FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Dropping the Bomb

The late Howard Zinn’s new book “The Bomb” is a brilliant little dissection of some of the central myths of our militarized society. Those who’ve read “A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA’s Secret Cold War Experiments,” by H.P. Albarelli Jr. know that this is a year for publishing the stories of horrible things that the United States has done to French towns. In that case, Albarelli, describes the CIA administering LSD to an entire town, with deadly results. In “The Bomb,” Zinn describes the U.S. military making its first use of napalm by dropping it all over another French town, burning anyone and anything it touched. Zinn was in one of the planes, taking part in this horrendous crime.

In mid-April 1945, the war in Europe was essentially over. Everyone knew it was ending. There was no military reason (if that’s not an oxymoron) to attack the Germans stationed near Royan, France, much less to burn the French men, women, and children in the town to death. The British had already destroyed the town in January, similarly bombing it because of its vicinity to German troops, in what was widely called a tragic mistake. This tragic mistake was rationalized as an inevitable part of war, just as were the horrific firebombings that successfully reached German targets, just as was the later bombing of Royan with napalm.

Zinn blames the Supreme Allied Command for seeking to add a “victory” in the final weeks of a war already won. He blames the local military commanders’ ambitions. He blames the American Air Force’s desire to test a new weapon. And he blames everyone involved — which must include himself — for “the most powerful motive of all: the habit of obedience, the universal teaching of all cultures, not to get out of line, not even to think about that which one has not been assigned to think about, the negative motive of not having either a reason or a will to intercede.”

When Zinn returned from the war in Europe, he expected to be sent to the war in the Pacific, until he saw and rejoiced at seeing the news of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, 65 years ago this August. Only years later did Zinn come to understand the inexcusable crime of the greatest proportions that was the dropping of nuclear bombs in Japan, actions similar in some ways to the final bombing of Royan. The war with Japan was already over, the Japanese seeking peace and willing to surrender. Japan asked only that it be permitted to keep its emperor, a request that was later granted. But, like napalm, the nuclear bombs were weapons that needed testing. The second bomb, dropped on Nagasaki, was a different sort of bomb that also needed testing. President Harry Truman wanted to demonstrate nuclear bombs to the world and especially to Russia. And he wanted to end the war with Japan before Russia became part of it. The horrific form of mass murder he employed was in no way justifiable.

Zinn also goes back to dismantle the mythical reasons the United States was in the war to begin with. The United States, England, and France were imperial powers supporting each other’s international aggressions in places like the Philippines. They opposed the same from Germany and Japan, but not aggression itself. Most of America’s tin and rubber came from the Southwest Pacific. The United States made clear for years its lack of concern for the Jews being attacked in Germany. It also demonstrated its lack of opposition to racism through its treatment of African Americans and Japanese Americans. Franklin D. Roosevelt described fascist bombing campaigns over civilian areas as “inhuman barbarity” but then did the same on a much larger scale to German cities, which was followed up by the destruction on an unprecedented scale of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — actions that came after years of dehumanizing the Japanese. Zinn points out that “LIFE magazine showed a picture of a Japanese person burning to death and commented: ‘This is the only way.'”

Aware that the war would end without any more bombing, and aware that U.S. prisoners of war would be killed by the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, the U.S. military went ahead and dropped the bombs.

Americans allowed these things to be done in their name, just as the Germans and Japanese allowed horrible crimes to be committed in their names. Zinn points out, with his trademark clarity, how the use of the word “we” blends governments together with peoples and serves to equate our own people with our military, while we demonize the people of other lands because of actions by their governments. “The Bomb” suggest a better way to think about such matters and firmly establishes that

–what the U.S. military is doing now, today, parallels the crimes of the past and shares their dishonorable motivations;

–the bad wars have a lot in common with the so-called “good war,” about which there was little if anything good;

–Howard Zinn did far more in his life for peace than for war, and more for peace than just about anybody else, certainly more than several Nobel Peace Prize winners.

DAVID SWANSON is the author of Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union by Seven Stories Press. He can be reached at: david@davidswanson.org

 

 

WORDS THAT STICK

?

 

More articles by:

David Swanson wants you to declare peace at http://WorldBeyondWar.org  His new book is War No More: The Case for Abolition.

June 18, 2018
Paul Street
Denuclearize the United States? An Unthinkable Thought
John Pilger
Bring Julian Assange Home
Conn Hallinan
The Spanish Labyrinth
Patrick Cockburn
Attacking Hodeidah is a Deliberate Act of Cruelty by the Trump Administration
Gary Leupp
Trump Gives Bibi Whatever He Wants
Thomas Knapp
Child Abductions: A Conversation It’s Hard to Believe We’re Even Having
Robert Fisk
I Spoke to Palestinians Who Still Hold the Keys to Homes They Fled Decades Ago – Many are Still Determined to Return
Steve Early
Requiem for a Steelworker: Mon Valley Memories of Oil Can Eddie
Jim Scheff
Protect Our National Forests From an Increase in Logging
Adam Parsons
Reclaiming the UN’s Radical Vision of Global Economic Justice
Dean Baker
Manufacturing Production Falls in May and No One Notices
Laura Flanders
Bottom-Up Wins in Virginia’s Primaries
Binoy Kampmark
The Anguish for Lost Buildings: Embers and Death at the Victoria Park Hotel
Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
Jonathan Cook
How the Corporate Media Enslave Us to a World of Illusions
Ajamu Baraka
North Korea Issue is Not De-nuclearization But De-Colonization
Andrew Levine
Midterms Coming: Antinomy Ahead
Louisa Willcox
New Information on 2017 Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Deaths Should Nix Trophy Hunting in Core Habitat
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Singapore Fling
Ron Jacobs
What’s So Bad About Peace, Man?
Robert Hunziker
State of the Climate – It’s Alarming!
L. Michael Hager
Acts and Omissions: The NYT’s Flawed Coverage of the Gaza Protest
Dave Lindorff
However Tenuous and Whatever His Motives, Trump’s Summit Agreement with Kim is Praiseworthy
Robert Fantina
Palestine, the United Nations and the Right of Return
Brian Cloughley
Sabre-Rattling With Russia
Chris Wright
To Be or Not to Be? That’s the Question
David Rosen
Why Do Establishment Feminists Hate Sex Workers?
Victor Grossman
A Key Congress in Leipzig
John Eskow
“It’s All Kinderspiel!” Trump, MSNBC, and the 24/7 Horseshit Roundelay
Paul Buhle
The Russians are Coming!
Joyce Nelson
The NED’s Useful Idiots
Lindsay Koshgarian
Trump’s Giving Diplomacy a Chance. His Critics Should, Too
Louis Proyect
American Nativism: From the Chinese Exclusion Act to Trump
Stan Malinowitz
On the Elections in Colombia
Camilo Mejia
Open Letter to Amnesty International on Nicaragua From a Former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience
David Krieger
An Assessment of the Trump-Kim Singapore Summit
Jonah Raskin
Cannabis in California: a Report From Sacramento
Josh Hoxie
Just How Rich Are the Ultra Rich?
CJ Hopkins
Awaiting the Putin-Nazi Apocalypse
Mona Younis
We’re the Wealthiest Country on Earth, But Over 40 Percent of Us Live in or Near Poverty
Dean Baker
Not Everything Trump Says on Trade is Wrong
James Munson
Trading Places: the Other 1% and the .001% Who Won’t Save Them
Rivera Sun
Stop Crony Capitalism: Protect the Net!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail