Saturday, August 06, 2005

My God, what have we done...

"As the bomb exploded, we saw the entire city disappear," said Commander Robert Lewis. "I wrote in my log, 'My God, what have we done?"

Sixty years ago the division on was bombing Hiroshima necessary existed, that continues even today. President Truman believed the bombings actually saved lives; President Dwight Eisenhower disagreed feeling that the Japanese were close to surrender.

While we of course try to prevent countries like North Korea or Iran from having nuclear weapons, the list of countries that have this horrible ability has grown since Hiroshima. It has become something to bargain with, or something to gain respect with because if you have nuclear weapons others will not be so quick to use military force against you since you hold the power to kill hundreds of thousands of people with just one bomb. Israel has nuclear weapons, Pakistan, India, because if one has them then it is something the other one needs to "defend" themselves.

That is one of the reasons Saddam tried to create the belief that Iraq was farther along in creating nuclear weapons than they were. If he truly had that ability then he would have been treated differently. The fear of him using a nuclear weapon would have insured a different response.

$27 bn is spent each year by the US on nuclear weapons and related programs.

11, 000 active, deliverable nuclear weapons in the world.
The US has 6,390, Russia 3,242 and Britain 200

150 estimated number of nuclear weapons possessed by India
75 estimated number of nuclear weapons possessed by Pakistan

40 states with technical ability to make nuclear weapons, including Egypt and South Korea

"This chain of hatred and revenge is what creates wars. It may be impossible to erase such feelings. But we should at least try." Atsushi Hayama, a Japanese Student.



Steve said...

Here goes. Historically speaking, I don’t think Truman had any choice at the time, and I do believe the thought was that an invasion of Japan would have cost millions of lives. I do not think Truman or FDR (before him) understood the magnitude of the atomic age that was about to be unleashed. I do not think it would have been possible for them to. What happened to the people at Hiroshima and Nagasaki is sad, but there’s no way for us to judge our ancestors for carrying it out. I think its what we do now that is going to really count.

I’m biased though, my family has a very long tradition of military service. My dad and almost all of my uncles were in the service in WW2.

Lisa Renee said...

Same military history here, infact with the exception of the current war in Iraq there has always been at least one member of my family in every other war. I have extended family and friends who have been and are in Iraq but none of the immediate family.

I tend to lean more towards the belief that Japan would have surrendered. I have a hard time with the justification of that many civilian deaths. Had they dropped a smaller bomb on a military target it would have had the same effect.

That is however in hindsight. I also do not believe Pearl Harbor was a total suprise from a US government point of view. While I am not sure how much could have been done to avoid it, more could have been done to warn them.

Tracy Akins said...

Lis, I have to disagree with your opinion that a smaller bomb on a military target would have had the same effect. WWII had been dragging on and the American and Allied death toll was absolutely staggering. Compare this to how upset many people are with "only" about 2000 dead in the current war. The pressure on George W. Bush to find an exit strategy is mounting, so just imagine the tremendous pressure on FDR to bring WWII to an end. Add to that the fact that the Japanese were firmly united behind the Emperor and you can see that it was "necessary" to break the Japanese spirit quickly and completely. FDR did it with just two bombs and everyone was absolutely ecstatic. Oh, except for the citizens of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Jacke said...

I don't think the rest of Japan was too delighted either.

Anyway, even though I don't agree that dropping the bombs was the right decision, I (after having familiarised myself with Japan a bit) don't think that the Japanese would have caved very easily. There's a very strong "follow-the-leader" mentality in Japan that I can only imagine being stronger during the war.

"Fail Safe" was on TV this tonight, as an ending of a "The Bomb"-themed evening, and I just thank (insert higher force/deity of choice) that there hasn't been a full-scale nuclear war yet.
I think back at what I've learned about the whole "Bay of pigs"-thing and wonder a bit if GWB would have been able to keep his cool.

Steve said...

Let me add that John Toland points out in "Rising Sun" (and I've seen this in other sources) that Hiroshima did have a large army group. They were doing exercises on the PC field, and they were vaporized, so there was, in deed, a military target there.

Based on the fanatical (or brave) way the Japanese fought at Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal (places like that- where my Uncle Earnest was), I have to go with tracy on this point.

Lisa, you raise interesting discussions on this blog. keep up the good work.

Lisa Renee said...

Jacke, it is good to see you again and thank you for your comments.

I feel Japan was about to surrender, many historians have offered proof of this. But deeper than that I do not feel it was necessary to drop two bombs and kill that many innocent people. A more military target would have had the same end result yet not so many women and children murdered. We as a nation decried when the Germans bombed and killed innocents, yet we did the same thing. We claim since our motive was pure, it is somehow different. I disagree. I believe anytime innocent civilians are targeted is wrong no matter who does it. Did it potentially save soldiers lives? Yes it probably did, but at times the cost comes to high. Over and over again our country sends the message to the world that American lives count but their lives do not. That creates some of the very hatred that has given birth to the terrorism we fight today. All lives should be equally sacred.

What bothers me more is how nuclear weapons despite the horror we have seen continue to exist and more nations attempt to have them. Why the US needs over 6,000 nuclear weapons is beyond understanding to me.

That is where I am coming from on this but I don't expect any of you to always agree with me. That would defeat the whole purpose of what I've tried to make this place all about if the only people that commented agreed with me. I value the input of all of you and have learned alot because of your contributions.


Faith said...

Good article, Lisa. I watched a special tonight on the Enola Gay. Live footage. Truly, I'm surprised the plane flew away intact. 'Tis horrible so many innocents had to die ( both sides ), but I think all were very weary of fighting this war. My sentiments are close to steve. We'll never know if the Japs were close to surrender. I have the greatest of empathy for those who were bombed ( the innocents ) but do agree it had to end. The quicker, the better. What I so regret ? Don't know that much of anything has been learned. From the stats you posted ? Not much. A deterrent ? Can only hope. BTW, still missing ya elsewhere but so nice to know you're here. :)

Lisa Renee said...

Thanks Faith and as far as the other? Like you and I agreed neither one of us is going to forget the other one. I almost wished I had cable so I could have seen the show though I've read quite a few books on the Enola Gay.

Had that many people died and we discovered how horrible nuclear weapons were and stopped creating them it might be a bit easier to justify. But we haven't and the world hasn't. We are guaranteeing that eventually there will be another Hiroshima, not necessarily by us, but by someone.

Faith said...

Lisa, is scheduled to air again next week. I'll tape it and send to you. The live footage is, is ... well, I'll just do it. Let you decide. :)

Steve said...

The Toland book I mentioned earlier (can be picked up at any library) has about 16 pages on the Enola Gay, and there's a classic book by John Hersey ("Hiroshima") which lasts about 120 pages- very quick reading- which gives a good account on the ground.

You probably already have heard of one or both of these books, but the accounts are pretty good..........

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