On this day, 75 years ago, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing 80,000 civilians instantly and injuring tens of thousands of people, many fatally, in the days and weeks that followed. Human beings were reduced to ash shadows, burned into the pavement. Women, men and children wandered through the firestorms, their skin hanging from their bodies like tattered clothes. The US would go on to bomb the city of Nagasaki days later, bringing the total death count to well over 140,000 and possibly as high as 226,000. This figure does not include those who died of their injuries later or the ones who perished from cancer caused by the radiation.
The myth that these bombings stopped the war and saved millions of lives persists to this day, thanks to historical revisionism. But by multiple historical accounts, including American ones, the Japanese were on the brink of surrender. There were peace overtures that the Americans simply ignored. The Japanese Empire committed atrocities themselves prior to and during the war, primarily against the Chinese. But this in no way justified the murder of over 140,000 civilians. It was merely a show of force to the Soviets. It proved to the world that the American Empire would replace all others.
After this horrendous crime, the US went on to bomb the Marshall Islands and irradiate the native population, as well as expose US soldiers to deadly radiation without their knowledge, in tests done in the Nevada desert and in the Pacific.
Today, the world continues to face the existential menace of nuclear war and annihilation thanks to reckless American militarism. Smaller, more “usable” nuclear arms have been designed by the US in recent years, showing a willingness to use them on any nation that dares defy their hegemony. Other nations are now racing to keep up. But to think nuclear war can be contained is the height of ignorant hubris. The very definition of madness.
Humanity is facing its ultimate nemesis with climate change and nuclear annihilation. And if we are unable to stop the madness of ecocide and empire, we shall face our quietus. From the maw of cruel history, the ghosts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki cry out.
– Kenn Orphan August, 2020
Title artwork is “Fire II” (1950) by Iri Maruki and Toshi Maruki. Paper, Indian ink, coloring. Artworks courtesy of Maruki Gallery for the Hiroshima Panels