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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

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NPR Highlights Atomic Bomb Cover-ups Probed by 'The Nation'

In the past 10 days I've written several articles for The Nation, marking the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Japan, all of them detailingwith some form of suppression or "cover-up" of certain facts, truths or images about the attacks and the aftermath.   Two of those articles are explored in separate but connected segments of NPR's popular weekly "On the Media" program.  

The segments, with Brooke Gladstone as narrator and interviewer,  have been posted online, even as they begin to air on public radio stations all over the country this weekend. You can listen now.

The first segment concerns the outright censorship of the first articles written from Nagasaki by an American reporter, carried out by the U.S. military, under the direction of Douglas MacArthur.  The articles, warning of "Disease X," by a well-regarded war correspondent George Weller, did not see the light of day for 60 years.  And see my article here.

The second segment probes the little-known story of the first Hollywood movie about the making, and using, of the first bomb, The Beginning or The End -- and how it started as a cautionery tale about a future arms race and other dangers and ended up as a glorification of The Bomb and its use against Japanese civilians.  President Truman himself played a key role in editing the final script.  The actor who played the president in the early takes was bounced after writing a critical letter to Truman.  See article here.

Much more about all of this can be found in the book I wrote with fellow Nation veteran Robert Jay Lifton, Hiroshima in America.

 

 

DAYBOOK for Friday: War 'Debacle,' Ebert & Hitchens, Arcade Fire, More

WELCOME TO DAYBOOK, our daily collection of media and politics hits/misses from a wide variety of sources plus fun videos and (and at the bottom) musical picks. Return for updates all day. Keep up with fresh items via @gregmitch at Twitter. E-mail me at: epic1934@aol.com. To increase type size hit the middle "A" above right.

AFTERNOON UPDATES

The Thrilla in Vanilla, round 3: Jennifer Aniston strikes back at Bill O’Reilly.

List of White House reporters at Obama lunch boycotted by NYT because off-the-record.

Matt Taibbi comments on LA Times article about how the new financial regulations won't make a significant impact on Goldman Sachs.

Atlas shrugs, drops globe: Man scrawls world's biggest message, visible from space; "Read Ayn Rand."

Eliz Warren, "The New Sheriff": RC Productions has produced a new western-themed music video hailing Warren as "the new sheriff" of Wall Street.

T.G.I.  FRIDAY ON THE LINKS

Massive NYT editorial on Afghan war  tough-minded but mainly just wants better explanations from Obama.  While same paper in news sectionShowcase Afghan Army Mission Turns Into Debacle.  Meanwhile, Army report on suicides reveals AWOLs up 234% since 2004.

Dr. Laura drops "N-word" a few times and suggests some people shouldn't marry outside their race.

Lawrence Lessig latest to smack Robert Gibbs for "professional Left vs. Obama" crack. Lessig says it's not that Obama is failing as a lefty--but as Obama. Warmed over "Clintonism" not enough.

Colbert tweets: "I was shocked Fox News had such old viewers considering all their young, hip ads for walk-in bathtubs and mesothelioma lawyers." 

Glenn Greenwald hits James Fallows for defending Jeffrey Goldberg piece on Israel attacking Iran.

My latest piece here on the Great Hiroshima Film Cover Up -- how U.S. suppressed for decades the key footage shot in the atomic cities by our own military crews.

NYT declines Obama's off-the-record lunch invitation. A dozen reporters attended Thursday's session.

TIME OFFQuestions from feminist group about author’s vested interests & accuracy of that Time cover story on Afghan women. Writer's husband has business ties in Afghanistan, and more.

DEATH MOSQUE?  Bryan Fischer, the "Director of Issues Analysis" for the American Family Association. Tells TPM that, "every single mosque is a potential terror training center or recruitment center for jihad," so therefore "you cannot claim first amendment protections if your religious organization is engaged in subversive activities."

THUMBS UP   Roger Ebert on Hitchens, cancer, death and God. As pastor puts $1 million bounty on the soul of Hitchens.

PALIN JOKE   Rep. Timothy Horrigan resigns from New Hampshire's House of Representatives due to joking remarks about Sarah Palin's death he made on Facebook. 

NO BIG LOSS  The usual: play by the rules and use your head --and suffer. NYT reports one of the great "paradoxes" of the recession: the more you borrowed foolishly the less likely you'll have to pay off much of it. 

BYTES & PIECES   Dan Ellsberg testifies at Iraq war protestor's trial.... Jonathan Franzen on cover of TIME this week, first living author in nearly a decade... Some doctors in Mass., to promote health and cut obesity, are handing patients coupons good to get apples at local farmers or orchards. 

--TODAY's LAFF

Hey, they've made big Hollywood flick about the founding of Facebook--and nothing on Twitter? This takes care of it:


--TODA'Y's MUSIC

Arcade Fire, a surprising #1 on the charts, visits The Daily Show with "Ready to Start," as the show sent off a second tune from their album.  

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Arcade Fire - Ready to Start
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

 

SPECIAL REPORT: Atomic Film Coverup—Key Footage from Hiroshima Buried for Decades

Those who defend the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki often claim their case is clear, obvious, airtight. One has to ask, then: If true, why did so much effort for so many years—from the government, the military, the media and even from the movie industry—go into keeping certain key facts and images about the bombings from the American people?

In articles here for the past week, to mark the sixty-fifth anniversary of the atomic attacks, I have explored elements of the wide-ranging "coverup" as it emerged from the White House, the military censors in Tokyo and in Hollywood. Now here's one of the most far-ranging, and significant, elements in the entire shaping of the "Hiroshima narrative."

In the weeks following the atomic attacks on Japan, and then for decades afterward, the United States engaged in airtight suppression of all film shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bombings. This included rare color footage shot by US military crews and Japanese newsreel teams.

The general public did not see any of the newsreel footage for twenty-five years, and the US military film remained hidden for nearly four decades. I first probed the coverup back in 1983, and developed it further in later articles and in my 1995 book with Robert Jay Lifton, Hiroshima in America and in a 2005 documentary Original Child Bomb.

As editor of Nuclear Times in the early 1980s, I met Herbert Sussan, one of the members of the US military film crew. The color US military footage would remain hidden until the early 1980s, and has never been fully aired. It rests today at the National Archives in College Park, Md., in the form of 90,000 feet of raw footage labeled #342 USAF. I have a VHS copy of most of it today.

When that footage finally emerged, I spoke with and corresponded with the man at the center of this drama: Lt. Col. Daniel A. McGovern, who directed the US military film-makers in 1945-1946, managed the Japanese footage, and then kept watch on all of the top-secret material for decades.

"I always had the sense," McGovern (left) told me, "that people in the Atomic Energy Commission were sorry we had dropped the bomb. The Air Force—it was also sorry. I was told by people in the Pentagon that they didn't want those [film] images out because they showed effects on man, woman and child.… They didn't want the general public to know what their weapons had done—at a time they were planning on more bomb tests. We didn't want the material out because…we were sorry for our sins."

Sussan, meanwhile, struggled for years to get some of the American footage aired on national TV, taking his request as high as President Truman, Robert F. Kennedy and Edward R. Murrow, to no avail.

More recently, McGovern declared that Americans should have seen the damage wrought by the bomb. "The main reason it was classified was…because of the horror, the devastation," he said. Because the footage shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was hidden for so long, the atomic bombings quickly sank, unconfronted and unresolved, into the deeper recesses of American awareness, as a costly nuclear arms race, and nuclear proliferation, accelerated.

In 2005, articles written by famed Chicago Daily News war correspondent George Weller about the effects of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki were finally published, in Japan, almost six decades after they had been spiked by US officials. (I wrote about that here a few days ago.) But suppressing film footage shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was even more significant, as this country rushed into the nuclear age with its citizens having neither a true understanding of the effects of the bomb on human beings, nor why the atomic attacks drew condemnation around the world. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower himself later said it was not necessary to hit Japan "with that awful thing."

The atomic cover-up also reveals what can happen in any country that carries out deadly attacks on civilians in any war (such as Japan's policy in China in World War II) and then keeps images of what occurred from its own people.

The Japanese Newsreel Footage

On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb over the center of Hiroshima, killing at least 70,000 civilians instantly and probably 50,000 more in the days and months to follow. Three days later, it exploded another atomic bomb over Nagasaki, slightly off target, killing 40,000 immediately and dooming tens of thousands of others. Within days, Japan had surrendered, and the US readied plans for occupying the defeated country—and documenting the first atomic catastrophe.

But the Japanese also wanted to study it. Within days of the second atomic attack, officials at the Tokyo-based newsreel company Nippon Eigasha discussed shooting film in the two stricken cities. In early September, just after the Japanese surrender, and as the American occupation began, director Sueo Ito set off for Nagasaki. There his crew filmed the utter destruction near ground zero and scenes in hospitals of the badly burned and those suffering from the lingering effects of radiation.

On Sept. 15, another crew headed for Hiroshima. When the first rushes came back to Toyko, Akira Iwasaki, the chief producer, felt "every frame burned into my brain," he later said.

At this point, the American public knew little about conditions in the atomic cities beyond Japanese assertions that a mysterious affliction was attacking many of those who survived the initial blasts (claims that were largely taken to be propaganda). Newspaper photographs of victims were non-existent, or censored. Life magazine would later observe that for years "the world…knew only the physical facts of atomic destruction."

Tens of thousands of American GIs occupied the two cities. Because of the alleged absence of residual radiation, no one was urged to take precautions. This remains perhaps the last little-told story of World War II.

Then, on October 24, 1945, a Japanese cameraman in Nagasaki was ordered to stop shooting by an American military policeman. His film, and then the rest of the 26,000 feet of Nippon Eisasha footage, was confiscated by the US General Headquarters (GHQ). An order soon arrived banning all further filming. It was at this point that Lt. Daniel McGovern took charge.

Shooting the US Military Footage

In early September, 1945, less than a month after the two bombs fell, Lt. McGovern—who as a member of Hollywood's famed First Motion Picture Unit shot some of the footage for William Wyler's "Memphis Belle"—had become one of the first Americans to arrive in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He was a director with the US Strategic Bombing Survey, organized by the Army the previous November to study the effects of the air campaign against Germany, and now Japan.

As he made plans to shoot the official American record, McGovern learned about the seizure of the Japanese footage. He felt it would be a waste to not take advantage of the newsreel footage, noting in a letter to his superiors that "the conditions under which it was taken will not be duplicated, until another atomic bomb is released under combat conditions."

McGovern proposed hiring some of the Japanese crew to edit and "caption" the material, so it would have "scientific value." He took charge of this effort in early January 1946, even as the Japanese feared that, when they were done, they would never see even a scrap of their film again.

At the same time, McGovern was ordered by General Douglas MacArthur on January 1, 1946 to document the results of the US air campaign in more than twenty Japanese cities. His crew would shoot exclusively on color film, Kodachrome and Technicolor, rarely used at the time even in Hollywood. McGovern assembled a crew of eleven, including two civilians. Third in command was a young lieutenant from New York named Herbert Sussan.

The unit left Tokyo in a specially outfitted train, and made it to Nagasaki. "Nothing and no one had prepared me for the devastation I met there," Sussan later told me. "We were the only people with adequate ability and equipment to make a record of this holocaust.… I felt that if we did not capture this horror on film, no one would ever really understand the dimensions of what had happened. At that time people back home had not seen anything but black-and-white pictures of blasted buildings or a mushroom cloud."

Along with the rest of McGovern's crew, Sussan documented the physical effects of the bomb, including the ghostly shadows of vaporized civilians burned into walls; and, most chillingly, dozens of people in hospitals who had survived (at least momentarily) and were asked to display their burns, scars, and other lingering effects for the camera as a warning to the world.

At the Red Cross Hospital in Hiroshima, a Japanese physician traced the hideous, bright red scars that covered several of the patients—and then took off his white doctor's shirt and displayed his own burns and cuts.

After sticking a camera on a rail car and building their own tracks through the ruins, the Americans filmed hair-raising tracking shots that could have been lifted right from a Hollywood movie. Their chief cameramen was a Japanese man, Harry Mimura, who in 1943 had shot Sanshiro Sugata, the first feature film by a then-unknown Japanese director named Akira Kurosawa.

The Suppression Begins

While all this was going on, the Japanese newsreel team was completing its work of editing and labeling all their black-and-white footage into a rough cut of just under three hours. At this point, several members of Japanese team took the courageous step of ordering from the lab a duplicate of the footage they had shot before the Americans took over the project.

Director Ito later said: "The four of us agreed to be ready for ten years of hard labor in the case of being discovered." One incomplete, silent print would reside in a ceiling until the Occupation ended.

The negative of the finished Japanese film, nearly 15,000 feet of footage on nineteen reels, was sent off to the United States in early May 1946. The Japanese were also ordered to include in this shipment all photographs and related material. The footage would be labeled SECRET and not emerge from the shadows for more than 20 years.

The following month, McGovern was abruptly ordered to return to the United States. He hauled the 90,000 feet of color footage, on dozens of reels in huge footlockers, to the Pentagon and turned it over to General Orvil Anderson. Locked up and declared top secret, it did not see the light of day for more than thirty years.

McGovern would be charged with watching over it. Sussan would become obsessed with finding it and getting it aired.

Fearful that his film might get "buried," McGovern stayed on at the Pentagon as an aide to Gen. Anderson, who was fascinated by the footage and had no qualms about showing it to the American people. "He was that kind of man, he didn't give a damn what people thought," McGovern told me. "He just wanted the story told."

In an article in his hometown Buffalo Evening News, McGovern said that he hoped that "this epic will be made available to the American public." He planned to call the edited movie Japan in Defeat.

Once they eyeballed the footage, however, most of the top brass didn't want it widely shown and the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was also opposed, according to McGovern. It nixed a Warner Brothers feature film project based on the footage that Anderson had negotiated, while paying another studio about $80,000 to help make four training films.

In a March 3, 1947, memo, Francis E. Rundell, a major in the Air Corps, explained that the film would be classified "secret." This was determined "after study of subject material, especially concerning footage taken at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is believed that the information contained in the films should be safeguarded until cleared by the Atomic Energy Commission." After the training films were completed, the status would be raised to "Top Secret" pending final classification by the AEC.

The color footage was shipped to the Wright-Patterson base in Ohio. McGovern went along after being told to put an ID number on the film "and not let anyone touch it—and that's the way it stayed," as he put it. After cataloging it, he placed it in a vault in the top secret area.

"Dan McGovern stayed with the film all the time," Sussan later said. "He told me they could not release the film [because] what it showed was too horrible."

Sussan wrote a letter to President Truman, suggesting that a film based on the footage "would vividly and clearly reveal the implications and effects of the weapons that confront us at this serious moment in our history." A reply from a Truman aide threw cold water on that idea, saying such a film would lack "wide public appeal."

McGovern, meanwhile, continued to "babysit" the film, now at Norton Air Force base in California. "It was never out of my control," he said later, but he couldn't make a film out of it any more than Sussan could (but unlike Herb, he at least knew where it was).

The Japanese Footage Emerges

At the same time, McGovern was looking after the Japanese footage. Fearful that it might get lost forever in the military/government bureaucracy, he secretly made a 16 mm print and deposited it in the US Air Force Central Film Depository at Wright-Patterson. There it remained out of sight, and generally out of mind. (The original negative and production materials remain missing, according to Abe Mark Nornes, who teaches at the University of Michigan and has researched the Japanese footage more than anyone.)

The Japanese government repeatedly asked the United States for the full footage of what was known in that country as "the film of illusion," to no avail. A rare article about what it called this "sensitive" dispute appeared in the New York Times on May 18, 1967, declaring right in its headline that the film had been "Suppressed by U.S. for 22 Years." Surprisingly, it revealed that while some of the footage was already in Japan (likely a reference to the film hidden in the ceiling), the United States had put a "hold" on the Japanese using it—even though the American control of that country had ceased many years earlier.

Despite rising nuclear fears in the 1960s, before and after the Cuban missile crisis, few in the United States challenged the consensus view that dropping the bomb on two Japanese cities was necessary. The United States maintained its "first-use" nuclear policy: under certain circumstances it would strike first with the bomb and ask questions later. In other words, there was no real taboo against using the bomb. This notion of acceptability had started with Hiroshima. A firm line against using nuclear weapons had been drawn—in the sand. The United States, in fact, had threatened to use nuclear weapons during the Cuban missile crisis and on other occasions.

On September 12, 1967, the Air Force transferred the Japanese footage to the National Archives Audio Visual Branch in Washington, with the film "not to be released without approval of DOD (Department of Defense)."

Then, one morning in the summer of 1968, Erik Barnouw, author of landmark histories of film and broadcasting, opened his mail to discover a clipping from a Tokyo newspaper sent by a friend. It indicated that the United States had finally shipped to Japan a copy of black-and-white newsreel footage shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese had negotiated with the State Department for its return.

From the Pentagon, Barnouw learned in 1968 that the original nitrate film had been quietly turned over to the National Archives, so he went to take a look. Soon Barnouw realized that, despite its marginal film quality, "enough of the footage was unforgettable in its implications, and historic in its importance, to warrant duplicating all of it," he later wrote.

Attempting to create a subtle, quiet, even poetic, black-and-white film, he and his associates cut it from 160 to sixteen minutes, with a montage of human effects clustered near the end for impact. Barnouw arranged a screening at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and invited the press. A throng turned out and sat in respectful silence at its finish. (One can only imagine what impact the color footage with many more human effects would have had.) "Hiroshima-Nagasaki 1945" proved to be a sketchy but quite moving document of the aftermath of the bombing, captured in grainy but often startling black-and-white images: shadows of objects or people burned into walls, ruins of schools, miles of razed landscape viewed from the roof of a building.

In the weeks ahead, however, none of the (then) three TV networks expressed interest in airing it. "Only NBC thought it might use the film,"Barnouw later wrote, "if it could find a 'news hook.' We dared not speculate what kind of event this might call for." But then an article appeared in Parade magazine, and an editorial in the Boston Globe blasted the networks, saying that everyone in the country should see this film: "Television has brought the sight of war into America's sitting rooms from Vietnam. Surely it can find 16 minutes of prime time to show Americans what the first A-bombs, puny by today's weapons, did to people and property 25 years ago."

This at last pushed public television into the void. What was then called National Educational Television (NET) agreed to show the documentary on August 3, 1970, to coincide with the twenty-fifth anniversary of dropping the bomb.

"I feel that classifying all of this filmed material was a misuse of the secrecy system since none of it had any military or national security aspect at all," Barnouw told me. "The reason must have been—that if the public had seen it and Congressmen had seen it—it would have been much harder to appropriate money for more bombs."

The American Footage Comes Out

About a decade later, by pure chance, Herb Sussan would spark the emergence of the American footage, ending its decades in the dark.

In the mid-1970s, Japanese antinuclear activists, led by a Tokyo teacher named Tsutomu Iwakura, discovered that few pictures of the aftermath of the atomic bombings existed in their country. Many had been seized by the US military after the war, they learned, and taken out of Japan. The Japanese had as little visual exposure to the true effects of the bomb as most Americans. Activists managed to track down hundreds of pictures in archives and private collections and published them in a popular book. In 1979 they mounted an exhibit at the United Nations in New York.

There, by chance, Iwakura met Sussan, who told him about the US military footage.

Iwakura made a few calls and found that the color footage, recently declassified, might be at the National Archives. A trip to Washington, DC, verified this. He found eighty reels of film, labeled #342 USAF, with the reels numbered 11000 to 11079. About one-fifth of the footage covered the atomic cities. According to a shot list, reel #11010 included, for example: "School, deaf and dumb, blast effect, damaged Commercial school demolished School, engineering, demolished.School, Shirayama elementary, demolished, blast effect Tenements, demolished."

The film had been quietly declassified a few years earlier, but no one in the outside world knew it. An archivist there told me at the time, "If no one knows about the film to ask for it, it's as closed as when it was classified."

Eventually 200,000 Japanese citizens contributed half a million dollars and Iwakura was able to buy the film. He then traveled around Japan filming survivors who had posed for Sussan and McGovern in 1946. Iwakura quickly completed a documentary called Prophecy and in late spring 1982 arranged for a New York premiere.

That fall a small part of the McGovern/Sussan footage turned up for the first time in an American film, one of the sensations of the New York Film Festival, called Dark Circle. It's co-director, Chris Beaver, told me, "No wonder the government didn't want us to see it. I think they didn't want Americans to see themselves in that picture. It's one thing to know about that and another thing to see it."

Despite this exposure, not a single story had yet appeared in an American newspaper about the shooting of the footage, its suppression or release. And Sussan was now ill with a form of lymphoma doctors had found in soldiers exposed to radiation in atomic tests during the 1950s —or in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In late 1982, I met Sussan and Erik Barnouw—and talked on several occasions with Daniel McGovern, out in Northridge, California. "It would make a fine documentary even today," McGovern said of the color footage. "Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a movie of the burning of Atlanta?"

After he hauled the footage back to the Pentagon, McGovern said, he was told that under no circumstances would the footage be released for outside use. "They were fearful of it being circulated," McGovern said. He confirmed that the color footage, like the black-and-white, had been declassified over time, taking it from top secret to "for public release" (but only if the public knew about it and asked for it).

Still, the question of precisely why the footage remained secret for so long lingered. Here McGovern added his considerable voice. "The main reason it was classified was because of the horror, the devastation," he said. "The medical effects were pretty gory. The attitude was: do not show any medical effects. Don't make people sick."

But who was behind this? "I always had the sense," McGovern answered, "that people in the AEC were sorry they had dropped the bomb. The Air Force—it was also sorry. I was told by people in the Pentagon that they didn't want those images out because they showed effects on man, woman and child. But the AEC, they were the ones that stopped it from coming out. They had power of God over everybody," he declared. "If it had anything to do with nukes, they had to see it. They were the ones who destroyed a lot of film and pictures of the first US nuclear tests after the war."

Even so, McGovern believed, his footage might have surfaced "if someone had grabbed the ball and run with it but the AEC did not want it released."

As Dark Circle director Chris Beaver had said, "With the government trying to sell the public on a new civil defense program and Reagan arguing that a nuclear war is survivable, this footage could be awfully bad publicity."

Today

In the summer of 1984, I made my own pilgrimage to the atomic cities, to walk in the footsteps of Dan McGovern and Herb Sussan, and meet some of the people they filmed in 1946. (The month-long grant was arranged by the current mayor of Hiroshima, Taditoshi Akiba.) By then, the McGovern/Sussan footage had turned up in several new documentaries. On September 2, 1985, however, Herb Sussan passed away. His final request to his children: Would they scatter his ashes at ground zero in Hiroshima?

In the mid-1990s, researching Hiroshima in America, the book I would write with Robert Jay Lifton, I discovered the deeper context for suppression of the US Army film: it was part of a broad effort to suppress a wide range of material related to the atomic bombings, including photographs, newspaper reports on radiation effects, information about the decision to drop the bomb, even a Hollywood movie.

The fiftieth anniversary of the bombing drew extensive print and television coverage—and wide use of excerpts from the McGovern/Sussan footage—but no strong shift in American attitudes on the use of the bomb.

Then, in 2003, as adviser to a documentary film, Original Child Bomb, I urged director Carey Schonegevel to draw on the atomic footage as much as possible. She not only did so but also obtained from McGovern's son copies of home movies he had shot in Japan while shooting the official film.

Original Child Bomb
went on to debut at the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival, win a major documentary award (top prize at Silver Docs), and debut on the Sundance cable channel. After sixty years at least a small portion of that footage reached part of the American public in the unflinching and powerful form its creators intended. Americans who saw were finally able to fully judge for themselves what McGovern and Sussan were trying to accomplish in shooting the film, why the authorities felt they had to suppress it, and what impact their footage, if widely aired, might have had on the nuclear arms race—and the nuclear proliferation that plagues, and endangers, us today.

Greg Mitchell w is co-author of Hiroshima in America. His latest book is Why Obama Won . His Twitter feed is @GregMitch. His email is: epic1934@aol.com

DAYBOOK for Thursday: Maddow & Krugman vs. Gibbs, Plus Al Franken, Jon Stewart, More

WELCOME TO DAYBOOK, our daily collection of media and politics hits/misses from a wide variety of sources plus fun videos and (and at the bottom) musical picks. Return for updates all day. Keep up with fresh items via @gregmitch at  Twitter.  E-mail me at: epic1934@aol.com. To increase type size hit the middle "A" above right.

AFTERNOON UPDATES

NYT declines Obama's off-the-record lunch invitation. (A dozen reporters attended today's session.)

Arcade Fire hits #1 and plays tune -- reportedly, "Ready to Start" --  on Daily Show tonite. 

Bryan Fischer, the "Director of Issues Analysis" for the American Family Association. tells TPM that, "every single mosque is a potential terror training center or recruitment center for jihad," so therefore "you cannot claim first amendment protections if your religious organization is engaged in subversive activities."

Rep. Timothy Horrigan resigns from New Hampshire's House of Representatives due to joking remarks about Sarah Palin's death he made on Facebook.

-- THURSDAY's TOPS

That key Pat Tillman film we've mentioned previously is coming out next week.  And now via Huff Post here is his father dropping F-bomb in addressing top general. 

Tim Egan at NYT online : Senate really needs some fun -- come on Al Franken, it's no sin to still crack a joke. But as Mark Twain said: “Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

Krugman in blog post rips WH spokesman GIbbs as "unprofessional," and defends lefties who are expressing "real concerns" of people. Gibbs, don't have a cow over Maddow, he concludes. Meanwhile, Maddow last night schooled Gibbs on what is needed to earn Left respect.

Gen. Petraeus, U.S. military seek slower pace to wrap things up in Afghanistan--shocked, no? Wonder why new NBC poll shows Obama approval on Afghan down from 53% to 44% in past weeks. And top Iraqi general now says U.S. pullout there coming too soon. Much too.

Jon Stewart on John Boehner's skin color: "Like's he's getting ready to play an Indian in a '50s Western." Part of "Deductible Me" segment on GOPers somehow calling for cutting deficit and taxes:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Deductible Me
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Huff Post asks: "Third World America?" after 30,000 show up for housing vouchers in Atlanta.

ON THE CAN-PAIN TRAIL  Arizona Republican candidate for Congress, Ben "Oh No Not Another" Quayle laid an egg, and admitted to posting comments on DirtyScottsdale.com, after he originally told POLITICO that he “was not involved in the site."

ISRAEL TO BOMB-BOMB -BOMB IRAN?  Wish fulfillment? Jeffrey Goldberg cover story in next month's Atlantic, just posted, says Israel likely to bomb Iran.

WIKILEAKING THE WORLD?  With its unadulterated-information-dissemination model, could WikiLeaks be the new media for the developing world?

GIVE MOVIE CREDITS  Who would have expected the end credits of new hit comedy flick The Other Guys to provide a biting primer on Ponzi schemes, Bernie Madoff,  TARP, imbalance of CEO  pay, and more.  Now it's been released separately on the Web.

BYTES & PIECES:   Upcoming NYT cover story on Andrew Cuomo just posted here.  ... Typical: top AP White House correspondent Jennifer Loven leaving to do P.R. .... Where did the years (and my hair) go? Doonesbury is turning 40... Federal tests so far sustain my early prediction: Toyota's "acceleration" problem mainly due to drivers hitting gas instead of brake....

-- TODAY's LAFF

If you are of the youngish persuasion, you may not "get" to what the new Conan O'Brien promo ad is paying homage. Here's just one of the original Monty Python animations by Terry Gilliam (in the news this week for directing the Arcade Fire concert for YouTube).

 

-- TODAY's MUSIC

Forty years ago this week I attended my first concert at the Fillmore East.  Country Joe opened for Procol Harum. A very early music video forerunner:

 

DAYBOOK for Wednesday: Israel to Bomb Iran?, Jon Stewart on Mosque Dispute, 'Left' at the Altar, Rosanne Cash, More

 WELCOME TO DAYBOOK, our daily collection of media and politics hits/misses from a wide variety of sources plus fun videos and (and at the bottom) musical picks. Return for updates all day. Keep up with fresh items via @gregmitch at  Twitter.  E-mail me at: epic1934@aol.com. To increase type size hit the middle "A" above right.

WEDNESDAY ON THE LINKS

Wish fulfillment? Jeffrey Goldberg cover story in next month's Atlantic, just posted, says Israel likely to bomb Iran. 

So much for Obama's Iraq exit. NYT's TIm Arango reports: "The reality in Iraq may defy that deadline, because many American and Iraqi officials deem the American presence to be in each nation’s interest."

TPM with full primary night wrapup, with Tea Party win (and Bennet survival)  in Colorado, wrestling mogul takes CT, cliffhangers in Georgia and Minnesota, more... Today's chuckle: John Fund at WSJ claims HiIlary for President 2012 bandwagon gaining steam!

New Yorker's Rick Herzberg with good piece on the so-called "Ground Zero mosque" that isn't.... NYT seems to blame those behind Islam Center for trouble -- due to their "missteps." accept it.... Daily Show had great segment on the "mosque" controversy last night, as follows:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Municipal Land-Use Hearing Update
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

 

New York City's transit agency approved a bus ad of a plane flying toward the World Trade Center's towers as they burn across from a depiction of the proposed Islam center. The ad was paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, who sued the Metropolitan Transportation Authority demanding that they okay it.

Upcoming NYT cover story on Andrew Cuomo just posted here.

The Onion gives a foreign policy update: "Hillary Clinton Drags Taliban Leader's Body Through Streets of Kabul."

OLBERMANN PROS AND CONS No shocker: Keith Olbermann comments on Robert Gibbs' slam of  "professional Left" too critical of Obama.  Says real problem is the "professional Right."   Don't miss: My photo of new sign at White House telling "lefties" where to go.

GOP TAKES THE HILL?  Can Republicans take the Senate this fall? Unlikely, but not impossible.

BYTES & PIECES:   Where did the years (and my hair) go? Doonesbury is turning 40...  Federal tests so far sustain my early prediction:  Toyota's "acceleration" problem mainly due to drivers hitting gas instead of brake.... Thomas Frank's final WSJ column. ... Jon Stewart owes this to Ted Stevens: Jon's "Series of Tubes" segments help boost Daily Show popularity years back ... Krugman blog post: Rightwingers claim theory of relativity is liberal, maybe Commie, plot.

OBAMA  VS. OBAMA ON AFGHANISTAN  Great new video mashup by Ben Craw of Huff Post, the master:

 

BRINGNG A BONG, GET IT ON  Rand Paul blasts that GQ story on his "kooky" college days -- and uses it to raise money.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:  Democratic National Committee spokesman Hari Sevugan on wrestling mogul Linda McMahon win: "Today the party of Bob Dole, Jack Kemp and Dick Lugar nominated a candidate who kicks men in the crotch, thinks of scenes of necrophilia as 'entertainment,' and runs an operation where women are forced to bark like dogs. This is what has become of the once grand old party."

-- TODAY's LAFF

I don't go along with the folk hero worship of Jet Blue flight attendant Steve Slater and his rather unusual way to quit his job, but we can all enjoy one of those wacky Taiwanese animations.

 

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcnewyork.com/video.

 

-- TODAY's MUSIC

 The great Rosanne Cash on GMA plus excerpt from her new memoir.  And, below, she sings her terrific recent "September When It Comes," with her dad joining in.

DAYBOOK for Tuesday: White House vs. the Left, Rand Paul's Bong, New Springsteen Film, More

 WELCOME TO DAYBOOK, our daily collection of media and politics hits/misses from a wide variety of sources plus fun videos and (and at the bottom) musical picks. Return for updates all day. Keep up with fresh items via @gregmitch at  Twitter.  E-mail me at: epic1934@aol.com. To increase type size hit the middle "A" above right.

AFTERNOON UPDATES

New York City's transit agency approved a bus ad of a plane flying toward the World Trade Center's towers as they burn across from a depiction of the proposed mosque near ground zero. The ad was paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, who sued the Metropolitan Transportation Authority demanding that they accept it.

Brand new trailer for important upcoming doc on Pat Tillman and "coverup." 
 

 Robert Gates says the Pentagon will cut thousands of military jobs including dismantling the U.S. Joint Forces Command, which employs about 2,800 military and civilian personnel as well as 3,300 contractors.


The Onion gives a foreign policy update: "Hilary Clinton Drags Taliban Leader's Body Through Streets of Kabul."


TUESDAY's TOPS

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs slams "professionional Left" for criticizing Obama and Afghan war.  Should be "drug-tested" for comparing him to Bush at times. "They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.” Amateur Left still safe? Glenn Greenwald lists people Gibbs might want to "drug test."  UPDATE: Gibbs "clarifies," calls remarks "inartful."

Bob Herbert calls the current unemployment numbers "The Horror Show." Concludes: "We’re not heading toward the danger zone. We’re there. The U.S. will not remain a stable society if this great employment crisis is not addressed head-on — and soon. You cannot allow joblessness on this scale to fester. It’s wrong, and the blowback will be as destructive and intolerable as it is inevitable."

Great detail in story of Jet Blue flight attendant who made escape -- took 2 beers with him as he headed for the chute.

My latest piece: shocking story on press censorship & how truth about Nagasaki bombing was censored 65 years ago.

A discouraging word: Why, in this view, Elizabeth Warren won't get that job.

Family fears former Senator Ted Stevens is on downed plane in Alaska.

A candidate for the Wisconsin Legislature wants to describe herself on the ballot as "NOT the 'white man's b----," but a federal judge has dismissed her appeal.

OBAMA  VS. OBAMA ON AFHANISTAN    Great new video mashup by Ben Craw of Huff Post, the master:

 

BARACK B-BALL  In case you're getting bored with the real news, the Washington Post has put together President Obama's best basketball moments.

RANDY YOUTH  GQ quotes (anonymous) woman who claims being kidnapped by Rand Paul in college, ordered to take bong hits, etc. He denies.

COVERUP CONTINUES  L.A. sheriff refuses to release records regarding 1970 death of L.A. Times columnist killed at anti-war rally.

BYTES & PIECES  New spinal-fluid test predicts Alzheimer's with-- get this-- 100% accuracy. ...  Faked Alaska: Levi Johnston to run for mayor Wasilla--as part of reality show ....  A map of journalists killed in line of duty... Double hit:  Global warming heats up nuclear power industry.

STUCK  ON NEUTRAL?  New Google-Verizon plan on Web access hit, as it provides loopholes for cell phones and some new services.

McCAIN JACKS OPPONENT  John McCain released a new ad attacking former Rep. J.D. Hayworth for his links to the Jack Abramoff scandal.

TODAY's LAFF

Reddit is compiling the funniest moments ever on the Internet and here's one of its candidates -- an early classic viral vid depicting (sort of) the end of the world via nuke attacks.

 

 TODAY's MUSIC

If you've missed the news, long-buried film of Springsteen recording Darkness on the Edge of Town album in 1977 has surfaced and will air soon on HBO after a film fest run. Here's "Badlands" from the lp quite a few years later.

 

DAYBOOK for Monday: Krugman, Breitbart, Arcade Fire, Nagasaki Day, Much More

 WELCOME TO DAYBOOK, our daily collection of media and politics hits/misses from a wide variety of sources plus fun videos and (and at the bottom) musical picks. Return for updates all day. Keep up with fresh items via @gregmitch at  Twitter.  E-mail me at: epic1934@aol.com. To increase type size hit the middle "A" above right.

MONDAY, CAN'T  TRUST THAT DAY

Krugman: "America Goes Dark." Literally, as towns turns off street lights (and other services) amid budget crunch.  Conclusion:  "America is now on the unlit, unpaved road to nowhere."

New D.C. site TBD.com led by former Wash Post online chief Jim Brady to launch today.  

My new piece: shocking story on press censorship & how truth about Nagasaki bombing was censored 65 yearrs ago....   Amazing animation  / map by Japanese artist of every nuclear bomb or  test explosion from 1945 to 1998.  Note how the, ahem, pace really picks up and surprising number of French tests.  Article here by Amy Davidson of The New Yorker.  

 

 

Roger Ebert tweets:  "Lindsey Graham: Threats so scary they trump the 14th amendment. Me:  Lindsey Graham so scary he trumps the Constitution."

Double hit:  Global warming heats up nuclear power industry.

Spencer Ackerman:  U.S. "super-sizes" Afghan base even as upcoming withdrawal claimed.

WON'T PUT MONEY WHERE MOUTHS ARE   Tea Party now getting strapped for cash, thank god, for variety of reasons.

DON DRAPER MEETS DYLAN   Welcome to the mid-'60s.  Mad Men last night has references to student sit-in at Berkeley, abortions, pot is smoked and more.  There was a Bob Dylan reference, too.  In the next episode, Don Draper runs into Bob Dylan in that club, tells him, "Man, if you wanna sell records, pick up electric guitar."

WHERE's KISSINGER NOW?  Incredible NYT correction, in a full editorial, re: Nixon and Kissinger's lies about Gen. Lavelle and Vietnam. 

AFTER A-BOMB,  DRINKING TO FRIENDSHIP  Great piece on famous moment in TV history: When crew member of Enola Gay shocked a Hiroshima survivor on "This Is Your Life."  Turns out he was drunk at the time.

BREITBARTING  Fun Boston Globe piece on the linguistics between new word "breitbarting" or "intentionally taking a statement out of context for political ends."

JON STEWART PUTS OUT ARCADE FIRE  Arcade Fire on The Daily Show this Thursday, presume will do a song.  If you missed the great live at MSG concert-- aired via You Tube -- here's a bit.  And see more at bottom of Daybook.

 

 

MISSING IN PIECE   Econ blogger Dean Baker notes what's missing in NYT article on class warfare between those with public pensions vs. taxpayers without them: responsibility of economists whose faulty forecasts guided pension policy.  (h/t Barbara Bedway)

BYTES & PIECES    NYT profiles "struggles" of soldier Bradley Manning arrested in WikiLeak leak cases. ... Ned Lamont turning off liberals in race for governor in CT?..... Clark Hoyt, former NYT ombud, hired by Bloomberg to help get D.C. coverage in shape....  U.S. plans to sell advanced F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia in $30 billion deal -- Wall Street Journal.

TODAY's LAFF

Karl Rove on Fox calls Newt Gingrich a "formidable" candidate for president in 2012, even as Newt admits to cheating on his wives.

 

TODAY's MUSIC

More Arcade Fire, this time when they found out what it was like to "Wake Up" with  David Bowie.

 

When Truman Announced the Attack on Hiroshima 65 Years Ago: The Beginning of a 'Cover-up'

In a piece here earlier this week I mentioned the decades-long "coverup" of facts and options related to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima 65 years ago today, including the Truman White House editing the first Hollywood movie about the event.   But that censorship of the full impact, and ramifications, of the new weapons began within hours of the first use.

On Aug. 6, 1945, President Harry S. Truman faced the task of telling the press, and the world, that America's crusade against fascism had culminated in exploding a revolutionary new weapon of extraordinary destructive power over a Japanese city.

It was vital that this event be understood as a reflection of dominant military power and at the same time consistent with American decency and concern for human life. Everyone involved in preparing the presidential statement sensed that the stakes were high, for this marked the unveiling of both the atomic bomb and the official narrative of Hiroshima.

When the astonishing news emerged that morning, exactly 64 years ago, it took the form of a routine press release, a little more than a thousand words long. President Truman was at sea a thousand miles away, returning from the Potsdam conference. Shortly before eleven o'clock, an information officer from the War Department arrived at the White House bearing bundles of press releases. A few minutes later, assistant press secretary Eben Ayers began reading the president's announcement to about a dozen members of the Washington press corps.

The atmosphere was so casual, and the statement so momentous, that the reporters had difficulty grasping it. "The thing didn't penetrate with most of them," Ayers later remarked. Finally, they rushed to call their editors, and at least one reporter found a disbeliever at the other end of the line. The first few sentences of the statement set the tone:

"Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of TNT. ...The Japanese began the war from the air at Pearl Harbor. They have been repaid many fold. ...It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe."

Although details were modified at the last moment, Truman's four-page statement had been crafted with considerable care over many months. If use of the atomic bomb was inherent in its invention, an announcement of this sort was inevitable. Only the timing was in doubt.

From its very first words, however, the official narrative was built on a half-truth. Hiroshima did contain an important military base, used as a staging area for Southeast Asia. But the bomb had been aimed at the very center of a city of 350,000, a continuation of the American policy of bombing civilian populations in Japan to undermine the morale of the enemy.

There was something else missing: Because the president in his statement failed to mention radiation effects, which officials knew were horrendous, the imagery of just a bigger bomb would prevail in the press. Truman described the new weapon as "revolutionary" but only in regard to the destruction it could cause, failing to mention its most lethal new feature: radiation.

Many Americans first heard the news from the radio, which broadcast the text of Truman's statement shortly after its release. The afternoon papers quickly arrived with banner headlines: "Atom Bomb, World's Greatest, Hits Japs!" and "Japan City Blasted by Atomic Bomb." The Pentagon had released no pictures, so most of the newspapers relied on maps of Japan with Hiroshima circled.

By that evening, radio commentators were weighing in with observations that often transcended Truman's announcement, suggesting that the public imagination was outrunning the official story. Contrasting emotions of gratification and anxiety had already emerged. H.V. Kaltenhorn warned, "We must assume that with the passage of only a little time, an improved form of the new weapon we use today can be turned against us."

It wasn't until the following morning, Aug. 7, that the government's press offensive appeared, with the first detailed account of the making of the atomic bomb, and the Hiroshima mission. Nearly every U.S. newspaper carried all or parts of 14 separate press releases distributed by the Pentagon several hours after the president's announcement. They carried headlines such as: "Atom Bombs Made in 3 Hidden Cities" and "New Age Ushered."

Many of them written by one man: W.L. Laurence, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the New York Times, "embedded" with the atomic project. General Leslie Groves, military director of the Manhattan Project, would later reflect, with satisfaction, that "most newspapers published our releases in their entirety. This is one of the few times since government releases have become so common that this has been done."

The Truman announcement of the atomic bombing on Aug. 6, 1945, and the flood of material from the War Department, firmly established the nuclear narrative. It would not take long, however, for breaks in the official story to appear.

At first, journalists had to follow where the Pentagon led. Wartime censorship remained in effect, and there was no way any reporter could reach Hiroshima for a look around. One of the few early stories that did not come directly from the military was a wire service report filed by a journalist traveling with the president on the Atlantic, returning from Europe. Approved by military censors, it went beyond, but not far beyond, the measured tone of the president's official statement. It depicted Truman, his voice "tense with excitement," personally informing his shipmates about the atomic attack. "The experiment," he announced, "has been an overwhelming success."

The sailors were said to be "uproarious" over the news. "I guess I'll get home sooner now," was a typical response. Nowhere in the story, however, was there a strong sense of Truman's reaction. Missing from this account was his exultant remark when the news of the bombing first reached the ship: "This is the greatest thing in history!"

On Aug. 7, military officials confirmed that Hiroshima had been devastated: at least 60% of the city wiped off the map. They offered no casualty estimates, emphasizing instead that the obliterated area housed major industrial targets. The Air Force provided the newspapers with an aerial photograph of Hiroshima. Significant targets were identified by name. For anyone paying close attention there was something troubling about this picture. Of the 30 targets, only four were specifically military in nature. "Industrial" sites consisted of three textile mills. (Indeed, a U.S. survey of the damage, not released to the press, found that residential areas bore the brunt of the bomb, with less than 10% of the city's manufacturing, transportation, and storage facilities damaged.)

On Guam, weaponeer William S. Parsons and Enola Gay pilot Paul Tibbets calmly answered reporters' questions, limiting their remarks to what they had observed after the bomb exploded. Asked how he felt about the people down below at the time of detonation, Parsons said that he experienced only relief that the bomb had worked and might be "worth so much in terms of shortening the war."

Almost without exception newspaper editorials endorsed the use of the bomb against Japan. Many of them sounded the theme of revenge first raised in the Truman announcement. Most of them emphasized that using the bomb was merely the logical culmination of war. "However much we deplore the necessity," the Washington Post observed, "a struggle to the death commits all combatants to inflicting a maximum amount of destruction on the enemy within the shortest span of time." The Post added that it was "unreservedly glad that science put this new weapon at our disposal before the end of the war."

Referring to American leaders, the Chicago Tribune commented: "Being merciless, they were merciful." A drawing in the same newspaper pictured a dove of peace flying over Japan, an atomic bomb in its beak.

Greg Mitchell and Robert Jay Lifton are co-authors of "Hiroshima in America." 

Friday DAYBOOK: Hitchens, Jon Stewart on Prop 8, Dylan's 'Hard Rain,' Much More

 WELCOME TO DAYBOOK, our daily collection of media and politics hits/misses from a wide variety of sources plus fun videos and (and at the bottom) musical picks. Return for updates all day. Keep up with fresh items via @gregmitch at  Twitter.  E-mail me at: epic1934@aol.com. To increase type size hit the middle "A" above right.

T.G.I. FRIDAY ON OUR MINDS

Anderson Cooper in terrific interview asks cancer victim Christopher Hitchens if he's praying: "No, that's all meaningless to me."  Watch here.

My "Hiroshima in America"  co-author Robert Jay Lifton on Democracy Now re: Hiroshima and US sending envoy for first time… My new piece here on how Truman delivered the news about the atomic bombing 65 years ago—and launched the "coverup."

My other new piece on 65th anniversary of Hiroshima attack today—with US sending an envoy to peace ceremony for first time. And did you know the U.S. still has a "first use" nuclear policy?… Great NYT op-ed by Nobel Prize writer Kenzaburo Oe on Hiroshima & his guilt at being unable to write novel about it… WSJ writer—who hailed Curtis "Bomb Them Back to the Stone Age" LeMay in bookdecries Obama sending envoy to Hiroshima today. 

LIFE magazine posts sad, stunning never-before-seen photos from Hiroshima and Nagasaki taken just after the bombing, some by Alfred Eisenstadt. 

Matt Taibbi with long Rolling Stone piece on what's good, bad, & still ugly in the financial reform bill. See you at the next crisis. (h/t Barbara Bedway)

Krugman hits Rep. Paul Ryan and his economic "ideas"—and also blames media for often falling for the "charlatans" of the right.  "As long as someone on the right claims to have bold new proposals, he’s hailed as an innovative thinker. And nobody checks his arithmetic."

Good Jon Stewart segment on Prop 8 overturn or "Californigaytion." 

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Californigaytion
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

 

Elena Kagan's 63-37 confirmation vote is one of the lowest total “yes” votes for a nominee during the past three presidencies and its the lowest number of confirmation votes ever for a justice picked by a Democrat.

Ousted at Wash Post, Dave Weigel launches new blog at Slate today.

INGLIS SPOKEN HERE  GOP Rep. Inglis talks to CNN about wacko right-wingers who ousted him (VIDEO)… NYT unloads devastating probe of Sen. Bennett / Wall Street rip-off of Denver public schools.  

WHAT, THE FUGEE?  Sean Penn "very suspicious" of Wyclef Jean's candidacy for president of Haiti, where Sean has done much relief work.

LATEST MASSACRE  Gunman who killed 8 in CT left 911 call, just released, near end of rampage detailing claims of racism etc. 

PEGGY, OH!  Peggy Noonan in WSJ: "America Is A Risk of Bolilng Over," but she's not talking about hot summer suggesting global warming.  It's the fault of "out-of-touch" political and media leaders--not her though!

BYTES & PIECES  Senators desperate to get WikiLeaks unshielder in federal journalist Shield Law… New Onion report: "Verizon Introduces New Charge-You-At-Whim Plan"… That  New Jersey couple who gave their children Nazi-inspired names should not regain custody of them, a state appeals court ruled on Thursday.

TODAY's LAFF

Because it's never a mistake to recall "Wag the Dog." War—it's a pageant!  But "why Albania"? Belushi brothers? No, "We just found out they have The Bomb."

 

TODAY's MUSIC

Marking 65th anniversary of atomic bombing of Hiroshima: Bob Dylan, live 1964 performance of "Hard Rain's Gonna Fall." 

US Sends Envoy to Hiroshima For First Time: But 'First-Use' Policy Today Remains

Sixty-five years after the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the bomb is still very much with us, and controversy continues to rage over the decision to obliterate the two Japanese cities—sparked this time by President Obama's decision to send a US envoy to Hiroshima for the official ceremony today,  for the first time. 

Already some on the right are charging that this amounts to an "apology" for using the bomb against Japan.   Warren Kozak, an  op-ed writer for the Wall Street Journal, has attacked the whole idea, equating it with President Reagan going to Bitburg and laying a wreath at graves belonging to SS members. Of course, the overwhelming majority of the 130,000 killed in Hiroshima were civilians, mainly women and children.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said  US Ambassador John Roos is merely honoring all of the dead of World War II, and expressing the president's endorsement of severe cutbacks in the global nuclear arsenals.  No US president has visited Hiroshima while in office.

Hiroshima, in any case, remains a vital lesson for us all, not only  for the first use of a nuclear weapon there but because of the  "first use" nuclear policy the US maintains today. 

It's a subject practically off-limits in the media and in American policy circle.  Even the current antinuclear documentary Countdown to Zero, which outlines many serious nuclear dangers (from an accidental launch to a terror attack on America), fails to even mention the possibility that the US might choose to use nuclear weapons again. Resisting a no-first-use policy, in fact, has been a cornerstone of US nuclear policy for decades.

Yet despite some positive signs from Obama, I fear that moving very far in the direction of no-first-use is still a long way off in America.

Perhaps the strongest reason is this: most Americans, our media and our leaders (including every president), have endorsed our "first-use" of the bomb against Japan. This remains true today, despite new evidence and analysis that have emerged for so many years. I've been writing about this for almost thirty years—even in book form—with little shift in the polls or change in heart among our policymakers and elected officials.

There has also been little change abroad—where the use of the bomb in 1945 has been roundly condemned from the beginning. Indeed, US support, even pride, in our use of the weapon has given us little moral standing in arguing that other countries should not develop nuclear weapons and consider using them, possibly as a first, not a last, resort (that's our policy, remember).

So it all goes back to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

While I respect the views of a range of historians on this matter, and the opinions of the men who fought in the Pacific, I happen to believe the bombs should not have been used against Japan, directly over massive cities, at that time. The war would likely have ended very shortly without it (or a bloody American invasion planned for many months later), largely because of the Soviets finally declaring war on Japan— an event long-dreaded by Japanese leaders.

Yes, there was a day when conservatives like John Foster Dulles, columnist David Lawrence, Admiral William Leahy and General Dwight D. Eisenhower—"We shouldn't have hit them with that awful thing," Ike declared—clearly condemned the use of the bombs. They knew that the argument of "saving tens of thousands of American lives" only counted if an invasion actually was necessary. We had demanded "unconditional surrender," dropped the bombs—then accepted the main Japanese demand,  keeping their emperor as figurehead.

But the key point for today is this: how the "Hiroshima narrative" has been handed down to generations of Americans—and overwhelmingly endorsed by officials and the media, even if many historians disagree—matters greatly.

Over and over top policymakers and commentators say, "We must never use nuclear weapons," yet they endorse the two times the weapons have been used against cities in a first strike. To make any exceptions, even in the past and in a horrid situation, means exceptions can be made in the future. Indeed, we have already made two exceptions, with over 200,000 civilians killed. The line against using nuclear weapons has been drawn... in the sand.

To cite just one example: Before our attack on Iraqi forces in Kuwait in 1990, then-Pentagon chief Dick Cheney said on TV that we would consider using nuclear weapons against Iraq but would hold off "at this point"—then specificially cited President Truman's use of the bomb as morally correct.  Some polls at the time showed strong support from the American public for using nukes if our military so advised.

And, as I noted, the fact that the United States first developed, and then used—twice—the WMD to end all WMDs has severely compromised our arguments against others building the weapon ever since. Hiroshima was our original sin, and we are still paying for it, even if most Americans do not recognize this.

That is why I always urge everyone to study the history surrounding the decision to use the bomb and how the full story was covered up for decades. There is certainly, in the minds of the media and the American public, no taboo on using nuclear weapons, and it all started, but did not end, with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is what nuclear abolitionists—or even those who (like Obama) simply want a partial easing of our first-use policy—are up against.

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