Dropping the bomb.
Operation Meetinghouse was a series of air raids over Tokyo by the U.S. Army Air Force in WWII, specifically the nights of 9th-10th of March,1945, and is the single most destructive firebombing operation in the history of the universe. More than16 square miles of the city center were leveled flat and everything man-made was basically erased. Approximately 100,000 civilians were killed in that 48-hour period, most incinerated immediately to ash in the hellfire-like heat. In comparison, the atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki only killed between 40-80,000 people.
I say “only” slightly facetiously, since every innocent civilian death during wartime is essentially murder, but you can see why, comparatively speaking, Fat Man wobbling out of the sky to pound Nagasaki to a snort of rubble, flesh and bone ground fine and up America’s nose was not quantitatively different from the firebombing that the allies had already been doing on a fairly regular basis for the previous year or so. (I'm not going to even mention Dresden, even though if you haven't read Slaughterhouse Five by now, or recently, you should stop and order it from Amazon immediately, pilgrim.)
Actually, they were only qualitatively different: firebombing used the exponential heat caused by the incendiary devices to essentially melt people and, combined with high explosive bombs that blew off (usually fire retardant) roofs, windows, and doors, to allow buildings, churches, and houses to be engulfed in flames. Sometimes these two types of devices were combined in a cluster bomb such as the Soviet Union’s Molotov bread basket instead of being dropped separately, and the effect was not only much more destruction, but exponentially more.
In contrast, the atomic bomb used the kinetic energy released by the nuclear fusion blast and subsequent radiation to annihilate and kill. Murder, whatever the weapon of choice, is still murder–but the Japanese had firebombed the Chinese wartime capitol of Chongqing in 1939, as part of their brutal subjugation of China, which was just as horrific in terms of casualties and hate, if less well-known, than the Rape of Nanking two years earlier. So it seems they were just getting a taste of their own murderous medicine.
The justification narrative has always that we had to drop the atomic bombs because if we to invade Japan they would have fought to the death, and we would have lost between one million and two million men trying to invade and subjugate those fanatical "Nips." I mean just look at the ferocious Battle of Iwo Jima with flamethrowers frying the enemy alive as instructive. I always believed this. And it makes sense–the Japanese kamikaze mentality is legendary, and scary as hell. The atomic bombs, in this context, can look almost heroic, and ironically, life-saving when contrasted with an entire nation obsessed with a death wish.
A friend’s grandfather was in the Philippines training for the invasion way back in 1944, as were hundreds of thousands of young American men, and I remember having dinner at The Reef in City Island with his wife years later, long after he had died, and she was still grateful, even then, that we had dropped the bomb.
But I’ve done some research recently, and have discovered some discomforting facts that call into question the textbooks, and rattle my world view, which I’ve worked hard to come to understand and believe, with as much conviction as I can muster these days. Which is meager, underwhelming even, laughably sporadic, and unimpressive even in the best of times.
Japan, I’ve just found out, was ready to unconditionally surrender almost six months prior to Truman dropping the bomb, in January 1945 after its heavy losses at the Battle of Leyte. The Japanese’s only stipulation was that Emperor Hirohito remain as the Emperor. Which is what kind of happened anyway–Hirohito remained in power, ruling all the way until he died in 1989–but the Allies forced him to renounce his divinity and become a mere mortal, which he did.
So why the bomb? The accounts conflict and things start to get murky toward the end of the way, which J.G. Ballard said was always when it was the most dangerous because you didn’t know who was what, or on which side, and vendettas were part of the rough justice. The Soviets were definitely threatening Japan from the west–they actually invaded China and drove the remaining Imperial Army forces out, which I never knew about until recently. Which makes the communist taking over the world threat even more ominous and a quick ending to the whole War in the Pacific even more imminent and important. But what's the real story?
Here’s my not-very-educated but heavy on the gut instinct guess: the military-industrial complex had a lot invested in the bomb, and nuclear war in general and in their own profitable future, and the technology’s efficacy and value needed to be proven in the trenches so-to-speak. So the mighty war machinery men pushed the fighting to the last-man to defend Japan narrative so they could justify the U.S. going nuclear and dropping the big one. This scared the hell out of Truman, I’m sure, who was fairly new to the job, a mild-mannered mid-westerner, and their lurid tales of millions of American GIs slaughtered during a pointless invasion of Japan, backed up with charts and statistics, could all be eliminated neatly and quickly by proposing an almost American-casualty-free solution.
I’m sure Truman knew the immensity of the step he was taking, but he was a politician, after all. And a Democrat to boot. You can’t see a lot of the inescapably gory of disarticulated limbs and heads, the flesh-melted mauling, spilling terrible human guts and irrevocable hope from a safe, silent 30,000 feet up, or from behind an engraved “The Buck Stops Here” desktop sign.
Japan was a pretext, a convenient excuse for America to inhale the ambition of the whole world, and put the satanic plans in play to control it. A stumped and numb scapegoat, defanged, with its hungry mouth hanging open was easy prey. And the engorged war machinery with its awesome enriching costs and power hurried in, and continues to shove on, like a silent, mesmerizing jaguar, to this day. To the tune of billions and billions: a primal greed unleashed, swiping and swiveling, bowling skinfuls of bones and blood, urgent, flourishing on conflict and defeat. It eats money and peace and prayers like air, satisfied with the bang of envy and blood, while we all swallow hard and wince and flinch.
How to stop this demanding, demeaning monster that is, at the heart, pure evil, when we ourselves, through affluence and apathy, have become a complacent cackle of yawning apes? Cowering, unused to strong stresses, the concept of evil existing so remote, inconceivably, not here, never now. But hopefully, recently, waking up to the realities, if only at the gas pump. There is no politics without an enemy, Disraeli, I think, said, and we have to learn or relearn the first lesson of The Art of War: know who you’re fighting.
I think our nemesis is within, inside our own palace walls, a biblical snake, a boa-constrictor that’s slowly winding itself tighter around us, that’s embraced everything we hold near and dear and with guile-less malice is squeezing the life out of our wonderful perfectly imperfect constitutional republic. In effect, and with intent, destroying the will of the people to live free and speak free, wrecking the family, the nucleus of any successful society, brainwashing and alienating the children, mocking the rule of law, limiting, limiting, limiting the right to bear arms, and hating the very idea and everything about the United States of America except its destruction. We’re seeing it play out, and when we try to take a breath to say something, it cinches another unforgiving inch.
America has been on a Hamiltonian spiral downward since the Civil War, instead of a Jeffersonian “that which governs least governs best” trajectory upward, which I’ll discuss in next week’s monograph, and thus has given the forever fist of government, unwillingly, the right to pound down to the ground any dissent, disrupters, or doubt with exceptional and impressively efficient hypocrisy and barbarity.
We’ve got to ecrasez-l’infame, people, no matter what the sacrifice, resolutely refuse to grow weary–and always stand up straight against malevolence, be proactive, vigilant, alert, alive. Wit and recalcitrance are required too. And never, never give in. Not one wiggling iota. Never, never, never.