Media, politics and culture.
An allied correspondent stands in Hiroshima September 8, 1945, a month after the first atomic bomb ever used in warfare was dropped by the United States to hasten Japan’s surrender. (AP Photo/Stanley Troutman)
As I have written extensively in three books and articles for decades, the US prevented early coverage of what our two atomic bombs produced on the ground in Japan sixty-eight years ago next week, or suppressed accounts that did emerge. Officials also kept film footage shot by our own military hidden for decades.
Two years ago I sat with Amy Goodman for a lengthy Democracy Now! segment that focused on the media “cover-up.” She also played tapes focusing on the two key reporters who did try to get the word out—Wilfred Burchett and George Weller—plus commentary on New York Times reporter W.L. Laurence, who was embedded in the bomb project and wrote glowing accounts about the making and use of the bomb. Here’s part of it:
Richard Nixon says goodbye with to his staff members outside the White House as he boards a helicopter after resigning the presidency on August 9, 1974. (AP Photo)
A new documentary film making the festival circuit and due to hit theaters later this month titled Our Nixon will debut tonight on CNN.
It’s based on recently released home movies shot during President Richard M. Nixon’s White House years by top aides H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and Dwight Chapin—before all three resigned and went to (country club) prison, that is. The footage, which lacks sound, had been seized by FBI and stored in a vault for decades.
The film also includes snippets of dialogue from the Nixon tapes, and other audio tapes, interspersed and in roughly chronological fashion, so we follow Nixon from his inauguration in 1969, through the antiwar protests, the trip to China, etc. and on to Watergate and his resignation. We also see a few later reflections by the three men who shot the footage. Directed by Penny Lane, the film is fairly straightforward, though often with a hint of dark humor—and some aptly offbeat music on the soundtrack.
A highlight (or lowlight) is the president, Haldeman and Ehrlichman on tape discussing in 1971 an episode of the then-new TV series All in the Family.
Nixon had just stumbled on it, searching for a baseball game, and was shocked by its alleged glorification of “queers,” “fags” and “homos,” and favoring the “hippie-son-in-law” (played by Rob Reiner) over the “hardhat” Archie Bunker.
“Do you know what happened to the Romans? The last six Roman emperors were fags,” Nixon points out. “The last six. Nero had a public wedding to a boy. Yeah.” And: “You know what happened to the popes? It’s all right that popes were laying the nuns, that’s been going on for years, centuries.”
Dope, “immorality” and homosexuality threatening to destroy USA—that’s why lefties are pushing them. And don’t get Nixon started on the Jews and blacks!
US Army Private First Class Bradley Manning departs the courtroom after day four of his court martial at Fort Meade, Maryland, June 10, 2013. (Reuters/Gary Cameron)
This morning, just hours after the presiding judge, Colonel Denise Lind, read her verdict, the sentencing phase begins at Fort Meade, Maryland, and it will be a lengthy and heated one.
As I covered it here yesterday, Lind found Pfc. Bradley Manning guilty of twenty serious charges, but found him not guilty on a couple, including the harshest one of all, “aiding the enemy.” He now faces up to 136 years in prison. No one expects her to go that far—many of the charges are pretty much for the same separate action—but certainly she will consider sentences stretching into decades.
So both sides in the courtroom tussle are geared up for a big battle. The prosecution, wounded by losing out on the top charge, will fight for a very lengthy sentence. The defense, with all those guilty charges, sees this as a chance to win some vindication for Manning—and finally an opportunity to raise the full defense denied in the trial. Now they will be able to speak more to his idealist motivation and to the evidence that what he leaked caused little harm to US interests and personnel.
Both sides plan to call a dozen or more witnesses. See frequent updates from Kevin Gosztola at the scene. He is co-author of my book on the Manning case, the only one that follows it from the leaks right up to present trial.
Note: Manning will get 1,274 days off his final sentence for pre-trial confinement—including an added 112 days off for unlawful punishment (his too-long stay in solitary).
I’ll post more updates and reaction as the day goes on but for now:
The New York Times in an editorial asks for only a “moderate” sentence.
A hot debate last night between Glenn Greenwald and Jeffrey Toobiin on Anderson Cooper’s CNN show.
My piece last month listing some of the major revelations we learned via Manning leaks.
Frank Rich: “That ‘not guilty’ is a good thing, but it doesn’t mitigate the reality that ‘aiding the enemy’ was a bogus and dangerous charge in the first place. The fact that the government would even pursue it is chilling to a free press. Under the prosecution’s Orwellian logic, essentially any classified information given by a whistle-blower to a journalistic outlet (whether WikiLeaks or the Times, which published Manning-WikiLeaks revelations) amounts to treason if ‘the enemy’ can read it.”
Dan Gillmor on why the media should not breathe a “sigh of relief” based on that one key not-guilty ruling.
UPDATED: A verdict in the the case of United States of America v. Manning, Bradley E., PFC., at Fort Meade, Maryland, was delivered at 1 pm today by the presiding judge, Col. Denise Lind. The first to emerge was the big one: found not guilty of aiding the enemy. But convicted of multiple counts of violating espionage act. In all, convicted of nineteen charges, including those he pleaded guilty to some time ago.
Read the just-released transcript of the judge’s rulings. Note: Manning not guilty of transmitting "Garani air strike" video, not guilty of espionage for the "Collateral Murder" video.
Faces more than 100 years in prison if given max on some of them. Sentencing arguments start tomorrow, but with many witnesses called could go on for a couple of days. New York Times editorial just posted calls for just giving him a "moderate" sentence.
Witnesses say no outbursts in courtroom when verdict read. Manning, they say, had slight smile when cleared on aiding the enemy but basically stoic. No outbursts from supporters.
See live Democracy Now! feed above. I was on with Jeremy Scahill for twenty minutes after verdict announced. Watch and listen as he slams media coverage, then I join in. Then Kevin Gosztola arrived, co-author of my book on the Manning case. Manning supporters expressing profound relief at dismissal of aiding the enemy charge—but hitting conviction on so many others in an “over-charged” case. Listen to my appearance today on Warren Olney's national radio show, terrific 40-minute discussion with couple other key guests.
My piece last month listing some of the many valuable revelations that arrived via Manning leaks.
Dan Gillmor notes that the press may be breathing "sigh of relief" over not guilty on aiding enemy but premature--as crackdown on whistleblowers and transparency continues.
Here’s statement from Manning family, from an aunt, sent to The Guardian.
While we are obviously disappointed in today’s verdicts, we are happy that Judge Lind agreed with us that Brad never intended to help America’s enemies in any way. Brad loves his country and was proud to wear its uniform.
We want to express our deep thanks to David Coombs, who has dedicated three years of his life to serving as lead counsel in Brad’s case. We also want to thank Brad’s Army defense team, Major Thomas Hurley and Captain Joshua Tooman, for their tireless efforts on Brad’s behalf, and Brad’s first defense counsel, Captain Paul Bouchard, who was so helpful to all of us in those early confusing days and first suggested David Coombs as Brad’s counsel.
Most of all, we would like to thank the thousands of people who rallied to Brad’s cause, providing financial and emotional support throughout this long and difficult time, especially Jeff Paterson and Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network. Their support has allowed a young Army private to defend himself against the full might of not only the US Army but also the US Government.
A military court-martial today found Pfc. Bradley Manning guilty of multiple charges under the Espionage Act for giving classified material to WikiLeaks, but not guilty of aiding the enemy.
“While we’re relieved that Mr. Manning was acquitted of the most dangerous charge, the ACLU has long held the view that leaks to the press in the public interest should not be prosecuted under the Espionage Act,” said Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. “Since Manning already pleaded guilty to charges of leaking information—which carry significant punishment—it seems clear that the government was seeking to intimidate anyone who might consider revealing valuable information in the future.”
Amnesty International’s Senior Director of International Law and Policy Widney Brown said:
“The government’s priorities are upside down. The US government has refused to investigate credible allegations of torture and other crimes under international law despite overwhelming evidence.
“Yet they decided to prosecute Manning who it seems was trying to do the right thing—reveal credible evidence of unlawful behaviour by the government. You investigate and prosecute those who destroy the credibility of the government by engaging in acts such as torture which are prohibited under the US Constitution and in international law.
“The government’s pursuit of the ‘aiding the enemy’ charge was a serious overreach of the law, not least because there was no credible evidence of Manning’s intent to harm the USA by releasing classified information to WikiLeaks.
“Since the attacks of September 11, we have seen the US government use the issue of national security to defend a whole range of actions that are unlawful under international and domestic law.
“It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that Manning’s trial was about sending a message: the US government will come after you, no holds barred, if you’re thinking of revealing evidence of its unlawful behaviour.”
* * *
EARLIER TODAY: Unlike most days, there is a crush of media showing up at the courtroom. I’ll be covering the verdict and aftermath, analysis and reaction, all afternoon.
Pre-verdict: here’s an AP report, which does good job of quoting experts on how the “aid the enemy” charge is something new and dangerous, for the media and for whistleblowers. Democracy Now! will cover verdict live.
Among the other charges, Manning still faces the most serious “aiding the enemy” charges that could send him to prison for the rest of his life. The mood of most Manning supporters—who gathered for a demonstration there this morning—was pessimistic, although there were hopes for some leniency in the sentencing phase, when his motivation (and alleged lack of serious harm caused by the leaks) will finally get full play.
On Monday, Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, said that he would call twenty-four witnesses in the sentencing phase of the trial, coming up tomorrow. Manning much earlier pleaded guilty to several charges but the judge will need to affirm them today.
Most of the stalwarts who have covered the trial, and previous hearings, for many months, remain at the scene, including Kevin Gosztola, former Nation writer and co-author of my book on the Manning case. Follow him on Twitter today @kgosztola. Others at the scene: @NathanLFuller and @carwinb.
Fuller, director of the leading Manning defense committee, tweeted yesterday: “Given how this trial has gone thus far, I expect Bradley
#Manning to be convicted of all charges against him.”
Greg Mitchell’s book with Kevin Gosztola, the only one that follows the case from the leaks to the current trial, is Truth and Consequences.
US Army Private First Class Bradley Manning departs the courtroom after day four of his court-martial at Fort Meade, Maryland June 10, 2013. (Reuters/Gary Cameron)
Final arguments in the case of United States of America v. Manning, Bradley E., PFC., at Fort Meade, Maryland, were delivered at the end of last week, and the military judge, Denise Lind, adjourned for the weekend to deliiberate.
She called the court back to order briefly this morning, then adjourned again for further deliberations. Among the other charges, Manning still faces the most serious “aiding the enemy” charges that could send him to prison for the rest of his life. UPDATE at noon: Lind announced that she will deliver the verdict at 1 pm on Tuesday.
Today, Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, said that he would call twenty-four witnesses in the sentencing phase of the trial, coming up. Manning much earlier pleaded guilty to several charges. Coombs also said the verdict might not come until tomorrow.
Most of the stalwarts who have covered the trial, and previous hearings, for many months, remain at the scene, including Kevin Gosztola, former Nation writer and co-author of my book on the Manning case. Follow him on Twitter today @kgosztola. Others at the scene: @NathanLFuller and @carwinb.
Fuller, director of the leading Manning defense committee, tweeted today: “Given how this trial has gone thus far, I expect Bradley
#Manning to be convicted of all charges against him.”
The Bradley Manning Support Network released this statement this afternoon:
In an ominous sign for Manning, military judge Denise Lind altered important charges last week in order to assist prosecutors ahead of verdict. In so doing, defense attorney David Coombs explained, “The Government has pushed this case beyond the bounds of legal propriety. If the Government meant ‘information’, it should have charged information.” Up until last week, Manning was charged with stealing entire databases. The Defense has no way to defend Manning against these new charges after the fact. Army private Bradley Manning faces a potential life sentence for passing hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents to the transparency website WikiLeaks, to expose U.S. criminality in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and further abuses around the world. Never in the history of American military law has a person been charged with Article 104 of the Uniform Code of Military Law, “Aiding the Enemy,” for providing information to the media in the public interest. However, Manning faces life in prison tomorrow if convicted of this charge alone—despite all evidence to the contrary. "I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information ... this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general," Manning said in a February statement.
Nuclear power plant. (AP Photo)
Shortly after the July 2012 protest, I wrote about it in this space and now the legal climax is approaching: three activists known as the Oak Ridge 3—Greg Boertje-Obed, Michael Walli and Sister Megan Rice—are in the Irwin County Detention Facility in Ocilla, Georgia, awaiting sentencing on September 23. The three were found guilty by a jury in Tennessee in May on two counts: interfering with or obstructing the national defense (sabotage) at the famous Y12 nuclear storage site at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and depredation of government property. Both counts are considered violent acts and fall under the definition of “federal crimes of terrorism.”
The three (mugshots at left) were protesting plans for a new multibillion-dollar production center and the ongoing production of nuclear weapons components. Photos here of the spray-painted messages they left at the site. Some say the three ought to be thanked, not punished, for exposing dangerous lapses in security at the sensitive site, which sparked a congressional probe.
The maximum sentence they face is thirty years, with something approaching ten years more likely. The trio have asked for their supporters and friends to write to the judge “asking for justice to be brought back into their case in this sentencing phase,” as the main site supporting them puts it.
One of the most cogent writers on the history of Catholic anti-war and anti-nuclear activism since the 1960s is William O’Rourke. I’ve known him since the 1970s, when he wrote book reviews for me at Crawdaddy. He is best known for his acclaimed book, The Harrisburg 7 and the New Catholic Left from 1972, but he has also written numerous other non-fiction books and novels (full bio here). Last week he wrote an important piece about the Oak Ridge 3 case in the context of these times, and former times, for his blog, and has given permission to reprint it below.
* * *
by William O’Rourke
Last year, in April, there was a weekend event in Harrisburg, PA, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the trial of the Harrisburg 7, which had ended in 1972, with a hung jury on the major counts—conspiring to kidnap Henry Kissinger and blow up heating tunnels in Washington, DC—and convictions on minor contraband counts, smuggling letters in and out of a Federal prison in Lewisburg, PA.
The Harrisburg trial became the capstone of a number of anti-war trials that had begun in the 1960s, some involving the Berrigan brothers, Daniel and Philip, most notably the case of the Catonsville 9; these trials had marked the new Catholic Left’s ascendancy in the public eye as symbols of “nonviolent” resistance to the Vietnam war. Though the government “lost” the Harrisburg 7 trial, its fomenters, J. Edgar Hoover and his FBI, won what they were after: to besmirch the reputations of the Berrigans and the larger Catholic Left resistance movement and to knock them from the high moral pillar they occupied.
A reissue of my 1972 book, The Harrisburg 7 and the New Catholic Left, had appeared a month before, so I gave the keynote address following a panel on the case, held at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg. One of the original defendants, the former nun Elizabeth McAlister and spouse, now widow, of Philip Berrigan, had been on the panel and was in attendance. It was a large crowd of some 200 filling the bookstore, the size of a warehouse, where we all convened, the average age 60 plus. (A podcast of the event can be found here: http://famousreadingcafe.podomatic.com/). I began my remarks saying that when I had written the new Afterword for the Harrisburg book I had never imagined that I would be reading parts of it aloud to Elizabeth McAlister.
Three months after that event, another nun, Sister Megan G. Rice, along with two men some decades’ younger—she was 82 in July of 2012, the men in their 50s and early 60s—were arrested after breaking into Y-12, our nuclear storage facility of storied history in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. They came with the usual Plowshares movement equipment: hammers, spray paint, human blood, but also a hefty bolt cutter. The Oak Ridge 3.
They were tried this year in Knoxville, TN, in early May, and, after a two-day trial, were convicted on two counts, one of obstructing the national defense and the second of “depredation” of a government facility. The former, the sabotage count, carries a potential penalty of 20 years.
There was very little coverage of the trial itself, nothing like the Harrisburg case received four decades ago, and the Knoxville local news and the AP, in their reporting, kept referring to the defendants as the Y-12 trespassers, not the Oak Ridge 3, thereby de-nationalising the case. Sentencing for the Oak Ridge 3, who currently remain in jail, is scheduled for September. The Washington Post did run a mini-book report on the case before the trial, on April 29th, in its Style section, complete with 14 “Chapters” (all very short, Dan Brown-like), written by Dan Zak, with many web-friendly photos and extras. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/style/2013/04/29/the-prophets-of-oak-ridge/). The Post is fly-fishing for a Pulitzer.
In 2012 the Nuns on the Bus had received more coverage than the Oak Ridge 3 (many things get more publicity), but beating swords into plowshares doesn’t get a lot of traction these days. It’s hard, in the Age of Obama, when the “anti-war” former presidential candidate continues to oversee the two wars his predecessor began, and Gitmo remains open (though the president really, really wants to close it), to push through all the noise with this type of anti-nuclear protest. The Plowshares movement rose from the ashes of the Harrisburg trial, nurtured and populated by both Berrigans, Philip and Dan, along with Philip’s wife, Elizabeth McAlister. Its protests began, more or less, in 1980, with the King of Prussia, PA, action at the GE Missile Re-entry Division. More hammers and blood. Eventually, after a number of protests, the Berrigans and Elizabeth spent time in jail, some shorter, some longer, as did others.
These days activists have taken to calling such events as the Y-12 prophetic acts, rather than protests, thereby sidestepping the endemic futility found in this sort of protesting. The participants have been mainly the remnants of the Catholic Left, carrying out their never-ending mission. Protest movements in the secular protest world, and their general fecklessness, were demonstrated most starkly by the Occupy movement, the marathon sitting-in sort in a park near the heart of the beast on Wall Street in 2011. Other moments of occupation have occurred elsewhere in the country with little effect, as well as the more anarchistic protests at G8 meetings (held infrequently in the US).
One secular protest movement with teeth, though, has been the Tea Party, a largely astro-turf creation, though anchored in the small hardcore anti-tax groups of long standing, but was hatched into its current form by high-end Republican organizations with the bright idea of creating a “third” party within a party—the GOP—avoiding that way all the shortcomings of traditional third parties.
Coincidentally, a new documentary, Hit & Stay: A History of Faith and Resistance, which premiered at the Chicago Underground Film Festival last March, focuses on the Catholic anti-war movement, largely the draft-board raiding contingent, of the 60s, 70s. (Its web site: http://www.hitandstay.com/ ). At a panel after the premiere, the usual question was asked: Why weren’t more young people out in the streets protesting? My answer was that they were saddled with so much educational debt they don’t dare. And there is the continuing influence of the Democrat anti-war president whose earnest rhetoric tamps down youthful fervor to protest the government he represents.
One often overlooked reason of why the late 60s and early 70s became the golden age of protest was the state of the economy back then. There was both an excess of surplus capital and, briefly, recession, which allowed a lot of youth the time to be both fancy free and willing to take a stand. Reagan economics and the transfer of most of the wealth to the top had yet to take place.
Today’s economics perversely put a choke-hold on large-scale protests. The current volunteer army was not forced upon the government by the anti-war protestors of the time; the war makers longed for it, and got it in 1973. 1973! The one statistic that has changed in the wars we now fight is the average age of the dead. It has risen. We’re no longer killing the footloose teenage males we had such an oversupply of in the Vietnam period. Those who die now have marriages, families, some experience of real life, however truncated.
When the Plowshares people turned to anti-nuclear protests, going from protesting the humble starting point of organized warfare—draft boards, the recruitment of soldiers as good ol’ cannon fodder—the Berrigans jumped to the end of the process, protesting the technological height of the military-industrial complex, its most sacred and scary weapons, its nuclear stockpile. If Gandhi could end the British Empire’s colonial domination of a country, why couldn’t the Berrigans end our reliance on nuclear weapons? They chose to go from the limited and symbolic to the purely symbolic and sorely limited. Prophetic actions, indeed. The history of protest has many rooms, but these symbolic acts are demonstrations of resistance, idealized pleas for actual magic, as if spray paint and human blood and the marks of hammers could actually turn an article of war (a nuclear sword) into a helpful tool of humanity (a plow). Prest-O Change-O.
The general public might not have much reaction or exposure to octogenarian nuns spray-painting a building filled with enriched bomb-grade uranium, but Congress certainly did, and hearings on the Oak Ridge incident quickly were held. A number of representatives thanked Sister Rice for pointing out the deficiencies in its security systems. The thorough Lax account, courtesy of The Washington Post, points out the usual laughable lapses, the sort you get when you privatize the military. One of the horrors of nuclear weapons is how they wedded the greatest intellectual minds to the greatest amount of destruction. Our cultural DNA since the 1940s has been tainted, given this arranged marriage of science and war. It can be argued, though, it has always been so.
The Nobel prizes, the awards for the highest rarefied sort of thinking, were founded atop a pile of dynamite, or, rather Alfred Nobel’s patented dynamite and detonator. The first Nobel prizes were awarded at the start of the twentieth century, in 1901. So many symbols speak for us, there is no quiet on the earth. The events of 9/11 are both symbols and facts. Though, in war, the presumption that you might die is a given, there is a stark difference when to die is the participants’ desire. The way our country and government has reacted to what we call suicide bombers is to redefine what war is and what we are willing to do in such a war. President Obama’s speech on counter-terrorism to the National Defense University on May 23rd tried to acknowledge that he, if nothing else, is aware that the not-so-brave new world we are now in cannot go on forever. But he may be wrong, for as he pointed out the contradictions between what we say and what we do, he also demonstrated neither the will nor the power to change it.
The Oak Ridge 3 may have carried out a profound prophetic action, certainly it was courageous, but it is our own government’s symbols and actions that contain the most alarming prophecies.
Katrina vanden Heuvel shines the spotlight on Big Nuclear.
An allied correspondent stands in a sea of rubble before the shell of a building in Hiroshima, September 8, 1945. (AP Photo/Stanley Troutman)
Sixty-eight years ago last week the Nuclear Age began with the first successful test of an atomic weapon at the Trinity site in the New Mexico desert. The test and what surrounded it set the standard for much of what followed in the decades to come: radiation dangers, official secrecy and cover-ups, a nearly endless nuclear arms race, and the triumph of the national security state.
Two years ago, as the annual anniversary of the August 6 atomic bombing of Hiroshima approached, I wrote daily posts here, a Countdown to Hiroshima, relating what happened on the corresponding day in 1945. You can find them archived, beginning on July 25, 2011. I won’t do it again here this year, but you’ll find new versions every day over at my Pressing Issues blog—and I started earlier this year, with nearly two weeks already covered.
Every summer for the past thirty years I’ve written numerous artilces about this and related subjects—because the US media, with the exception of the fiftieth anniversary in 1995, fail to raise new, or even longstanding, questions. I’ve written three books on the subject: Hiroshima in America (with Robert Jay Lifton), Atomic Cover-Up (on the decades-long suppression of shocking film shot in the atomic cities by the US military) and Hollywood Bomb (the wild story of how an MGM 1947 drama was censored by the military and Truman himself).
For now, here’s a kind of summary of the debate of the use of the bomb in August 1945.
One of the persistent—and certainly the most influential—arguments in the media for dropping the bomb over two highly populated Japanese cities is that it saved hundreds of thousands, even millions, of American lives that would have been lost in the “inevitable” US invasion of Japan. Those numbers were grossly inflated from the start, many historians have shown, but any invasion would have been bloody enough. The significance of the Trinity success—which was by no means a slam dunk beforehand—was that it rendered any invasion extremely unlikely.
Why? There is no way any American president, and certainly not Harry Truman, would have gone ahead with an invasion—scheduled for several long months after the Trinity test—knowing that he had an A-bomb in his pocket. This helps account for why his surly mood at the Potsdam summit was transformed overnight by the news of the Trinity success.
The question—on the day after Trinity—was not use bomb or invade (which defenders of the bomb still emphasize), but rather how to use the bomb.
Truman’s choices were: (1) inform Japan’s leadership that the United States now had such a device (the Japanese knew what that meant, having tried and failed in its own atomic program), (2) set up a dramatic demonstration shot, (3) drop a bomb or bombs over a sparsely populated part of Japan or a military base or (4) target large cities.
Those who continue to raise the specter of massive US casualties—often citing a family member who might have perished—should be required to argue that options 1, 2 and 3 (above) would not have produced a Japanese surrender in the months leading up to the scheduled invasion and that Truman, when more A-bombs became available in the fall of 1945, would have then chosen to invade rather than drop the new weapons on the Japanese.
Again one has to say: no American president, and certainly not Truman, would have ordered thousands of Americans to their deaths rather than use more of the weapons. Consider, for example, our current use of drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan in place of large land forces.
So the issue was not bomb or invade but bomb or negotiate (or bomb and negotiate).
Now, many defenders of the bombing will say that the beauty of using the bomb against Japanese cities is this: it made the Japanese agree to unconditional surrender. This, of course, is nonsense. In fact, we accepted the very strong condition of letting them keep their emperor, which was always assumed to be the main sticking point in a surrender before Hiroshima.
In other words, we demanded unconditional surrender after Trinity—but accepted a key condition after Hiroshima.
But would the Japanese have quit very shortly—via the same “negotiations”—if Truman had tried one of the first three options outlined above? Of course, we will never know for sure. Certainly, there is evidence on all sides, and I’d need another 10,000 words here to even begin to discuss some of it.
One little known detail about Trinity is this: J. Robert Oppenheimer, “The Father of the Bomb,” was so surprised by the incredible visual effects of the July 16, 1945, test that he came to believe that a demonstration shot might well have convinced the Japanese to quit (though he never urged this path, feeling the momentum to drop the bomb over cities was unstoppable).
What we also learned at Trinity: the radiation threat was even worse than we feared. That didn’t stop Truman from speeding up the use of the bomb against cities.
The key historical fact usually ignored by defenders of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is that the A-bomb wasn’t the only reason the Japanese quit: the foe the Japanese most feared, the Russians, had finally declared war against them, and were on march, two days after the Hiroshima blast.
This was not a case of “getting in on the spoils”—we had demanded that the Soviets do this at Potsdam the month before and knew it was coming, bomb or no bomb. This has led to theories—which I have never embraced—that the main reason we dropped the bombs, knowing Japan was already defeated, was to keep the Soviets out of Japan, and intimidate them in the postwar era. I’d call this a reason, not the reason.
Be that as it may, there is no question that the Soviet declaration had a huge impact on the Japanese—as it would have if we had merely demonstrated the A-bomb or dropped it over a more remote area in Japan. Truman, in his diary, declared that the Russian attack alone meant “fini” for “the Japs.”
The key point is: We didn’t wait around to find out if the Japanese would have surrendered to us shortly (especially after we let them keep the emperor) to prevent the Russians from invading, or if a strong nudge via use of our bomb would have been required.
So, for me (if not most others in the media), the responsibility has always been on the defenders of the use of the bomb to marshal evidence that all of those other options Truman could have tried after Trinity—plus the Russian attack and letting them keep the emperor—would not have produced a quick surrender.
Yes, we do know that surrender came shortly after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but we also know the awful negatives of the decision Truman did make: the deaths of more than 200,000 civilians (mainly women and children) and lingering illness for thousands more, the staining of the United States with a moral stigma around the world (if not in our own country), plus the setting in motion of the sense of the weapon as desirable and usable, leading to a costly, forty-year nuclear arms race.
More from Greg Mitchell on the unanswered questions surrounding the Trinity test.
An activist associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement holds up a sign in front a police line during a rally in Union Square Wednesday, March 21, 2012 in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffe)
Occupy Wall Street was featured again last night on HBO’s Newsroom. The Aaron (Social Network) Sorkin love-it-or-hate-it drama, which launched its second season last week, follows real-life events in its storylines and is now up to late summer of 2011. So we get the drone attack on al-Alwaki, the execution of Troy Davis, Rick Perry’s surge in the GOP race—and the birth of Occupy in New York.
Last week, one of the Newsroomers—the young blog guy, naturally—reads about OWS on Reddit or some such and pitches idea of covering them in advance of the first September 2011 protest. He attends a meeting downtown, meeting criticism from activists—we get the hand signals and all—but a pretty non-leading “leader” (played by Aya Cash, possibly based on Alexis Goldstein) takes pity on him and chats with him later.
This week finds the blog guy attending a street demo—he meets that woman again—and getting busted at an early protest (but getting the key footage out) and then being sprung by anchor Will McAvoy, played by Jeff Daniels—he happens to be an ex-prosecutor, also—who threatens to expose brutal cop. Here’s how some OWS folks responded to how Aaron Sorkin handled them in the first episode last week.
Dear fake news anchor: You make a typically dismissive move, in reinforcing the notion that OWS was all about camping out in a park. Certainly, the occupation of Zuccotti Park garnered significant media attention, but believe it or not, MSM: getting your attention is not what OWS is actually about.
Why? Because the State can evict people from a park down the way from Wall Street—as did the Obama administration, in a coordinated national crackdown on Occupy encampments all over the country. But it can’t evict this notion—that yes we can, and must, confront Wall Street relentlessly. That we must keep our eyes fixed and focused on the companies traded on Wall Street, on a 24:7 basis. That idea has occupied minds around the world, and it’s not going anywhere.
This clip below is from forthcoming episode. Note: if the season follows usual scenario for show, Jeff Daniels will come around to respect, possibly even endorse, OWS.
Michael Moore on the purpose of Occupy Wallstreet.
Helen Thomas. (AP Photo)
Helen Thomas, who set standards and records for covering US presidents, has died. The legendary White House correspondent was 92.
It was sad to see her final years mired in controversy after her ill-spoken comments (at the age of 88) sharply critical of Israel led to her forced retirement. Her views on brutal treatment of Palestinians, and unbalanced media and DC treatment of them, were not wrong, of course, if poorly stated.
Katrina vanden Heuvel put it this way: “Her remarks were offensive, but considering her journalistic moxie and courage over many decades—a sharp contrast to the despicable deeds committed by so many littering the Washington political scene—isn’t there room for someone who made a mistake, apologized for it and wants to continue speaking truth to power and asking tough questions?”
It can not be overlooked that she was among the very few reporters to strongly question Bush’s Iraq invasion—to the extent he later refused to call on her at most press conferences. She was also featured, you may recall, in the classic Stephen Colbert routine for White House Correspondents’ dinner. I met her at the the 2004 GOP convention in NYC off the floor and we had a nice chat.
Here she is being interviewed by Amy Goodman in 2009 as Obama was about to take office:
AMY GOODMAN: Do you expect to see a change of policy, for example, on Israel and the Occupied Territories?
HELEN THOMAS: No, I don’t.
AMY GOODMAN: Why not?
HELEN THOMAS: Because I think that Obama, during the campaign, made many promises, as every president, potential president does to Israel, that they seem somehow bounded by their promises, promises to uphold all Israeli goals.
I don’t see how the US can provide F-16s, gunships, Apache gunships, phosphorus, possibly phosphorus, and cluster bombs and so forth to kill helpless people, children who are starving to death. They control the checkpoints. They control the arrivals and departures, supplies and people. And the Americans—President Bush has remained silent to that suffering. He has blocked by a veto at the UN any stoppage of the warfare, and he continues to supply Israel.
Challenging Bush on Iraq below. Other vids at YouTube show her very early and strongly probing Bush-era illegal wiretapping, torture, and more.
Bradley Manning departs the courtroom at Fort Meade, Maryland, June 10, 2013. (Reuters/Gary Cameron)
In a key move, the military judge in a Fort Meade courtroom yesterday declined to throw out the most serious charge against Pfc. Bradley Manning of “aiding the enemy.”
Manning’s defense team had filed a motion requesting a “directed verdict”—an acquittal—claiming the government had presented no evidence that Manning had actually “aided” any enemies.
The judge, Colonel Denise Lind, said the government had provided sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Manning knowingly gave information to enemy groups (like Al Qaeda) via his leaks to WikiLeaks in 2009. Manning, 25, faces spending the rest of his life in prison.
The prosecution then began its rebuttal of the case presented by the defense.
Defense lawyers claimed Manning did not intend for the documents to end up with Al Qaeda—he divulged information simply to “spark reform and debate.”
One angle: that e-mail he sent to The New York Times in April 2010 seeking to get them to publish his material. (He also failed to get a positive response from The Washington Post.) Prosecutors charged that this e-mail showed that Manning recognized that WikiLeaks was not a legitimate news organization.
Last week, Amnesty International officially called for the US government to drop the “aiding the enemy” charge.
Closing arguments may be heard today, with a chance that Colonel Lind will pronounce a verdict. Manning has already pleaded guilty to ten lesser offenses.
Kevin Gosztola of Firedoglake, one of the very few journalists to cover virtually all of the Manning hearings going back to last year—and my co-author of a book on the case, Truth and Consquences—has an analysis here that gets at an added important angle.
Applying the standards she was to follow, it was probably to be expected that the judge would not acquit Manning at this stage. The key issue is, as American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Director of the Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, Ben Wizner, told Firedoglake, the judge continues to apply the wrong legal standard to considering the charge….
“Knowledge is not protective in the information age,” Wizner added. It is now “impossible to communicate to the public without communicating to the enemy.” Anyone from the Pentagon could get up and answer questions about the military and that information would become known to the enemy simply because it was broadcast on television or the video was posted online. So, in terms of Wizner’s example involving then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld holding a town hall with soldiers and answering a question from a specialist that military vehicles were not properly armored, that could be construed as “aiding the enemy.”
Sharing any information with the press becomes “aiding the enemy.” According to Wizner, “any member of the military including the Pentagon press secretary” could be guilty of committing an offense because they would have known the information would get to the enemy.
“All of this has a legal novelty,” Wizner stated. If he is convicted, it would be more difficult for the charge to stand up on appeal because it lacks the intent requirement. And lost in all of this is whom Manning intended to disclose the material: the public.
Amnesty International senior director for international law and policy, Widney Brown, reacted, “The charge of ‘aiding the enemy’ is ludicrous.” And, “What’s surprising is that the prosecutors in this case, who have a duty to act in the interest of justice, have pushed a theory that making information available on the internet—whether through Wikileaks, in a personal blog posting, or on the website of The New York Times—can amount to ‘aiding the enemy.’”
Brown noted that “the prosecution’s own witnesses repeatedly told the court that they found no evidence that Manning was sympathetic towards al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, that he had never expressed disloyalty to his country, that they had no evidence that he had ties to any government other than his own.”
“It’s abundantly clear that the charge of ‘aiding the enemy’ has no basis and the charge should be withdrawn,” Brown asserted. “This makes a mockery of the U.S. military court system.”
Chase Madar debunks seven myths about Bradley Manning.
Truth and Consequences was recently updated and is available in both print and ebook editions.