Letters to the Editor

Lethal power

August 11, 2010


To the editor:

In his letter of Aug. 5, John Dunham claims that the vigil sponsored by the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice commemorating the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki confuses two issues: the proliferation of nuclear weapons today and their use against Japan in World War II. I hold that they are anything but separate.

Two disturbing developments have marked 20th century warfare. One is the introduction of total war, which is directed against civilian as well as military targets. The other is the rapid growth of new weapon technologies that have vastly multiplied the lethal power of war. The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki elevated both of these developments to a new scale. They inaugurated a nuclear arms race that has reached the point where nuclear weapons no longer threaten just individual cities, but the whole of human civilization.

The principal deterrent of nuclear war-mutually assured destruction is called MAD. Madness indeed, for any sane person, all-out war is no longer an option for dealing with human affairs.

Yet we remain hostage to the possibility of an unthinkable cataclysm. The time to act is the day before, not the day after. Hiroshima and Nagasaki stand as darkly ominous portents of what awaits us all if we do not come to our senses. The vigil is an important way to focus our minds on what must be done for our own sake as well as that of our children.

Allan Hanson,



mr_right_wing 7 years, 9 months ago

I've heard that one of the earlier examples of an 'organized' attack specifically targeting the innocent took place right here in Lawrence during Quantrill's raid.

I'm sure that can be argued though.

BorderRuffian 7 years, 9 months ago

How about the Assyrian conquests of the surrounding lands around 726 BC?

independant1 7 years, 9 months ago

Sherman's March comes to mind when one mentions all out war.

Stephen Roberts 7 years, 9 months ago

I wish the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice would spend more time doing more vigils, in Washington DC, Iran, Moscow, North Korea etc, anywhere but here.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 9 months ago

Of course civilians have always been victims of warfare, but they were generally just caught up in the carnage of invading armies.

But with the development of massively destructive weapons systems that can be delivered via airplanes and missiles also came a new tactic-- attacking civilians directly with the intent to terrorize, ostensibly to kill the will of the country to fight on.

Practicality 7 years, 9 months ago


I suggest you read the tactics utilized by Ghengis Khan. He perfected the terrorize civilian theory on a much larger scale.

Or, for a much later date, maybe read up on the estimated 3.7 million Chinese civilans murdered by the Japanese during WWII prior to the atomic bombs being dropped. Why did they do that you might ask?

You already answered it "attacking civilians directly with the intent to terrorize, ostensibly to kill the will of the country to fight on."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 9 months ago

"He perfected the terrorize civilian theory on a much larger scale."

But he did it with invading armies, and while he was somewhat more violent than others, invading armies always wreak havoc on whatever civilians happen to be around them.

And show me where I either denied or condoned the tactics used by the Japanese.

Practicality 7 years, 9 months ago

Unsurprisingly, you are wrong about Ghengis. The intention was to terrorize and/or destroy the civilian population.

The Mongols used psychological warfare successfully in many of their battles, especially in terms of spreading terror and fear to towns and cities. They often offered an opportunity for the enemy to surrender and pay tribute, instead of having their city ransacked and destroyed. They knew that sedentary populations were not free to flee danger as were nomad populations, and that the destruction of their cities was the worst loss a sedentary population could experience. When cities accepted the offer, they were spared, but were of course required to support the conquering Mongol army with manpower, supplies, and other services.

If the offer was refused, however, the Mongols would invade and destroy the city or town, but allow a few civilians to flee and spread terror by reporting of their loss. Those reports were an essential tool to incite fear in others. Their reputation for terror was so great, there were tales of lone Mongol soldiers riding into villages and killing the inhabitants one by one without resistance, as it was known that to resist was to bring forth the whole of the Mongol army.[6] However, both sides often had a similar if differently motivated interest in overstating the enormity of the reported events: the Mongols' reputation would increase and the townspeople could use their reports of terror to raise an army. For that reason, specific data (eg. casualty figures) given in contemporary sources needs to be evaluated carefully.


jaywalker 7 years, 9 months ago

Once again bozo speaks from the wrong end. A little education.........means you need a bunch more, pal.

John Hamm 7 years, 9 months ago

"Hiroshima and Nagasaki stand as darkly ominous portents of what awaits us all if we do not come to our senses." And who should have "come to (our) their senses?" The US and not used the weapons ensuring additional bloody battles to defeat Japan through direct attack (who if you remember) attacked Pearl Harbor and could have "come to (our) their senses" based upon warnings of a terrible new weapon?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 9 months ago

Actually, before their use, the Japanese were intentionally not informed of the existence of these weapons.

Practicality 7 years, 9 months ago

That is true bozo,

We also didn't tell Hitler we were going to invade France. Are you suggesting that we should have?

The element of surprise is the desired tactic of military stategists, General Bozo.

BorderRuffian 7 years, 9 months ago

Heck no!!! Can it be possible that you are suggesting we SHOULD have informed them? What sheer idiocy!

Did you remember that we were not engaged in the war with Japan before they attacked Pearl Harbor? And did THEY inform us beforehand?

We are engaged in a war against terrorism, provoked by the 9-11 savage attack that murdered over 3,000 civilians. Did THEY inform us first?

mr_right_wing 7 years, 9 months ago

No, the Potsdam Declaration didn't mention the bombs specifically, but it did say (accurately) "the inevitable and complete destruction of the Japanese armed forces and just as inevitably the utter devastation of the Japanese homeland". The Japanese viewed this as weak and desperate and rejected it.

After TWO bombings they realized the severity of the threat; but only after they allowed millions of horrible deaths. Again, blood on their hands, not ours.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 9 months ago

"Again, blood on their hands, not ours."

Denial is not a river in Egypt.

BorderRuffian 7 years, 9 months ago

nore is a cutesy retort much of an argument

job4mike6 7 years, 9 months ago

Bozo, in 1945 the war termination choices did not include a prompt surrender by the Japanese without really trying. Maddox, Newman, and Frank have discredited this thesis advanced by Alperovitz. The choice was nuclear attacks or continued war by the ongoing means of maritime blockade, conventional explosive bombing, incendiary bombing, and invasion (with or without Russian troops.) Even if we accept the Nitze USSBS estimate that Japan would surrender by 1 Nov 45 without invasion (also now partially discredited), somewhere beyond 200K individuals would have been killed in the ongoing hostilities. The blood is on the hands of the aggressors, not those trying to stop the aggression with the least killing. That's what we did by the nuclear attacks on Japan.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 9 months ago

This is nothing but a list of hypotheticals.

We'll never know what would have happened if the bombs had not been dropped, or they had been used in a way that didn't kill 100's of thousands of civilians, a very high percentage of whom were women and children.

"The blood is on the hands of the aggressors, not those trying to stop the aggression with the least killing."

Even the creators of these bombs had no idea how destructive they would be. Many even feared that it might start off an uncontrolled chain reaction. So their use can't be described as a way of minimizing the killing.

job4mike6 7 years, 9 months ago

Bozo- The existence of a Japanese defense plan "Ketsu Go" is not hypothetical; nor is the Allied invasion planning; nor were the bombing orders to attack the Japanese rail system; nor were the onoing maritime operations against Japanese shipping nor is the fact that Japanese military attempted to subvert the transmission of the Emperor's surrender message to the people. The idea that the Japanese would quit without a homeland defense fight ignores the organization of 28 million civilians with bamboo sticks into anti-invasion forces. Fermi was assigned to calculate the possibility that the atomic reactions would become uncontrolled and ignite the atmosphere. His calculations showed that this was highly unlikely and therefore the Trinity test proceeded. There were estimates of the bombs explosive yield before the drop and these were sent to Truman. They did minimize the killing because the bushido-indoctrinated Japanese were not giving up without a fight. The upper bound estimates of explosive yield were known and communicated to the President. Truman had the information to make his decision. Your views are simply not consistent with the historical record.

voevoda 7 years, 9 months ago

Actually, the Japanese government was exploring possibilities of surrender (with the Soviet Union as go-between) weeks before the nuclear weapons were used. The US rejected any surrender that was less than unconditional. The primary condition the Japanese leadership wanted was retaining the emperor--something the US government granted ultimately, after the surrender. Even after the use of nuclear weapons, half of the Japanese leadership council wanted to continue to fight. Because the Soviet Union had declared war against Japan, a negotiated surrender was no longer feasible, so the choice was between continued war or unconditional surrender. The emperor himself broke the deadlock in the council, calling for surrender.
Would Japan have surrendered quite soon anyway, without the use of nuclear weapons? Impossible to say. Until nuclear weapons were used, nobody knew how destructive they would be of human life, or what the lingering effects of radiation would be. HIroshima and Nagasaki taught the world enough about nuclear weapons to know that there can be no winners in an all-out nuclear war.

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 9 months ago

I think we all would like to reduce the nuclear arsenals but I am not sure I would trust a leftist group to do that for me.

It makes no sense anymore for the US to be the world's policeman and to station troops around the world the way we do. Our foreign policy is goofy to say the least. Bottom line is that we are broke and still spending gazillions to make people like us.

Time to take care of our homeland first. The numbers are not adding up anymore.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 9 months ago

"I think we all would like to reduce the nuclear arsenals but I am not sure I would trust a leftist group to do that for me."

WTF does that mean?

independant1 7 years, 9 months ago

You struck a good point there, indirectly.

Pull out of all but bare essential overseas military bases, sell the property with USA deed at price market will bear. Pay down debt with proceeds.

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 9 months ago

I can't help but be reminded of Eisenhower's warning about the industrial military complex growing out of control.

We've got politicians and ego driven generals, looney economists and under the table contractors running things for us these days.

It makes you feel very secure knowing these guys are looking out for your best interests.

devobrun 7 years, 9 months ago

I can't help but remember Ike's next coupla paragraphs about the unholy alliance between government and research. Read the whole speech. It warns of the dangers of a lot of things. Unfortunately, the military-industrial complex is a catchy term. The other stuff seems lost in the sound bite.

Research is in a kabuki dance of government sponsorship and research organization funding. The people who get funded then move to D.C. to fund their friends. In turn, the friends fund their colleagues who funded them. Round and round it goes. Politics and research.

Science is corrupted. The press is oblivious. And all of you buy the crap that goes as science today.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 9 months ago

August 15, 1945, the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere went out of business. That was a good thing for the world.

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 9 months ago

The last administration wanted to install missiles in Poland and get eveyone in Eastern Europe to join Nato and then we would pledge to protect them. I think we also made a lot of promises about investments in Georgia and other far flung places.

I still remember John McCain bragging that he would show us how to stand up to the Russians while rattling swords over Georgia.

Isn't this formula for disaster?

There is no doubt we need to reduce our nuclear arsenal and I am all for achieving that goal. At the same time, I think we need to figure out why we are so stupid in the way we do things.

devobrun 7 years, 9 months ago

Because we are humans. We confuse feelings and thought. We have will instead of reason.

We want.

We take.

We are republican business moguls. We are liberal democrat authoritarians.

We impose ourselves on others for all kinds of reasons and justify all of it through religion, politics, abstraction and hubris.

I could go on, but jay, you should wake up to the arrogance of humanity. You think that there is a truth that obviates the opposite, i.e. stupidity. Not true. We don't know what to do. We don't have any facts. We are not equipped to solve our own problems.

Your implication is that we do is wrong.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 9 months ago

Why are you using "we" here? Surely you aren't afflicted with any such human foibles. You're an Engineer!!

BorderRuffian 7 years, 9 months ago

Does it really make much sense at this point either to protest nuclear arsenals, or to work to eliminate them entirely? The water has gone way past the bridge and there is no way to get it back.

What would it gain the world for the US to eliminate its nuclear arsenal? All that would do would be to shift the dominant force to the other nations who still have them. Even if we managed, somehow, to eliminate all nuclear weapons from the face of the earth, the technology is still out there. Should we burn all the books, computers, etc., that even reference nuclear technology so that it would be impossible to re-enter the nuclear arms race?

What would be next? Eliminate firearms entirely from the face of the earth as well as the technology to produce them? Then go after knives, swords, and bows and arrows and all their supporting technology?

Where would that leave us?

While I hate the idea of EVER inflicting another Hiroshima or Nagasaki on the world, I feel we need better approaches than knee-jerk protests and nuclear bans that are more of a nuisance than substantive means to a solution to the problem of human conflict.

BigPrune 7 years, 9 months ago

When Ghengis Khan and his army overtook Europe, raping, robbing and pillaging, it left a legacy. If you know a caucasian with squinty eyes, they most likely have Mongol blood from when all out war effected Europe.

voevoda 7 years, 9 months ago

Actually, Mongols represented just a small segment of the coalition of steppe peoples who formed the Mongol Empire's armies. The armies in the west were formed primarily of Turkic peoples--that is, ethnic Caucasians. And the Mongol Empire's armies only reached Eastern Europe, not Western Europe.

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 9 months ago

It would only take one nuclear blast in a US city to change the world forever.

A realistic foreign policy and a common sense approach to fighting terrorism is more sorely needed.

I think we would be reducing are nuclear arsenal right now if not for the Republican strategy to thwart all things associated with Obama.

devobrun 7 years, 9 months ago

If by being realistic regarding terrorism means killing all of them, then that makes sense. Anything less is maybe humane, maybe the right thing to do, but nonsensical. Kill those who wish you harm. Makes sense. Rational, effective, final.

Oh but you don't want to do that, because it would be inhumane. Fine, but don't try to invoke rationality in the argument. You care about those who wish you harm. Fine. Suffer the consequences of your feelings.

I say these things without tipping my hand about my wishes. I merely point out that the effective method of dealing with terrorism is to destroy it. Destroy all that promotes it. Kill the people who promote it, condone it, justify it. It is the only rational thing to do.

The Taliban overtly says that no negotiations are possible. They want death to you because you are not of the correct Islamic sect. No negotiation. What part of that do you not understand? Common sense says kill your enemies before they kill you.
They have clearly said, death to America. Death to the infidels. No negotiation. Justify anything other than war, jay. Use a rational argument against those aspirations. I can't think of anything less than war. I can't find any rational justification to continue to try to negotiate.
We are at war. Kill them first. Win the war.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 9 months ago

When have the Taliban attacked the US? Never. (Al Qaeda did that-- they just happened to be based in Afghanistan, courtesy of US policies and direct support when Wahhabist Jihadis were a convenient tool against the Soviets.)

When has the US invaded and attacked the Taliban in Afghanistan, their home?

Continuously for the last 9 years.

The vast majority of those affiliated with the Taliban just want the US to get the hell out of their country. They really couldn't care less about you or your vanity, Devo.

jafs 7 years, 9 months ago

Except that our continued aggression around the world will breed more terrorists, so we'll be engaged in an endless war.

That's not rational.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 9 months ago

But the modern idea of "total war" is order of magnitudes different from that historical one, thanks to planes and missiles that can deliver weapons systems that couldn't even be conceived of until the twentieth century.

bearded_gnome 7 years, 9 months ago

Oh! an Agnostic post I can actually agree upon! LOL
your 1:56 is very well done.

my read of the history: the city fires Sherman didn't exactly order them but he wasn't too concerned to stop them especially in south carolina. he had a particular animus towards south carolina, because of how the civil war started.

once again Bozo thinks we should just believe what he posts, like he has a wealth of know-how and wonderful information in previous posts! LMAO!

do you believe the History Channel or the Boozo? 4 to 6 million were expected to die in an attack on the japanese home islands, most being japanese civilians. thus, the nukes actually saved japanese lives.

apparently the LCPJ (LJW always bleeps out my posts when I write what it really stands for!) hasn't had a vigil in Iran? you've got to be kidding! that's the real danger. oh but the far left is anti-israel too so would kinda laugh up their sleeves if Israel got whiped off the map with an Iranian nuke.
has LCPJ held a vigil for the victims of Unit-731? people in northern china sicken and die today, yes today from those japanese wmd experiments.
apparently lcpj, boozo and the far left wouldn't have minded a couple million of american, brit and allied deaths in an invasion of the japanese home islands.

"total war" actually can be argued to shorten war and thus save lives. Clausewitz held that the use of overwhelming force was the only way to fight if you could because of thus bringing a swift end. if instead you have a slow lingering war (such as LBJ's Vietnam) you get a very large increase in deaths on both sides.

and finally, while we're talking about civilian deaths in war, check your old testament, history of about 1200BC. several occasions of total war.

devobrun 7 years, 9 months ago

OK, so total war is an old and effective strategy. The LTE is wrong.

His second point is the advance of technology. Technology advance has also been around forever. Throwing rocks. Throwing spears. Bows and arrows. explosives. Need I go on?

For every advance in weaponry, there is a countermeasure. For every countermeasure, the is a counter-countermeasure. Then there is a change in weaponry. And a change in countermeasures.

So what is new? Terrorism. Suicide losses which in past times would be considered insanity, but today "raises awareness".

That is the only thing new. Suicide attacks that cost the lives of the attackers, but has no tactical influence on the engagement. Why is it effective today? The press and liberal thought.

Let me repeat this: Suicide attacks are effective because of the widespread publication of insanity and the liberal justification of the act. If the press just said: Another insane being took the lives of many people. And if the intelligentsia admitted that insanity is indefensible, then terrorism might diminish.

But then nuclear war wins. Strength wins. And this is anathema to intellectuals. Above all things, physical strength is against the intellect. So university professors cannot defend, or even acknowledge the effectiveness of force. So liberalism promotes the hopelessness of terrorism. Physical strength is to be defeated at all costs. The all out war that the LTE refers to is anti-war liberals doing their violence by proxy.

Since university intellects have taught the press, politicians, and other decision-makers, we live in a time of terrorism. This is new. This is the only thing new.

The LTE is quite missing the new thing entirely.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 9 months ago

You've succeeded in being completely anti-intellectual with this one.

Only one thing missing-- you should have ended it with a grunt.

job4mike6 7 years, 9 months ago

The LTE has some concepts backwards. Research has shown that since the 1945 nuclear attacks a smaller percentage of the world population has been killed in armed conflict than in any previous equivalent period for the previous 500 or more years. This data would suggest that sane leaders have moderated their behavior due to the existence of nuclear weapons and that the existence of nuclear weapon stockpiles has reduced overall civilian deaths in war. The most recent example of this is the tensions between India and Pakistan. Now that both are nuclear powers, they know they cannot win an all-in conflict with nuclear weapons because the cost is too great. The problem in the current world is not sane leaders. Rather, it is insane leaders who might obtain nuclear weapons. In the commentary above some writers are confused about our current nuclear posture. The USA has not built a new nuclear weapon since W88 warhead production ceased in November 1989. We have been drawing down our nuclear weapon stockpile for many years and since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1988 until 30 Sep 2009 we have reduced our stockpile from 22,217 to 5,113--77%. See the press release at url http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=59004 for particulars. Finally, considering the problem of large objects from space impacting the Earth, the National Research Council has recently found: "Nuclear explosives provide the only option for large NEOs (>500 meters in diameter) when the time to impact is short (years to months), or when other methods have failed and time is running out." (Note: NEO is short for near earth object.) PDF file is at url: http://www.nap.edu/catalog/12842.html and item quoted is on page 76. Finally, I take issue with the LTE writer's point that the sane path is to the elimination of nuclear weapons. I believe the sane path is to continue to draw down our nuclear forces consistent with political tensions and reserve a small number of nuclear explosives for use to protect the planet from near earth objects.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 9 months ago

So, you and the Ayatollahs are in agreement-- Iran should be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, because it will make the world a safer place.

job4mike6 7 years, 9 months ago

Bozo- you've trotted out the straw man fallacy again. I have not argued and 75x55 has not argued that the world would be a better place if theocratic despots like the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran gained nuclear weapon capability. To make it clear, I believe the leaders of Iran fall outside the sane leader category.

jafs 7 years, 9 months ago

That works as long as the crazy folks don't get the weapons, since they don't seem to be rational about self-preservation.

Practicality 7 years, 9 months ago

Another concise, well supported argument from job4mike. I do enjoy reading your posts Mike. Unfortunately the people we are arguing with are not using logic or reason to come to their respective conclusions.

With bozo, he just knows that nukes are bad because someone told him so and it fits his world view. If nukes are bad, and the United States used nukes (or Atomic bombs) then the U.S. must be bad. He has utterly failed to make any rational argument as to why it is somehow better for the victim of any conventional weapon than the victim of an atomic bomb (which is pretty much is contention). Instead he is just making an emotional argument which fails to objectively take in little things like facts.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 9 months ago

Well, I must admit that I am completely incapable of making an argument that warmongers would find "rational."

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