Friday, August 06, 2010

The Biggest Terrorist Attack of All Time

One nation has actually used the ultimate weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons. That nation is the United States of America.

Sixty-five years ago today, the United States bombed the city of Hiroshima in southern Japan. Nearly a hundred thousand lives--mostly civilians--were instantly snuffed out as the city itself was flattened. Tens and tens of thousands of others had their lives cut short, condemned to dealing with painful burns and other injuries and to the slow but equally fatal poisonous effects of lethal radiation exposure.

The big lie of Hiroshima (and Nagasaki, bombed three days later) is that the United States had no choice: it traded the lives of two cities worth of Japanese civilians for the shortening of the war. But for the four years of the war the American government and its loyal cultural institutions had churned out massive amounts of dehumanizing racist anti-Japanese propaganda like the poster at left. Loyal American citizens of Japanese ancestry had been sent to internment camps. It is not surprising that the American military and scientific establishment would use the last days of a war obviously almost over to experiment on a civilian population it had already deemed subhuman. The United States made its deadly mathematical calculation because it believed that dropping the bomb on Japanese civilians would be like crushing so many cockroaches. Many -- though certainly not all -- scholars believe that the Japanese government was ready to surrender, especially anticipating the obviously imminent entry of the Soviet Union into the war. The Japanese imperialists had a record of military cruelty to civilians dating back to the attack on Shanghai in 1937; that's undeniable. But with the nuclear attacks on Japan, the United States became fully committed to that same club.

From the story of survivor Setsuko Thurlow:

"I turned around and saw the outside world. Although it was morning, it looked like twilight because of the dust and smoke in the air. People at a distance saw the mushroom cloud and heard a thunderous roar. But I did not see the cloud because I was in it. I did not hear the roar, just the deadly silence broken only by the groans of the injured. Streams of stunned people were slowly shuffling from the city centre toward nearby hills. They were naked or tattered, burned, blackened and swollen. Eyes were swollen shut and some had eyeballs hanging out of their sockets. They were bleeding, ghostly figures like a slow-motion image from an old silent movie. Many held their hands above the level of their hearts to lessen the throbbing pain of their burns. Strips of skin and flesh hung like ribbons from their bones. Often these ghostly figures would collapse in heaps never to rise again. With a few surviving classmates I joined the procession carefully stepping over the dead and dying.

At the foot of the hill was an army training ground about the size of two football fields. Literally every bit of it was covered with injured and dying who were desperately begging, often in fain whispers, “Water, water, please give me water”. But we had no containers to carry water. We went to a nearby stream to wash the blood and dirt from our bodies. Then we tore off parts of our clothes, soaked them with water and hurried back to hold them to the mouths of the dying who desperately sucked the moisture. We kept busy at this task of giving some comfort to the dying all day. There were no medical supplies of any kind and we did not see any doctor or nurse. When darkness fell, we sat on the hillside, numbed by the massive scale of death and suffering we had witnessed, watching the entire city burn. In the background were the low rhythmic whispers from the swollen lips of the ghostly figures, still begging for water."

More survivor testimony can be read at Voices of Hibakusha.

Remember this: when the U.S. campaigns against weapons of mass destruction, when it marches into Iraq, threatens Iran and North Korea, raises the spectre of rogue nukes, this is not because it believes WMD are wrong, it's because it wants exclusive use of these monstrosities for itself and its allies.

WW2 poster snagged from Maximum Advantage in Pictures blog.

UPDATE: Some devastating new photos from a few weeks after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are up at


  1. I always thought it would've been better to simply demonstrate the bombs by dropping them in the ocean. Hence, intimidating Japan rather than nuking the shit out of it.

  2. My dad was a sailor in the Navy, offshore when one of the bombs was dropped in Japan, not sure if it was the first one or second one. He died at age 64 and the doctors at Yale said his internal organs were more like twice that age. They wondered if he had ever been exposed to low-grade radiation of any type, and he told them about the war. The sailors were encouraged to stand on deck, looking through exposed film to protect their eyes, to watch the 'magnificent' mushroom cloud that would signal perhaps the end of the war. We don't care what we do to our own soldiers, let alone 'others.' Such evil really existed then and exists today on a daily basis. That's why I deal with almost no one anymore, and spend my time staring at wildflowers and making art recreating a past that's not mine or a future that will never be. Reality is SO overrated.

  3. Wow Casey pretty intense about your father. And you're absolutely right about the attitude toward soldiers.

    Your artwork and your flowers are a pretty nice world to live in. I completely understand building your own world around yourself. In some ways I try to do that too; I'm just not lucky enough to be able to do it up in the country so I'm not nearly as successful at it.

  4. i miss the days of wandering around the city though. I'm going to take the train down one of these days and do some 'city art' for the blog. i'm longing for the cool graffiti, the people you only see in cities, my beloved lower east side, although I'm under no pretense that it will be anything like I remember it in the '90s. stay tuned for CityColour!