I'm living in Kusatsu-shi, Shiga-ken for an undetermined amount of time and teaching English as a second language at a local high school. This journal is to document my experiences, thoughts, and to stay connected with others at home and abroad.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Some Notes on Hiroshima

This was a pretty incredible experience to say the least. There is a building left in ruins from the day that America dropped the bomb on Hiroshima called, not surprisingly, the A-bomb dome. The National Govt and UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) have consecrated this site and aim to preserve the memory of August 6th, 1945. In the Museum were several watches that stopped running at the moment of impact: 8:15 am. The A-bomb dome is located less than a few hundred meters from the hypocenter of where the bomb landed. During the explosion everyone in the building was incinerated.
The Hrioshima Peace Museum was amazing. It displayed the history of the city; for centuries Hiroshima was an educational nucleus and it also became a military establishment during the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japan wars. Facts about WWII and what led to Truman's decision to use nuclear weapons was also addressed. It sadly appears that many influencing factors on America's actions were not based on necessity. Some controversy exists over whether Truman decided to use a nuclear assault to justify spending $2 billion on the Manhattan Project. It seems that he also wanted to use The Bomb as an intimidating deterrent against Stalin from challenging America's authority (instead it had the opposite effect). The US's common justification for killing several hundred thousand civilians was that it saved the lives of soldiers during an infiltration of Honshu––Japan's mainland. They believed that kamakaze Japanese soldiers would vigorously fight to the death with their backs against the wall. But Japan's army was already enfeebled by the war and attempting to negotiate peaceful solutions. I personally didn't find that the means excused the ends.
On an more chipper note, the museum also detailed Hiroshima and Japan's advocation for nuclear abolition. Their optimism and lack of resentment in light of what happened surprises me, and I feel a strong admiration for their resolution of ahimsa (nonviolent protest). Japan has never invested in nuclear arms. I think this exemplies impressive character and respect for other humans––to not retaliate with blind rage against another's insult.
Anyway enough for now.
Peace,

3 Comments:

Blogger Mel Westley said...

Hey, Salem – what a great idea to put together a blog of your time in Japan. Your experiences are permanently in a place where they can be read as time allows. The ability to include pictures is great. I’d certainly rather see Katie’s apartment in person without the snow!

As far as the Hiroshima museum is concerned, personally I’m quite disappointed with your description of that one compared to other WWII museums I have visited. You and I talked about how the Chinese still harbor resentment about the fact that Japan has never apologized for the atrocities committed against China. To me, the rationalizations presented at Hiroshima indicate there are still those in Japan who remain in denial about much of WWII history. I forget where I saw it recently, but there is an organization in Japan that is once again denying the validity of the outcome of the 1946 War Crimes trials. In Japan, the trials certainly were much less in the American public’s attention compared to those in Nürmberg trials, where the “cast of characters” was much more familiar. But some in Japan wish to revise history to the extent of a claim of no war criminals: the trials were only “guilt by association” with their German counterparts.

Our German guide (who was an infant in WWII) in one of the concentration camps in Austria was extremely emotional about the deeds of his countrymen. And the exhibits there pulled no punches. At the Peace Museum in Cannes above Omaha Beach in France, is a downward spiral ramp that depicts the events between the end of WWI and the end of WWII. The excessively brutal terms of the Treaty of Versailles against the German people was admitted to be one of the contributing factors to the rise of Hitler to power. And the acts of the Vichy government and French collaborationists against their own countrymen were not “white-washed”. Our own USS Arizona memorial is a solemn place with only the names of the men whose final resting place was below the memorial.

I guess there is some generational gap in our thinking. I was a senior in High School when WWII ended, but without the atomic bomb I might very well have reached the end of my days on one of the Japanese home islands. The invasion plan, Operation Olympic, was scheduled to first hit the southernmost island in late 1945, with a follow-on in late spring 1946. Our only moving pictures of the war effort were at the Newsreel “short subjects” at the movies – no instant TV. So the events seemed more fixed in your mind, compared with the informational overkill of the constant TV networks. Then, for quite a while after the end of the war, the news “short subjects” at the movies included newsreels from the Japanese side, as well as documents that were uncovered. (This is still going on, as more documents were recently uncovered).

The Pacific war strategy was to follow the European tactic of first destroying the enemy’s capability to produce weapons of war. This was far more difficult due to the vast stretches of open water in the Pacific Ocean. Several of my friends at the Pima Air Museum were crew members of B24s during that time. The B24 was the airplane of choice because of its much longer range compared to the B17s used so effectively throughout Europe. Our original air bases in the South Pacific were far from the Japanese homeland. So the B24s were used as tactical weapons to support the invasions of the chain of Islands stretching from Australia to Guadalcanal (in 1942), New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the Gilberts, the Carolines, the Marshalls, many more whose names have been forgotten, and finally the Mariana Islands in 1944. While still some 3,000 miles from the Japanese homeland, our newest weapon, the B29 Superfortress could make the trip. The Japanese home islands would now be under attack for the first time since the Doolittle raids. So the tactical use of air power was put aside for the strategic objective of destroying the Japanese industry’s capability to continue production of weapons. What with weather problems and other factors, the B29s often had problems returning to base either because of damage or fuel exhaustion. Something had to be done, so next were the bloody battles for Saipan and Tinian in the Mariana Islands. This allowed the B29 bases to be 1,500 miles closer to Japan, but at a cost of about 28,000 American casualties. Even when the only remaining Japanese forces were inside caves, they still refused to surrender. The newsreels showed that they had to be removed by flame throwers, grenades, mortars, and small arms fire. No prisoners of war were taken – they all chose death to surrender.

Many crippled B29s were still unable to make the trip home, thus Iwo Jima, about half way to Japan and with 3 airfields, was the next to fall, again at heavy cost in US Marines casualties. With the taking of Iwo Jima, Japan was now doomed. The original B29 missions were high altitude, daylight, precision bombing. It was noticed that many of the Japanese industrial buildings were wooden that burned very rapidly, thus extending the damage. It was obvious that fire fighting equipment was inadequate. So missions were now flown at night at low altitude with incendiary bombs. Civilian casualties now mounted, and the toll with incendiary bombs was quite a bit higher than the atomic bombs. Newsreels after the war showed that the Japanese ridiculed the B29s that had been shot down – they had far too many guns and other defensive and safety features. Americans preferred the daylight high altitude bombing runs, as they permitted maximum damage to the enemy’s industrial base with minimum risk of American lives. To the Japanese at the time, their human resources were considered expendable, and of little importance.

With the capacity to make the weapons of war destroyed, and many of their cities in ruin, there was no thought of surrender. So the next big battle was for Okinawa, from which to stage the invasion of the home islands. But at Okinawa, the overwhelming material superiority of the Allied forces was met with a spiritual defense – the code of the Samuri warrior. These Kamakaze pilots were sent out with very little flight training (like the 9/11 terrorists, there was no need to learn how to land an airplane!). The Japanese fighter planes sent out to cover the suicide pilots were no match for the superior American fighter aircraft. But the sheer numbers allowed some of the suicide pilots to get through. Okinawa was finally taken, but only with the heaviest losses the US Navy had suffered in the war. The ancient Samuri tradition had almost trumped the latest in 20th Century technology. This lesson stuck with US forces from then on.

While post-war records showed that some in the Japanese diplomatic corps had approached Russia, Sweden, and Switzerland to try to intercede in peace negotiations, the Japanese military threatened to assassinate any diplomat who talked surrender. The Emperor’s wishy-washy words to “end the war as quickly as possible” were taken by the military to mean step up the offensive, not surrender. And let’s not forget that Japanese diplomats were in Washington, DC, pledging their peaceful intentions, on December 7, 1941!

Thus came the atomic bomb, which unquestionably DID have the result of ending the war. Was there another way? Could anything other than the use of the bomb result in surrender? This was surely not at all obvious at the time. Should we have given a demonstration of the weapon? Suppose it was a dud? And (although the Japanese did not know this), we had only two of them, and little possibility of producing more in the near future. Think of it another way – suppose the land invasion went forward, and an enormous number of both American and Japanese casualties before the nation was subdued. Then it came out later that Truman had a weapon that had promise of ending the war quickly, but chose not to use it. What would the families of the American casualties thought of that?

Using the weapon as a bargaining chip against the Soviet Union does not seem likely. When Stalin was told of the weapon, he looked bored – he knew all about it from KGB spies. This subject has been thoroughly debated, and history has judged Truman kindly. I never heard the argument that it was used to “justify the cost of the Manhattan Project” – that seems to me to be the most far fetched theory of all.

It was widely believed that Japan was also working on an atomic bomb project, and there was, of course, worry that they would get there first. As it turns out, post war information shows that they did have a very active program, but it turns out to be of no consequence, as they were working on the wrong track. (I’m still mystified about the German physicist Werner Heisenburg – was he secretly sabotaging the German effort, or was he trying his best to make it successful).

As far as the Japanese “lack of resentment of what happened”, and thus “did not pursue an active atomic weapons program”, let’s not forget that post-WWII Japan was under the protective umbrella of the United States armed forces. Japan had no need to invest heavily in defense spending, as the United States was committed to defending them. Thus the US bore the burden of high defense spending, and Japan was free to rebuild their industrial base. For a while, this put American industries at a competitive disadvantage, until the end of the so-called “Japanese miracle”. The Japanese atomic weapons program might need rethinking in view of events in North Korea.

Surely your courses in philosophy and psychology have included the concept of “living in the present moment”, as that’s all we can be sure of. (I have to keep reminding myself of that whenever I’m in a slump about the loss of Hannah). So why not have the attitude “that was then, this is now”. The Japanese are important friends of ours in the volatile Pacific region, so let’s go with the way things are now instead of relentlessly hashing over the past. I’m anxious to visit Vietnam this fall, as I think they might well become an important ally in that area.

As far as Harry Truman is concerned, he’s quite an enigma for me. I remember breathing a sigh of relief when it looked certain that we would be rid of the “know-nothing haberdasher from Missouri”. But when he was elected to a full term with the defeat of Tom Dewey, I thought this was surely the end of civilization as we know it. But over the years I, along with an overwhelming majority, consider him to be one of our best presidents. If you haven’t run across it, there’s a most interesting book called “Presidential Leadership”, edited by James Taranto and Leonard Leo. There’s a most interesting discussion on exactly what constitutes Leadership. Then there’s a ranking of all the presidents. The ratings were the results of a consensus of the opinions of 78 scholars (30 historians, 25 political scientists, and 23 law professors). The scholars covered the complete range of political bias, from liberal, moderate, and conservative. Each scholar was asked to rate the presidents on a standard social science 5 point scale from well below average to highly superior. The final list was broken up in categories “Great”, “Near Great”, “Above Average”, “Average”, “Below Average”, and “Failure”. On this list, Harry Truman #7 overall, and 4th out of 8 in the “Near Great” category. Interesting that there is only one “Great” president for each 100 years: George Washington in the 18th Century, Abraham Lincoln in the 19th, and Franklin Roosevelt in the 20th. Will there be one for the 21st Century?

In the Appendix, the editors point out that the idea of ranking presidents was started by Arthur Schlesinger, Sr. in 1948, and followed up by his son, Arthur Jr. in 1996. Both were liberal-leaning scholars. The current author’s study was conducted in 2000, and they point out that the correlation of the two studies is a staggeringly high .94. In fact, the only “outlier” was Ronald Reagan, who was rated lower in the liberal Schlesinger ratings than the current author’s more politically balanced group.

While I was working, thus going back about 20 years, Du Pont sent me with a group to a 3 day seminar on effective negotiating. The instructor pointed out the difference in skills between Carter and Reagan. For effective negotiating, each side must have either something the other side wants, or the ability to do something the other side does not want. It was pointed out that Crater “gave up the store” when he declared that we would do nothing that might endanger the Iran hostages – he had no more bargaining chips. It was no accident that the hostages were released on Reagan’s inauguration day. They realized they would now be dealing with what they thought was a “Hollywood cowboy” whose reaction was unpredictable. Reagan’s skills continued with his handling of the Soviet Union, Libya’s Kadaffi, and the air traffic controllers union. Reagan exuded confidence and optimism, compared to Carter’s pessimism and ennui. So Carter is buried in the middle of the “below average” presidents in both lists. Reagan is more controversial, rating “near great” in the current authors’ “politically inclusive” listing, but lower when rated by liberals.

So when it comes to negotiations with a hostile world power, diplomacy is ineffective without a credible military threat to back it up. I certainly make no excuses for the incredibly inept way the Bush administration handled the follow up to the overthrow of Saddam Hussain. In the last election, I actually wound up voting for Kerry (who I judged as one of the weakest political candidates I have ever seen) because Bush continued to admit to no errors, and no one was fired for the way things turned out up to that point. So there is much to justifiably criticize president Bush, but the other side resorts to “overkill” in inventing other criticisms that are transparently false. But “living in the present moment”, let’s all applaud the strike that took out Zarqawi (particularly since the tip on his hiding place came from within his own organization). And even more importantly, the Iraqi government has now been completed. There is a long road ahead, but I don’t think it’s yet time to declare defeat.

Speaking of the use of military force, I must start with a disclaimer. Due to the accident of my date of birth, I never served in the US military. One of the “guiding principles” of the Unitarian Univesalist Church is a belief in “the basic dignity of all mankind”. I’m not at all sure I agree with that, but for the sake of argument, what do you do with people of extreme antisocial actions. As an analogy, let’s take the case of individual body cells. What does one do with cells that become cancerous? That would be an analogy to suicide bombers – if allowed to continue, the cancer cells will also perish when they have killed the supporting organism. So would you recommend having your brain cells sit down for an extensive dialog to determine the “root causes” of the unsatisfactory behavior of the cancer cells? Or would you immediately do everything possible to kill the cancer cells by radiation, surgery, toxic chemicals, or any other means at your disposal.

Well, my “hunt and peck” typing is coming to an end. Thanks again for establishing your blog.

10:13 AM

 
Blogger Mel Westley said...

Hey, Salem – what a great idea to put together a blog of your time in Japan. Your experiences are permanently in a place where they can be read as time allows. The ability to include pictures is great. I’d certainly rather see Katie’s apartment in person without the snow!

As far as the Hiroshima museum is concerned, personally I’m quite disappointed with your description of that one compared to other WWII museums I have visited. You and I talked about how the Chinese still harbor resentment about the fact that Japan has never apologized for the atrocities committed against China. To me, the rationalizations presented at Hiroshima indicate there are still those in Japan who remain in denial about much of WWII history. I forget where I saw it recently, but there is an organization in Japan that is once again denying the validity of the outcome of the 1946 War Crimes trials. In Japan, the trials certainly were much less in the American public’s attention compared to those in Nürmberg trials, where the “cast of characters” was much more familiar. But some in Japan wish to revise history to the extent of a claim of no war criminals: the trials were only “guilt by association” with their German counterparts.

Our German guide (who was an infant in WWII) in one of the concentration camps in Austria was extremely emotional about the deeds of his countrymen. And the exhibits there pulled no punches. At the Peace Museum in Cannes above Omaha Beach in France, is a downward spiral ramp that depicts the events between the end of WWI and the end of WWII. The excessively brutal terms of the Treaty of Versailles against the German people was admitted to be one of the contributing factors to the rise of Hitler to power. And the acts of the Vichy government and French collaborationists against their own countrymen were not “white-washed”. Our own USS Arizona memorial is a solemn place with only the names of the men whose final resting place was below the memorial.

I guess there is some generational gap in our thinking. I was a senior in High School when WWII ended, but without the atomic bomb I might very well have reached the end of my days on one of the Japanese home islands. The invasion plan, Operation Olympic, was scheduled to first hit the southernmost island in late 1945, with a follow-on in late spring 1946. Our only moving pictures of the war effort were at the Newsreel “short subjects” at the movies – no instant TV. So the events seemed more fixed in your mind, compared with the informational overkill of the constant TV networks. Then, for quite a while after the end of the war, the news “short subjects” at the movies included newsreels from the Japanese side, as well as documents that were uncovered. (This is still going on, as more documents were recently uncovered).

The Pacific war strategy was to follow the European tactic of first destroying the enemy’s capability to produce weapons of war. This was far more difficult due to the vast stretches of open water in the Pacific Ocean. Several of my friends at the Pima Air Museum were crew members of B24s during that time. The B24 was the airplane of choice because of its much longer range compared to the B17s used so effectively throughout Europe. Our original air bases in the South Pacific were far from the Japanese homeland. So the B24s were used as tactical weapons to support the invasions of the chain of Islands stretching from Australia to Guadalcanal (in 1942), New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the Gilberts, the Carolines, the Marshalls, many more whose names have been forgotten, and finally the Mariana Islands in 1944. While still some 3,000 miles from the Japanese homeland, our newest weapon, the B29 Superfortress could make the trip. The Japanese home islands would now be under attack for the first time since the Doolittle raids. So the tactical use of air power was put aside for the strategic objective of destroying the Japanese industry’s capability to continue production of weapons. What with weather problems and other factors, the B29s often had problems returning to base either because of damage or fuel exhaustion. Something had to be done, so next were the bloody battles for Saipan and Tinian in the Mariana Islands. This allowed the B29 bases to be 1,500 miles closer to Japan, but at a cost of about 28,000 American casualties. Even when the only remaining Japanese forces were inside caves, they still refused to surrender. The newsreels showed that they had to be removed by flame throwers, grenades, mortars, and small arms fire. No prisoners of war were taken – they all chose death to surrender.

Many crippled B29s were still unable to make the trip home, thus Iwo Jima, about half way to Japan and with 3 airfields, was the next to fall, again at heavy cost in US Marines casualties. With the taking of Iwo Jima, Japan was now doomed. The original B29 missions were high altitude, daylight, precision bombing. It was noticed that many of the Japanese industrial buildings were wooden that burned very rapidly, thus extending the damage. It was obvious that fire fighting equipment was inadequate. So missions were now flown at night at low altitude with incendiary bombs. Civilian casualties now mounted, and the toll with incendiary bombs was quite a bit higher than the atomic bombs. Newsreels after the war showed that the Japanese ridiculed the B29s that had been shot down – they had far too many guns and other defensive and safety features. Americans preferred the daylight high altitude bombing runs, as they permitted maximum damage to the enemy’s industrial base with minimum risk of American lives. To the Japanese at the time, their human resources were considered expendable, and of little importance.

With the capacity to make the weapons of war destroyed, and many of their cities in ruin, there was no thought of surrender. So the next big battle was for Okinawa, from which to stage the invasion of the home islands. But at Okinawa, the overwhelming material superiority of the Allied forces was met with a spiritual defense – the code of the Samuri warrior. These Kamakaze pilots were sent out with very little flight training (like the 9/11 terrorists, there was no need to learn how to land an airplane!). The Japanese fighter planes sent out to cover the suicide pilots were no match for the superior American fighter aircraft. But the sheer numbers allowed some of the suicide pilots to get through. Okinawa was finally taken, but only with the heaviest losses the US Navy had suffered in the war. The ancient Samuri tradition had almost trumped the latest in 20th Century technology. This lesson stuck with US forces from then on.

While post-war records showed that some in the Japanese diplomatic corps had approached Russia, Sweden, and Switzerland to try to intercede in peace negotiations, the Japanese military threatened to assassinate any diplomat who talked surrender. The Emperor’s wishy-washy words to “end the war as quickly as possible” were taken by the military to mean step up the offensive, not surrender. And let’s not forget that Japanese diplomats were in Washington, DC, pledging their peaceful intentions, on December 7, 1941!

Thus came the atomic bomb, which unquestionably DID have the result of ending the war. Was there another way? Could anything other than the use of the bomb result in surrender? This was surely not at all obvious at the time. Should we have given a demonstration of the weapon? Suppose it was a dud? And (although the Japanese did not know this), we had only two of them, and little possibility of producing more in the near future. Think of it another way – suppose the land invasion went forward, and an enormous number of both American and Japanese casualties before the nation was subdued. Then it came out later that Truman had a weapon that had promise of ending the war quickly, but chose not to use it. What would the families of the American casualties thought of that?

Using the weapon as a bargaining chip against the Soviet Union does not seem likely. When Stalin was told of the weapon, he looked bored – he knew all about it from KGB spies. This subject has been thoroughly debated, and history has judged Truman kindly. I never heard the argument that it was used to “justify the cost of the Manhattan Project” – that seems to me to be the most far fetched theory of all.

It was widely believed that Japan was also working on an atomic bomb project, and there was, of course, worry that they would get there first. As it turns out, post war information shows that they did have a very active program, but it turns out to be of no consequence, as they were working on the wrong track. (I’m still mystified about the German physicist Werner Heisenburg – was he secretly sabotaging the German effort, or was he trying his best to make it successful).

As far as the Japanese “lack of resentment of what happened”, and thus “did not pursue an active atomic weapons program”, let’s not forget that post-WWII Japan was under the protective umbrella of the United States armed forces. Japan had no need to invest heavily in defense spending, as the United States was committed to defending them. Thus the US bore the burden of high defense spending, and Japan was free to rebuild their industrial base. For a while, this put American industries at a competitive disadvantage, until the end of the so-called “Japanese miracle”. The Japanese atomic weapons program might need rethinking in view of events in North Korea.

Surely your courses in philosophy and psychology have included the concept of “living in the present moment”, as that’s all we can be sure of. (I have to keep reminding myself of that whenever I’m in a slump about the loss of Hannah). So why not have the attitude “that was then, this is now”. The Japanese are important friends of ours in the volatile Pacific region, so let’s go with the way things are now instead of relentlessly hashing over the past. I’m anxious to visit Vietnam this fall, as I think they might well become an important ally in that area.

As far as Harry Truman is concerned, he’s quite an enigma for me. I remember breathing a sigh of relief when it looked certain that we would be rid of the “know-nothing haberdasher from Missouri”. But when he was elected to a full term with the defeat of Tom Dewey, I thought this was surely the end of civilization as we know it. But over the years I, along with an overwhelming majority, consider him to be one of our best presidents. If you haven’t run across it, there’s a most interesting book called “Presidential Leadership”, edited by James Taranto and Leonard Leo. There’s a most interesting discussion on exactly what constitutes Leadership. Then there’s a ranking of all the presidents. The ratings were the results of a consensus of the opinions of 78 scholars (30 historians, 25 political scientists, and 23 law professors). The scholars covered the complete range of political bias, from liberal, moderate, and conservative. Each scholar was asked to rate the presidents on a standard social science 5 point scale from well below average to highly superior. The final list was broken up in categories “Great”, “Near Great”, “Above Average”, “Average”, “Below Average”, and “Failure”. On this list, Harry Truman #7 overall, and 4th out of 8 in the “Near Great” category. Interesting that there is only one “Great” president for each 100 years: George Washington in the 18th Century, Abraham Lincoln in the 19th, and Franklin Roosevelt in the 20th. Will there be one for the 21st Century?

In the Appendix, the editors point out that the idea of ranking presidents was started by Arthur Schlesinger, Sr. in 1948, and followed up by his son, Arthur Jr. in 1996. Both were liberal-leaning scholars. The current author’s study was conducted in 2000, and they point out that the correlation of the two studies is a staggeringly high .94. In fact, the only “outlier” was Ronald Reagan, who was rated lower in the liberal Schlesinger ratings than the current author’s more politically balanced group.

While I was working, thus going back about 20 years, Du Pont sent me with a group to a 3 day seminar on effective negotiating. The instructor pointed out the difference in skills between Carter and Reagan. For effective negotiating, each side must have either something the other side wants, or the ability to do something the other side does not want. It was pointed out that Crater “gave up the store” when he declared that we would do nothing that might endanger the Iran hostages – he had no more bargaining chips. It was no accident that the hostages were released on Reagan’s inauguration day. They realized they would now be dealing with what they thought was a “Hollywood cowboy” whose reaction was unpredictable. Reagan’s skills continued with his handling of the Soviet Union, Libya’s Kadaffi, and the air traffic controllers union. Reagan exuded confidence and optimism, compared to Carter’s pessimism and ennui. So Carter is buried in the middle of the “below average” presidents in both lists. Reagan is more controversial, rating “near great” in the current authors’ “politically inclusive” listing, but lower when rated by liberals.

So when it comes to negotiations with a hostile world power, diplomacy is ineffective without a credible military threat to back it up. I certainly make no excuses for the incredibly inept way the Bush administration handled the follow up to the overthrow of Saddam Hussain. In the last election, I actually wound up voting for Kerry (who I judged as one of the weakest political candidates I have ever seen) because Bush continued to admit to no errors, and no one was fired for the way things turned out up to that point. So there is much to justifiably criticize president Bush, but the other side resorts to “overkill” in inventing other criticisms that are transparently false. But “living in the present moment”, let’s all applaud the strike that took out Zarqawi (particularly since the tip on his hiding place came from within his own organization). And even more importantly, the Iraqi government has now been completed. There is a long road ahead, but I don’t think it’s yet time to declare defeat.

Speaking of the use of military force, I must start with a disclaimer. Due to the accident of my date of birth, I never served in the US military. One of the “guiding principles” of the Unitarian Univesalist Church is a belief in “the basic dignity of all mankind”. I’m not at all sure I agree with that, but for the sake of argument, what do you do with people of extreme antisocial actions. As an analogy, let’s take the case of individual body cells. What does one do with cells that become cancerous? That would be an analogy to suicide bombers – if allowed to continue, the cancer cells will also perish when they have killed the supporting organism. So would you recommend having your brain cells sit down for an extensive dialog to determine the “root causes” of the unsatisfactory behavior of the cancer cells? Or would you immediately do everything possible to kill the cancer cells by radiation, surgery, toxic chemicals, or any other means at your disposal.

Well, my “hunt and peck” typing is coming to an end. Thanks again for establishing your blog.

10:13 AM

 
Blogger Salem Willard said...

Thanks for contributing Mel,
I certainly did not know as much detail about the plans of invasion and political scenario leading up to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I do also see evidence of many Japanese (Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi possibly included) denying the mistakes made by "patriots" during WWII. So yes, I do agree that there is a strong sense of loyalty, sometimes to a discomforting degree for me, that some Japanese possess. It would be the equivalent to seeing the continued adherence to Nazi principles in Germany, which I am sad to say also still lies entrenched in many places although the national consensus does not approbate the Party's crimes.

I think my comments were persuaded by my belief that no person has the right to take the life of another. Unfortunately, we are put in the situation where we must decide to use self-defensive tactics, especially in the case when the opposition chooses to disband reasoning capabilities. I don't know if it was right or not. Yes it did end the war, but at what cost to our national and international security. We capitalized on that move to become the world's superpower and now we're struggling with the consequences. The majority of our country and our leaders are in constant fear, as others are of us. Yes we protected Japan after WWII but did they want our presence? Or were we worried about them making allies with the Soviet Union against us and we wanted to watch over our new investment? I think there have been many moments where the Japanese felt our presence since (hopefully I hear we are soon leaving Okinawa) has been an occupation or invasion. Again this reeks of Iraq. I don't the think these questions can be settled using political and military strategy alone, because these systems of gain are dependent on a western way of thought. Yes, Pearl Harbor was bombed, but what was America doing there in the first place? Not just the fleet, but why did Europeans feel the need to stretch that far into the ocean to acquire another colony?

I think what disturbs me most is that politics is a way of wrangling herds of humans for power-hungry ends. Maybe this is a bit Machiavellian and cynical, but there has never been a necessary war, and those who suffer as a result are almost always the ones who deserve it least. Why did American pump $2 Billion dollars into the Manhattan Project? Because of Red Fear that Russia would have done it first?

You're right Mel, this is my psychological background speaking. But when I take a step back to see that the number one drive of human interaction is fear and insecurity and that the majority of the world governs by these means, it makes things seem so silly and worthless. If we, and I mean the Americans, the Japanese, and anyone else who contributes to this system, do not find a different way of cooperating, we will not be around much longer to enjoy the moment.

The bomb was by far the most horrifying culmination of human achievement, because now that we have tested it in action, we have opened up the possibility to erase our existence with the simple push of a button. I am clearly bleeding out an anti-war protest here, and I applaud Japan's stance on ridding humans of the ultimate death machine. At the same time I know that this speech is probably in vain––too many people believe so strongly in this system of power because they accept what they are given and are too afraid not to. I would just like to see the possibility of more or less total fatality to humans removed if possible.

Another interesting exhibit at the Museum was the display of "Anti-Nuke" zones in conjunction with the countries that possess warheads. America and Russia are neck and neck; America leads the race I believe. On the opposite end, Africa is entirely nuclear free, as is South America––as far as I remember. There is no surprise that Africa does have any, its countries have no power on a global scale. South American is gaining ground, especially in oil debates, and I hope that they remain uninfected in the future. The problem is that once one country gains the ability (the cancer cell would be an apt analogy here as well), it threatens the rest of the world, causing them to feel the need to invest likewise in unnecessary weapons in order to feel secure. But this is a never-ending construction project that eternally leaves each individuial feeling inadequate and insecure. This is the majority of the west, power-bent and mass-consumptive of its ills.

That does not mean the East is not without its own faults. I will likely find exposure to this the longer I am here. I do agree with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and hope that we do not have to continue political actions that progress fear and insecurity.

Anyway, sorry for the ranting, but I'm glad to hear a different perspective. It challenged me to think more about how I really felt about the Museum and what it offered instead of letting my heart-strings get plucked by the propaganda, though it was quite disturbing to see the extremes to which humans (Japanese and Americans––I'm becoming fairly anti-social!) can go in search of their own misunderstood desires.

2:46 PM

 

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