Monday, April 01, 2013


Hiroshima Peace Memorial
Today I stood at the epicentre of the first atom bomb’s target. On 6 August 1945 this bomb was dropped from an American B-29, the Enola Gay, at 0815 local time. Nearly 70,000 people are believed to have been killed immediately, with possibly another 70,000 survivors dying of injuries and radiation exposure by 1950. And I mourned the loss of 140 000 lives.

I grew up with the names Hiroshima and Nagasaki in my subconscious. Both my grandfather and my father spoke of the end of the war in the Pacific Ocean with sadness. Both spoke of the necessity of dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in order to end the war. The story of my youth goes like this: The Allied leaders were concerned about attacking Japan. Personnel at the American Navy Department estimated the invading Allies would suffer between 1.7 and 4 million casualties in such a scenario, of whom between 400,000 and 800,000 would be dead, while Japanese casualties would have been around 5 to 10 million.[1] It was therefore argued that dropping the atom bomb actually saved lives.

I have since discovered that this is simply untrue. In the words of Dwight D Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe: "Japan was already defeated and dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary."[2]
Other military leaders concurred:

Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, reflected this reality when he wrote, "The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace.the atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military point of view, in the defeat of Japan." Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to President Truman, said the same thing: "The use of [the atomic bombs] at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender."[3]
Oh Crap! So someone told a lie. But why was it told? Well it seems that everything was about influence in the Pacific. The Americans were worried about the communists gaining influence in China if communist Russia moved into the Pacific. The United States needed to end the war immediately, before Russia declared war on Japan. So dropping the bomb was about US self-interest in the Pacific.

And I am more convinced than ever that Jesus is right when he challenges his followers to “Love your enemies” (Luke 6:27). I have never understood this commandment as a submissive acquiescence to injustice. It demands rigorous resistance of all that is evil – including war. War does not make us better human beings. It brings us all down to the same level of evil. I continue to commit my life to teaching and practising peace.

We're sick and tired of hearing,
That the world is gonna blow,
So there's something we'll do to the leaders,
Before we go;

Let's stick 'em in a room together - Yeah!!
And make them fight it out,
Until they see nothing from nothing,
Will leave nothing at all

The Getaway - Chris De Burgh

[3] Ibid.

1 comment:

Steve Hayes said...

Much the same applies to the Nato war against Yugoslavia in 1999. The US refused to negotiate because Madeleine "We think the price is worth it" Albright wanted a war at all costs.

And the price that she thought was worth it (for maintaining US hegemony in the Middle East) was half a million Iraqi children -- many more than died at Hiroshima.