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A Day That Lives in Infamy
If We Rationalize Mass Murder, We Allow it to Happen Again
Here are some of my writings on the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I try to post them every year on this date, if only to counter the flood of "yeah it was terrible how we ("we") eviscerated all those women and children but it was really their own fault because their government did bad things and besides it was the only way to save the lives of the American soldiers who were about to invade them."
And yes, there is more to the arguments than that (I go into that in the articles below.) But at their core, the arguments in favor of the bombings - or indeed, of the catastrophic fire bombings of nearly the entire country - boil down to nothing more than rationalizations for unrestrained power. What does that mean? Here, read this.
I wrote this piece six years ago, and seeing where we are today, how the powers of the state where I live have been expanded - practically overnight - to a degree I would have thought unimaginable back then... I sometimes feel as hopeless as the Peace Marchers at the World Conference in this piece. And yet we have to keep marching...
In the summer of 1963, Japanese novelist Kenzaburo Oe was asked to go to Hiroshima to write about the Ninth World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs. Oe covered the conference and also met with some of the bomb’s surviving victims and the doctors who worked to treat them. The result of this and subsequent trips over the next couple of years, became the essays that make up Hiroshima Notes published in 1965.
It was a pivotal time in Oe’s own life: His first son had just been born with a large growth on his head that would have to be removed if he were to survive. The doctors warned that the surgery would most likely leave the boy severely disabled and barely able to function. They encouraged the couple to let the boy die. As he embarked for Hiroshima, Oe and his wife had not yet decided what they would do.
It was eighteen years after the bombs had been dropped, but only twelve since the lifting of an officially enforced silence about their effects. Following the Japanese defeat, the Allied Occupation government had issued a press code that prohibited public discussion or publication of any information related to damages from the A-bomb – including information about medical treatment. This press code remained in place until 1951.
Of course, someone wrote in after this piece was published, to argue that the bombings were "necessary." From my reply:
There is never only one way to resolve a conflict. Ask yourself, if Truman had declared that the only way to end the war was to nuke Toledo, would you have accepted his reasoning so readily? Those who make these decisions don't look for other options, because they don't have to. They do not face the same consequences the rest of us do for our actions. As long as the state has a monopoly on justice, and on determining who gets to use violence and under what circumstances, it cannot be held accountable in any real sense. And it therefore cannot be effectively prevented from inflicting horrors like the rape of Nanjing and the bombing of Hiroshima on the rest of us.
Upon re-reading this article, I am embarrassed to see that I mis-used "beg the question" here. Mea culpa.
Finally, I posted this mention, back in 2011, of "Floating Lantern", a collection of stories and drawings by some of the survivors of the bombings. As I said in my post, if you support these acts of unrestrained brutality, you should at the very least take a close look at what it is you are endorsing.
Maybe one day we can rid ourselves of the insane notion that crimes such as mass murder are no longer crimes when they are committed by the institution of the state. If not, then look forward to even more memorials, more Peace Marches to commemorate future atrocities, and more literary collections of the memories of those who were fortunate enough to have survived the future horrors humanity will inflict upon itself because of this stupid, stupid belief.