Monday, August 6, 2007


Another August 6th. Hiroshima was 62 years ago today. Maybe we should retire it. It's getting old, the guilt. But I've been over that ground before. "I try to be a cold man. Nagasaki? Hiroshima? Tough. Don’t bomb Pearl Harbor and your babies won’t be incinerated. This is, and is likely to remain, my opinion." Yes, it remains my opinion, these 362 days later. It's my opinion, just from the math of the matter.

Kido Koichi, a high officials in wartime Japan, testified later that he believed the August surrender prevented 20 million Japanese casualties. And as I wrote not too long ago, "An argument has been made that [the bombs] saved five million lives. US Army Intelligence underestimated Imperial airpower by five times. 'Every village had some type of aircraft manufacturing activity. Hidden in mines, railway tunnels, under viaducts and in basements of department stores, work was being done to construct new planes.' Japanese defense plans called for 'an initial force of 2,000 army and navy fighters ... to fight to the death to control the skies over Kyushu. A second force of 330 navy combat pilots were to attack the main body of the task force ... [and] a third force of 825 suicide planes was to hit the American transports. ...another 2,000 suicide planes were to be launched in waves of 200 to 300, to be used in hour by hour attacks.' And so on. And on. And on. You gotta respect the Japanese, as I am reminded each week on a variable schedule. But if the fighting had gone to that extreme, it would have continued to a genocide. I expect so. Three options: kill, die, or surrender. Lo, a Japanese national slogan of the day: One Hundred Million Will Die for the Emperor and Nation.

"But the symbolism, the symbolism of the bomb -- you just can't get around that. ... What would we do if we couldn't blame America?"

The universe breaks down into forces and particles. Well, not really. It is whatever it is. We conceptualize it as forces and particles. It's probably true that there are no particles. As for force, that's just a word that means something gets moved. What is it that's moving, if there are no particles? It could get very confusing. Where can we find clarity? By assuming there are particles and forces, regardless of the truth of the matter. It is a compromise. We have to agree with illusion in order to live in reality. It works out to a lucid dream, from which we wake only when the brain becomes irrelevant. So it seems to me.

So what? War is forces and particles. Utopian fantasies aside, we know from a diligent observation of human behavior that there will always be conflict -- as long as there is such a thing as human nature. You know it's true. Look at yourself. The private anger, the unspoken rage -- the ranting you do alone in your car -- it will not always be private. Jesus -- a man for whom humanity holds a general respect -- said that the poor will always be with us, and that until the end of time there will be wars and rumors of war. See? Individuals have a fate, and humanity has a fate. We are the slaves of our character -- part of which includes an urge to war.

Hiroshima signifies victory, and the high cost of defeat. Are there unintended consequences? It's a stupid question. There are always unintended consequences. I hung by my ankles yesterday, and a faulty two by four snapped in a freak accident and I fell 20 inches head-first onto cement. Directly onto my skull. That, my dear sir or madam, was an unintended consequence. After all my careful safety precautions. The intended consequence of whatever malevolent spirit behind the problem was that I be killed or crippled. I have a small knot on my skull. I have a hard head, apparently, and a strong neck. My own intended consequence was that I decompress my spine, undoing some possible theoretical disk issue. How ironic. I have redoubled my safety precautions, and will continue to hang. Isn't this an interesting story?

We didn't mean for there to be radiation poisoning. We didn't mean for there to be a nuclear arms race and the threat of the destruction of civilization. We didn't mean for there to be over forty years of anxiety about such things, and then a clintonesque holiday from responsibility, and then a renewed and more irrational threat with its concomitant anxiety. We didn't mean for our victory to be polluted by ambiguity, so that it would fuel hatred toward us by our own disloyal leftists, and by every petty non-American anti-American demagogue who needed to whip up his subjects at the thought of a Great Enemy. We didn't want to be an enemy. But we will continue to be the people we are, and exercise the character that we have, and live with the consequences.

Consequences, intended or otherwise. But there it is. We cannot apologize for winning. The Japanese ran slave labor camps and conducted wholesale massacres. It is good that we won. We should be sorry for it?

Let's not regret reality. This is the best of all possible worlds. That it is also the worst of all possible worlds will not discourage us. Nobody gets out of here alive. What lies beyond, we can only trust to faith, to comfort us. While we are here, we must act with integrity as best we can, and apologize when we err, and make amends.

Our enemies, at home and abroad, mistake our kindness and our charity for a guilty heart and blood money. Only the guilty need concern themselves with that. As for the bomb, we will drop it again, if there is a greater good to be won from it -- as determined by the math. After all, the precedent has been set. Set by the generation that saved the world. We can save the world too. Perhaps by lighting candles and joining hands. Perhaps by being stern and fierce and unrelenting. Wouldn't it be nice if it could be the former? If human nature were different, I mean?

But it is what it is.


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