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Last Updated: Aug 1, 2005
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Issue no. 755
The end of World War II
Aug 1, 2005
This August 14th is the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII.
The 20th century has been a century of war, with estimates of combined military and civilian deaths put at more than 110 million people. World War II was estimated to have cost almost 50 million deaths, with disruption to hundreds of millions all over the planet. Since then, there have been 150 wars in which almost as many died as died in World Wars I and II combined.Yet "... people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country." This quote comes from Hermann Goering, one of the Nazi leaders, during his April 18, 1946 testimony at the Nurnberg trials.These words could have come out of the mouth of President Bush, when he prepared the U.S. population to accept war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Or these words could have been said by Roosevelt before the U.S. entered World War II, during the period when U.S. government maneuvers and attacks on Japan provoked the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The end of World War II brought new threats to imperialist control of the world. Leaders of the U.S. and the other imperialist powers had already seen what could happen with the end of World War I. At that time, the capitalists of the world were threatened by populations ready to revolt, most importantly, in the Russian Revolution. When the Allied leaders met at Yalta and Potsdam, even before World War II ended, they were attempting to split the world into zones they could control. They were already trying to prevent the oppressed from using the end of the war to overthrow their rulers and demand independence.
The leaders of the colonial powers were nervous because, even before the fighting was over, rebellions had been breaking out. The Dutch faced an uprising in Indonesia; the British had long faced simmering insurrection in India; the French would send armed forces back to put down revolt in Viet Nam and Southeast Asia. The British and the Americans were faced with a dilemma in a China aflame with peasant revolt.
This situation was the background for the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th and 9th, 1945. The war in Europe had been over for three months; the fighting in the Pacific for all practical purposes had stopped, and the Japanese government was asking for surrender terms. Yet the U.S. government chose to kill hundreds of thousands of civilians. Most of the inhabitants of two Japanese cities died and the survivors suffered severe consequences for the rest of their lives.The question is often raised about why the U.S. did so. The dropping of the atomic bomb was a warning to all the peoples of the earth: the American century had begun and the American imperialists would keep the "peace" their way. Their "way" shown by the Marshall Plan was whatever way benefitted their multi-national corporations.
In the end, dropping the atomic bomb did not prevent the peoples of the world who wanted their independence from rising up to gain it.
For these reasons, the U.S. sent its armed forces to intervene in other countries more than 40 times since World War II ended. The U.S. intervened in Iran, Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, in Cuba, in Grenada and Panama, in the Congo, in Lebanon, Afghanistan and now twice in Iraq. And no matter that politicians called Korea and Viet Nam a "military intervention"; tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers died in those wars, as did millions of Koreans and Vietnamese civilians.
In most cases, U.S. politicians have justified these wars with excuses about bringing "peace" and "democracy" to the people of the world. And like Goering, they appealed to people's sense of patriotism to justify the sacrifices involved.
What these policies have brought the world is death, misery and exploitation.