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Year 2005 No. 104, August 6, 2005 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

60th Anniversary of Hiroshima:

Never Again!

Workers' Daily Internet Edition: Article Index :

60th Anniversary of Hiroshima:
Never Again!

British Government’s Role in Israel’s Acquisition of Nuclear Weapons

Atomic Blackmail

No More Hiroshimas!

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60th Anniversary of Hiroshima:

Never Again!

At 8.15 am on August 6, 1945, the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, detonating 1,885 feet above the ground. The initial death toll was nearly 100,000. By 1986, the cenotaph in Hiroshima listed about 140,000 people who died in the attack, including those who died later from injuries and the horrible effects of radiation. The toll represented some 40 percent of the city's population.

Only three days later, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki. The final death toll in that city was up to 70,000 people.

Japan agreed to surrender on August 15, a week after the Soviet Union had itself entered the war on Japan and driven 700,000 Japanese troops out of Manchuria.

Sixty years after the first use of nuclear weapons in warfare, these weapons of mass destruction have still not been banned, as is the demand of the world's people. Rather, the big powers, led by US imperialism, have used their monopoly of these weapons as a form of blackmail against other countries and the world's people, to get them to do their bidding. For example, he US has threatened the DPRK with pre-emptive strike, labelled it an "outpost of tyranny", to get it to submit and surrender its sovereignty, whereas the aspiration of the DPRK and the Korean people as a whole is to completely denuclearise the Korean Peninsula. And the British government is the most enthusiastic ally of the US in its warmongering "National Missile Defence" system.

The US and Britain have never been interested in the complete prohibition of nuclear weapons. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has been used not to bring about the banning of nuclear weapons and their testing, but to preserve the nuclear monopoly in their hands. It is a means for keeping the control of nuclear weapons in the hands of US imperialism and the big powers, while making it unlawful for the rest of the world to follow suit. The use of the atomic bomb by the US showed the world that the imperialists would stop at nothing to terrorise the globe into submission.

The demand of the world's people for the complete prohibition of nuclear weapons, as well as beginning from the demand that the imperialists end their nuclear monopoly and blackmail, must rely on their own anti-imperialist struggle as the decisive factor in guaranteeing peace and security. The entire history of the 20th century has proved that it is not the manoeuvrings and armed might of the imperialists which have contributed to the world's peace and security. The opposite is the case. It is the struggles of the people which have stayed the hands of the imperialists and won liberation and security, and which defeated fascism in the second world war.

The people will never accept the nuclear blackmail of the US and its partners in crime. The people’s movement is demanding that the US and Britain get out of Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and elsewhere, and are standing as one with all those countries which are being threatened with intervention and nuclear blackmail. It is the people who are the decisive force in leading to the complete prohibition of nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction by standing up to the hegemonic designs of Anglo-US imperialism.

Article Index



British Government’s Role in Israel’s Acquisition of Nuclear Weapons

Britain secretly supplied the 20 tons of heavy water to Israel nearly half a century ago which enabled it to make nuclear weapons, according to Whitehall documents which have been discovered at the Public Records Office. Officials in the Macmillan government deliberately concealed the deal from the US, according to the files, which were broadcast by BBC Newsnight on August 3. The sale, in two successive 10-ton shipments to Israel from a British port, went to Israel's secret underground reactor at Dimona in the Negev desert. The deal was structured as a resale to Norway, which then traded the consignment on to Israel. This enabled British officials to say they had no responsibility themselves for imposing safeguards. No "peaceful use only" condition was placed on its use, officials told the BBC, adding that imposing one would be "over zealous".

Israel has consistently refused to joint the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

CND Chair Kate Hudson said, "Is this yet another, earlier, example of the buck-passing we have seen over the illegal decision to go to war on Iraq?"

She added: "The British government speaks out against nuclear proliferation. It even went to war on Iraq, ostensibly over its supposed nuclear proliferation. Now we know that the British government was responsible for the Israeli nuclear weapons programme. This is a further shocking example of Britain’s nuclear hypocrisy. We call on our government to make strenuous efforts to secure the goal of the abolition of Israeli nukes, as a major contribution to peace in the Middle East and to stability world wide."

Article Index



Atomic Blackmail

Chapter 6 of If Truth Be Told: Secrecy and subversion in an age turned unheroic by Stan Winer*

While news of the atomic explosions on 6 and 9 August might have come as a nasty shock to the world at large, the wiping out of entire cities did not. Earlier events at Hamburg and Dresden had seen to that. Besides which, on August 2, hundreds of US Strategic Air Force long-range bombers based in the Pacific had set a new record for the heaviest bombing raid of World War II, when they showered 6,000 tonnes of phosphorus bombs on four Japanese cities including Kawasaki. That particular raid, in turn, had been the culmination of a long series of similar raids in the months preceding the nuclear holocaust, when American air attacks on Japanese cities had mounted in frequency and intensity, leaving more than 15 million Japanese civilians homeless. Nearly nine million of them had either fled or were preparing to flee into the countryside, leaving behind the corpses of more than a quarter million civilian dead. In one attack on the night of 9 March, 180,000 civilians died in Tokyo – described triumphantly by Time magazine as "a dream come true". About 40 percent of Japan’s urban area was by then either destroyed or seriously damaged. Two million houses lay reduced to ashes in 66 different towns and cities, equal to 250 square miles of urban area.1

When news of atomic massacres in Japan reached the American public, early polls showed at least 80 percent of Americans approved of the atomic bombings while only one percent expressed any feeling of regret on the subject of more than 70,000 civilians killed instantly at Hiroshima and another 40,000 at Nagasaki. An NBC radio broadcast on August 6, which provided the first officially approved news of the first atomic explosion earlier that day, described Hiroshima as an important Japanese Army base. "The world will note," Truman announced personally, "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 … The Japanese began the war from the air at Pearl Harbour, they have been repaid manifold."2 He added that an invasion of Japan might have cost a million lives. US Secretary of State James Byrnes "corroborated" that the bombs had ended the war against Japan, and this had spared not only American lives but also those of "hundreds of thousands of American boys and millions more of Japanese people".3 The overwhelming response of the American media was one of euphoria. "Never was two billion dollars better spend," applauded The Nation, the bastion of American liberal opinion. Readers Digest added its voice to the ecstatic chorus, proclaiming that the nuclear massacres had shortened the war and saved American lives: "Never in all the long history of human slaughter have lives been lost to greater purpose," the Digest eulogised. The Chicago Daily Tribune on August 11 heaped similar praise on those who took the decision to drop the bombs. "Being merciless, they were merciful," the Tribune declared. Which was of course unmitigated nonsense.

If the American administration honestly believed the fabrications it was propagating, then it had clearly fallen prey to its own weapons of mass deception. Documents carefully preserved in Russian and German archives, and in the archives of the Untied States itself, would later disclose to researchers a very different set of circumstances surrounding the Western Allies’ decision to mount nuclear attacks on Japan. Contrary to Truman’s claim, dutifully repeated by the media, that solely military considerations dictated the use of the atomic bombs, the evidence points directly towards political considerations – in particular the ill-conceived consideration that atomic diplomacy would strengthen the West’s hand against the USSR in determining post-war territorial gains.

A bizarre sequence of events had commenced immediately after the death of Roosevelt in April 1945, when there occurred a fundamental shift in US-Soviet relations. American power and the interpretation of the nation’s requirements were placed in the hands of Harry S Truman and a small number of like-minded executive policy makers whose matching views of history and of the Soviet Union transformed US foreign policy. As a senator in July 1941, when the Nazi armies first launched their invasion of Russia, it was Truman who had unashamedly recommended: "If we see that Germany is winning the war we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and in that way let them kill as many as possible …"4 Little had changed in Truman’s demeanour four years later when he invited Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov to attend a meeting at the White House on April 23, 1945. As the Cold War historian DF Fleming describes it: "From the eminence of eleven days in power, Truman laid down the law to the Russians." For a start, Truman wanted the Red Army out of Poland, which the Russians had liberated from Nazi occupation without any help from the West. Nor did Truman appreciate the fact that Britain, France and America had effectively jettisoned Poland in 1939, thus contributing significantly to the conditions that precipitated World War II in the first place.5

Already Washington had begun reversing its earlier assurances to the USSR concerning economic assistance to help repair the tremendous material damage suffered by the USSR, which amounted to a staggering $485 billion at 1945 prices. Roosevelt had promised Stalin a multi-million dollar reconstruction loan without strings attached, but Truman now wanted the Russians to succumb instead to a newly devised Marshall Aid Plan. The plan imposed hegemonic conditions in terms of a European Recovery Programme, designed to revive European capitalism under United States influence. Dutifully supported by Britain as the other reserve currency country, America was set to write the economic rules in Europe to suit itself.6

There were significant reversals on the intelligence front as well. Even before the war with Germany was officially over, secret arrangements had been concluded between former key figures in the anti-communist section of German military intelligence and their American counterparts. Nazi spymaster Reinhard Gehlen was flown secretly to Washington by the American secret service, together with a bemedalled retinue consisting of one colonel, a lieutenant-colonel and two majors of the former Nazi General Staff. Accompanying them were their copious anti-communist intelligence files, preserved intact and containing information derived in part from the torture, interrogation and murder by starvation of about 4,000,000 prisoners. Gehlen and his retinue believed with considerable justification that Germany’s future revival lay in Britain becoming as militarily efficient as possible in preparation for an ideological confrontation with Russia. In return for immunity from prosecution for war crimes. Gehlen promised to serve the West as faithfully as he had served Hitler. His offer was enthusiastically accepted, and Gehlen commenced immediately advising the Americans on how to go about establishing their own anti-Soviet networks in Europe.7

Rival US intelligence agencies of the occupation forces in Europe, meanwhile, were fighting like vultures for possession of captured Nazi anti-communist intelligence – giving rise to what the President of the Joint Intelligence Committee described in confidence as "violent quarrels between the American services whose representatives have used in my room most violent language about each other."8 The round of aggressive politico-military jostling did not end there. The Western leadership was flexing its muscles to influence foreign policy decisions that would leave Germany divided into a series of military zones of occupation with Berlin as the seat of a proposed four-power control, well within the Soviet Zone of Occupation. By May 16, Stalin was warning his closest advisers that Churchill was preserving German forces in the British Zone of Occupation "in full combat readiness and co-operating with them" at a time when the Germans were supposed to be surrendering in hundreds of thousands. The co-operation, according to the German historian Marius Steinert, was in preparation for a possible British military confrontation with Stalin and Tito – both of whom commanded great admiration among the British rank and file.9 Already Churchill had instructed the head of the British Army, Field Marshal Viscount Alanbrooke, to investigate the possibility of fighting Russia before British and American forces were demobilised. The resultant study made it clear the best Churchill could hope for was to drive the Russians back to about the same line the Germans had reached earlier.10 So, Churchill envisioned a future role for the Germans in augmenting Montgomery’s Anglo-American 21st Army Group in the event of hostilities with the USSR. Montgomery was instructed to be careful in stacking confiscated German arms so that they could be re-issued swiftly to the same men they had been confiscated from.11

Events in the Far East, however, placed restraints on any real or notional prospect of open hostilities breaking out between Britain and the Soviet Union-supported Yugoslavia. Despite the military setbacks Japan was experiencing at home, its well-developed war industry on the Asian continent remained intact. By relying on an industrial base in occupied Manchuria and Korea, the 700,000-strong Japanese Kwantung army of occupation in northern China could offer resistance for a long time to come. A major problem facing the Western powers in mid-1945 was how to eject this occupation force at a time when America’s own land forces were still no nearer to the Japanese mainland than the two islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Russian intervention in the war with Japan appeared to be the only solution. US Intelligence was of the opinion that Russia’s entry into the war against Japan would "convince most Japanese at once of the inevitability of complete defeat".12 Truman concurred, telling Associated Press that "more than anything else" the West needed the co-operation of the Soviet Union in order to step up the assault on Japan and its conquered territories, and such a move had already been agreed between Truman, Stalin and Churchill during their historical February 5 meeting at Yalta.13

But then, just as Churchill and Truman were preparing to meet Stalin at Potsdam in Germany on July 16, they received news of a successful, secret atomic bomb test in far-off New Mexico. Churchill was overjoyed. He knew the West no longer needed the Russians in any way. In his own words: "The end of the war no longer depended upon the pouring in of their armies … We had no need to ask favours of them." In short, the atomic weapon and the power to use it altered completely the diplomatic equilibrium and redressed the Western position. "We were in the presence of a new factor in human affairs," Churchill enthused. "We possessed powers which were irresistible … our outlook on the future was transformed."14

The potential consequences of Russian participation in the war against Japan would have had enormous geo-political implications. In return for intervention against Japan, Russia would have reacquired territories lost to Japan in 1904, namely the strategic Kurile Islands and the southern half of Sakhalien, as well as recovering a controlling position in the Manchurian region of China. This would have placed the USSR in a dominant position in continental north-east Asia. It would also have gained an assured stake in Japan’s post-war affairs, and created a decisive shift in the world balance of power.15 At the same time, linking up with Mao Tse Tung’s guerrilla forces who were in the process of driving out the Japanese occupiers, could serve as a catalyst in transforming all China into the world’s largest communist state. In sum, there existed the strong potential for a new correlation of forces in the region, showing every sign of filling the vacuum brought about by the impending defeat of Japan and the eradication of British and French colonialism in Asia. This naturally failed to conform with America’s own expansionist ambitions.

When Truman was presented with details of the A-bomb test, his position towards the Russians hardened noticeably. As sole possessor of the bomb, Truman had good reason to expect easier future dealings with Stalin. Even before the A0-bomb was tested successfully, he confided to one of his closest advisers: "If it explodes, as I think it will, I’ll certainly have a hammer on those boys (the Russians)."16 The fate of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was accordingly decided with hardly a moment’s discussion among the Western leaders. There was, in Churchill’s words, "unanimous, automatic, unquestioned agreement (to use the bomb); nor did I ever hear the slightest suggestion that we should do otherwise."17 Reflecting official thinking on the subject, US Secretary of State James Byrnes was "most anxious to get the Japanese affair over with before the Russians get in. Once in the Far East, it would not be easy to get them out." Using the atomic bomb against Japanese cities in order to win the war was, in Byrnes’ official view, a secondary matter. More important was that America’s possession and demonstration of the bomb would "make the Russians more manageable".18

There is no question that ending the war against Japan before Russia entered it was a major, perhaps even the sole factor in the atomic decision. Stalin had earlier acceded to Western requests at the Yalta conference in February that the reinforced Red Army in the Far East would be poised to launch a two-pronged attack on the Japanese front in Manchuria on August 8.19 An announcement of Soviet participation against Japan would certainly have tipped the balance and forced an immediate Japanese surrender without recourse to the nuclear massacres on August 6 and 9. Undeterred by the first nuclear explosion, and only hours before the second atomic bomb was dropped on August 9, the Red Army launched its agreed attack against Japanese occupation forces in Manchuria. Historians are generally agreed that the Soviet Union’s entry into the war against Japan was as effective as the two atomic blasts in causing the Japanese to surrender.

Apart from the more than 111,000 Japanese civilians who were killed immediately in the two explosions that ended the war and "saved millions of lives", the question of many subsequent deaths due to radioactive contamination was studiously avoided. Immediately after publication of the first report dispatched from Tokyo mentioning the radioactive contamination or "radiation sickness" that afflicted about 370,000 survivors of the two explosions, General Douglas MacArthur, in enforcing the withdrawal of all press correspondents from the city, had declared on September 5: "It is not military policy for correspondents to spearhead the occupation."20 On September 19, the general headquarters of the occupation forces in Tokyo imposed censorship on all radio broadcasts and on newspapers, magazines and other print media. It prohibited reports, commentaries and treatises including those about radiation symptoms.21

Truman’s claim that the decision to drop the atomic bombs was taken in order to "save lives" has been shown by historians to have no basis in official military planning documents. In fact, the very opposite is true. After the war, the official United States Strategic Bombing Survey would conclude: "Hiroshima and Nagasaki were chosen as targets because of their concentration of population."22 General Dwight Eisenhower, expressing "grave misgivings" over Truman’s political decision to use the atomic bombs, notes in his memoirs:

Japan was already defeated … dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary (and) no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of face.23

Even Churchill, despite his enthusiastic participation in the decision to use the nuclear weapon, admits sheepishly in his memoirs that the defeat of Japan "was certain before the first bomb fell and was brought about by overwhelming maritime power … Her shipping had been dfestroyed".24 At the Potsdam conference, Stalin had already conveyed to Truman a message announcing the imminent arrival in Moscow of former Japanese Prime Minister, Prince Fumijaro Konoye, for talks on ending the war. An essential part of the message, conveyed to Truman 10 days before the nuclear massacres – an subsequently suppressed for 25 years by the US State Department – confirmed it was Emperor Hirohito’s "earnest hope that peace may be restored as speedily as possible for the welfare of mankind".25 Truman, despite his ostensible concern for "saving a million lives", rejected the prospect of a negotiated surrender. Bearing in mind that rejection, together with the West’s clear aversion to the geo-political consequences of Soviet participation in the war against Japan, it can plausibly be concluded that Truman regarded the atomic bomb as the master key in future relations with Russia. The demonstrable superiority of Western air power would affect not only the outcome of Russia’s territorial claims in the Far East, but also the vexing question of power-war boundaries in Europe. Before Hiroshima, the military coercion of a foreign power to make it concede to political demands had required a long period of military operations and the defeat of that country’s armed forces. Atomic blackmail would change all that.

The seeds were sown for the Cold War, which would bring both superpowers to the brink of bankruptcy, and from which only the armaments manufacturers of the West’s military-industrial complex would emerge any the richer.

Notes

  1. Liddell Hart History of the Second World War, London: Cassell 1965, p.691; Piekalkiewicz The Air War 1939-1945, Poole: Blandford, 1985, 404-6, 424.
  2. Lillian Wald Kay, "Public Opinion and the Bomb", Journal of Educational Sociology, No 22, January 1949, pp.357-60.
  3. New York Times, 30 August 1945.
  4. New York Times, 24 July 1941.
  5. DF Fleming, The Cold War and its Origins: 1917-1960, New York: Random 1961, p.270.
  6. See generally Balfour The Adversaries: America, Russia and the Open World 1941-1962, London: Routledge, Kegan Paul 1981, For Russian losses see Erickson Stalin’s War With Germany, (2 vols), London: Grafton, 1985, individual campaigns listed at Vol II, p.1181.
  7. The account of Gehlen’s US visit is based on: Christopher Simpson, Blowback: America’s Recruitment of Nazis and Its Effects on the Cold War, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1988, pp.42, 44; Danil Kraminov, The Spring of 1945: Notes of a Soviet War Correspondent, Moscow: Novosti 1985, pp.99-102; Richard Harris Smith, OSS, Berkeley: University of California Press 1972, p.240. For a fuller account of Gehlen see EH Cookridge, Gehlen: Spy of the Century, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1971, which relies on Soviet and East German archive material. Also of interest is: All-Party Parliamentary War Crimes Group, Report on the Entry of Nazi War Criminals and Collaborators into the United Kingdom 1945-1950, London: HMSO, 1988.
  8. Marlis G Steinert, "The Allied Decision to Arrest the Donitz Government", Historical Journal, Vol 31 No 3, 1988, p.658-60.
  9. Steinert, op cit, p.272.
  10. David Fraser, Alanbrooke, London: Collins, 1982, p.489.
  11. Steinert, op cit, p.272.
  12. Gar Alperovitz, "Atomic Diplomacy", The Listener, 10 August 1989, p.6.
  13. Barton Bernstein, (ed.), Politics and Policies of the Truman Administration, Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1970; New York Times, 9 August 1945.
  14. Churchill, Second World War, Vol VI, p.553.
  15. Y Larionov, N Yeronin, B Solovyov, V Timokhovich, World War II: Decisive Battles of the Soviet Army, Moscow: Progress 1984, p.452.
  16. Bernstein, op cit, p.32.
  17. Churchill, Second World War, Vol VI, p.553.
  18. Byrnes to US Navy Secretary James Forrestal, diary entry 28 July 1945 in Walter Millis (ed.) The Forrestal Diaries, New York: Viking 1951.
  19. See Robert J Butow, Japan’s Decision to Surrender, Stanford: Stanford University Press 1954, p.112; Liddel Hart, op cit, p.693.
  20. New York Times, 6 September 1945; see Wilfred Burchett, Shadows of Hiroshima, London: Verso 1983, p.69 quoting Japanese figures; and cf., generally United States Strategic Bombing Survey, "The Effects of Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki", Washington DC: Government Printing Office 1946.
  21. Burchett, op cit, pp.44-5
  22. United States Strategic Bombing Survey, "The Effects of Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki", p.483.
  23. Dwight D Eisenhower, The White House Years, London: Heinemann, 1963, p.483.
  24. Churchill, Second World War, Vol VI, p.559.
  25. US State Department, "Conference on Potsdam", Foreign Relations of the United States 1945, Washington DC: Government Printing Office 1969, p.485; Butow, op cit, p.112; Liddel Hart, op cit, p.693.

* The author is an international journalist with 30 years experience specialising in military-political and geo-strategic affairs. "If Truth Be Told" is published by Superscript, 2004, ISBN 0 9542913 3 6, paperback, pp154. It is available from John Buckle Books, 170 Wandsworth Road, London SW8 2LA, email: jbbooks@btconnect.com, price £10.00.

Article Index



No More Hiroshimas!

Events marking the 60th anniversaries of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki can be found here:

http://www.cnduk.org/pages/diary.html

http://www.cnduk.org/pages/press/260705.html

Article Index



Supplement

August Storm: The Soviet 1945 Strategic Offensive in Manchuria

By LTC David M. Glantz

http://cgsc.leavenworth.army.mil/carl/resources/csi/glantz3/glantz3.asp

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