Delusions of Ash: Reflections on Hiroshima

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

Richard Rhodes

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

specific identity.

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.

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