When the atomic bomb went off over Hiroshima





When the atomic bomb went off over Hiroshima on Aug 6th.1945, 70, 000 
lives were ended in a flash. To the American
people who were weary from the long and brutal war, such a
drastic measure seemed a necessary, even righteous way to
end the madness that was World War II. However, the madness
had just begun. That August morning was the day that
heralded the dawn of the nuclear age, and with it came more
than just the loss of lives. According to Archibald
MacLeish, a U.S. poet, "What happened at Hiroshima was not
only that a scientific breakthrough . . . had occurred and
that a great part of the population of a city had been
burned to death, but that the problem of the relation of
the triumphs of modern science to the human purposes of man
had been explicitly defined." The entire globe was now to
live with the fear of total annihilation, the fear that
drove the cold war, the fear that has forever changed world
politics. The fear is real, more real today than ever, for
the ease at which a nuclear bomb is achieved in this day
and age sparks fear in the hearts of most people on this
planet. According to General Douglas MacArthur, "We have
had our last chance. If we do not devise some greater and
more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door." The
decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japanese citizens in
August, 1945, as a means to bring the long Pacific war to
an end was justified-militarily, politically and morally. 

The goal of waging war is victory with minimum losses on
one's own side and, if possible, on the enemy's side. No
one disputes the fact that the Japanese military was
prepared to fight to the last man to defend the home
islands, and indeed had already demonstrated this
determination in previous Pacific island campaigns. A
weapon originally developed to contain a Nazi atomic
project was available that would spare Americans hundreds
of thousands of causalities in an invasion of Japan,
and-not incidentally-save several times more than that
among Japanese soldiers and civilians. The thousands who
have died in the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
were far less than would have died in an allied invasion,
and their sudden deaths convinced the Japanese military to

Every nation has an interest in being at peace with other
nations, but there has never been a time when the world was
free of the scourge of war. Hence, peaceful nations must
always have adequate military force at their disposal in
order to deter or defeat the aggressive designs of rogue
nations. The United States was therefore right in using
whatever means were necessary to defeat the Japanese empire
in the war which the latter began, including the use of
superior or more powerful weaponry-not only to defeat Japan
but to remain able following the war to maintain peace
sufficiently to guarantee its own existence. A long, costly
and bloody conflict is a wasteful use of a nation's
resources when quicker, more decisive means are available.
Japan was not then-or later-the only nation America had to
restrain, and an all-out U.S. invasion of Japan would have
risked the victory already gained in Europe in the face of
the palpable thereat of Soviet domination. 

Finally, we can never forget the maxim of Edmund Burke:
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that
good men do nothing." The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
brought us into a war which we had vainly hoped to avoid.
We could no longer "do nothing" but were compelled to "do
something" to roll back the Japanese militarists. Victims
of aggression have every right both to end the aggression
and to prevent the perpetrator of it from continuing or
renewing it. Our natural right of self defense as well as
our moral duty to defeat tyranny justified our decision to
wage the war and, ultimately, to drop the atomic bomb. We
should expect political leaders to be guided by moral
principles but this does not mean they must subject
millions of people to needless injury or death out of a
misplaced concern for the safety of enemy soldiers or

President Truman's decision to deploy atomic power in Japan
revealed a man who understood the moral issues at stake and
who had the courage to strike a decisive blow that quickly
brought to an end the most destructive war in human
history. Squeamishness is not a moral principle, but making
the best 
decisions at the time, given the circumstances, is clear
evidence that the decision maker is guided by morality.
The atomic bomb was considered a "quick" and even
economical way to win the war; however, it was a cruel and
unusual form of punishment for the Japanese citizens. The
weapon that we refer to as "quick" was just the opposite.
On one hand, it meant a quick end to the war for the United
States, and on the other hand, a slow and painful death to
many innocent Japanese. According to a book called
Hiroshima Plus 20 the effects of radiation poisoning are
horrific, ranging from purple spots on the skin, hair loss,
nausea, vomiting, bleeding from the mouth, gums, and
throat, weakened immune systems, to massive internal
hemorrhaging, not to mention the disfiguring radiation
burns. The effects of the radiation poisoning continued to
show up until about a month after the bombing. In fact the
bomb also killed or permanently damaged fetuses in the
womb. Death and destruction are always a reality of war;
however, a quick death is always more humanitarian. 

When this powerful nation called the United States dropped
the bomb, we sent out the official "go ahead" for the rest
of the world that nuclear weapons were a viable means of
warfare. We unofficially announced that it was O.K. to bomb
women, children, and elderly citizens. 

The thought that atomic weapons are needed to keep the
peace is exactly the idea that fueled the cold war. Albert
Einstein said in a speech, "The armament race between the
U.S.A. and U.S.S.R., originally supposed to be a
preventative measure, assumes hysterical character. On both
sides, the means of mass-destruction are perfected with
feverish haste . . . The H-bomb appears on the public
horizon as a probably attainable goal. Its accelerated
development has been solemnly proclaimed by the president." 

In short, according to Hiroshima Plus 20, by now, the
military has at least 50, 000 nuclear warheads in storage
and ready with a handful of people in charge of them. In
the words of James Conant, President of Harvard, "The
extreme dangers to mankind inherent in the proposal wholly
outweigh any military advantage." 
Has the atomic bomb introduced "the fear of total
annihilation...that has forever changed world politics"?
That seems to be the main point of the argument against
dropping the atomic bomb on Japanese cities in August,
1945. Yet this judgment completely abstracts from the
concrete circumstances in which the decision was made-a
world exhausted by war; an implacable, cunning and ruthless
enemy; hundreds of thousands of casualties in an allied
invasion of Japan; permanent strategic considerations; and
the like. In other words, the reply fails to meet the
argument for dropping the bomb and changes the subject from
"the immediate decision to the long-term consequences of
the decision. 

But even if one grants the point about fear of
annihilation, it is not clear that the world has
fundamentally changed nor that the whole world is always in
danger of nations from time immemorial. For example,
ancient Rome sacked Carthage, plowed it under and salted
the earth. Medieval and modern religious wars have
annihilated millions. More recently, there was Hitler's
genocidal six-million-death "final solution to the Jewish
problem," and the Communists' ten of millions of mass
murders continue to this day. All this has been done
without benefit of nuclear power. 

Gen. MacArthur's comments came at the beginning of the
atomic or nuclear age, and while the source and the
judgment deserve respect, experience has shown that nuclear
power in Western hands deterred a third world war and
ultimately caused the collapse of the greatest threat to
world peace since World War II, namely, the Soviet Union.
But even during the much-decried "arms race" of the Cold
War years, both East and West refined their crude nuclear
technology to suit the requirements of waging war, e.g.
targeting the enemy's missiles, aircraft and submarines,
rather than putting all their eggs in the nuclear
annihilation basket. War is a terrible thing but the fear
of annihilation will curb even the greatest tyrants'

In short, fear is part of the human condition and those
peaceful nations which learn to live with the destructive
potential of nuclear power are capable of great good. Great
evil is more likely to be the result of unchecked nuclear
power in hands of lawless nations. As ever, peace and
safety depend upon military power being in the right hands.
Works Cited
"Fifty Years Later"; Internet Document; 

Finney, et. al. Hiroshima Plus 20. New York, New York;
Delacorte; 1965


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