On the EDge: Hiroshima reminds us we have our own nuclear scars

OPINION – The president’s visit to Hiroshima last week was, of course, fodder for the political spinmeisters, one side claiming it was an ignoble apology unbefitting a certain legacy they believe was insulted by his visit. The other dealt with the reality, that the visit was anything but an apology and, instead, a formal embrace between two formerly bitter foes.

History is truly not clear on whether the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was necessary to end the carnage of World War II although there are convincing arguments from both sides.

What is clear is that the horror that was unleashed those two days in August 1945 when the Enola Gay and Bockscar dropped their deadly payloads on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the beginning of an era that saw us creep to the threshold of Armageddon during the Cold War.

We continued, as is our wont, to develop bigger, nastier, deadlier nuclear devices until we arrived at a place where the United States alone could destroy the planet several times over. Eight other nations now sit on nuclear stockpiles and several others are in the developmental stages.

During the Cold War the United States had a stockpile of approximately 70,000 nuclear warheads.

Thank God we have not used them.

Although the U.S. is the only nation to have ever used them in anger, it doesn’t mean that the only victims of the nuclear age were those who succumbed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

There have been others, many others.

In great numbers.

At great emotional cost.

At great financial cost.

And, Southern Utah is where most of them came from.

When it was decided that, indeed, we needed to find bigger, better, and more efficient ways in which to kill large numbers of people the U.S. started blowing things up in the Nevada desert just a hop, skip and radioactive cloud dump away from St. George.

The government would test these demonic devices and the fallout would drift.

It came down on all 48 contiguous states, spread over the border into Canada and Mexico, and drifted across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe.

And, the people were told it was all harmless, that the particles falling from the sky would do no harm, even though scientists and government officials knew better.

So the innocents who lived in this region would take the kids out to the west desert in Iron and Washington counties to watch the sky light up whenever there was a nuclear test.

They would gather on the mountain ridges or the rises in Snow Canyon to watch the drift overhead. The road to Snow Canyon was usually manned by government scientists clad in heavy hazmat suits who would run Geiger counters over the vehicles of the families who went out to take in the show.

Women were told it was safe to hang their laundry outside, that all they had to do was beat the dust out of them.

The people were told it was OK to eat the fruits and vegetables from their gardens. All you had to do was give them a good rinse first.

But, the effects were more widespread.

Radiation went up into the skies, collected and came down on the farmlands of the Midwest. It landed in the fields were milk cows would graze. It landed on the fields where our food was grown. It landed in the lakes and rivers we would fish or use to irrigate our fields.

It spread north into parts of Canada.

It spread south into parts of Mexico.

Traces made it across the Atlantic Ocean and were found in Europe.

All in the name of national security and military muscle that, thankfully, has not been flexed since the death and destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Like everything else in this vicious election cycle the president’s visit to Japan has been politicized, particularly from the hard right which claims it constituted an apology.

However, it was anything but.

The visit was an emotional, somber event, an outreach for reconciliation, hopefully a message of hope that this never occurs again.

It wasn’t an apology by any stretch of the imagination.

But, to be honest, an apology is in order.

If anything, the president needs to come to the Nevada Test Site and visit the barren desert where the same dirty, deadly radiation was unleashed on the people of the United States, only in greater amounts.

Apologies must be made to the families of those who lost mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and other loved ones who were taken far too soon, just so we could drop a heavier chip on the world’s negotiation tables.

Over the years some reparations have been paid through the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990. More than $2 billion has already been paid in compensation to those who contracted certain cancers as a result of living downwind of the blasts.

It barely scratches the surface, though. Even Sen. Orrin Hatch, who sponsored the bill, admitted as such in a conversation we had once, explaining that the government could not afford to compensate everybody who was affected by the testing. He does, however, support further research to broaden the compensation program, even if it is, for the most part, probably too late because disease is thinning the numbers of those affected.

The best apology, of course, would be for the United States, which was the first to unleash this terror, to become the first to permanently sheath its weapons.

We created this monster, we need to kill it.

Let’s leave it to the political hotheads to debate whether the United States should or should not apologize for dropping the bombs on Japan or if they should or should not have even been deployed, while we do what we can to take care of the remaining victims who endured the suffering imposed upon them by the explosions detonated in their own backyard.

And, let’s honor them, not by some grand ceremony or false pretense of understanding by a government that lied to them, that killed them, but by ensuring nobody, anywhere, ever has to suffer a similar fate.

During his speech at Hiroshima, the president said that the bombing of Hiroshima demonstrated that “mankind possessed the means to destroy itself.”

But, does it have the sense of humanity to ensure that it never does?

Read the text of President Obama’s speech at Hiroshima here.

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, StGeorgeUtah.com Inc., 2016, all rights reserved.

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  • Henry May 31, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    The portion of the article dealing with the nuclear bombing of Japan is intellectually disingenuous. There are “no convincing arguments on both sides” for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, and the bombs were not dropped “in anger”. Detailed, rational analyses were performed by both military and journalistic sources regarding the casualties in the event of a ground invasion of Japan. U.S. Military casualties were estimated to be 1.7 to 4 million. Japanese casualties (civilian and military) were estimated to be 5 to 10 million. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombs are estimated to have caused 0.15 to 0.50 million casualties. Trying to draw any sort of moral equivalency is ridiculous.

    • Californicater June 2, 2016 at 11:30 am

      A literate response. How refreshing! Usually there are nothing but throw away comments offered up by grade-school-drop-out ignoramuses. Thanks for classing up the joint!

  • Brian May 31, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    Dear Diary, today I agreed with Ed Kociela.

    The use of nukes to end WWII wasn’t the problem (I do believe more lives were saved than lost by that action). The problem was that we targeted civilian populations both times. I wish they had chosen military targets, with as little collateral damage as possible.

    But I completely agree that what the US government did to the people of Utah and Nevada was every bit as bad. Monticello has almost no grandfather’s because they all died horrible deaths due to breathing in radioactive dust in the Uranium mines. The government knew for years that it was highly dangerous, and suppressed the knowledge.

    The US government intentionally gave people in Tuskegee syphilis and then withheld treatment just so they could study its effects. They did so under the guise of “free government healthcare”. The government, masquerading as the solution, was actually the problem. There is a LOT of that going on these days, and it’s only getting worse. I agree with Ronald Reagan in his inaugural address: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” I dare say most of what the federal government does / spends right now falls into that category, both foreign and domestic.

    • Henry May 31, 2016 at 2:45 pm

      Brian – your comment about the bomb targeting of Japan is simplistic and not totally correct. The Japanese military had 40,000 stationed at Hiroshima and 9,000 at Nagasaki. Also, the Japanese civilians would not have been all non-combatants during a ground invasion; most had been extensively trained and indoctrinated to battle any invaders of their homeland.

      Another issue not considered is the damage caused by the non-nuclear bombing of Tokyo; on one day alone (9 March 1945), over 100,000 Japanese (primarily civilians) were killed. Over 200,000 were killed in Tokyo during the roughly 9 month air campaign.

      Lastly, the precision bombing of today was nowhere near that level 70 years ago; this inherent inaccuracy resulted in much more collateral damage and deaths than would be acceptable today.

  • Bob May 31, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    the war was basically over when the nukes were dropped. Japan’s military was in ruins. Being an island they posed no threat of invading any other country since their navy was destroyed. Dropping the nukes was a science experiment more than anything or maybe it was a “let’s see what will happen” type of thing. Either way, the US military was not concerned with “enemy” death counts. The leadership simply didn’t care.

    • Henry May 31, 2016 at 7:41 pm

      Bob – Don’t repeat far-fetched hypotheses from extreme left websites. The facts are that World War II Japan was ruled by an emperor and military generals. Leaving them in place, given Japan’s imperialistic conquering of much of Asia and the Pacific, as well as Japan’s lack of natural resources, probably would mean that Japan would eventually again become a threat to other nations.

      You correctly mentioned the condition of the Japanese military late in the war. But note this conclusion at the time from Japan’s War Journal of the Imperial Headquarters: “We can no longer direct the war with any hope of success. The only course left is for Japan’s 100 million people to sacrifice their lives, by charging the enemy to make them lose the will to fight.” Accordingly, the Japanese High Command planned Operation Ketsugo, identifying 6,500 kamikaze planes and 5,000 suicide boats to attack the U.S. invasion force.

      You do have one thing right; the U.S. military’s primary concern with enemy deaths counts – they were more concerned about ours! The U.S. suffered over 405,000 deaths during World War II (by comparison, U.S. deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are less than 7,000). Estimated U.S. casualties from a ground invasion of Japan were over 1 million. Saying that the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were simply a “science experiment” is both delusional and insulting.

      • eddantes56 May 31, 2016 at 8:49 pm

        Well stated Henry, in each of your three replies. Southern Utah has many “fellow-travelers” who live their lives fact free, all the while enjoying the liberties, economic freedom and vibrancy laid down two centuries ago by those inspired Founders.

        • Bob May 31, 2016 at 9:22 pm

          uh oh, now he’s bring up the founders

          • eddantes56 June 1, 2016 at 7:33 pm

            Ok, let’s say the FF were flawed and really not very good. Let’s give them a rating of 4 on a scale of 1-10. Now Bob, give me a model or an example of a society in the last 300? 500? Years that has brought more political and religious freedom, economic prosperity, people out of poverty, medical technology that has saved millions of lives, tech advances that have made all of our lives more efficient, fun and productive?

            Go ahead. I’ve given the FFs a relatively low score. Provide me with an example of a group, a man, a woman or anyone who has organized a societal experiment that has done more good than our FFs. Your model or example will have to rate your example at least a 5…..I’m looking forward to your answer.

      • Bob May 31, 2016 at 9:14 pm

        There were men very eager to try out these new nuclear weapons in war, probably eager to see what kind of death toll they could bring. An invasion/occupation of Japan likely wasn’t at all necessary to begin with.

        • Henry June 1, 2016 at 11:28 am

          Bob – really?! “There were men very eager to try out these new nuclear weapons…to see what kind of death toll they could bring.” Can you reference where you heard this and who these men were? Or is it simply part of the Imaginery World According to Bob?

          • Bob June 1, 2016 at 2:01 pm

            well Henry if you like to think they spent years developing them to sit on a shelf and look pretty that’s your prerogative

          • Bob June 1, 2016 at 2:14 pm

            I’m gonna guess you’re so simple that you don’t know that US leadership allowed pearl harbor to happen as an excuse to enter into the war. They knew well ahead of time the attack was coming. I suggest you read up

          • Henry June 1, 2016 at 4:06 pm

            Earth to the Starship Enterprise. Loony Bob is now wearing his tin foil hat and ready to return. Beam him up, Scottie.

  • Bob May 31, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    as far as the nevada testing–also just a science experiment

    • ladybugavenger May 31, 2016 at 6:13 pm

      We are all a science experiment for the government like little rats running around in a cage. We are all collateral damage to the government. Thank God for Jesus

      • .... May 31, 2016 at 11:24 pm

        Igor turn the electrical accelerater on ! It’s Alive ! It’s Alive ! Look Igor it’s Alive ! ..
        Master what will you name it ?
        I think I will name it ladybugavenger ! LOL !

      • Californicater June 2, 2016 at 11:31 am

        And they’re back…..

  • .... May 31, 2016 at 7:04 pm

    Alls fair in love and war

    • Real Life June 1, 2016 at 3:19 pm

      Ssshhhhh. Quiet Dumpster. Educated people are having a discussion here.

  • r2d2 May 31, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    Some people even today will not eat anything grown in a St. George garden. I believe there is still a elevated danger from just living here. Lets bring in some more “rats” and see what happens.

  • eddantes56 May 31, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    War, human conflict has been around since the beginning; the loss of life is a tragedy. While USG has made its fair share of mistakes, we are unique in so many ways, least of all that we reflect on our behavior and debate it. An apology is appropriate but not by the U.S. Japan owes the world an apology for the atrocities it committed; hundreds of thousands were killed, raped and maimed under Imperial Japan……just to name three atrocities: Pearl Harbor, The Bataan Death March and the Rape of Nanking.

    Sometimes the instigator has to be smashed in order to bring peace; that is definitely the case with Imperial Japan, where Hirohito was viewed as a God and he was committed to fight to the end.

    It is not unreasonable to deduce that one of the reasons nuclear weapons have not been used since Japan, was precisely because our adversaries knew that upon being attacked, we were willing to use nuclear weapons. A good read of the Cuban missile crisis demonstrates that JFK learned from his failure to act during the Bay of Pigs and when the Soviets moved towards Cuba, he made it clear that it would not happen without U.S. Retaliation…….and it worked.

    Finally, you are conflating the use of nuclear weapons to end a war with a naive and somewhat irresponsible government conducting nuclear tests near populations centers. Imperial Japan was a monster that had to be smashed unless we were willing to lose hundreds of thousands of soldiers in a protracted war. I do not believe USG was intentionally disregarding the health of those affected. Foolish? Yes. Irresponsible? Yes. Evil? No.

    • Bob May 31, 2016 at 9:20 pm

      imperial japan blah blah blah. you sound like your parroting your high school history book, which was probably fabricated based on propaganda.

      • Henry June 1, 2016 at 7:41 am

        Bob – eddantes56 laid out a very lucid, well-thought-out argument. Rather than challenge any of his facts, you engage in childish ad hominem attacks. Are you not intelligent enough to debate, so you just copy-and-paste talking points from whacko web sites? Do you not believe in the moon landings either?

        • Bob June 1, 2016 at 2:05 pm

          attacking a source is not ad hom. do you not understand how much of the history was written from US war propaganda? The victors can write the history however they please. I suggest u study up–with more diverse sources.

          • eddantes56 June 1, 2016 at 7:27 pm

            Okay, provide a diverse soure, please. Pravda? Saul Olinsky? Bill Ayers? Hirohito’s chief historian? Provide one “diverse” source and let’s see how it stands up. BTW, atrocities committed by Imperial Japan are not U.S propaganda……ask the Koreans, the Chinese, the Philipinos. Did we write/influence the books and articles written in their native languages that detail the rape, torture, maiming, et al. No friend, we did not. Are the accounts and photos of the Bataan Death march written by americans and philipinos faked? I’m open to your argument if you have one. Honestly, I thing you need to get out a little more.

            All said, I like the Japanese and there is much to be admired of their culture…..but facts are facts. We can recognize our shortcomings and debate our history and the extent of errors we have made and sometimes disagree that an error was made or was not made……..and the Japanese can recognize their shortcomings. And in WWII, they had a bucket load. That’s just a fact and it really is indisputable.

  • 42214 May 31, 2016 at 10:37 pm

    Too bad we only dropped two bombs and it took years to do it. Someone kicks you in the groin, spits on you when you’re down, rapes your sister and kills your dog. You finally get off the ground and kick his butt and then apologize for doing it? That’s what apologizing for dropping the nukes means to me. Thankful Harry had the guts to do it.

    • .... June 1, 2016 at 9:10 am

      Hey but the downside is we have people that serve no purpose and are in desperate need of getting a Real Life running around loose

    • Bob June 1, 2016 at 2:06 pm

      awfully black and white thinking there…

      • 42214 June 1, 2016 at 4:50 pm

        Pretty black and white issue. Nuke em and end the war or kill a few more million by dragging it out. I wonder if the Imperial Japanese war machine would use nukes on us if they were capable at the time. What a silly thought, they were much more humane than us. Japan would have rather have lost the war than stoop to nukes. You think that’s the case Bob?

        • Bob June 1, 2016 at 8:50 pm

          like i said earlier japan’s offensive capabilities were totally done when the nukes were used. We’ll probably never know the exact details of what the thinking was of why they were used. If u wanna countinue to think: USA=angels, japan=satan… oh well, no matter to me.

          • 42214 June 2, 2016 at 11:51 am

            Never said USA= angels etc. Nice try putting words in my mouth to advance your angst about the nukes. As for reasons at the time, history indicates it was a calculated use to shorten the war and avoid mass casualties on both sides if an invasion was necessary. As for me, simple revenge was a good enough reason and I would have used Hirohito’s palace as ground zero.

          • Henry June 2, 2016 at 2:10 pm

            Bob – saying that the U.S. and Japan were morally equivalent during WWII is utterly ridiculous. If you better believe pictures – get the book “The Rape of Nanking” by Iris Chang. It has dozens of photos of atrocities being performed by Japanese soldiers on the civilian populace of Nanking, China in 1937 – beheadings, bayonetings, mutilations of dead bodies. Read it and let us know if you still consider our two countries at the time as nearly identical shades of gray.

          • 42214 June 2, 2016 at 6:15 pm

            You are so right Henry. Historians credit Japan with 17 million deaths during their imperialism and rape of southeast Asia from the 1930s through the end of WWII. China and Korea were especially brutalized and they would have done it to the USA if they had the ability to do it back then.

  • .... June 2, 2016 at 9:16 am

    Yeah what 422 said !

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