Tag Archives: wwii

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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The spectacle should be a scandal

One thing that’s become clear in the past few days is how effectively the Republican Party manages its image, in comparison to the Democrats. Just earlier today, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) gave a quick response to his meeting with various political leaders in Washington as the House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) gave their own remarks. Boehner’s words rolled off his tongue from sentence to sentence with an ease that’s only possible to interpret as a prepared speech. It had nothing to do with their meeting, admittedly, since it recast the entire shut down in unusual terms (that is, as the Democrats’ fault for not repealing obamacare and otherwise supporting Republican policy). In contrast, while Pelosi and Reid were quick witted and explained their alternative perspective well, it wasn’t a prepared speech.

That difference is admittedly not the most important thing to pick up on today, with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) stating that they can’t implement their seasonal flu vaccine, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) being unable to even start responding to the massive oil spill within the Colorado floods and mudslides, and the nutritional supplements for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) having only twelve more days of funding to keep food on some households’ tables. That said, it’s a revealing microcosm of the shutdown as a whole: Democrats are talking about what’s happening, while Republicans are stuck in an abstract soup of political philosophy and self advertisement.

(Republican congressman assisting veterans enter the WWII memorial that they voted to close, from here.)

Another flashpoint of that same crash between the truth and the GOP spectacle was the forced entry to the WWII memorial by veterans of that war accompanied by Republican congressman who had voted in place the barriers that they helped veterans move around. The truth is that they’re selectively responding to the fallout of the crisis they helped create, but the image is one of nationalist sentiment and the values Republicans tell themselves they have.

Did we finally hit a place where the Republican vision of the world and themselves is so disastrously at odds with what’s happening that it begins to cave in? Or can Boehner and others rehearse speeches nice enough and create photo ops stirring enough that they can reject reality and substitute their own?

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