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  • 0August 28, 2012Reflections from Annual Hiroshima/Nagasaki Remembrance

    Dr.John Chappell, history professor at Webster University, and author of BEFORE THE BOMB, and Catholic Worker activists Teka Childress and Sara Latham spoke at the St. Louis WILPF annual remembrance of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings by the US government. A potluck dinner brought people together for good food and conversation before the start of the program, held at the Ethical Society. Ironically, the scorching St. Louis heat had let up prior to this year’s event, which was moved inside from Lewis Park in University City, to avoid the heat of previous observances.

    Dr. Chappell reported that this year President Harry Truman’s grandson is in Japan for the remembrance, a major happening there. Dr. Chappell recalled that he grew up with his mother’s observation that the use of the atomic bomb on the Japanese had saved his father’s life, since its use cancelled an invasion of Japan. However, polls of US citizens on the use of the atomic bombs in Japan show a trend downwards, from 85 to 90% to 65 to 75% approval. President Truman requested Henry Stimson to write the official narrative on the use of the atomic bombs, but McGeorge Bundy actually wrote it, claiming that the use of the atomic bombs was necessary to save a million American lives. (President Truman’s assistant Jimmy Burns was the source of the inflated prediction of a million American deaths if there were an invasion of the Japanese mainland, which according to Chappell, was never in the planning.)

    Justification for the atomic bombing must be seen in terms of, first, racism and, second, the reality that the Pacific war was one of vengeance, to retaliate for the bombing of Pearl Harbor. All Japanese were viewed negatively, unlike the Germans, many of whom were viewed as innocent of wrongdoing. The goal in the Pacific was to end the war before the 90-day period after the German surrender, when the Soviet Union had agreed to enter the war against Japan.

    While there were munitions and other military installations in the area, the Hiroshima bomb was targeted, and hit, the center of the city killing 170,000 residents. The Nagasaki bomb landed off-target, which was also the center of that city, and therefore only killed 40,000 residents. From 1945 to 1946, another of 100,000 people died.

    No one has ever justified the bombing of Nagasaki. One of the Nuremberg prosecutors called it a war crime.

    The Japanese surrender was referred to as “unconditional” in the US, but was actually conditioned on the Japanese retention of their Emperor. Truman had included this condition in the agreement he was ready to propose at Potsdam, but according to Chapell, removed it at the insistence of “Jimmy Burns, a known racist,” who accompanied Truman on his trans-Atlantic voyage to Potsdam.

    Teka Childress of the Catholic Worker described the nearly catastrophic accidental explosions of nuclear bombs, and the poisoning of the environment by nuclear bombs. She described the use of spent uranium in depleted uranium, an extremely toxic substance used in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (thought by many, including St. Louisan peace activist Bud Deraps, to be the cause of strange and devastating injuries to soldiers). Teka urged the audience to join peace activists such as Father Carl Kabat, an Oblate priest who has spent much of his life in federal prison for his non-violent protests, to become war tax resisters, to testify in Congress, and to join protest demonstrations.

    Sara Latham, also of the Catholic Worker, described their work with Kansas City peace activists in protesting the new nuclear weapons facility being built there. Amazingly, the city of Kansas City, Missouri, will be the owner of the plant, which will replace an older one there. Sara described the complicated leases of the farmland, which has enriched CenterPoint Zimmer, LLC. Farmland acreage for the new facility was purchased at $26,000.00 per acre, while comparable land is valued at $2,000. Since the facility is not owned by the

    National Nuclear Security Administration, it is not subject to Congressional oversight.

    Both Teka and Sara were arrested in Kansas City protests against the planned nuclear facility.

    Sammi Curry, whose Japanese grandmother lived in Tokyo before marrying and moving to the US, read poems by Sankicni Toge, the foremost Japanese poet focusing on the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    Abby Sudvarg read a moving letter from the Mayor of Hiroshima, a survivor of the bombing.

    The remembrance ended after peace lanterns were floated in the moat in front of the Ethical Society in the dark night while David Kasper played classical violin music. Peace groups in many other cities across the world hold similar observances.


    Suzanne Reinhold August 24, 2012

  • 0March 13, 2012Drones: A Losing Proposition

    by Bob Reinhold


    The United States has decided for the moment to use drones as its strategic weapon of choice in places that cannot be easily conquered.  This is a poor choice for moral reasons as well as military strategy reasons.

    Drones are relatively simple small low flying small aircraft that need no pilot, but are remotely controlled.  They are much like small planes hobbyists fly with hand held controls on large fields.  But drones are not toys but rather are deadly weapons of war.  They once were primarily used and still are used for spying.  They are manipulated by “pilots” at control “joysticks” often many thousands of miles away and can be and are used to kill targeted enemies, sometimes dozens or even hundreds of people.

    They have been used to assassinate leaders of “supposed terrorist” armies.  Their advantage is they don’t put the U.S. troops at risk in their deadly missions.  They must rely on sophisticated mapping systems such as are prepared at the Defense Mapping Agency in St. Louis and equipment manufactured at places like our local Boeing factories.

    Ann Wright and others have told us of the moral issues involved with drones, but they entail an inherent strategic disadvantage as well.  The United States has been the victor in the nineteenth and twentieth century wars, which were wars of attrition.  The North in the Civil Was was victorious because it had more men, more guns and could replenish disproportionate losses on the battlefields.  In the First World War, the United States and its allies had a greater number of men in the field and greater ability to restore losses of equipment.  In the Second World War the United States and its allies took disproportionate losses in the battlefield, but were better able to train and deploy replacement pilots and aircraft than Germany.  Its supporting ally in that war, the Soviet union lost more men in the field than the Germans, but had more men in place to lose in battle which the Germans could not match.  Likewise even before the nuclear bombing of Japan, the Americans were clearly winning the war of attrition in the Pacific.

    Getting back to drones, each one apparently requires one man to each “joystick” to operate each drone to effectively seek out and destroy targets.  Please don’t forget there are more people available to constitute an army of joystick pilots in both India and China.  Although both of those nations presently are not at war with the U.S. they could be in the future.  this is not to mention the large numbers of people, potential joystick pilots, in the Islamic world.

    The U.S. would likely lose a drone war of attrition, which to recoup, a U.S. military advantage, would start U.S. military planners to think in nuclear terms or the possibility of using chemical or germ warfare.  This is unthinkable and all reasonable people know that.

    Thus, let us encourage our nation to take the moral high ground as well as the most sound military course and stop this drone nonsense, before it’s too late.


    Bob Reinhold is an attorney and member of Citizens for Global Solutions.  He also sits on the Instead of War Steering Committee.