The Meaning of Nagasaki

Monday, August 9, 2004 is the 59th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki .

Nagasaki is often forgotten. People frequently refer to Hiroshima (and Nagasaki ).

At least 75,000 innocents were killed, instantaneously, 59 years ago.

But Nagasaki shows, as well as anything else, the essence of our government at work. Having utterly destroyed Hiroshima with the debut of the single most potent weapon of mass murder in world history, the US government gave Japan only three days to respond to the outrageous terms of unconditional surrender the Allies had demanded. Only three days ' much less time than the government gives you to pay your parking tickets or respond to a jury summons.

Hiroshima 's communications were completely obliterated. Japan 's government had no way of knowing precisely what had happened. Three days after killing a hundred thousand innocents with a uranium bomb, the US government introduced the plutonium bomb to the world. Nagasaki was as much a science experiment as anything else.

Truman had plans to manufacture dozens more nukes, and to use them. I'm guessing that Nagasaki might not have been the last city demolished, had the US government possessed additional nukes in early August.

Hiroshima , of course, was a war crime if there ever was one. Nagasaki was overkill on top of overkill.

What Nagasaki represents is the way the government sees individual human beings. They're worth less than nothing in themselves. They can be wiped out, even when there is no half-credible rationale. (The US Strategic Bombing Survey later found that Japan would have surrendered by the end of 1945 without the use of atomic weapons. The blockaded island nation was defeated. Although Truman and Secretary of War Henry Stimson were enthusiastic to slaughter so many other innocents, this was not the universal sentiment.)

And if individuals can be wiped out ' if their dreams, families, homes and life savings can be completely disintegrated in an act later rationalized as 'necessary' by the power elite ' what limitations are there on how government behaves toward people? None, really.

We don't have a 'limited government' by any true meaning. If a government can kill entire cities full of people, no 'limits' are truly in place, at least in the constitutional or legal sense.

Of course, the US government would probably not murder so many of its own subjects so instantaneously. The US government needs its subjects to exist and to drain off every tax dollar possible.

That's how we're seen: vessels from which revenue can be squeezed, sponges that soak up wealth to be squeezed dry to fund the building of prisons, bombs, and social 'services' so as to keep us all passive and compliant.

Make no mistake about it. It is government's nature to exercise as much power over people as possible.

And it's not just the US government to which I'm referring. Of course Hitler's Germany , Stalin's Russia , Churchill's Britain , and Imperial Japan would have likely used nukes during the chaos of World War II. Since then, it has not been in the interest of any regime's self-survival to use the ghastly weapons, and so they kill thousands of innocent people in more clandestine ways. If it's ever in a state's interest to reintroduce nuclear warfare to the world ' and I mean the state's interest ' nuclear warfare is what we will have.

Nagasaki should remind everyone of what we are dealing with when we criticize the government. Conservatives who complain about the government breaking up companies and regulating the economy ' as immoral and disastrous as such state behavior is ' miss the point entirely if they wish to 'limit' government only to having the power to do what it did to Nagasaki . Liberals who whine about faith-based welfare programs and the proposal to outlaw gay marriage on the federal level ' as wrong as such government activity is ' don't know the true meaning of 'Big Brother' if they have a shred of sympathy for Democrat Harry Truman. And neo-libertarians who think World War II was fought for dignity and human freedom must ask themselves: Who really won that war? What values triumphed? Were they liberty and humanity? Or were they the doctrines of the total state, total war, and mass terrorism?

Going back to liberals and Harry Truman, I must admit I'm confused when they admire this war criminal. I read somewhere that Dennis Kucinich considered Truman one of the best presidents of all time. Some 'peace candidate' he is.

When Trent Lott said that Strom Thurmond should have defeated Truman in 1948, there was an uproar among liberals and conservatives. Thurmond believed in segregation. How can anyone have preferred him to win?

Well, I am no fan of Thurmond. He had a terrible voting record and he may well have been just as racist that many suspected him to be. I think government segregation is a terrible policy, and that the government, so long as it exists, should be completely color blind. I deplore racism, and especially dislike racist politicians.

But what could be more racist than murdering hundreds of thousands of innocent people because of their nationality? What could be more insensitive and antithetical to so-called 'liberal values' than what Truman did?

What Truman did twice.

The meaning of Nagasaki is that governments will do to human beings what they can get away with, as long as it is in the interest of the state, and will only stop when people make them stop, or when they run out of the necessary tools to continue treating human beings as worse than garbage.

Another lesson to be taken from it is that people will bend over backwards to defend what their governments have done, no matter how terrible, so long as the misdeeds are done in their name.

I look forward to the day when Nagasaki is as well remembered as Hiroshima , and Truman is remembered as the war criminal that he was.

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Anthony Gregory's picture
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Anthony Gregory is a Research Analyst at The Independent Institute, a Policy Advisor at the Future of Freedom Foundation, and a columnist at His website is