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09 August 2008

Give Me Water

This past week was the terrible anniversary of the two most horrific days in the history of the world. On 06 August 1945 the United States of America dropped an atomic bomb on the civilian population of Hiroshima. Then on 09 August 1945 the United States of America dropped a second atomic bomb on the civilian population of Nagasaki. I was touched deep in my soul one day in 1972 when I found a little book in the public library. It is called Give Me Water: Testimonies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was compiled by a Citizen’s Group to Convey Testimonies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The images in that book are forever in my mind--a little girl, about my age at the time (10 years) burned, screaming, her clothes ripped from her body by the blast; charcoal figures in the shape of human bodies with their arms twisted grotesquely from the burning; empty holes where eyes melted away from the heat; shadows of lives blasted out of existence imprinted on walls. I remember holding that book in my hands and crying. I cried because I hurt so deeply for the children. They did no crime against my Country. The committed no offense. They did not declare war on me or my Countrymen, yet they bore the violence of Little Boy and Fat Man dropped from the sky by soldiers who were just following orders. The people involved in this most horrible of human acts have justified in their own minds the reasons for their decision to obliterate hundreds of thousands of lives in an instant. President Harry Truman claimed in a radio address "The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base." How the hell can an entire city filled with women, children, old men, hospitals, schools, churches, parks, pets, and flowers be a military base? I did not fall for this bullshit as a child, and I don't believe it as an adult. What that government did to the Japanese people is nothing short of a war crime. In my opinion the United States Government and the creators of those two monstrosities wanted to see what would happen to human beings. Blowing up deserts and unoccupied houses was not satisfying to them. The debate about the military justification versus the cost in human lives continues to this day. The dehumanization of the Japanese people led to widespread acceptance the use of cruel weapons of mass destruction on innocent civilians. Following the bombings, President Truman said, "The only language they seem to understand is the one we have been using to bombard them. When you have to deal with a beast you have to treat him like a beast. It is most regrettable but nevertheless true." Trophies of War: U.S. Troops and the Mutilation of Japanese War Dead, 1941-1945, by James J. Weingartner, The Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 61, No. 1 (Feb., 1992), pp. 53-67 . The Japanese Government filed an official protest following the detonation of two weapons of mass destruction:
Combatant and noncombatant men and women, old and young, are massacred without discrimination by the atmospheric pressure of the explosion, as well as by the radiating heat which result therefrom. Consequently there is involved a bomb having the most cruel effects humanity has ever known. . . . The bombs in question, used by the Americans, by their cruelty and by their terrorizing effects, surpass by far gas or any other arm, the use of which is prohibited. Japanese protests against U.S. desecration of international principles of war paired the use of the atomic bomb with the earlier firebombing, which massacred old people, women and children, destroying and burning down Shinto and Buddhist temples, schools, hospitals, living quarters, etc. . . . They now use this new bomb, having an uncontrollable and cruel effect much greater than any other arms or projectiles ever used to date. This constitutes a new crime against humanity and civilization. The Atomic Bomb: Voices from Hiroshima and Nagasaki by Mark Selden, Kyoko Selden; M. E. Sharpe, 1989.
The genocidal attacks on Japan were not a military necessity. Japan was defeated. This proposition is supported by the American military leaders at the time:
The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace. The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military point of view, in the defeat of Japan. Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.[source]
The use of [the atomic bombs] at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender. Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to President Truman.[source]
So why did the United States commit this atrocity? Men with great power, no sense of humanity or morality had a new toy who wanted to try it out. They wanted to impress and awe their rivals for super power status. They had no regard for human life. I wonder if they ever bothered to look at that little book, Give Me Water? And if they did see the images and read the stories of suffering, were their souls touched as mine was when I was 10 years old? I imagine they never lost one minute of sleep.
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