Monday, December 3, 2007

Conservatives and Hiroshima, then and now

Leo Maley III and Uday Mohan have an interesting essay on History News Network today: Conservative Revisionists and Hiroshima. Maley has taught at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and the University of Maryland, College Park, and Mohan is the director of research for the Nuclear Studies Institute, American University. They begin:

When Paul Tibbets, pilot of the plane that dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima 62 years ago, died earlier this month, conservative commentators responded true to form.

They declared Tibbets to be a hero. They stridently defended the use of the atomic bomb. And they took the opportunity to denounce any and all critics of the atomic bombing of Japanese cities as “left-wingers,” “self-haters,” “wacko communists,” “ultraliberal Americans,” “idealistic fools,” and (one of our favorites) “peace-at-any-pricers and ban-the-bombers.”

Such free use of epithets by conservatives to characterize anyone who disagrees with them on this issue poisons public debate, delays the day when many Americans will grapple with the consequences of having used nuclear weapons, and distorts history.

Mainstream American conservatives—not leftists, as we are led to believe—have been among the most vocal critics of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Consider the following:

On August 8, 1945, two days after the bombing, former Republican President Herbert Hoover wrote to a friend that "[t]he use of the atomic bomb, with its indiscriminate killing of women and children, revolts my soul."

Days later, David Lawrence, the conservative owner and editor of U.S. News (now U.S. News & World Report), argued that Japan's surrender had been inevitable without the atomic bomb. He added that justifications of "military necessity" will "never erase from our minds the simple truth that we, of all civilized nations . . . did not hesitate to employ the most destructive weapon of all times indiscriminately against men, women and children."

The rest is here.
Photo credit: first atomic bomb test.