Japan's Longest Day: Wishful Thinking, and Mass Murder from a Plane Named After the Pilot's Mother


It's the anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and I've little to add to the library of meditation on what it all means-- except that if you've never read Japan's Longest Day the English translation of research done by Kazutoshi Hando and The Pacific War Research Society, it will remove any hope that the Japanese government would have surrendered without the bombing. Indeed, the book makes clear that the hawks in control of the Japanese government had no intention of stopping even after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, even when they themselves admitted that the war was lost.
The people of the United States have a knack of forgetting our own talent for mass murder while scolding other nations for their bestial habits, and it may be that shame over the treatment of Africans and the aboriginals creates a chink in our mental armor when it comes to thinking about World War Two. It's an easy hit to make Americans flinch when playing poker over the development of nuclear weapons.
It was the hope of Leo Szilard and others at the time that Japan would surrender if the power of the weapon was demonstrated on an abandoned island. Truman-- funny how he never pretended that his "advisors" were somehow responsible for anything more than advice in making his decision-- was working with the facts of what had just happened on Okinawa (more people died on Okinawa than at Hiroshima and Nagasaki) and appeared certain to happen on the mainland. Szilard and a generation of physicists after him moved into biology and peace activism after the bombs were dropped, and now biology and recombinant DNA are on the brink of creating an extinction-level weapon just as splitting the atom did.
This is going to call for more sophistication than the wishful thinking shown by doves and hawks, who seem to recite two extremes: that we can force everyone to love us by bombing people who don't love us, or that we make everyone love us by appealing to their higher nature even if they wish us harm. But technology outruns social evolution. "We are as gods," as Stewart Brand said, "and we might as well get good at it."

3 comments:

John Martin said...

Thankfully, we humans also have the petty, petulant, pugnacious humor (or should I say ichor) of those middle-aged gods we are all so fond of reading stories about in books—the greek gods, the god of Abraham, et al. So, as far as being good at playing at gods, we at least can emulate their moods and whims. w

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

You quote too many people I don't recognize, Mike. Ah, well. Here's one back: "All war would end, if only the dead could return." --Stephen Baldwin. I'll look for the book. The way the Japanese rewrote their history books is something I think about every time I hear some new Beijing Bullshit censorship.

Word Verification: vwvoqgq, you have GOT to be kidding me. Wll, here goes nothing...

Michael Fountain: Blood for Ink said...

Vwvoqgq was one of the Green Lanterns that we don't talk about. And trust me, we bowdlerize and euphemize history texts in American schools just as much, but in the name of market forces and selling them in Texas. There's a scary thought in Jim Harrison somewhere that we saw the need to rebuild Japan and Germany because of their similarities to us, but saw no need to rebuild Native America.
One of those "Masters of Horror" episodes on HBO revolved exactly around what Baldwin said; the dead come back to vote against the president who got them killed. Isn't it funny that horror depends on a sense of boundaries, and what's right and wrong (or it wouldn't repel us)but in media and politics there's only feigned revulsion? Would McCain have hugged Bush after Bush's attacks on his family?