Monday, August 10, 2015

Remembering Hiroshima

Most choose to remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki in silence, but in Russia, Sergei Naryshkin, the speaker of the Duma has called for an international tribunal to assess the full impact of the bombings.  I guess he figures if Russia continues to be held to blame for war crimes committed by the Soviet Union during World War II, then the US should be made to answer for its war crimes.

Of course, Oliver Stone did indict the United States for this cataclysmic event and many others in his "Untold History of the United States," but that didn't seem to generate a great amount of interest for the Showtime series a couple years back.  In Stone's mind, Truman already had Japan at his feet and there was no reason to drop the bombs.  The ulterior motive was to keep the Soviet Union out of Japan, the whole Pacific Rim for that matter, and what better way than to show the full fury of the United States arsenal.

Stone primarily cited American Prometheus, a biography of Robert Oppenheimer, who at one point advocated limited nuclear war, but came to regret it.  Apparently, Oppenheimer had sold the Truman administration on the idea whether he wanted to or not.  At the time, it was thought that fallout of radiation of one of the bombs would be quite limited.  It was only after the bombing of Japan that scientists understood the full impact of an atomic bomb.

Of course, Japan was no saint itself during World War II. an estimated 15-20 million Chinese died, largely at the hands of Japan.  The battle over Manchuria was brutal beyond belief, making the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima pale by comparison.  Not that it necessarily factored into Truman's decision, but has been used to defend his action.

I don't know what good an international tribunal would do other than to reopen the many scars left by the war.  In its own quiet way, Japan has come to terms with these bombings, which includes the fire bombing of Tokyo. and I don't think would be very anxious to re-open this subject.  The US and Japan have become strong allies in the decades since.  American presence is a sore point at Okinawa, but with ongoing tensions with North Korea is tolerated by the government.

For the Soviet Union, the surrender of Emperor Hirohito to the United States was a lost opportunity to expand its influence deep into the Pacific Rim.  The USSR did influence events in China after the war, but even here fell into bitter conflict with the new communist government, resulting in tensions along the meandering border for decades.  However, Russia has gone out of its way to repair ties with China in the years since the breakdown of the Soviet Union.

One cannot say the same for relations between Russia and Japan, which is why it is odd that Mr. Naryshkin would show so much sympathy for Japan's 70 year-old tragedy.  Maybe it is a form or rapprochement, as Russia tries to counter the current negotiations going on between the US and Pacific Rim nations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  However, I doubt it has little to do with the tragedy itself.

1 comment:

  1. Hiroshima and Nagasaki value as an anti-American political football was exhausted long ago. After 70 years of revisiting the tragedy, it won’t mitigate criticism of recent history in Ukraine whether that’s the intent or not.