THE HIROSHIMA-FERGUSON CONNECTION

14 12 2014

music:  Christy Moore, “Hiroshima Nagasaki Russian Roulette“(lyrics)

From time to time, I find myself telling somebody that the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not necessary, and often as not I am met with the rejoinder that the attacks “saved American lives.”  I’ve been meaning to explore that reasoning for a while, but recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, and Cleveland and Dayton Ohio, to name just four examples, have brought the subject to the fore, and I think that going into this meme in some depth, and tracing its history both backwards and forwards from 1945, might just raise somebody’s consciousness besides mine–which, as those who know me well will attest, needs all the elevation it can get.

The historical record seems to indicate that the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks were, in fact, entirely superfluous.  The Japanese had been begging for peace terms for months.  But let’s assume  that when the United States nuked those two Japanese cities in August of 1945, American lives were saved by sacrificing Japanese lives.  Which Japanese lives were lost?  And which American lives were saved?

The Japanese who died were, by and large, non-combatants–women, children, and older men.  These people may or may not have been supportive of the Japanese war effort.  They were civilians, subjects of a government that had long ago insulated itself from the influence of its citizens’ opinions. By contrast, the Americans whose lives were allegedly spared by the use of atomic weapons were soldiers, individuals who had indicated a willingness to die for their country, if need be.  And, by the way, they were mostly white guys.  The equation that resulted in the only wartime use of atomic weapons was an equation that valued the lives of white warriors over the lives of dark-skinned civilians.  At least 225,000 non-combatants were killed in these attacks, in order to save an estimated 450,000 American lives, the military’s guess at the human cost of invading Japan–a country that was largely out of food, fuel, raw materials, and weapons, and whose government was actively seeking an end to the war.  Smells like U.S. propaganda to me, but there you have it–one Japanese civilian’s life (either sex, any age) was calculated to be worth the lives of two (male, probably white) American soldiers.

This is right in line with the assumptions our culture has been running on right from the start, and right in line with the assumptions it still runs on.  The lives ofunnamed white males are most important, and most worth protecting.  At the time the Constitution was written, “We, The People of the United States,” when it came to voting and running for office, referred to white, male property owners. I have to wonder–when Republicans advocate “returning to the original meaning of the Constitution,” is this what they’re really talking about? Some things have changed since the 1790’s, but white males are still widely considered to have a right to do as we see fit in order to feel safe.  We are more likely to get away with abusing our wives and children.  We can attack uppity people of color and, more often than not, do so with impunity. Let’s not forget that the Second Amendment–the one about militias and the right to keep and bear arms–was included so that those “militias” would be available to put down slave rebellions–i.e., summarily execute African-Americans who objected to being enslaved. Read the rest of this entry »





AMERICA’S RADIOACTIVE CHICKENS ARE COMING HOME TO ROOST

4 08 2012

If you ask people about a terrorist attack involving two airplanes that killed a large number of civilians, most peoples’ thoughts go immediately to the World Trade Center, when somebody (and just who it was doesn’t matter for the sake of this discussion) dropped the tallest buildings in Manhattan, killing nearly 3,000 people within a few minutes, and causing long-term illness in thousands of others who were exposed  to the cloud of toxic chemicals released or created by the burning and collapse of the buildings.

Few people would think back to August of 1945, when the United States government flew two airplanes into two Japanese cities,  dropped small,  primitive atomic bombs on them, and killed nearly 200,000 civilians, many in the blink of an eye, but many very slowly and painfully from radiation poisoning.   The attacks were totally unnecessary.  Japan had been desperately contacting the U.S and Britain for months, asking for peace, and had consistently been rebuffed.

Leo Szilard, one of the scientists who helped develop the atomic bomb, wrote in 1960

“If the Germans had dropped atomic bombs on cities instead of us, we would have defined (it) as a war crime, and we would have sentenced the Germans who were guilty of this crime to death at Nuremberg and hanged them.” Read the rest of this entry »





NATIVE NOTES

12 08 2005

Last week marked the sixtieth anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which to me are the two most horrible acts of terrorism ever committed. Our government promotes fear of non-Governmental terrorism, but if you look at the historical record, state terrorism has it all over the amateur variety. Dresden, Dachau, the slaughter of the Indonesian Communists and the reformers in Guatemala, Chile and Iran, the Chineses invasion and continuing occupation of Tibet, Stalin’s administration of Russia, the list goes on and on. And of course there is the United States’ treatment of North America’s original inhabitants. From the first years at Massachusetts Bay Colony to Wounded Knee, it was women and children first—as in, shoot the women and children first.

The mistreatment continues, albeit usually on a subtler level. A current example is the “Indian Trust Reform Act” that John McCain has been trying to pass for years. It never quite gets anywhere, but it attempts to address the fact that the government has, since the very beginning, both intentionally and negligently mismanaged a trust fund that is supposed to benefit the Native People.

In the mid-nineties, following the actual passage of one attempt at reforming the “Indian Trusts,” the government hired—of all people—Arthur Andersen to reconcile the accounts. The firm worked at it for over a year before reporting that the accounts were so severely mismanaged that they could probably not be reconciled, at least not for a price the government was willing to pay. This leads to questions of whether the firm’s subsequent troubles have been a form of shooting the messenger, but I’m not going there today.

This trust fund collects, or is supposed to collect, money from ranchers, oil and mineral extraction companies, and other for-profit businesses that use native peoples’ land to make their profits. What Arthur Anderson uncovered was that in many cases these monies have never been collected, and that much of the money that was collected did not actually get back to the native people it was supposed to benefit.

Senator McCain’s bill is based in a compassionate desire to get some money to the native peoples who were robbed, first of the land that was their birthright, and now of income they deserve from what we left for them. McCain’s bill, as I see it, has two drawbacks: the first is that the Native people are owed billions and billions of dollars (depending on how you figure interest and penalties) and McCain’s bill offers only pennies on the dollar. The second is that McCain’s bill expects the federal government to supply the missing funds—and the only money the federal government has is the taxes it collects from you and me and a few corporations that don’t quite have their accounting down. Why should we pay for the BIA’s malfeasance? It seems to me that the best way to collect these stolen and uncollected funds would be to get them from the businesses that failed to pay them in the first place or from the managers who pocketed the money on its way past—well, okay, some of those people are long in their graves and their ancestors are no more responsible for the current mess than you or I. Maybe we should give the native peoples the billions we owe them in the form of land—like, most of the upper midwest. Hey, they did a better job managing it than we have.








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