A day which will live in infamy

We are hardly unique among humanity when it comes to committing horrible acts.

>It was with great chagrin that I looked through the Daily’s pages this past Thursday, Dec. 7. While the always ignominious sneak attack on Pearl Harbor made mention as it always does, its presence betrayed the absence of other events in this nation’s selective historical memor y. This memor y, glossed over by most as a necessity of war, or the lesser of two evils, is mentioned in passing and then idly swept away under the fanfares of revisionist, victor’s history.

Dec. 7 remains a glowing ember beneath the canvas of fifty-five elapsed years, a black mark etched into the past often evoked in more recent years to stoke September 11 into a similar glowing mnemonic that makes both events’ stars visible in the darkness of our times, sustained by the fuel of tragedy and the fiery passion of nationalism.

But while Dec. 7 stays aloft in the sky, its grotesque counterparts escape popular reflection. On Aug. 6, 1945, Enola Gay’s “Little Boy” killed 70,000- 80,000 people with the unear thly fire of the atom, and condemned another 60,000-70,000 in Hiroshima to suf fer slowly from lethal radiation poison and die in the following weeks. Three days later, the unspeakable recurred, and another 70,000 met the same fate in Nagasaki. This counts as more than a quarter of the population of Nagaskai at the time and more than half of Hiroshima’s, and in both cases the vast majority of these deaths were civilians. Japan surrendered without condition less than a week later on August 15, and allied occupying forces landed within two weeks of Hiroshima’s destruction.

The rest, as it is said, is history. In schools, in the tales of veterans and politicians alike, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are necessary evils, framed as the favorable options to a costly invasion of Japan, and pointing to the kamikaze pilots as the proof to back up this claim. This one-sided view omits analysis or questioning, such as why the Japanese cooperated so much with occupying forces, greeting them as liberators (inspiring the futile notion such might occur in Iraq), and why there was no widespread underground resistance movement. It silences the query of why not one but two atomic bombs were needed to ensure the surrender of an enemy that had fought losing battles for three years, while 61 of its cities were leveled by unceasing air raids. By the end of summer 1945, Japanese military and civilian deaths reached 2.1 million, of a national population of about 70 million.

To answer these questions, let us look at other events of the war. Countless editorial car toons depicted all Japanese as subhuman apes, monkeys, or lice, while militar y slogans extolled GIs to “Kill Japs, Kill Japs, Kill More Japs.” The night of August 14, with the pending Japanese surrender hours away, General Henr y H. Arnold unleashed 1,000 planes to bomb Tokyo with incendiaries once more. Some of the planes did not return to their bases before the announcement of the surrender officially ended the war. Before the surrender was known to be forthcoming, plans had already been made for a third atomic holocaust.

The abrupt end to the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal at the onset of the Korean War exposes how hollow the need for unconditional surrender proved to be. Emperor Hirohito, while removed from power, was never prosecuted. America needed a capitalist ally in Asia in the Cold War, and Japan was it. The events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were quietly buried even while international doctors were baf fled by the consequences of “Disease X” (radiation poisoning) and Australian troops entered the ruins to secure them. In ignoring its slavery of so-called “comfort women” and its own atrocities in Nanjing and China during the course of fifteen years of prolonged war, to this day Japan is merely following the American example.

For the heaps of attention and lofty celestial place allotted to the memory of Pearl Harbor, and the grim pathos for the victims of Nazi concentration camps, there is almost no mention of our own homegrown racism and American acts of genocide. Thursday’s front page featured a special featur e of the stories of genocide, but conspicuous is the absence of our own countr y’s atrocities, the American crimes against humanity. In any objective analysis of histor y, the necessity argument for Hiroshima and Nagasaki cannot stand. It is time the people of this countr y recognize that we among humanity are hardly unique when it comes to committing horrible acts to our fellow men and women.

Lief Mattila is a University undergraduate. Please send comments to [email protected]