Key Myths and Facts about the Atomic Bombings of Japan

In 1945, US president Harry Truman (who had dictatorial control over the atomic bomb) and his advisor James Byrnes intentionally prolonged the US war with Japan until, and apparently so that, they could target Japanese civilians, without warning, with atomic bombs.

The bombings were planned and carried out, as Alperovitz notes in an almost thousand-page study, in a way that “specifically avoided significant war” and “industrial installations”, and instead deliberately “target[ed] large numbers of civilians” so as to make the most “profound psychological impression” possible.

The documentary record illustrates that the important actors, including Truman and Byrnes, believed clarifying the terms of Japanese surrender and/or allowing a Russian declaration of war would end the war.  Truman and Byrnes alone decided to defy these findings and reverse course, changing the US momentum and going out of their way to alter the surrender terms so they would not be clarified, and made efforts to delay the Russian declaration of war so fighting would continue until the atomic bombs were ready.

The record further reveals the high-level actors, including Truman and Byrnes, did not believe a US invasion would be carried out in the absence of atomic bombings.  Contingency planning shows that if an invasion had been carried out, it would have been be months later and would have involved between 40,000 and 46,000 US deaths at the extreme high end (subsequent studies have found it may have involved as few as 0 or possibly 7,000 to 8,000 deaths), not 500,000 or a million – figures with no basis in the documentary record that were later invented to help try to justify to the public (in a successful propaganda effort) the US targeting, killing, and prolonged torture via radiation of large numbers of civilians.  (The US has repeatedly performed non-consensual human experimentation with radiation.)*

Two aerial photos of atomic bomb mushroom clouds, over two Japanese cities in 1945.

Atomic mushroom clouds in Hiroshima (right) and Nagasaki (left).

After industrial-scale targeting of civilians throughout Japan, and after wiping out hundreds of thousands of civilians in two cities with two different kinds of nuclear bombs, the US, in a “carefully worded response”, accepted Japan’s surrender (which US planners believed would occur without atomic bombings or a US invasion) on August 11th.  Japanese officials, who did not witness the bombings and did not know they were much different from what the US had already been doing, said the surrender was largely a result of the the impending Russian entry into the war.  On August 14th, the US hit Japan with a “grand finale”, bombing Honshu with 1,014 planes in the biggest single TNT bombing raid in history up to that point.

Before the atomic bombings, Truman had drawn a connection to the US Declaration of Independence’s Protocols of the Elders of Zion-style reference to “merciless Indian savages” by referring to the “merciless” “Jap” “savages” (“the Japs are savages… merciless…”), a probably-inadvertent, subconsciously ingrained repetition postcolonial scholars would note illustrates a through-line in US thought from origins in dehumanizing and wiping out civilian inhabitants of land and stealing resources coveted by US nationalists to doing so in many other global locales.  After US targeting of civilians in Germany, Truman also noted German civilians had to “atone for the crimes” of the German dictatorship, a logic identical to that of Osama bin Laden in rationalizing killing 3,000 US citizens on 9/11/01 as the US killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis via siege.

James Byrnes, the sole man who went against the grain of all other top officials involved and convinced Truman to prolong the war so as to nuke Japanese civilians, went on, as a politician in his home state, to oppose the burgeoning grassroots civil-rights movement.

After the atomic bombings, major propaganda efforts were undertaken to cement an “acceptable”, though invented, rationale for the bombings in the public mind – a project that continues to be effective today, as US nationalists who have not studied the record continue to passionately insist on and believe the myths that the planners who decided to carry out the atomic bombings (Truman and Byrnes) thought a US invasion of Japan would take place and result in 500,000 or 1-million US deaths, that they thought the atomic bombings were necessary, that they were trying to end the war as soon as possible, and that they gave warning before carrying out the bombings.  None of these claims are accurate.

Another noteworthy point is that when people in the US are asked whether they believe targeting civilians is ever acceptable, they mostly say no (though just barely; global polling has found “Americans are the most likely population in the world to believe military attacks targeting civilians are sometimes justified”).  But when asked whether they think nuking civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justified, they still mostly say yes (though the number has been declining for years).

This may be an illustration of what George Orwell described as “doublethink” – holding two contradictory notions in mind at the same time – and may also relate to the self-serving notion that oneself or a group with which one feels associated is excused from laws and moral principles to which others must adhere, an idea prevalent in the US and which stems in large measure from the self-idolizing and self-serving attitudes of the religious and nationalist extremists who created the US state through slavery and the extermination or removal of the people occupying the lebensraum.  However, thanks to propaganda efforts and psychological components of nationalism, most in the US may be unaware, or ideologically unable to accept, that the planners deliberately targeted civilians in the atomic bombings and sabotaged peace efforts, intentionally prolonging the war, to do so.

Robert J. Barsocchini is an independent researcher and reporter whose interest in the discrepancy between Western self-image and reality arose from working as a cross-cultural intermediary for large corporations in the US film and Television industry.  His work has been cited, published, or followed by numerous professors, economists, lawyers, military and intelligence veterans, and journalists.  He begins work on a Master’s Degree in American Studies in the fall.

See The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, by Gar Alperovitz, chapters 34, 39, 42, Conclusion

*The US has, among other types of human experimentation, injected unknowing patients, including children, with plutonium. (pp. 731)  Also see. 

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  • ZARTAN

    The American people do not know what it means to bomb civilians.

    Americans have never been bombed.

    Americans have ZERO War Experience.They are a people “so badly confused” that they have the most Violent Government that has ever Existed, but, yet, they think, that they can deal with it in peace! A claim that “GOD ALMIGHTY” CANNOT EVEN MAKE! And, as for those who do not believe, well, you do not count anyway, so you can believe anything you want it does not matter!

    Americans serve their Masters, Pay their Bills, and allow for PEACE so the Wicked can do their Evil Deeds. Americans Support their Government and Offer no Resistance. So … Americans, are responsible for Every BOMB, Bullet and Death caused by their Government.

    Any Lawyer would be able to connect the dots, easy. Americans = Freedom of Speech, Expression, Assembly, Protest, Civil Arrest ( use of Force), Voluntary tax, and still nobody does BOO? MILLIONS DIE … Americans: Guilty as Sin. Hey, you cannot CRY NAZI ( they had no Constitution) so; therefore, it only stands, Americans have more responsibility for their Government and it squarely restes on their Heads!

    Only Americans can change this world. And, Americans will be responsible for the Rights they were Given. Terror Bombing other Nations ( official us government policy) will lead to Global War, and it will go Nuclear, while the Peace-fools pride themselves in their peace, but they too will melt at 5,000-degrees, and so with their foolish vanity!

    • sometime

      Zartan! You are pointing at truth’s with this comment. And! Truth’s aren’t allowed in mainstream media, most anywhere in the West. Big money tells American’s what to think….and as a result reality ends up at the Truth’s you point to…..Propaganda itself will be the undoing of our world…resulting in Nuc total, destruction….The United States already is a total, manipulated tyranny. The individual citizen has no influence on that picture. One could say, each already is incarcerated…..I don’t know of any way out of it. Do you know?

      • ZARTAN

        Thanks.

        However, I am under attack for posts here and the “crybabies” are trying to get me banned. I am laughing, but seriously, the Censorship in the US is out of bounds. You cannot tell the truth, because the Truth is forbidden!

        There is a way out, but it requires discipline, sacrifice and numbers. If Americans put 1-million “SERIOUS” protesters on Wall Street and Closed the NYSE, the entire Global House of Cards will come down, unless their Demans ( any Demans) are met in full. This is an almost bloodless way to achieve victory. There are 6-million living in Abject Poverty in NYC, alone. This should be easy. Everything revolves around Wall Street, and HE who controls Wall Street, Controls the World.

        One Million is Necessary to Put down Military and Law Enfrcement “without Violence.” They know when to get out of Town. However, this must not be a Lame Operation or it will get mocked, beaten and chased out of town like ows. THE ONLY MISTAKE THEY MADE WAS BEING NON-VIOLENT. Hey, if people are so lame that they will not fight … “ONE COP” will beat down 50,000 protesters, SO, such “peaceful” nonsense is foolish and a waste of time. That is not a Call for Violence, because it will offend the crybabies, but it is an Absolute Fact.

        Imagine, in a world where government “uses the peoples money” to Commit MASS MURDER by the MILLION, in thier Name, the people in this land are so Sick that they worry about Violence! I know God regrets these people.

        • sometime

          yes………it’s deeper than that, though. Central bankers of the world have controlled countries for a very long time. That’s still happening to this day. Shutting down wall street for a bit would make a statement….and only a statement. US Citizens are in dire need of help from citizens of many countries to make a lasting statement that just may cut off the profit from war…..The idiocy that I can never figure out to this very day is this.There is more financial gain from positive social change than there ever was in choosing war….That leads me to this. The Real, The biggest problem in this profit and war idiocy is a lack of Leadership. That is, positive leadership away from war and into getting on with living and elevating the living standards of all peoples everywhere…When that leadership finally comes around, war will be no more and the Rothchilds will still be where they are….only they won’t be calling war shots upon humanity.

          • ZARTAN

            You have to set siege ( it could take a few weeks) … then, the bankers bring downgrades( Political Instibility), and rates fly, ( a Quad-Trillion in Derivatives become unstable) the media does the rest. Capital Flight, alone, will have Bankers Jumping out of Windows! The US government “either” obeys the people or it goes Bankrupt, many Corporations, especially, military will follow.

            When they cannot profit on War, only then, will they make peace.

            This solution is very simple and it will work.

          • sometime

            when leaders tell the Rothchilds NO….then the war ends…not before!

        • sometime

          worldbeyondwar.org is worthy of reading….
          the situation is this, with me. The planet is no good dead….and any person who does not easily understand this, should be removed from any position of authority…Christ, how simple is that. It’s time to destroy all nuclear devices and power uses also….this idea has every thing to do with life’s survival and nothing to do with politics, country, religion, ethnicity, finances and so forth.

          • ZARTAN

            The Problem, they, those in power, think they are safe and can win a nuclear war. You have to remember, they have very elaborate bunkers and helecopters to fly they to safty. Your statement is logical, but those who control this world care about only one thing: POWER. And, if they cannot have it NOBODY WILL. These types would bring total destruction upon the planet just to make sure nobody else profits. They are Sick people. However, this should be obvious from a people who make war for profit. Hell … Not even Hitler was that Bad!

          • sometime

            absolutely.
            the Rothchild people can only give orders…They can not force the happening there of…
            Until leaders say no, this horror will continue…during the 1800’s somewhere, the central bankers were thrown out of the US….then let back in with the Fed…which is private…that’s against US Law…
            so until leaders act…knowing even if they survive, there’s nothing left…and ridding themselves of such nonsense….the finger is on the trigger.

  • Sister Jane

    Over 20,000 Americans died in Okinawa and over 50,000 Americans were Wounded in Okinawa, and the author here thinks attacking Mainland Japan would have been a cake walk? Think of it as if somebody attacked Alaska compared to attacking California, back seat quarterbacking, keep in mind the Emperor’s portrait was hanging in the entrance way of almost all Japanese homes at the time and he was worshipped, and people would have died for him and many did just that. So some think an invasion of the Mainland would have been around 7,000 dead Americans, while others say it could have been a million, both are probably extreme. By even saying just 7,000 dead Americans shows little respect for the Japanese spirit and beliefs of that era. Probably a lot of Americans died at the hands of Japanese soldiers by thinking they were just push overs not to be taken seriously, those poor souls got a terrible surprise.

    • ZARTAN

      The Author may be off in his estimates. However, the US government was off by dropping that BEAST on Innocent Civilians. They should have used it on a Military Target if they were Civilized. The Emperor would have got the Point.

      To use it on Civilians … Well, Imagine, if NAZI Germany did it, then You can see the Level of Criminality upon the US government and its Citizens. Oh, the Shrieks of TERROR … EVIL and HORROR, but the US does it and PINK UNICORNS Come out of the BOMB!

      • Sister Jane

        Never my intent on making a cause for dropping of a Nuclear Bomb on human beings, however the author of the article in my opinion really makes light of the Japanese will, their spirit, and their love and worship of their Emperor at the time. In my opinion he did this in order to show in a more favorable light exactly how utterly wrong the dropping of the 2 Nuclear War heads were. Also it must be noted that Nagasaki had a war ship building yard. While Hiroshima was the 2nd Army headquarters and really headquarters for that whole area of Japan, and a troop staging area. I personally know people who live in Japan that are actually proud of what ships were built in Nagasaki during the war and before it. Through Dejima the Dutch enclave in Nagasaki ship building was first learned and they had a long history up until the end of the second World War of ship building.

        I am not advocating for the use of Nuclear weapons ever. However after reading the article he makes invading Japan during WWII sound like a cake walk. Over half of the civilian population of Okinawa died as a result of the American invasion of Okinawa, imagine half of Honshu dead. Also, probably half of the dead were civilians in WWII. Almost all civilians on Mainland Honshu were involved in the War effort, just as most American civilians were in the States. Was never my intention to make light of how terrible a Nuclear destruction could be, but exaggerating figures to get a point across is very telling. It also makes light of conventional weapons, after all if somebody dropped a thousand pound bomb on me, I’d be just as dead as if they roasted me with a Nuclear Bomb.

        The only thing I could possibly say to your last Paragraph is, the victors write the history books, and when it’s a unconditional surrender, the price is usually high, Japan is usually thankful that it was not the Russians who took over Japan. If you’ll notice though, the Japanese have enjoyed playing the victim because of WWII continually, only problem is, the Koreans and Chinese never let Japan forget about it, kind of an Asian thing I guess, where as we in the west after a time, forgive and partially forget.

        • Zartan

          I agree with you about the low casualty estimates by the Author. However, when militaries scope targets “they are required” by law, to take civilians into consideration. Carpet Bombing of German Cities did very little to stop Germany and its war industry. Post 1943, their production of war materials peaked. Bombing Civilians is a War Crime. In Germany, Civilians were slaughtered needlessly, which only fed the German Government with the Ability to keep Germany Fighting to the End, because, as German leaders put it, they ( allies) want to Exterminate YOU. Mass Saturation Bombings helped to keep this Belief So Strong that Many Germans Committed Suicide rather than Surrender, especially, in the East. Bombing Civilians is a Direct Compliance with Total War Doctrine.

          Now, today, because of the Legal US Precedent of Hiroshima other nations are free to try the same thing. The US used nuclear weapons without prosecution, so it will be very difficult, morally, to try and prosecute for such and keep a straight face. Do as I say, not as I do, works with Children not Nations.

          The US forced its way into war with Japan. Oil Embargoes assured an Attack on Pearl Harbor. The US is not as innocent as it tries to make others believe. Imagine, if Iran put an Oil Embargo on the US, today? Embargoes are an act of War. There were other provocations, I am sure, because the US is always itching for a fight.

          Unconditional Surrender would have come in time. A siege of Japan, an Island, would have secured such without firing a shot. Only a Fool invades an Island. America could have dropped the bomb on what remained of the Japanese Navy at sea and it would have achieved the same result. The Emperor would get the Point. This lack of regard for Civilian Life will come back as Consequence upon the US and it will have to pay for its evil in rivers of blood. They used nuclear weapons on Civilians, now, the Door into a Dark Unseen Room has been Opened. Nobody wants to hear about the US making hypocritical law to protect its own ASS, and so, no such law will be taken seriously.

          Again, as I have said, many times, the US citizens ( taxpayers) will be accuntable for the actions of its government and its military. People need to wake up, because the consequences will be more than they can bear.

          • sometime

            your discussion is too simplistic. US citizens have very little influence on the US Fed Gov. and haven’t had in my lifetime and I’m 72 yr old. Citizens and governments of many countries have to band together in defiance of this upcoming nuclear madness and stop the US Gov from blowing up the planet….It’s workable to a positive conclusion. Will that happen, will it be done? I have no idea….

          • ZARTAN

            US Citizens have a Constitution that gives them almost unlimited power:

            1. Right to Bear Arms.
            2.Rights to Protest.
            3.Rights to Militia.
            4.Rights of Free Speech and Expression.
            5. Civil Arrest Powers, which Grant USE OF FORCE.

            No other nation`s, in History, Citizens ever had so much power. The Problem with Americans is that they are too “lame and peaceful” ( except when their government wants war) to know how to use it. It took a Miracle of Government to produce such people.

          • sometime

            you’re speaking theoretically again. I doubt you are a US Citizen living in the US..if you were you would realize that having a piece of paper with such and such on it and having reality of just how that such and such works…are two different things….That is precisely the dilemma of the US citizen today.

          • ZARTAN

            I am, but I am not proud of that reality. I try and keep distance for Eternal Sake.

            I agree with you on your point, however, the Churches of America could easily unite a front of a Hundred Million, or more, and that would instantly Checkmate government.

            People need to unite, nobody can stand alone.

            I do, but than, again, I cannot save America, alone.

          • ZARTAN

            Why, I am astounded, “American Citizens” even have Voluntary Tax, which means, legally, they are under no dictate to pay Federal tax. US Citizens could bring World Peace, simply, by witholding their tax funds in mass and putting it aside for themselves!

          • sometime

            yes also….the country would halt if no taxes were paid…I’ll be one to do that and you find me 200 million other americans to do it also! Singling out the US citizen individually as the scape goat for the problem of WAR….is not the solution to the problem…The Problem is leadership….been that way for centuries…now tis gotten to the point of blowing up the world…Leaders are the only ones who can stop this.

          • ZARTAN

            Those who have been given “MUCH” much will be expected. The US Citizen is responsible for its government. I do not single people out, I only write for plural actions, because individual actions are silly.

            Now, The Church holds the Key, ( 150-Million Believers) and all that someone needs to do is Light that Fire. Now, why is the Church not doing anything? Are they Guilty of Serving the Beast? I have been known to put Priests in their Place, and I have no problem doing it, SImply, John 2:15. You have no Choice, it is either GOD or US government.

            I am making progress.

          • sometime

            There you go! ! ! The church over the centuries has failed the masses it portends to defend…Why, I don’t know. I wonder, in quiet thoughts, just how accurate and organized religion is to the reality of the Universe and creation which to me, passes all understanding….Now, that said, doesn’t mean that today’s Christian church could not do good by stopping nuclear disaster and ridding the world of all nuclear including nuc power….the church can do that even if it is flawed….It has the power by and through it’s members…..if prayers work, I’m praying that ….that will happen.

          • ZARTAN

            Agree, and the largest mistake “all” make is excluding Religion. There is no excluding their numbers. If the Church puts its foot down, the US government can only Obey.

            Thank-You for Praying: I am Praying too!

    • ZARTAN

      And, Americans have their flags! So? Remember, Your sentiment when someday soon, perhaps, North Korea, decides a decapitation move is necessary for the national security of their nation. They would have a more legitimate excuse for using nuclear weapons then the US had in WW-2.

      The US provoked their way into WW-2.

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    • Military operation targeting civilians is illegal.

      • Sister Jane

        First and foremost, I completely agree with your comment. Some laws are obviously ignored since in most wars over half the dead are normally civilians, perhaps we should make War illegal, but I don’t believe it will stop governments from starting them. Google the Deaths of WWII, I think you’ll find a terrible amount of civilian deaths committed by all the sides involved, millions upon millions of them.

        • You can’t tell me what to do, or you can’t treat me like a dumb for being Asian.
          As I know what our former generation did before MORE and MORE than you do.
          That never happens to justify illegal military operations of USA.
          I am saying “eye for an eye” idea can’t be right, and USA had not got the utter damage from imperial Japan than what she gave to it either.

          • Sister Jane

            Thanks for your opinion. But I find it amazing one group wishes to magnify one aggression over another, War is aggression, that countries still allow States to get away with it is the real crime. BTW, you believe the Japanese Imperial Army never ever targeted civilians? Every War that has ever been fought all sides have targeted civilian operations, only in the later era it’s usually done where military operations or manufacturing is done, when it is on a large scale. In the case of Hiroshima that was a military headquarters and a staging area for the entire area. In Nagasaki they have always been proud of their ship building, even today ship building is done in the Sasebo, Nagasaki area, and that’s not all of those places military importance. However, those facts do not justify the use of Nuclear Weapons, it was a mass killing of civilians there’s no doubt about that.

  • animalogic

    I do NOT want to defend the US.
    They did everything to provoke the war.
    The nuclear bombs could have been avoided — the conventional bombing & naval blockade WOULD have done for Japan. (& the Russian war dec’)
    But, please, let’s not go crazy: the IMPERIAL Japanese forces were utter BASTARDS.

    • Even conventional bombing is illegal when targeting civilians.
      Americans are desperado, never tend to keep rule, never care about any law.

  • wehaveseenthisb4

    Island fighting through the Pacific not withstanding, my uncle went through it as a Marine, I don’t believe a single US theater commander, not even LeMay, believed a nuke bombing of Japan was necessary. I believe their thoughts were the Japanese were finished both militarily and psychologically and that a blockade would have brought about a surrender in 30 to 60 days, of course the suits had their concerns about the Rooskies, which made Japanese civilians expendable.

    http://www.colorado.edu/AmStudies/lewis/2010/atomicdec.htm

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  • Some argue (e.g.Stone & Kuznick) that the entry of Russia into the conflict on a Norther front was at least as important as the atomic explosions for bringing out the Japanese surrender. The US could also have waited for that event to see if it was sufficient to trigger the surrender.

    • Tell it to the infants those evaporated.
      What did they do to you?
      Something very wrong?

      • I oppose bombings targeting civilians. That is also true of the parent story. The idea of my comment above is that waiting for Russia to enter the war and trigger a Japanese surrender was another plausible path to avoiding the use of the atomic bombs. In fact, the US had been fire bombing civilians in Japan with intentional goal of causing mass civilian casualties even prior to the Hiroshima event. Stone & Kuznick also point that out, and cite it as a sad milestone in the escalation of US war brutality.

        • You oppose it or not is not relevant, no one cares, meantime, I am saying it is ILLEGAL.
          You really don’t have an idea it is illegal, just telling “Ah, damn, it was brutal, but war is always such a thing, and the Japanese deserved it”.
          I know what you really have in mind, do you think I am that stupid to never know it?

          • I do care. Legal frameworks might help in theory, but today, I believe that the UN promotes more violence than it stops. In practice, the world has big problems that are not mitigated by the insincere public mumblings and lying of militaristic countries. I am probably not understanding your real point. I admit to that. I only have your words to consider.

  • Hei Washington blog, why do you keep ignoring Osprey falling down issue?
    US force in Japan has refused to withhold its flight.
    I ask Americans, what are you going to do to us when some of us are under the fallen Osprey, are you rushing to come take care of us?
    Do you feel any guilt when we are hurt by your glitch chopper?

  • ZARTAN

    All, I can say, and this makes me feel good, indeed; However, what form of Military Abomination ( entire US high Command) invades an Island? And, I dare “any,” or even, all military abominations to try and argue.

    • ZARTAN

      Invading an Island …. IS IT A GD JOKE????

  • To be clear, make sure that US force had burned Okinawan civilians from kids to women, by flamethrower.
    Muricans justify literally everything, from flamethrower use to atomic bomb use on civilians, from women killing to infant killing.
    That’s why I don’t think they are something civilized.

    • ZARTAN

      I agree.