Today is the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb, in a Japanese city. Civilians who had little control over their government were victims. Was it justified and have we learned anything from it?
Ron Paul: Hello everybody, and thank you for tuning in today to The Liberty Report. Daniel McAdams is with me today. Daniel, it’s good to see you.
Daniel McAdams: Good morning, Dr. Paul.
Ron Paul: Today is an anniversary, although not one to be too joyous about. It’s been 70 years since the United States government bombed Hiroshima. Of course, there has been a lot of discussion over the past 70 years on just why that came about: was it necessary, did it end the war, and we’ll talk a little bit about that. But it was a major event, matter of fact, although at that particular time of the bombing I was 9 years old, I was 10 years old by the time the war ended, so it was in August. But, never the less, it was a vivid memory for me, and that is the reason that I put a little clip in my book, “Swords to ploughshares”. I want to read what was in my mind about this, because I mentioned in the book that at an early age war and war stories was all I heard about. Mostly, throughout my life, there was some war going on that we had to concern ourselves about.
This is a short paragraph, and it tells you a little bit about what was going on in a personal way: “My mother frequently delivered news to my dad as he worked in the dairy, which was in the basement of our home. They both were obviously opposed to the horrors of war, but my mother more often expressed her disdain for war, she had a great desire for the war to end. I know exactly where I was on July 16th, 1945. I was assisting my dad in the milk farming business in our basement. My mother, after hearing on the radio about the news of the first atomic bomb test being exploded at Alamogordo, New Mexico, rushed to tell my dad with great excitement.
The excitement came, of course, because it was now everyone’s opinion that the war would soon end. Victory in Europe, V-Day, had already been accomplished on May 8th of 1945. Little did my mother, or anybody else, realize at the time how unnecessary it was to quickly fall through with the use of nuclear weapons on both, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bomb was successfully tested on July 16th, 1945. Just 21 days later, on August 6th, Hiroshima was bombed, and Nagasaki was bombed three days later on August 9th. It seemed like they were in a big hurry. The official end to the war came on V-J Day, September 2nd, 1945”.
That’s just a few memories that I had, but there was controversy on whether you felt it was good or bad or you felt indifference towards it. Obviously at that time, my impression like everybody else’s, was that this was good: it was a bomb, it would end the war. There was also excitement at that time because we had heard the news since V-E day was announced, that Russia would come in and join us, so the war was essentially over. As the years went on, obviously I had a lot more questions about whether or not this was wise and whether or not this cheering will continue forever.
Daniel McAdams: A few years later, growing up in the early 1970s, it was same thing. My grandparents lived through the war, and it was universally accepted that this ended the war quicker so it was good and was not to be questioned. But, as you say, we have learned more, we have thought more and reflected more in the decades that have followed. We were looking at a poll earlier today that showed that only 56% still say that the use of those atomic weapons – which we should remember were dropped on two civilian centers, two cities, not military bases – were justified.
Ron Paul: Yes, and there has been a shift right afterwards. Back at the time that I was talking about in the book, 87% supported it, because that was the position. But it has gradually changed, but it is still very, very strongly supported with Republicans, 74% of Republicans support the bombings. I guess when people call the Republican Party the War Party, there’s probably some truth to this. Never the less, even if you have a war party and a less-war policy, it seems like there may be some individuals who have something to say about our foreign policy and our war policy that supersedes the political party.
But anyway the Republicans are certainly more supportive. But there was one shift in that polling that I thought was interesting, because less than the majority now of young people under the age of 30 say that it was unnecessary. So it’s slow to change, but that attitude at least shows that young people have a healthier attitude and maybe a greater reluctance to engage in these wars.
Daniel McAdams: My friend, Jacob Hornberger, had a really powerful piece this week that he put up on the institute’s website. I think he makes a very interesting and important point, he said, “Did the bombing of the civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki save U.S. soldiers’ lives?” and he answered, “Undoubtedly, it did, but that still does not give moral or legal justification to target civilian centers”. He talks about the laws and the rules of war, both moral and legal.
Ron Paul: Well, I think he’s right, it did save lives if they would have gone on and invaded. But now looking back, I don’t happen to believe there was an absolute need to have beachhead landings in Japan and go ahead and do the stuff they were doing in Okinawa and all these other places, those were like suicide missions. Besides, there is evidence now that the Japanese were much ready to settle this and had been talking about it, especially after Hiroshima. They were on the verge of saying, “We surrender”, but the Americans always said, “Unconditional surrender”, and that meant giving up their emperor, Hirohito, who was a God figure.
And yet we ended up doing it anyway, so I would say that yes, if we would have invaded it, there would have been a lot of Americans killed. But by that time Japan was destroyed and they didn’t have an army or a navy; they probably had some army, but their air force was destroyed and their navy was gone and they were on the verge of it. But there was no backing back. I think the soviets had a lot to do with putting pressure on us, I think it was the beginning of the Cold War, because the Soviets wanted to come in and help and share in the looting and the taking over of Japan and occupying some of their islands. So I think it was almost like, “We got to go fast, we got to move and make sure that we’re totally in charge”. I think that had something to do with it as well.
Daniel McAdams: You can almost wonder if the war machine was worried after the war was coming to a close and they needed to gin up a new cold war. Because after the end of the Cold war, when we thought that there would be a peace dividend, then they had to gin up the war in Iraq and the war on terror and so on.
Ron Paul: And I talked a little bit about that in the book, too, because it wasn’t too many years later that I remember my mother once again expressing disdain over Korea, she said, “Another one? How can we put up with another war?”. And that was just a few years later and was a significant event. You know, if we look at war in general, we can criticize the bombing under the Just War Theory, because two principles there mention the fact that there should be proportionality, and this seemed like it was not proportionate. And you’re not supposed to attack civilians on purpose. But there are reports written historically now that say that the American leaders deliberated on this, and thought that it has to be dramatic, and it has to be so dramatic, that if it takes civilian lives … we have to put such fear in them that they will come to their knees. So it was a purposeful thing to make this as disastrous as possible.
One thing I learned, or maybe I re-learned it, but I was not quite aware of, was what Nagasaki meant, because it was the most Christianized city in Japan, there were a lot of Christians there in the 1970s. So we had Christians in the air dropping down the bombs and killing 90,000 Christians in Nagasaki. Of course, if you look at it in proportion to how we got involved in World War I and [inaudible] but once we’re there, it just seems like the growing number of American people who finally look at this more objectively are starting to say that it was not a moral ethical thing to do, and that there were other ways that we could have handled this.
Daniel McAdams: I wonder about the idea of total surrender, and how war propaganda may affect the perceptions of the populations, because in World War I, King Karl of Hungary tried to negotiate a separate peace, they wanted out of the war and they were not allowed to be out of Germany’s orbit and were completely and utterly destroyed. The same is true, as you say, about Japan, so I wonder how characterizing the Han and the Jap and this sort of thing …
Ron Paul: Well, it’s discouraging, and that’s why one of my conclusions here is to suggest that if the governments don’t stop the war, the soldiers ought to. When the soldiers realized what they’re doing, they don’t want any part of it, and usually they don’t even want a part of it before the start of the war. Maybe it’s the young people, or the people in the 1960s that were considered radical leftists, but they were actually rebellious against sending their money to pay for these wars.
So people really have something to say about it, they put their bodies on the line and they have to put the funds on the line, so hopefully we have better government and principled people and maybe if they followed the constitution it would help as well. Even if you were a president who has some peaceful inclinations in wanting to open up trade with Cuba, or trade with China too, as well as talking with the Iranians; to get it done, our president has to come and show how tough he is. So in his proposal to try to get people to come over, he says, “I’m not fearful of this, I bomb countries, too” and he bragged about bombing 7 countries.
Daniel McAdams: Yes, Glenn Greenwald wrote more about that in “The Intercept” today. This was Obama’s justification: “I’m a big bomber, don’t worry”.
Ron Paul: But the other statistic that bothers me too is that since 1980, even though the cold war was still going on there, we have been involved in bombing or invading or occupying 14 Islamic countries. And then you say, “Do they have any reason to be unjustified? Did one of those countries ever attack us?” Attacking us doesn’t mean if we’re flying over their country bombing them, somebody takes a riffle and shoots at us, and we say, “That’s an act of aggression”, which was argued when we were leading up to the Iraq war.
Daniel McAdams: You know, hearing the stories of the people that survived the two Japanese cities and the horrors that they went through, and a lot of them were children, none of them in the city were combatants. The targeting of civilians is really the issue. We talked about this before the show, about whether we have learned anything from this. In a way, the conclusion has to be, although it’s not as spectacular, that we haven’t learned much. Because if you look at the drones, which we talked about yesterday … if you look at sanctions, sanctions target civilians, they don’t hurt the regime. It goes back to the famous story of Madeleine Albright, which is the worst example.
Ron Paul: She said that’s the price you have to pay.
Daniel McAdams: 500,000 dead Iraqi children, was it worth it? She said yes. So we haven’t learned a lot, but, fortunately, as you said, the young people seem to be learning a little bit.
Ron Paul: Yes, usually wars end when both sides get exhausted or feel like they’re totally destroyed, but there are others that argue there are no victors in war. I’m not sure that’s an absolute, but generally in the long term that is the case. You fight the war, how much have the victors lost and how long does the penalty last with them, as far as financial and injuries go. We win all the wars. After the Vietnam war was over, the Americans were bragging, “We beat you every time militarily”, and Colonel Tu said, “You’re correct, I acknowledge that, but it was irrelevant”. So you can win militarily and still lose the battle eventually.
Anyway, I thank everybody for tuning in today. On this anniversary, there shouldn’t be a celebration, but there should be a call to thinking about war issues and why it’s good to understand history, because certainly there’s a better way to handle the affairs of the nations throughout the world. And, as far as I’m concerned, the dropping of two atomic bombs was not necessary and did not save us from anything. It’s so fearful now because that was a small bomb compared to a hydrogen bomb. But, ultimately though, it’s not the guns that kill, as American soldiers know and understand, it is only the people that do it. It’s the governments, it’s the soldiers, it’s the population, it’s the war propaganda, it’s the military-industrial complex; they are the ones that cause the war, not the people, and it is not caused by the weapon itself. The weapons are incidental and instruments of war, but ultimately it’s the people that make the difference.
Because we don’t even talk to our friends around the world about war, so it’s more important that we have friends, and this was the advice of the founders: if we respond to honest friendship with everybody who desires it and stay out of entangling alliances, we would have a much more peaceful world. Let’s just hope that we see this transition continuing, that not only will the young people reject the notions of needless war, but the older folks will join us in that effort as well.
Thank you very much for tuning in today to The Liberty Report, and return soon.
This video was published by the Ron Paul Institute.