Saturday, August 27, 2016

SCRUTINIZING THE HIROSHIMA MYTH AND ITS LEGACY (RE-POSTED)

By Ronald T. Fox


NOTE:  While I was traveling in Italy, President Obama's visit to Hiroshima was a hot topic among political and social commentators of all sorts.    Most of the comments I read remained deeply entrenched in the Hiroshima Myth I wrote about last August: the use of the bomb was necessary to end the war and save lives, both American and Japanese, which according to the myth it did.  Despite strong evidence to the contrary, and the fact that far fewer Americans today believe nuclear weapons are a good thing, this widely-believed rationale for why the bomb was used remains unshakable.  In light of the latest round of rationalizing, I've decided to re-post my original pieces on Truman's decision to use the bomb and why the Japanese surrendered.  I have made a few modifications to the original.  (For an excellent, comprehensive history of the atomic bomb decision and why Japan surrendered, see: Paul Ham, Hiroshima Nagasaki: The Real Story of the Atomic Bombings and Their Aftermath.)    

The original posting, as modified:

Atomic Bombs Over Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Atomic Bombs Dropped on Hiroshima (left) and Nagasaki (right)

August 6th, 2015, marked the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the “Little Boy” atomic bomb on Hiroshima. As has been the case on every decennial anniversary of the bombing, the bomb’s use is currently being celebrated by politicians, media sorts, and most Americans as being responsible for ending the war and thus negating the need for an invasion of Japan’s home islands that would have caused enormous losses on both sides. This belief has achieved numinous status in the United States; most Americans accept it as an article of faith. It has become, as historian Christian Appy put it, the most successful legitimizing narrative in American history. There’s only one thing wrong with the Hiroshima narrative: it's not factual. There is perhaps no greater myth in U.S. history than the belief that the atomic bomb was the "winning weapon" that ended World War II. It’s what I call the Hiroshima Myth.

Despite doubts about the necessity to use the bomb expressed by a number of top military and political leaders at the time (and later in their personal reflections), challenges to the traditional Hiroshima narrative by several historians, and declining overall American attraction to nuclear weapons, the Hiroshima Myth remains deeply embedded in the consciousness of the overwhelming majority of Americans. How did it get so embedded? Why didn’t the highly authoritative 1947 U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, which concluded that the Japanese would have surrendered "certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to November 1 1945--even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, the Russians had not entered the war, and no invasion had been planned or contemplated," establish a different narrative?

Were the bombings instrumental in ending the war? Did they avert an invasion of the Japanese homeland and thus save lives? There’s much at stake in the answers to these questions, for if the bomb wasn't necessary to end the war, then its use on Hiroshima and, especially Nagasaki, was wrong, militarily, politically and morally, especially when one considers that these two cities were not vital military targets.

At the risk of being called unpatriotic, un-American, or worse, because the issue still touches raw emotions (Americans don't take kindly to questioning the morality of our country's purposes), I will attempt to refute the Hiroshima Myth. Fortunately I am able to draw upon information that wasn’t available when early histories of the bombings were written. This information includes a declassified paper written by a Joint Chiefs of Staff advisory group in June 1945, the personal accounts of a number of top Japanese leaders, and various bits of documentary evidence uncovered by enterprising historians. These discoveries enable a more accurate picture of bomb’s role in ending the war.

In a three-part essay, I will argue that use of the atomic bomb was not the main factor inducing Japan to surrender and Truman’s bomb-use decision was not primarily based on a desire to save American lives.  I will also argue in Part III that our enduring belief in the bomb as “the winning weapon” has had a profound impact on American culture and on how we approach national security.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S NUCLEAR MODERNIZATION PROGRAM RAISES THE RISK OF NUCLEAR WAR

By Ronald T. Fox

LRSO Concept Design
Is This the Future?
Barack Obama began his presidency with a firm pledge to rid the world of nuclear weapons. In an oft-quoted speech in Prague, he said that as the only nuclear power to have used nuclear weapons, the United States had a moral responsibility to take “concrete steps” to begin to build a world without nuclear weapons. He reaffirmed his vision of a nuclear-free world during his recent visit to Hiroshima. Lofty rhetoric aside, his current nuclear modernization program promises to spur a renewed nuclear arms race and increase the risks of nuclear war.
 

Monday, August 1, 2016

JULY 2016 BONEHEAD ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH

 

clip_image001

1. U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis), you know-- the guy who got rich (net worth over $24 million) by finding someone to support him, has a pearl of wisdom for all the working single moms out there:  If she wants to "increase her take-home pay” instead of having yet "another child out of wedlock" to increase her welfare windfall, she should instead "find someone to support her."
 
Johnson is quick to admit that he stole this incredibly sexist riff from his uber-misogynist pal, U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman.  But some things are so awesome, that you just have to use them yourself! Some variation of this single mom marrying the government instead of a marrying real man has become a central talking point of Johnson's stump speech as he gears up for re-election 2016.  
 
As anyone who works and has kids would expect, Johnson and Grothman's modern redux of the "welfare queen" has been rated "Mostly False" by Politifact and was given "Two Pinocchios" by the Washington Post's fact checker. Why?  Because it is a ridiculous notion to suggest that when you’re a single parent, working below the poverty line, you would intentionally have another child to get more government assistance and "increase your take-home pay."  Obviously, food stamps, health care and other government assistance don't come close covering all the expenses that come with having a child and what Johnson and Grothman fail to grasp in their misleading calculations of "income," is that children actually eat and children actually get sick-- the "increased income" they're talking about comes in the form of increased benefits that all (in most cases literally) get eaten-up by the children.
 
Besides, most single women with children don't receive government assistance that we typically think of as "welfare."  And, most single women are in the workforce. Most new college graduates today are women and there are even more lady lawyers and lady doctors coming down the pike than men!  
 
Of all the statements that demonstrate that Ron Johnson doesn't live in the same world as the rest of us, this one really takes the cake.  Of course, what would we expect from someone who has never had to worry about job security and making ends meet, as he coos from the protective cocoon that his wife's wealthy family has built for him?