Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Atomic Memory Hole

I have never understood the justification for Nagasaki.

I could get why the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Given the numbers of American troops who were expected to die in an invasion of Japan, Japan's aggression, the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, the desire to demonstrate the consequences of such actions, okay, I can see what the case for Hiroshima was. This case posits that it would not have been sufficient to simply demonstrate to Japan the power of atomic weapons on some sparsely populated island; no, Japan had to be utterly and completely defeated. You could factor racism into this case, I suppose, although the fire-bombing of Dresden is another example of total war on a civilian population, in this instance, a European one.

But then there's Nagasaki. Nagasaki is treated as almost an afterthought to Hiroshima. Oh yeah. Then on the second day, we dropped another one.

An afterthought that killed more than forty thousand people.

Reading about Nagasaki is one of those things that pushes me into cynicism. I don't want to be a cynic, actually. My high school boyfriend and his buddies always made a big show of their cynicism, which I figured was a cover-up for their gushy bleeding hearts. But when faced with overwhelming evidence that people and governments commit horrible crimes for completely cynical reasons, how can one otherwise react?

Nagasaki, it seemed pretty clear, was all about testing a different kind of bomb. Just to see what it would do.

And now, here is more evidence that only fools support their country, right or wrong. This lengthy article in Editor & Publisher examines how the US Government suppressed film footage of the aftermath in Hiroshima and Nagasaki for decades. Why? Because certain elements in the government feared that if Americans saw the devastating consequences of an atomic bomb attack, they would be unwilling to support further development of nuclear weapons, and that they would question what their government had done to a civilian population. Here is what Lt. Col. (Ret.) Daniel A. McGovern, who directed the U.S. military filmmakers in Japan and then protected the resulting footage, had to say:
"I always had the sense...that people in the Atomic Energy Commission were sorry we had dropped the bomb. The Air Force -- it was also sorry. I was told by people in the Pentagon that they didn't want those [film] images out because they showed effects on man, woman and child. ... They didn't want the general public to know what their weapons had done -- at a time they were planning on more bomb tests. We didn't want the material out because ... we were sorry for our sins."...

...More recently, McGovern declared that Americans should have seen the damage wrought by the bomb. "The main reason it was classified was ... because of the horror, the devastation," he said. Because the footage shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was hidden for so long, the atomic bombings quickly sank, unconfronted and unresolved, into the deeper recesses of American awareness, as a costly nuclear arms race, and nuclear proliferation, accelerated.

The atomic cover-up also reveals what can happen in any country that carries out deadly attacks on civilians in any war and then keeps images of what occurred from its own people.
This is a detailed and very powerful article that illustrates the importance of censorship to the maintenance of power. Read the whole thing.

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