Tag Archives: nagasaki

There shall be no next war

TW: nuclear war, colonialism

“[T]here shall be no next war” is what President Truman remarked 71 years ago to the day. He announced that publicly after having approved a second nuclear strike against Japan. He was motivated by leaked Japanese intelligence suggesting they were unlikely to agree to unconditional surrender in the nightmarish aftermath of Hiroshima on August 6th.

History makes a mockery of that sentiment, of course, as Truman used that speech to lay the groundwork for a US military presence around the world that has remained to this day. That is a presence that exacerbated Cold War tensions and ignited several proxy conflicts. It is a presence that today has morphed into the bulwark against terrorism and other inheritors of the not-so-long-lived forever war against communism. They are among the bases from which drones today take off and at which they land, having done their deadly work in unmanned skies.

In many ways, the US has seen nothing but war after Truman’s pronouncement.

800px-Nagasaki_1945_-_Before_and_after_(adjusted)(Nagasaki, Japan – before and after nuclear bombing.)

To attribute this militarization of the US to that single decision by Truman – to use nuclear weapons to force a total, complete, and unconditional surrender by Japan – is to inflate it unrealistically. But, still, it seems a notable stop along our way into the modern situation. This was the beginning of the presidency as a position that has a finger eternally perched on top of a button labeled “end the world.”

It was already pushed once with no adequate justification – 71 years ago today. Hiroshima, of course, only has paper thin excuses, of ignorance, of the heat of battle, of the seeping paranoia of a rising Soviet Union. But what happened 71 years ago today, in Nagasaki, followed the tearing down of all of those weak claims. The president by that time had the information key to understanding the pointless inhumanity of nuclear strikes, yet strike he did.

The risk the world faces in November is not our arsenal falling into unwise hands, but it returning to them. We have been here before, and tens of thousands of civilians died in one of the worst ways imaginable.

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What have we learned?

TW: war crimes, Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, Iraq war

Yesterday was the sixty-eighth anniversary of the US military’s detonation of the nuclear weapon “Little Boy” over the Japanese city of Hiroshima and this Friday will be the same for the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki with “Fat Man”. Together, those two attacks, which are the only uses of nuclear weapons in the history of human conflict, are variously estimated to have potentially killed as many as 246,000 people, which approaches the estimates for the total population of Nagasaki prior to the bombing.


(White doves were released at the memorial in Hiroshima, Japan, this year, from here.)

This November will mark the eighth anniversary of the US military unintentionally admitting to illegally using White phosphorus as a napalm-like incendiary during the Iraq War (specifically the siege of Fallujah). Sixty years and a few months separate those incidents, but the chilling modus operandi of the US military in Iraq suggests that virtually nothing was learned from our actions in Japan.

I think this week should serve as a time of meditation on that distressing fact.

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