On the 70th Anniversary of the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Nuclear Horror

Issued by Office of the Chairperson
International League of Peoples’ Struggles (ILPS)
August 6, 2015

We, the International League of Peoples’ Struggle, join the peoples of the world in commemorating the 70th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan at the tail end of World War II. It is fitting to draw lessons from that tragedy and apply them to the current anti-imperialist and democratic struggles of the people in Asia-Pacific and elsewhere.

On August 6 and 9, 1945, the United States dropped two nuclear fission bombs quaintly named Little Boy and Fat Man carrying the combined explosive force of 40 kilotons of TNT on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively, practically wiping the two cities off the map. Even now, seven decades later, it still overwhelms to contemplate how two thickly populated cities, of only marginal military value, could be instantly obliterated with the press of a button.

The estimates of people killed in the nuclear inferno range from 130,000 to 240,000 people—mostly civilians, and half of them killed outright on the day of the blast itself. The rest suffered the excruciating effects of radiation sickness, burns, injuries, and other complications before they died the following months amidst the chaotic aftermath. The 260,000 other survivors coped with many other short-term and long-term social, economic, and health impacts of nuclear devastation—including high rates of cancer and birth defects.

The nuclear attack on Japan can be seen as the brutal but logical climax of the US bombing strategy towards the end of the war, both in Europe and Asia. The strategic objective was to destroy the enemy’s war industry and kill or disable its civilian employees, who were considered combatants. In the six months before Hiroshima and Nagasaki, US planes had already firebombed 67 other Japanese cities, with increasing civilian casualties. The firebombing of Tokyo alone, on the night of March 9–10, 1945, killed at least 100,000 people and destroyed 270,000 buildings and homes.

The terrible civilian carnage in Hiroshima, Nagasaki and other firebombed Japanese cities, at that time, was blunted by the general hatred of Japanese imperialism for its countless crimes in the many countries it attacked and occupied from 1937 to 1945, and also by the euphoric but false belief that the nuclear attacks had helped hasten the war’s end, with Japan’s formal surrender a week later.

However, historical evidence is clear that Japan would have surrendered soon anyway, even had the bombs not been dropped and even if no Allied invasion of Japan was planned and implemented. This was later admitted by many US civilian and military top brass themselves, including then Generals Dwight Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur, Curtis LeMay and George Marshall, and Admiral William Leahy. Soviet forces had launched a ground attack on Manchuria in the same week of the nuclear blasts, preparatory to the final thrust into Japan.

The real objectives of US imperialism in dealing a nuclear coup de grace on an already prone Japan was to lay exclusive claim to victory in the Asia-Pacific war, to preempt the Soviet Union from blocking its hegemonic maneuvers in post-war Europe and Asia, and to bully the rest of the world (especially the armed liberation movements in China, Indochina, and elsewhere) with its newest toy.

Thus US imperialism emerged unscathed from the war, became the biggest nuclear power, engaged the Soviet Union in an extended Cold War and escalating arms race, and provided a nuclear umbrella to its former enemies Germany and Japan. The US later went into strategic decline since 1975 while the Soviet Union imploded in 1990-91. Yet, amidst global power realignments from the 1990s onwards, the threat of nuclear annihilation at the hands of imperialist madmen continues to hang over the world.

The US record of being the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons in warfare remains unmatched, so far. It remains a monstrous anomaly in the writing of history by partisans of US imperialism that the US and Truman have committed with impunity the most unnecessary massacre of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.

Despite disarmament treaties, there are still in the world today 16,000 nuclear warheads held by nine countries, with 94 percent held by the US and Russia in rough parity, and with the US spending more on its nuclear arsenal than all other countries combined. The most powerful type (B83) is capable of destroying 57 Nagasakis, and even a tactical-nuke type (less than 100 kilotons) could wipe out a small city or big swaths of populated areas.

Japan, despite the ghosts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, has been hosting US bases that carry nuclear weapons. Such bases could serve as launching pads for nuclear attacks on US adversaries, and at the same time serve as magnets for similar attacks from any of these adversaries. Japan, despite the ghost of Fukushima, persists in depending on extremely hazardous modes of nuclear power generation. It has built up enough stocks of plutonium and enough technical knowhow to produce 5,000 nuclear bombs within two years or less.

Thus, despite the treaty on nuclear non-proliferation and Article 9 of its peace constitution, there is increasing pressure for Japan to join the nuclear club. Under the rightist Abe regime, Japanese militarism is enjoying an unprecedented resurgence. Its current military buildup enjoys the support of US imperialism in line with the latter’s strategic pivot to East Asia. All these show that the Japanese imperialists have not learned from history.

The US has also not learned from the historical lesson that Japan was once the fugleman of Anglo-American imperialism in Asia in the 1920s, only to lust for its own empire and launch aggressive wars, first in China in 1937 and throughout the Asia-Pacific in 1941. Now the US is again conjoining with Japan to contain China and perpetuate US hegemony in East Asia.

The ILPS condemns the US and Japan for riding on the dispute between China and the Philippines over the latter’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Extended Continental Shelf in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), as pretext for seeking to reestablish and even expand US military bases and access to other facilities in the Philippines. This scheme is being pushed with the complicity of Philippine president Benigno Aquino III, grandson of the notorious pro-Japan collaborator Benigno Aquino I, and his defense chief Voltaire Gazmin.

While the ILPS opposes China for claiming 90 percent of the South China Sea with the 9-dash line, we support China’s claim over Diaoyu Islands (which Japan calls Senkaku) because these islands in the East China Sea truly are located within the EEZ of China (120 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan, 200 nautical miles east of the Chinese mainland) and were grabbed by Japan through imperialist acts of aggression in the past. It is hypocritical for the US and Japan to pretend protecting the Philippines and its EEZ in the West Philippine Sea but at the same collude in seeking to deprive China of its EEZ in the East China Sea.

The ILPS expresses its confidence that, in contrast to the militarists and their deepening hold on the Japanese state, the Japanese people have deeply internalized the lessons of World War II, especially of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki carnage. We support their determined struggles against imperialist war, militarism, and US bases and nuclear weapons within their territory.

On this occasion, we also reiterate our call for the people of Asia-Pacific and of other regions to resist all forms of imperialist aggression and nuclear bullying and blackmail, to further intensify their struggles for peace, democracy and national sovereignty, and to tirelessly work towards ensuring that Hiroshima and Nagasaki will never happen again. ###