(Part One)Posted 5 February 2007
BOOKS DISCUSSED IN THIS ARTICLE
Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan, by Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, Harvard University Press, 2005, $29.95
Five Days in August: How World War II Became a Nuclear War, by Michael D. Gordin, Princeton University Press, 2007, $24.95.
The Bomb in the Basement: How Israel Went Nuclear and What that Means for the World, by Michael Karpin, Simon & Schuster, 2006, $26.00.
Target Iran: The Truth About the White House's Plans for Regime Change, by Scott Ritter, Nation Books, 2006, $25.95.
Four years ago today, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell played a major role in persuading a gullible, stupefied and craven American news media and public - but not a cynical world - to support the Bush administration's illegal, immoral invasion of Iraq. He did so by presenting a panoply of lies, false statements and exaggerations about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and ties to al Qaeda terrorists.
Four years later, as both United States and Israel prepare their populations for an illegal, immoral preventive war against Iran -- allegedly to disrupt, if not destroy, the secret nuclear weapons program that both insist (without evidence) is well under way there -- Americans might do well to avoid being duped again. Thus, they might contemplate not only the allegations against Iran, but also the sins of the United States and Israel when it comes to developing, using and brandishing their own nuclear weapons.
The sins of the United States are quite well known. Acting on the advice of Albert Einstein, who feared that Nazi Germany might obtain nuclear weapons, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt authorized a crash program, the Manhattan Project, to develop the bombs that would be dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In Five Days in August, Michael D. Gordin asserts: "Military men in particular considered the decision to drop the bomb as a given from the moment development shaded into a deliverable weapon" [p. 11] Moreover, "By the time the Americans began to consider the potential utility of the atomic bomb, they had already for years experienced increasing brutality, bloodshed, mayhem, and dehumanization, and experienced them routinely." [pp. 7-8] Thus, the United States dropped the bombs on Japan as if they were just tactical weapons, but as part of a "'shock strategy' to compel the Japanese government to accept surrender." [p. 13].
Truman, however, soon believed otherwise. As Tsuyoshi Hasegawa writes in his meticulously researched book, Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan, "Truman had read the Magic Diplomatic Summary reporting that the atomic bomb on Hiroshima had killed 100,000 people." "He didn't like the idea of killing… 'all these kids,'" Admiral William Leahy wrote in his diary. [p 202]
Thus, on August 10, 1945 - a day after Fat Man was dropped on Nagasaki and the very day that the Japanese government sent a letter to the Swiss legation to the United States government protesting the use of atomic bombs as a crime against humanity [ibid. p. 299] - "Truman announced that he had given an order to stop further atomic bombing without his authorization." [Ibid, p. 202]
In addition to Truman, the bomb quickly awed war-weary Americans, thanks, in part, to the propaganda about the technological marvel and ultimate weapon that "journalist" William Leonard Laurence aimed at both Japanese and American audiences. Not only did Americans naturally, but mistakenly, assume that the bomb was responsible for Japan's abrupt surrender, they also experienced "visions and fears of total annihilation [which] emerged almost immediately upon Japanese surrender." [Gordin, p. 131]
Actually, it was the Soviet Union's entry into the war against Japan, not the two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki alone, that prompted Japan's surrender. According to Professor Hasegawa: "Without the Soviet entry into the war, the Japanese would have continued to fight until numerous atomic bombs, a successful allied invasion of the home islands, or continued aerial bombardments, combined with a naval blockade, rendered them incapable of doing so." [Hasegawa, p.298]
According to Hasegawa, "Americans still cling to the myth that the atomic bombs…provided the knockout punch to the Japanese government…The myth serves to justify Truman's decision and ease the collective American conscience." [Ibid, pp. 298-99] "Until his death, Truman continually came back to this question and repeatedly justified his decision, inventing a fiction that he himself later came to believe." [Ibid, p. 299]. Hasegawa might have added that America's collective conscious also was eased by a widespread faith that such an indisputable demonstration of America's technological prowess once again indicated that God had assigned the U.S. an "exceptional" role in His plans for mankind.
Thus, Americans deluded themselves twice. First, about their own guilt. Second, about the efficacy of the bomb. Which explains why, "a year after the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, U.S. strategy proposed dropping fifty atomic bombs on twenty separate Soviet cities." [Gordin, p. 130] Some (sick) Americans even advocated a preemptive nuclear strike on the Soviet Union, lest it break America's nuclear monopoly.
Additionally, as Joseph Gerson has observed: "Unlike any other nation, on more than thirty occasions since the A-bombing of Nagasaki every U.S. president has prepared or threatened to initiate first strike nuclear attacks during crises…Since 1950, the U.S. has threatened North Korea with nuclear attack at least eight times. Nearly a dozen such threats have been made during Middle East wars and crises. Since the end of the Cold War, Iraq, Iran, North Korea and Libya have been threatened with U.S. nuclear attacks. And, the 2002…Bush-Cheney Nuclear Posture Review named seven nations as primary U.S. nuclear targets: Iraq, Iran, North Korea, China, Russia, Libya and Syria." [Gerson, "Preventing Nuclear War in Korea," Znet Oct. 18, 2006]
Making matters worse, on March 15, 2005, the Department of Defense released a policy paper, "'Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations,'…which made permissible the employment of nuclear weapons by the United States preemptively, in non-nuclear environments, either to defeat overwhelming conventional opposition, or simply to assure U.S. victory." [Ritter, Target Iran, p. 179]
How such a U.S. willingness to use the bomb would discourage other countries from pursuing their own nuclear deterrent is difficult to imagine -- especially after the Bush administration's whimsical invasion of "brittle," nuke-less Iraq.
Moreover, the sole country to ever to use the bomb also continues to brandish it and upgrade it in bad faith and in violation of Article VI of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). Article VI stipulates: "Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control."
Yet, now, the hypocritical and reckless Bush administration is accusing Iran of deceit and lies regarding its nuclear program and has gone so far as to demand that Iran - a signatory to the NPT -- even forego rights legally available to it under the NPT. The Bush administration is being prodded by Israel, another hypocritical and rogue nuclear power that refuses to be bound by the NPT
According to Scott Ritter, writing in his recent book, Target Iran, "the conflict currently underway between the United States and Iran is, first and foremost, a conflict born in Israel. It is based upon an Israeli contention that Iran poses a threat to Israel, and defined by Israeli assertions that Iran possesses a nuclear weapons program. None of this has been shown to be true, and indeed much of the allegations made by Israel against Iran have been clearly demonstrated as being false." [p. 208]
Yet, given Israel's own dishonorable record of deceit and lies attending the building of its own bomb, everyone should readily understand why Israel's rulers today remain suspicious about Iran's nuclear program. After all, how could any Israeli possibly believe that Iran's leaders today are less dishonorable than their own leaders were?
It's that very pattern of deceit and lies behind Israel's bomb, which will be examined in Part Two of this article.
Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also is President of the Russian-American International Studies Association (RAISA).