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By Sheldon Drobny

Yesterday Nelson Mandela stated, correctly, “The United States, which callously dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, has no moral authority to police the world.”

On the eve of war in Iraq, we must consider Mandela’s statement objectively.  We must understand the atrocities our leaders have committed in the past, in the name of freedom.

Although I was born shortly after World War II, I had the benefit of a father who lived through the war, and who taught me many things that are not in U.S. history books.  As I have previously reported, the United States has committed shameful acts that have never been properly reported in the news media or the history books.

The use of the atomic bomb against Japan was one of those shameful acts.

According to many historians, the United States used the atomic bomb against Japan to keep the U.S. from suffering one million casualties in an invasion of Japan.  Is this assumption valid?  Would it really have been necessary to invade Japan?

The war in Europe ended in May of 1945, but the Americans and the British were still at war with Japan.  Russia, which suffered the most from Hitler’s aggression, losing 25 million people, was not at war with Japan at the time of the European armistice.  At the Yalta conference,  Roosevelt persuaded Stalin to enter the war against Japan in ninety days.  Stalin needed the time to shift his forces to the Manchurian front.

The Japanese at that time had a large army occupying China and Manchuria, bordering the Soviet Union.  The massive Red Army of the Soviet Union, which had driven the German Army into a 2000-mile retreat, was the most powerful army in the world.  Roosevelt was criticized for making concessions to Russia at Yalta, but he knew that the only way to drive the Japanese out of China and Manchuria was to use that powerful Red Army.  Roosevelt died in April of 1945, changing the dynamics of the alliance.

Officials at the State Department and the War Department at that time were, in the main, anti-Soviet.  Roosevelt had known that the United States could not defeat Hitler or Japan without the cooperation of the Soviet Union, and constantly had to do battle with his own administration to work with the Soviets.  When Roosevelt died, Truman was thrust into a situation in which his military advisors were in a race to defeat Japan before the Soviet Union entered the war.  Following their advice, Truman demanded unconditional surrender.

Informed historians now know that the allied demand of unconditional surrender may have unnecessarily lengthened the war.  Japan was virtually helpless in the summer of 1945.  In July, two things happened that would change the course of the war and of history.  The United States successfully tested the atomic bomb, and the Japanese contacted the Soviet Union to help negotiate surrender terms with the United States.  The Japanese wanted to keep their Emperor as the only condition of surrender.  Because Truman’s advisers insisted on unconditional surrender, the United States refused the July offer. 

Before we dropped the atomic bomb and before Russia entered the war, Japan agreed to surrender terms if they could keep their Emperor.  Officials in the State Department, headed by the new Secretary of State James Byrnes, would not take yes for an answer.  Their real goal was to drop the bomb on Japan before the Soviets entered the war as a show of strength to Russia.  Tragically, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in early August.  Two days later the Soviet Army attacked Japan in Manchuria.  Shortly after that, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagisaki.

Once the bombs were dropped, the United States accepted the surrender terms that Japan had offered to the Soviets earlier.  Several hundred thousand innocent civilians were killed immediately after the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagisaki, and God knows how many more as a result of the radiation fallout.  It was one of the most shameful events in our history, yet most Americans still live with the false belief that the U.S. dropped atomic bombs to force Japan to surrender.

We cannot change the past, nor what Americans have been told about our role in that atrocity.  But we can make ourselves aware of what happened, and we can help prevent a similar atrocity in Iraq.  The current administration has the same mindset as those who were responsible for dropping the atomic bombs on Japan.  The difference now is that we have the benefit of much more information about the world, and about ourselves in general.

We can rally and protest to prevent another horror perpetrated against innocent civilians in the name of democracy.

Let us join Nelson Mandela and speak out before it is too late.


See Hiroshima: Was It Necessary?


Sheldon Drobny is co-founder of Air America Radio, providing talk radio for the majority of Americans.

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Last changed: December 13, 2009