Thank God for the Atom Bomb

August 7, 2015

 Nuclear Weapons: A Time-Lapse History 

By Terence T. Gorski 

All people with a conscience have mixed feelings about war and the weapons of mass destruction used in modern day warfare. 

The fear of nuclear war is once again raising its head. Many of us would prefer to ignore the issue and pretend “it can never happen again.” The current deal with Iran over nuclear weapon development and the possibility of widespread nuclear proliferatio in the Middle East is raising the issue and the fear of the real possibility of nuclear war. 

People without a conscience (i.e. psychopaths/sociopaths) are not hobbled in their decision making about nuclear weapons by issues of morality, empathy, and fighting for the good. When making decisions involving the use of weapons of mass destructions psychopathic/sociopathic leaders will do anything necessary to expand their power even if it means destroying humanity in the process. 

In my opinion, the reality is that people of conscience need to come to terms with the need for violence to protect personal freedom. This means facing the issue of using violence on all levels to protect individual freedom. This includes, of course, coming to terms with the production and use of nuclear weapons. If they don’t, people motivated by high moral standards will eventually be killed, imprisoned, or controlled by psychopaths/sociopaths who are well armed and organized. This is especially true if evil intent can be cloaked by a religious ideaology. 

People of good will must recognize and name the true nature of the enemy –those who don’t are usually condemned to be defeat by the enemies they refuse to name. 

The following article was forwarded to me by Buck Yancy, a friend and mentor who keeps challenging me to face and think about the hard issues of life. It is the reprint of an essay written in 1981by the late Paul Fussell, a cultural critic and war memoirist. 

Reading this essay was unsettling. It contrasted two perspectives of making decisions about using nuclear weapons: the anstract perspective of those who make and critique policy; and the personal perspective of the troops whose lives were spared because the land invasion of Japan became unnecessary because the use of nuclear weapons forced Japan to surrender. 

Here is an article by the same name in The New Republic

Below is the original essay I received:

Thank God for the Atom Bomb  


Wed Aug 5, 2015 7:36 pm (PDT) . Posted by: “Jim Baker” baycur on Aug 5, 2015, at 11:42 AM, by Jeff Murray [CHAT_281AHC] <CHAT_281AHC@yahoo> who wrote:

The headline of this column is lifted from a 1981 essay by the late Paul Fussell, the cultural critic and war memoirist. In 1945 Fussell was a 21-year-old second lieutenant in the U.S. Army who had fought his way through Europe only to learn that he would soon be shipped to the Pacific to take part in Operation Downfall, the invasion of the Japanese home islands scheduled to begin in November 1945. 

Then the atom bomb intervened. Japan would not surrender after Hiroshima, but it did after Nagasaki.

I brought Fussell’s essay with me on my flight to Hiroshima and was stopped by this: “When we learned to our astonishment that we would not be obliged in a few months to rush up the beaches near Tokyo assault-firing while being machine-gunned, mortared, and shelled, for all the practiced phlegm of our tough facades we broke down and cried with relief and joy. We were going to live.”

In all the cant that will pour forth this week to mark the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the bombs—that the U.S. owes the victims of the bombings an apology; that nuclear weapons ought to be abolished; that Hiroshima is a monument to man’s inhumanity to man; that Japan could have been defeated in a slightly nicer way—I doubt much will be made of Fussell’s fundamental point: Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren’t just terrible war-ending events. They were also lifesaving. The bomb turned the empire of the sun into a nation of peace activists.

I spent the better part of Monday afternoon with one such activist, Keiko Ogura, who runs a group called Hiroshima Interpreters for Peace. Mrs. Ogura had just turned eight when the bomb fell on Hiroshima, the epicenter less than 2 miles from her family home. She remembers wind “like a tornado”; thousands of pieces of shattered glass blasted by wind into the walls and beams of her house, looking oddly “shining and beautiful”; an oily black rain. 

And then came the refugees from the city center, appallingly burned and mutilated, “like a line of ghosts,” begging for water and then dying the moment they drank it. Everyone in Mrs. Ogura’s immediate family survived the bombing, but it would be years before any of them could talk about it. 

Because Hiroshima and Nagasaki were real events, because they happened, there can be no gainsaying their horror. Operation Downfall did not happen, so there’s a lot of gainsaying. Would the Japanese have been awed into capitulation by an offshore A-bomb test? Did the Soviet Union’s invasion of Manchuria, starting the day of the Nagasaki bombing, have the more decisive effect in pushing Japan to give up? Would casualties from an invasion really have exceeded the overall toll—by some estimates approaching 250,000—of the two bombs?

We’ll never know. 

— We only know that the U.S. lost 14,000 men merely to take Okinawa in 82 days of fighting. 
— We only know that, because Japan surrendered, the order to execute thousands of POWs in the event of an invasion of the home islands was never implemented. 

— We only know that, in the last weeks of a war Japan had supposedly already lost, the Allies were sustaining casualties at a rate of 7,000 a week. 

— We also know that the Japanese army fought nearly to the last man to defend Okinawa, and hundreds of civilians chose suicide over capture. 

Do we know for a certainty that the Japanese would have fought less ferociously to defend the main islands? We can never know for a certainty. 

“Understanding the past,” Fussell wrote, “requires pretending that you don’t know the present. It requires feeling its own pressure on your pulses without any ex post facto illumination.” Historical judgments must be made in light not only of outcomes but also of options. Would we judge Harry Truman better today if he had eschewed his nuclear option in favor of 7,000 casualties a week; that is, if he had been more considerate of the lives of the enemy than of the lives of his men?

And so the bombs were dropped, and Japan was defeated. Totally defeated. 

Modern Japan is a testament to the benefits of total defeat, to stripping a culture prone to violence of its martial pretenses. 

Modern Hiroshima is a testament to human resilience in the face of catastrophe. It is a testament, too, to an America that understood moral certainty and even a thirst for revenge were not obstacles to magnanimity. In some ways they are the precondition for it.

For too long Hiroshima has been associated with a certain brand of leftist politics, a kind of insipid pacifism salted with an implied anti-Americanism. That’s a shame. There are lessons in this city’s history that could serve us today, when the U.S. military forbids the word victory, the U.S. president doesn’t believe in the exercise of American power, and the U.S. public is consumed with guilt for sins they did not commit.

Watch the lights come on at night in Hiroshima. Note the gentleness of its culture. And thank God for the atom bomb.

The Righteous Warrior

December 13, 2013

By Terence T. Gorski
December 13, 2013

warrior-priestI am in favor of peace. I pray for peace everyday. I don’t believe that world peace can be achieved until every person alive chooses nonviolent ways to resolve their conflicts over violence. I don’t expect that to happen in my lifetime. All I can do is pass on the dream.

Until the world is filled with people committed to nonviolent solutions, there will be ongoing violent struggle. Some call it the battle between good and evil.

Violence is the scourge of humanity since before the dawn of recorded human history. So until the time of a universal (100%) commitment of individuals to peaceful resolutions becomes a reality, we have to rely on a court system. For courts to work there must be enforcement. The need for enforcement means there must be warriors. Within the USA this means a police force. Internationally it means the military. When fighting natural and man-made disasters, it means emergency first responders of all disciplines.

I was always taken with the idea of the warrior priest — the righteous warrior, the warrior monks. The image is one of the spiritually and morally enlightened being willing and able to fight for good against evil. This mythology has been and is still a powerful force driving human consciousness in all cultures.

The righteous warrior fighting against evil – fighting in the name of good. A great idea. I am too much of a realist, however, to believe all of our wars are just or all of are warriors are righteous. I do know that warriors need to be highly trained and held to a higher standard. A higher standard is needed because they are endowed with the social sanction, the training, and the weapons they need to take human life when required to protect the common good.

Yes, there is a broad swatch of a grey between good and evil and who puts what into each category. Politicians and religious leaders of all kinds can paint the most unspeakable horrors of violence as righteous, moral and just. Think about the inquisition, or the crusades, or the plundering and murder reported as the will of God in the Old Testament and the Koran. Murder entered the old testament in the first three pages.

True evil, however, cannot be missed no matter how it is painted. The Nazi Concentration Camps, the killing fields of Cambodia, the millions of lives taken by slave owners in all cultures and all countries since the beginning of recorded history.  Tragically the list of horrors man has perpetrated upon man could go on for pages. This tendency toward violence and the loss of empathy for the victims of violence is, in my mind, at the root of the idea of evil. Organized violence embodied in war and mob rule is the most horrific violence of war.

Evil must be fought. To ignore evil is to condone it. Evil should not be sanctioned as good by religious leaders in the service of those holding political power. Ayn Rand talks about the alliance between political and spiritual leaders in the service of violence.  She calls it an alliance between Attila and the Witch Doctor. Righteous warriors are destroyed, body and soul, by this unholy alliance.

Attila and the Witch Doctor represent two figures – the man of faith and the man of force. They are philosophical archetypes, psychological symbols and historical reality. As philosophical archetypes, they embody two variants of a certain view of man and of existence. As psychological symbols, they represent the basic motivation of a great many men who exist in any era, culture or society. As historical reality, they are the actual rulers of most of mankind’s societies, who rise to power whenever men abandon reason.” [Rand, FNI, p. 14.]

Warriors are at their best when they act calmly and with the righteous knowledge that to kill a murderer to protect the lives of good people is in fact a virtuous act. Answer this question in your own mind:

If a psychopath had a knife at the throat of your child and was ready to start slashing, would it be right for the sniper to grant mercy to the psychopath and allow the child to die a horrific death?  Or would it be right for the sniper to calmly line up the head of the psychopath in his sites, exhale, and squeeze the trigger saving the child’s life. Which of these would be right? Which would represent the good?

For the sniper to kill the psychopath is an act that is both righteous and necessary. No guilt is appropriate on the part of the warrior for he or she stopped evil dead in its path to save an innocent life. All civilized people need to be willing to do the same. Most warriors, however, pay a heavy price for the taking of life even when it is a righteous act.

“Killing is supposed to be hard.
If you found it, easy I’d be worried about you.”
~ Leroy Jethro Gibbs, NCIS ~

We need our warriors. We need them trained, equipped and held to a high moral standard. We need them to work in the service of the good. In order for that to happen, we must each know what the good is. WE must know the values that are worth dying for. My father was a World War II combat veteran. His memory, and that of  my mother, weigh heavily on my mind. The order I get, the smarter i realize my parents were.

“We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night
to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” – George Orwell

My mother and father told me of a song that was popular during World War II. It was entitled: “Praise the Lord AND Pass the Ammunition. Sometimes good people must pick up weapons and do harm to those who destroy the lives of peaceful people in the night. Let’s work for the day, however, where all humanity will embrace the need for nonviolent resolution of human conflicts. Each one of counts. Each of our children count. You count.

“If there must be trouble, let it be in my day,
that my children may know peace.”
~ Edmund Burke ~

Show Me A Hero

December 12, 2013

By Terence T. Gorski
December 12, 2013

Laffey April 10 2010

Photo Credit: Artist Tom W. Freeman’s painting “Trial by Fire” depicts the April 1945 Japanese Kamikaze attack on the destroyer USS Laffey (DD-724).

I was watching a news program at home. The Viet Nam War was on my mind. I was on the short-list for being drafted.
I was still shaken by recently attending funerals of several high school friends who came home from Viet Nam in a box. I was in college and deeply struggling with my position on The War.   I wanted to be the hero. I wanted peace. I didn’t want to go to war. I had “skin in the game” as the saying goes.

A disabled Viet Nam Veteran was on the news. The veteran  stood briefly at a podium and spoke to a gaggle of reporters at a news conference. The veteran stood on his government-issued prosthetic legs. They were not as good as the current issue, but they were the best available at the time.
This veteran was one of the very few who qualified to receive them.  He needed help getting up from his chair.

The veteran was very much the hero. In a strong unshakable voice he put out a message of courage and gratitude for his opportunity to serve God, country, and Viet Nam people. He supported the war even though the war had cost him his legs.

His courage impressed me. I asked my Dad, who was watching the show with me, what he thought.

My Dad was a WW II combat veteran. He watched more than a dozen of his closest friends burn to death in a deluge of flaming gas after a Kamikaze crashed into his transport ship. He watched helplessly as they died before his eyes. There was nothing he could do to save them. He was helpless.

“I guess they were dead already,” my Dad told me in one rare moment of talking about his war. “They were dead, except for the burning and the screaming!” he told me. Then he brushed it all away by saying: “There are some things in life you can’t do anything about.”

“What to you think, Dad?” I asked.

His response burned itself into my mind forever. It wasn’t just the words – it was the pain behind the words. The pain from the deep wounds of his war, WW II,  that he carried in his soul. My Dad did not talk about the war very often. He rarely showed his pain. This was one of a very few times that he did. So I listened carefully.

“It’s easy to be a hero for a few minutes at a time when other people are watching and counting on you to be strong. I wonder what he does in the dark of night when he confronts the demons that ripped off his legs?” ~ Thomas S. Gorski, WW II VETERAN, May he rest in peace.

“Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

%d bloggers like this: