Thursday, August 6, 2015

Now aren't you just prouderthanheck?

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the day when USA stopped being the good guys in the eyes of the world.  It's not just that we did something so monstrous and horrifying when we decided to incinerate a city of helpless civilians, it's that for 70 years, we have refused to even entertain the notion that nuking a city was a bad idea.  The rationalizations about Hiroshima we were taught are not merely lies, they are sick and twisted.  I ought to know—I once believed most of them myself.

Then in high school, I decided to write my senior thesis on Hiroshima and the Decision to Use the Bomb.  I chose the topic because I thought it would be a slam dunk.  Six years of a passionate interest in aviation had already taught me a lot of minutia about the B-29 and other details of the bombing mission.  I had also read quite extensively on the Manhattan Project and was exceedingly proud of the sheer accomplishment that was nuclear fission.  I figured I could write that paper in my sleep.  In addition, my sister had written a paper on the subject in college and had a bunch of material to provide me with necessary footnotes.

My "mistake" was to actually read the materials I got from my sister.  It included the debate the scientists at Los Alamos had as a working device became a reality.  There were papers the military men conducting the war in the Pacific had written when the decision was made.  Soon it was clear to me that no matter how clever nukes and high-altitude bombers were, there was absolutely NO justification for using this technology on people.  And what's more, the people who knew most about the Manhattan project knew it at the time.

I never have gotten over the realization that many of the people who supposedly were fighting "The Good War" were criminally insane.  What is worse, I have met less than 10 people in my life who understand that what we did to Hiroshima was pure evil.  Everyone else chooses to believe the BS about how nuking people saved lives and shortened the war—a lie that is childishly easy to disprove.  The trouble with a lie like that is that is destroys the believer's ability to think clearly.  Group the lies about Hiroshima with some of the other whoppers and the USA has lost it ability to govern itself because its citizens can no longer make thoughtful, intelligent decisions.

70 Years After Hiroshima, It's Time to Confront the Past

Setsuko Thurlow, Hiroshima survivor, peace activist 08/05/2015

As the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki approaches, several people have been asking me to share my thoughts about those days in 1945, when our world changed forever. The first thing that comes to mind is an image of my four-year-old nephew Eiji -- transformed into a charred, blackened and swollen child who kept asking in a faint voice for water until he died in agony. Had he not been a victim of the atomic bomb, he would be 74 years old this year. This idea shocks me. Regardless of the passage of time, he remains in my memory as a 4-year-old child who came to represent all the innocent children of the world. And it is this death of innocents that has been the driving force for me to continue my struggle against the ultimate evil of nuclear weapons. Eiji's image is burnt into my retina.

In June I had the opportunity to visit Berlin and Potsdam to meet German citizens to talk about my experience in Hiroshima. Germans and Japanese experienced a similar historical trauma as aggressor-states in World War II. But there has been a decisively different way that the Japanese and German governments are dealing with their wartime responsibilities.

Many Japanese people were deeply inspired by the manner in which the German government confronted the past and dealt with wartime atrocities with integrity. Former President Richard von Weizeker's inspiring speech on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Germany's surrender touched the conscience of the world, and earned our profound respect when he said "We Germans must look truth straight in the eye -- without embellishment and without distortion... There can be no reconciliation without remembrance."

The Japanese government should emulate this profound sentiment in confronting the past and dealing with our as yet unresolved relationships with neighboring countries, particularly Korea and China. Tragically, the current Abe administration is seeking to expand Japan's military role in the region and forsake our much-cherished Peace Constitution.

And in the United States, a repugnant remembrance is soon to be unveiled. The National Park Service and the Department of Energy will establish the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. Unlike the memorials at Auschwitz and Treblinka, the United States seeks to preserve the history of the once top-secret sites at Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and Hanford, where international scientists developed the world's first nuclear bomb, as a sort of celebration of that technological 'achievement'. Among the first so-called 'successes' of this endeavor was creating hell on earth in my beloved Hiroshima.

As a 13-year-old schoolgirl, I witnessed my city of Hiroshima blinded by the flash, flattened by the hurricane-like blast, burned in the heat of 4000 degrees Celsius and contaminated by the radiation of one atomic bomb.

Miraculously, I was rescued from the rubble of a collapsed building, about 1.8 kilometers from Ground Zero. Most of my classmates in the same room were burned alive. I can still hear their voices calling their mothers and God for help. As I escaped with two other surviving girls, we saw a procession of ghostly figures slowly shuffling from the centre of the city. Grotesquely wounded people, whose clothes were tattered, or who were made naked by the blast. They were bleeding, burnt, blackened and swollen. Parts of their bodies were missing, flesh and skin hanging from their bones, some with their eyeballs hanging in their hands, and some with their stomachs burst open, with their intestines hanging out.

Within that single flash of light, my beloved Hiroshima became a place of desolation, with heaps of skeletons and blackened corpses everywhere. Of a population of 360,000 -- largely non-combatant women, children and elderly -- most became victims of the indiscriminate massacre of the atomic bombing. As of now, over 250,000 victims have perished in Hiroshima from the effects of the blast, heat and radiation. 70 years later, people are still dying from the delayed effects of one atomic bomb, considered crude by today's standard for mass destruction.

Most experts agree that nuclear weapons are more dangerous now than at any point in our history due to a wide variety of risks including: geopolitical saber rattling, human error, computer failure, complex systems failure, increasing radioactive contamination in the environment and its toll on public and environmental health, as well as the global famine and climate chaos that would ensue should a limited use of nuclear weapons occur by accident or design. Yet few people truly grasp the meaning of living in the nuclear age.

This is why I have been overjoyed at witnessing the recent development of a global movement involving Non Nuclear Weapon States and NGOs working together to achieve the elimination of nuclear weapons. This movement has been reframing the problem of nuclear weapons from deterrence credibility and techno-military issues to the issue of humanitarian consequences. The result is a strong push for a nuclear Ban Treaty to begin a process for nuclear disarmament. Norway, Mexico and Austria have collaborated with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and the International Committee of the Red Cross to organize three successful International Conferences on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons.

At the end of the most recent conference in Vienna last December, the Austrian government unveiled the "Austrian Pledge" to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. Now referred to as the Humanitarian Pledge, it is supported by 113 nations that are calling on Nuclear Weapon States and those who stand with them, to begin a process for nuclear disarmament.

To repeat the words of Richard von Weizeker: "We must look truth straight in the eye - without embellishment and without distortion." The truth is, we all live with the daily threat of nuclear weapons. In every silo, on every submarine, in the bomb bays of airplanes, every second of every day, nuclear weapons, thousands on high alert, are poised for deployment threatening everyone we love and everything we hold dear.

How much longer can we allow the nuclear weapon states to wield this threat to all life on earth? The time has come for action to establish a legally binding framework to ban nuclear weapons as a first step in their total abolition. I passionately urge everyone who loves this world to join the growing global movement. And let us make the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the appropriate milestone to achieve our goal: to abolish nuclear weapons, and safeguard the future of our one shared planet earth. more

'I Cannot Forgive Myself for What I Did': One Man's Recollections of His Work on the Manhattan Project

Yumiko Sato, 08/05/2015

While I was performing musical therapy with hospice patients in America, I came across many people who had lived through World War II.

Just before her death, one woman who had moved to America after surviving the Battle of Okinawa was overcome with memories of her past.

A veteran who lost dear friends in the Battle of the Philippine Sea and, after the war, witnessed the burnt plain that Hiroshima had become, asked with tears in his eyes that we never forget that there had been a war.

A man who had killed a Japanese soldier in the Battle of Saipan confided in me before his passing.

And there is one more person that I will never forget.

One of my patients was a 93-year-old man, named Sam. He had been admitted to the hospice ward with late-stage colon cancer. Small of stature and friendly, he was always overflowing with smiles. He was a fan of big band music, and particularly liked the songs "Blue Moon" and "My Way."

One day, Sam said that he wanted to hear an Italian folk song. He was Italian-American.

The only such song I knew was the Neapolitan song "Santa Lucia." When I sang it, he gave me a satisfied smile.

"That's a good song," he said. "I'm proud of my Italian heritage. By the way, where are you from?"

When I told him I was Japanese, he looked at me with surprise. Then, suddenly, he began to cry. After a few moments of silence, he said, "I was involved in the development of the atomic bomb. When I think of the children and innocent people who were killed..."

He looked away, and shook his head.

"...I'm not proud."

Then he continued to cry.

During World War II, America worked with Britain and Canada to develop and manufacture the atomic bomb. They called it the "Manhattan Project," and started it in 1939. It is estimated that over 130,000 people were involved in this project. Sam was one of them.

"I didn't know. I didn't know that that's what would come of our work."

He raised his head from the pillow and looked at me pleadingly. His frail body shook as he cried.

Needless to say, the Manhattan Project was top secret. Most of the people working on it were unaware of the fact that they were working to develop and manufacture an atomic bomb. Only a very limited number of people were privy to the plan to drop the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

As I sat quietly by his side, unsure of what to say, I came to understand the pain and sadness he had been carrying with him for years.

In that moment, I remembered going to Hiroshima on a field trip when I was in middle school. It was a summer day with a clear blue sky. We stood, covered in sweat, before the Atomic Bomb Dome, and listened to an expressionless woman in a grey suit who had been there the day of the bomb.

"Right after the blast, many were dead. It was impossible to collect all of the bodies. To this day, many of those bodies sleep beneath the very concrete you are standing on."

The things I saw at the Dome that day will always remain in my memory. The shadows of people incinerated on the stairs. The melted skin stuck to the walls.

After meeting Sam, I understood one more side to this tragedy: Many Americans are still haunted by guilt for their involvement in the bomb's development.

Sam had been shaking so hard, he was out of breath.

"I want to listen to music. Sing something," he said.

I strummed my guitar and sang the song he liked so much, "Blue Moon." At last, he laid his head back on the pillow, and slowly his breathing became calmer.

I continued to visit him until his death. As his passing drew closer, his shame and sadness deepened. He stopped smiling like he had before.

He had stopped eating and started spending most of his time sleeping. One day, he told me, "I cannot forgive myself for what I did." Then he closed his eyes, as though it was difficult to even look at me.

"I cannot believe that war is the best solution. No one won the last war, and no one will win the next war." -- Eleanor Roosevelt

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