There is nothing of greatness about the United States that is not
also the greatness of all human beings. Everyone who lives or dies
in this world is entitled to the same respect, the same rights, as
those whom chance has allowed to be born in the United States. To
imagine that we are above humanity, that we are the greatest nation
that has ever existed, is ultimate hubris.
It is the hubris that allows us to torture others without complaint.
It is the hubris that justifies our bombing civilians without
objection. It is the hubris that will destroy us.
Today, on the sixtieth anniversary of Hiroshima, we should all
reflect upon what we have done in the name of protecting our country
in the past. Sixty years ago America unleashed upon the world the
greatest destructive force ever created. A destructive force that
makes no distinctions between civilians and soldiers, between
innocents and guilty. It is our solemn responsibiltiy to prevent
such tragedies from occurring from now until the end of history. It
is a burden we can never forget.
There are many people who justify the use of the atmoic bomb upon
Japan because they believe it was the only way to prevent the greater
killing that would have been the result of an invasion. I ask them
to consider the opposite hypothetical: if Japan had won the war and
had chosen to drop two bombs on America in order to end the war from
the air instead of through an ivasion of American soil, what would we
say today? Would we still be so willing to praise the decision
because it had saved the lives of many more millions who might have
died during an invasion of the U.S.?
There are many issues involved in the contemplation of the atomic
bomb: justification, regret, exceptionalism, and more. Saving many
more lives by dropping the bomb may have been a unavoidable
trade-off. But to make an exception for the United States to use the
bomb to prevent further war should not limit us from praising the
reverse condition. If we cannot imagine the end of the war with an
atomic bomb on American soil then we cannot possibly say that we are
solely interested in saving the maximum number of lives. A bit of
American exceptionalism has entered our thinking.
The atomic bomb is also unique because it makes no distinctions
between combatant and non-combatant. It kills those closest to the
epicenter and then declines in lethality through distance from the
epicenter. The atom bomb is the apotheosis of total warfare, the
epitome of mechanical killing accomplished by humanity during the
bloody twentieth-century. And it was America that chose to use it.
Some people may read the above and conclude that I am anti-American.
Far from it. I value my right to speak my mind and share my
thoughts. I value them enough to ask questions of our leaders, and
to ask how much are we willing to lose in order to protect those
freedoms. I think that is the pinnacle of patriotism.
A final two quotes from the end of “The Making of the Atomic Bomb” by
From Gil Elliot
By the time we reach the atom bomb, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the ease
of access to target and the instant nature of macro-impact mean that
both the choice of city and the identity of the victim has become
completely randomized, and human technology has reached the final
platform of self-destructiveness. The great cities of the dead, in
numbers, remain Verdun, Leningrad, and Auschwitz. But at Hiroshima
and Nagasaki the “city of the dead” is finally transformed from a
metaphor into a literal reality. The city of the dead of the future
is our city and it victims are – not French and German soldiers, not
Russian citizens, nor Jews – but all of us without reference to
From Michihiko Hachiya, recalling a dream
The night had been close with many mosquitoes. Consequently, I slept
poorly and had a frightful dream.
It seems I was in Tokyo after the great earthquake and around me were
decomposing bodies heaped in piles, all of whom were looking right at
me. I saw an eye sitting on the palm of a girl’s hand. Suddenly it
turned and leaped into the sky and then came flying back towards me,
so that, looking up, I could see a great bare eyeball, bigger than
life, hovering over my head, staring point blank at me. I was
powerless to move.