Once a rational person realizes that our government has lied or bent the truth — as all governments do — in order to look better or to present matters in a more flattering light, then one will begin to see everything differently, including current events. Naturally, the consideration of any question of how humans will act in or react to a given situation requires the use of one’s common sense; it makes sense that any government would try to make itself look better by hiding the truth from the public.
This article is another exercise in asking the reader to consider events leading up to and concerning World War II, while using historical fact and common sense in the consideration of these events.
The purported reasons for war — any war — as presented by a government for public consumption are obviously quite different than the real reasons. Just one moment’s consideration of the details surrounding the current debacle in Iraq should make this fact of life apparent.
So what’s new? When has any government ever told its electorate the truth about war?
Previously, I presented some ugly truths about American involvement in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Quotes from high-ranking US government officials — civilian and military — showed that US involvement did not exactly stem from the Japanese bombing of a US military base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and that the United States was deeply involved in empire-building in Asia well before entering the war. One of my main points was that the attack on Pearl Harbor was used as the excuse; historical fact would show the real reasons.
Americans need to realize that the United States was, and still is, expanding and interfering in the business of other nations — as it has had the reputation of doing since 1846. The widely used excuse for this land grab is "manifest destiny." Manifest destiny was a phrase used to express the belief that the United States was chosen by God to spread its form of democracy across North America and to the Pacific Ocean. All empires use ridiculous catch phrases to soothe the minds of their ill-informed public. America’s manifest destiny of the 19th and 20th centuries mirrors the insanity spouted by President George W. Bush today.
American Progress by John Gast (1872)
Some Americans today (as well as people from other nations) are wondering why the United States thinks it has to be the policeman for the world. This is an old question. Since when are the internal affairs of other nations a legitimate concern for the USA? The painfully obvious answer to this is that the government of the United States will consider the domestic affairs of other nations to be its business up to and until the day the USA stops empire building. And why not? High-ranking government officials don’t normally send their kids off to die in wars; high-ranking government officials are always in bed with arms and weapons manufacturers and always looking for a way to line their pockets. The governments start the wars and the people pay the price.
Before discussing the real reasons for then-President Harry S. Truman dropping atomic bombs on civilians in Japan, another deeper look at historical fact is called for. Investigation will show that the reason for the war with Japan starting was not the bombing of the US Navy base at Pearl Harbor; it was the clash of the US and Japanese empires in Asia.
Pre-World War Two US Empire-Building in Asia
More undeniable proof of US imperialism in Asia well before Franklin Roosevelt became president comes with a close look at the "Boxer Rebellion" in China that began in November of 1897 and ended in June of 1900. This rebellion by the Chinese to throw out Western imperialist forces was brutally crushed by an eight-nation alliance of Japanese, Austro-Hungarian, British, French, German, Italian, Russian and American troops.
The United States was able to play a significant role in suppressing the Boxer Rebellion because of the large number of American ships and troops deployed in the Philippines as a result of the US conquest of the islands during the Spanish American War (1898) and subsequent Philippine insurgent activity.
Troops from all nations engaged in plunder, looting and rape.
Get that? Troops from all nations engaged in plunder, looting and rape. That would include the Land of the Free and the so-called Arsenal of Democracy.
In the final battle of the Boxer Rebellion, US troops killed anti-imperialist/pro-Chinese dynasty forces as well as innocent civilians.
Another of the more disturbing American empire-building phases was its colonization of the Philippines. Not only was the US government involved with imperialism; then, as today, it committed atrocities including the massacre of civilians. Throw on top of this that the US government was lying about the entire affair and not paying American troops properly, and you have a rather faithful reflection of what is going on with the US empire today:
In December, 1898, the US purchased the Philippines and other territories from Spain at the Treaty of Paris for the sum of 20 million US dollars, after the Spanish were defeated in the Spanish-American War. The US made plans to make the Philippines an American colony. However, the Filipinos, fighting for their independence from Spain since 1896, had already declared independence on June 12 of 1898. The United States sent over 11,000 ground troops to occupy the Philippines.
Tensions between the Filipinos and the American soldiers on the islands existed because of the conflicting movements for independence and colonization, aggravated by the feelings of betrayal on the part of the Filipinos by their former allies, the Americans. Hostilities started on February 4, 1899 when an American soldier named Robert William Grayson shot a Filipino soldier who was crossing a bridge into American-occupied territory in San Juan del Monte, an incident historians now consider to be the start of the war. US President William McKinley later told reporters that the insurgents had "attacked Manila" in justifying war on the Philippines. The Battle of Manila (1899) that followed caused thousands of casualties for Filipinos and Americans alike.
The administration of US President McKinley subsequently declared Aguinaldo to be an "outlaw bandit," and no formal declaration of war was ever issued. Two reasons have been given for this. One is that calling the war the Philippine Insurrection made it appear to be a rebellion against a lawful government, although the only part of the Philippines under American control was Manila. The other was to enable the American government to avoid liability to claims by American veterans of the action.
In 1900, the Philippine army was ordered to engage in guerilla warfare, a means of operation which better suited them and made American occupation of the archipelago all the more difficult over the next few years. In fact, during just the first four months of the guerilla war the Americans lost nearly 500 men killed or wounded. The Filipino resistance fighters began staging bloody ambushes and raids. Most infamous were the guerilla victories at Pulang Lupa and Balangiga. At first, it even seemed as if the Filipinos would fight the Americans to a stalemate and force them to withdraw. This was even considered by President McKinley at the beginning of the phase.
The shift to guerilla warfare however, only angered the Americans into acting more ruthless than before. They began taking no prisoners, scorching whole villages, and routinely shooting surrendering Filipinos. Much worse were the concentration camps that civilians were forced into, after being suspected of being guerilla sympathizers. Thousands of civilians may have died in these camps.
In nearly all cases, the civilians suffered much worse than the actual Filipino guerillas. As a result, many of the Filipino guerillas felt obligated to surrender, in order to stop the suffering the war was causing to their own people…
Some Americans, notably William Jennings Bryan, Mark Twain, Andrew Carnegie, and other members of the American Anti-Imperialist League, strongly objected to the annexation of the Philippines. Other Americans mistakenly thought that the Philippines wanted to become part of the United States. Anti-imperialist movements claimed that the United States had betrayed its lofty goals of the Spanish-American War by becoming a colonial power, merely replacing Spain in the Philippines… As news of atrocities committed in subduing the Philippines arrived in the United States, support for the war flagged…
In 1908, Manuel Arellano Remondo, in a book entitled General Geography of the Philippine Islands, wrote: "The population decreased due to the wars, in the five-year period from 1895 to 1900, since, at the start of the first insurrection, the population was estimated at 9,000,000, and at present (1908), the inhabitants of the Archipelago do not exceed 8,000,000 in number."
The US government calling the war an insurrection, to make it appear to be a rebellion against a lawful government, although the only part of the Philippines under American control was Manila? The American government not declaring war so as to sidestep liability claims by American veterans of the action? The US Army taking no prisoners, burning down villages, and routinely shooting surrendering Filipinos? Thousands of civilians dead in US concentration camps? This undoubtedly shows that the United States was involved with empire-building in Asia — as well as cheating and lying to its own soldiers and to the American public — long before the start of World War II.
War crimes, atrocities, killing civilians, annexing territory… so what’s the difference between the US empire in 1900 and today? Not much. Same story, different day. Even Mark Twain wrote at the time:
(I used to be) a red-hot imperialist. I wanted the American eagle to go screaming into the Pacific … Why not spread its wings over the Philippines, I asked myself? … I said to myself, "Here are a people who have suffered for three centuries. We can make them as free as ourselves, give them a government and country of their own, put a miniature of the American Constitution afloat in the Pacific, start a brand new republic to take its place among the free nations of the world. It seemed to me a great task to which we had addressed ourselves."
But I have thought some more, since then, and I have read carefully the treaty of Paris, and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem."
It should, it seems to me, be our pleasure and duty to make those people free, and let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way. And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land."
Once again, considering the facts above and in Dying for the Emperor? No Way, it is plain as day that the United States was building an empire in Asia and was not the innocent bystander that US history books teach American children to believe.
The Japanese imperial army also committed atrocities in Asia — especially in China. But the question for the reader now is, was the United States free of guilt as to the start of World War II? Is the United States innocent of any charge of empire building today?
The common sense answer to these questions is that it is not. The United States will do as empires have always done, and will use its own military might as well as proxies and "friendly forces" any way it can in order to expand the empire. In the above two cases, the US used the Japanese (with mutual consent) in China — until the Japanese began to threaten the US empire; and the US government used the Philippine army as a weapon against the Spanish and then stabbed the Philippine soldiers and civilians in the back when they were no longer useful, or when they presented a threat to the American empire. These events, considered as a whole, would lead anyone to conclude that the reason for the start of American involvement in World War II was not only the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but the clash of empires in Asia.
Why America Really Dropped the Atomic Bomb on Japan
History is not an exact science. We may never know the entire truth or all the reasons for certain events. That being said, in looking for the truth we must consider the words and deeds of many players; we must get the story from all sides before we can make an intelligent judgment. Even then, it must be difficult to find any one single reason for any war. All sides will have grievances.
To believe that the history of the Pacific War began on December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor, and to believe that the single reason Truman ordered the atomic bombings of Japan was to save American lives against a fanatical enemy, is to be completely unrealistic about those events and circumstances surrounding them. Keeping this in mind, then, let’s look at a few other reasons for the atomic bombing of Japan besides those passed off by Harry S. Truman and taught in American schools.
In my previous article, I showed that the notion of a Japanese citizenry worshipping the emperor as their God and being prepared to fight to the death in World War II is a post-war myth, and most probably an excuse forwarded by American post-war atomic bomb apologists. This garnered a landslide of protests by readers who all rejected my assertions. In reply, I asked everyone who wrote to send me any quote (with a referenced link) from any high-ranking US government official, civilian or military, who went on the public record condoning the atomic bombings of Japan for the purpose of ending the war. Only one reader replied, and he found only one source: Truman’s memoirs.
The truth of the matter is that most of the high-ranking American military men publicly disagreed with the atomic bombing of Japan or were unaware of the bomb’s existence. I cannot find any trace of any American military leader going on the public record in favor of dropping the bomb on the Japanese to end the war. As for the Japanese nation being prepared to die for the emperor, here is what historian Peter Metevelis had to say about it:
Few believed they were dying for the emperor as a war leader or for military purposes. Rather, the state was apparently able to manipulate a deep intellectual and aesthetic tradition of painful beauty to convince the pilots that it was their honor to "die like beautiful falling cherry petals" for their real and fictive families, including parents, fellow pilots and the emperor and people of Japan.
~ E. Ohnuki-Tierney: Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and Nationalism
(University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2002), pp 204—205.
Proving that the average Japanese during World War II was not the suicidal maniac that American history books would lead us to believe isn’t all that difficult. It just took a bit of research and a little common sense. Yet, there were still more than a few who wouldn’t accept the facts — Truman himself gave varying excuses for dropping the bomb.
A frightening quote giving another reason for the atomic bombings comes from US Brigadier General Carter Clarke, who was in charge of preparing intercepted Japanese cables for Truman and his advisors:
"When we didn’t need to do it, and we knew we didn’t need to do it, and they knew we didn’t need to do it, we used them as an experiment for two atomic bombs."
Quoted in Gar Alperovitz,
The Decision To Use the Atomic Bomb, pp 359.
So, if it wasn’t done solely in order to force Japan to surrender, why did Truman order the bombings? The answer seems obvious. Besides my own cynical — but most certainly realistic — view that the US government, having spent millions of tax dollars on the A-Bomb project, had to use the bombs in order to continue feeding the American military-industrial complex (and the Japanese happened to be the enemy at the time), I also would consider that the US used the bombs to scare the USSR. This is a most believable rationale; much more rational than the idea that the Japanese were suicidal fanatics — who suddenly weren’t after the surrender — or that the bombs saved a million US lives.
After Franklin Roosevelt’s death in 1945, Harry S. Truman became President of the United States. Upon becoming president, Truman was informed of the Manhattan Project — the project to build the atomic bomb. Truman was not elected to the presidency, although he desperately wanted to be elected later on. Even though the public reasons for dropping the bomb are weak on their own, the rarely mentioned notion of scaring the Soviets can still be found quite easily in the public domain.
Searching for the reasons Truman ordered the atomic bombing of Japan, I found this concerning the informing of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin of the existence of the atomic bomb:
I was perhaps five yards away, and I watched with the closest attention the momentous talk. I knew what the President was going to do. What was vital to measure was its effect on Stalin. I can see it all as if it were yesterday. He seemed to be delighted. A new bomb! Of extraordinary power! Probably decisive on the whole Japanese war! What a bit of luck!
Winston Churchill: Triumph and Tragedy, pp 669—70.
Probably one of the most damning of all accounts comes from then Soviet Marshal Georgii Zhukov:
I do not recall the exact date, but after the close of one of the formal meetings Truman informed Stalin that the United States now possessed a bomb of exceptional power, without, however, naming it the atomic bomb.
As was later written abroad, at that moment Churchill fixed his gaze on Stalin’s face, closely observing his reaction. However, Stalin did not betray his feelings and pretended that he saw nothing special in what Truman had imparted to him. Both Churchill and many other Anglo-American authors subsequently assumed that Stalin had really failed to fathom the significance of what he had heard.
In actual fact, on returning to his quarters after this meeting Stalin, in my presence, told Molotov about his conversation with Truman. The latter reacted almost immediately. "Let them. We’ll have to talk it over with Kurchatov and get him to speed things up."
I realized that they were talking about research on the atomic bomb.
It was clear already then that the US Government intended to use the atomic weapon for the purpose of achieving its Imperialist goals from a position of strength in "the cold war." This was amply corroborated on August 6 and 8. Without any military need whatsoever, the Americans dropped two atomic bombs on the peaceful and densely-populated Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Georgii Konstantinovich Zhukov:
The Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov
(New York: Delacorte Press, 1971) pp 674—675.
A Soviet Marshal calling US intentions in Asia imperialistic sounds like the pot calling the kettle black, doesn’t it? But here is wartime US Secretary of State James Byrnes, recalling Truman informing Stalin about successful tests of the atomic bomb:
I am just as convinced now as I was when I wrote that first book, Speaking Frankly, in 1947, that Stalin did not appreciate the significance of the statement. I have read stories by so-called historians who assert that he must have known, but they were not present. I was. I watched Stalin’s face. He smiled and said only a few words, and Mr. Truman shook hands with him, left, coming back to where I was seated and the two of us went to our automobile.
I recall telling the President at the time, as we were driving back to our headquarters, that, after Stalin left the room and got back to his own headquarters, it would dawn on him, and the following day the President would have a lot of questions to answer. President Truman thought that most probable. He devoted some time in talking to me that evening as to how far he could go — or should go.
Stalin never asked him a question about it. I am satisfied that Stalin did not appreciate the significance of President Truman’s statement. I’m pretty certain that they knew we were working on the bomb, but we had kept secret how far that development had gone.
James Byrnes, interview in US News and World Report,
August 15, 1960, pp 67—68.
The above strongly suggests that for the US Secretary of State, the motivation for using the bomb had nothing to do with Japan. The quote below supports that:
"[Byrnes] was concerned about Russia’s postwar behavior. Russian troops had moved into Hungary and Rumania, and Byrnes thought it would be very difficult to persuade Russia to withdraw her troops from these countries, that Russia might be more manageable if impressed by American military might, and that a demonstration of the bomb might impress Russia."
Leo Szilard: His Version of the Facts
Stalin was a shrewd imperialist dictator, most probably the most successful of his type the world has yet seen. You’d think that he of all men could recognize the truth over announcements made for domestic or propaganda purposes. After all, he was one of the masters.
Finally, even Truman’s own writings about the bomb and the Soviets point to the USSR’s expansionism as the one truly big reason for dropping the bomb:
All he (Stalin) said was he was glad to hear it and hoped we would make "good use of it against the Japanese."
~ Harry S. Truman, Year of Decisions, p. 416
Why would Truman tell a state secret to the Soviets before the fact? To scare them out of Eastern Europe? Or because he wanted to save a million US lives? What would the American public think if they knew the true intentions of one of our wartime allies, the communists?
Of course the public announcement by the US government as to the reason for the atomic bombing would be quite different from the real reason. When it comes to lying to the public concerning war, all governments do it, and the people pay the price. So what’s new?
Edited by Jeremy Irwin.
Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He has the distinction of being fired from every FM radio station in Tokyo — one of them three times. His first book, Schizophrenic in Japan, is now on sale.