74 years ago by the United States dropped the only two atomic bombs exploded in war on cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Today, recalling those events, remember that the US still refuses to renounce a strategy of first-strike use of its nuclear arsenal. This has me pondering two questions that should raise enormous doubts in our minds as to the motives and morals of this “exceptional” nation of ours.
The first question involves the claim that the Manhattan Project, a hugely expensive crash program to develop the atomic bomb, was about preventing Nazi Germany from getting it first. To be sure, the project began shortly after Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard wrote their famous 1939 letter warning President Roosevelt that the Germans, perhaps with the assistance of the brilliant German Nobel physicist Werner Heisenberg, might be trying to develop an atomic bomb and that the U.S. had better develop it first.
It was, indeed, this scary scenario that convinced many very otherwise humanistic physicists in the U.S. and among European exiles in the U.S., to join an effort that they knew could produce a weapon terrible beyond imagination.
And certainly, there was validity to the argument. The Nazis having such a bomb, and the Allies having nothing to respond to it with, would be too awful to contemplate. And yet the U.S. response given that concern, seems very peculiar.
Every effort was made by Robert Oppenheimer, head of the Manhattan Project, to recruit the best minds in physics and engineering to the cause of developing an American atom bomb, including scientists in the U.K. and even German scientists like Klaus Fuchs, a young Communist physicist who had fled the Nazis. Talent was so scarce that he even hired talented students out of college, like Ted Hall, a rising senior physics major at Harvard only 18 years of age. But while Russia too had lots of top physicists too (physics has long been a kind of contact sport in Russia, even back under the last Tsar), no thought was given, even though the Soviet Union was America’s ally against Germany, to inviting those brilliant scientists — people like Yuri B. Khariton, Igor Kurchatov and Anatoly Alexandrov — to join in the crash program to “beat the Germans” to the bomb.
Does this make any sense at all? If there were a real fear that the Germans were likely to obtain the atomic bomb before the U.S. and British, wouldn’t any sane person have decided it was critical to seek help from the Russians, whose excellent and ground-breaking work on atomic fission was well known in scientific circles?
Instead, every effort was made to keep both the Germans and the Soviets in the dark about the very existence of the Manhattan Project. Common sense suggests that even if the program was started because of fear of a German bomb, by late ’44 the Germans had largely been pushed back into Eastern Europe and out of Soviet territory after suffering disastrous losses, and the U.S. was about to join the European war in earnest with the D-Day landings. It was already clear by then that the Third Reich was doomed. And with allied planes bombing Germany’s factories and military installations, so was any threat of its producing a nuclear bomb.
Japan too was in a hopeless position, with the systematic destruction of its cities by aerial bombing having begun in January of ’44. The Imperial Navy was largely wiped out in the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June 1944, leaving the island without access to oil, coal or other necessities of modern warfare. As well, its air defenses were largely destroyed even on the home islands, leaving US bombers free to bomb Japan at will.
Concluding the War against both countries was just a matter of time, and would not have required the landing of American troops and the fighting for every inch of Japanese territory — the nightmare scenario that American propaganda offers up. The country could have been starved into submission, A-bomb or no A-bomb, certainly before winter.
In fact, by the time the two bombs, one made from U-235 and one from Plutonium, were ready to test on two Japanese cities, it was getting hard for the U.S. military to select adequate targets, since most, including Tokyo, Yokohama and other major metropolises, had already been devastated by incendiary bombs.
So why were the two atom bombs dropped?
I know it’s still controversial to say this, but the logic seems clear: The bombs were dropped as a warning to the Soviets that the U.S. had a superweapon and they should think twice before trying to send the Red Army to take over Europe or Japan. Two of them were dropped demonstrate both types of bomb on real cities lest the Japanese surrender before the second bomb, the Plutonium one, could be used.
I have no doubt there was also the hope that the bombs might induce the Japanese government to surrender immediately, but quite arguably, that surrender had as much or more to do with Japanese fears that the Soviets, the war on the European Eastern Front over, had begun their march on Japan. And given the longstanding Russian grudge at having lost the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, the Japanese certainly did not want to end up being occupied by the Red Army.
I would follow that hypothesis up with a second question: If the U.S. came out of World War II as it did with a four-year monopoly on the atomic bomb, Germany and Japan having been destroyed, and believing that the Soviets were at least 10 years away from producing their own bomb, why did the US, after Japan’s surrender, immediately launch a program to mass-produce its new weapon? According to a chart of Pentagon nuclear war plans published by nuclear physicist/co-authors Michio Kaku and Daniel Axelrod (see To Win a Nuclear War, South End Books, 1987), by December 1945, the U.S. had two new essentially hand-made atomic bombs in its arsenal. By June 1946, it was up to nine bombs. By March 1948, the total was up to 35 bombs and 50 by later that year. Then things really began to accelerate as the bombs began to be mass produced, with 150 in December 1948, 250 in early 1949 (the year the Russians, in August, detonated their own first bomb), and finally 450 bombs in 1950.
Remember, until late 1948, the U.S. didn’t even know that the Russians had penetrated Los Alamos, or that they’d obtained detailed information and diagrammatic plans for the two U.S. bombs. So what was the Truman administration’s and the Pentagon’s intention in having so many atomic bombs stockpiled and ready to use at a time when there was not another country in the world with even one bomb?
The answer of course, was that it was planning on using them when the using was easy. (It didn’t need hundreds of bombs to blackmail the Soviet Union. A few, or the dropping of one, would have accomplished that.)
And as I wrote earlier, the only possible target was clearly the USSR. The only reason that epic holocaust didn’t happen was that the Pentagon argued that they’d need 300 bombs and hundreds of B-29s and B-36s to deliver them in order to destroy 200 cities and ensure the destruction of the Soviet Union. And it took until December 1949 for them to get to that number.
We shouldn’t be surprised at this U.S. obsession with destroying the Soviet Union. The USSR’s tenuous position as an American ally during the War was a transient affair. Indeed, many believe that the U.S. deliberately delayed D-Day for a year of more to allow the Red Army to get bloodied and chewed up by Germany’s best Wehrmacht forces before having U.S. ground troops enter the final battle. Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill even proposed to Roosevelt in early 1945 that the U.S. and Britain turn around immediately after the German defeat and launch a surprise attack the occupying Red Army in Germany, with a goal of pushing it back from Europe and moving on to crush the Communist regime in Moscow with the aid of 100,000 captive Wehrmacht troops. These, Churchill proposed, could be rearmed and repurposed for the treacherous plan he called “Operation Unthinkable.” (Roosevelt, fortunately, rejected the proposal, as the U.S. was still engaged in the Pacific Theater.)
But that doesn’t mean the U.S. didn’t desire the destruction of the Soviet state, which it had opposed from the beginning, even dispatching 15,000 Marines in 1918 to support White Russian forces in the post-Revolution Russian Civil War.
I’m not suggesting that Stalin wasn’t a vicious tyrant, or that the Soviet state under his rule was any kind of model to be copied. But none of that — particularly in a nation where the people have no say in the actions of their government — can justify launching a war that would kill tens of millions of civilians.
I’m sure there will be many who will object that these theories of mine are unsupportable speculation. I readily agree that is true. But unless such critics can come up with good counter-explanation for why Russian scientists weren’t asked to join in the crash program to develop an atomic bomb before Germany, and for why the U.S., alone with the bomb, began mass-producing its horrific new weapon after the war when there was no place to justifiably use it, then I think it’s fair to say that the documented pathological hostility of the U.S. towards the Soviet state dating back to its inception and the development of plans for its total destruction even while WWII was still underway, should argue for taking them seriously.
It’s fair to to ask why the US now wants a Space Force, anti-ballistic missiles ringing Russia, a pull-out from the INF treaty that has been keeping pinpoint-accuracy medium-range missiles away from Russia’s vicinity, where they could otherwise be used to strike Russian targets in minutes, and a huge fleet of hundreds of nuclear-capable super stealthy F-35s based along Russia’s borders.
No wonder Russia is developing a virtually unstoppable hypersonic nuclear capable cruise missile, useless as a first-strike weapon against a target as remote as the U.S. because of its long flight time to destination, but a wonderful weapon for ensuring a devastating retaliation to any surprise U.S. attack.