

      The short version of the atomic myth, the one kneaded into public consciousness, is that the bombs were not dropped out of revenge or malice, but of grudging military necessity. As a result, the attacks have not generated deep introspection and national reflection over their morality.

      The use of the term “myth” is appropriate. Harry Truman, in his 1945 announcement of the bomb, focused on vengeance, and on the new, extraordinary power the United States alone possessed. The military necessity argument was largely created later, in a 1947 article defending the use of the atomic bomb, written by former Secretary of War Henry Stimson, though actually drafted by McGeorge Bundy (later an architect of the Vietnam War) and James Conant (a scientist who helped build the original bomb). Conant described the article’s purpose at the beginning of the Cold War as “You have to get the past straight before you do much to prepare people for the future.”

      The Stimson article was a response to journalist John Hersey’s account of the human suffering in Hiroshima, first published in 1946 in the New Yorker and later as a book. Due to wartime censorship, Americans knew little of the ground truth of atomic war, and Hersey’s piece was shocking enough to the public that it required that formal White House response. Americans’ general sense of themselves as a decent people needed to be reconciled with what was done in their name. The Stimson article was quite literally the moment of creation of the Hiroshima myth.

      The national belief that no moral wrong was committed with the atomic bombs, and thus there was no need for reflection and introspection (the blithe way Nagasaki is treated as a historical afterthought – “and Nagasaki, too” – only drives home the point), echoes forward through today. It was 9/11, the new Pearl Harbor, that started a series of immoral acts allegedly servicing, albeit destructively and imperfectly, the moral imperative of saving lives by killing. America’s decisions on war, torture, rendition and indefinite detention are seen by most as the distasteful but necessary actions of fundamentally good people against fundamentally evil ones. Hiroshima set in motion a sweeping, national generalization that if we do it, it is right.

      And with that, the steps away from the violence of Hiroshima and the shock-and-awe horrors inside the Iraqi prison of Abu Ghraib are merely a matter of degree. The myth allows the world’s most powerful nation to go to war as a victim after the tragic beheadings of even a small number of civilians. Meanwhile, the drone deaths of children at a wedding party are seen as unfortunate but only collateral damage in service to the goal of defeating global terrorism itself. It is a grim calculus that parses acts of violence to conclude some are morally justified simply based on who held the knife.

      We may, in fact, think we are practically doing the people of Afghanistan a favor by killing some of them, as we believe we did for tens of thousands of Japanese that might have been lost in a land invasion of their home islands to otherwise end World War Two. There is little debate in the “war on terror” because debate is largely unnecessary; the myth of Hiroshima says an illusion of expediency wipes away any concerns over morality. And with that neatly tucked away in our conscience, all that is left is pondering where to strike next.

      Japan, too, is guilty of failing to look deep into itself over its own wartime acts. Yet compared to the stunning array of atrocities during and since World War Two, the world’s only use of nuclear weapons still holds a significant place in infamy. To try and force the Japanese government to surrender (and no one in 1945 knew if the plan would even work) by making it watch mass casualties of innocents, and then to hold the nation hostage to future serial attacks on defenseless cities with the promise of more bombs to come, speaks to a cruelty previously unseen.


      Pat Buchanan disagrees. “Truman’s defenders argue that by using the bomb, he saved more lives than were lost in those cities. Only the atom bombs, they contend, could have shocked Japan’s warlords into surrender,” Buchanan says. “But if terrorism is the massacre of innocents to break the will of rulers, were not Hiroshima and Nagasaki terrorism on a colossal scale?”

      Buchanan raises a valid question: What is the definition of terrorism?

      If the intentional targeting of civilians is the definition of terrorism, as we all agreed it was on 9/11, then how do the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki differ? Al-Qaeda killed 3,000 non-combatant men, women, and children, called it necessary, and remain of the opinion that it was the right thing to do. The United States killed 120,000 non-combatant men, women and children, still insist that it was necessary, and remain of the opinion that it was the right thing to do. Defenders of the Japanese bombings believe we needed to cripple the nation by any means necessary. Al-Qaeda believed they needed to cripple the United States by any means necessary and targeted economic and political centers like the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the White House, accordingly.

      Contrary to popular opinion, President Harry Truman’s decision was opposed on many fronts. Said Adm. William D. Leahy, Truman’s chief of staff, “The use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. I was not taught to make wars in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.” Said Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, “The Japanese were ready to surrender, and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.”

      For argument’s sake, let us accept the argument that the atomic bombings of Japan were necessary. By definition, it still remains terrorism. Either targeting civilians is terrorism, like on 9/11, or it isn’t. You can’t have it both ways. And in defending Truman, are Americans admitting that terrorism is sometimes a justifiable method of attack, in an era when we are allegedly fighting a global war against it?

      Today, I have heard countless self-described patriots, alleged conservatives, and others say gleefully that Japan should “thank us” for bombing them. I’m quite sure there are yahoos and loudmouths in the streets of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia who believe Americans should appreciate the lesson they learned on 9/11. We even saw them dancing in the streets when the Twin Towers came crashing down. To such Muslims, Osama bin Laden remains a hero. And many American say the same of Harry Truman — for the exact same reasons.

      I can say unequivocally that I find both the terrorism committed on Sept. 11, 2001, and the terrorism committed in early August of 1945 deplorable on the same grounds. But denouncing one obvious act of terror, while defending the obvious other, is not only illogical but immoral.

      Author John Zmirak writes, “No nation really likes to remember its crimes … (yet) every child who died from our bombs was as innocent as Anne Frank.”

      This is true. Ignorance is indeed bliss, and in it, many Americans have strangely found in terrorist acts committed by the United States reasons to be boastful.

      And while most Americans have managed to convince themselves that terrorism remains the business of other peoples, the harsh, uncomfortable reality is that in terms of scale and slaughter, the most colossal terrorist attack in the history of this planet was committed by the same country that often claims to be the greatest nation on it.

      Moreover, we know now that among the top military officers at the time, most foresaw that the Japanese would likely have to capitulate within a few months without need for an invasion. Admiral William D. Leahy, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote in 1950: “It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender…” The Japanese Navy had been destroyed; the home islands were already blockaded by submarines and aircraft carriers. Shipping for essential oil imports, steel, and even for food had been cut off. Oil refineries and storage had been systematically bombed by B-29’s from Guam. Even if the horrendous supposition of President Truman were true, was it morally permissible to sacrifice 210,000 hostages with the A-Bomb in order to force Japan to surrender?

      Many officers of the Japanese Army, especially those of middle-rank, were fight-to-the finish fanatics. But there were reasonable men among Japan’s military and political leaders. In summer of 1945, the Japanese government, then not at war with Russia, was trying through their ambassador and the Emperor’s special envoy in Moscow to persuade the Soviets to arrange negotiations for ending the war. Stalin and Molotov, however, duplicitously stalled the talks while rapidly moving their armies across Siberia to attack Japan. The U.S. government knew the intentions of the Soviets, for Stalin had assured Roosevelt already at Yalta (Feb. 1945) that the Soviets would attack Japan three months after the defeat of Germany (May 1945). The U.S. government, having broken the Japanese diplomatic code, was listening in on what they knew were feckless Japanese diplomatic efforts in Moscow. Is it naïve to ask why the U.S. government in the early summer of 1945 did not try to meet the Japanese in their efforts to negotiate a surrender? There were neutral countries such as Switzerland, Sweden or the Vatican that could have acted as go-between.

      Proposals to End the War
      By July 1945, proposals had been developed within the U.S. government to make it easier for the Japanese leaders to end the war. These proposals suggested dropping the blunt demand for “unconditional surrender” and offer more detailed conditions, namely that the armed forces surrender unconditionally and that all war potential be destroyed, while a democratic national polity with the Emperor as head of state could be retained. Such a proposal could, it was hoped, be a basis for negotiating an earlier surrender. But President Truman did not act on these recommendations. The Allied leaders Potsdam Proclamation (July 26) broadcast as a kind of ultimatum, omitted the proposed assurance that the Japanese would be “free to choose their own form of government.” With this omission the hardliners could see the Proclamation to be little different from “unconditional surrender.” The Japanese government delayed its response, still striving in vain—and open to U.S. intelligence—to negotiate for better conditions through the Soviets.

      Would a virtual history in which the Japanese would have earlier been shown assurances that the imperial system could be maintained have led to an earlier end of the war? We don’t know, but it would have been a more humane attempt. If negotiation could have ended the war sooner, there would have been no temptation to drop the atomic bomb; the war could have ended before the Soviets could declare war and invade Japanese occupied Manchuria and Korea. Today, there might be only one Korea.

      Whether one agrees or not with this projection of virtual history, the judgment remains that the U.S. leaders did not attempt more effective diplomatic efforts to bring the war to an earlier and more humane end, and that the bombing of Japan, culminating in the use of atomic bombs, was the use of immorally excessive force—and on predominantly civilian populations. Do we dare call it a war crime?

      So you had this clear precedent of- and I remember when I was 9 years old seeing Edward R. Murrow and others reporting in newsreels from the bombing, and seeing the buildings blazing. And you know, it defined Naziism, in effect; the killing of women and children, civilians in general, strafing people who were fleeing in Poland or France on the roads. And that was Naziism, as far as I was concerned. And indeed so, it was a murderous, ruthless, no limitation on means philosophy which some people in Britain and America- some in the British Air Forces had always thought that is the way, after all, to win a war quickly. That was not the majority view in either the Air Force in Britain or America. But there were some who believed that early on. Billy Mitchell, for one, in our country, and a number of British.

      They found in ‘41 that their bombing of Germany, of factories, attempting to do it was too- in trying to do it the way we were doing, in daylight raids, with some precision aiming at particular factories- cost too many of their bombers to air defenses and to fighters. So they turned to night bombing, which was, especially in the early days of radar, was so inaccurate that they had trouble finding a city at night, let alone a factory. There was no question now of bombing just a base, or a port, or a factory. They had to aim at a city. And they specifically in February of ‘42 turned consciously to a policy of aiming at the built-up portions of workers’ housing. Not just because they were workers, but because compared to the owners’ housing, they were closer together. And the fire, if you used incendiaries, would spread, and there would be more effect.

      So the British turned to a conscious policy now which they denied to the end of the war to their own Parliament and to their public. They claimed that they were aiming at military targets, but in fact they were aiming at the centers of cities. Not, by the way, at military targets, which tended to be on the suburbs or ports. As was true in Hiroshima, by the way. When Truman, back now in ‘45, told the people- and I remember the announcement- that we have bombed Hiroshima, a military base … well, there was a military base in Hiroshima, but it wasn’t the target of the atom bomb. It was in the suburbs, and was in fact hardly injured, as were some factories, military factories. The aiming point was the center of the city, where the most people would be killed. And even there they weren’t able to kill as many people with one bomb as LeMay had killed in one night in March 9 and 10 of 1945 with 300 bombers, where they killed between 80,000-120,000 people.

      That was the largest terror attack- terror being the deliberate killing of civilians for political purposes- that was the largest act of terrorism in human history. More people in one day dying, burned to death, or being suffocated, or boiled to death in canals that were boiling, where they sought shelter from the flames. More people than in any other event in human history. More than Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Almost no Americans have that in their consciousness at all. But that was the culmination of three years of bombing cities, and it led them to the efforts to do the same- unsuccessfully, to some extent- to the next 64 cities in Japan, so that by the end of July, before the atom bombs, we killed between 600,000 and 900,000 Japanese civilians, 600,000 in Germany. And the lowest figure given for Japan is 300,000, but the figure that McNamara gave in the Fog of War, the documentary, was 900,000. And that’s before the atom bombs. Add another 300,000 for those two bombs and you get a figure of killing of civilians which is about the number that were killed at Auschwitz in the course of the war.

      The point being that with a war that started with FDR, Franklin Roosevelt, calling on each belligerent on September 1, when Germany attacked Poland, that they should refrain from bombing cities in this. And they all, including Hitler and the others, and the British rather reluctantly because of this strain in Britain, but they all agreed. And by the end of the war under Franklin Roosevelt we were bombing, killing as many Japanese civilians as we could, day after day, city after city, culminating under Truman with the atom bombs.

      Now, the effect of that was that the notion that there was a grave decision whether to use the atom bomb is a total delusion. And for a very sound reason; there was no decision to be made. The atom bomb in the short run, in terms of how many body count, did not pose any moral problem that had not been faced and conquered, any scruple, many months and even years before. It was just an extension. It was a more efficient way with one bomb of doing what we’ve been doing every day for months and years. So there was no decision to be made. There was essentially no opposition to this. The only reason to oppose it, basically, at that point were the long-run considerations of where this would go in terms of a competitive arms race. The scientists knew in Chicago, but Truman really never heard. It never got to him.

      In his first radio address after the bombing of Hiroshima, President Harry S. Truman claimed that “[t]he world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians.”1 This statement was misleading in two important ways. First, although Hiroshima contained some military-related industrial facilities, an army headquarters, and troop loading docks, the vibrant city of over a quarter of a million men, women, and children was hardly “a military base” (Stone 1945, 1). Indeed, less than 10 percent of the individuals killed on August 6, 1945 were Japanese military personnel (Bernstein 2003, 904–905). Second, the US planners of the attack did not attempt to “avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians.” On the contrary, both the Target Committee (which included Robert Oppenheimer and Maj. Gen. Leslie Groves of the Manhattan Project) and the higher-level Interim Committee (led by Secretary of War Henry Stimson) sought to kill large numbers of Japanese civilians in the attack. The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima was deliberately detonated above the residential and commercial center of the city, and not directly on legitimate military targets, to magnify the shock effect on the Japanese public and leadership in Tokyo. […]

      The prioritization of maximizing the bomb’s “psychological impact,” while still wanting to include destruction of military targets, was also present in the Interim Committee meetings later that month. According to the minutes of the May 31 meeting, Secretary Stimson concluded “that we could not give the Japanese any warning; that we could not concentrate on a civilian area; but that we should seek to make a profound psychological impression on as many of the inhabitants as possible … [T]he Secretary agreed that the most desirable target would be a vital war plant employing a large number of workers and closely surrounded by workers’ houses.”7

      This was an endorsement of terror bombing with a legal veneer.

      Officials in Washington and Los Alamos had discussed the idea of a “demonstration strike” – providing a warning and then dropping the bomb on an uninhabited area or purely military target like a navy base – with many objections raised: if the bomb did not detonate, Japan would be not demoralized, but encouraged to continue fighting; the Japanese might place allied prisoners of war at the site; and, moreover, the bombs had been designed to be dropped from 30,000 feet and explode in the air, rather than closer to the ground or underwater, which would be necessary to maximize damage against “hardened” targets like a naval base or the Japanese fleet.8 Lingering moral inhibitions and legal concerns were reduced by June 6, when the Interim Committee reported that “while recognizing that the final selection of the target is essentially a military decision, [the committee] recommended that … [the bomb] be used on a dual target, that is, a military installation or war plant surrounded by or adjacent to homes or other buildings most susceptible to damage.”9

      The prioritization of civilian targeting was made explicit by Groves in his memoirs: “[T]he targets chosen should be places the bombing of which would most adversely affect the will of the Japanese people to continue the war. Beyond that, they should be military in nature, consisting either of important headquarters or troop concentrations, or centers of production of military equipment and supplies.”10

      These statements make clear that killing large numbers of civilians was the primary purpose of the attack; destruction of military targets and war industry was a secondary goal and one that “legitimized” the intentional destruction of a city in the minds of some participants. In fact, the crew of the Enola Gay, which in the end was permitted to pick the aim point, chose the easily recognizable t-shape, three-way Aioi Bridge at the center of Hiroshima. More than 70,000 men, women, and children were killed immediately; the munitions factories on the periphery of the city were left largely unscathed (United States Strategic Bombing Survey 1946).

      “If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.” So said Curtis LeMay after America obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki with two atomic bombs in August 1945.

      LeMay was no bleeding-heart liberal. The US air force chief of staff who had directed the assault over Japan in the final days of the Second World War, he believed in the use of nuclear weapons and thought any action acceptable in the pursuit of victory. Two decades later, he would say of Vietnam that America should “bomb them back into the stone ages”. But he was also honest enough to recognise that the incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not regarded as a war crime only because America had won the war. […]

      Seventy-five years ago, LeMay was not alone in his verdict. “We had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages,” Fleet Admiral William Leahy, chair of the chiefs of staff under both presidents Roosevelt and Truman, wrote in his autobiography, I Was There. Dwight Eisenhower, too, had, as he observed in the memoir The White House Years, “grave misgivings” about the morality of the bombings. […]

      Most Allied military leaders did not, however, see the necessity for the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Chester W Nimitz, the commander in chief of the US Pacific fleet, insisted that they were “of no material assistance in our war against Japan”. Eisenhower agreed that they were “completely unnecessary” and “no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives”. General Douglas MacArthur, supreme commander of the southwest Pacific area, saw “no military justification for the dropping of the bomb”. The official Strategic Bombing Surveys in 1946 concluded that “Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped”.

      There is evidence that the Americans had been preparing to use the A-bomb against the Japanese as early as 1943 and that, in the words of General Leslie R Groves, director of the Manhattan Project, the US nuclear weapon programme, “the target… was always expected to be Japan”.

      It’s an attitude that may have been driven by the different ways in which the Allies saw their enemy in Europe and in Asia. Germans were depicted as brutal and savage, but the bigotry was restrained to some extent by the fact that they were European and white. The Japanese, however, were particularly despised because they were non-white. As the historian John Dower observes in his pathbreaking book, War Without Mercy, the Pacific war was especially brutal because both sides saw the conflict “as a race war” that was “fuelled by racial pride, arrogance and rage”.

      It was common for western diplomats to refer to the Japanese as “monkeys” and “yellow dwarf slaves”. A former marine, Andrew Rooney, observed that US forces “did not consider that they were killing men. They were wiping out dirty animals.” Truman himself wrote: “When you have to deal with a beast you have to treat him as a beast.”

      “The entire population of Japan is a proper military target,” wrote Colonel Harry F Cunningham, an intelligence officer of the US Fifth Air Force. “There are no civilians in Japan.” The deliberate firebombings of Japanese cities are believed to have killed some 350,000 civilians. Against this background, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki become more explicable. […]

      At a time when Black Lives Matter protests have thrust the history of slavery and of empire into public debate, it is striking that there remains such historical amnesia about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We seem much less aware today of the sheer inhumanity and moral indefensibility of the bombings than even the military hawks were at the time.

      In the 2003 documentary The Fog of War, Robert McNamara, the former US defence secretary who had been LeMay’s military aide during the Second World War, reflected on the question of war crimes: “LeMay recognised that what he was doing would be thought immoral if his side had lost. But what makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?”

      That’s not just a historical question. It’s as relevant today, and to today’s wars, as it is about the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. History may be written by the victors, but morality should not be defined solely by them.

      Consider the small and little-noticed plaque hanging in the National Museum of the US Navy that accompanies the replica of “Little Boy,” the weapon used against the people of Hiroshima: In its one paragraph, it makes clear that Truman’s political advisers overruled the military in determining how the end of the war with Japan would be approached. Furthermore, contrary to the popular myths around the atomic bomb’s nearly magical power to end the war, the Navy Museum’s explication of the history clearly indicates that “the vast destruction wreaked by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the loss of 135,000 people made little impact on the Japanese military.”

      Indeed, it would have been surprising if they had: Despite the terrible concentrated power of atomic weapons, the firebombing of Tokyo earlier in 1945 and the destruction of numerous Japanese cities by conventional bombing killed far more people. The Navy Museum acknowledges what many historians have long known: It was only with the entry of the Soviet Union’s Red Army into the war two days after the bombing of Hiroshima that the Japanese moved to finally surrender. Japan was used to losing cities to American bombing; what their military leaders feared more was the destruction of the country’s military by an all-out Red Army assault.

      The top American military leaders who fought World War II, much to the surprise of many who are not aware of the record, were quite clear that the atomic bomb was unnecessary, that Japan was on the verge of surrender, and—for many—that the destruction of large numbers of civilians was immoral. Most were also conservatives, not liberals. Adm. William Leahy, Truman’s chief of staff, wrote in his 1950 memoir I Was There that “the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.… In being the first to use it, we…adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”

      The commanding general of the US Army Air Forces, Henry “Hap” Arnold, gave a strong indication of his views in a public statement 11 days after Hiroshima was attacked. Asked on August 17 by a New York Times reporter whether the atomic bomb caused Japan to surrender, Arnold said that “the Japanese position was hopeless even before the first atomic bomb fell, because the Japanese had lost control of their own air.”

      Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz, the commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, stated in a public address at the Washington Monument two months after the bombings that “the atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military standpoint, in the defeat of Japan.” Adm. William “Bull” Halsey Jr., the commander of the US Third Fleet, stated publicly in 1946 that “the first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment…. It was a mistake to ever drop it…. [The scientists] had this toy, and they wanted to try it out, so they dropped it…”

      Gen. Dwight Eisenhower stated in his memoirs that when notified by Secretary of War Henry Stimson of the decision to use atomic weapons, he “voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives.” He later publicly declared, “It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.” Even the famous hawk Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay, the head of the Twenty-First Bomber Command, went public the month after the bombing, telling the press that “the atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all.”

      The record is quite clear: From the perspective of an overwhelming number of key contemporary leaders in the US military, the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not a matter of military necessity. American intelligence had broken the Japanese codes, knew the Japanese government was trying to negotiate surrender through Moscow, and had long advised that the expected early August Russian declaration of war, along with assurances that Japan’s emperor would be allowed to stay as a figurehead, would bring surrender long before the first step in a November US invasion could begin.

      Gar Alperovitz, reminds us that almost every US military leader at the time counseled against dropping the bomb. It cites the testimony of Admiral William Leahy, President Harry Truman’s chief of staff; Henry “Hap” Arnold, the commanding general of the US Army Air Forces; Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, commander-in-chief of the Pacific Fleet; and Admiral William “Bull” Halsey Jr., commander of the US Third Fleet.

      All these senior officers agreed that “the first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment.” Even Major General Curtis LeMay, who nearly 30 years later tried to push John F. Kennedy into a nuclear war with the Soviet Union during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, agreed that “the atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all.”

      General Dwight Eisenhower, the future president, also believed “that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary.” But Eisenhower added this consideration of profound geopolitical importance, which directly contradicts the official pretext given by the government and repeated in the official narrative, that thousands of American soldiers would die in the final assault on Japan. “I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives,” he said. […]

      Contextual Note

      World War II marked a sea-change in geopolitics. It literally ushered in the era of technological rather than purely military and economic hegemony. The real point of the bomb was to provide a graphic demonstration of how technological superiority rather than mere economic and military clout would define hegemony in the decades to come. That’s why the US has been able to consistently lose wars but dominate the global economy.

      “President Truman’s closest advisers viewed the bomb as a diplomatic and not simply a military weapon,” Alperovitz writes. It wasn’t just about ending the war but modeling the future. Truman’s secretary of state, James Byrnes, “believed that the use of atomic weapons would help the United States more strongly dominate the postwar era.” He seemed to have in mind the “military-industrial complex” that Eisenhower would later denounce.

      Eisenhower’s prediction about world opinion in the aftermath of the nuking of Japan was apparently wrong. Polls taken in 1945 showed that only 4% of Americans said they would not have used the bomb. Relieved to see the war over, the media and governments across the globe made no attempt to mobilize world opinion against a manifest war crime.

      On the basis of the letters to the editor of The Times, one researcher nevertheless reached the conclusion that, in the UK, a majority of “civilians were outraged at the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” This probably reflects opinion across most of Europe. The Vatican roundly condemned the use of nuclear weapons, even two years before the bombing of Japan and then again after the war, but it had little impact on public opinion.

      But another witness to the 900-foot-wide fireball that heated the air above Hiroshima to 500,000 degrees Fahrenheit has made it her life’s mission to eliminate nuclear weapons.

      “We atomic bomb survivors are greatly disturbed by the continued modernization of nuclear weapons by the United States and other countries, and your stated willingness to use these instruments of genocide,” 88-year-old Setsuko Thurlow wrote to President Trump in a letter published Monday in the Daily Hampshire Gazette. “… Nuclear weapons are not a necessary evil, they are the ultimate evil. It is unacceptable for any state to possess them.”

      Thurlow was a 13-year-old a mile from ground zero in Hiroshima the day the bomb fell there.

      “Although that happened in the morning, it was already very dark, like twilight,” she told NPR’s Kelly McEvers in 2016. “I could see some dark moving object approaching to me. They happened to be human beings. They just didn’t look like human beings. I called them ghosts.”

      “They were covered with blood and burned and blackened and swollen, and the flesh was hanging from the bones,” the atomic blast survivor recalled. “Parts of their bodies were missing, and some were carrying their own eyeballs in their hands. And as they collapsed, their stomach burst open.” […]

      Pope Francis took a more critical stance during a November visit to that same memorial in Hiroshima.

      “Using nuclear power to wage war is today, more than ever, a crime,” the pontiff declared, adding it was immoral even to possess nuclear weapons.

      Some prominent experts in the law of war are also reexamining the Hiroshima attack.

      “There is no question that a dropping of a large nuclear weapon amongst the civilian population is a war crime,” Harvard Law School professor Gabriella Blum says. “Under the current laws of war, if you know you are going to impact civilians, you must provide warning, and you must take precautions to avoid harming civilians to the extent possible. There is no doubt none of that was considered, and none of that was seriously weighed in reference to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

      In a similar critical vein, the cover story for the current issue of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists is titled “Why the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima Would Be Illegal Today.”

      “We know that one of the main objectives was to cause as much civilian harm as possible, to create a shock among the civilians,” says Stanford Law School professor Allen Weiner, one of the cover story’s three authors.

  8. For further historical context about whose actions initiated the US war with Japan, I’ll share a comment that I wrote to someone else in responding to the related issue of actions the US might take against China:

    You may think that most Americans understand that non-military (if imperialistic and aggressive) economic actions (in often denying autonomy, sovereignty, and self-rule of foreign populations) can be taken as war, but I have my doubts that is true. On multiple occasions, the US has done far worse with economic sanctions that caused hundreds of thousands or even millions to die from diseases and starvation, and yet few Americans even realized anything significant was going on in the world. The same goes for various covert operations, overthrow of democracies, puppet dictators, support of terrorists/paramilitaries, and military bases on every continent (heck, most of the ongoing military actions the US is involved rarely make it into the corporate MSM). Few Americans sense how vast and powerful is the American Empire — like the British Empire, the sun never sets on it.

    All that I describe above are acts of war. But it just so happens the impoverished and powerless countries we attack, by various means in using our economic and military might, are mostly defenseless and lack the support and alliance of a leading global superpower. So, would most Americans and most US politicians and other elites understand that blocking China’s military force against another country would be equivalent to China having interceded in opposing the US illegal war of aggression against Iraq? I highly doubt it. We Americans are so used to lumbering around like a giant without repercussions from those we step on, a common attitude among indoctrinated imperial subjects during periods of unchallenged imperial dominance. A sudden eruption of war with China would probably come as a surprise and shock to Americans and treated as such in the US corporate media, even if the US initiated the first action toward war. The US is constantly causing provocation in making acts of war without other countries willing to respond in kind because of fear. The military power of the American Empire is too great or has been up to this point.

    Even merely placing a US embargo on China would probably be perceived as an act of war by the Chinese government or at least a shot across the bow in asserting a blatant intention to threaten war, which in practical terms would probably be the same difference. But the situation with Japan in WWII was far worse than that. In response to a perceived threat to the resources of Western colonies in Southeast Asia, the US wasn’t the only country to enforce an economic sanction on Japan followed by an embargo in ending a longstanding trade treaty, for other major Western powers (United Kingdom, Netherlands, and Australia) quickly joined in. Plus, the US seized all Japanese assets in the US and froze Japan out of the international finance system needed for shipping. This was economic warfare (see Edward S. Miller, Bankrupting the Enemy: The U.S. Financial Siege of Japan Before Pearl Harbor). Could you imagine if President Biden right now did what President Roosevelt did back then in freezing all Chinese assets. That would be interpreted as theft and an act of aggression with a response of war, and it would be hard to argue that such a response would be unjustified. The US would respond the same way if China did the same to the US.

    That isn’t to say I take any side of imperial wars — be it the American Empire against Japanese Empire, the American Empire against the Chinese Empire, or the American Empire against the Russian/Soviet Empire. I’m an equal opportunity anti-imperialist. I have no opinion on what empires should do in fighting other empires over colonial territories and global control, foreign oppression and resource exploitation. Empires will be empires. And the American imperial elite will do what they want to do, no matter the opinions of imperial subjects, short of revolution. Certainly, it has nothing directly to do with me. I’m a democratic citizen, not an imperial subject; although the self-proclaimed imperialist overlords and I disagree on this matter. Freedom and autonomy, however muddled in early thought, is what American was founded upon, what American Revolutionaries fought for. As John Quincy Adams said:

    “She has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own. She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart. She has seen that probably for centuries to come, all the contests of that Aceldama the European world, will be contests of inveterate power, and emerging right. Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force…. She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit….”

    During WWII, much of Asia was under control of Western colonial imperialism. And the war was preceded by a half century of American imperialism in Asia (or, actually, almost a century if we begin with the imperialistic acts of aggression and authoritarianism against Japan committed by US Navy Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853-4), not to mention centuries of Western imperialism also in Asia and neighboring regions. How far America has fallen. Yes, Japan was also an authoritarian and brutal empire. But two wrongs don’t make a right. And Japan was never imposing its empire on the West in the way that America was on the East. Such aggression from both sides was not equally expansionistic and ambitious in their authoritarianism on a global level. The point, anyhow, is simply that Japan acted like any empire would have in the exact situation when under economic attack by another empire that is competing over its imperial territory. The fact is the US wanted that Asian imperial territory to add to its own imperial hegemony. Japan, in its own imperialism, unsurprisingly disagreed in a predictable way. It was so predictable, in fact, that it appears to have been precisely what the US political elite knowingly wanted Japan to do in goading them into a military response.

    In this context, Western imperialistic hegemony in Asia isn’t new to the Chinese either. I’ve mentioned a number of times before my reasons for having assumed we were already in the Second Cold War and approaching the Third World War. I was convinced of this prior to the 9/11 terrorist attack and the War On Terror. What brought me to this position was a guest on Art Bell’s Coast To Coast AM. The individual was explaining how the Chinese people and government have a shared culture with a much longer historical memory, as compared to the historical amnesia of Americans. The Boxer Rebellion was still in living memory in the 1990s and is presently not that far out of living memory. It has remained part of Chinese cultural mythology, along with the brief US rule of some Chinese regions and the later Maoist fight against those backed by Western powers (i.e., Chiang Kai-shek and the nationalists). The conflict between China, Japan, Korea, etc is ancient set of grudges; but the conflict between East and West is more recent and at a much larger scale. For these old societies with impressive histories to be dominated by such a young country like the US is, in the Asian mind, probably shameful; and in cultures where saving face is absolutely important.

    It’s beyond my imagination that many Americans grasp in the slightest what is going on in the world, much less have much detailed knowledge of the events and actions that led to the conflict between the US and Japan during WWII. If you think Americans in the general public and among the elite actually and fully understand all of this, then you have far far far more confidence in the state of American knowledge than I have. Between an inferior education system and a failed corporate media (or, rather, a successful indoctrination/propaganda system; as part of the military-media-industrial complex), my sense is that information in the American mind is severely limited and skewed by false and misleading narratives. The following is some supporting evidence and analysis.

    • The 1 Reason Imperial Japan Attacked Pearl Harbor: Oil. Or an oil embargo, that is.
      by Sebastien Roblin

      The fateful collision course between the United States and Japan was set ninety years earlier when in 1853 Commodore Matthew Perry arrived in a feudal, isolationist Japan and demanded it open itself to foreign trade. In the ensuing Meiji Restoration, the Japanese Emperor seized power from the feudal shogunate and implemented a policy of rapid modernization to avoid being exploited by Western imperialists as happened to China and India. […]

      But the Japanese invasion of China caused relations with Washington to deteriorate. The United States was not entirely innocent of Asian colonialism—it too profited from the increased trade enabled by the Opium Wars, deployed soldiers to suppress the Boxer Rebellion, and effectively occupied the Philippines between 1898 and 1935.

      Pearl Harbor: “Japanese vs. American Civilian Perspectives” · Narratives of World War II in the Pacific · Bell Library Exhibits
      from The Mary and Jeff Bell Library, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

      Japanese civilians were more likely to view the actions of Pearl Harbor as a justified reaction to the economic embargo by western countries. Not only were the Japanese more aware of the embargo’s existence, but they were also more likely to view the action as the critical point of American hostility. […]

      American civilians in general were unaware of their government’s embargo of Japanese assets. Therefore, they were more likely to view the actions of Pearl Harbor as an unprovoked sneak attack. […]

      This is why Franklin D. Roosevelt obsessed over fine-tuning his response to the attack, writing three drafts of his speech before the next day.(5.) Roosevelt seemed preoccupied in his edits, emphasizing a false-account regarding the unexpected nature of the attack: “A few words later, he changed his report that the United States of America was ‘simultaneously and deliberately attacked’ to ‘suddenly and deliberately attacked.’ At the end of the first sentence, he wrote the words, ‘without warning,’ but later crossed them out.”(5.) […]

      Making the Japanese attack appear random and unprovoked was an issue of extreme importance to Roosevelt and his government. American officials sought to portray themselves as completely unaware, victims of an unpredictable act of Japanese violence. The notion that the United States government was unaware of Japan’s incoming attack, falls apart under the microscope of historical scrutiny. Historians Paul S. Burtness and Warren Ober, describe the extent of the government’s involvement in “Provocation and Angst”, saying that: “Washington had sent repeated alerts to all the Pacific bases—indeed, FDR had personally ordered warnings sent on November 27 and 28, which included a note that in a confrontation, the United States would prefer to have the enemy fire first.”(7.)

      Roosevelt and a small circle of advisors had been following Japanese policy through radio intercepts.(8.) Incriminating coded messages had been translated by American cryptographers, and were delivered to the Secretary of State prior to the attack.(8.) Though American intelligence did not know the precise location of the attack, they knew of Japan’s plan for military retaliation in the event negotiations broke down.(8.) These factors serve as a reminder for individuals, and American citizens in particular, not to accept any given statement at face value. For an individual to benefit from the Historical discipline, they must be willing to acknowledge the bias present within every source, including their own country.

      United States freezes Japanese assets
      from History Channel

      On July 26, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt seizes all Japanese assets in the United States in retaliation for the Japanese occupation of French Indo-China.

      On July 24, Tokyo decided to strengthen its position in terms of its invasion of China by moving through Southeast Asia. Given that France had long occupied parts of the region, and Germany, a Japanese ally, now controlled most of France through Petain’s puppet government, France “agreed” to the occupation of its Indo-China colonies. Japan followed up by occupying Cam Ranh naval base, 800 miles from the Philippines, where Americans had troops, and the British base at Singapore.

      President Roosevelt swung into action by freezing all Japanese assets in America. Britain and the Dutch East Indies followed suit. The result: Japan lost access to three-fourths of its overseas trade and 88 percent of its imported oil. Japan’s oil reserves were only sufficient to last three years, and only half that time if it went to war and consumed fuel at a more frenzied pace. Japan’s immediate response was to occupy Saigon, again with Vichy France’s acquiescence. If Japan could gain control of Southeast Asia, including Malaya, it could also control the region’s rubber and tin production—a serious blow to the West, which imported such materials from the East. Japan was now faced with a dilemma: back off of its occupation of Southeast Asia and hope the oil embargo would be eased—or seize the oil and further antagonize the West, even into war.

      How U.S. Economic Warfare Provoked Japan’s Attack on Pearl Harbor
      by Robert Higgs

      In June 1940, Henry L. Stimson, who had been secretary of war under Taft and secretary of state under Hoover, became secretary of war again. Stimson was a lion of the Anglophile, northeastern upper crust and no friend of the Japanese. In support of the so-called Open Door Policy for China, Stimson favored the use of economic sanctions to obstruct Japan’s advance in Asia. Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau and Interior Secretary Harold Ickes vigorously endorsed this policy. Roosevelt hoped that such sanctions would goad the Japanese into making a rash mistake by launching a war against the United States, which would bring in Germany because Japan and Germany were allied.

      Accordingly, the Roosevelt administration, while curtly dismissing Japanese diplomatic overtures to harmonize relations, imposed a series of increasingly stringent economic sanctions on Japan. In 1939 the United States terminated the 1911 commercial treaty with Japan. “On July 2, 1940, Roosevelt signed the Export Control Act, authorizing the President to license or prohibit the export of essential defense materials.” Under this authority, “[o]n July 31, exports of aviation motor fuels and lubricants and No. 1 heavy melting iron and steel scrap were restricted.” Next, in a move aimed at Japan, Roosevelt slapped an embargo, effective October 16, “on all exports of scrap iron and steel to destinations other than Britain and the nations of the Western Hemisphere.” Finally, on July 26, 1941, Roosevelt “froze Japanese assets in the United States, thus bringing commercial relations between the nations to an effective end. One week later Roosevelt embargoed the export of such grades of oil as still were in commercial flow to Japan.”[2] The British and the Dutch followed suit, embargoing exports to Japan from their colonies in southeast Asia.

      An Untenable Position

      Roosevelt and his subordinates knew they were putting Japan in an untenable position and that the Japanese government might well try to escape the stranglehold by going to war. Having broken the Japanese diplomatic code, the Americans knew, among many other things, what Foreign Minister Teijiro Toyoda had communicated to Ambassador Kichisaburo Nomura on July 31: “Commercial and economic relations between Japan and third countries, led by England and the United States, are gradually becoming so horribly strained that we cannot endure it much longer. Consequently, our Empire, to save its very life, must take measures to secure the raw materials of the South Seas.”[3]

      Because American cryptographers had also broken the Japanese naval code, the leaders in Washington knew as well that Japan’s “measures” would include an attack on Pearl Harbor.[4] Yet they withheld this critical information from the commanders in Hawaii, who might have headed off the attack or prepared themselves to defend against it. That Roosevelt and his chieftains did not ring the tocsin makes perfect sense: after all, the impending attack constituted precisely what they had been seeking for a long time. As Stimson confided to his diary after a meeting of the war cabinet on November 25, “The question was how we should maneuver them [the Japanese] into firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.”[5] After the attack, Stimson confessed that “my first feeling was of relief … that a crisis had come in a way which would unite all our people.[6]

      Comments from above article:


      Good point Derelictus, to expand on your point: Too many discussions on Pearl Harbor and the reasons for the attack begin at 1940. The US was an imperial power that had, for half a century already, been building toward economic control of SE Asia. The Spanish American War made the US an Asian power and the heir to Spain’s Instead of freeing Spanish possessions like the Philippines, the US subjugated them. Reasonable estimates are that 300,000 Filipino dead. In the first 40 years of the 20th century the US and European powers used a military presence to open and maintain trade interests. Don’t forget that Hawaii was annexed by the US at the behest of American sugar growers on the island and the military base that was established there was a strategic site to support US military actions in SE Asia. The words of Senator Albert Beverage of Indiana in 1900 give us some insight into the motivations of US policy makers: “The Philippines are ours forever… and just beyond them are China’s illimitable markets. We will not retreat from either!” In the remainder of his speech, Beverage goes on to say that God had prepared the English-speaking and Teutonic races for world domination concluding with the assertion: “And of all our race, He has marked the American people as His chosen nation to finally lead in the regeneration of the world.” Beverage was not a voice in the wilderness, his views were mainstream enough to find support in the Senate, although not unopposed. The point is, the US began the 20th century and an aggressive imperial competitor. The men who made the decisions pursue a policy of imperialism were motivated by wealth, control of markets, and misguided sense of paternalistic racism. Those were a, maybe the, primary causal factor for other policy decisions that culminated in the Pearl Harbor tragedy.


      Never underestimate the value of propaganda. Which of your other beliefs are based on myths?

      FDR reversed decades of well-established foreign policy in order to goad Japan into war. Lt. Commander Arthur McCollum, who was one of the foremost experts on Japanese culture, beliefs, & society at the time, crafted a Memo setting forth 8 provocations (any one of which was likely to provoke war with Japan). And our esteemed Commander in Chief, took every single one of them within one year’s time.

      Japan thought America was getting ready to launch war on it.

      Richard Bogue

      Japan was not supplying the Germans with anything. Japan had been allied with the British against Germany in WWI, so there was no historical alliance between German and Japan.

      Japan’s entry into WWII as a member of the Axis had little material meaning except that the Germans were pissed about being financially ruined by the Allied victors of WWI and the Japanese were pissed about being financially ruined by US actions leading up to WWII. So, as a matter of geography and strategy, it made sense for the Axis Pact to fight on two fronts.

      The whole point being made in this very good quality essay is that Japan had been deliberately and economically strangled by the US for years prior to the Pacific War…which is PART OF what provoked them into winning assets by war in Korea, China etc. The Japanese also had a cultural tradition that they were superior to all the other Asian peoples (not to mention the residuals of various prior conflicts with Korea and China). Feeling superior and being economically strangled by the US led them to grab what they wanted…just as the US has done (and still does) since the mid 1800s.


      No, Acccording to Higgs and a lot of other people such as Admiral Richardson, who was sacked by FDR in early 1941 for warning strongly that moving the USN Pacific fleet main base from San Deigo to Pearl Harbor was dangerous and undermined fleet security, that we should have played it a lot smarter.

      Moralistic BS does not get stuff done in international politics, when you negotiate it should be with an eye on the interests of the other parties and their strengths an weaknesses. US provoking Japan into attacking us was stupid. The Japanese were in fact trying to negotiate in good faith, FDR was not. He would not meet with the Japanese Prime minister and as a result the peace party government fell, and Tojo was made prime minister.

      No reasonable person is going to say all in all given the enormous cost of the Pacific war, and the communist take-over of China made possible by the Pacific war was a better outcome than peace with Japan still holding Korea and much of China. If you think that, I submit you ought to count the dead which is over 100 million all in.


      Exactly Alfred. The Japanese govt gambled all their credibility and ‘face’ on coming to an agreement with FDR. FDR snubbed them and the govt fell. I agree that the Japanese were monsters as colonizers/imperialists. We made the world safe for communism, both Mao and the USSR. The communist death toll was worse than the Japanese killings. The US could have asked for a negotiated peace instead of unconditional surrender, both for Germany and Japan. But extending the war and total conquest is more fun.

      Also, US meddling in WWI extended the war and made the terms very unfavorable for Germany, instead of the peace terms which would have been arrived at without the US involvement. No US in WWI meant no WWII.


      You need to be specific. The Japanese had and have a parliamentary system. The pro peace govenment fell in late October 1941, replaced by the pro war Tojo government.


      The pro peace government fell because FDR snubbed the Japanese ambassador & refused to address Japan’s grievances. Japan thought the U.S. was preparing to attack it.


      Korea had been a Chinese colony until the first Sino-Japanese War. After a Japanese victory in that war, China ceded Korea & a large swath of land in China to Japan in 1895. After the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, Russia ceded its interest in Korea to Japan. And after WW1, Japan was given Germany’s colonies in China.

      Japan thought it had just as much right to Korea & parts of China as the U.S. had to Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, & California, following its disputes with Mexico.

      What the U.S. termed as Japanese aggression in Korea & parts of China, the Japanese viewed as defense of what was rightfully theirs.


      Japan and Russia had been in a near continual state of war for nearly a half century.

      Battle of Lake Khasan

      Japan massed 800,000 soldiers on the northern Manchukuo border in July of 1941, notified the U.S. that it intended to attack Soviet/Russia, & asked that the U.S. remain neutral. (See Lauchlin Curry archive, Hoover Institution Library, Box 1.) In response, the U.S. imposed a complete economic embargo on Japan, forcing it to abandon its plans to attack Soviet/Russia & instead commence plans to obtain oil from Malaya & the Dutch East Indies, which Japan could not accomplish with a powerful U.S. Navy (based in Pearl Harbor) operating in the Pacific region. See “Harry Dexter White, A Study in Paradox,” pp. 116-123 by David Rees; & “Back Door to War: The Roosevelt Foreign Policy, 1933-1941, by Charles Tansill.

      Who were the persons that recommended the economic blockade of Japan that lead to war? Those persons were Harry Dexter White & Lauchlin Currie, both of whom were Stalin’s secret agents of influence working inside the U.S. government. Entangling Japan in a War with the U.S. brought America into the War in Europe & caused Japan to change plans regarding its
      intended attack on Soviet/Russia.

      White’s memo to Morgenthau paralleled the NKVD’s instructions to him. See “The War in the Pacific could have been avoided in 1941. Stalin managed to prevent a Japanese attack on the USSR” by Vladimir Vasilevich Karpov, Nezavisimaya Gazetta, Independent Military Review, no. 2: 5 (January 21027, 2000). Karpov was a Colonel in the GRU. Karpov said that White (acting on orders from Soviet agents Vitali Pavlov & Iskhak Akhmerov) helped to provoke war with Japan in order to protect the Soviet’s interests in the Far East & its plans for Europe. Karpov said that if Japan was engaged in war with the U.S., it would have neither the will nor the wherewithal to strike against the Soviets. See also, “Operation Snow” by John Koster.

      In the Congressional investigations looking into the attack on Pearl Harbor, General Marshall was forced to make a series of damaging admissions under sharp questioning by Senator Homer Ferguson, among them was that the U.S. prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor had secretly initiated military agreements with the British and Dutch, directed against the Japanese, aimed at getting them to cut off Japan’s oil supplies in Indochina.

      U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Joseph C. Grew, revealed that FDR spurned Premier Konoye’s sincere peace proposals, leading to Konoye’s replacement by General Tojo, who pledged to do whatever was necessary to break the economic stranglehold America had put Japan in & then continuously & painfully squeezed since the summer of 1941. Tojo & others in Japan believed America had imperialist designs on Asia (similar to its conquests of Hawaii & the Philippines).

      See “Asia for Asians,” by Paula Harrell.

      The sinking by the Japanese of an American gunboat, the Panay, which had been patrolling the Yangtze, precipitated an early crisis between America & Japan. Why did we have gunboats patrolling Chinese rivers? The Panay had been convoying oil tankers owned by the Standard Oil Company.


      Read Herbert Hoover’s ‘recently’ released book, Freedom Betrayed. He says the same thing and more. That is why it was not released until a few years ago. The Japanese wanted to negotiate but FDR wanted war and lots of it. The Japanese kicked the US out of the Philippines like we kicked out the Spanish. I could never figure out why it was ours? Britain also was pushing the US toward war with Japan because some British colonies might become Japanese colonies. Bad for business.”

      Thomas Eddlem

      Don’t forget that American soldiers were already on-route to fight the Japanese imperial army months before Pearl Harbor. We know them today as the Flying Tigers, and they were officially called the American Volunteer Group. Roosevelt had them recruited from the ranks of the U.S. Army Air Corps.

    • I should admit, in being honest and fair, to my own state of ignorance. Like most Americans, I was raised in a crappy education system. Mine was probably worse than average, specifically from 8th to 12th grade in South Carolina, a place not known for valuing high quality education that promotes critical thinking and independence of thought. But I did have one really good teacher back then, an art teacher.

      The point is that none of what I’m sharing hear did I learn in school. Nor have I ever heard any corporate MSM personality or corporatocratic politician speak of such damning truths. Even after a couple of decades of independent self-education, I remained largely clueless about and mostly disinterested in all things WWII. It was only in my present 40s that I finally came to more fully learning about what was going on back then.

      It’s never too late for any of us, not even us old dogs. There is no shame in admitting one’s ignorance and changing one’s mind. In my adulthood, I’ve lost count how many times I’ve felt compelled to revise my thoughts, assumptions, biases, arguments, and conclusions. Even now, I feel like I’m still mostly in a state of overwhelming ignorance (largely enforced ignorance) and so I’m probably wrong, partly or fully, about many things.

      But not all of this is about factual knowledge. There is another kind of knowing as well. Long before I had much book learning on WWII, I had a strong intuitive and moral sense that the atomic bombing was wrong, as all terrorism and mass atrocities are wrong. This didn’t require factual evidence but a basic sense of morality, of what is right and wrong. Also helpful is an inborn suspicion toward authoritarian rhetoric and propaganda, rationalizations and narratives.

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