•  HOME 
  •  BOOKS 
  •  WWP 
  •  DONATE 
  • Loading

Follow workers.org on
Twitter Facebook iGoogle

Truman was a war criminal

Published Aug 5, 2005 11:30 PM

Why was Harry Truman’s decision to use atomic weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, 60 years ago, like George Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003? They were both war crimes, of course. And they were both based on a Big Lie.

In Bush’s case the lie was the now-discredited claim that the U.S. had to invade Iraq to stop the use of “weapons of mass destruction.” In Truman’s case, it was that the U.S. had to drop A-bombs to force the Japanese to surrender—or this would require a land invasion that would cost hundreds of thousands of U.S. casualties.

With the 60th anniversary of the bombings coming up, it is more than likely that the big lie of 1945 will be repeated ad nauseam by politicians, corporate media and bought-off historians of U.S. academia. There are, however, two historians who are marshaling old and new arguments and facts to expose this lie.

They are Peter Kuznick, director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University in Washington, D.C., and Mark Selden, from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. Kuznick and Selden presented their latest findings at a press conference July 21 organized by Greenpeace in London. The Greenpeace site has a video presentation by the two historians.

Their findings support an argument made earlier: that the main reason the U.S. used nuclear weapons on Japan was to get a jump start on the war against the Soviet Union. Truman used the bomb in 1945 so the U.S. could threaten to use it against Korea, Vietnam and in many other battles. These new findings reveal that the U.S. officials making the decisions themselves knew and admitted their Big Lie was a lie.

The two historians studied the diplomatic archives of the U.S., Japan and the USSR. They found that on Aug. 3, 1945, three days before Hiroshima, Truman agreed at a meeting that Japan was “looking for peace.” All the U.S. senior generals and admirals, including Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Admiral William Leahy, told him it was unnecessary to use the A-bomb to defeat Japan. “Impressing Russia was more important than ending the war,” Selden says.

Kuznick and Selden also show that the Japanese authorities were anxious to avoid a Soviet invasion of the Japanese main islands. The USSR officially entered the Pacific war on Aug. 9, 1945, sweeping through Japanese-occupied China and half of Korea.

At the press conference, Kuznick and Selden didn’t discuss in detail why the Japanese imperialists feared a Soviet occupation more than one by the U.S., when the U.S. posture was so hostile to Japan. The Japanese imperialists’ fear can only be explained by the socialist underpinnings of the USSR, which threatened a change in property relations wherever the Red Army liberated territory. This happened, for example, in Eastern Europe and East Germany.

On Aug. 15, 1945, Truman ordered a survey of the war events. Published over a year later, it stated: “Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Sur vey’s opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.” Nov. 1 was the date the U.S. had planned the invasion.

‘A crime against humanity’

In Hiroshima, an estimated 80,000 people were killed in a split second on Aug. 6. Some 13 square kilometers of the city were obliterated. By December, at least another 70,000 people had died from radiation and injuries. Three days later, on Aug. 9, the U.S. dropped an A-bomb on Nagasaki, resulting in the deaths of at least 70,000 people before the year was out. About 10 percent of the casualties were Koreans forced to work in Japan at the time.

Kuznick and Selden put most of the blame on Truman. “He knew he was begin ning the process of annihilation of the species,” says Kuznick, “It was not just a war crime; it was a crime against humanity.”

A revealing comment regarding U.S. war crimes came from John Bolton, recently appointed U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Bolton was arguing in 1998 against the International Criminal Court. “Much of the media attention to the American negotiating position on the ICC concentrated on the risks perceived by the Pentagon to American peacekeepers stationed around the world,” wrote Bolton. ... “[O]ur real concern should be for the president and his top advisers.”

Bolton continued: “The definition of ‘war crimes’ includes, for example: ‘intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities.’”

Bolton wrote that under the ICC rules, U.S. leaders could have been found guilty of a war crime for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and for all the aerial bombardments of German and Japanese civilian areas.

The A-bombs were not the only crimes. U.S. nighttime raids using conventional bombs against residential areas of Tokyo, Osaka and other industrial cities caused hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilian deaths, and Dresden, Germany, was obliterated in early 1945, killing mainly refugees. But Truman’s decision opened the door to massive use of these new terror bombs.

Now the Bush administration, fresh from being caught in a series of lies justifying aggression against Iraq, plans to increase the Pentagon’s reliance on a new generation of nuclear weapons. On the 60th anniversary of Hiroshima, it is past time to organize to prevent the new crimes U.S. imperialism has in its plans.