Category Archives: Hiroshima

Lanterns for Peace 2020

Join us from your home for this family friendly event to commemorate the lives lost in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings 75 years ago and make sure that such nuclear attacks never again take place. We remember the past, so that we can envision and work for a peaceful, just and nuclear-free future. Due to COVID-19, there will be no public gathering for Lanterns for Peace but we will still be holding a lantern launch streamed online.

Lanterns for Peace 2020 Youtube Video

Lanterns for Peace: Physicians for Social Responsibility-Wisconsin

 

 

The use of nuclear weapons is a war crime.  The use of nuclear weapons violates multiple parts of the Laws of Armed Conflict.


Visitors to the National Air and Space Museum—America’s shrine to the technological leading edge of the military industrial complex—hear a familiar narrative from the tour guides in front of the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped an atomic weapon on the civilians of Hiroshima 70 years ago today.

The bomb was dropped, they say, to save the lives of thousands of Americans who would otherwise have been killed in an invasion of the Home Islands. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were largely destroyed and the lives of between 135,000 and 300,000 mostly Japanese women, children, and old people were sacrificed—most young men were away at war—as the result of a terrible but morally just calculus aimed at bringing an intractable war to a close.

This story may assuage the conscience of the air museum visitor, but it is largely myth, fashioned to buttress our memories of the “good” war. By and large, the top generals and admirals who managed World War II knew better. Consider the small and little-noticed plaque hanging in the National Museum of the US Navy that accompanies the replica of “Little Boy,” the weapon used against the people of Hiroshima: In its one paragraph, it makes clear that Truman’s “political advisors” overruled the military in determining the way in which the end of the war in Japan would be approached. Furthermore, contrary to the popular myths around the atomic bomb’s nearly magical power to end the war, the Navy Museum’s explication of the history clearly indicates that “the vast destruction wreaked by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the loss of 135,000 people made little impact on the Japanese military.”
Indeed, it would have been surprising if they had: Despite the terrible concentrated power of atomic weapons, the firebombing of Tokyo earlier in 1945 and the destruction of numerous Japanese cities by conventional bombing had killed far more people. The Navy Museum acknowledges what many historians have long known: It was only with the entry of the Soviet Union’s Red Army into the war two days after the bombing of Hiroshima that the Japanese moved to finally surrender. Japan was used to losing cities to American bombing; what their military leaders feared more was the destruction of the country’s military by an all-out Red Army assault.

The top American military leaders who fought World War II, much to the surprise of many who are not aware of the record, were quite clear that the atomic bomb was unnecessary, that Japan was on the verge of surrender, and—for many—that the destruction of large numbers of civilians was immoral. Most were also conservatives, not liberals. Adm. William Leahy, President Truman’s Chief of Staff, wrote in his 1950 memoir I Was There that “the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.… in being the first to use it, we…adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”

The commanding general of the US Army Air Forces, Henry “Hap” Arnold, gave a strong indication of his views in a public statement only eleven days after Hiroshima was attacked. Asked on August 17 by a New York Times reporter whether the atomic bomb caused Japan to surrender, Arnold said that “the Japanese position was hopeless even before the first atomic bomb fell, because the Japanese had lost control of their own air.”

Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, stated in a public address at the Washington Monument two months after the bombings that “the atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military standpoint, in the defeat of Japan…” Adm. William “Bull” Halsey Jr., Commander of the US Third Fleet, stated publicly in 1946 that “the first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment…. It was a mistake to ever drop it…. [the scientists] had this toy and they wanted to try it out, so they dropped it…”

Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, for his part, stated in his memoirs that when notified by Secretary of War Henry Stimson of the decision to use atomic weapons, he “voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives…” He later publicly declared “…it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.” Even the famous “hawk” Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Twenty-First Bomber Command, went public the month after the bombing, telling the press that “the atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all.”
The record is quite clear: From the perspective of an overwhelming number of key contemporary leaders in the US military, the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not a matter of military necessity. American intelligence had broken the Japanese codes, knew the Japanese government was trying to negotiate surrender through Moscow, and had long advised that the expected early August Russian declaration of war, along with assurances that Japan’s Emperor would be allowed to stay as a powerless figurehead, would bring surrender long before the first step in a November US invasion, three months later, could begin.

Historians still do not have a definitive answer to why the bomb was used. Given that US intelligence advised the war would likely end if Japan were given assurances regarding the Emperor—and given that the US military knew it would have to keep the Emperor to help control occupied Japan in any event—something else clearly seems to have been important. We do know that some of President Truman’s closest advisers viewed the bomb as a diplomatic and not simply a military weapon. Secretary of State James Byrnes, for instance, believed that the use of atomic weapons would help the United States more strongly dominate the postwar era. According to Manhattan Project scientist Leo Szilard, who met with him on May 28, 1945, “[Byrnes] was concerned about Russia’s postwar behavior…[and thought] that Russia might be more manageable if impressed by American military might, and that a demonstration of the bomb might impress Russia.

”History is rarely simple, and confronting it head-on, with critical honesty, is often quite painful. Myths, no matter how oversimplified or blatantly false, are too often far more likely to be embraced than inconvenient and unsettling truths.

Even now, for instance, we see how difficult it is for the average US citizen to come to terms with the brutal record of slavery and white supremacy that underlies so much of our national story. Remaking our popular understanding of the “good” war’s climactic act is likely to be just as hard. But if the Confederate battle flag can come down in South Carolina, we can perhaps one day begin to ask ourselves more challenging questions about the nature of America’s global power, and what is true and what is false about why we really dropped the atomic bomb on Japan.”

Madison is a Nuclear Free Zone

In 1983, the Madison City Council passed an ordinance declaring the city a nuclear free zone”.

 

Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) Wisconsin and Veterans for Peace-Madison are asking our City Council members (Alders) to pass a Back from the Brink Resolution which builds on this ordinance and commits the city to nuclear weapons free contracts and investments. Our City already has a socially responsible investment policy in place; it no longer invests in fossil fuel companies. We are asking the City do the same regarding nuclear weapons production.

Back from the Brink Background

 

No Nukes in Madison ~ Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR)

Back from the Brink Background

Back from the Brink Page – Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) Wisconsin

Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) Wisconsin is launching a campaign calling on Madison to support a “Back from the Brink” resolution.

The resolution endorses the 2017 United Nations ban of nuclear weapons, calls for specific steps to prevent nuclear war, and a commitment to nuclear weapons-free contracts and investments.

Support Back from the Brink  

 


In 1983, the Madison City Council passed an ordinance declaring the city a “nuclear free zone”. We are asking our City Council members (Alders) to pass a Back from the Brink Resolution which builds on this ordinance and commits the city to nuclear weapons free contracts and investments. Our City already has a socially responsible investment policy in place; it no longer invests in fossil fuel companies. We are asking the City do the same regarding nuclear weapons production.

Some say nuclear disarmament is an issue that should be taken up with our Senators and Representatives rather than our City Council members. But national policy has local consequences.

Plans are underway to expand the Truax Air Force base in Madison and bring in F-35 fighter jets designed to carry B61 nuclear bombs. If nuclear capable F-35’s were stationed here, Truax would become a nuclear target.

In the event of a nuclear-armed F-35 crash, Madison could be exposed to air, ground and water contamination with plutonium, even if a nuclear chain reaction did not take place.

No F-35’s – Safe Skies Clean Water Wisconsin


Back from the Brink: The Call to Prevent Nuclear War is a national grassroots initiative seeking to fundamentally change U.S. nuclear weapons policy and lead us away from the dangerous path we are on. The Call lays out five common-sense steps that the United States should take to reform its nuclear policy. We are asking individuals and organizations around the country to endorse The Call and build support for the U.S. government to adopt it as its highest national security priority. Join the effort and help build a safer world for our children to inherit.

 

A Mile-long Memorial to U.S. War Dead

On Memorial Day this year, I spoke at a rally organized by the Clarence Kailin chapter of the Veterans for Peace in Madison, Wisconsin. It’s like an annual family gathering for progressives in Madison. Particularly sweet for me, the event was held at the tiny, historic Gates of Heaven Synagogue, where I was married on a summer day almost 17 years ago.

The day before the event, I asked my dad what he thought I should say.

Being a visual artist, his answer was to take me down to Olbrich Park to drive the Vets for Peace Memorial Mile. Every year, veterans set up small white tomb stones along the edge of the park, in memory of the more than 6,675 U.S. soldiers who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. It’s a powerful statement, that annual display, there in the heart of a peaceful weekend scene. As you drive past, the gravestones flow by in long, silent rows, past the tennis and basketball courts, past kids playing and joggers trotting past, with the dome of the state Capitol shining across the lake. They are a reminder of the terrible price of the wars being fought in our name, far away from our everyday lives.

My dad and I drove to the end of the park, turned around in a parking lot and drove back past those 6,675 tomb stones. It was raining on and off, and the sun was bursting through the clouds, intermittently lighting up the raindrops on our windshield./ We had just reached the top of the hill at end of the park when a big rainbow appeared in the sky, stretching from horizon to horizon, framing those glowing grave markers in the park below. And then we drove home.

Sometimes words are not enough.

One of the great problems with being a citizen of the American Empire is that the violence waged in our name has so far outstripped our language and logic, and the ability of our verbal, rational minds to grapple with what we are talking about when we talk about war. The political and tactical explanations for war, the sterile-sounding terminology—none of that helps. All those dead. How can you begin to rationalize it? Our longtime columnist, the late, great people’s historian Howard Zinn wrote:

“Memorial Day should be a day to honor all those people striving for peace, including those men and women who have come back from Iraq and called for an end to the war and the occupation.”

Zinn, who flew bombing missions over Europe as a World War II pilot, was invited to participate in a panel of veterans telling “war stories” to dedicate the World War II memorial in Washington, DC, back in 2004. He startled his audience, he wrote in The Progressive, by declaring: “World War II is not simply and purely a ‘good war.’ It was accompanied by too many atrocities on our side.” One of those atrocities—the atomic bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima—was in the news this week, as President Obama became the first sitting President to visit the bombing site. Obama called for “a world without nuclear weapons,” and honored those who died. There was a lot of political debate about whether the President would apologize to the people of Japan (he did not). His visit reignited debate about whether the atomic bomb was “necessary” to end the war (we have published a fair amount of scholarship showing that it was not).

But here again, words are inadequate.

The symbolism of Obama’s visit, and the image of his embrace of a survivor of the bombing, was far more significant than any policy discussion to come out of that trip. The Unites States maintains its nuclear stockpile, and we are still engaged in a seemingly endless, murky War On Terror. But a moment of human contact and empathy at the Hiroshima memorial—two men, heads bent, embracing, one a U.S. President and one a target of the first atomic bomb our country dropped on a civilians in another land, was like a momentary burst of sun through the clouds. Policy talk about horror on the overwhelming scale of Hiroshima is almost always dramatically, dizzyingly diminishing. My freshman year in college I took a history class with a discussion section taught by an energetic young TA who said to us one day, “Quick show of hands—who would have dropped the bomb on Hiroshima?”

That moment stayed with me for years and years afterwards. I remember the eager freshmen around me—mostly boys—dutifully raising their hands and jumping into the debate. I don’t remember much about which positions they chose. What I do remember is the feeling that this was not so much a college course in history as it was a training session in absolutely stunning hubris. That “quick show of hands” method of thinking about war may be precisely the kind of  training you need to be a future leader of a military superpower waging war around the globe. If you are too overwhelmed by the horror of war to engage in a “quick show of hands” debate, you can begin to feel quite alienated.

That’s why I am glad to work at The Progressive, where, for the last 107 years, we have failed to raise our hands to support U.S. military aggression. We’ve published Howard Zinn and Erwin Knoll and Kathy Kelly and other voices of reason and humanity that stand up to the macho nonsense and mechanistic, dehumanizing rhetoric of war. I had a chance to talk to Phil Straus, of the Straus Military Reform Project, after the Pentagon made its 2017 budget request: $582.7 billion in discretionary funding—a $2.4 billion increase over last year. $58.8 billion of that is for a general “war spending” slush fund created to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2001. It’s not subject to spending caps or regular scrutiny by Congress. Straus and his colleagues have been fighting for years just to get the Pentagon to submit to regular audits. Years ago they helped uncover the fact that more than $8.5 trillion doled out by Congress to the Pentagon since 1996 can’t be accounted for at all. We don’t even know how the money was spent.

Our military budget is a statement of seriously warped national priorities. Straus calls the latest budget a “Mardis Gras” for defense contractors. We don’t just spend ten times more than China, the next largest military power, we are burning the money on weapons that don’t work, some of it on we don’t even know what. Like the $300 million a year in unaccounted for spending on the national police in Afghanistan. That’s pretty troubling given our problems at home. Think Progress points out that with 1 percent of the military budget, we could purchase permanent housing for the nation’s 565,000 homeless. In fact, the Pentagon could make every homeless person in the United States a millionaire and still have money left over.

I was on a local radio show last week, when a woman called in to explain why she supports Bernie Sanders, and why she is completely disaffected from mainstream politics in this country. She talked about multinational corporations outsourcing jobs, and domestic and foreign policies that are making things worse for the people who live in her neighborhood. She described how one young man who lives nearby came back from Iraq with no face.She was stringing together these ideas—that our government serves the powerful and corporations, and that shrinking opportunity at home is related to our military adventurism abroad—and I could see the host and the conservative guest in the studio with me getting visibly impatient.

The way this woman was describing America is not at all the way our political leaders or TV pundits describe it. It’s not our shared language, it’s complicated, and it’s a downer. My conservative counterpart, when he finally got to respond, called it “incoherent.” But it wasn’t incoherent. In this political year the sense of anger and betrayal in that woman’s voice is something many Americans are feeling. You can feel like you are crazy and isolated thinking that way. Especially when it comes to far away wars, it’s much easier not to feel the heaviness of moral responsibility. Also, we are trained not to think about it, to push it aside, to rationalize warfare as somehow making sense, when the lived experience of it cannot be justified or made sense of.

Quick show of hands: Who would drop the bomb?

The level of sheer callowness we have to cultivate to keep living this way is breathtaking. I am grateful to be part of a progressive community that stands for peace, and that can create a response to war as moving and serious, and also beautiful, as that Memorial Mile on Lake Monona. I’m thankful for a Memorial Day tradition of gathering together to support each other in our work to bring our community and our country a little more sanity, humility, and peace.

Ruth Conniff is editor-in-chief of The Progressive Magazine.

– See more at: http://www.progressive.org/news/2016/05/188759/mile-long-memorial-us-war-dead#sthash.kKiEpZ2v.HpAjMskT.dpuf

See photos of the Memorial Day event which Ruth was the featured speaker at here: https://madisonvfp.org/memorial-day-2016/

See pictures of the Memorial Mile installation and removal here: https://madisonvfp.org/2016-memorial-mile/