Le 6 et 9 août 1945, les États-Unis utilisaient l'arme atomique pour contraindre le Japon à une reddition inconditionnelle mettant ainsi fin à la 2e guerre mondiale. La commémoration de cet événement passe obligatoirement par une dénonciation des idées reçues entourant cet événement.
"President Truman's decision to use the new weapons stopped a war that would otherwise have raged savagely on, and made possible the transformation of Japan from vicious aggressor to peaceful democracy."
An article in the radical journal CounterPunch, for example, labels the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ''the worst terror attacks in history," and trots out the old canard that their real purpose was to intimidate the Soviet Union.
But the vast majority of Americans who lived through World War II would have regarded such glib judgments as preposterous. Paul Fussell, the historian and literary critic, spoke for millions when he titled his famous essay on the end of the Pacific war ''Thank God for the Atom Bomb." […]
''On Okinawa, only weeks before Hiroshima, 123,000 Japanese and Americans killed each other," Fussell wrote. A 21-year-old infantry officer, he had already been wounded twice in Europe; ''the very idea of more combat made me breathe in gasps and shake all over." So when the atom bombs were dropped, ''we broke down and cried with relief and joy. We were going to live. We were going to grow to adulthood after all."
More than ever before, the historical record confirms what those soldiers knew in their gut: Hiroshima and Nagasaki, hideous as they were, shortened the war that Japan had begun and saved an immensity of lives. Far from considering itself essentially defeated, the Japanese military was preparing for an Allied assault with a massive buildup in the south. It was only the shock of the atomic blasts that enabled Japanese leaders who wanted to stop the fighting to successfully press for a surrender. […]
President Truman's decision to use the new weapons stopped a war that would otherwise have raged savagely on, and made possible the transformation of Japan from vicious aggressor to peaceful democracy. Six decades after August 1945, it is clear: The bomb made the world a better place.
"We owe it to history to appreciate that the greatest tragedy of Hiroshima was not that so many people were incinerated in an instant, but that in a complex and brutal world, the alternatives were worse."
There has been a chorus here and abroad that the U.S. has little moral standing on the issue of weapons of mass destruction because we were the first to use the atomic bomb. As Nelson Mandela said of Americans in a speech on Jan. 31, "Because they decided to kill innocent people in Japan, who are still suffering from that, who are they now to pretend that they are the policeman of the world?" […]
While American scholarship has undercut the U.S. moral position, Japanese historical research has bolstered it. The Japanese scholarship, by historians like Sadao Asada of Doshisha University in Kyoto, notes that Japanese wartime leaders who favored surrender saw their salvation in the atomic bombing. The Japanese military was steadfastly refusing to give up, so the peace faction seized upon the bombing as a new argument to force surrender.
Wartime records and memoirs show that the emperor and some of his aides wanted to end the war by summer 1945. But they were vacillating and couldn't prevail over a military that was determined to keep going even if that meant, as a navy official urged at one meeting, "sacrificing 20 million Japanese lives." The atomic bombings broke this political stalemate.
Without the atomic bombings, Japan would have continued fighting by inertia. This would have meant more firebombing of Japanese cities and a ground invasion, planned for November 1945, of the main Japanese islands. The fighting over the small, sparsely populated islands of Okinawa had killed 14,000 Americans and 200,000 Japanese, and in the main islands the toll would have run into the millions.
Some argue that the U.S. could have demonstrated the bomb on an uninhabited island, or could have encouraged surrender by promising that Japan could keep its emperor. Yes, perhaps, and we should have tried. We could also have waited longer before dropping the second bomb, on Nagasaki.
But, sadly, the record suggests that restraint would not have worked. The Japanese military ferociously resisted surrender even after two atomic bombings on major cities, even after Soviet entry into the war, even when it expected another atomic bomb — on Tokyo. […]
It feels unseemly to defend the vaporizing of two cities, events that are regarded in some quarters as among the most monstrous acts of the 20th century. But we owe it to history to appreciate that the greatest tragedy of Hiroshima was not that so many people were incinerated in an instant, but that in a complex and brutal world, the alternatives were worse.