This article was first published in Workers World, August 14, 2016
August 6 and 9, 1945, went down in history as days of infamy for U.S. imperialism — and days of catastrophe for the people of Japan.
At 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 6, the U.S. bomber Enola Gay dropped a four-ton uranium bomb on Hiroshima, and then followed that horrific act by unleashing a plutonium bomb on Nagasaki three days later.
Both cities became infernos. People were incinerated instantly. Thousands died agonizing deaths soon afterwards. By the end of that year, 250,000 people had died. In subsequent years, many people died from radiation-related illnesses.
Among those who died were 22,000 Koreans, who were conscripted as forced laborers by Japanese imperialism during World War II, along with Chinese workers.
Sixty percent of Hiroshima was destroyed. Residential areas bore the brunt of the impact as only four of the 30 targets were military. This was in line with U.S. war policy of bombing Japanese civilian populations. Nagasaki was flattened.
As World War II was ending, Washington dropped the bombs as a warning to the socialist Soviet Union and to assert U.S. hegemony in Asia and around the globe. This imperialist government showed the world that it had developed and would use nuclear weapons against civilian populations.
The United States is the only country to have ever used nuclear bombs in warfare. No leading figure in any administration has ever apologized or shown remorse for having inflicted such monumental destruction and loss of human life on the Japanese people.
This includes President Barack Obama, who visited the Hiroshima Memorial Park in late May. Although he was the first sitting U.S. president to visit the city, Obama offered no apology for the government’s decision to bomb the two Japanese cities and the consequent devastation.
Atomic bomb survivors and Japan’s peace movement insist Washington take responsibility for its deplorable actions at the end of the war — and remove U.S. troops and bases from their country. The people of Okinawa have militantly opposed the presence of U.S. bases since they were erected on their island.
The legacy of Hiroshima is pacifism. “Never again” is inscribed on the war memorial. On the 71st anniversary of the bombings this year, people came from all over Japan to show respect to those who died and demonstrate their desire for peace.
The post-war Japanese Constitution, which the U.S. imposed, renounced war and military engagement abroad. Since then, however, Japan has built up its military and supported U.S. interventions in Korea and Vietnam.
Japan’s current right-wing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has ordered more military spending, ended a ban on arms exports and passed security laws that allow sending troops abroad. He has done this despite opposition from the majority of the population and organized protests by bomb survivors and anti-war, anti-nuclear organizations.
Abe’s actions have been urged by Washington, which seeks Japanese military expansion in East Asia, in concert with the U.S. military build-up in the region — with all forces confronting China and north Korea. Behind the diplomatic posturing of the Obama administration, that is the real goal of the U.S. “pivot to Asia.”
Clearly, U.S. militarism is expanding. The never-ending war drive is intrinsic to capitalism; the U.S. is compelled to seek global, strategic, military, economic and political domination.
Actions speak louder than words
Of his trip to Hiroshima, Obama said that it reaffirmed “our vision of a world without nuclear weapons.” Yet, can the U.S.government be believed about this “goal”?
The Obama administration has committed $1 trillion to upgrade and build “nuclear modernizations” of weapons, bombers, missiles and submarines over the next 30 years.
The Pentagon publicly admits to having 4,571 nuclear warheads. Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington would hasten dismantling retired nuclear warheads by 20 percent. The number of weapons dismantled annually has dwindled, however, with only 109 cut last year. (New York Times, May 27, 2016)
The Guardian newspaper says the current administration has decreased the nuclear weapons stockpile less than “any president since the end of the cold war.” (May 27) Congressional right-wing war hawks share responsibility for that, as they have vociferously opposed weapons reduction.
The Obama administration claims it seeks a world without nuclear weapons. If that were true, it should cancel the $1 trillion allocation for “nuclear modernization” and disarm immediately. It should redirect the funds to jobs, health care, education, housing and food programs here and pay reparations to refugees and other victims of U.S.-led wars and occupations abroad.
Nuclear war threatens human life on earth. The global stockpile is equivalent to 150,000 times the potency of the bombs dropped on Japan. On the anniversary of the worst bombing in history, anti-imperialist forces worldwide must renew the push for nuclear disarmament, especially of the U.S. war machine — to stay Washington’s hand so there is never another nuclear catastrophe.