Week of the Bomb: Friday

15 thoughts on “Week of the Bomb: Friday”

  1. I agree with every word you write, so wonderfully expressed as well. What also saddens me is the fact that Japan’s Emperor was not really punished for his part in sending young men filled with idolatry to die in suicide bombing raids for that same Emperor, who remained in his Palace after it was all over.


  2. Tim, this is masterfully written. It weighs heavy in my heart and yet I know what you have said is said truthfully. Human life is both a blessing and a curse.

    His enemies are not demons
    but human beings like himself.

    Would that we come to understand it.


  3. Read it, going to read it again after more coffee. I want to give it the time and attention it deserves.


  4. the control with which you articulate your opinions is as the others above have highlighted, masterful. i think essay writing is definitely something you need to put a great deal of focus on. the clarity & confidence with which you write makes the reader feel they are in very capable hands. you also have that magnificent gift of telling us something we all know but never seemed to have thought about, as if we could of thought it out in this manner. we didn’t though, it took you to show us. i always think Stevens does this in poetry, it seems so simple, that i could have or could do likewise; the reality is i didn’t, won’t & probably can’t, but that persuasion is what draws us to the writer.


  5. Tim, I respectfully disagree with most of your reasoning and the ethics behind that reasoning. Too much to say here, but just some very few things. Like Orwell, you seem to make no distinction between waging war and barbaric war crimes (as if complete pacifism or total war/war crimes were the only options). Bombing civilians, conventional or nuclear, is a war crime, a crime against humanity (Hague Convention and other international law; perpetrators like General Curtis Le May and McNamara even agreed that this is so and that they only escaped war crimes trials because they were on the winning side). The victims and citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been forlornly demanding that recognition from the US government since 1945. Would you support them, or continue to justify the US government’s decision as your blog seems to do here in a kind of grim, ‘unfortunate-but-necessary’, ‘that’s- human-nature’ way.

    You personify the ‘United States’, ‘Japan’, ‘Germany’ as if these were persons making decisions, thus tacitly identifying the power elites and order-givers with the order-takers (I am not denying that majorities of the latter often concur with the former, but sizable ethical minorities may often not). Your subjectivist, quasi-anthropological approach ignores the whole complex of specific, historical, power/geopolitical issues that determine much of the war and foreign policy decisions of ruling elites everywhere (re Hiroshima e.g. the question of demonstrating superior power to competitors like Stalin who was approaching Japan from the north…). I could go on. For an alternative view, I’d point to both the writings on Hiroshima and nuclear bombs of Guenther Anders and, humbly, my own blog on Hiroshima’s 60th anniversary last year:


    Kind regards.


  6. It is a very thoughtful read Tim. And my previous reply may have sounded strange but with adhd and all the blogs it read it helps me to find posts again through my comment stats. Like you, I don’t think there is any philosophy that can justify the making and utilization of the atomic bomb and you are right, there is no way of going back. Worse, the atomic bomb may no longer be the greatest threat to mankind. War science will leave us in the dark of its capabilities without a significant war duress for 10 to 20 years if not more. I end it there, sadly on the premise that scientific privilege of study and destruction will have exposed a more horrific threat if world war three is to ever happen.


  7. One of humanity’s greatest problems seems to be in eliminating, admitting, or accepting our faults and the consequences of those faults. Interesting.


  8. Great, thoughtful post! I have long considered the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to be one of the greatest shames of our nation. There is no way to know if the continuation of the war would have cost more lives, but I believe the bombing cost more innocent lives than any length of additional war could have. Thank you for your insight.


  9. Peter,

    Thanks for this response. I urge anyone at all with an interest in this subject to read your post: https://peterlachnewinsky.wordpress.com/2015/08/10/hiroshima-and-mass-terror-bombing-1942-45/

    (I should also say that if you paste your essay in from Word with footnotes, WordPress will take them. I would love to read the books you reference.)

    I too can’t respond to everything there. But I’ll bring up a few things: I don’t support any of it, I’m not proud of it, of any country doing this, but what little I’ve learned from history has told me that any collection of people, when pushed to an extreme, will end up doing just about anything; war escalates as anything else. I wish this weren’t the case, but nothing from history makes any of this–from the earliest evidence of group warfare to the atom bomb–a surprise of any kind. I don’t know where the line between “regular” war and “barbaric” war is; all war to me is barbaric, but for all that it still doesn’t seem to be avoidable. If you and I were the heads of our respective countries, it sounds like it would be unlikely that we would wage war on each other; but if even one leader threatened either of our countries, our ideals of peace would have to be modified. Unfortunately all it takes is one aggressor to make otherwise good people do barbaric things. LeMay and McNamara both admitting they were acting as war criminals is astonishingly refreshing to me in the most horrible way; patriotic pride in use of military force is repugnant to me, but so is the idea that war can be waged in a nice way. Life in the world seems less about avoiding horror than learning to live with it.

    With my view of history what it is, what interested me were just how intelligent people made the many decisions that they did. It is easy to second-guess them, but it’s more useful to me, for general wisdom and for the future, to understand them rather than pretend we would act differently in their position, or wish for a different kind of world. What interests me is the day-to-day reality of impossible decisions of this kind, the mixture of virtue and vice and limitation found in everything, and the realization that things like love, art, poetry, children, meaning in general, or just a good meal, mean that much more in such a fragile and ugly world. In this sense, I don’t think my approach ignores all the specific/historical/geopolitical issues, but (in all the posts from this week taken together) instead highlights the complicated nature of nearly everything.

    It means less to me that Truman or anybody acted “Machiavellian” than it does to realize most people in that position act Machiavellian. Any group larger than a few hundred people will always face impossible decisions regarding another group of a few hundred people. I’m not happy about this, I wish it weren’t this way, but I don’t see the point in denying it, or proceeding as if it weren’t so. We all have blood on our hands, and always will.

    I remember when Rome finally sacked and destroyed Carthage, how the attendant to the Roman general wept and read lines from Homer which to him meant, “As Carthage goes today, so Rome will someday.” Whether rightly or wrongly (whether justified or unjustified), nuclear weapons will be used again, perhaps against the United States. Perhaps human nature will change, but certainly not in our lifetimes. Until then, as I’ve written elsewhere, “The least we can do, then, is see that everything—our culture, our countries, our technology, our religions, even now—are only here because people who should have never suffered and died did in fact suffer and die, and always have, and always will. We are standing less on the backs of giants, than of corpses—and corpses of real people.” The only option for me, anyway, is empathy for everyone caught up in the same mess as me.


  10. Blimey, visiting your blog was like popping round for coffee and realising i should have brought my brain.
    The threat of Nuclear war was my introduction to absolute terror as a child. When I saw pictures drawn by children who had survived the bombings, I threw up. I realised at the age of 7 that dying wasn’t the worst thing that could happen you. Justification is defensive rhetoric and can’t be trusted. I’m not sure humanity can ever absolve the horror of these bombings. Maybe the bigger question here is, did it bring us closer together as a species, or drive us further apart?


  11. In mid July 1945 Japan had signaled to the Soviet Union that they wanted to surrender. Stalin refused to forward this message to the American authorities because he was preparing to enter the war against Japan by attacking Manchuria. The atomic bombs were not necessary. Japan was ready to surrender before they were dropped. Check this article from the Institute for Historical Review: Was Hiroshima Necessary?


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