- From John Hersey's Hiroshima
A World to Win News Service:
Sixty-eight years ago, on 6 August 1945, the United States committed the worst terrorist bombing ever – the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
On 9 August, another American A-bomb destroyed the Japanese city of Nagasaki. The two blasts were each the equivalent of tens of thousands of tons of dynamite. The heat reached 1,000° C. The explosions and the radiation cloud they created killed more than 200,000 people, either immediately or over the next few months. Many years of suffering from cancer and other ills caused by radiation poisoning lay ahead for the survivors and their children.
The destruction of these two cities was not the first time major urban centres had been destroyed, but the scale of killing was unlike anything the world had ever seen before. No one else, before or since, has ever used nuclear weapons.
The US unleashed the nuclear era in the closing days of the Second World War. Germany had already surrendered. Japan's economy had been destroyed and its capital firebombed into ashes; its military had been dealt decisive defeats. Many historians – although not all – believe that Japan would have surrendered without the atomic bombing. The purpose of the bombing was not just to make sure that the US and its allies won the war, but even more, to make sure that the US and the US alone would benefit from Japan's surrender. In Washington at that time, "There was a belief that dropping the bomb could accelerate the end of the war in ways that would greatly strengthen the American strategic position in Asia," US historian and sociology professor Mark Selden told a conference organised in London by Greenpeace to mark the sixtieth anniversary in 2005.
America was determined not to let the Soviet Union prevent it from stepping into Japan's shoes as the top colonial power in Asia. The USSR was still a socialist country then. It had been allied with the US during the war against Germany and Japan, but even before the war was over the US was baring its teeth to the USSR and setting out to dominate much of the world.
The bombing of these two cities is as relevant today as it has ever been, although the world has changed a great deal.
The US is still brandishing its weapons of mass destruction to forcibly reshape the world according to its imperialist interests. At a time when US President Barack Obama and other representatives of those interests try to further and justify their criminal enterprise with fake outrage about chemical weapons in Syria and threats to use atomic weapons to stop Iran's nuclear programme, the world's people need to remember the US's heartless bombing of civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to pursue those same interests.
Further, the struggle between those who perpetuate and defend such crimes and those who oppose and expose them is even sharper today.
After the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the American authorities denied the reports about radiation sickness. The first Western journalist on the scene, the progressive Australian Wilfred Burchett, wrote, "In Hiroshima, 30 days after the first atomic bomb destroyed the city and shook the world, people are still dying, mysteriously and horribly – people who were uninjured in the cataclysm from an unknown something which I can only describe as an atomic plague. Hiroshima does not look like a bombed city. It looks as if a monster steamroller had passed over it and squashed it out of existence. I write these facts as dispassionately as I can in the hope that they will act as a warning to the world." The American occupation authorities confiscated his camera but failed to stop his telex. When the article appeared, the US accused Burchett of simply mouthing false Japanese propaganda. Burchett later went on to report on the war in Vietnam from the viewpoint of the liberation forces.
US military censors were more successful in killing the articles written by the first American journalist to reach Nagasaki after the bombing. George Weller, who considered himself very patriotic, initially wrote in praise of the atomic bomb as if it were simply a more powerful kind of explosive. His early articles show great scepticism about the existence of "disease x", as radiation sickness was called at first, but he later saw unmistakable evidence that convinced him otherwise. Only after Weller's death were these pieces finally published, by Japan's Mainichi Newspapers in 2005.
The New York Times reporter in Hiroshima, on whose dispatches much of the world relied, parroted the official lies. He denied the existence of radiation sickness and downplayed the seriousness and special nature of the devastation caused by atomic weapons – which the US government was then considering using on the USSR. Later it turned out that this journalist, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his work, was on the Pentagon payroll. A Yale Global Online article by Mark Selden calls this an early example "of what we now call embedded journalism".
It is worth noting that almost sixty years later, American and British authorities and their media mouthpieces, including the New York Times, used the same kind of deception in connection with the war against Iraq, first about that country's non-existent weapons of mass destruction and later to conceal the death and devastation caused by the invasion and occupation. The Times also led the pack of the government's media dogs in trying to discredit Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier who leaked secret military footage of an American helicopter crew deliberately murdering Iraqi civilians, including children.
The video Collateral Damage brought Manning severe punishment in a military brig even before his current trial, where he faces life in prison. It also enraged the Obama government and its partners against Julian Assange, whose WikiLeaks organization distributed these materials. The Obama government, currently at war against truth-teller Edward Snowden, would almost undoubtedly have done everything it could to silence and punish those who spoiled American attempts to cover up the consequences of the atomic bombing of Japan and threatened to ruin the US's "good guy" image attained through hypocrisy, secrecy and coercion.