The Unz Review • An Alternative Media Selection$
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 BlogviewEric Margolis Archive
Why Do We Lament A-Bombs and Not Fire-Bombs?
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information


Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • B
Show CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Thanks, LOL, or Troll with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used three times during any eight hour period.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

All war is a crime. There is no such thing as a “good war.” As the great Benjamin Franklin said, “there is no good war; and no bad peace.”

We are now in the midst of the annual debate over the atomic bombing of Japan by the United States. Seventy years ago this week, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, killing or injuring some 140,000 people. A few days later, a second atomic weapon was dropped on Nagasaki, causing 80,000 casualties. Most of the dead in both cities were civilians.

Passionate debate has raged ever since between those who condemn the nuclear bombing of almost defenceless Japan as a war crime, and those who insist the attacks spared the US and its allies having to invade fight-to-the-death Japan.

I don’t know the answer to this question.

In 1945, my late father, Henry Margolis, was serving in the Pacific with US Fifth Marine Amphibious Division. The Fifth was slated to lead the amphibious invasion of Japan. After witnessing the fanatical Japanese defense of Okinawa, it appeared that invading Japan’s mainland would be a very bloody affair. My father could have died on Japan’s beaches.

But what was left of Japan by August, 1945? By spring, 1944, almost all of its maritime commerce, and all of its oil and other strategic material, had been cut off by American submarine packs and intensive coastal mining. In effect, the US did to Japan what Germany had never been able to do to that other island realm, Britain.

Japan’s air force was grounded by lack of fuel (as was Germany’s), its fleet could not leave port because of oil scarcity, the nation’s factories were shut down due to lack of raw materials, and Japan’s people faced starvation.

In March, 1945, the US Army Air Force bomber command under Gen. Curtis LeMay began carpet bombing Japan’s cities from bases in the Mariana Islands. American war planners sought to destroy Japan’s industries and will to resist. It’s from this period that LeMay’s famous quote came: ‘We’ll bomb’em back to the Stone Age.”

In the ensuing nine months of massive bombing, the US Army Air Force destroyed 40% of Japan’s cities and large towns. On 9/10 March, 1945, in a mass raid code-named “Meetinghouse,” 346 US B-29 heavy bombers showered Tokyo with bombs and incendiary devices made from jellied gasoline.

Most of Tokyo and other Japanese cities were made up of wooden structures. Intensive firestorms engulfed Tokyo, sucking up all the air and burning it. This same fire spreading technique had been perfected in bombing German cities such as Dresden, Hamburg, Berlin and Stuttgart.

Terrified civilians ran through the burning chaos. Many jumped in the Tokyo River to avoid being burned alive, or to quench their bodies, burning from jellied gasoline. In this one hideous night, an estimated 100,000 Japanese civilians were burned to death in Tokyo alone. This is believed to have been the single most destructive air raid in history.

Soon after, the rest of Japan’s cities and towns came under massive fire-bombing attacks. Special attention was paid to Kobe, Nagoya and Osaka: 8.1 square miles of Osaka were turned into smoking heaps of rubble.


In all, the US strategic bombing campaign against Japan (including the nuclear attacks) in which 656,000 tons of bombs were dropped (killed an estimated 800,000 to one million civilians). Forty percent of Japan’s cities and towns were left in ruins. A third of Japanese were left homeless.

Germany had been hit with 1.3 million tons of bombs.

As if Japan’s woes could not get worse, on 9 August, 1944 1.7 million Soviet troops invaded Japanese-held Manchuria and Korea, slicing through the depleted Japanese Kwantung Army. Washington feared the Red Army might land in Japan before the US did.

So was President Harry Truman justified in ordering A-bombs dropped on prostrate Japan? With the wisdom of hindsight, one can probably conclude that he was not. General Dwight Eisenhower, one of America’s finest soldiers, was totally opposed to using the A-bomb. Ike was overruled by Truman.

Why two bombs and not just one? Why not offshore? Or far in Japan’s north?

War turned sane, decent men into monsters and criminals. What if Japan had a nuclear weapon? It certainly would have used it against US forces.

My father landed and fought on Iwo Jima. He survived. But he never spoke ill of the Japanese, and went on to become a great admirer of Japan. My own view: using the bomb, as the wicked Tallyrand said, “was worse than a crime; a mistake.”

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: History • Tags: Nuclear Weapons, World War II 
Hide 40 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
  1. Harry Truman’s decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan has been the subject of a number of pro and con pieces and I can’t really add anything, except to say that I disagree with the author’s assessment. The Japanese had not quit by early August 1945 (if the March 1945 attacks were so terrible, why didn’t the Japanese quit then?) and Japanese military leaders had (probably unjustified) confidence in their ability to defeat an invasion. But the atomic bomb was something new; something against which it was simply impossible to devise a defense. That gave the emperor the leverage he needed to capitulate. It was a bigger shame, in my opinion, that the US and Japan had to fight at all, but once battle was joined, Curtiss LeMay’s ruthlessness was justified. Try asking any Allied prisoner of the Japanese (if you can still find one) what they thought of the decision to drop the bomb.

    • Agree: MisterCharlie
    • Replies: @The Lion
  2. Mark Green says: • Website

    There’s no moral difference between dropping ‘conventional’ bombs on a civilians than dropping an A-Bomb on the same civilians. Both military campaigns are designed to achieve the same objective: wholesale and indiscriminate killing of non-combatants. That’s why Hiroshima and Dresden are morally equal on their face. The annihilation of enormous civilian populations was the objective in both instances. Mission accomplished.

    Admittedly, nuclear weapons have a greater potential to wreak widespread havoc, but conventional mass murder using non-nuclear weapons is just as painful and inhumane to the victims. The slaughter just takes longer.

    Let’s face it: the people burned alive in Dresden and Tokyo did not have an easier death than the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was ugly all around. Afterwards, the winners declare themselves the good guys. This is how history is written.

    As for WWII, the millions of victims of non-nuclear weapons way outnumbered the victims of America’s two, late-game nuclear drops. The body counts are not even close.

    The politically-correct hand-wringing over Hiroshima is all part of a modern movement to establish deep moral distinctions where deep moral distinctions do not exist. The victims of various State-sponsored killings are all equally dead.

    Perhaps it’s time we punished the leaders on all sides of any conflict who fail to avert any unnecessary war.

  3. IF the two bombs ended the war, one must agree with combat vet and author William Manchester who wrote an essay: “Thank God for the Atomic Bomb”. But there is good evidence the Japanese were trying to surrender before that, and the bombs were a demonstration to shock the Soviets.

    THE best short video about the fire bombings and the two nukes appears in the great, great documentary “Fog of War” where the guy who suggested them, McNamara, yes that one, describes why, and seems unhappy his advice was used.

    Watch that! One of the most important short video clips of the modern era.

  4. There’s a cynical explanation why atomic bombs are condemned while mass civilian firebombing is not. It’s the very literal blowback that their use produces on those who use them against their enemies, in the form of radiation destruction that destroys everyone.

  5. @Carlton Meyer

    “What makes it immoral if you lose but not immoral if you win?”

    Britain’s great moral philosopher, J C Grayling, and widely acclaimed (court) historians Antony Beever and Richard Avery, and their cheerled, inverted MacNamara’s question and decided that winning is the determinant of what is moral.

  6. syonredux says:

    In all, the US strategic bombing campaign against Japan (including the nuclear attacks) in which 656,000 tons of bombs were dropped (killed an estimated 800,000 to one million civilians).

    Those estimates are on the high side:

    Bombing of Japan:
    Conventional bombing:
    Clodfelter: 260,000 (citing an Official US est.) or 299,484 (citing Japanese source)
    Keegan: 260,000
    Paul Johnson: 260,000
    Large, Showa Japan: [183,637]
    Tokyo: 97,301
    all other cities: 86,336

    Nuclear bombing:
    Keegan: 103,000 died outright
    Messenger: 130,000 outright
    Large, Showa Japan: [210,000]
    Hiroshima: 140,000
    Nagasaki: 70,000
    Our Times: 120,000 outright, 140,000 later
    P. Johnson: 175,000 outright, 100,000 later

    1945 US Strategic Bombing Survey: 330,000
    Keegan: 363,000, not including post-war radiation sickness
    Rummel: 374,000, incl. 337,000 democidal
    P. Johnson: 435,000
    Harper Collins Atlas of the Second World War: 500,000
    Large, Showa Japan: [393,637]

  7. Avery says:

    {“Why Do We Lament A-Bombs and Not Fire-Bombs?”}

    Why do we lament the A-Bombs that killed about 200,000 Japanese civilians, but do not lament the killing of up to 300,000 Chinese civilians by the Japanese Imperial Army in the Rape of Nanking.

    How many 100s of 1000s of Asian civilians did the Imperial Japanese Army murder ?
    How many 10s of 1000s of innocent victims of Unit 731, the notorious Japanese Imperial Army unit which conducted lethal biological and chemical experiments on the captured victims?
    How many millions of Asians were victims of war crimes at the hands of IJA ?

    To this day Japanese have not apologized for their invasions and war crimes they committed in Korea, China, and Philippines.
    To this day Japanese deny they enslaved and sexually exploited 300K-400K young women, many underage.

    Japan invaded and brutally subjugated several Asian counties.
    When you start a war, you suffer the consequences.

    War is Hell.

    • Replies: @MisterCharlie
  8. Another issue were just targets. The large grounds of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo was the nerve center of the war, and filled with those responsible. It is over one square mile and only damaged indirectly by the big fire bomb raid, and never an atomic bomb. After the war, the Emperor was never arrested or hassled or charged! While this proved helpful, one must wonder if it was an unconditional surrender. Did Truman cut a deal and not tell anyone?

    Another interesting fact is the Americans only had one more bomb to drop, and it would take six months before two more were ready. The real damage was done by American submariners who cut off nearly all food and fuel to mainland Japan. Starvation was a bigger concern than air raids, along with the Soviets massing to invade.

    MacArthur was the real hero in that conflict. Soon after the surrender, he didn’t allow major forces to land at once fearing that fighting would break out. He flew into Atsugi with just a few hundred paratroopers and paraded into Tokyo to demonstrate his trust that Japanese officers would respect such boldness, and they did as MacArthur took command of the Japanese army.

  9. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Truman was lying thru his teeth when he blabbers about “saving lives”. The bombs were dropped to intimidate the USSR to make them compliant in the post war period (as Japan was already seeking terms for honorable surrender, with their only condition being retention of the Emperor) but all he did really achieved was to provoke Stalins paranoia and convince him of Uh’Muricas bad intentions towards his country, thus greatly helping the birth of the Cold War.

    • Replies: @MarkinLA
  10. lets not forget many years of USA/UK’s block aid of Japan-no oil metal rubber imports. America does the same thing today. Fact is–USA instigated both major wars to become world wars.
    Pearl Harbor attacks were purposely allowed to happen to attack Japan. America has played this scam/trickery on it’s obtuse citizens many times. Still folks haven’t caught on-Sept 11 2001 attacks were self imposed to attack innocent oil rich countries. Americans should label themselves as being major world’s terrorists.

    • Replies: @Carroll Price
  11. The special attention given to use of a nuclear weapon, as opposed to the firebombing raids, was more a function of the Cold War and its needs than it was balanced evaluation of WW2.

    There was a concerted effort to turn nuclear weapons into something that cannot, must not be used. That is all to the good. We’d have killed ourselves, our whole planet, without that.

    That good came at the price of more balanced appraisal of the firebombing horrors in Japan and Germany. Given the importance, it was a price worth paying, but we can acknowledge now that we did pay that price, we did do that.

  12. Given the importance, it was a price worth paying, but we can acknowledge now that we did pay that price, we did do that.

    Disagree that “it was a price worth paying.”

    One school of thought among the western punditry (John Yoo is a representative) boasts that “nuclear weapons have kept the world safe; since WWII there has been no great-power war; the world has been more peaceful than ever….”

    As Eric Margolis argued here — Why Do We Lament A-Bombs and Not Fire-Bombs? conventional weapons had already reduced 40% of Japan (and 75% of Germany) to rubble and killed more Japanese (and German) civilians before the A-bomb was dropped.

    The wars that the USA has joined in the years after the bomb was dropped and during the period when nuclear weapons were “turned into something that cannot, must not be used” have been fought with conventional weapons that have killed innocent people by the millions.

    The mode of killing has far less to do with a nation’s character than does its intentions in killing.

    Precisely because USA (and Britain, but in my view the British are irredeemable) was not called to account for its war crimes in the use of conventioal weapons in the fire bombings of Germany and Japan, it operates in a cloak of impunity, which has brought enormous suffering to millions of people in the Middle East especially.

    The wrangling over the Iran nuclear agreement offers a case in point regarding the hypocrisy of the belief that US is an honest broker in controlling nuclear weapons. The NPT is the most important treaty since the creation of the United Nations. Iran is a signatory and has honored its obligations under the treaty far more scrupulously than has the United States. Israel, of course, is not a signatory but has used its nuclear arsenal to blackmail other nations and to terrorize its neighbors. The USA does not use its superpower status to demand that Israel comply with NPT, which is itself a violation of the terms of the NPT that US is required to comply with.

  13. The Lion says:
    @Diversity Heretic

    Japan DID make overtures for peace they through Russia, asked for Surrender conditional that the Emperor, was to stay as the Emperor! America refused, yet after the dropping of the two atom bombs that is exactly what America allowed!

    There is much conjecture that both Nagasaki and Hiroshima, cities that had only been lightly attacked and were in fact reasonably whole! There were two types of Atom bomb dropped, the two different types made, and it was to test these weapons and see how destructive they were that they were dropped on known cities! Just remember that the US and the UK dropped such weapons near their own troops in tests, just to see their survivability! Do you think they would have cared about an enemy civilian or otherwise!

    We should also remember Curtis Le Mays comments, that if the United States and Britain were to lose the war both he and the British “Bomber” Harris would have been considered war criminals for the bombing of civilians, especially the fire storm raids to Dresden, Hamburg and Tokyo!

    We did however see the hellish results of such a weapon, that no one has dropped one since, but of course with the fools in the Pentagon thinking again that they can actually win a war using their Nuclear weapons and their anti Ballistic weapons systems, that may not be the case soon!

  14. MarkinLA says:

    Truman was saving lives as well as letting Stalin know that the Red Army’s move eastward was now stopped. The idea that Japan was looking for a way out was irrelevant. They made no such direct offer. When Roosevelt demanded unconditional surrender Churchill went along so as to not antagonize Roosevelt. However, Churchill knew war and was not thrilled with that idea.

    The Japanese could have directly went to the Chinese and British and said they are willing to lay down their arms except for allowing the Emperor to stay on as he does in Britain with no role in the government. The Japanese could have broadcast that and made references to all the American lives that would be saved. The US government would have been in a position of defending the deaths of hundreds of thousands of American troops just to get one insignificant person.

    Ask the Japanese military why they didn’t think of the civilians.

    As for your stuff about Stalin, the US didn’t need to make him paranoid and do crazy things. He killed enough Russians on his own. The idea that there would have been no Cold War if Truman hadn’t dropped the bomb is ridiculous. I have read that the night Stalin died he had invited a lot of high ranking Russians over for a meeting. They all thought they were going to be executed. When it was reported that Stalin died everybody breathed a sigh of relief.

    Khrushchev had every opportunity to end the Cold War when he took over but didn’t.

    • Replies: @Balderdasche
  15. @george Archers

    Thanks George. In a few short sentences, you invalidated every long-winded comment attempting to justify America’s use of WMD against civilian populations. Doing so by pointing out that WW 2, and every major war in the 20th and 21st century resulted from American scams and double-dealings of various descriptions.

    • Replies: @MarkinLA
  16. MarkinLA says:

    Japan DID make overtures for peace they through Russia, asked for Surrender conditional that the Emperor, was to stay as the Emperor! America refused, yet after the dropping of the two atom bombs that is exactly what America allowed!

    There is a story that the Japanese were sending out feelers through Russia but I don’t think there was any direct proposal. I have not seen anything indicating a formal proposal delivered to Washington. In addition, the Japanese military was against the idea of just giving up without much of a fight due to their Bushido code. The Imperial Army in Japan still had 3 million men at the time of the surrender.

    As for letting the Emperor stay, that was MacArthur’s call. There were calls for the Emperor to be tried as a war criminal. MacArthur was convinced keeping the Emperor would make the occupation easier on his own men.

  17. MarkinLA says:
    @Carroll Price

    The sanctions against Japan were for the Japanese invasion of China. It was probably none of our business and the embargo was an act of war but the Japanese were not without blame.

    There was noting “scam” related or double dealing. We wanted the Japanese to leave China and they refused. What were you suggesting we do, declare war? I wonder what the Chinese thought of the sanctions against Japan.

    • Replies: @Carroll Price
  18. Two points:

    1. re the debate video at #5, Grayling starts off talking about the “moral imperative that Allies win.”
    How can a war that was initiated on the furtherance of a series of lies; and that proceeded despite numerous offers to negotiate peace, be considered to have in any way reflected centuries of Christian thinking about morality and war?

    2. The concept of cowardice looms large. How can any self-respecting nation and soldiery march proudly, boasting that it won wars by planning and executing attacks on civilians, having determined that it was unable to best the military force that it confronted?

  19. @MarkinLA

    History didn’t start the day we were born. Read the Imperial Cruise to see how Teddy Roosevelt set a reluctant Japan up for a war with China. Which in turn, set Japan up for a war with the US.

    • Replies: @MarkinLA
  20. MarkinLA says:
    @Carroll Price

    Really, we set Japan up to attack China? Those same Japanese who were already occupying Korea?Those robotic Japanese didn’t want to but we made them. It must have been us who forced the Japanese to do all their atrocities on their occupied territories, as well.

  21. Avery says:

    Truly disgusting how revisionists are attempting to excuse the Japanese Imperial invaders.

    Yes, Japanese civilians were victims of war crimes: no doubt about it.
    But those same Japanese civilians were waving the Japanese rising star and cheering their Imperial troops on to more conquests and invasions a short while ago, to invade non-Japanese lands and massacre non-Japanese civilians.

    Truly disgusting and vile.

  22. syonredux says:

    You’re forgetting that only the Anglos have free will.Whenever the Japanese do something bad, it’s because the evil Anglos made them do it.So, stuff like:

    Killing 200,000 plus Chinese in the Rape of Nanking

    Killing Approx 100,000 Filipinos in the Manila Massacre

    Killing Approx 200,000 Chinese with Germ warfare

    Rummel’s estimate on the total number of Chinese civilians massacred by the Japanese: 3,949,000

    None of that counts.The Japanese are not responsible for anything bad.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  23. @MarkinLA

    You can read books and become educated on US imperialism or you can watch the History Channel and remain indoctrinated. The choice is yours.

    • Replies: @MarkinLA
  24. Jacobite says: • Website
    @Carlton Meyer

    IF the two bombs ended the war, one must agree with combat vet and author William Manchester who wrote an essay: “Thank God for the Atomic Bomb”.

    That would actually be another other combat vet Paul Fussell who wrote that essay.

    • Agree: E. Burke
  25. MarkinLA says:
    @Carroll Price

    If Roosevelt left the impression with the Japanese that they had a free hand in Asia that doesn’t mean he forced or did anything to encourage their invasion of China. There is a bit of a difference between the US and Japan. The US owned the Philippines by treaty with Spain even if the Filipinos didn’t agree. Japan was an invasion pure and simple and was about the superior Japanese ruling their inferior cousins and doing with them what they pleased.

    • Replies: @MisterCharlie
  26. Truman if he was nothing else was practical and a realist.. Having no experience with the killing effects of an A Bomb he made the choice anybody who’d just poured millions into one would do, he used it because ‘they’ weren’t going to be able to hit back.

    The other big bugaboo of the Second war was the horror of the First – ‘poison gas’. Both sides could have used it but didn’t because the other side had it. It was shipped to every theater on that premise. My father’s squadron in North Africa was tasked to used gas bombs and later their supply was destroyed in a tragedy at Bari, Italy.

    Germ warfare was underdevelopment by all sides, providing a ‘kick up’ in the field that could show up again.

    But the use of the bombs, if it accomplished nothing else, put the Russians on a short track for match play. Since then the world hasn’t been the same, but we haven’t been foolish enough to try A-bombs as conventional weapons, or just because we have them.

    • Replies: @MarkinLA
  27. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Japanese atrocities in China are used as the ‘good excuse’ for America dropping an atomic weapon on them. That might be justifiable had the Chinese had, and used one. They only got ‘the bomb’ in the late 60’s and, so far, haven’t talked about nuking anybody, yet.

    I’d say the events following Pearl Harbor repaid that deed. As the author said, the allies could have sat back and watched Japan starve itself into surrender – they did that to Japanese forces on a number of occupied islands. Given 6 another months they could have showed up waving rations cartons and possibly have been welcomed guests.

    • Replies: @syonredux
  28. @MarkinLA

    Fascinating! Tell us about those opportunities when Khrushchev could have ended the Cold War. And why you think he passed them up.

    • Replies: @MarkinLA
  29. syonredux says:

    Japanese atrocities in China are used as the ‘good excuse’ for America dropping an atomic weapon on them

    Hardly an excuse.Japan’s numerous atrocities simply provide context.Reading some of the commentators on this blog, one gets the impression that they think that the Japanese were pursuing a Quaker policy in the years 1937-45.

    They only got ‘the bomb’ in the late 60′s and, so far, haven’t talked about nuking anybody, yet.

    Which is not surprising.Other countries have nuclear weaponry, and things might easily get out of hand….

    I’d say the events following Pearl Harbor repaid that deed. As the author said, the allies could have sat back and watched Japan starve itself into surrender – they did that to Japanese forces on a number of occupied islands. Given 6 another months they could have showed up waving rations cartons and possibly have been welcomed guests.

    So, just to be clear, famine is a morally acceptable weapon, but atomic bombs are beyond the pale?

  30. MarkinLA says:

    What you don’t think negotiations could have started? Yes, Eisenhower bungled a bit with Powers and the U-2 but any real negotiation had to include inspections like Reagan got. Khrushchev could have pulled the Red Army out of eastern Europe and if the Marshall Plan was still in play allow the eastern European countries to join.

    The point seems to be that the US and the US alone is responsible for the Cold War as if Uncle Joe was just being pushed along by history. It takes two to tango and somebody has to take the first step in any negotiation.

  31. MarkinLA says:

    Oh, but the Japanese did try and use biological weapons on the US. They recognized the jet stream was a way to deliver a balloon carrying a bomb to the the US. They sent clay canisters willed with plague infected fleas. This was a virulent strain their germ warfare unit created using the local population and prisoners by their infamous unit 731. The temperature at high altitudes rendered the attack and the fact that the canisters did not land in highly populated areas ineffective.

    I believe they tried to start forest fires the same way.

    • Replies: @MisterCharlie
  32. @Avery

    Agree with Avery. If the nuclear-atomic bombing shortened the war by just, say, ten days …. what about the thousands of Chinese who were dying every day under the conditions of the Japanese occupation?

  33. @MarkinLA

    “Oh, but the Japanese did try and use biological weapons on the US. ”

    Good point, MarkinLA! Chemical and biological warfare experiments on POWs included vivisection. Sure Japanese people and Japanese culture is all admirable, but Tojo was the chief fiend of a gang of fiends – his hanging well deserved.

  34. @MarkinLA

    Roosevelt did everything possible – you could say he ‘bent over backwards’ – to give the Tojo government of Japan every opportunity to avoid war with the USA. FDR had, of course, prior knowledge that Japan would attack somewhere in December 1941, but he had no knowledge or even generally accepted (in the Department of the Navy) indication or suspicion that the attack would be the largest air raid in history, at a distance from the Japanese fleet’s home base (on a course that ploughed through open seas and avoided any landfall) that was unprecedented, or that it would be directed at Hawaii (Pearl). It was thought that – if the attack would be directed against the USA (as opposed to the UK, namely Singapore), then it would be directed at the Philippines. The negotiations with the Japanese in Washington were all about USA’s demand that a necessary pre-condition for allowing oil to be shipped to Japan would have to be JIA withdrawal from China (but possibly not from Manchuria). Does that seem unreasonable, like a deliberate provocation to provide an excuse for a declaration of war? – then consider this incident from December 1937 –

    Who was the provoker in the Asian-Pacific context – or, for that matter, in the European-Atlantic theater? Who was provoked?

    Besides, FDR was still predisposed to think in terms of the Meiji Restoration period of the Japanese Empire during and just after World War I, when FDR held a post with the US Navy, where he met and associated with Japanese diplomats during the early period of Taisho Democracy – that lasted until the fascist-militarist (Kwantung Army) coup of 1932.

    • Replies: @MarkinLA
  35. For a more objective analysis, I would suggest checking out the Stratfor (Geopolitical Weekly, 11 Sugust 2015) article by George Friedman: “Debating the Morality of Hiroshima”

  36. MarkinLA says:

    Military intelligence is always a tricky thing – especially when you have broken the enemies code. Even if Roosevelt knew exactly where the Japanese were headed and planned to intercept them the fact that the Japanese fleet was operating under radio silence would have told the Japanese that the US had broken their code. The real target, the aircraft carriers, were not in port. Nobody will ever know if that was intentional or not.

    Even if Roosevelt was goading Japan into war it is not like we were forcing them to invade China and commit the atrocities they did. They did that all on their own and we were well within our rights to do something short of declare war to stop them.

    Churchill sent some small bands of men to their deaths when they found out German spies had sent messages to Germany about a planned commando raid and would be waiting for them. The breaking of the Enigma code was so valuable that it could only be put in a position of being discovered when a battle of immense significance was being planned. Even then the British did everything they could to make it seem that they stumbled on the German plans by accident and not because they were reading German orders.

    Admiral Doenitz suspected their code was broken and added another Enigma wheel to the naval code but because Alan Turing had built his electronic machine to search for the initial keys, it didn’t matter.

  37. “Why Do We Lament A-Bombs and Not Fire-Bombs?”

    Because we have effective defenses for fleets of bombers carrying thousands of incendiaries. Not only are our nuclear missile defenses less effective, enough nukes detonated outside our territory (or above the atmosphere) would do apocalyptic damage to our way of life.

    Fire bombs happen to other people, nukes threaten us.

    You need to include a little thing called human nature in your thinking. It may not be as pretty as you want, but it’s real.

    “MAN, n. An animal so lost in rapturous contemplation of what he thinks he is as to overlook what he indubitably ought to be. His chief occupation is extermination of other animals and his own species, which, however, multiplies with such insistent rapidity as to infest the whole habitable earth and Canada.” – A Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

  38. ganderson says:
    @Carlton Meyer

    Wasn’t it Paul Fusell who wrote “Thank God for the Atomic Bomb”? Manchester’s book about the Pacific War “Goodbye Darkness” is worth reading.

  39. Olorin says:

    “We” lament the two A-bombs because it’s a way to slap Americans.

    “We” don’t lament the thousands of firebombs because it’s a way to slap the Germans.

    But I wonder, just who is that “we,” Mr. Margolis?

    Now let’s hear about the lamentation pass given re: Soviet megadeaths.

Current Commenter

Leave a Reply - Comments on articles more than two weeks old will be judged much more strictly on quality and tone

 Remember My InformationWhy?
 Email Replies to my Comment
Submitted comments have been licensed to The Unz Review and may be republished elsewhere at the sole discretion of the latter
Commenting Disabled While in Translation Mode
Subscribe to This Comment Thread via RSS Subscribe to All Eric Margolis Comments via RSS
Personal Classics
“America’s strategic and economic interests in the Mideast and Muslim world are being threatened by the agony in...
Bin Laden is dead, but his strategy still bleeds the United States.
Egyptians revolted against American rule as well as Mubarak’s.
A menace grows from Bush’s Korean blind spot.
Far from being a model for a “liberated” Iraq, Afghanistan shows how the U.S. can get bogged down Soviet-style.