Today is the 70th anniversary of the dropping of a plutonium bomb on Nagasaki. Many Americans believe that the dropping of the bomb was necessary and ended “The Good War.” Fascism was defeated. The forces of Democracy won. I would like to examine these assumptions.
My father was a radiologist. He toured Nagasaki after we dropped the bomb and visited the hospitals. He learned the words in Japanese for: “I have come here to help.” I do not believe he was prepared for an answer. He wrote one paper in the scientific literature. He described the differences between the hot burns that come from thermal injury and the cold burns that come from radiation. After that, he became silent. He was unable to talk about the destruction he had seen. At most he said that the destruction was like Dresden. He had the thousand yard stare described among traumatized prisoners.
The Greatest Generation, the Americans who won World War II, also became the silent generation. They were told to go home and not talk about what they had seen. The state of secrecy, which might have been necessary during the war, was extended into the peace. Their past was never dealt with. They internalized all of their moral injuries. They smoked and drank. They got the DTs, and fought their demons in the VA hospitals.
Let us go back 100 years. World War I was fought within the range of guns. Ninety percent of The casualties were those in the battlefield.
Horses were used at the beginning, but by the end soldiers rode to the front
in mass produced trucks, running on gasoline. The industrial age had begun.
The first airplanes appeared. Their role was not yet clear.
I would like to examine the lives of some of the men who came of age at
that time and some of the events in which they were involved.
Edward Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, created the
science of propaganda, which he called public relations. He felt there
should be an enlightened despotism to engineer consent to control the
masses. Using the media to foster his ideas, he promoted the idea that the
Americans efforts in World War I were to “bring democracy to all of
Europe.” Later, he created the story that gave public support to
the overthrow of Guatemala on the behalf of the United fruit. He was
reported to be dismayed when he learned that Goebbels had his textbook in
his library. Propaganda triumphed in World War II.
Marine major General Smedley Butler was one of the greatest heroes
of World War I. He wrote a book called “War is a Racket” In it he said:
war is a racket! It has always been! It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. I spent 33 years in the Marine, most of the time being a high-class muscleman for big business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republican for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American food companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I help see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back at on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints.
Smelled Butler became an isolationist. He heeded the words of the founding fathers that the United States should avoid entanglements in foreign wars.
In July 1932 the Bonus Army, a crowd of 50,000, including 17,000 World War I Veterans, marched on Washington and created an encampment. They have been promised a bonus, but the bonus was not to be paid until 1940. They were starving and they wanted the money now. Smedley Butler told them that they deserved their bonus. President Hoover was opposed. He called upon Patton, Eisenhower, and MacArthur to clear the encampment. They brought out the machine guns, and drove the veterans away.
During the Great Depression Franklin Roosevelt heeded his conscience. He endorsed the social contract that the task of government was to look after the people and to protect them from the corporations. He was prepared to take on the elite of the United States, and they fought back. They formed an organization called American Liberty League. Prescott Bush did the financing. They sent delegates to study fascism in Italy and Germany so that they could bring fascism to the United States.
The American Liberty League asked Smedley Butler to lead a fascist coup against the United States. He found out as much as he could, and then he testified about the ALL in Congress in 1934. There was no one in power who wanted to listen to him. He was marginalized by the forces of capitalism and forgotten.
The specter of Hitler and Fascism threatened the world with their desire to expand across national borders for economic reasons. The fascists preferred war over diplomacy. According to Mussolini, Fascism is a state in which the goals of the state and the goals of the corporation are one. .
Many people felt that the United States should not be in these foreign wars. The war to end all wars, World War I, had not ended war. There were enough problems at home to care for ourselves.
However, other Americans found opportunity. There is an social organization at Yale College called Skull and Bones. Pirates used this symbol; the choice was not a coincidence. It was endowed in the 1860s by William Russell, His clipper ships made him a fortune in the China trade, smuggling opium into China. Skull and Bones became a place where the children of the drug lords could develop intergenerational relationships.
During the 1930s Germany had insurmountable debts.. They needed money. They found allies among the Members of Skull and Bones. The banking investment firm, Brown, Brothers, and Harriman, and Union Banking Corporation, lead by Prescott Bush, believed there were great investment opportunities in Germany. They loaned the money that Germany needed for reindustrialization.
Alfred Sloan, head of General Motors, created a wholly owned subsidiary in Germany called Opal. Opal produced trucks for the German war effort. Charles Kettering, research scientist at General Motors, created the additive to make leaded gasoline. He arranged that the third Reich could purchase this important patented substance. It allowed the engines to run without self destructing. US banking, science, and industry made the blitzkrieg possible.
Both Henry Ford and Thomas Watson, head of IBM, received awards from Hitler for their work supporting the third Reich. Thomas Watson honored his business commitment to run the computers that ran in concentration camps. For these people it was all about doing business. They happily supported both sides of the war.
For others, it was ideological. The Dulles brothers were raised as strict Presbyterians. They switched their strict belief system from Christianity to Capitalism. There was good and evil. They regarded anyone disagreed from them to be evil. For them the communists were evil. The communists believed that capital should be shared. For the Dulles brothers diplomacy with their enemies was not an option. They might as well make deals with the devil.
During the 1930s John Foster Dulles did the legal work for Cromwell and Sullivan, the legal firm which supported big businesses abroad. They worked with the banks, Brown Brothers and Harriman, to support the interests of United fruit in Guatemala. Edward Bernays provided the propaganda. Smedley Butler provided at the muscle. As the corporations moved through Central America, Dulles and his colleagues created the banana republics and made them safe for big business.
After the war John Foster Dulles served as Secretary of State for Eisenhower His brother Alan helped create and served as the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA. The CIA created a platform for deniable extra-government action. These two brothers were the chief architects of the Cold War. They had little need to consult with staff at either of their departments. .They helped corporate America extend from the Western Hemisphere to the entire world. Under their supervision they supported to the Greek fascists against the communists in 1947. They overthrew the legitimate government of Iran in 1953. They initiated the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961. All of this was done with the cover secrecy and deniability.
Another CIA program was called operation Paperclip. It allowed many high level Nazis to immigrate to the United States, contrary to Truman’s orders. Among them were Reinhard Galen, the head of Nazi secret intelligence on the Eastern Front against Russia. He was vetted by the CIA and was installed as the head of West German Secret Service. Unfortunately his information became worse than useless, because the Russians had already infiltrated the Galen organization.
America’s love of democracy was to be spread around the world with guns to make the world safe for America’s corporations. The connection between government and corporation in the United States was consolidated. Today Neoconservatives in this country talk about the project for the new America century and the new world order. Hitler would be jealous.
The isolationist movement largely evaporated with bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. I will only mention that In the United States there were about 300,000 casualties. In Russia there were over 25 million casualties, with nearly 17 million civilians. The United States provided the capital and materials, and the Russians supplied the blood. On March, 1946 Churchill gave his Iron Curtain speech, denouncing Communism. A new enemy was created.
The official story of the United States is that the dropping of the Bomb was necessary to end the war. However, let it be noted that Adm. William Leahy, President Truman’s Chief of Staff, wrote in his 1950 memoir “I Was There” that “the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan.” Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, “voiced grave misgivings, on the basis of the belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary,”
The industrial production of airplanes greatly extended the range of the battlefield. Joseph Conrad wrote in the “heart of Darkness” that, “the horror, the horror” occurred in the deepest Africa. . I believe that the horror developed during World War II with the mass production of airplanes to drop bombs upon civilians in foreign cities and culminated with the atomic bombs.
Civilians become the majority of the casualties. Japan had already been defeated by US air superiority. Curtis Lemay used incendiary phosphorus bombs, destroying dozens of cities. Estimates range from a quarter of million to a million civilians killed. In Tokyo alone 100,000 civilians were killed in a great firestorm. These bombings by conventional weapons caused more destruction then what occurred at Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Furthermore, the Japanese did not yet know that radiation sickness existed. The atomic bomb was a mystery that they could not comprehend.
Stalin secretly told Roosevelt that the Soviets would enter the war against Japan three months after the surrender of Germany. On August 8, 1945, Stalin launched a surprise attack on Japanese held Manchuria, attacking from the west, north, and east simultaneously with 1.5 million soldiers. The Japanese could understand what the Russians would do on their unprotected Western front. The Japanese surrendered on the first day of the attack.
Imagine what might have happened if the production of the atomic bomb had been delayed a week or the peace signed sooner in Germany. The war might have ended before the United States had an opportunity to share with the world its biggest secret.
Robert Oppenheimer was called the father of the atomic bomb. When he witnessed the first atomic bomb blast in New Mexico, he said “now we are the destroyer.” He questioned the wisdom of further developing the atomic bomb. He feared that there would be an arms race.
Edward Teller was opposed to communism and felt that a the hydrogen bomb should be developed to intimidate the Russians. Teller called Oppenheimer a communist. Oppenheimer was stripped of his security clearance. The House UnAmericans Committee had been formed to go after the fascists in 1938, but switched to the communists after the war. After the war, Teller advocated using nuclear weapons to build harbors in Alaska. He became the inspiration for the character in Dr. Strangelove. .
Leslie Groves was the Army General in charge of the Manhattan Project, the top-secret military project to build in the atomic bomb. He personally believed that the real enemy were not the fascists but rather the communists. In the fog of war, it was his decision.
Leslie Groves requested that Curtis Lemay not destroy certain cities. After the bombs were dropped, Leslie Groves sent investigators into both Hiroshima and Nagasaki to compare the relative destructive forces of the uranium bomb and the plutonium bomb. He concluded the plutonium was a better bomb. He was planning for future wars. His account only mentioned destruction of buildings. There was no discussion of the radiation injuries of the survivors. Photographs of the concentration camps in Europe became part of the public record. Photographs of the victims of the atomic bombs were top-secret for many years.
During World War II the interests of the corporations and of the government became inseparable in the United States. After the war the corporations remained in power. They decided to go to war against communism. They became the military industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about. In fact, many people believe that the corporations now control the government. This is consistent with Mussolini’s definition of fascism.
The corporations are the winners of World War II, and they continue to threaten the peace in our current times. They continued the war against communism until the Soviet Union broke up and communism failed. Now we are fighting a war against terrorism. War has become our business. We have taken the position that diplomacy is for cowards.
After the war both Japan and Germany were obliged to give up their military might. Today, German citizens have free education, free healthcare, a dynamic economy with all citizens earning a living wage, with generous benefits. The unions have a seat at the corporate tables. They are leading the industrialized nations with the development of renewable energy.
The United States, having won, was under no such obligation to renounce war. The war corporations, the military-industrial complex, had become very powerful during the war. There was nobody to shut them down!
Here in the United States the students are $1 trillion in debt. Walmart makes $5 billion profit, but do not pay their employees a living wage. The government gives Walmart employees $5 billion in benefits for their survival. Many people are one illness away from bankruptcy. The government is spying on its citizens. There are more people incarcerated in jail than any other country.The government tells us there is not enough money for education or social service. The police enter the ghettos and kill people at Will for trivial reasons without accountability. We fought World War II for Democracy. Is this with Democracy looks like?
There were some efforts made to switch to peaceful pursuits. Nuclear technology was used to develop nuclear reactors, radiology and radiation therapy, which we give to our loved ones dying of cancer. There are estimates that the radiation given by CAT scans in 2007 will result in nearly 30,000 cases of cancer in the future. Nitrogen mustard, an agent of war, was one of the first chemotherapy agents against cancer. These agents formed the cornerstone of the early war against cancer.
The process used to convert nitrogen into TNT was changed to make fertilizer for the crops. . Nerve gases were converted into insecticides and herbicides. Tanks became harvesters. Big agricultural was created. We cover the earth with explosives and poisons. There seems to be a technological imperative: once something is created, it should be used if it can make a profit. Profit has become the new guiding compass. There are those who believe the technology has give us dominion over the world. Others believe that these technologies have created our current environmental disasters.
I remember as a child preparing for a nuclear annihilation by entering the corridors of the grammar school, away from the windows, and putting my hands over my head. I remember that my father, a radiologist, thought it was wise to drink powdered milk, because the current milk was contaminated by strontium 90, from the above ground nuclear bomb testing that the contaminated the entire country. The powdered milk tasted disgusting.
President Eisenhower tried to counter the public fear of nuclear development. He created the program Atoms for Peace, which exported nuclear technology to Israel, Pakistan, and Iran. He also created the international atomic energy commission, whose goal was to restrict nuclear weapons technology to the chosen few, notably the US, Britain, France, and China. This led to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NNT) which was established in 1970 to contain the spread of nuclear weapons. This treaty has been renegotiated every five years
When I grew up, I became a conscientious objector. I quoted AJ musty who said, “the problem is with war is not the vanquished. The problem with war is the victor because they believe that violence works.” I might add that the problem with winning is that the victor does not have to deal with their crimes. Victors believe that might makes right. I believe that war crimes were committed when the United States dropped atomic bombs on civilian targets. I would like to take this moment to apologize to the Japanese People for the war crimes we committed against innocent civilians.
In 2009, while in Prague, Czechoslovakia, President Barack Obama pledged to reduce the United States dependency upon nuclear weapons. This was a time of great optimism.
Today we have the 45th anniversary of the NNT. According to a report published by the Union of Concerned Scientists, 150 nations around the world favor nuclear disarmament of all nations. However, despite Barack Obama’s pledge in Prague, he now is planning to spend over $1 trillion to upgrade our current nuclear arsenal over the next decade.
The common wisdom would have you believe that the danger of nuclear weapons will come from terrorists. The historical fact shows that the greatest threat of nuclear weapons has come from the United States. The United States has dropped two weapons on Japan, over 330 above ground tests in the United States alone, and 66 over the Marshall islands. There are the downwinders, downwind from the above ground blasts, mostly in the Mountain West There are estimates of 25,000 deaths from cancer related injuries for these Americans. Some of the Marshall Islands have been made uninhabitable. As Charmaine White Foot has told us, uranium mines in the Northern Plains have led to a environmental disaster among the Indians. Hanford, Washington, Rocky Mountain Flats, Colorado, and Savannah, South Carolina have become toxic waste lands. The United States has soiled its own lands.
The United States has placed sanctions on Iran for many years because of their hostile words. Today there is hope that the current acts of diplomacy taken by Secretary of State John Kerry will lead to a resolution. Let us work in this country to make Congress support diplomacy. However, there remain powerful forces in the United States that say we cannot negotiate with our enemies.
Currently we are applying no pressure to Israel, which is in violation of international law. Israel has hundreds of nuclear weapons, and has never signed the NNT. Israel is threatening to bomb Iran, with nuclear weapons that Israel denies having.
The drums of war are now beating in Israel, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, and all around the world. One hundred years ago the drums of war were beating in Europe. A single event, the assassination of the Archduke Duke in Sarajevo, triggered a cataclysm which led to World War I, the war to end all wars. A similar situation exists today.
The development of the atomic bomb has raised the stakes for the world. If 1% of the nuclear weapons in existence are used ever used, it will create an endless winter, global cooling, and deaths in the millions.
It is time now that the US should lead the world and eliminate its nuclear arsenal. Furthermore, war as a means of settling disputes must be renounced. Then President Barack Obama will earn the Noble peace prize he has already received.
This talk of war and destruction is grim business. I would like to end with a few hopeful comments. There are forces destruction around us and they are represented by the corporations. The corporations seem all powerful and yet, they are dependent upon the people. In our daily lives we can abandon the corporations It is overwhelming to consider the whole picture, but we can examine our our small daily efforts, Do we promote the forces of life or the forces of destruction? Let us promote life and peace. We will all be doing a small part to make the world a better place. Corporations cannot be defeated in war, but they can be abandoned in peace.
I see this happening in the thousand ways. People are growing their own food. People are organizing against the pipeline. Others promote solar energy. Conservation is being pursued. The monks of the Peace Pagoda are developing a community. I dream that sometime in the near future the people will gather together to stop this madness in the world.
I would like to close with this prayer offered by the monks of the Peace Pagoda:
Hearing the cry of survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Let us take up their single universally true cry.
Let us move with the majority of the world who is clearly call for the abolition of all nuclear weapons.
Let us transfer the energy of fear and almighty violence to an energy of coming together to create a new civilization—one which nurtures community which supports everybody’s life.
Let us find ways to live in harmony with the earth in order to quickly mitigate the destruction brought on by the human made climate crisis