Seventy years ago today a president of the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, a city full of innocent Japanese. It was the second time in three days that Harry Truman had done such a thing: He had bombed Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. The fatalities in the two cities totaled 150,000–246,000. The victims – mostly children, women, and old men – suffered horrible deaths in the blasts and firestorms. Only shadows remained of those who were vaporized. Many more were injured; others later died from radiation sickness.
The bombings – and other atrocities committed by the U.S. government during World War II, including the “conventional” firebombing of Tokyo that killed 100,000 noncombatants; the destruction of Dresden, a German city of no strategic value; and the continued bombing of Tokyo after the A-bombings and an agreement to surrender – should have been enough to destroy forever any perception of moral authority in the U.S. government – particularly on the subjects like terrorism. But, oddly, things have not worked out that way. America proclaims itself the “indispensable nation.” The rules that apply to everyone else don’t apply to American “leaders.” Because of alleged “American exceptionalism,” presidents of the United States gets to write their own rules, even redefining torture if they wish. If much of the rest of the world objects, it’s too bad; no one is in a position to do anything about it. (This immunity from common rules of decency extends to America’s “closest ally,” Israel.)
Until Americans come to see the mass murder in Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the war crimes they are, it’s hard to be optimistic that they will ever see U.S. imperial foreign policy for the aggression it is.