From nobody Wed Dec 31 09:48:41 2003
From: (Benedikt Brown)
Subject: Hiroshima 1945: Behind The U.S. Atom Bomb Atrocity
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Date: Tue, 30 Dec 2003 22:58:35 GMT

Hiroshima 1945: Behind The U.S. Atom Bomb Atrocity

By Fred Halstead, The Militant, 14 August 1995

On Aug. 6, 1945, and again on August 9, the U.S. government dropped the first and second atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Tens of thousands of people died instantly, with thousands more dying later. This year marks the 50th anniversary of that atrocity.

The following article appeared in the Jan. 25, 1965, issue of the Militant under the headline What the Record Shows: U.S. Guilt at Hiroshima. The author, Fred Halstead, was a longtime leader of the Socialist Workers Party.

As the SWP's candidate for president in 1968, Halstead took a trip around the world, visiting Japan, South Vietnam, India, Egypt, West Germany, France, and Britain. In Japan he attended several peace conferences, addressing a session of the Japan Conference Against A- and H-Bombs on August 6 in Hiroshima.

That Japan was truly making sincere requests for peace, before and at the time of the Hiroshima A-bomb, is an undisputed fact of history. It is so well established that even popular history books and standard reference works recently published in this country cannot ignore it.

The obvious implications of the fact are so damning to the moral position of the American capitalist power structure and so unpleasant to the American people generally, however, that the fact is not often squarely faced in this country, even by many pacifist critics of the government's nuclear warfare policies. In the popular histories and reference works, it is generally glossed over with the briefest, most off-hand mention—after the style of West German textbook references to Nazi crimes—as if the unpleasant fact could somehow be buried and forgotten if it is given the low-key treatment.

And indeed the general impression still exists in this country (but not abroad) that somehow the dropping of the A-bombs on Japan caused the end of the war and eliminated a bloody invasion of the Japanese home islands, thus saving more lives than the A-bombs themselves snuffed out. This is a lie manufactured and spread in the first place by President Truman and British prime ministers Churchill and Attlee, who took responsibility for the decision to drop the bombs. It is nothing but the official trumped-up alibi for one of the most shocking and unjustified war crimes in all human history.

What are the facts? This is what the Encyclopedia Britannica (1959 edition) has to say: After the fall of Okinawa [on June 21, 1945], [Japanese Prime Minister] Suzuki's main objective was to get Japan out of the war on the best possible terms, though that could not be announced to the general public... Unofficial peace feelers were transmitted through Switzerland and Sweden... Later the Japanese made a formal request to Russia to aid in bringing hostilities to an end.

The Britannica then completes its coverage by saying that Russia rebuffed the Japanese overtures because it didn't want the war to end before it was scheduled to invade the northern areas occupied by Japan. What the Britannica fails to mention is that these Japanese overtures were known to Washington because the dispatches between Foreign Minister Togo in Tokyo and Japanese Ambassador Sato in Moscow were intercepted by the United States.

The entire affair is documented in the Hoover Library volume Japan's Decision to Surrender, by Robert J.C. Butlow (Stanford University, 1954). Butlow quotes the dispatch that was received and decoded in Washington on July 13, 1945:Togo to Sato...Convey His Majesty's strong desire to secure a termination of the war...Unconditional surrender is the only obstacle to peace. These requests continued through July.

Butlow documents that Washington knew the one condition insisted upon by the Japanese government was the continuation of the emperor on his throne and the symbolic recognition this implied of the Japanese home islands as a political entity. As it turned out this was exactly the condition that was granted when the peace was finally signed after the A-bombings August 6 and 9.

If the U.S. government knew as early as July 13 that the leading circles in Japan were seeking peace on those terms, why didn't it pursue this possibility for peace instead of ignoring it and proceeding with the A-bombings? There is simply no satisfactory answer to this question from the point of view of the military demands of ending the war—even on U.S. imperialist terms—and saving soldiers' lives.

Twice guilty As Hanson W. Baldwin, the New York Times military analyst, said in his book Great Mistakes of the War (1949):

Our only warning to a Japan already militarily defeated, and in a hopeless situation, was the Potsdam demand for unconditional surrender issued on July 26, when we knew the Japanese surrender attempt had started. Yet when the Japanese surrender was negotiated about two weeks later, after the bomb was dropped, our unconditional surrender demand was made conditional and we agreed, as [Secretary of War] Stimson had originally proposed we should do, to continuation of the Emperor upon his imperial throne.

We were, therefore, twice guilty. We dropped the bomb at a time when Japan already was negotiating for an end of the war, but before these negotiations could come to fruition. We demanded unconditional surrender, then dropped the bomb and accepted conditional surrender, a sequence which indicates pretty clearly that the Japanese would have surrendered, even if the bomb had not been dropped, had the Potsdam Declaration included our promise to permit the Emperor to remain on his imperial throne.

Why, then, did the United States drop the bombs? One of the few writers who claims to believe the official alibi is Robert C. Batchelder, author of the well-documented The Irreversible Decision (1962). Even Batchelder admits: It seems clear that had the [U.S.] attempt to end the war by political and diplomatic means been undertaken sooner, more seriously, and with more skill, the decision to use the atomic bomb might well have been rendered unnecessary.

Batchelder explains the affair away by attributing it to U.S. diplomatic inefficiency and a tendency in U.S. leaders to deal with the war in purely military terms and neglect political aspects. But the evidence indicates the final A-bomb decision was made precisely for political reasons.

Indeed, some top U.S. military men—including Eisenhower and the chief of staff of the U.S. armed forces at the time, Adm. William D. Leahy—declined to support use of the bomb. In his book, I Was There (1950), Leahy says: 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.

It was my reaction that the scientists and others wanted to make this test [!] because of the vast sums that had been spent on the project. Truman knew that, and so did the people involved. However, the Chief Executive made the decision to use the bomb on two cities in Japan.

Live targets

This test on Hiroshima and Nagasaki cost, by the conservative American estimates, 110,000 dead and as many injured; and, by Japanese estimates, twice that many. The evidence strongly indicates that one major motivation of the A-bomb decision was precisely to test the bomb on live targets, so as to confront the postwar world with the proven fact of overwhelming U.S. military superiority. It also established the fact that U.S. imperialism not only had the bomb but had the ruthlessness to use it.

The haste with which the bomb was used indicates that the U.S. purposely ignored the Japanese peace requests (which were known in Washington on July 13) in order to drop the bomb before the war ended. No one was sure the bomb would work until July 18 when it was tested in New Mexico. The only other two bombs in existence were quickly dispatched to the Pacific base and were dropped on August 6 and 9. This haste is unexplained by combat problems. By that stage of the war U.S. bombers and ships encountered no serious resistance and no U.S. troop attacks were scheduled until November 1, so the haste was not necessary to save American lives.

One of the most thoughtful works on the subject is that by the British nuclear scientist, P.M.S. Blackett, entitled Fear, War and the Bomb (London, 1949). Blackett points out: If the saving of American lives had been the main objective, surely the bombs would have been held back until (a) it was certain that the Japanese peace proposals made through Russia were not acceptable, and (b) the Russian offensive, which had for months been part of the allied strategic plan, and which Americans had previously demanded, had run its course.

Bomb aimed against Soviet Union This last is the final piece in the puzzle. It is Blackett's well-founded thesis that one reason for the haste was to drop the bomb before the Russians entered the war against Japan. The allies had already agreed at Yalta that the USSR would attack Japan three months after Germany surrendered. Stalin had notified the United States that the Russian armies would be ready for that attack on schedule, that is, August 8. The bomb was dropped on Hiroshima August 6.

In another book by Blackett, Atomic Weapons and East- West Relations (London, 1956), the scientist discusses the later feelings of some of his American colleagues who had been involved in the decision to use the A-bomb:

The opposition between 1949 and 1951 of so many atomic scientists to the H-bomb program must, I think, be taken as the price the American Government paid for lack of candor in 1945. If the scientists had been told that Japan had been essentially defeated and was suing for peace, but that the dropping of the bombs won for America a vital diplomatic victory, since it kept the Soviet Union out of the Japanese peace settlement and so avoided the difficulties and frictions inherent in the German surrender, I expect most would have accepted, however reluctantly, the practical wisdom of the act. They were not told this, but they were told that the bomb saved untold American lives. When they later learnt that this was rather unlikely, many of them must have begun to fear that their government might not be able to resist some future temptation to exploit America's atomic superiority...

To sum up: That Japan was defeated and suing for peace before the bombs were dropped is a fact established beyond doubt. The motivations of U.S. rulers in dropping the bombs anyway is, of course, a disputed question. But the evidence utterly fails to support the official alibi that it was done to avoid costly battles. On the contrary, the evidence overwhelmingly indicates that the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were murdered, not to end World War II, but to launch what later came to be known as the cold war.