By William Astore, retired Air Force Lieutenant, who discusses America’s peculiar brand of global imperialism. He mentions in Afghanistan and elsewhere the U.S. is suffering from Imperial Tourism Syndrome. Published: October 28, 2015 | Authors: William Astore | TomDispatch | Op-Ed
Whose history are we really talking about is a great question to focus on as it raises where we came from, our history, and everyone else's. We have learned from different teachers. The history many of us grew up with involved powerful kings, queens, wars, governments, and the development of parliamentary democracy with some historical and romantic novels. But for the British when England leaves the Catholic Church in 1534 major changes occurred after Henry the VIII that changed how we approach the subject.
By the time we hit university things were already changing. Marxism had arrived bringing a heightened attention to the arc of class and economics. Many works like them have helped to revolutionize our view of the past, but surely began filling up with depth from new historical knowledge.
Another force connected with women involved half the population followed by equally powerful questions about race and racism. The idea of history as a procession of dead white males written by live ones may sound ridiculous now, but the war to open up a wider perspective was a real one. So writers of history began demonstrating different point of emphasis and views. Soon the teaching of science and engineering became increasingly important.
All exposes the current assault on the humanities within higher education as even more uncultured. The thinking goes like this: the study of history, English, philosophy or art doesn't help anyone get a job and does not contribute to the economy to the same degree that science or engineering or business studies do. I believe most of us say balderdash.
The humanities, including history, teach people how to think analytically while at the same time appreciating innovation and creativity. Isn't that a good set of skills for most jobs?
One could wish that the historians were all more accurate. Who would dare mess with science in the way some fool with history.
Toni Morrison brought to life the inner life of slavery, and pushed the modern reader to confront this reality. Another confronted the same difficult history from a white woman's perspective. One memoir produces anti-war feelings from gross misuse of power. Another accuses those who cringe at the horrors of Hiroshima as "hand wringers". Any society that doesn't pay proper attention to whose history we are exploring, and from what perspective, maybe starving his/her own imagination and missing an opportunity to participate spreading useful historical knowledge so mistakes of the past may be understood and avoided in the future.
The "Onion" where S.U.U.S. holds services, events, music, and presentations:
August 19, 2015 Helen Jacard spoke to the Sepulveda Unitarian Universalist Society about the Golden Rule, a 30-foot ketch and its crew, Capt. Albert Bigelow, William Huntington, George Willoughby, and Orion Sherwood, which was stopped by the Coast Guard from interfering with nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands in 1958. They were part of an international movement to stop the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. They were arrested at Honolulu, Hawaii.
Another peace keeping yacht, The Phoenix, led by Earl Reynolds, Skipper, Barbara (wife), Ted (son), Jessica (daughter), and Nick Nakami, crew member, sailed The Phoenix, into the nuclear test zone to protest nuclear testing in 1958 and were arrested. Earl was a physical anthropologist whom the Atomic Energy Commission sent to Hiroshima to research the effects of radiation on children. In 1961 they sailed to Vladivostok, Russia, with Thomas C, Yoneda replacing Nick as a crew member to share their message to the Soviet Union. For extraordinary civil disobedience, they were branded as traitors in the U. S., while Japan held them up as national heroes.
The Golden Rule was resurrected, repaired, with the help of Garberville Chapter of Veterans For Peace and other West Coast Chapters formed a movement to bring her back to sail again on June 20th 2015 carrying their peace and anti-nuclear weapon message for the next two months in California (set forth below). They plan to undertake a ten-year peacemaking voyage around North America challenging military solutions to the world problems. Helen is a part of the crew and member of Women International League For Peace and Freedom.
Albert Bigelow, is author of the book, Voyage of the Golden Rule, and a former naval officer in WWII who resigned his commission a month before he was eligible for a pension. “To Russia with Love,” An American Family Challenges Nuclear Testing, by Jessica Reynolds Renshaw, follows the Phoenix on its mission to spread the truth about radiation from nuclear testing and finding peaceful solutions rather than military ones.
Golden Rule Schedule:
8/ 27-29 in Long Beach
8/30 Arlington Memorial
8/31-9/ 1 Marina Del Rey
9/3-9/19 Seal Beach, San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Monterey, Santa Cruz
9/21-10/10 San Francisco Bay
10/12 Morro Bay/ Ft. Bragg
(Never, ever, again!)
VVAW member Daniel C. Lavery graduated Annapolis, navigated a Navy jet, and a ship, turned peace activist and became a civil rights lawyer for Cesar Chavez's UFW. His memoir, All the Difference, describes his experiences. www.danielclavery.com. He regularly attends the Onion presentations since 1980
I am an active member of Vietnam Vets Against War, Annapolis grad, retired civil rights attorney, and author of an inspirational memoir, who changed my path as soon as I could once I realized how immoral and obnoxious the Vietnam War had become. As a navigator of a US warship, the USS Oak Hill (LSD-7), I navigated 300 marines to Vietnam where our ship stayed on station for six months supporting the war effort. Immediately after the Vietnam period I navigated our ship to Hong Kong and then Japan where I had spent two years attending an American high school in Yokohama when my father, a WWII hero, was a Commander in the Navy assigned to the Yokosuka Naval base. After visiting the city where I lived, Kamakura, I decided to take a train to Hiroshima where I felt my anti-war sentiments would find a place to ponder what my future might be once my commitment was over in about a year. That impetus I recorded in a memoir I wrote called All the Difference, that showed how I changed from a pawn in the military to a crusader for justice as a civil rights lawyer for the poor and powerless.Here is an excerpt of that experience that I want to share for the 70 th anniversary of the horrendous bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki:
I navigated the Oakhill to Hong Kong, where I wandered the streets for a day, amazed at the bustling beauty of an island with skyscrapers piercing the sky and shopping centers with tailors fitting customers with silk and other fine materials. I followed some officers from our ship to a team of tailors who fitted me with the best fabrics for suits, sport coats, ties, and dress shirts. Rugged mountains covered the background populated by millions of Chinese in a diverse British city. I had never seen so many sampans and makeshift vessels tied together along wharfs shaping a village of thousands of poor boat people.
A ferry boat took me past these water-bound wharf villages to Macau, then under communist rule. A taxi driver motored me to a Mao Tse Tung school. High school students shouted slogans, marched, and waved red flags. He told me if we drove near them they would kill me if they knew an American naval officer rode in his vehicle. Gambling casinos decked out with roulette wheels, card sharks, bartenders, dancing girls, lavish carpets and accommodations overwhelmed with a gambling crowd of rich professionals and tourists. Since time was short, I jumped on the ferry to Hong Kong to my hotel. The next day my clothes were ready to pick up and bring back to the ship.
Our next port, Yokosuka, Japan, was where I had lived as a teenager. The base PX provided me an opportunity to buy gifts for my friend Yoshio Suzuki’s family in Kamakura. His boy enjoyed the baseball glove and girl a doll I had purchased on the base along with a fifth of Jack Daniels for his Dad who still ran a milk factory there. While there, I visited Enoshima and was shocked by its change. Waves still crashed on the rocks and the sound of the surf mingled with the shore, but there were no crabs or fish in the tide pools. They were inundated with dirt from the excavation that created the bridges, roadway, and souvenir shops that dotted the way. Escalators snaked to a slick modern observation tower while shrill pop music wafted across the island from the multitude of restaurants and shops constructed in the recent past. Horn honking replaced the natural sounds that had refreshed me on my first visit. Exhaust fumes choked me when in the past only ocean spray and sunlight danced on the rocks and natural pathways of the revered island. Neither the magnificent hawks nor Mount Fuji were visible through the smog. A two lane road lead to an escalator that reached a modern observation room after we passed tourist shops and restaurants that blared music and commercials where once stood a sacred island sanctuary. Crowds shoved and filled the pathways. How dismal progress made this once peaceful ancient shrine.
A train swept me off to Hiroshima where I saw a film of the devastation caused by the first atomic bomb ever dropped on human beings at the shrine to the dead. Seeing the effects of that enormous blast on human beings haunted me. The photographs of the victims etched the atrocity against humanity graphically in my brain no matter what the justification. The statistics baffled my mind. By the end of the war, atomic bombs killed about 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 80,000 in Nagasaki. Most of the casualties were civilians. Many died slowly from radiation sickness so these statistics understate the deaths. At the museum was a reference from an eye witness:
“Towards evening, a light, southerly wind blowing across the city
wafted to us an odor suggestive of burning sardines. I wondered
what could cause such a smell until somebody, noticing it too,
informed me that sanitation teams were cremating the remains of
people who had been killed. Looking out, I could discern numerous
fires scattered about the city. Previously I had assumed the fires
were caused by burning rubble. Towards Nigitsu was an especially
large fire where the dead were being burned by hundreds. Suddenly
to realize that these fires were funeral pyres made me shudder, and
I became a little nauseated. 8 Aug 1945 by Michihiko Hachiya.”
A memorial book at the shrine to the dead contains my statement that as a patriotic American who had grown to love the Japanese people, to see what horror we caused them with the dropping of atomic bombs made a lasting impression of extreme sorrow. I hoped no country would ever use atomic or nuclear weapons in the future. I walked to a carved stone in Hiroshima Peace Park called the Memorial Cenotaph and read the words: “Let all souls here rest in peace, for we shall not repeat the evil.”
“Never, never waste a minute on regret. It's a waste of time.”
-- President Harry Truman
Here we are, 70 years after the nuclear obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and I'm wondering if we've come even one step closer to a moral reckoning with our status as the world's only country to use atomic weapons to slaughter human beings. Will an American president ever offer a formal apology? Will our country ever regret the dropping of “Little Boy” and “Fat Man,” those two bombs that burned hotter than the sun? Will it absorb the way they instantly vaporized thousands of victims, incinerated tens of thousands more, and created unimaginably powerful shockwaves and firestorms that ravaged everything for miles beyond ground zero? Will it finally come to grips with the “black rain” that spread radiation and killed even more people -- slowly and painfully -- leading in the end to a death toll for the two cities conservatively estimated at more than 250,000?
Given the last seven decades of perpetual militarization and nuclear “modernization” in this country, the answer may seem like an obvious no. Still, as a historian, I've been trying to dig a little deeper into our lack of national contrition. As I have, an odd fragment of Americana kept coming to mind, a line from the popular 1970 tearjerker Love Story:“Love,” says the female lead when her boyfriend begins to apologize, “means never having to say you're sorry.” It has to be one of the dumbest definitions ever to lodge in American memory, since real love often requires the strength to apologize and make amends.
It does, however, apply remarkably well to the way many Americans think about that broader form of love we call patriotism. With rare exceptions, like the 1988 congressional act that apologized to and compensated the Japanese-American victims of World War II internment, when it comes to the brute exercise of power, true patriotism has above all meant never having to say you're sorry. The very politicians who criticize other countries for not owning up to their wrong-doing regularly insist that we should never apologize for anything. In 1988, for example, after the U.S. Navy shot down an Iranian civilian airliner over the Persian Gulf killing all 290 passengers (including 66 children), Vice President George H.W. Bush, then running for president, proclaimed, “I will never apologize for the United States. Ever. I don't care what the facts are.”
It turns out, however, that Bush's version of American remorselessness isn’t quite enough. After all, Americans prefer to view their country as peace-loving, despite having been at war constantly since 1941. This means they need more than denials and non-apologies. They need persuasive stories and explanations (however full of distortions and omissions). The tale developed to justify the bombings that led to a world in which the threat of human extinction has been a daily reality may be the most successful legitimizing narrative in our history. Seventy years later, it’s still deeply embedded in public memory and school textbooks, despite an ever-growing pile of evidence that contradicts it. Perhaps it’s time, so many decades into the age of apocalyptic peril, to review the American apologia for nuclear weapons -- the argument in their defense -- that ensured we would never have to say we're sorry.
The Hiroshima Apologia
On August 9, 1945, President Harry Truman delivered a radio address from the White House. “The world will note,” he said, “that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians.” He did not mention that a second atomic bomb had already been dropped on Nagasaki.
Truman understood, of course, that if Hiroshima was a “military base,” then so was Seattle; that the vast majority of its residents were civilians; and that perhaps 100,000 of them had already been killed. Indeed, he knew that Hiroshima was chosen not for its military significance but because it was one of only a handful of Japanese cities that had not already been firebombed and largely obliterated by American air power. U.S. officials, in fact, were intent on using the first atomic bombs to create maximum terror and destruction. They also wanted to measure their new weapon’s power and so selected the “virgin targets” of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In July 1945, Secretary of War Henry Stimson informed Truman of his fear that, given all the firebombing of Japanese cities, there might not be a target left on which the atomic bomb could “show its strength” to the fullest. According to Stimson's diary, Truman “laughed and said he understood.”
The president soon dropped the “military base” justification. After all, despite Washington's effort to censor the most graphic images of atomic annihilation coming out of Hiroshima, the world quickly grasped that the U.S. had destroyed an entire city in a single blow with massive loss of life. So the president focused instead on an apologia that would work for at least the next seven decades. Its core arguments appeared in that same August 9th speech. “We have used [the atomic bomb] against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor,” he said, “against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international laws of warfare. We have used it in order to shorten the agony of war, in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans.”
By 1945, most Americans didn't care that the civilians of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had not committed Japan's war crimes. American wartime culture had for years drawn on a long history of “yellow peril” racism to paint the Japanese not just as inhuman, but as subhuman. As Truman put it in his diary, it was a country full of “savages” -- “ruthless, merciless, and fanatic” people so loyal to the emperor that every man, woman, and child would fight to the bitter end. In these years, magazines routinely depicted Japanese as monkeys, apes, insects, and vermin. Given such a foe, so went the prevailing view, there were no true “civilians” and nothing short of near extermination, or at least a powerful demonstration of America's willingness to proceed down that path, could ever force their surrender. As Admiral William “Bull” Halsey said in a 1944 press conference, “The only good Jap is a Jap who's been dead six months.”
In the years after World War II, the most virulent expressions of race hatred diminished, but not the widespread idea that the atomic bombs had been required to end the war, eliminating the need to invade the Japanese home islands where, it was confidently claimed, tooth-and-nail combat would cause enormous losses on both sides. The deadliest weapon in history, the one that opened the path to future Armageddon, had therefore saved lives. That was the stripped down mantra that provided the broadest and most enduring support for the introduction of nuclear warfare. By the time Truman, in retirement, published his memoir in 1955, he was ready to claim with some specificity that an invasion of Japan would have killed half-a-million Americans and at least as many Japanese.
Over the years, the ever-increasing number of lives those two A-bombs “saved” became a kind of sacred numerology. By 1991, for instance, President George H.W. Bush, praising Truman for his “tough, calculating decision,” claimed that those bombs had “spared millions of American lives.” By then, an atomic massacre had long been transformed into a mercy killing that prevented far greater suffering and slaughter.
Truman went to his grave insisting that he never had a single regret or a moment's doubt about his decision. Certainly, in the key weeks leading up to August 6, 1945, the record offers no evidence that he gave serious consideration to any alternative.
“Revisionists” Were Present at the Creation