Thursday, August 04, 2005

Stop worrrying, and learn to love the bomb.

How do you turn a story about suffering and courage into a preachy polemic? It's easy really. Just turn the story over to Minnesota's premier communis rixatrix, Katherine Kersten. She did it again today, August 4th. We're coming up on the 60th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In a column entitled The Bomb saved innumerable lives, Katherine first tells us about the cruelty of the Japanese war machine. It was unimaginably cruel. She actually interviewed a couple of vets from the Pacific theater of WWII; they have gripping stories to tell.

Spotty says that if you are interested in accounts like these, you should read The Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides. It is the story of the Bataan death march and the rescue of the survivors of the march by Army Rangers at the close of the war. The Rape of Nankin by Iris Chang is also recommended.

After landing on Utah Beach and sloughing across Europe until VE Day, and then being sent stateside for ultimate redeployment for the invasion of Japan, Spotty's alter ego's dad was pretty glad the war ended when it did, too. However.

Katherine complains that we've forgotten about 1945:
As the 60th anniversary of "the bomb" approaches, we've largely forgotten conditions in 1945. Our children get ideas about the war from books such as "Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes," an elementary school favorite about a young Hiroshima victim. They learn of the bomb's horrors but not why it was dropped.
Never mind that World War II has been fought for sixty years by every movie star from John Wayne to Jimmy Stewart to George Scott to Tom Hanks to that mannequin from St. Paul. If you watch the History Channel, you would think that WWII is the only thing that ever happened. The Whiskey Rebellion, now that's been forgotten, but WWII? The statement is laughable.

Then, Katherine has to pick on the author of a book who lived through the Hiroshima bombing as a child and the teachers (all undoubtedly public school teachers of course) who assign it in class. Katherine is afraid that reading about the suffering of innocents other than ourselves will teach empathy, clearly an undesirable trait in young Americans.

It isn't even clear that the atomic bombs were solely responsible for the end of the war. In an article in the online version of US News and World Report, the Japanese surrendered on August 15th, and their surrender may have had as much to do with the fact that Russia declared war on Japan on the 9th of August:
While there's no doubt that the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima 60 years ago profoundly changed the world, it's less clear than ever that it was the decisive measure it has long been portrayed to be. In a recent book, Racing the Enemy, which draws on Russian, American, and Japanese archives, Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, a professor of history at the University of California-Santa Barbara, argues that it was the Soviet Union's declaration of war on August 9 that ultimately prompted Japan's August 15 surrender. That move dashed the hopes of Tokyo hard-liners that the imperial house could be preserved and that unconditional surrender--as demanded by the Allies--could be avoided. "The official history of the Japanese imperial headquarters states very laconically that the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki didn't have any influence on the outcome of the surrender debate," says Hasegawa, whose book is one of the first to make a detailed study of the political interplay among the Soviet Union, Japan, and the United States in 1945. "Japan had already suffered massive destruction greater than that caused by the atomic bomb, and the leadership was more concerned with the final status of the emperor than civilian casualties."
You can read the whole article here. The Russians, my God, the Russians.

The article also explains why Hiroshima and Nagasaki were chosen for the bomb drops:
Five months earlier, American planes had dropped more than half a million canisters of napalm on Tokyo, killing between 100,000 and 200,000 people--roughly the same number of casualties as in Hiroshima and Nagasaki--and laying waste to more than 16 square miles of the city. Similar raids decimated most of Japan's major cities in the final months of the war. Indeed, one of the reasons Hiroshima and Nagasaki were selected was that they were among the only cities untouched by conventional bombing. The effect of the new bomb would be more evident on virgin targets.
In other words, these two cities were of no evident military or industrial value, since they had not been bombed before.

Spotty's purpose is not to rehash the decision to bomb these two Japanese cities. He does wish that Kersten had at least some capacity to understand that things aren't always black or white, good or bad.

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