*Hiroshima and American Exceptionalism

Seventy years after the United States waged what to this day remains the only instance of nuclear warfare in history, Americans persist in subscribing to the view that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, whatever the moral perils of such an undertaking, were justified by exceptional circumstances.  It is taken as an unimpeachable fact that the nuclear attacks on the two Japanese cities saved lives:  on this argument, the invasion of Japan would have energized its fanatic residents to a renewed defense of their country, and the war might have stretched out for several more months and even longer.  The proponents of this view have advanced an apparently noble kind of moral calculus, whereby the atomic bombings not only saved American lives but the lives of their very antagonists, since a long protracted war would have decimated what remained of young Japanese men.  If this argument be stretched a bit further, the United States was animated not merely by the desire to preserve the lives of its own youth but by the reverence for all human lives.  Furthermore, Japan’s unconditional surrender, which the United States had insisted upon as the condition for bringing hostilities to an end, is described by those who justify the bombing as having been wholly precipitated by the picture of utter devastation unleashed upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  An obdurate country, slavishly holding itself in subjection to the writ of the Emperor, had left no other recourse.

Hiroshima before the Bombing

Hiroshima before the Bombing

It is also characteristic of the United States that, on every anniversary of the bombing, a supposed “debate” is thought to take place among Americans vigorously arguing in support of, or in opposition to, the atomic bombings.  Certainly, some arguments resonate more strongly now than they did in 1945 or in the years immediately thereafter.  The end of the war had brought forth a new adversary in the Soviet Union, one reason among others why German war criminals tried at Nuremberg were, barring the first set of some twenty odd Nazis who had occupied the highest positions in the Third Reich, handed down insignificant prison terms when they were not simply acquitted.  If a demonstration had to be furnished to Stalin of the immense and unmatched military prowess of the United States, nothing was calculated to achieve that effect as much as a new super-bomb which was immeasurably greater than anything witnessed thus far.

Hiroshima after the Bombing:  photograph taken from the Red Cross Hospital, about 1 mile from the site of the bomb blast

Hiroshima after the Bombing: photograph taken from the Red Cross Hospital, about 1 mile from the site of the bomb blast

If the war-time rape of enemy women is merely the way in which rapists convey messages to enemy men, the nuked cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, by this reckoning, were intended to show to an emergent world power under the dictatorship of Stalin the probable consequences of embracing the enmity of the United States.  Furthermore, now that “multiculturalism” and “diversity” have become enshrined as the very armor of a liberal democracy, there is greater willingness to acknowledge that the atomic bombings were, in good measure, prompted by a vicious racism that made it all too easy to dismiss the Japanese people as vermin who merited nothing but complete annihilation.  The chairman of the US War Manpower Commission, Paul V. McNutt, spoke for many people when he publicly declared that he “favored the extermination of the Japanese in toto.”  Elliott Roosevelt, the president’s son, admitted to Vice President Henry Wallace that he supported the continuation of the war against Japan “until we have destroyed about half of the civilian population.”   These views were by no means atypical.

The Morning of the Holocaust:  Two Victims with Severe Body Burns

The Morning of the Holocaust: Two Victims with Severe Body Burns

What is astonishing, however, is the indisputable fact that even the enlarged parameters of the liberal critique of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki still do not permit the probing of more fundamental questions and a robust critique of the entire course of American history.  Two considerations, but there are many more, might be brought to the fore.  Why, for instance, did American planners target Hiroshima, a city of comparatively moderate military significance?  American scientists, military strategists, and politicians were keen to assess the impact that a nuclear bomb might have on its target.  In the months preceding the nuclear attacks, dozens of Japanese cities and towns had been firebombed.  Large portions of major Japanese cities, including Tokyo, had already been reduced to ashes.  A nuclear bomb thrown on Tokyo would have been “wasted” and it would have been difficult to measure its impact.  Hiroshima had yet to be ravished; it was virgin territory:  never mind that most of the casualties were bound to be civilians.  Or consider Roosevelt’s speech describing December 7, 1941, when the Japanese initiated war with a lightning attack on Pearl Harbor, as “a date which will live in infamy.”  Most people have naturally supposed that Roosevelt was lamenting the treachery of Japan and its declaration of hostilities against a peace-loving nation. But tacitly what Roosevelt, and millions of Americans, had in mind was another kind of infamy, the supposition that the United States uniquely reserves the privilege to unilaterally bomb other countries, and that any nation which dares breach Fortress America must contemplate its own doom and destruction.

This was truly "Little Boy": years later, with the advent of the hydrogen boy, "Little Boy" would have been the dinosaur of the new atomic age.

This was truly “Little Boy”: years later, with the advent of the hydrogen boy, “Little Boy” would have been the dinosaur of the new atomic age.

The narrative of American exceptionalism, as is well known, has enjoyed remarkable longevity, and every American president has subscribed to it, not excepting the quasi-African American Barack Obama who is frequently on record as having pronounced America as the world’s one indispensable nation and the greatest force for good in the world.  Let us suppose that we affirm this narrative, so long as it perfectly well understood that the United States singularly retains the sinister distinction of having carried out an attack of nuclear terrorism—not once, which would be shameful enough, though it is doubtful that the word “shame” is any more part of the lexicon of American society, but twice. There is scarcely a nation-state whose conduct might be described as irreproachable, and there are a great many countries where scandalously the better part of too many people’s lives is squandered in securing a mere two meals for the day.  We can easily recognize that America has been a land of opportunity for many; nevertheless, in the intellectual laziness and moral stupor which characterize the conduct of most Americans, evidenced in their steadfast refusal to question the role of their country in precipitating one of the greatest moral and spiritual crisis to have afflicted humanity with the atomic bombings of Japan, America remains qui.te exceptional.

[Published as “Superpower’s Superbomb”, Indian Express, 8 August 2015.]

22 thoughts on “*Hiroshima and American Exceptionalism

  1. General Eisenhower has this telling exchange in his autobiography, Mandate for Change:

    “I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of ‘face.’”

    Other similar testimonials include:

    * “When I asked General MacArthur about the decision to drop the bomb, I was surprised to learn he had not even been consulted. What, I asked, would his advice have been? He replied that he saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the Emperor.” — “The Pathology of Power,” by Norman Cousins.

    * “We didn’t need to do it, and we knew we didn’t need to do it, and they knew that we didn’t need to do it, we used them as an experiment for two atomic bombs.” — Brig. Gen. Carter Clarke, quoted in “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb,” by Gar Alperovitz.

    * “The Japanese position was hopeless even before the first atomic bomb fell because the Japanese had lost control of their own air.” — Henry H. Arnold, commanding general of the U.S. Army Air Forces, Pacific Fleet.

    * “The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace. The atomic bomb played no decisive part from a purely military point of view in the defeat of Japan. The use of atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.” — Fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

    * “Certainly, prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability, prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if atomic bombs had not been dropped.” — Adm. William D. Leahy, chief of staff to President Truman, in the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey.

    * “The war would have been over in two weeks without the Russians entering and without the atomic bomb. The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all.” — Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay.

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  2. Hi Ajay, The testimonials you furnish from major military and political figures provide ample proof of the fact that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was unnecessary. It was, in fact, a war crime–but such an admission has rarely come from any major American figure. There are other ironies which I cannot expound on at the moment: for instance, Curtis LeMay, whom you quote as having stated that the atomic bomb did not hasten the end of the war, was the architect of the firebombing of Tokyo. He was a bigot and racist in the extreme. So his critique of the atomic bomb will have to be read in a different vein, and it must be understood that most of the critiques of the bombing, including those leveled by the people you cite, stemmed not from moral positions as such but from a hard-nosed adherence to realpolitik.

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  3. Thought-provoking article, Professor Lal. It seems to me that the role of racial animus in the decision to drop the bombs is often overlooked. This is undoubtedly an outcome of the widespread belief in American Exceptionalism. I suspect that this is intensified by a sort of historical anachronism: people living today just kind of assume that people historically thought more or less similarly to themselves. This is even more likely when we closely identify ourselves with those we are potentially mapping our understanding onto. I’d say in that respect, WWII America fits the bill with a lot of contemporary Americans because it is one of the few wars where Americans are opposing forces which are categorically in the wrong. If a person living today were asked whether the decision to drop the nuclear bombs on Japan was moral or not, they’d probably judge it based on whether it was likely that dropping the bombs would save more people (Japanese and American) in the long-run. And therefore we assume that, since we identify ourselves with the United States in this war, that must have been the calculus behind the actual decision to drop the bombs. In reality, it appears there’s good reason to believe that Japanese lives ultimately didn’t matter all that much to those who made the decision. Perhaps national and/or racial revenge was a major motivator (an explanation I find plausible).

    I was curious about one phrase you include, calling President Obama “quasi-African American Barack Obama.” What did you mean by this? I’m trying to practice a charitable interpretation, but I’m puzzled as to what this could mean.

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    • Hi Adam,
      With regards to World War II, it is also necessary to say, apropos of your comment, that this was characterized as the “good war”. No war that the US has fought has ever been so adamantly defended as WW II.

      With regards to Obama, I think it is significant, in a way that is only tacitly acknowledged, partly because understandably both Black people and liberals do not wish to give white conservatives the slightest opening to attack the first Black man to occupy the highest office of the land, that Obama is in some respects far removed from the experience of the African American. He may have lived his life as one, or thought he was doing so, and others may have thought of him as one, but his experience was far removed far that of African Americans. His mother is white; his father is Kikuyu. The scars of slavery, which run across generations, never touched him. That does not diminish his accomplishment; but we have to understand that there are many nuances of being Black and a consensus, for political reasons, has developed around not speaking of these. There are many hierarchies among African Americans, Africans, Caribbean Africans, and so on, and those are part of the calculus of an honest appraisal of ‘Blackness’. This is apart from the question that Obama, regrettably, is an much an exponent of American exceptionalism as any white President.

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  4. Hi professor! When reading the part of your blog post of how the US was attempting to express their dominance to the Soviet Union by the dropping of the two atomic bombs, it reminded me of something we read in one of our documents. The document explained how the US was in a type of race with Germany to see who would develop the atom bomb first, and in doing so would prove themselves to be the greater force in the world with this tremendous power at their fingertips. When reading how the US treated the atom bomb as a means of excersizing their newfound power and dominance with little regard to the thousands of lives the country had killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the process, it makes me gain a better understanding of the thought process behind Western politics. To Truman and the US, Japanese lives were expendable if it meant the prevention of more American lives lost while bragging of their newfound power of mass destruction to the US’s enemies and allies. It correlates with the feelings you mentioned at the end of your post felt by American citizens towards the bombings and their belief that America is exceptional. It proves the continuous racist Western way of thought, and no matter how much America can preach freedom and liberty for all, the underlying racist and genocidal tendencies continue to resurface by Americans blind belief in their countries superiority and greatness. (For me, it manifest itself in the Make America Great campaign run by Donald Trump. This sense of ‘supreme nationalism’ that American can do no wrong is consistently represented amongst his followers). Americans’ view of the tragedy of the bombings as well as their justification only reveal a scary form of extreme nationalism similarly felt by the Nazis.
    I also question why the city of Hiroshima was targeted when other military bases and important cities could have been the chosen destination. Weather has often been cited as a reason, or location of the land Hiroshima was built upon. However, the notion that this land was “virgin territory” filled with innocent civilians bust have seemed desirable to Truman, as in his mind, he conceived the notion that it was the deaths of thousand of the emperor’s innocent people that would finally get him to surrender. This way of thinking is extremely dangerous, and borderline on the thought processes of Hitler. To play with the lives of innocents and simply wipe one’s hand of it as a “necessary means” demonstrates the atrocities committed by Western powers considering themselves to be good. While many will continue to justify the bombings, I will never be able to justify the loss of over 150,000 innocent lives. I can understand the amounts of pressure felt by Truman to end the war and save his people; however, I don’t think I will ever be able to fully accept his decision. Even many famous generals and war commanders at the time and in the present disagree with his decision, believing it to be unnecessary as Japan was close to the brink of surrender anyways. It is hard for me to accept his decision to enact such a tragedy when so many of those around him called it an unnecessary means of ending the war.

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    • Hi Megha, I want to add one clarification. Truman only assumed the presidency of the US on April 12, 1945. The atomic bomb had been some years in the making; similarly, the air raids on Japan commenced in April 1942 and preceded the atomic bombings of August 1945 by well over three years. The decision to leave Hiroshima alone–“virgin territory” as I call it so that the effect of the atomic bomb could be measured–was taken long before Truman became president. Of course one must discuss Truman’s culpability, and his pronouncement, after the military planners informed him about the decision to drop the bomb, that he “went to bed and got a good eight-hour sleep” tells us volumes about his conscience, or rather lack of it. But in his own way he was a cog in the machine, too. We must think both of individual culpability AND systemic and structural issues of racism and civilizational collapse.

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  5. Hi Professor Lal,
    I completely agree that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are definitively war crimes. I think the way they were taught and spoken about in school also definitively points to American exceptionalism, as you addressed earlier in your article, and also helps indoctrinate American schoolchildren into the idea of American exceptionalism. Although the bombings never seemed fully justifiable to me as a child, I never realized the horrifying scope of wanting to test on “virgin territory” since it was never taught to me in school, and I think this sort of glorified way of teaching history, especially in a war that is taught most definitively as a justified war on the part of Americans, really warps people’s perception of their country’s actions. By all means, had the Allies lost the war, the US would have almost certainly faced criminal trials for the bombs, and that really exemplifies to me how history is written by the winners. I’m curious to see if now that Japan and America are allies whether the United States has done anything to address the bombings, as well as if Japanese resentment over the atomic bombings has bled over to how they view the US today.

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  6. Hi Professor Lal
    After reading your essay I completely agree that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were war crimes and should be treated as such. I was rather frustrated to read the line of reasoning that Truman and other government officials held to morally justify their use of the atomic bomb in that it stopped what may have been months longer of global warfare and it claimed to save not only American lives but the lives of young Japanese soldiers. However, what we seldom focus on is that regardless of the effect the bomb had on ending the war, it was dropped on “virgin territory” meaning civilians that were not responsible for the war were inevitably killed. Meanwhile, American civilians were not in danger. I wonder why we are so quick to blame German citizens for the atrocities of the Holocaust but do not acknowledge the role Americans and their underlying racist ideologies had in these bombings. In history classes we often learn about the attack on Pearl Harbor followed by the bombings as if the bombings were justified actions in response to the Japanese attack on American soil. However, the gravity of the two events was certainly different and I do not think it is appropriate to treat both actions as if they are equal when in effect the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki showed a complete lack of care for civilian life.

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    • Hi Anjika,
      John Dower is among the historians who have show decisively that racism against the Japanese was far more virulent than the animosity Americans felt towards Germans. The treatment of Americans of German descent was altogether different than how Japanese-Americans were treated, as many people have pointed out, and as I have implicitly suggested in my two blog essays a few years ago on Manzanar and the incarceration of Japanese-Americans in World War II.

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  7. I definitely agree with you that the way the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are spoken of represents American exceptionalism. In my history lessons, I have always been taught that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were necessary to stop the war. As you mentioned, it was to prevent prolonging the war and further deaths. However, I did not consider the racial aspect of this tragedy. The Japanese were treated like pests and therefore had to be exterminated. I was disgusted that they bombed Hiroshima because it was “virgin territory” and would be a prime target to test out the destructive force of their atomic bomb. This reminded me of the racial discrimination seen last year in the case of George Floyd. Like the civilians of Hiroshima, he was defenseless but was murdered regardless. Following this, there were widespread protests against racism and police brutality. However, in the case of Hiroshima, there were no such demonstrations as Americans have been indoctrinated to believe that the bombings were justified. This represents Americans’ belief in their countries’ superiority. I wonder if something like the events of Hiroshima were to unfold again, how would the American public respond given the rise of multiculturalism and increase in diversity.

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  8. Hello Professor Lal!

    After reading this article, I can see the blatant American Exceptionalism, in conjunction with racism, that acted as the catalyst for unleashing the weapon of mass destruction that is the Atomic Bomb. I must applaud this radical view on the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as acts against humanity. I agree 1000 percent that the use of the bombs entail a war crime that many, to this day, call it a necessary evil. And furthermore, the atomic bomb indeed had global political implications, given President Truman’s hate and fear of the emerging USSR. It is especially unnecessary in that sense as the world already knew the two world powers that would emerge from the ashes of World War II would be the USSR and the US, with Great Britain’s empire already collapsed. A showing of force that cost approx. 214,000 lives is certainly not justified. However, I do have some reservations.

    If we are to call the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as going to far, as the act that crossed the line, then what do we consider the firebombings of Tokyo? I feel like if there was a line between ethical warfare and unethical warfare, the US crossed it long ago when it started the firebombing campaigns. These bombing campaigns were meant to break the will of the Japanese people and focused primarily on the population centers of Japan. If the atomic bombs are a war crime, then we as a people must first come to terms with our firebombings. Perhaps if we first openly admitted and apologized for these crimes we could perceive the crimes that are Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    This leads to another one of my concerns. After the war, it is certainly the victors that draw the line between what constitutes a war crime and what does not. But during a war, who does? In fact, is there any line to begin with during war? Especially in World War II, it seemed nothing was off limit. The gases of World War I were used in Nazi Extermination camps; Americans used flamethrowers and gasoline extensively during their island hopping campaign; Britain bombed dams and flooded thousands of square yards of farming land; Japan forced its captives to march and work to death; USSR essentially raped all of Berlin and burned to ashes its own land when the Nazis first invaded. The list goes on and on. What all of these have in common was their basis in the concept of total war. Is total war then, an enabler to allow any nation to do anything they deem necessary for victory? And it is only after the war when people place the biased line that cannot be crossed? Or was the atomic bombs done entirely in the vein of racism and defended only with American Exceptionalism?

    Forgive me if this reads like a ramble, but I overall enjoyed this article.

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    • Hi Justin,
      My own view, which I have developed in my book Empire of Knowledge: Culture and Plurality in the Global Economy (2002), is that the firebombings of Japanese cities were certainly just as barbaric as the atomic bombings. In fact, more people were killed in the nightly raids on Japanese cities that persisted over months, largely with an intent to demoralize the entire population, than in the atomic bombings. Nevertheless, the atomic bombings represent a different moral problem. They lead us to the “unimaginable”, to a conception of a society where the very concept of the ‘human’ is at stake. It is not only a question of numbers, or even of the destruction that was wrought. The deployment of nuclear energy for this purpose means that man had now crossed over into the threshold of the unknown. With regards to the point you make in the third paragraph, the difficulty with “total war” is precisely that the rules and protocols governing warfare are entirely put aside. When one set of combatants do that, it encourages other combatants to do so as well. The Americans and the British may have been victors — and in the US World War II is remembered as the “good war” — but in truth I think it is difficult for any country to be able to claim that its conduct was ethical.

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  9. I wholeheartedly agree that the American bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were war crimes, and should have been treated as such though it clearly is unlikely to be by any major American figure. Whenever I learned about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in school, I was always told that it was necessary to end the war, and the bombings were mentioned very briefly without speaking of the huge amount of destruction and civilian lives that were lost. Even when I visited Pearl Harbor with my family a few years ago, the bombings were mentioned incredibly briefly. In particular, the idea that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were picked as the places to test the atomic bombs because they were considered to be “virgin” territories and would be the best places to assess the capabilities of the bombs, is disgusting. These locations were not picked because they had military significance, but because they would be the most convenient locations to understand the strength of the bombs, and consequently aggressively display American exceptionalism and domination. It is incredibly disturbing that American racism towards the Japanese was used as a somewhat more subtle form of justification for the bombings, whereas America did not do the same to the Germans who had committed innumerable war crimes and atrocities.

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  10. Hello Professor! I really enjoyed reading this article. What stood out to me was mention of the justification used by some that the atomic bombings had somewhat of a humanitarian element as they saved the lives of many Japanese people by preventing a land invasion of Japan. I saw parallels between this and the justification for massacres of millions of Africans under European colonialism (though it is important to note that the two circumstances are quite distinct). What connected the two of them for me was that some used Social Darwinism and the idea that “inferior” races would die out anyways to justify “speeding up” the death process, characterizing it as more humane. It seems like a slap in the face to claim that there is a merciful or moral reasoning behind wiping out masses of people, as if one is doing them a favor. In the case of the atomic bombings in Japan this is a manifestation of American Exceptionalism, as the U.S. assumed the role of judging what was in the “best interest” of the Japanese people. This article also reminded me of my own education on World War II, of which I can say I remember learning very little about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was only until my senior year of high school that my history teacher properly discussed Japanese-American internment camps and the true implications of the atomic bombings (this was all happening in Berkeley, California of all places too, what many people consider to be an incredibly radical and leftist city). In my experience, public school education on World War II seemed to revolve primarily around the European front, with little discussion on the war in the Pacific. I would also like to point out that I grew up in the Bay Area, not far from a site where Japanese-Americans were interned, and received very little education on the internment camps. It seems to me that considerably less attention is given towards American involvement in Japan or its effects on Japanese people living in both countries, and any unethical behaviors are more quickly written off as “necessary.”

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  11. While I now completely agree that the use of the atomic bomb by the United States was unjustified and a war crime, I was not taught this until very recently. The American exceptionalism surrounding the use of the atomic bomb can be clearly seen in our education system which tends to frame it as much more of a debate than it should be. The first narrative that I was exposed to made it seem justifiable as a way to save American lives. Even later in high school when we were taught about the two sides of the argument the two sides were presented as both having their merits. I’ve also never read about the racist element until this class but I’m not surprised. American exceptionalism is so ingrained that unless you happen to get the chance to examine topics such as the atomic bombs in depth it’s quite easy to go along with the narrative.

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  12. The idea of American Exceptionalism is still a pertinent issue, and its role in the droppings of the atomic bombs still deserves question. The question of whether the bombings were justified, one where I remember debating back in middle school, has important context around the usage and development of the bomb that isn’t always taken into account. The utilitarian argument that it saved more lives in the long run doesn’t hold up as well when many aspects are considered, such as how the bomb was used to demonstrate the US’s undisputed military superiority, or how racist sentiments from the US lead to a much greater acceptance of violence against Japan, even when acknowledged as unnecessary. Both of these are much less charitable traits, indicating more of a sign that the US wanted to prove itself the best- Or rather, because they were good, there was no need to question it.

    American nationalism ties into this with how the bombings themselves were a sign of superiority, a show of might to inflict terror on the rest of the world. And it was terror more than just deterrence, due to factors such as Hiroshima being chosen for being untouched and full of relatively healthy people to see the bomb’s effects. The fact that the question itself is still debated today is slightly comforting, as it shows that criticisms towards the ideology are still taken, but it is also a concerning sign, as its controversy shows that there are still many people opposed to that viewpoint. The idea of American exceptionalism hasn’t been discussed, and as many of the wars and crises in recent years have shown, it still negatively affects the people today.

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  13. Hi Professor, I found this argument incredibly interesting as I had never considered this before. Putting American Exceptionalism into perspective has made me question more about America’s actions in history. America and many Americans have a considerable amount of pride and nationalism which has led to their justifications of their actions. I think that Americans have failed to consider the wrong doings of the atomic bombings as they justify it with Pearl Harbor. I, of course, agree that Pearl Harbor was a horrific event, but I agree that Americans should consider how drastic and brutal the bombings were. I think pieces such as this one are a necessity for Americans as their nationalistic views and pride can be toxic and harmful.

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  14. I have always heard some sort of gross justification when presenting the idea that these bombs must have not been necessary- how could it be necessary to drop an atomic bomb on civilians? Often, others present the fact that Japan’s emperor at the time did not himself care about the lives of his citizens, and how he would have let them die just as easily if not easier, as if this is a good enough reason for the U.S. to have treated them as dispensable instead of really just an argument for us to stoop to the low level of the Japanese emperor. As you lay out in this post, the United States was on the “right side” of the conflict, and as such, it has become controversial to question any of their actions in World War II. I, myself, did not question the atomic bombings until I had a great teacher in high school who was not so much a believer in American exceptionalism. Surely there was an alternate solution – off the top of my head, the United States could have dropped the bombs on mostly empty areas of Japan. With its many islands, there must have been an area they could have exploded without killing hundreds of thousands of civilians. It tires me how this indiscriminate killing of innocent Japanese people has an endless line of defenders, and how this event is not universally seen as a horrendous mistake to never be repeated again. This post is a refreshing presentation of the idea that the atomic bombs were, indeed, a mistake.

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  15. There is something that leaves me in disbelief when talking about the justification of war crimes. Even little children have an understanding that what happened was wrong, but then we have grown adults who make justifications for these crimes and defend the people who committed these crimes. There is some extreme level of nationalism that comes from constantly being exposed to propaganda that makes people think these kinds of war crimes are justified when there is no justification whatsoever, it is as stated in the text it is “American exceptionalism,” but if anything like that were to happen in the United States, then it is a direct attack on democracy. To believe that one war crime is a direct attack on democracy and another is one is justified, depending on the person who did the crime, is American exceptionalism at its finest. It reminds me a lot of the blog post “Port-au-Prince and Lisbon, Pat Roberston and the Enlightenment Philosophers: Haiti’s Earthquake I” where Pat Roberston talked about the earthquake in Haiti and justified the earthquake and the deaths of innocent people, and said something along the lines of that it was the people of Haiti’s fault for something like that to happen, and the same is happening here where people are justifying a war crime. It shows the complete disconnect between some Americans and the rest of the world which only further feeds into the nationalism seen in the United States.

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  16. Although I view the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a great tragedy and a war crime, I do not question the United States’ decision to level both cities. Japan was unwilling to surrender, and the reasons for such refusal are irrelevant in war. The war must be ended and won regardless. An invasion of Japan would have been costly on American lives. The United States should prioritize and consider the lives that could have been lost. It is unfortunate that the civilians of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had to die and suffer, but in war, the only crime is to lose. The Americans won. Who was going to prosecute the Americans for targeting civilians? Furthermore, the use of the atomic bomb showed the USSR that the United States’ power. In an eminent power struggle, that display was crucial. I am not in favor of bombing civilians; however, what the United States did make sense.

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