Posts tagged Atom bomb

Refuge of Oppression #5: Twofer Tuesday edition

Here’s two pieces of correspondence that arrived within three hours of each other, on this past Tuesday. The first comes to us from Stasi [sic!] in reply to GT 2008-01-28: The tall poppies, part 3, my recent article on the spread of opium poppies as a cash crop for impoverished farmers in southern Iraq:

From: stasi
To: Rad Geek
Date: Tue, 12 Feb 2008 1:45 PM
Subject: You Must be High: Tall Poppies, III

How can you even think that raising opium plants is a suitable way of making money to raise your family out of poverty. The only to benefit from drug trade are the high powered, high financed drug cartels.

Additionally, drug use (opium, heroin, etc) has been proven to have detrimental effects on individuals, families, and SOCIETIES. Let’s ALL start raising drug inducing plants to make money.

You MUST be high to think in such terms.

Well, I’m convinced.

Remember, impoverished farmers who grow opium poppies may think that growing a lucrative cash-crop and trading pain-killers to willing customers benefits them more than would starving themselves to grow unprofitable crops that meet the approval of U.S. narcs. But whatever they may think, the Stasi knows that the only people to benefit from the drug trade are high powered, high financed drug cartels. How foolish of Iraqi farmers to think that the ability to provide for your family, rather than starving for the sake of U.S. government narco-diplomacy, would be a benefit worth counting. The Stasi certainly knows what their families want and need better than they do.

Later in the afternoon, I received this from the starr, in reply to one of my posts on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in which over 200,000 Japanese civilians (about a third of the population of Nagasaki, and more than half of the population of Hiroshima) were burned alive, crushed to death, or otherwise killed, in a deliberate use of terror-bombing on heavily-populated city centers intended to force the unconditional surrender of the Japanese government. Apparently my objection to this deliberate act of nuclear terrorism — the first and the only two cases in the history of the world — is the result of historical ignorance.

From: the starr
To: Rad Geek
Date: Tue, 12 Feb 2008, 4:23 PM
Subject: Atomic Bomb

I read your article on the Atomic Bomb, and I must say, you don’t understand World War II at all. The use of the bomb was ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. The Japanese were a brutal and evil empire and it had to be stopped. They slaughtered countless innocent people, not to mention Pearl Harbor. We urged them to surrender, but they wouldn’t. And they wouldn’t stop killing. The war would have continued for who knows how long and thousands upon thousands of more people would have died. The bomb was our only choice. You said that it killed thousands of innocent people. That’s true. But were the Japanese not doing the same? Did they not slaughter thousands of innocent people by invading other countries, including the completely un-called for attack on Pearl Harbor? There is no morality in warfare. It is foolish to try and equate them. You may want to do a little more research before you criticize the government’s carefully calculated decision.

If only I had understood World War II better before I wrote that post. I would have seen that, even though the Japanese military had already long been stopped from any further expansion, and indeed broken, long before August 1945, absolute geopolitical triumph over the Japanese government, and the territorial conquest of Japan, was far more important than the irreplaceable lives of 200,000 or more innocent non-combatants. Indeed, it was important enough to justify or excuse deliberately targeting those 200,000 or more innocent non-combatants in order to force somebody else (the dictatorial clique tyrannizing Japan) to make the necessary political concessions. And little did I know that the Japanese were all invading other countries and killing thousands of innocent people and refusing to surrender. I had foolishly thought that it was a small and unaccountable minority of the population of Japan who were extorting and tyrannizing the rest through the armed power of a military dictatorship. But since more research would have revealed that those 200,000 dead civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki (not to mention the hundreds of thousands of dead civilians from the over 100 Japanese cities that the U.S. Army attacked with low-altitude firebombing and conventional high explosives) weren’t actually non-combatants after all, but were all running around with The Japanese as a whole, invading other countries and killing thousands of innocent people, well, I guess that’s that.

Normally, I would also have thought that if you have a true statement of the form There’s no morality in that, that’s as good a reason as you could possibly find to draw the conclusion that you have an unconditional moral obligation to forswear ever engaging in that. This is another sure sign of my folly, ignorance or vice. One man’s reductio and all that; no doubt had I carefully calculated like the Masters of War in the U.S. government, when the antecedent of that is War, it would become clear that what you actually have is a military obligation to sometimes forswear engaging in morality.

My bad.

Further reading:

Bomb after bomb

Last weekend, CounterPunch featured Howard Zinn’s introduction to elin o’Hara slavick’s book of cartographic drawings of American aerial bombing, Bomb after Bomb. I agree with Mark Brady that this is one of the best things that Zinn has ever written. Some of the most important stuff in the essay has to do with patriotism, the conflation of the country with the State, and the criminality of aerial warfare as such. A sample:

We have had enough experience, with the Nuremberg trials of the Nazi leaders, with the bombings carried out by the Allies, with the torture stories coming out of Iraq, to know that ordinary people with ordinary consciences will allow their instincts for decency to be overcome by the compulsion to obey authority. It is time therefore, to educate the coming generation in disobedience to authority, to help them understand that institutions like governments and corporations are cold to anything but self-interest, that the interests of powerful entities run counter to the interests of most people.

This clash of interest between governments and citizens is camouflaged by phrases that pretend that everyone in the nation has a common interest, and so wars are waged and bombs dropped for national security, national defense, and national interest.

Patriotism is defined as obedience to government, obscuring the difference between the government and the people. Thus, soldiers are led to believe that we are fighting for our country when in fact they are fighting for the government — an artificial entity different from the people of the country — and indeed are following policies dangerous to its own people.

My own reflections on my experiences as a bombardier, and my research on the wars of the United States have led me to certain conclusions about war and the dropping of bombs that accompany modern warfare.

One: The means of waging war (demolition bombs, cluster bombs, white phosphorus, nuclear weapons, napalm) have become so horrendous in their effects on human beings that no political end– however laudable, the existence of no enemy — however vicious, can justify war.

Two: The horrors of the means are certain, the achievement of the ends always uncertain.

Three: When you bomb a country ruled by a tyrant, you kill the victims of the tyrant.

Four: War poisons the soul of everyone who engages in it, so that the most ordinary of people become capable of terrible acts.

Five: Since the ratio of civilian deaths to military deaths in war has risen sharply with each subsequent war of the past century (10% civilian deaths in World War I, 50% in World War II, 70% in Vietnam, 80-90% in Afghanistan and Iraq) and since a significant percentage of these civilians are children, then war is inevitably a war against children.

Six: We cannot claim that there is a moral distinction between a government which bombs and kills innocent people and a terrorist organization which does the same. The argument is made that deaths in the first case are accidental, while in the second case they are deliberate. However, it does not matter that the pilot dropping the bombs does not intend to kill innocent people — that he does so is inevitable, for it is the nature of bombing to be indiscriminate. Even if the bombing equipment is so sophisticated that the pilot can target a house, a vehicle, there is never certainty about who is in the house or who is in the vehicle.

Seven: War, and the bombing that accompanies war, are the ultimate terrorism, for governments can command means of destruction on a far greater scale than any terrorist group.

These considerations lead me to conclude that if we care about human life, about justice, about the equal right of all children to exist, we must, in defiance of whatever we are told by those in authority, pledge ourselves to oppose all wars.

— Howard Zinn, Introduction to elin o’Hara slavick’s Bomb after Bomb

Read the whole thing.

(Via Mark Brady @ Liberty & Power 2007-12-15.)

Sauce for the goose

In the federal government’s ongoing efforts to salvage COINTELPRO from the dustbin of history, the House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 1955, a bill that would, if it also passes the Senate, create a new National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism and a Center of Excellence for the Study of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism in the United States (sic!), which would study the social, criminal, political, psychological, and economic roots of violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism in the United States and methods that can be utilized by Federal, State, local, and tribal homeland security officials to mitigate violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism.

Here are the definitions for the unwieldy jargon used in the bill:

(2) VIOLENT RADICALIZATION–The term violent radicalization means the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change.

(3) HOMEGROWN TERRORISM–The term homegrown terrorism means the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily within the United States or any possession of the United States to intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population of the United States, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.

(4) IDEOLOGICALLY BASED VIOLENCE–The term ideologically based violence means the use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual’s political, religious, or social beliefs.

Well, O.K., fine. If that is what the Center for Excellence &c. is going to study, then they may as well start with the worst offenders. May I suggest that they begin with studying the social, criminal, political, psychological, and economic roots of the extremist propaganda coming out of Office of National Drug Control Policy, which promotes the use of force or violence by armed narcs to promote the Drug Warriors’ political and social beliefs against the will of the civilian population? Or perhaps the Internal Revenue Service, which routinely engages in the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence to intimidate or coerce the civilian population of the United States, in furtherance of the United States government’s political objectives with respect to the war on Iraq, Social Security, corporate welfare, government schooling, the drug war, etc.? Or perhaps the Department of Defense, which has used repeated, massive, and merciless ideologically-based violence in order to promote the federal government’s ideology with respect to parliamentary government, nuclear disarmament, etc., etc., etc., in countries all over the world?

I fully expect that they will get right on it. After all, you’d hardly expect a double-standard from the State when it comes to ideologically-based violence.

(Story thanks to Stephanie McMillan 2007-10-28.)

“It was a different time,” or: moral standards, part 2

At Distributed Intelligence 2007-08-06, Andrew Perraut has an interesting post considering the atomic massacre at Hiroshima in light of just war theory. He argues:

I’m not sure how anyone could argue that this was clearly justified, [as claimed elsewhere by Bruce Bartlett] since it seems, rather, prima facie unjust in the absence of strong countervailing reasons to drop the bomb. If the very existence or sovereignty of the United States would have been compromised by not destroying Hiroshima, perhaps that would be enough, but was that the case? And was it the case that only by deliberately targeting the civilian population we could save ourselves? The second questions is the most important, and most defenders of the decision gloss over it, because there isn’t a good answer. If detonating Fat Man over an isolated military installation would have convinced the Japanese government to surrender, Hiroshima looks less like a military/scientific triumph and more like a war crime.

— Andrew Perraut, Distributed Intelligence (2007-08-06): Hiroshima and Nuclear Weapons

I’d add only that, all things considered, I can’t possibly see how the very existence or sovereignty of the United States is worth a damn compared to the lives of 140,000 innocent people. How many real, individual people could be killed or maimed or otherwise ruined in the name of preserving the lines and colors on a map? If the only way to preserve the United States were the unprovoked, deliberate killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, then I’d say that the lives of those people are infinitely more important, and the abstract entity known as the United States properly ought to die.

That said, I’d like to turn my attention to the comments. A commenter named Michael says something very odd in his reply:

That’s not to justify it morally. But, looking at the time, World War II was so brutal and bombing was simply the allied answer to Axis atrocities on the ground and at sea. The firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo, as thorough as the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki attest to this. It was a different time and the traditional rules of war had been largely thrown out the window (interestingly we still observed proper treatment of POWs even then).

Of course, it was a different time in 1945. But Hiroshima happened only 62 years ago. This kind of argument might get some kind of grip if we were talking about an event so long ago that it happened in a radically different civilizational context — say, 600 or 6,000 years ago. I would still find it bogus, but I could understand where the arguer was coming from. But we are not even talking about that. We are talking about something that happened within living memory. Paul Tibbets, the man who flew the Enola Gay, is still alive today. Thomas Ferebee, the man who actually dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, died only 7 years ago. As of March 2005, Tibbets expressed no remorse over his acts, saying If you give me the same circumstances, hell yeah, I’d do it again. Sure, time is always passing and things are always changing. But just how soon in the past does something have to be for the war apologists of the world to allow plain old straightforward moral evaluation of the act or the people involved in committing it? Are we next going to throw up our hands about My Lai, or Abu Ghraib, or something that happened last Thursday, on the grounds that It was a different time?

Further reading:

8:15 AM, August 6th, 1945. Hiroshima, Japan.

Here is a pocket watch, stopped at 8:15am.

This pocket watch belonged to Kengo Nikawa, a 59-year-old civilian worker living in Hiroshima, Japan. A gift from his son, Kazuo Nikawa, the watch was one of his most precious belongings. It is stopped at 8:15 A.M., the time at which an atomic bomb exploded about 200 yards over his home-town, Hiroshima, Japan.

This is one of the artifacts featured today at Dulce Et Decorum Est: 2007-08-06, in memory of the American government’s deliberate massacre of about 140,000 civilians in Hiroshima 62 years ago today. As far as I am aware, the atomic bombing of the Hiroshima city center, which deliberately targeted a civilian center and killed over half of the people living in the city, remains the deadliest act of terrorism in the history of the world.

Further reading: