Nagasaki, The Second Bomb

Don’t miss the New Yorker’s horrifyingly informative article about Nagasaki, the bomb, and the planning that went into it.

Years after the bombing, General Leslie Groves, the micromanaging head of the Manhattan Project, admitted that he had never been able to figure out exactly when or why Nagasaki “was brought into the picture.” It was included on an initial list of seventeen potential targets, in late April of 1945, but by early May it had been weeded out. Although the city manufactured engines and torpedoes and was an important port, it was also home to an Allied prisoner-of-war camp, which made it less attractive.

And just imagine!

Kyoto, Hiroshima, Yokohama, and Kokura


And why was Yokohama taken off the list?  Surely a major military/naval port?

Yokohama was removed from the list; the U.S. military preferred targets that had not already been damaged by conventional munitions, which would make it hard to see the effects of the new weapon amid the old rubble.

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I am not one of those who think the dropping of the atomic bombs shows something peculiarly evil in the American war leadership.  I agree with both sides of the argument. Dropping the bombs was a terrible evil.  Not dropping the bombs and expecting 100,000 to die in a land invasion would have been a terrible evil.  Trying to create a taxonomy of evil in a war that killed some 60 million — the 140, ooo dead from the Hiroshima bomb is .23% of that number– is like disputing the rankings of orders of infinity. The use of the bombs followed the logic of war.  Had others developed the bomb it would almost surely have been used. Once war is begun and the amygdala of fear is joined to the planning powers of the fore-brain, war in the modern age will continue until exhaustion or capitulation.

The only utility in assessing blame and opportunities missed in the past is to be able to apply that knowledge to what is being done today. What opportunities are being dismissed, what short-shortsightedness is not seeing down the road, what personal instabilities are pushing policies likely to lead to more very imaginable horrors?


August 6, 70 Years Ago and Work to do Today

Hiroshima FCNL

August 6, every year should be a day of distress and contemplation around the world.  1 bomb, 70,000 dead, in one day; 140,000 dead as radiation worked its way through the bones ad organs of the living.

In Hiroshima itself silence is offered for 1 minute, lighted lanterns are floated in the river, white doves are released.

It seems so little.

“Eighteen-year-old Shizuko Abe was staggering out of the city, the whole right side of her body burned, her skin hanging off. Now 88, she still bears the terrible imprint of the bomb on her face and hands.

[She] remembers hearing the cries for help from beneath the debris as the flames swept forward.

“They were such sad voices calling out for help. Even 70 years later, I can still hear them calling out for help,” she says.” (BBC news)

So what I will do today is to take a long walk, and with every pace say, “Hiroshima.  Help us.”

There is more.  Despite North Korea, despite France, despite India, Pakistan, Israel, all possessors of nuclear weapons, despite the fear that Iran might build them, the two biggest nuclear dangers to the world are The United States and Russia.

“There are almost 16,000 nuclear weapons still in the world today, and the U.S. and Russia possess 94 percent of them. Worse, 1,800 of these Russian and American weapons sit atop missiles on hair-trigger alert, ready to launch on a few minutes notice.” [Al Jazeera]

Every effort to prevent nuclear proliferation should acknowledge this and include the roll back of the already proliferated.

Loud voices in the US today, are speaking against the agreement reached with Iran.  The fountain of wisdom from which they drink seems to be that military action is better than engagement, agreement, verification and ramp down of suspicion and secrecy.  Had the parties to WW II been so engaged, with serious conversations and serious interruption of war-making abilities would that war have grown to be what it became?

60 million died.  140,000 in Hiroshima was the ugly end of a monstrous era, barely more than .2% of the total dead.

Make sure diplomacy and international engagement remain the lights by which decisions are made not the lights of phosphorous bombs or nuclear flame.

Protect the Iran deal. Let your representatives and senators know.  Here is the latest “whip count” of Yes, Maybe, Aren’t Sure and  NO.  Look especially near the end for the Unknown/Unclear with 7 Democrats.


Fred Branfman Dies at 72; Exposed U.S. Covert Bombing of Laos

The peace activist and author Fred Branfman has died of ALS at the age of 72. Branfman exposed the covert U.S. bombing of Laos. In the 1960s and 1970s, in what became the largest bombing campaign in history, the United States dropped more than two million tons of bombs on the small Southeast Asian country. Branfman interviewed refugees and helped illuminate their plight for other journalists and activists, including world-renowned linguist Noam Chomsky, who traveled to Laos in 1970. Speaking at Harvard University last year, Chomsky praised Branfman’s work.

Noam Chomsky: “He’s the person who worked for years, with enormous courage and effort, to try to expose what were called the ‘secret wars.’ The secret wars were perfectly public wars which the media were keeping secret, government. And Fred — this was in Laos — he finally did succeed in breaking through, and a tremendous exposure of huge wars that were going on.”

More at Democracy Now

De-escalating On American Streets

From The Daily Banter

Police protocol in America allows police officers to apply lethal force when there is “probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm … to the officer or to others.” So a police officer can basically say, “I thought the guy was a threat, so I killed him”. It’s incredibly subjective, and the broad definition and has lead to the death of around 400 people a year in America, a massively disproportionate number being black. That is compared to zero deaths from police shootings in the England and Wales for 2013/14, and zero police officers killed by attackers.

Sometimes the police just move out of the way, and keep talking.  And a sharp baton whack on the shins will bring most people to the ground, if it comes to that.  Not only does the military hardware have to be pulled of the streets but the fire-fight mentality changed in training, policies and minds.  In work places all over American are safety exhortations: 103 days since the last injury accident!  How many do we see in police stations: 1, 229 days since the last officer involved shooting!  I wonder if at police trainings, stories about innovative ways of calming people down are swapped with anything like the fervor of death-on-death encounter?


Daily Banter also has some nice pix of people, happy in the streets of Ferguson, here.

Laos: Still Clearing American Bombs

Un effing believable

“Women are on the frontline of the effort to find and destroy millions of unexploded cluster bombs which are still claiming lives decades after being dropped on Laos.

The US dropped up to 260 million cluster bombs on Laos during the Vietnam War – the equivalent of one bombing mission every eight minutes, for nine years.

It left Laos as the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in the world.”

ABC News

Gun v Gun

Target says no to Guns and Diapers

Target interim CEO John Mulligan said in a statement published by Target’s in-house online magazine on Wednesday. “But starting today we will also respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target – even in communities where it is permitted by law.”


Open Carry Texas says it’s not a ban but a request which they will honor (until some radical faction ups the ante…)

“Open Carry Texas regrets Target’s decision to ‘respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target,'” Open Carry Texas, the group most associated with the fight over guns in chain stores, said in a Facebook post on Wednesday. “While this is not a ban on legally possessed firearms in its stores, we will continue to honor our months long policy of not taking long arms into Target stores or any other business.”

This is a distinction without a difference.


In a Georgia convenience store two guys with guns showed what happens when armed belligerence is the norm.

“Essentially, it involved one customer with a gun on his hip when a second customer entered with a gun on his hip,” Valdosta Police Chief Brian Childress said.

According to the Daily Times, the first man, Ronald Williams, approached the second man in the store and demanded to see his identification and firearms license. Williams also pulled his gun from his holster, without pointing it at the second man. The second man responded by saying that he was not obligated to show any permits or identification — then he paid for his purchase, left the store, and called the police.


The Sovereign Citizen Circus Explodes in the FOX Den

Welfare thief, cattleman Cliven Bundy of Nevada, has thrilled the circus masters at FOX news and elsewhere for the past weeks.  It all blew up last Saturday when his “I don’t recognize the government of the United States” self dragged out its ugly twin of racial animus. “I’ve often wondered are they were better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy?”

The right-wing suits who had brought him into their studios and onto talk radio and into the news pages, skedaddled as fast as their mouths could move.  Of course, those close to home?

…militiamen who showed up with weapons at Bundy’s ranch in Nevada say they continue to support him; indeed, they see the news stories as just another conspiracy. “It’s part of misinformation to maintain the divide,” one militiaman told the Las Vegas Sun []

Adam Nagourney originally  broke the story

Gail Collins gives a good, quick, amusing summary:

So, what have we learned from the Crazy Rancher Guy saga?

You have undoubtedly heard about Cliven Bundy of Nevada, who refuses to pay federal grazing fees for, um, grazing his cattle on federal land. When government agents, acting on a court order, tried to remove Bundy’s cows, they were met by armed resisters. The agents wisely withdrew rather than risk bloodshed, and the resisters declared victory.

This was Bundy’s happy time. He was a star on Fox News, where his new friend Sean Hannity asked him probing questions like:

“How far are you willing to go?”

“How far are you willing to take this?”

Charles Blow howls his outrage:

How could slaves have been “happier,” when more than 12 million were put in shackles, loaded like logs into the bowels of ships and sailed toward shores unknown, away from their world and into their hell?

How could they have been “happier” to be greased up and sold off, mother from child, with no one registering their anguish?

And, for those who think Mr Bundy is being taken out of context, that his views on race are being misrepresented or are something apart from his anti-government animus, Dana Milbank gives the short version of why we should not be surprised.

The anti-government strain of thought that Bundy advanced has been intertwined with racist and anti-Semitic views over several decades. Not all people who resist the authority of the federal government are motivated by race, of course, and not all racists are anti-government. But there is a long symbiosis between the two.

Among those who rallied to Bundy’s defense in Bunkerville, Nev. — the supporters Heller labeled patriots — was Wiley Drake, an Internet preacher affiliated with the “Oath Keepers” movement. According to reports from the scene, Drake told a crowd of Bundy supporters that they shouldn’t bow to the “half-breed” President Obama.

In general terms, Bundy’s notion of state supremacy — “I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing” — is a variant of states’-rights claims that go back to the Civil War and were revived in the segregationists’ opposition to civil rights laws. Because the federal government has been the protector of minority rights, states’ rights have long been used to justify discrimination.

Specifically, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks anti-government and hate groups, says that Bundy’s sentiments align closely with those of the “Posse Comitatus” movement, founded by William Potter Gale in the 1970s.

For a mini-seminar in what this is give a listen to this Rachel Maddow piece about the Posse Comitatus and Sovereign Citizen movements.  As the folks over at the Daily Banter say,

What she does here is extraordinary, and that’s precisely what’s so infuriating because she shouldn’t have been the only one digging beneath the surface of Cliven Bundy’s anti-government rhetoric to uncover the darkness at the center of his ideology.

When May I Shoot A Student?

Greg Hampikian, a professor at Boise State, asks the most obvious question in the world, though never asked by those fantasists of a New Gun Order:  When May I Shoot a Student?:


BOISE, Idaho — TO the chief counsel of the Idaho State Legislature:

In light of the bill permitting guns on our state’s college and university campuses, which is likely to be approved by the state House of Representatives in the coming days, I have a matter of practical concern that I hope you can help with: When may I shoot a student?

… I assume that if a student shoots first, I am allowed to empty my clip; but given the velocity of firearms, and my aging reflexes, I’d like to be proactive. For example, if I am working out a long equation on the board and several students try to correct me using their laser sights, am I allowed to fire a warning shot?

The problem is that those who need to prodded into thinking about the question will no doubt miss the irony of the Q&A.

Aha! Fewer Checks on Gun Buyers, More Deaths By Guns

The 2007 repeal of a Missouri law that required background checks and licenses for all handgun owners  appears to be associated with a significant increase in murders there, a new study finds.

What the study found

The law’s repeal was correlated with a 23 percent spike in firearm homicide rates, or an additional 55 to 63 murders annually from 2008 to 2012, according to the study conducted by researchers with the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research and to be published in the Journal of Urban Health.





Ethics for Wars to Come

[This posting more properly belongs in my All In One Boat blog, where ”today’s news” is not a feature as it is here. However, since the origins are in a NY Times weekly column I’ll put it here as well.]

Samuel G Freedman in his always interesting once-a-week column On Region in the New York Times, features Robert H Latiff, known to his old friends as a Major General (that’s two stars), now co-teaching an ethics class at Notre Dame. And good for him.

But before appreciating what he is now doing I had to chew on and spit out unhappily his inability to act on his own ethical beliefs as Bush invaded Iraq in 2003.

Three years after Robert H. Latiff received his star as a brigadier general in the Air Force, the United States prepared to invade Iraq. A military man since 1974 … he harbored enough doubts about the wisdom and logic of assaulting Iraq that he considered retiring in protest. His mentor, a four-star general, told him not to bother. Nobody would notice the act of conscience of a mere brigadier.

So General Latiff stayed in the active military until 2006, earning the rank of major general and the Distinguished Service Medal. Meanwhile, he winced at the photographs of atrocities at Abu Ghraib and reluctantly signed stop-loss orders extending soldiers’ deployments. “I didn’t act on my deeply held disgust,” he recalled recently. “And that still claws at me.”

At least he recognizes in hind-sight that another course of action was open to him. I wish he had once read In Solitary Witness, Gordon Zahn‘s slim biography of Franz Jagerstatter who was guillotined by the German army for his refusal to be inducted in 1943. Priests, neighbors and even military men tried to convince Jaggerstatter that no one would notice his protest. It did not matter to him, as the only ones to whom he had to answer were himself and his God. The war went on, of course. But Jaggerstatter’s name, in Zahn’s telling, came to be a touchstone for many war resisters as the United States sent 500,000 to fight in Vietnam, giving them the sense that they were not alone, that other brave men had risked much more than several years in prison.

Latiff’s resignation in protest, by contrast, would have raised storms of attention and perhaps led others to act on their beliefs which, like him, they kept under cover until after retirement. A welcome addition to his course, or indeed a complete course on its own, would be to inquire why so many answer the call to war and so few answer their consciences warning them away.


Back to the course he is offering. It is not about the ethics of war in general, or even war in the 20th century. His main concern is what about the wars to come:

Contemporary warfare is often far removed from the clash of large, standing armies on the open battlefield. In the United States’ use of targeted killings via un-manned drone in Pakistan and Yemen (which are not, otherwise, theaters of war) to the deployment of the Stuxnet computer virus (most likely by Israeland the United States) designed to target the computers that operate industrialequipment in Iran’s nuclear weapons program, we already see examples of this new kind of warfare. The future promises that ever more remote possibilities will become reality  entirely autonomous robotic weapon systems are already under deployment in Iraq and Korea, non-lethal electromagnetic- and sound-based weapons are under development, and research continues actively on automated, armed vehicles and biologically or robotically enhanced soldiers.

Fair enough, I suppose. We have to start somewhere. Perhaps by getting planners, military leaders, weapons designers to think about weapons before they are designed or used some restraints can be put in place — instead of, for example, waiting to see what mustard gas does to the the human respiratory system before thinking, ‘not such a good idea.’ [Among other things, the gas the British released in WW I to impair the Germans often blew back from whence it had come, and vice-versa.]

I’m glad at least a few are thinking about such things. I hope many go on to policy positions of power — without forgetting what they believed as undergraduates. I do think, however, that the weapons and decisions about their use, are only the latest embedding of today’s war-doll into yesterday’s and that real progress is not likely to come until the making and stacking of war-dolls as a human project is understood and tapered off.

I’m glad to see that early in the reading list are writings of Gandhi and Dorothy Day as well as the expected readings of Aquinas and Kenneth Walzer. For the root question of war and human savagery I could suggest many others. The rest of the reading material is directly related to his concerns: technology and human distancing from the facts on the battlefield. I don’t know if he goes into it during the course, but several recent writers on war and warrior health post war, have wondered about the nature, if any, of PTSD on those who pilot drones, kill a dozen, and drive home to pick up the kids from nursery school. Human evolution has not even caught up to the great militarized charnel houses of WW I. I’m afraid we’ll be falling further behind as this century wears on.

Anyhow, here is Freeman’s overview of Latiff, the man, and his course and here a WSJ article he wrote. Here, some excerpts from the WSJ article.

Another writer offers this:

I would go farther than the authors of the [Latiff – McCloskey] op-ed do. I would contend that developing robotic weapons with “full lethal autonomy” is inherently a war crime.

There is a Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, which you can find here.

I’d like to know if you follow the course on-line, or have done something similar. Are not only the ethical questions sharpened , and answers come to, but is the will-to-act strengthened, and will it endure?