Aug 3, 2015
At the beginning of 1944, the Japanese military leadership, concluding that they could not win the war against the United States, began pushing for a negotiated peace. In December 1944, the Japanese government made overtures that it would like to surrender.
But instead of accepting Japan’s surrender and discussing their outstanding differences, the U.S. launched a policy of mass terror bombing. This began on the night of March 9-10, 1945, when U.S. planes dropped 500,000 napalm bombs on Tokyo in order to ignite a firestorm. Temperatures reached between 600 and 1800 degrees Fahrenheit, reducing 16 square miles of the city to ash. About 100,000 Japanese civilians were killed, another million or so were wounded, and a million more were rendered homeless.
The Tokyo firebombing was just the start. Over the next three months, the United States destroyed an additional 64 Japanese cities, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians, maiming thousands more, and rendering a huge portion of the Japanese population homeless and completely destitute.
Almost all of the victims were women, children, and old men. War production had already stopped since Japan completely lacked raw materials. The reason for these firebombings was not military – in the official sense of the word – it was to terrorize and murder Japan’s civilian population.
The terror culminated when the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. The destruction was unprecedented. Everyone and everything close to the blasts was simply vaporized. People further out were crushed by falling debris, burned by fires, or inundated with radiation which made them go blind and made their skin fall off. The United States killed somewhere between 90,000 and 160,000 people in Hiroshima, and about half as many in Nagasaki – not counting all those who died in the following years from the effects of the radiation. In fact, many more people would have been killed except that the Nagasaki bomb exploded on the ground, instead of in the air as it was supposed to, thus limiting its blast.
The United States justified the terror bombings by claiming that without them, the U.S. would have had to launch a bloody invasion of the Japanese home islands that might have cost one million U.S. soldiers their lives. In reality, records show that the U.S. government knew perfectly well that Japan was already defeated, and that no invasion would be necessary even to secure the unconditional surrender that the U.S. insisted on. Immediately after the war, the U.S. analyzed the effects of its strategic bombing policy. Its Strategic Bombing Survey Report concluded: “certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.” Thus, the U.S. military itself knew that the atomic bombings were “unnecessary” from any conventional point of view.
But the U.S. had a different military problem. The two world wars had made the U.S., the only true “winner” in those wars, the world’s dominant imperialist power. This would let U.S. corporations exploit the entire world, by investing, loaning money at high interest rates, grabbing raw materials, and dominating the world market.
In 1945, most of the world’s people lived in colonies or semi-colonies of the old European powers, but the colonial regimes had been severely shaken by World War II. There were struggles in many of those colonies to break loose from the domination of imperialism. The U.S. was not interested in protecting the interests of its imperialist rivals, but it was vitally interested in making sure that Asia, Africa, and the Middle East stayed under imperialist control, this time under the domination of governments dependent on the United States. In Latin America, which had long been the “backyard” of U.S. imperialism, WWII had given many countries a little breathing space from direct U.S. domination, since the U.S. was occupied elsewhere – a breathing space that would soon come to an end. And in Europe itself, the U.S. wanted to assert its status as the dominant power, not a “partner” on equal terms with its allies, Britain, France, and its once and future enemy, the U.S.S.R.
Even the massive U.S. Army could not possibly have kept the population of most of the world in check through permanent military occupation. But the U.S. could use the end of the war with Japan to put the world on notice that it would and could bomb and murder indiscriminately to protect its interests, its domination over the entire world. It was terrorism in the full sense of the term.
The U.S. has proved its willingness to use the same kinds of murderous tactics that it used against Japan many times since: firebombing every city in North Korea during the Korean War; bombing villages in Vietnam where the U.S. killed more than two million civilians; more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. carried out murderous policies in each of these places because in each case the U.S. war aims were to ensure its domination over these countries, and over the surrounding region, against the interests of the population.
When the U.S. ended WWII with a massive assault on Japanese civilians, it was the U.S. declaration of war on the world.