United States bombing Japan in the Second World War was a demonstration of psychopathic brutality. It was unnecessary, as Japan was already defeated, but it was meant to send a message to the Soviets. Before the dust had settled from the savagery, the power-mongers among the Allied leadership were already planning for a Third World War (Cold War Ideology and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies), even though the beleaguered Soviets had no interest in more war as they took the brunt of the decimation and death count in defeating the Nazis.
The United States, in particular, having come out wealthier after the war thought that the Soviets would be an easy target to take out and so they sought to kick their former allies while they were still down. The US, in a fit of paranoia and psychosis, was scheming to drop hundreds of atomic bombs on Russia, to eliminate them before they could get the chance to develop their own nuclear weapons. Yet Stalin never planned, much less intended, to attack the West nor did he think they had the capacity to do so. All of the archives that were opened after the Soviet collapse showed that Stalin simply wanted to develop a trading partnership with the West, as he stated was his intention. Through the intervention of spies, the Soviets did start their own nuclear program and then demonstrated their capacity. So, a second nuclear attack by the United States was narrowly averted and the Third World War was downgraded to the Cold War (see article and book at the end of the post).
This topic has come up before in this blog, but let’s come at it from a different angle. Consider General Douglas MacArthur. He was no pacifist or anything close to approximating one. He was a megalomaniac with good PR, a bully and a jerk, an authoritarian and would-be strongman hungering for power and fame. He “publicly lacked introspection. He was also vain, borderline corrupt, ambitious and prone to feuds” (Andrew Fe, Why was General MacArthur called “Dugout Doug?”). Also, he was guilty of insubordination, always certain he was right; and the times that events went well under his command were often because he took credit for other people’s ideas, plans and actions. His arrogance eventually led him to being removed from his position and that ended his career.
He was despised by many who worked with him and served under him. “President Harry Truman considered MacArthur a glory-seeking egomaniac, describing him at one point as “God’s right hand man” ” (Alpha History, Douglas MacArthur). Dwight Eisenhower, who knew him well from years of army service, “disliked MacArthur for his vanity, his penchant for theatrics, and for what Eisenhower perceived as “irrational” behavior” (National Park Service, Most Disliked Contemporaries). MacArthur loved war and had psychopathic level of disregard for the lives of others, sometimes to the extent of seeking victory at any cost. There are two examples that demonstrate this, one before the Second World War and the other following after.
Early in his career with Eisenhower and George S. Patton under his command, there was the infamous attack on the Bonus Army camp, consisting of WWI veterans — along with their families — protesting for payment of the money they were owed by the federal government (Mickey Z., The Bonus Army). He was ordered to remove the protesters but to do so non-violently. Instead, as became a pattern with him, he disobeyed those orders by having the protesters gassed and the camp trampled and torched. This led to the death of several people, including an infant. This was one of his rare PR disasters, to say the least. And trying to sue journalists for libel didn’t help.
The later example was in 1950. In opposition to President Harry Truman, “MacArthur favored waging all-out war against China. He wanted to drop 20 to 30 atomic bombs on Manchuria, lay a “radioactive belt of nuclear-contaminated material” to sever North Korea from China, and use Chinese Nationalist and American forces to annihilate the million or so Communist Chinese troops in North Korea” (Max Boot, He Has Returned). Some feared that, if the General had his way, he might start another world war… or rather maybe the fear was about China not being the preferred enemy some of the ruling elite wanted to target for the next world war.
Certainly, he was not a nice guy nor did he have any respect for democracy, human rights, or any other such liberal values. If he had been born in Germany instead, he would have made not merely a good Nazi but a great Nazi. He was a right-wing reactionary and violent imperialist, as he was raised to be by his military father who modeled imperialist aspirations (Rethinking History, Rating General Douglas MacArthur). He felt no sympathy or pity for enemies. Consider how he was willing to treat his fellow citizens, including some veterans in the Bonus Army who served beside him in the previous world war. His only loyalty was to his own sense of greatness and the military-industry that promoted him into power.
But what did General MacArthur, right-wing authoritarian that he was, think about dropping atomic bombs on an already defeated Japan? He thought it an unnecessary and cruel act toward a helpless civilian population consisting mostly of women, children and the elderly; an opinion he shared with many other military leaders at the time. Besides, as Norman Cousins, consultant to General MacArthur during the occupation of Japan, wrote, “MacArthur… saw no military justification for dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor” (quoted in Cameron Reilly’s The Psychopath Epidemic).
There was no reason, in his mind, to destroy a country when it was already defeated and instead could serve the purposes of the American Empire. For all of his love of war and violence, he showed no interest in vengeance or public humiliation toward the Japanese people. After the war, he was essentially made an imperial administrator and colonial governor of Japan, and he ruled with paternalistic care and fair-minded understanding. War was one thing and ruling another. Even an authoritarian should be able to tell the difference between these two.
It made no sense, the reasons given for incinerating two large cities and their populations in a country that couldn’t have fought back at that point even if the leadership had wanted to. What MacArthur understood was that the Japanese simply wanted to save face as much as possible while coming to terms with defeat and negotiating their surrender. Further violence was simply psychopathic brutality. There is no way of getting around that ugly truth. So, why have Americans been lied to and indoctrinated to believe otherwise for generations since? Well, because the real reasons couldn’t be given.
The atomic bombing wasn’t an act to end a war but to start another one, this time against the Soviets. To honestly and openly declare a new war before the last war had even ended would not have gone over well with the American people. And once this action was taken it could never be revealed, not even when all those involved had long been dead. Propaganda narratives, once sustained long enough, take on a life of their own. The tide is slowly turning, though. As each generation passes, fewer and fewer remain who believe it was justified, from 85 percent in 1945 to 56 percent in 2015.
When the last generation raised on WWII propaganda dies, that percentage will finally drop below the 50 percent mark and maybe we will then have an honest discussion about the devastating results of moral failure that didn’t end with those atomic bombs but have been repeated in so many ways since then. The crimes against humanity in bombing of Japan were echoed in the travesty of the Vietnam War and the Iraq War. Millions upon millions dead over the decades from various military actions by the Pentagon and covert operations by the CIA combined with sanctions that are considered declarations of war. Sanctions, by the way, were what incited the Japanese to attack the United States. In enforcing sanctions against a foreign government, the United States entered the war of its own volition by effectively declaring war against Japan and then acted surprised when they defended themselves.
All combined, through direct and indirect means, that possibly adds up into hundreds of millions in body count of innocents sacrificed so far since American imperial aspirations began. This easily matches the levels of atrocity seen in the most brutal regimes of the past (Investing in Violence and Death, Endless Outrage, Evil Empire, & State and Non-State Violence Compared). The costs are high. When will there be a moral accounting?
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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 Psychopath Epidemic
by Cameron Reilly
Another of my favorite examples of the power of brainwashing by the military-industrial complex is that of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States in 1945. Within the first two to four months of the attacks, the acute effects killed 90,000-166,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000-80,000 in Nagasaki, with roughly half of the deaths in each city occurring on the first day. The vast majority of the casualties were civilians.
In the seventy-three years that have passed since Hiroshima, poll after poll has shown that most Americans think that the bombings were wholly justified. According to a survey in 2015, fifty-six percent of Americans agreed that the attacks were justified, significantly less than the 85 percent who agreed in 1945 but still high considering the facts don’t support the conclusion.
The reasons most Americans cite for the justification of the bombings is that they stopped the war with Japan; that Japan started the war with the attack on Pearl Harbor and deserved punishment; and that the attacks prevented Americans from having to invade Japan causing more deaths on both sides. These “facts” are so deeply ingrained in most American minds that they believe them to be fundamental truths. Unfortunately, they don’t stand up to history.
The truth is that the United States started the war with Japan when it froze Japanese assets in the United States and embargoed the sale of oil the country needed. Economic sanctions then, as now, are considered acts of war.
As for using the bombings to end war, the U.S. was well aware in the middle 1945 that the Japanese were prepared to surrender and expected it would happen when the USSR entered the war against them in August 1945, as pre-arranged between Truman and Stalin. The primary sticking point for the Japanese was the status of Emperor Hirohito. He was considered a god by his people, and it was impossible for them to hand him over for execution by their enemies. It would be like American Christians handing over Jesus, or Italian Catholics handing over the pope. The Allies refused to clarify what Hirohito’s status would be post-surrender. In the end, they left him in place as emperor anyway.
One American who didn’t think using the atom bomb was necessary was Dwight Eisenhower, future president and, at the time, the supreme allied commander in Europe. He believed:
Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and… the use of a weapon whose employment was, I though, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of “face.”…
Admiral William Leahy, chief of staff to Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, agreed.
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 because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to maek war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.
Norman Cousins was a consultant to General MacArthur during the American occupation of Japan. Cousins wrote that
MacArthur… saw no military justification for dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor.
If General Dwight Eisenhower, General Douglas MacArthur, and Admiral William Leahy all believed dropping atom bombs on Japan was unnecessary, why do so many American civilians still today think it was?
Probably because they have been told to think that, repeatedly, in a carefully orchestrated propaganda campaign, enforced by the military-industrial complex (that Eisenhower tried to warn us about), that has run continuously since 1945.
As recently as 1995, the fiftieth anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Smithsonian Institute was forced to censor its retrospective on the attacks under fierce pressure from Congress and the media because it contained “text that would have raised questions about the morality of the decision to drop the bomb.”
On August 15, 1945, about a week after the bombing of Nagasaki, Truman tasked the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey to conduct a study on the effectiveness of the aerial attacks on Japan, both conventional and atomic. Did they affect the Japanese surrender?
The survey team included hundreds of American officers, civilians, and enlisted men, based in Japan. They interviewed 700 Japanese military, government, and industry officials and had access to hundreds of Japanese wartime documents.
Less than a year later, they published their conclusion—that Japan would likely have surrendered in 1945 without the Soviet declaration of war and without an American invasion: “It cannot be said that the atomic bomb convinced the leaders who effected the peace of the necessity of surrender. The decision to surrender, influenced in part by knowledge of the low state of popular morale, had been taken at least as early as 26 June at a meeting of the Supreme War Guidance Council in the presence of the Emperor.”
June 26 was six weeks before the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The emperor wanted to surrender and had been trying to open up discussions with the Soviets, the only country with whom they still had diplomatic relations.
According to many scholars, the final straw would have come on August 15 when the Soviet Union, as agreed months previously with the Truman administration, were planning to declare they were entering the war with Japan.
But instead of waiting, Truman dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan on August 6.
The proposed American invasion of the home islands wasn’t scheduled until November.