Guest Essay from Chris Norton
Dear GVCP Member,
GVCP member Chris Norton’s essay, “All Humanity Must Remember Atomic Bombings of Japan,” appeared in the July 30th issue of the Livingston County News. It’s on page B5. I’ve attached a copy of the essay to this message. It’s important—please read it. (And, if at all possible, join us at the Avon traffic circle on Wednesday, August 5th, at 7:30 PM.)
Arnie Matlin for GVCP
Atomic Bomb Dropping
[Guest essay by GVCP Member Chris Norton in the Livingston County News 07-30-20]
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and the only military use of nuclear weapons in history. First I must state the obvious so I’m not misunderstood. Criticizing war and promoting peace does not impugn the bravery or sacrifice of those who fought in WW II. It does not equate what the Allies did to what the Axis did. The holocaust and the militarism of the Axis was worse than what the Allies did to stop them.
However, I believe this anniversary should make us question just how much evil we must commit in order to fight evil. Germany and Japan should have been stopped before the war became a necessity because war leads to things like atomic bombs- which led to tens of thousands of thermonuclear bombs spread throughout the planet in the hands of many countries today.
On Wednesday August 5th at 7:30 pm I will gather in Avon with the Genesee Valley Citizens for Peace and the Veterans for Peace. We will gather at the same moment that people are gathering on the other side of the globe in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We will be joined by uncounted numbers of others around the planet.
We will gather to remember the tens of thousands of lives lost or ruined- most of whom were civilian non-combatants and most of which were women and children. We will gather because we believe all humanity must remember this event so that it will never be repeated. We believe that all life is sacred whether it be Japanese or American. The “logic” of war made the use of the atom bomb a valid, rational question that we are still debating today. So we will also gather to point out that war leads to things that, during any other time, would be considered completely immoral by any sane person.
To simplify my argument into terms that are easy to understand: dropping those bombs (and all the killing of civilians during WW II or any war) is no different than being given the choice of killing an infant so that you won’t be killed. If you were given that choice “kill this baby or you will be killed”, what do you think is the right thing to do? During World War II (assuming Japan wasn’t already willing to surrender- which the facts say they were) the answer was that yes you should kill that baby.
The atomic bombs were, unfortunately, merely an extension of the targeting of civilians that the British and the Axis had been carrying out since the beginning of the war and that the U.S. adopted near the end of the war. The allies had already killed more civilians than the two atom bombs with the combined area bombing of multiple Japanese cities as well as some German cities such as Hamburg and Dresden. The atom bombs were just a lot cheaper. Two bombs did the work of thousands.
The myth the U.S. clings to about the bombs is partially correct: Japan’s surrender (and indirectly whatever caused that surrender) cost fewer US lives, but they would not have been “millions”. In the interest of national facts and not national myths, I must point out a few things…
- In actuality the majority of the US military had estimated that it might cost 50,000 American lives to invade Japan. Truman first used the inflated estimate of 250,000 American lives. But he increased that number as years passed so by the time of his death he was using the word “millions”.
- The US Government’s Strategic Bombing Survey’s Japan’s Struggle to End the War concluded that Japan would have surrendered in a few weeks whether we dropped the bombs or not. Japan had been seeking peace through Soviet intermediaries for some time but its authoritarian, militaristic government was so bureaucratic that it took a long time for the decision to translate into action.
- 70 of the atom bomb scientists sent Truman a letter with a plea to detonate one on an uninhabited pacific island as a demonstration to the Japanese. Secretary of War Stimson was personally against dropping the bomb on civilians. Truman decided they had too few bombs to risk and it might not deter the Japanese. Many of us wonder why this demonstration, despite the risks, couldn’t have been tried anyways. If it didn’t induce Japan to surrender, we still could have dropped the other bomb on Hiroshima.
- The USSR entered the war with Japan between the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Couldn’t we have waited to see the effect of the USSR entering the war on the Japanese before dropping the bombs?
So I want all of us, whether we agree with the dropping of those bombs or not, to always remember the infants and toddlers and children who burned to death, whose flesh melted on their bodies and who died of horrible radiation poisoning and cancers. I want us to remember because babies and kids die during every war, big and small, and so war should be prevented. That is the purpose of organizations such as Veterans for Peace and the Genesee Valley Citizens for Peace. Join us Wednesday August 5th at 7:30 pm at the traffic circle in Avon.