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Author Topic: American History  (Read 30194 times)
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Bob
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« Reply #1995 on: February 22, 2008, 10:30:42 PM »

Quite an interesting discussion, especially about he morality of using the bomb. In discussing the issue one has to be careful not to get Whiggish about it--that is, not to end up reading history backwards. In other words, as we see it now there are great moral issues involved. We know that because we know the end results of both Hiroshima and Nagaski and we know the horrors of the Bomb in general. 60 years have gone by and we are close to the Japanese and perhaps a bit more compassionate concerning their welfare. All of these things affect our thinking and our judgement, and that's very natural.

But to judge the morality of the issue, ought we not to take history forward--that is, look at the situation as it existed in the minds of the leaders of the era. In spite of Oppenheimer's preoccupations with regard to using the weapon on a  near defeated nation and on civilians, did the people who made the  decision look at it quite that way? 

Certainly we knew and the Japanese knew the end was near---the question was how near and at what cost and, in particular, at at what cost to whom? Would it take an invasion and attacks lasting many months, a few months or a few weeks? How many would die on our side? (We certainly didn't care how many Japanese would die). We had already fire-bombed Tokyo and Dresden and Hamburg, so we  certainly had no qualms about civilian deaths--that was now common and accepted. Does anybody really think we would not have fire-bombed cities such as Hiroshima and Nagaski? Would it make a moral difference if the hundred thousand and more died over a longer period of time (a month, say, rather than instantly)? Or is  it horror of the instrument itself which puts morality way up there? In any case, looking at it in a "forward" rather than a "whiggish" manner, the case for the takes on a different hue.  Did anybody really think, as Oppenheimer said he thought, about the little children and the otherwise innocent? Should they have? Or were they rather thinking about how many Americans were about to die and how we could cut our losses and get it over with ASAP?  We dested the Japanese and thought them animal, barbaric scum--not worthy of any consideration.

Think of the outrage if it  had been found out that we DIDN'T use the Bomb and it cost, say, 200,000 American deaths? They would have strung up HST. That would be the dispute today instead of the morality of using the instrument as we did.

After the war was over we could see all the more clearly that the end was near. It may have been evident, but it wasn't as evident as it was after the fact.

Remember the collapse of the Soviet Union? T'wasn't as evident then as it is now? End pieces in history alway look inevitable after they happen. In reality they weren't so evident the day before they happened.
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Bob
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« Reply #1996 on: February 22, 2008, 10:43:10 PM »

J Edgar Hoover was obsessed with fighting Communism. He saw a Red behind every tree. There might be a reason for this. In the Red Scare of he Twenties Hoover was in midde management in the FBI (The Bureau of Investigation, as it was then known). The roundups, especially the Palmer Raids, were organized and implimented by Hoover. That is how he got the Directorship--so Red Fighting was always near and dear to his heart. And, yes, he really did thing the thought was enough to convict a man, just like they do today. For a good rendition of the Palmer Raids, a la Hoover, read  YOUNG J EDGAR--it is a very interesting book. (There's another Hoover book out, HOOVER AND ROBERT KENNEDY, I think).

Hoover used to think of Douglas MacArthur as the most dangerous man in America--the reality is the two were a pair. By the way, did anyone ever inform Dugout Doug  about the bomb, or did he read about in the paper--over tea?  (In defense of the dear guy, he did a great job in democratizing Japan).
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Bob
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« Reply #1997 on: February 22, 2008, 10:57:14 PM »

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&EAN=9780786717750&itm=2

YOUNG J EDGAR

In defense of J. Edgar, it was well known among the higher ups in security that Oppenheimer was associated with Communists and contributing to Fellow Travelling organizations. So it shouldn't be surprising Hoover kept an eye on him.

To show you how bad it was during the 50's when I was in high school, I ordered a copy of the Socialist World (a  newspaper out of NY) to help me in a paper I was doing for my history class. It was confiscated and I was interviewed by a Postal inspector---then I got the newspaper (but only after they were assured I wasnt a 14 year old Communist out to sell secrets to the Reds)
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thanatopsy
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« Reply #1998 on: February 23, 2008, 12:09:42 AM »

``Remember the collapse of the Soviet Union? T'wasn't as evident then as it is now?``


There had been some discussion as to the possibility of the Soviet Union's collapse but it was largely ignored.

People such as Robert Conquest, Andrei Amalrik, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan among others said that the SU would first break down and then socialism would be dissolved. Back in the 60s, I remember discussions among scholars who argued that all talk of the SU's invincibility was intended to create war profits via the warfare state. Eisenhower's warnings about the Military Industrial Complex were still very much on people's  minds and some knew that communism's sterility and ineffectiveness would eventually kill off the SU.  Unfortunately, not many people spoke out openly about it so that the war hysteria that was so prominent back then stimulated many in Congress to give tons of money to the MIC.

The warfare state was another issue discussed in Prometheus as the Manhattan Project cost the Treasury a lot of $$$.  And, of course, the Cold War did the same and generated huge profits for the wealthy elites who own the MIC.
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johnr60
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« Reply #1999 on: February 23, 2008, 12:31:52 AM »

Bob:  re 2005

As politely as I know how:  Childish, Machiavellian, but patriotic
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Dzimas
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« Reply #2000 on: February 23, 2008, 02:25:51 AM »

Bob, they all knew the moral consequences of the bomb, including Groves, which was one of the reasons Groves didn't want Bohr on board, as Bohr saw it as the ultimate bomb for peace.  The authors discuss this in great depth.  Oppenheimer seemed to switch gears after Bohr's arrival.  Both wanted to see the bomb built and detonated, but neither wanted to see it used against people.

I suppose the Dresden firebombing isn't much less immoral than the bombings Hiroshima and Nagasaki took, and it too remains an indelible memory for many Germans.  Two wrongs don't make a right, as the saying goes.  In addition to Slaughterhouse 5, there is Sebald's thought-provoking book, On the Natural History of Destruction, and Gunter Grass has dealt with the subject as well.  But, one could go back and say the same of Sherman burning Atlanta.  Acts like these are meant to serve a Machiavellian purpose, as John implied, especially when they occur at the tail end of a war that is pretty much decided. 

I seriously doubt the US would have lost 200,000 more lives in WWII, if Japan had drug the war on a little while longer.  As it was the US lost roughly 400,000 soldiers in the war, most of those in the European theater.  Japan lost 600,000 civilians in addition to over 2 million soldiers.  I think they were ready to call it quits.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2008, 03:00:48 AM by Dzimas » Logged
bosox18d
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« Reply #2001 on: February 23, 2008, 03:07:17 AM »

The Japanese Military was not ready to call it quits and that is documented.Intelligence shows the Japanese Military was not ready to quit after the first bomb was dropped.Invading Japan would no doubt have been costly in loss of life and other areas of the Pacific would have been affected to a small degree by it also leading to more loss of life.
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Dzimas
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« Reply #2002 on: February 23, 2008, 04:17:50 AM »

The Japanese Military was not ready to call it quits and that is documented.Intelligence shows the Japanese Military was not ready to quit after the first bomb was dropped.Invading Japan would no doubt have been costly in loss of life and other areas of the Pacific would have been affected to a small degree by it also leading to more loss of life.

This is the conventional wisdom that has been passed down over the years, but isn't necessarily true.

An interesting site on The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II,

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB162/index.htm

loaded with primary sources.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2008, 04:19:47 AM by Dzimas » Logged
madupont
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« Reply #2003 on: February 23, 2008, 11:45:55 AM »

I have to agree with you, Dzimas. The further we get away from the propaganda useful to the time, to convince our politic public in that era, the more research by historians has been accumulating since it remains an ever important question to each new incoming-generation of students.

Which means that I'd hardly call it "revisionist". I think people are actively concerned about the use of such a weapon again and needed the information or they would have said, hell with it,let's just have a little toke and enjoy ourselves while we can, hedonists all and die.

I read the W.G. Sebald almost immediately because I had those German,Austrian,Swiss contacts at nytimes.com Western Europe, to ask questions in discussion as much as I dared and they were usually even more forthcoming in their archived computer files on hand which they would sling back revealing other areas of the post war which we were less likely to be aware of, particularly in my age group as we were too young before the information was revealed and then went on with our lives. They too were young, younger than I am, so they wanted answers.

Sebald himself is a perfect example of that phenomena; as was Peter Handke (but they of course are  or were, in Sebald's case, in two different disciplines).

Something that became clearer, in the context of: On the Natural History of Destruction, was that Sebald revealed that the Germans having intense  pervasive guilt complex not only as individuals, and I am not going to say that it was the entire cultural group of survivors of that generation and the generations since (because many parents refused to discuss it, and many educators eliminated and reprogrammed) but I will call it an example of "enmasse complex" for what happened politically, then repressed but felt too guilty to claim," We Too Suffered ", with Dresden in mind.  I did know about Dresden since childhood but not to the extent of what it really involved.

Strangely enough, or not, they as Germans claimed that it was the fault of the English for the mass fire storms in German cities.  So harboring these contrary feelings that they could not disentangle, part major guilt, and part extreme anger compounded by angst,  they kept this for the decades of the cold war, the following economic recovery, as you would notice, beyond the fall of the wall in Berlin and, when you really think about that passage of time, into the new Millenium. That's a long time. And it's a dangerous emotional mixture.  It has since led to a very young generation actively neo-nazi. Sort of the kinsmen of the immediate post war Piraten youth who sabotaged the joint allied occupation staff.

On the other hand our own body politic seems to prefer an attitude that everything is fine, we are in no danger, with less awareness that we've some major fallout with our former European allies pervasively in less than a decade. So that the issue of Foreign Policy is much less important in their "feelings" of what will be important in the current campaign season and upcoming elections.

Anyway, likewise at the moment, I am less concerned with Ms.Merkel and her preventative measures to keep Tony Blair out of her nest at EU by declaring himself perfectly available for the presidency there, now that he has sullied his reputation in the UK and despite the British attitude until now that "who needs the EU? We in the UK,certainly don't!).

Maybe I'm more concerned with Sarkozy remaking France in the image of Bush, as France desires "rapproachment" with a new US government.

But momentarily, I'm dealing with:Why They Hate Japan.

The Making of the "Rape of Nanking": History and Memory in Japan,China and the United States.

Will be able to comment further on this later and perhaps in another forum.

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Bob
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« Reply #2004 on: February 23, 2008, 02:49:19 PM »

Dzimas: I don't think they were as quite ready to quit as we would think. From my readings the military were all too ready to continue. as to the morality of using the bomb, not as much thought went into it then as it did after the fact. I readily acknowlege the doubts and concerns of the scientists involved--they were witness to the creation, indeed, they were the creators.as to the military and the civilians outside of the Manhattan Project, not too much thought went into moral issues--more went into military issues. I rather doubt there was  ever a thought NOT to use the gadget--the only concerns seemed to be when and where and under what circumstances, not if.

Regarding estimates of casualities flowing from the proposed invasion, I see your pint. I got out  8 or 10 books to track down Admiral Leahey's figure of 238,000, only to find a hodge podge of figures coming from all directions-some as low as 13,000 (George Marshall). It's interesting  the high and low figures come from the two men Truman  considered most highly. In any case, my thoughts on the moralty of the decision to drop the bomb remain even without the high figure. The questions I posed remain.

By the time of Hiroshima & Nagasaki the rules of war had altered and civilian deaths, regardless of the voiced concerns of the military and political leaders concerned, became more and more meaningless. The face of war had changed.
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Bob
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« Reply #2005 on: February 23, 2008, 02:58:38 PM »

By the way, there are three good books covering the subject: THE DECISION TO USE THE ATOMIC BOMB by Gar Alperovitz; DOWNFALL: THE END OF THE IMPERIAL JAPANESE EMPIRE by Richard B. Frank; and FIVE DAYS IN AUGUST by Michael Griffin. The Griffin book is split new. It's short, and had my wallet been a bit heavier, I would have bought it on the spot--but it'll now have to wait until next Thursday.
   In any case these books cover both sides of the issue and will give anyone studying the issue  well rounded versions of both sides --- and will surely confuse the hell out of you in trying to decide who said what to whom when.
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weezo
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« Reply #2006 on: February 23, 2008, 03:20:39 PM »

Bob,

I would guess that as the countries involved took less and less concern on civilians killed, the fuel for the Geneva Conventions went up. Sadly, although we led the way to these conventions, in recent years we are one of the countries that disdain them. What could be done to provide a clear "consequence" for country leaders who ignore these conventions? Should they be subject to trial for "war crimes". If so, it would seem that some of our current leaders could be sitting in the defendent's seat. But, without the US supporting such a consequence, how likely is it to come about?
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madupont
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« Reply #2007 on: February 23, 2008, 05:31:53 PM »

Bob,

I would guess that as the countries involved took less and less concern on civilians killed, the fuel for the Geneva Conventions went up. Sadly, although we led the way to these conventions, in recent years we are one of the countries that disdain them. What could be done to provide a clear "consequence" for country leaders who ignore these conventions? Should they be subject to trial for "war crimes". If so, it would seem that some of our current leaders could be sitting in the defendent's seat. But, without the US supporting such a consequence, how likely is it to come about?


Yes, they should be (I just posted in Theater forum about how this happened to the son of Churchill's cabinet minister to India).

I'd known for some time that Bush had taken measures to protect himself at the EU headquarters in Brussels, as well as his most notable henchmen in his administration (although a couple of them are no longer in service); and although I knew of a man in Manhattan who has been just waiting to prosecute the lot of them for crimes against humanity, if they can be brought before the Court, I was shocked to learn in just the last two days quite a bit more about the wording of the document Bush submitted and that they had signed off on prosecuting him.  I don't know the full details of the status on this; and I have been looking for several hours to find where I read this article in the British Press, I should think, but it may be in the last two days of the The New York Times.
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johnr60
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« Reply #2008 on: February 23, 2008, 08:18:06 PM »

Quote
The questions I posed remain.

Not to me they dont.

 It appears as though you want to decide the morality of the issue, based on what's in the mind of the protagonists.  Beside the fact that we can never know what's "in the mind", it simply isn't good ethics.  Should we accept
the bombing in Oklahoma City because the guy thought he was right?

The Japanese were ready to surrender, regardless of what the military wanted.  They simply had no one and nothing to fight with.  The surrender talks were stymied by their insistence on keeping their godlike puppet Emperor.  Something that we for some reason could not grant. 

I can go on but I'll stop here.
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nytempsperdu
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« Reply #2009 on: February 23, 2008, 10:42:38 PM »

Well, I must say I've never been called "Whiggish" before, and I've never heard that word applied as above, but from what I (dimly) recall, I think I prefer it to "Tory-ish."   Smiley

Quote
``Remember the collapse of the Soviet Union? T'wasn't as evident then as it is now?``
  I'm tempted to say that, to some theorists, neither was the survival of capitalism, however "mixed," adapted and more-or-less regulated. 

Even before there were those who considered using the bomb immoral because of the huge number of deaths of innocents/civilians, there were those who, at least until it was tested, considered it too horrible to contemplate because it might very well mean the end of the world, all of it.  That's a fascinating aspect of the story to me. 

weezo:  I thought it was a good question, too, but it didn't always come up.  In our class debates, it was posited that the bomb had been tested, and the US had several options, ranging from quietly shelving it and continuing with the war as it was (using estimates of time 'til the end and losses of life, military and non-), using it without warning on military sites, using it with or without warning on non-military or mixed sites, to setting off a demonstration bomb in an unpopulated area to be viewed by Japanese officials who could then decide whether to continue the war, to be followed by use in one of the above ways if they would not surrender.   Mind, these classes were in ABQ, which has a military base (Sandia Labs) and is roughly halfway between Los Alamos and Trinity site (no, we didn't do field trips).   
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