US schools teach 'Japan nuclear attacks ended WWII’
American school students are taught that the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 ended WWII, and saved lives by making it not necessary to invade Japan, historian Robert Jacobs from the Hiroshima Peace Institute told RT.
The globe witnessed the first nuclear attack on a city, which was Hiroshima in Japan, on August 6, 1945. Thousands of people have gathered in front of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial to commemorate the victims of the bombing.
RT: How much has been learned from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings?
Robert Jacobs: The primary thing was that the world learned that nuclear weapons exist, and what a nuclear weapon is. Also people learned the scale of devastation that is possible from nuclear weapons, the ongoing legacy that radiation and lingering radiation presents to people, and how radiation affects health - these all things that were largely unknown. But I’d also add that our idea of nuclear weapons sort of became frozen with what happened here in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and in the world today. There are much larger weapons and we understand those far less than we understand the weapons that were used here.
RT: Many of those who gathered in Hiroshima renewed their calls for peace. How important is that message when looking at the world today?
RJ: It is critically important. I think nuclear weapons remain a dire threat to all of the human race. The scale of these weapons is pretty devastating and the potential for catastrophe is very serious and very real. So the voices of those who experienced direct nuclear attack, hearing from them gives us a perspective that we can’t get simply by learning about the weapons without hearing the human voice, the human voice of experience.
So I think it is critical, and this is one of the things that makes this anniversary particularly important here in Hiroshima and also in Nagasaki, is that this is probably one of the last major anniversaries in which we will be able to hear direct testimony from those who experienced it.
RT: Recent polls show a majority of Americans think the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were justified. Why is that?
RJ: That is what we are taught in school in America for the most part. In America we tend to look at WWII as one of the last clear-cut times in which we were unambiguously on the side of good in the US. So it is hard to look at even our worst behavior in that war as anything but justifiable. Typically in American schools we are taught that the bomb ended the war, that the nuclear attacks ended the war, and that the nuclear attacks saved lives by making it not necessary to invade Japan. So this is part of the educational system of how we’re told to understand this story.
Lessons not learned: US wants Tokyo’s help in isolating China & Russia
“President Obama and the US are pressuring Japan to be an ally to the US and the Asian region and in isolating perhaps China and Russia,” Madelyn Hoffman, executive director of the New Jersey Peace Action, told RT.
RT: Do you think that the consequences of the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan in 1945 are still affecting the country today?
Madelyn Hoffman: Yes, absolutely, the consequences remain today. You simply need to walk through the streets of Hiroshima and see many memorials and monuments to see the devastation that happened 70 years ago. And then also you need to talk to the people, their exhibits here about what happened in the lead up to the WWII and beyond; paintings by people who lived through the dropping of the atomic bomb. And then you go to rallies. I was at an all-woman’s rally last night. Thousands of people talking about how it is still important for them to see WWII without nuclear weapons, and also to see that Japan remains a pacifist nation under Article 9 of their Constitution. So they are very concerned here in Hiroshima and throughout Japan about some of the changes that are being discussed for Japan by Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe.
RT: There is a widespread opinion that the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan contributed to putting an end to World War II. Do you think this view corresponds to the reality?
MH: It is a very tough question to ask of someone who had relatives or knows people who served in WWII. I don’t want to delegitimize what the veterans themselves felt about the dropping of the bombs, but at the same time history, I believe, has shown that Japan was ready to surrender, that the dropping of the bombs was not necessary and that they were dropped more to show US strength towards the former Soviet Union than anything that was going on in the war. And having been here now for five days and talking to people and going to the museum, and looking and studying what went on - the devastation, the utter devastation and destruction of lives and culture and everything else was not at all worth a flex of the muscles, a show of strength. The bombs should never have been dropped in my opinion. No matter what you think about whether they should or shouldn’t have been, they should never ever be used again.
RT: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will submit to the UN General Assembly a resolution for a nuclear-free world. Do you think it is feasible?
MH: I’m supportive of any resolution before the UN that would call for nuclear-weapons free world. But I think the actions that Abe is taking within Japan are pushing Japan in the wrong direction. And I put the blame squarely on the president of the country I live in, the US, President Obama and the US are pressuring Japan to be an ally to the US and the Asian region and in isolating perhaps China and Russia - I don’t know what would be happening with that. But I believe that the two are in contradiction with one another: calling for a ‘nuclear weapons-free world’, on the one hand, and on the other hand, saying to Japan - the only country that experienced the direct bombing - saying to Japan that 70 years of pacifism are now over and you should rejoin the nations who are able to wage war or send your troops to assist us, the US, in our wars. I think the two are in contradiction with one another. And while I was support the one, a nuclear-free world, I do not, certainly do not, support the other.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.