Did The U.S. Need to Attack Japan With Nuclear Bombs To End World War II?

In my years as a peace activist, I get two challenges from people with whom I speak. One, “nonviolence didn’t work against Hitler.” (To which I have two responses: Denmark and the Huguenots of Le Chambon.) Two, “Dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan saved tens of thousands of American lives.”

Below is an important document addressing the second question. Gen. Douglas MacArthur is commonly understood to be one of the most important military leaders in U.S. history. This is Gen. MacArthur’s response to the question about whether it was militarily necessary for the United States to attack Japan with nuclear bombs by targeting Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the only use of nuclear weapons in human history.

MacArthur_Japan

Joseph Siracusa: ‘In One Terrible Moment, 60% of Hiroshima Was Destroyed’

Statues in front of the Catholic Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki after nuclear attack.

Frida Berrigan wrote a moving article a few years ago on the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Here’s an excerpt from her longer essay:

In Hiroshima, Little Boy’s huge fireball and explosion killed 70,000 to 80,000 people instantly. Another 70,000 were seriously injured. As Joseph Siracusa, author of Nuclear Weapons: A Very Short Introduction, writes: “In one terrible moment, 60% of Hiroshima… was destroyed. The blast temperature was estimated to reach over a million degrees Celsius, which ignited the surrounding air, forming a fireball some 840 feet in diameter.”

Three days later, Fat Man exploded 1,840 feet above Nagasaki, with the force of 22,000 tons of TNT. According to “Hiroshima and Nagasaki Remembered,” a web resource on the bombings developed for young people and educators, 286,000 people lived in Nagasaki before the bomb was dropped; 74,000 of them were killed instantly and another 75,000 were seriously injured.

In addition to those who died immediately, or soon after the bombings, tens of thousands more would succumb to radiation sickness and other radiation-induced maladies in the months, and then years, that followed.

In an article written while he was teaching math at Tufts University in 1983, Tadatoshi Akiba calculated that, by 1950, another 200,000 people had died as a result of the Hiroshima bomb, and 140,000 more were dead in Nagasaki. Dr. Akiba was later elected mayor of Hiroshima and became an outspoken proponent of nuclear disarmament.–Frida Berrigan, Tom Dispatches 2009

Y-12 Nuclear Facility Goes on Lockdown After Catholic Nun Breaches Security

Officials at the Y-12 nuclear facility show off “state-of-the-art security technology” (NNSA, 2010)

Joe Newman, director of communciations for the Project On Government Oversight, follows up on the most recent Plowshares action of religious civil disobedience held at the Oakridge nuclear facility in Tennessee. The Y-12 facility “enriched” the uranium used in the nuclear attack by the U.S. on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. (Read more about the Transform Now Plowshares.)

As officials at the Y-12 nuclear weapons facility sort through their recent security breakdown, they’ve decided it might be best to move all of their nuclear materials, including highly-enriched uranium, into their on-site vaults.

The Knoxville News Sentinel’s Frank Munger reported that the “security stand-down” is expected to last into next week. The federal contractor that runs the Oakridge, Tenn., facility made the decision with the support of the National Nuclear Security Administration. Munger writes:

According to the federal NNSA, “This is being done to address additional security training and execution deficiencies identified by the contractor after Saturday’s incident. However, all nuclear materials at Y-12 are in safe, secure storage and we remain entirely confident in the security of Y-12’s facilities.”

Sr. Megan Rice
The Saturday “incident” involved three peace activists, including an 82-year-old nun, Sr. Megan Rice, who cut through three fences surrounding the facility, posted a banner on one of the buildings and poured human blood on the premises, according to the News Sentinel’s orginal story about the break in.The activists were arrested under federal trespassing charges and are expected to appear in court Thursday.

The Project On Government Oversight’s Peter Stockton, an expert in nuclear security, told Munger that the security breach could be a sign of a much bigger problem.

“The DOE’s unprecedented response to last weekend’s break-in, alarming as that incident initially appeared, suggests that it has revealed even more drastic flaws in the security at the Y-12 facility,” Stockton said via email. “At this point we can only guess what those flaws might be.”

The LORD will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore.–Isaiah 2:4

Can We Close the Door on the Nuclear Age?

“At 11:02 am, two-thirds of Japan’s Catholics were annihilated; … more Japanese Christians were slaughtered than had been martyred in four centuries of brutal persecution.” – The Holy City Nagasaki

Lest We Forget …

That 67 years ago, on August 6th and 9th, there were 150,000 people, mostly non-combatants, killed instantaneously by 2 nuclear weapons which were dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. Additional thousands died of radiation poisoning in subsequent years.

That today the U.S. has 6,800 nuclear warheads with indescribable power of destruction.

That today’s nuclear bombs could end human life on planet Earth.

That today’s nuclear weapons have no rational use but could be used by ideologues, or the insane.

That today’s nuclear power industry is intimately linked with the nuclear weapons industry.

That today it is a fact that $1 TRILLION will be spent globally on nukes in the next decade.

That today, politicians are cutting budgets for health care, education, renewable energies, and other social needs programs but not for nukes.

So, today, we can do something about it for our families and future generations.

We can sign a petition with Global Zero to call on world leaders to cut nukes, not the things we desperately need.

Please consider signing the petition at www.cutnukes.globalzero.org.

Jim Douglass: How a President Can Practice Satyagraha (Part 9)

The most important book for any American to read is JFK and the Unspeakable: Who Killed Him and Why it Matters by James D. Douglass.

Douglass’ investigation into the secret papers finally released during the Clinton era begin to uncover a deadly “family pattern” of behavior in the highest levels of political power. Now, Douglass has written an important article for Tikkun magazine that looks at how the pattern is being repeated again between President Obama, Gen. Petraeus, and Afghanistan.

Below is Part 9: How a President Can Practice Satyagraha

On the first day of school, September 8, 2009, at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia, a ninth-grader named Lilly asked President Obama, “If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?”

The president said his first choice for a dinner companion would be Gandhi, “a real hero of mine,” adding:

If it hadn’t been for the nonviolent movement in India, you might not have seen the same nonviolent movement for civil rights here in the United States…. He ended up doing so much and changing the world just by the power of his ethics, by his ability to change how people saw each other and saw themselves. [Gandhi was able to] help people who thought they had no power realize that they had power, and then help people who had a lot of power realize that if all they’re doing is oppressing people, then that’s not a really good exercise of power.

Maybe we all need to sit down for a meal with Gandhi, one that would be, as President Obama told Lilly, “a really small meal because he [like the impoverished people he represented] didn’t eat a lot.” What Gandhi would say to us over that small meal he did say at the end of his life to a U.S. writer, Vincent Sheean, who traveled half-way around the world to question him on vital matters, anticipating that Gandhi was about to be assassinated — as he would be, in Sheean’s presence, three days later.

As the two men paced a room together, Gandhi told his American visitor, with reference to World War II culminating in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, “Your ends may have been good but your means were bad. That is not the way of truth.”

If Gandhi’s earnest conversation partner were Obama, not Sheean, and the time today, perhaps the next question would be: “What is the way of truth in Afghanistan?”

For Gandhi, truth was God. “Truth-force” was his term for nonviolence, satyagraha. Gandhi acted on the belief that there is nothing we as human beings can do that is more powerful, more transforming, than to live out the truth as we know it at the deepest point in our conscience.

In dialogue today with a powerful man who knows that “oppressing people is not a really good exercise of power,” Gandhi would say that hearing the truth and acting on it, regardless of the consequences to one’s power and one’s self, would be the way of truth in Afghanistan and in Washington. As politically confining as the White House is, it is for that very reason an ideal place to live out the truth, as President Kennedy did.–James Douglass, from JFK, Obama, and the Unspeakable

Tsutomu Yamaguchi: ‘Only Breast-Feeding Mothers Should Be Allowed to Control Countries That Have Nuclear Weapons’

Tsutomu Yamaguchi
Tsutomu Yamaguchi

As weird as it may seem, there were actually 165 people who got blasted twice when the U.S. dropped nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August, 1945.

A new book by Charles Pellegrino, The Last Train from Hiroshima, tells their remarkable stories. (Dwight Garner gives an excellent review of Pelligrino’s book in the Jan. 19 New York Times)

One of those survivors, Tsutomu Yamaguchi died just a few weeks ago. His obituary and his recollection of his experiences should be read as modern “texts of terror” and studied along side the Prophet Isaiah.

One of Yamaguchi’s conclusions in his long work against nuclear weapons was that the only people who should be allowed to govern countries with nuclear weapons are mothers who are still breast-feeding their babies. An excerpt from his obit is below:

Tsutomu Yamaguchi, the only official survivor of both atomic blasts to hit Japan in World War II, died Monday in Nagasaki, Japan. He was 93. The cause was stomach cancer, his family said.

Mr. Yamaguchi, as a 29-year-old engineer for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, was in Hiroshima on a business trip when the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on the morning of Aug. 6, 1945. He was getting off a streetcar when the so-called Little Boy device detonated above the city.

Mr. Yamaguchi said he was less than two miles away from ground zero that day. His eardrums were ruptured, and his upper torso was burned by the blast, which destroyed most of the city’s buildings and killed 80,000 people.

Mr. Yamaguchi spent the night in a Hiroshima bomb shelter and returned to Nagasaki, his hometown, the following day, according to interviews he gave over the years. The second bomb, known as Fat Man, was dropped on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, killing 70,000 people.

Mr. Yamaguchi was in his Nagasaki office, telling his boss about the Hiroshima blast, when “suddenly the same white light filled the room,” he said in an interview last March with the British newspaper The Independent.

“I thought the mushroom cloud had followed me from Hiroshima,” he said.

Read Yamaguchi’s whole obituary here. Also read Yamaguchi’s first-person account How I survived Hiroshima–and then Nagasaki by David McNeill.

Merton versus The Bomb

thom41Catholic monk, mystic, writer, and justice advocate was very concerned about the rise of atomic weapons. In 1962 he wrote a book called Peace in the Post-Christian Era addressing the immorality of nuclear weapons. He was forbidden from publishing it by his order’s abbot. It wasn’t published until 2004 and has a wonderful foreword by Jim Forest.

Below is an excerpt from Merton to French Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain on the topic.

[To Jacques Maritain, Feb, 1963] I do not want to bother you with a multitude of things of mine, but I am putting into the mail a mimeographed copy of my “unpublishable” book on “Peace in the Post Christian Era.” Unpublishable because forbidden by our upright and upstanding Abbot General who does not want to leave Christian civilization without the bomb to crown its history of honor. He says that my defense of peace “fausserait le message de la vie contemplative” [would falsify the message of the contemplative life]. The fact that a monk should be concerned about this issue is thought-by “good monks”-to be scandalous. A hateful distraction, withdrawing one’s mind from Baby Jesus in the Crib. Strange to say, no one seems concerned at the fact that the crib is directly under the bomb.–Thomas Merton

From The Courage for Truth: Letters to Writers, edited by Christine M. Bochen (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1993, p. 36)