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.
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.
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.
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
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
‘A crime against humanity’
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
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.
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