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Some reflections on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Poor civilian populations, victims of indiscriminate bombardment and fiery death. Poor innocent women, men and children, terrorized by weapons of mass destruction, missiles, drones, shells from armoured vehicles.

Poor traditional communities annihilated by the forces of hubris and hate. Poor families crushed under the roofs of their homes, dismembered, consumed in fire storms, scorched and disfigured by white phosphorus, napalm and agent orange. Poor survivors deprived of water, food and shelter. How many more orphans? How many more refugees?

On 6 August 1945 the city of Hiroshima served as a testing ground for nuclear weapons. A million unsuspecting guinea pigs endured the first use of an atomic bomb on a population centre. Between 100,000 and 160,000 human beings lost their lives. On 9 August 1945 the women and children of Nagasaki were targeted for nuclear annihilation. 60,000 to 80,000 human beings perished in the inferno. How many human beings survived to carry the horror with them for the rest of their lives, the traumata, the cancers, the leukaemia, the pulmonary disorders, the multiple pathologies, the birth defects? How many generations have continued to suffer from the sequels of these unimaginable atrocities? What possible justification could be given for these mega-crimes?

Euphemisms are covers for genocide, for unspeakable crimes. Apologists have tried to minimize the enormity of the catastrophe, to justify the slaughter in terms of military necessity, of a lesser evil, of inducing a faster end to the war against Japan. What profoundly immoral manipulation of reality! What level of intellectual dishonesty! What cognitive depravity! What inversion of values!

This brazen nonsense appeared in official communiqués, chauvinistic war literature, yellow journalism, primitive propaganda. It reappeared in annual victory statements, in history textbooks that attempted to justify the massacres on theories of Realpolitik, on the oxymoron that unconditional surrender was the best means to achieve a clean sweep, a new start, a new world order. But what an order of consummate hypocrisy! What an apotheosis of power. What a display of the arrogant “might makes right” paradigm!

Let us recall the language of article 25 of the Regulations appended to Hague Convention IV of 1907:

“The attack or bombardment, by whatever means, of towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings which are undefended is prohibited.”

Let us remember the preambular language of Hague Convention IV and the spirit of its famous “Martens Clause”:

“Until a more complete code of the laws of war has been issued, the High Contracting Parties deem it expedient to declare that, in cases not included in the Regulations adopted by them, the inhabitants and the belligerents remain under the protection and the rule of the principles of the law of nations, as they result from the usages established among civilized peoples, from the laws of humanity, and the dictates of the public conscience.”

In other words, the laws of war do not give warring parties a blank check and let them do anything they want. The principle of distinction between military and civilian objectives is paramount. The principle of proportionality is a corollary thereto. Indiscriminate weapons such as nuclear weapons are by definition illegal because they are indiscriminate and grossly violate the rule of proportionality.

Amazingly enough, many politicians in the 21st century continue to give lip service to these principles of law and justice. They sign and ratify conventions — and violate them with impunity. Sometimes they make the effort to formulate exceptions, to look for loopholes in international humanitarian law, so that they can engage in carnage ad libitum, carnage ad nauseam, carnage à la carte.

The intellectual gymnastics that allowed the meta-crimes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have survived to our generation. We have been taught to believe that the end justifies the means — and to disregard the obvious – to forget that it is the other way around. The use of criminal means always vitiates the end, which becomes an abomination against men and God.

Today victors continue wars by the instrumentalization of penal law for political and propagandistic purposes. They use thereby the pretext of combating impunity. But they intend to prosecute exclusively the crimes of the vanquished – Vae victis. By definition, the actions of the victorious power cannot be crimes. They may entail errors or judgment or unfortunate miscalculations – but not violations of legal principles.

What an irony of history that two days after the destruction of Hiroshima and one day before the destruction of Nagasaki the Allies signed the London Agreement and adopted the Charter of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Nuremberg Trials, article 6(c) of which defines crimes against humanity as follows: “murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population…”

All of these facts are in the public domain. Everyone has access to some of these facts, which should trigger in their minds maybe some doubts about official explanations, questions about euphemisms, discernment between what is apparent and what is true, serene evaluation of past and current events and cautions projection of consequences and implications.

It is time to unlearn the lessons we were taught in politically-correct treatises, in Zeitgeist history textbooks, in teleological political commentaries. It is time to call a spade a spade and recognize that pulverizing a population is nothing but State terrorism, unworthy of any government that pretends to adhere to principles of justice and the rule of law. It is time to recognize that a demand for unconditional surrender is incompatible with the Marten’s Clause, with international humanitarian law, with the very concept of civilization. The demand for unconditional surrender and the measures used to enforce it constitute a poor cover for the intent to commit genocide as defined in Article 2 of the 1948 Genocide Convention.

Wars must be ended as soon as possible, by negotiation and dialogue. The ideas of total war and total victory have been discarded by international law. It is no longer possible to impose a Carthaginian “peace” on an adversary. This would necessary entail crimes against humanity within the meaning of article 7 of the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

A war that ends by mass murder of civilians destroys any possible justification that might have been sought from the ritual invocation of the much abused “just war” doctrine. It makes a farce out of war crimes trials. It becomes an aberration in itself.

Euphemisms like “collateral damage” have the purpose to hide the horror of slaughtering women and children. Euphemisms are a form of self-deception intended to assuage the guilty consciences of political leaders and to keep a democratic public from standing up and demanding accountability, saying unequivocally “Not in our names”.

The history of wars abundantly illustrates the use and abuse of slogans. In our lifetime we all have been subjected to too many slogans, including “my country right of wrong”, which would apparently give justification to any abomination. This is not patriotism – this is stupidity.

Another mitigated slogan we all know and seek consolation from is: “truth will make you free”. But is it more than just a placebo, a red herring, an empty promise? It contains multiple fallacies, including the illusion of automatism, that truth will come like a white knight to deliver us, than an outside force will solve our problems, that a Deus in machina will ensure a happy end. No. It is up to us to proactively seek truth, disseminate truth, liberate the word, use truth as a sword to cut through pretence and manipulation. Truth will reveal the degree of control to which we are all subject, the brainwashing, the robotization of our lives. Truth will enable us to develop a survival strategy and targeted tactics to counter Big Brother, refute political lies and expose opportunism. Truth will help us understand our common humanity and the necessity to live together in peace. Pax optima rerum.