The L.A. Times had this week two op-eds on Hiroshima. That’s way above average; the NY Times, for example, had none. Instead, the NY Times editors managed to harness the August 6 holocaust to score a political cheap shot in support of the White House policy of defending its nuclear supremacy.
Back to the LA Times. In The Myth of Hiroshima Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, authors of a biography of Robert Oppenheimar, review briefly the reasons why the common justifications for the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are wrong: the bombs were not the cause of the Japanese surrender, they didn’t save lives, etc.
While it’s good to see the LA Times correct the historical record on such an important national myth, I am somewhat disappointed by the lackluster op-ed. So many words have been written about the subject by so many gifted writers. One feels the LA editors didn’t put their heart into the matter. That’s sad, especially because they did manage to find a very good writer to justify the bombing of Hiroshima.
In a tighter and better written op-ed the neo-con uber-hawk Max Boot explains why he is quite ok with Hiroshima. His main point–there was nothing unusual about the A-bombs.
These criticisms [of the bombing] rest, it seems to me, on a profoundly ahistorical assumption: that there was something unusual about what happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It’s true that the atomic bombs were, by many orders of magnitude, the most powerful explosives ever employed. But the havoc they caused, with a combined death toll of over 100,000, was far from unprecedented. By the time the Enola Gay took off, at least 600,000 Germans and 200,000 Japanese had already been killed in Allied air raids. Conventional explosives had reduced all of the major cities of both countries to rubble. In the end, no more than one-third of the total Japanese deaths from air raids — and just 3.5% of the total land area destroyed — could be attributed to Fat Man and Little Boy.
He is right about that. Morally speaking, there was nothing unusual about the atom bomb. Massacre of civilians has been the way war has always been fought; World War II was a culmination of two centuries of ever increasing “strategic” firepower, i.e. the power to destroy the enemy’s civilian base. The A-Bomb was more of the same.
Boot ignores the inconvenient evidence that Truman and his team knew the nuclear attack, unlike the previous bombing of Japanese and German civilians, was unnecessary. But why bother with details? The A-Bomb contributed to the changing perceptions of war. Its power to destroy got our attention in ways other bombs didn’t, undermining public enthousiasm for war. Boot, together with his neo-con cons, would like to undo the damage done to the war making capacity of the state. He draws another lesson for the A-Bomb’s banality: war is war, A-bomb or not; civilians die, tough but necessary. War is the enemy’s fault anyway and wining it quickly justifies indiscriminate mass murder.
So rejoice America, and be ready to kill as many civilians it may require to achieve your policy objectives. It’s ok because you are always right and the enemy is evil. The squemish may call it “terrorism”, but you know–Boot told you–that it’s just normal behavior.
There are, however, many war atrocities that have never been defended so eloquently on the pages of the LA Times. Please write to the LA Times to complain that this is unfair and unbalanced. There must be at least one neo-Nazi with good writing skills somewhere in L.A. whom the Times could tap for an op-ed.
g.a.evildoer a-t gmail.com