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Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Days that shook the world - Hiroshima

Although I live here in Melbourne where there's almost no news of Hiroshima, this day has an enormous weight in me.

Growing up in Yamaguchi, west of Hiroshima, as a school excursion, we used to visit a special hospital where surviving victims are still suffering from the effect of the blast.

To this day, I still remember the burns on their skins, tears in their eyes and despair on their faces.

"Why them?"
"Were they fortunate to survive?"

One of the most moving experiences I had when I visited Memorial Park was not when looking at horrific photos or objects, but, reading letters and notes left behind by the victims.

Written words were far much more powerful than visual imagery. Even now I really don't know why.

They are the first-hand witness accounts told by survivors, most of them were dead in the following years.

Burned people everywhere with their eyeballs hanging from their faces were walking like ghosts towards a river, desperately screaming "Water, Water!"

I remember, I had to leave the library, I couldn't take it any more.

"Why them?"

Here is my confession.

The legality of the bombings is debatable. Whether or not they amount to the crime against humanity is, again, contestable.
They were definitely deliberate attempts at mass murder of civilians and annihilation of entire cities.
At least, they haven't been judicially challenged. That's because they are the winner of the war.

The position of the successive US government has been very consistent.
The bombs were necessary to hasten the end of the war, therefore, saving the lives of Americans.

I used to object to these arguments strongly. They all sounded like a cheap excuse for recouparating two billion dollar investment in Manhattan Project.

However, after reading lots of stuff, my position has changed almost 180 degree.

Now, I do completely agree with their reasoning. It sounds treacherous for me as a Japanese to say, but, I really do see their point.

The Government of Japan was eager to sacrifice entire population, if Allied forces invaded the country. 

The tragedy of mass suicide and horrendous fightings in Okinawa Island would have been repeated in main island on a gigantic scale, resulting in, who knows, the death toll and devastation that is too horrifying to contemplate.  

They were telling its citizens to charge against rumbling US tanks with bamboo sticks , for example. 

These were mad preachings. The defeatist ideology that had been insanely demonstrated as the formation of Kamikaze squadron.

The country that holds such an irrational, idiotic policy based on religious myths must be defeated. 

It wasted innumerable opportunities to surrender unconditionally even though everyone knew that's the only way out, simply because they maintained that a God should never be dethroned.

If there was ever a "just war", the last war was the one. It was a battle of ideologies. 

The bombings did hasten the end of the war, and saved not only the lives of the Americans, but also the Japanese.

I do believe that is what really happened.

Japan was a quasi theocracy, Emperor was a living God, its citizens expressing a fanatical divine worship.
Now, it embraces the most advanced form of governance, democracy. The third biggest economy in the world. One of the most secular countries on the planet.

Who can't say the bombings were the beginning of all?

Morally and ethically unacceptable, yes, but, considering the geopolitics at the time, they were necessary evils that finished Japan's war.

When the government takes a wrong turn, it's their citizens who pay the ultimate price.

Do I dare say that in the presence of the survivors, looking into their eyes?


This is one of the series of BBC documentary 'Days that shook the world'.
It's definitely worth watching.

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