Obscured by Mushroom Clouds

Not all atrocities are created equal — except that all are equally atrocious.  Auschwitz, Srebrenica, Rwanda, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Memorial Day weekend, 1921, and many other scenes of modern genocide besides, are easily seen as crimes against humanity of the worst magnitude.  Yet, if you add Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the mass murderous mix in the presence of a card-carrying American exceptionalist, you are quite likely to trigger a savage burst of effluvia terribly tied to Pearl Harbor.  I exaggerate, of course — but only mildly.

In this context, a recent Microsoft News poll (July 31 to August 5, 2019), canvassing over 12,000 Americans, found that 61% of respondents believe that the WMD strikes of August, 1945 were the “right” thing to do, whereas only 20% responded that the atomic attacks were “wrong.”  What accounts for the persistence of the atomic bomb drop myth, that the nuclear option was “necessary,” in America today, 75% of a century later?  Did radioactive fallout from those manifestly genocidal nuclear attacks fundamentally damage the collective American mind?

The myth begins, innocently enough, at Pearl Harbor — except that Pearl Harbor was bristling with one of the most modern naval war armadas ever assembled, thousands of miles from the nearest American coastline.  At the time, Hawai’i was an American “territory,” and Pearl Harbor was definitely not the Alamo…

Although the story is generally not told this way, on July 26, 1941, one month after Hitler’s Nazi Germany invaded Stalin’s Soviet Russia, FDR’s administration dropped some extra-provocative sanctions on Imperial Japan;  “Not one drop of oil for Japan!” (paraphrase), was the autocratic decree from FDR’s regime.  This thinly veiled declaration of war had an effect:  the Japanese regime’s decision to attack a surprisingly sleepy Pearl Harbor, as well as other American, Dutch, and British imperial territories in the near Asian Pacific.  One “Day of Infamy” later, FDR had overcome a reluctant American Public to declare hot war on Japan.

By the Summer of 1945, the end of the American-Japanese War was a foregone conclusion.  The swift tactical success of the Japanese attacks of December, 1941, had been strategically erased by the overwhelming force of a continental empire, the United States.  All that was left was to sign some documents, except that:  in an age of special weapons with genocidal impacts, the sure-to-be victorious U.S. had recently tested an extra-special weapon that its ruling junta (now Truman-led) was all-too-eager to use against a technically belligerent population.  The war was extended to allow for not only one, but two, special weapons applications against unsuspecting and undefended cities in Japan, under the dubious pretext that there was something that looked like a war still going on.

As vast swaths of the American Population were cautiously freaking out over the gratuitous carnage their government had authorized1, the propagandists rushed in to explain that many more lives would have been wasted if “the gadget” had not been used to win a war that had already been won.  “Mass Murder Saves Lives!” remains, perhaps, the most accurate slogan for the mad ad campaign that furiously followed the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

To this day, most Americans have been educated not to see this genocide of the story that has anchored the American “Superpower” position since 1945.  We have been trained, in effect, to “love the Bomb” — as if “the Bomb” were as all-American as the apple pie you just “nuked” in your microwave oven.  To shape your own thought is a thought not taught in post-Hiroshima America; after all, there’s an armada of expert-idiots out there on the micro-airwaves to shape your own thoughts for you.  Simply “tune in” to “tune out…”

Nevertheless, there has been a terrible scare in this topical connection–and, quite recently.  In 2016, President Barack “Yes, We Can — Bail out the Banks!” Obama took a tiny giant step in an awareness direction by becoming the first — and, hopefully, not the last — sitting American president to visit Hiroshima.  Many a card-carrying American exceptionalist went ape-shit, as if Obama were about to open an investigation of the first nuclear crime scene.

In the event, the president’s Hiroshima speech fell well short of calling the atomic weapons massacres War Crimes.  Instead, Mr. Obama pointed to the sky that “death fell out of,” while also fingering the “first man” who shaped a flint or wooden tool into a blade or spear, as if he were reviewing an early scene in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: a Space Odyssey.

The sky?  A blade or spear?  Perchance to mushroom cloud?  At least Obama’s speech mentioned the “thousands of Koreans” and dozen American POWs who also perished during the Hiroshima atrocity: or, two groups of humans typically stricken from the official record of the world’s first nuclear attack.  Shouldn’t August 6 be an American national holiday in honor of those brave Americans who died at Hiroshima — except that, inconveniently enough, their own government “nuked” them to death.

George Carlin once joked, about World War 2, that the “Nazis lost, but Fascism won.”  Those two mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki not-so-pretty much punctuation mark the punch of Carlin’s joke, which is uncannily breathtaking for its brevity and wit.

Today, we are all strapped with the unasked-for-baggage of the “New and Improved” Pearl Harbor that the 9/11 event rather instantaneously became  As the increasingly militarized vehicle of American civilization rattletraps its hegemonic way down the superhighway of History, every average-to-exceptional American citizen-passenger should pay attention:  those Mushroom Clouds in the rear-view mirror are closer than they appear.

  1. Boyer, Paul.  By the Bomb’s Early Light, Pantheon Books, 1985.  Boyer’s book shows the amazing level of ambivalence that many Americans felt in the immediate aftermath of the atomic attacks.  The story we’ve been overwhelmingly force-fed since then looked very different at that time. []
Todd Smith lives, writes, and observes the Brave New World Order in St. Louis. He can be reached at bartlebydick@yahoo.com. Read other articles by Todd.