Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Nagasaki Day

Well, it would have been nice to spend the anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki pondering questions like, "would a display of the bomb in a non-populated area in the presence of Japanese military leaders have convinced them to end the war," or "would they have answered an invitation to all turn out and stand in a cluster at a place where their deadly enemies the Americans were sure to be dropping bombs."

It would have been nice to spend the day ruminating on the fact that America's nuclear arsenal is now, since the end of the showdown with the Soviets, a heavy burden that does us little good and brings great risks. We have too much of what we can't use. With the aberation of the Cold War over, nuclear weapons stand revealed for what they are: the weapon of the weak, not the strong.

Or that the horror of nuclear weapons was not the dead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- as horrible as that was, it was in the continuum of World War II -- but in what they became in just a few years after that: true end-of-the-world machines.

You're talking to someone whose most common recurring nightmare, in my late childhood, was the missiles raining down from the skies and the sun blooming on my street. You're talking to someone who remembers my mother sending my father off to work during the Cuban missile crisis, and both of them thinking it was very possible they were saying goodbye for the last time.

But instead I didn't have the chance to ponder any of that because I was too busy shooting down the trollish historical libels of some flake from New Zealand.

His opinion of this country and how it behaves is duly noted. As one who had two beloved uncles in wartime service in the Navy, men who might have gone to the floor of the Coral Sea with the sleek hulk of the "Lexington," I would gladly have respected his wish to be untainted by "vengeful" American military decisions. And I am sure he would have made a fine adornment to the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

Perhaps the U.S. should negotiate "treaties of guaranteed non-assistance" with nations that find us so odious. We'd promise not to protect them from foreign invasion. We'd also promise them non-assistance from anything remotely connected with the U.S. military in the event of some earthquake or tidal wave.

Meanwhile, I had time to read a newspaper clipping from the parallel universe:

Anti-American protests swept the globe today in reaction to the revelation that the U.S. possessed nuclear weapons by 1945, but failed to use them to bring World War II to a swift and merciful conclusion.

The revelation, from classified government archives, showed that the Americans had detonated an atom bomb in a secret test in New Mexico as early as 1945, and that it possessed at least two working A-bombs by the end of that year. But President Truman, citing uncertainty about the legality of their use on civilian targets according to international law, decided to keep them on the shelf.

Reaction was swift. In Japan, thousands took to the streets to protest the American decision, which cost perhaps as many as a million Japanese lives by prolonging the war through 1948. Many felt a swift use of an atomic weapon would have brought about the surrender of the fanatical Japanese military leadership much sooner.

Protests also broke out in cities in Indonesia and across the broad swath of Asia that was still occupied by Japan in 1945. Speakers told the crowds how tens of thousands of lives might have been saved if the war had ended in 1945 and starvation, disease, and slave labor under the Japanese occupation had not been allowed to continue.

"This is typical behavior by a genocidal, hegemonistic power," said Choam Nomsky. "America could have chosen to bring the war to a swift, merciful conclusion. Instead, its war-criminal leaders sensed the rising power of the indigenous people of the Asian Pacific -- which is, after all, a region rich in oil -- and chose to prolong the war so those people would be slaughtered by the thousands and those post-colonial nations would emerge weakened by the fighting and occupation. The better to be exploited by America."

At the time of Truman's decision, America and its allies in the Pacific had driven the Japanese military back to the islands of Japan and destroyed most of the capital ships of the Japanese fleet, but the invasion of Japan had not yet begun.

Filmmaker Moochael Mire said he has already begun work on a "scathing" indictment of Truman and his inner circle. "He may be dead, but that just makes it easier to say whatever I want about him," Mire said. "I've got camera crews scouring the nation, interviewing the sons and daughters and widows of some of the 750,000 American boys who died in the conquest of Japan."

Academic historians speculated that, had the United States not bled itself white in conquering Japan acre by acre, it might have begun the Cold War in a better situation, and perhaps prevented Greece, Turkey, Austria, and Italy from becoming Soviet satellites.

"It's possible we even could have held West Berlin," one historian said. "Though that's highly unlikely."

Historians also speculated that a swift end to the war in 1945, before the Soviet Union attacked Japan, might have prevented the subsequent division of the island nation into a communist north and a capitalist south. While the south enjoyed a measure prosperity, the overall economy of Japan has only slowly recovered from the devastation of the invasion and lags far behind that of its dynamic neighbors like Taiwan, South Korea, and even the Philippines.

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