Japanese Leaders Welcomed Hiroshima Atomic Bombing

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My last LewRockwell.com
article titled “Only
a Fool Defends His County…
” resulted in a veritable blizzard
of e-mails — most of them highly praiseworthy — but a few excoriating
me for detailing President Madison’s "treasonous" conduct
back during the War of 1812. One blogger saluted the Fourth President’s
earlier tremendous service rendered to our emerging nation by helping
draft the United States Constitution. My critic thus characterized
as a "regrettable aberration" Madison’s refusal to embargo
normal food shipments to the British in order to avoid angering
American farmers and in so doing jeopardizing his reelection. Yeah,
go tell that to the judge.

By far the
most interesting question came from a blogger who, noting the betrayal
of the American boys circa 1812 by their own leaders (a repeated
theme of my ambitious
project website
) and evidently seeking to place Madison's treason
in historical perspective, asked me for the single most egregious
example of such a betrayal of the people that I could recollect.
That’s easy: Japanese leaders in August 1945 were positively relieved
— if not elated — by the nuking of their own citizens at Hiroshima
and Nagasaki.

After all,
isn’t it a bit odd that Americans hold candlelight vigils on August
6th to commemorate the Atomic Bomb victims all the while consumed
with residual guilt, but the Japanese let the events pass in silence?
Indeed I recall my own August 1986 pilgrimage to Nagasaki — as a
one-time angst-ridden American. Of course, I knew quite well that
Nagasaki was by then a completely rebuilt, clean, hustling-bustling
modern city. But I had seen enough “Blade
Day After
” movies that I had half expected to encounter
mutants walking around town or troglodytes emerging from the sewers.

near Ground Zero just below the precise spot where the Nagasaki
bomb had detonated, I saw several American fast-food restaurants
including the smiling face of Colonel Sanders. The Japanese must
surely be a forgiving people. I can’t imagine a thriving kabob joint
(let alone a mosque) being erected anytime soon near the base of
the new Freedom Tower in Lower Manhattan.

So what gives?
Fasten your seatbelt for the ultimate in cynical, self-serving political

August 1945
saw the Japanese government desperately searching for a way to end
the war without suffering the political consequences for presiding
over a horrendous “defeat.” In actuality, historically speaking,
it’s a delicate art of shifting the blame. Clearly it’s all about
the “spin.”

Napoleon Bonaparte
once sought to explain away his decisive defeat at the October 1813
Battle of Leipzig (that soon led to France’s occupation by foreign
troops) by spreading the story that the French were winning the
battle until they unfortunately ran out of ammunition. Likewise,
when the tide of battle turned against Nazi Germany, spinmeister
extraordinaire Joseph Goebbels proclaimed that the Reich was not
losing — it was merely defending its victories. Egyptian President
Anwar Sadat took credit for the initial October 1973 success over
the Israelis even though within two weeks his army had been crushed.
Moreover, Sadat claimed a triumph by virtue of the fact that the
Arabs had lost nowhere near as badly as they had lost the time previous
when they had tangled with the Jews back in 1967. The Arabs, Sadat
crowed, had now reclaimed their manhood!

It may not
even be necessary to “win” at all — merely losing with sufficient
"style" can sometimes suffice. In 1898 Spanish leaders
acquiesced in a war against the United States that Madrid fully
expected to lose. But gauging the oftentimes absurd nature of the
Spanish character — isn’t Don Quixote some sort of national mascot
— Spanish leaders concluded that they stood a better chance of retaining
in power by waging a losing but honorably fought struggle than spinelessly
submit to Washington's demands that Spain grant its long-suffering
colony, Cuba, its independence.


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Curiously enough,
this reminds me of a sportswriter during the Magic Johnson–era
Los Angeles Lakers who in print damned with faint praise one of
the team's malingering supporting players as a potentially superb
athlete who regrettably "could look better than anyone else
in the league missing a lay up."

If one cannot
spin the defeat into something positive, one can always attempt
to weasel out of the responsibility by dropping the onus for the
defeat into someone else's lap — the proverbial "hot potato."
The German military in 1918 snookered the unwitting civilians into
signing the odious Armistice Agreement and later the Versailles
Treaty. And the McGovern Democrats of 1972 effectively repudiated
the Vietnam War that their party had undertaken back in 1965. And
the Republicans, who presided over the loss of South Vietnam in
1975, could remind the country that the conflict had not been initiated
on their watch but could have been won if the Democrats had followed
the correct "Republican" strategy! No wonder, Patrick
Buchanan rightly observed that 58,000 American boys ultimately sacrificed
their lives down some "Asian rathole" without anyone ever
paying the political price.

At any rate,
in August 1945 the Japanese people were being pummeled by the Americans.
That was self-evident. But here's the rub: The Japanese people did
not seem to recognize that they were "losing" the war.
For they thought that the Americans were also taking severe punishment.
Indeed a famous New Yorker magazine cartoon of that era summed up
perfectly this sentiment: A pair of Japanese men riding bicycles
survey the smoldering ruins of their city. One remarks to the other
something like, "That's war, we bomb Washington, they bomb

In truth, judging
from the generally incredulous response to Emperor Hirohito's surrender
message of August 15, 1945, the ordinary Japanese citizens do indeed
appear to have been stunned by news of their own nation's defeat.
And that's where the atomic bombs enter the picture.

Japanese leaders
were justifiably afraid that an admission of total defeat would
immediately provoke a public backlash that would topple the Emperor
and his dynasty. In truth, such are the fortunes of war. My young
daughter, immersed in the Disney princess world of Snow White, Cinderella,
Jasmine, Pocahontas, etc., recently asked me if there were still
any real-live European kings and queens. I didn't have the heart
to tell her that over the past century and a half the royal stable
has been drastically reduced by virtue of monarchs presiding over
military catastrophes. Beginning in 1870, the Franco-Prussian War
cost French Emperor Louis Napoleon his throne. World War One claimed
the royal dynasties in Germany, Bavaria, Austria-Hungary, and Russia.
The next world war toppled monarchies in Italy, Romania, Bulgaria,
Yugoslavia, and Albania. Surely Japanese leaders circa 1945 had
serious reason to fear a popular revolt.

Moreover, with
reference to the United States, we had long proved to be monarch-busters
by sending British King George III packing in 1776, assisting Mexican
nationalists to overthrow interloper Emperor Maximilian in 1867,
and encouraging peace-hungry Germans to oust Kaiser William II in
November, 1918 with President Woodrow Wilson's blessing.

In any event,
in August 1945 America presented Japan with one option — the seemingly
non-negotiable terms of "Unconditional Surrender." However,
only after the Americans had nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki did the
United States relent a bit by permitting Japan to capitulate while
retaining their Emperor. Who knows if Tokyo would have surrendered
so smoothly without this one significant concession.

At noon on
August 15th, Emperor Hirohito spoke for the first time to his people
via a recorded message that had been prepared the day before. Elsewhere,
word of the nuclear attack had spread throughout the island and
the Japanese people were not certain what to expect from this broadcast.
It appears that some citizens thought that the Emperor might announce
that Japan had retaliated against the Americans with its own nuclear

But, no. The
Emperor announced the immediate Japanese surrender. However his
official rationale represented a masterpiece of obfuscation that
did manage to befuddle the public.

In a classic
non sequitur, Hirohito stated that Japan must surrender in order
to preclude the "total extinction of human civilization"
on account of the introduction of this terrible new weapon, even
though, at that precise moment, the Japanese were the only members
of "human civilization" to be so endangered.

the ploy worked smoothly and before the stunned Japanese people
could sort out their rage against their own leaders for launching
an unwinnable war against the United States back on December 7,
1941 and then stubbornly continuing to prosecute the struggle against
hopeless odds, U.S. forces hustled onto the island to make certain
there would be no popular uprising — as Japanese leaders themselves
had feared.

As we all know,
the subsequent American occupation went swimmingly. Nary a peep
of rancor was heard from Japanese leaders. Along the way, a handful
of Japanese military men went on trial and were summarily dispatched
thus allowing the traditional elite (and the rising business class)
to remain in power. There was never a general housecleaning. And
the elites escaped the wrath of their own people to reemerge in
the postwar era to propel firms like Toyota and Mitsubishi into
world economic prominence. That's why in Japan, the day August 6th
passes in virtual silence.

Finally, even
as the U.S. was nuking Japan, perceptive leaders on both sides of
the Pacific were beginning to recognize that, with the Soviet-American
Cold War looming in Europe and with an increasingly unsettled situation
in China, Japan and the United States would inevitably be drawn
together out of mutual interest. So what's an atomic bombing between

26, 2009

Jonathan M. Kolkey [send him mail],
founder of the World
Wide War Project
, received his Ph.D. in History from UCLA and
has long worked as an author and political campaign consultant.

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