Nagasaki and the Incorrigibility of Man
I knew a Marine that fought on Tarawa, which had the highest American casualty rate of any battle in World War II. Who saw dozens of women clutching their babies and children as they jumped from the cliffs of Saipan as US forces approached. And who was sent to Nagasaki after the bombing. I was honored that he talked to me about the war for the first time shortly before he died. I recall many horrific details Roy told of each of these events, but it was his long-suppressed emotion that affected me the most. The leveling of Nagasaki by the atom bomb called “Fat Man,” three days after Hiroshima, was beyond description he said. Charred bodies, walking skeletal people, mangled buildings – his presence there brought the horror home. But the devastation of the atom bombings didn’t motivate the United States, which emerged unscathed (except for the loss of hundreds of thousands of its young men in battle) from the Second World War, to lead the world in banning nuclear weapons. After all, it was the United States that used the bomb on two civilian targets, and it was the United States that was driving force behind the formation of the United Nations. In the first few years after the war only America possessed the atom bomb, and only a dozen or so until about 1948. If the United States had mothballed its atom bombs, and honestly worked with Russia on a Non-Proliferation Treaty, the hydrogen bomb would probably not have been developed, and there would probably not have been a nuclear arms race. Nuclear weapons are more of a real and present danger today than they have been since the Cuban Missile Crisis, which is my first memory of the wider world beyond the family. Yet there is little of the fear, and none of the focus that the standoff between the US and the USSR over the Soviet Union’s placement of long- range missiles on Cuba produced. I recall studying the newspapers, as an 11-year-old boy, the concentric circles of where the missiles could reach; Detroit, south of my hometown, was on the outer edge. It turned out that the only city the Russian missiles couldn’t reach from Cuba was Seattle. Of course, that’s ancient history, and the world is where it is – with the “Great Powers” still possessing thousands of nuclear weapons of all sizes, from ‘tactical’ weapons with a much smaller kill radius than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, to “SATAN-2,” which Putin has threatened to detonate offshore to inundate the entire British Isles. Here’s how far humankind has come in the 77 years since the bombing of Nagasaki, which Americans still deceive themselves in believing was necessary to end World War II. In the civil war/proxy war between Ukraine and Russia, and America and Russia, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, a huge facility called Zaporizhzhya, has been under attack in recent days. Russian forces have occupied the plant, but it’s still run by Ukrainians. While the world sleepwalks toward nuclear disaster, no one knows what the hell is actually going on in the ZZZ plant. The situation is metaphysically mind-blowing, given the Chernobyl disaster, which of course also occurred in Ukraine. Resurrecting irony, the main architect of the invasion of Iraq, the “global war on terror” and the present world disorder, Dick Cheney, has, in the words of former Defense Secretary William Cohen, gone “from Darth Vader to Yoda” due to his denunciation of Donald Trump yesterday. As much as I’m trying to resist the cliché, talk about the pot calling the kettle black! Bush/Cheney represented a monumental missed historical opportunity for accountability. President Obama swept the unprovoked war against Iraq, and the systematic, franchised torture of prisoners under American direction and with American methods, under the rug. Now the political and punditry class is hand wringing over whether to hold the fascist-in-waiting, Donald Trump, accountable for his political crimes. Which is worse, crimes against humanity, or crimes against American democracy? Meanwhile, China practices invading Taiwan after Pelosi poked the panda by her witless, unnecessary visit to the island. While the Chinese people, whipped into nationalist frenzy by Xi and the CCP, call for blood, Taiwanese flock to the beaches to watch the military displays during picnics. Man, the fragmenting, incorrigible hominid, has reached his logical, mad conclusion. Something has to give. If we’re to survive as a species, national sovereignty and the tribalistic identification with particular groups must end.
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Martin LeFevre, a contemplative, philosopher and writer in northern California, serves as a contributing writer for The Seoul Times. His "Meditations" explore and offer insights on spiritual, philosophical and political questions in the global society. LeFevre's philosophical thesis proposes a new theory of human nature. He welcomes dialogue. email@example.com
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