08 August 2007

An Essay By Paul Fussell For Hiroshima Day

To-day is 8th August, the 62nd anniversary of the Hiroshima A-Bombing.

To commemorate that event, have posted here a link to a 1987 essay by Paul Fussell, English scholar and World War Two veteran(European Theater of Operations), in which he points out that, while the Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-Bombings can be seen in historical hindsight, and from a certain class and geographical distance, to be unjustified horrors, to those, like himself, who would have had to be on the ground in Japan, when Operation Olympic, the projected invasion of the Japanese mainland, happened, they came as a relief.

Fussell also points out the grim, uncompromising and grotesquely savage nature of the Pacific War, in which Japanese and American soldiers, sailors and marines alike butchered each other, and desecrated each other's corpses routinely.

This was as much a race war, as a war between two nations, and the Pacific War bears the trademarks of a race war-unfettered hatred, brutality, and out-right violation and murder of one side's combattants and civilians by the other.

Fussell also acknowledges that the Nuclear Age that followed was, and is, characterised by greed and ineptitude on the parts of those who exploit nuclear power. But, he also urges us not to lump in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings with that, as, like it or not, millions of lives were saved on the Allied and Japanese sides, since the projected invasion of mainland Japan, as well as Japanese-held territories like Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Viet-Nam, among others, didn't take place.

Had we gone in with Operation Olympic, considering that Japan still had an active military component of around two million men at the time of the bombings, as well as the fact that much of the Japanese civilian population, women, the elderly and children, would have been mobilised to rise up and fight the Allied invasion, I can see where such an invasion would have lead to, at first, a conventional war, as had thus far been fought, and then to a guerrilla war, that would have made Viet-Nam look small and tame by comparison, with the results of an eventual Allied victory, but only after such a mass slaughter of Japanese military personnel and civilians, that it would turn the stomachs of all but the most die-hard nationalists on the Japanese side, and the bitterest racists on the Allied side.

For my money, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were, and remain, loathsome. But, they also came at the end of a long chain of loathsome brutalities that began with Japan's invasion of Manchuria in 1931, kept right on through Japan's invasion of China in 1937, its attacks on Pearl Harbor and the various Allied colonies in the Pacific and Far East in December, 1941, the massive US air raids on Japan, culminating in the fire-bombing of Tokyo in March, 1944, that killed over a hundred thousand people there, and so on.

Combine the deeds perpetrated by both sides in the Pacific War with the similar kind of race war waged by the various sides on the Eastern Front during World War Two, and one sees a portrait of so-called civilised humanity at its extreme worst.

If there's any message at all that should come out of World War Two, indeed, out of our current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it's that any country's political, economic and social leadership classes and populations had better think once, twice, ten thousand, and even one hundred thousand times, before engaging in war, because of the ugliness and madness that such a decision unleashes cannot be taken back, ever.

For those Americans who didn't serve in World War Two, and especially in combat operations, as for those Japanese who didn't, nor who were victims of that terrible war, and who feel that this is some occasion to cheer or vent their frustrations, I've only this to say; shut the fuck up, because you've not earned the right to display that.

No God-Damn cheering, and no fucking displays of national self-pity and victimhood, if you please, as partisans on both sides have been wont to do since 1945.

The dead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki should be mourned, as should the dead of World War Two, especially because, due to the ideas, policies, actions and failures of soldiers, statesmen, bureaucrats, philosophers, ideologues, journalists, film-makers, and religious leaders, among others, they and so many others in Japan, the US, Britain, France, Canada, Australia, China, and every other part of the world touched by World War Two, were wasted, in terms of lives, time, talent, potential and so on.

Mourn the dead, help the remaining survivors, and, most of all, for God's sake, work in whatever way you can to stop atrocities like this, and the various wars that have followed since, right up to this day, from happening.

The link's http://www.ux1.eiu.edu/~cfib/courses/Fussell.pdf.

Be seeing you.

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