• Latest News
  • Pitch a Story
  • Work with a Journalist
  • Join the Blog Squad
  • Afghanistan
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Baltimore
  • Canada
  • Egypt
  • Europe
  • Latin America
  • Middle East
  • Russia
  • Economy
  • Environment
  • Health Care
  • Military
  • Occupy
  • Organize This
  • Reality Asserts Itself
  • US Politics
  • Nuclear Attack on Japan was Opposed by American Military Leadership - Gar Alperovitz on Reality Asserts Itself (2/5)

    Mr. Alperovitz tells Paul Jay that President Truman used the A-bomb to make a "diplomatic" point to the Soviet Union, not out of military necessity -   January 24, 2014
    Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here


    Share to Facebook Share to Twitter

    I support The Real News Network because it cured my vertigo from all the spinning by Fox and MSNBC. - David Pear
    Log in and tell us why you support TRNN


    Gar Alperovitz is the Lionel R. Bauman professor of political economy at the University of Maryland and co-founder of the Democracy Collaborative. He is the author of the newly released book, "What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk About The Next American Revolution."


    Nuclear Attack on Japan was Opposed by American Military Leadership - 
Gar Alperovitz on Reality Asserts Itself (2/5)PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore.

    This is Reality Asserts Itself. We're continuing our series of interviews with Gar Alperovitz.

    Now, this series is going to be primarily about America after capitalism, which is a book that Gar wrote, and we're going to take a look at what his thinking is on that. But Gar, as we learned from part one--and if you haven't watched part one, you should--he wrote a PhD thesis and then a book that led to a whole reopening of the debate or discussion about just why America dropped the nuclear bomb that ended the war with Japan after World War II. And we're going to do one segment on the basic outline of that thesis, and a little bit more about how that affected his thinking.

    So thanks for joining us again, Gar.


    JAY: And one more time, Gar is the Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland and the cofounder of the Democracy Collaborative. He's also the author of several books, including America beyond Capitalism, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, and his most recent, What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk about the Next American Revolution.

    So thanks for joining us again.

    ALPEROVITZ: Thank you.

    JAY: So let's jump to the chase about the bomb. Your basic thesis was that Japan had already--essentially was ready to negotiate its surrender, and the bomb was not necessary to end the war. The contrary narrative is the bomb saved thousands of American lives, and this is war, and this is what you do in war in order to save your soldiers.

    ALPEROVITZ: Yes. I think it's very clear now that the atomic bomb was totally unnecessary. The reason I say that is the intelligence studies which were available to the president in July 1945--the bomb was used in August--said very clearly that when the Russians entered the war in Japan--and we had asked them to come help, and they were about to help, the first week of August--that's the date they were supposed to come in. When that happens, this will precipitate a collapse and a crisis in Japan. They're already trying to get out of the war. They know they can't face the Russian army and us. That will end the war. The only thing you need to do is be sure to say you're not going to harm their emperor, because he's a god in their culture. And if you give that kind of assurance when the Russians come in, the war is over. American policy leaders understood that. They know that. Every historian whose studied it knows these documents are now available. So they had it available.

    And more important than that, the invasion, which might have cost 25,000 lives, 30,000--that's the estimates (it was later exaggerated to 1 million)--couldn't take place for another three months because of the weather, because of getting troops. So it was easy to test whether or not the intelligence was correct. The Russians were coming in. And we knew they were going to--everyone said that the war was going to end. That was the top military understanding. And they used the bomb anyway.

    So I think that's--the story is pretty clear now. Most historians know the bomb was unnecessary. There is a big debate about why it was used.

    JAY: Well, that was my next question. So if it's to make a political point, what's the point?

    ALPEROVITZ: Well, the documents are less clear about this, but what looks to be--there are many, many documents that say, look, this is going to give me "a hammer on those boys", meaning the Russians. That's the president talking. Another one says this is the--.

    JAY: This is Truman.

    ALPEROVITZ: Truman. His secretary of war says, this is the "master card" of diplomacy against the Russians, the atomic bomb. There are many, many documents that strongly suggest--particularly the secretary of state, James F. Byrnes, understood that the bomb was more a diplomatic tool than a military tool. The chief of staff of the U.S. Army and the Combined Chiefs, General Marshall, said, this is not a military decision. It has nothing to do with the military. It may be a diplomatic, political, other kind of decision, but it's not a military decision.

    So, interestingly, the military--and I mentioned this, I think, in our last discussion--virtually all the major American military leaders went public after the war saying the atomic bomb was totally unnecessary. Some called it barbaric. The president's chief of staff went public. Can you imagine the chief of staff saying--and he was a good friend of the president--said, this is barbarism. I wasn't taught to kill children and women. So that's very clear.

    The strongest evidence is--and you can't prove this with the available documents--that it was mainly aimed at the Russians because they wanted to use it as political pressure and a political weapon, both in Eastern Europe and in Asia, where the Cold War really was started.

    JAY: And even though the Americans had been asking the Russians to get involved in Japan for a long time, it must have not been something they wanted, "The Russians Win the War with Japan"--that would not be a headline they would like to see.

    ALPEROVITZ: Right. And, indeed, they wanted them in because the bomb was a theory until it was tested--might not work. Who knew? And how well would it work? So they were begging the Russians to come in. And the instance it worked, they went ahead and used it.

    Moreover, they had planned to give the emperor assurances so that they could end the war quickly. And as soon as the bomb worked, they took that out of the documents, too, that they asked the Japanese to surrender. It made a big propaganda thing. But they took out the key point that we wouldn't harm their emperor-god. And everyone knew if you did that, they would keep fighting forever.

    So it's not a very--it's a very unpleasant story about American diplomacy, to say the least.

    JAY: Yeah, and the psyche and the potential sociopathy of the presidency and the opening of decades of Cold War that often brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

    ALPEROVITZ: Yup. It's the beginning of it all.

    The thing that I think's important to understand, because these people were ordinary human beings--the president, his secretary of state, they were not evil guys. They were caught up in an ideology that somehow, if we followed American strategy, we could save the world from another war, and the Russians are, they believe, communist devils. So they were operating out of a framework of ideology that dominated their thinking to the extent that 300,000 civilians were burned unnecessarily, killed. But it's a mistake to see them just as bad guys. Much more important is: how does American corporate capitalism develop that ideology? And what does it really take to reach much deeper than good guys and bad guys?

    JAY: There's a great deal of detail one can get into on this, but--and as I say, we're going to get into kind of other themes in the rest of the interview. But one part of this I think is important, because you can see it show up again and again in other examples. Your book established things fairly definitively. And since, there have been other books that have established and reinforced your findings, there have been other research. As you say, I think most historians that have studied this have come to the same conclusion, that the bomb wasn't necessary to end the war.

    The mass media narrative, the educational narrative is the exact opposite. Any article that talks about this talks about the bomb saved American lives in such and such. Your entire critique is as if it never happened in most mass media.

    ALPEROVITZ: Mass media is true. Some--they're now having--I get high school inquiries all the time from students who are being asked to write papers about this, and they're being given--they wouldn't get to me unless they were being given my research materials and so forth. So in various parts of the country, there's something going on, and particularly the younger generation. But the mass media, except for one program done by ABC that I happened to work with and consult with, Peter Jennings, before he died, opened up this issue just once.

    JAY: And this is the media just knowing that their job is to make sure the American narrative is not questioned, the official narrative doesn't get challenged?

    ALPEROVITZ: No, I think what happens--.

    JAY: Or are they ignorant of the work?

    ALPEROVITZ: Partly ignorant. I think what really happens is there are right-wing historians who, of course, disagree, and they write big, long books. And here's another book--even though this is the common view in many parts of the world now outside the United States, the media people are caught between this guy and that guy, and they take the cautious road. They don't know enough of the--they don't want to make the judgments. They don't want to dig deep enough into it.

    JAY: But there's also partly not wanting to believe that your president is capable of such a thing.

    ALPEROVITZ: I think so, yes. That's part of it as well.

    JAY: I mean, I remember having a discussion/debate with a relative of mine just before the Iraq War, and I was saying, there is simply no evidence of weapons of mass destruction. Just listen to Hans Blix. He's saying there's nothing there. Blix keeps saying, if you know where they are, tell me; I'll go find them. And he--you know, this relative looks me in the eye and says, there is just no way I can believe that my president knowingly would start a war based on a lie. As much is he didn't like Bush, he votes Democrat, he just couldn't believe--.

    ALPEROVITZ: That's right. I think that is true. I think you put your finger on something. It's very hard to believe that people would have actually done this, because it is such a brutal and vicious thing to do.

    It goes further. And here's how. This is what really caught me up. After the atomic bombs were used, after the Japanese had surrendered publicly (Radio Tokyo) but before their formal papers had passed--the war was over--the United States ordered, the president ordered the largest bombing raid in world history, 1,400 bombers. It did more damage than probably Hiroshima. But the sense that people would actually do that--. I remember putting that on my mirror [incompr.] I just couldn't believe it either.

    JAY: And how do the right-wing historians rationalize this?

    ALPEROVITZ: They just ignore it. It's just ignored.

    JAY: This idea that my president could never do such a thing, it's a narrative that's so protected--. You must know the example of--it came out in the Johnson tapes that Nixon had deliberately scuttled Johnson's negotiations with the North Vietnamese. And Johnson was very close to an end of the Vietnam War, and Nixon sends an emissary to the North Vietnamese saying, if you sign with Johnson, I'm the next president. I'm not going to go along with the agreement, but I will make the deal with you. And so the North Vietnamese don't make the deal with Johnson, and, of course, Nixon doesn't make the deal, and tens of thousands of Americans are killed, but hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and Cambodians. And same thing; I mean, people say, well, could--would a president of mine really deliberately do such a thing? And the answer is: yeah.

    ALPEROVITZ: Yep. It is--and case by case. Some of them would--and some of them believing it was the right thing to do. I mean, that's Truman. Truman thought he was doing good, not bad.

    So that's--see, that's what gets really--they actually do it. It's very hard to believe. And then, how did they [incompr.]

    JAY: But Truman worked--you know, he's Roosevelt's vice president. Roosevelt says, we can work with the Russians. Roosevelt did work with the Russians. There's a whole culture of--you know, even with--I mean, Wallace is on the outs by then, who was--had previously been Roosevelt's vice president. But, I mean, it wasn't such a--you know, but we had not gotten yet to McCarthyism and such. You know, Truman didn't have to go there. But there's a very deliberate attempt to create this hysteria.

    ALPEROVITZ: Yes. What Truman was--Truman was very different from Roosevelt from the beginning. I mean, during the war he publicly, in the Senate, made a speech saying, what we should do is aid the Russians so they can kill more of the Nazis and aid the Nazis to kill the Russians. I mean, he had a very different mentality, and his secretary of state had a different mentality. The whole Roosevelt crew was dumped out as soon as Roosevelt died, and that mentality came into office. It took them a long while to bring the country with them on lots of issues. It took them two or three years to really get the country behind them, because the country didn't buy that. That was not accepted.

    JAY: Now, we were talking about the role of the media in kind of keeping to this official narrative. And I saw in The New York Times just the other day, there's a story about Syria, and there's a paragraph in the article, Syria having used chemical weapons, da-da-da-da-da. Now, as far--unless I missed something here, there is still no evidence that the Syrian government used the chemical weapons. Now, I'm fully--could believe that they could. I have no great illusions about Assad and the Syrian government. But as far as I know, there's no evidence. And, in fact, there's lots of evidence that it might have been somewhere on the opposition side used them. But it's just--it's that paragraph's in the article, the Syrian government used chemical weapons ba-pa-da-bup-bup-ba, and it becomes the narrative.

    ALPEROVITZ: Yes, it does. I mean, on these issues the easy way to go for the press is to go that direction rather than to dig and oppose the conventional wisdom or the presidential--. And that gives them access. If you start raising questions--Seymour Hersh has been having trouble because he's trying to raise these issues that--you know, the great investigative journalist is now having trouble getting some of his things out and he's publicly going to using the London Review of Books.

    JAY: It's still the echo of the Cold War, isn't it? Like, if you get off the official narrative, then what's your agenda?


    JAY: You know, you've got your own political agenda. And, you know, there's still this, you know, kind of Cold War mentality.

    ALPEROVITZ: You know, and journalists wanting to protect their access to key people in the government, who they need, they think, to get their stories rather than to dig, dig, dig. It's best not to raise certain issues.

    JAY: Right. Okay. We're going to move on now to the next segment, where we're going to look at this--what Gar has been spending most of his time for the last few years working on, which is what would a new economy look like and what would America after capitalism look like, and also how do we get there.

    So please join us for the next segment of Reality Asserts Itself with Gar Alperovitz on The Real News Network.


    DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


    Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at


    Latest Stories

    The Bundy Ranch Standoff Demonstrates Values Shared by Corporations and the Far Right
    The Resegregation of American Schools
    The Modern History of Venezuela, Why Still So Much Crime? - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (7/9)
    What Role Has Russia Played in Eastern Ukraine?
    Can Johns Hopkins Afford to Pay A Living Wage? (2/2)
    University Sit-In Targets World's Largest Private Coal Company
    The Modern History of Venezuela and the Need for a Post-Oil Economy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (6/9)
    Can Johns Hopkins Afford to Pay A Living Wage? (1/2)
    One Percent of Environmentalists Killings Lead to Convictions
    Investigation Finds Former Ukraine President Not Responsible For Sniper Attack on Protestors
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Ukraine Transitional Gov't Moves Militarily To Reclaim Seized Buildings
    IPCC Report Flawed By Narrow Focus on Carbon Emissions
    The Modern History of Venezuela: The Bolivarian Revolution - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (5/9)
    Obama Signs Directives to Reduce the Gender Wage Gap
    Eastern Ukraine Lacks Political Representation in Kiev
    Demystifying the Role of Mitigation in the Most Recent IPCC Report
    Hypersurveillance State Won't Prevent Another Boston Marathon Bombing
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Univ. of Maine Faculty Reinstated After Students Protest Against Cuts
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1908 to 1973 - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (2/9)
    IMF Will Address Global Inequality, Says Managing Director Christine Lagarde
    Raising Big Banks' Leverage Ratio Good, But Not Nearly Enough
    TRNN Replay: Austerity Road to 19th Century
    Has Palestinian Maneuvering Revived Peace Talks?
    Late Jackson Mayor Lumumba's Son Wins Primary to Replace His Father, Runoff Election Ahead
    Quebecers Reject PQ and Elect a Liberal Government Representing Big Business
    TRNN Debate: Decriminalization vs. Legalization
    The Beginning of the Chavez Era - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (4/9)
    "Off With His Head": Court Upholds Obama's Power to Kill
    Workers at Nation's Top Hospital Strike For Fair Wages
    From Exile to Radicalization in Venezuela - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (1/9)
    Rwanda 20 Years Later: Genocide, Western Plunder of Congo, and President Kagame
    Ukrainian Protesters in the East Demand More Autonomy From Kiev Government
    Hunger Strikers Demand President Obama Halt His Record 2 Million Deportations
    Indian Parliamentary Elections - A Primer With Vijay Prashad
    West Looks to Carve Up Ukraine & Privatize Industries Held by Kleptocrats
    Where Are Israeli-Palestinian Peace Negotiations Headed?
    The Multiple Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia (5/5)
    Do the Afghan Presidential Elections Signify Progress?
    Republican Presidential Hopefuls Pay Homage to Billionaire Casino Tycoon Sheldon Adelson
    Will Extremist Lieberman Become Israel's Next Prime Minister?
    Why do the Saudis Want the US to Attack Iran? (4/5)
    Immigrant Advocates and Families Tell President Obama 'Not One More'
    Elections, Pipelines, and Protests - The Canada Panel
    Chris Hedges on "Israel's War on American Universities"
    Baltimore Residents Decry Lack of Affordable Housing
    Yellen Talks the Talk But Will She Walk the Walk?
    Hopkins Hospital Workers Speak Out against "Poverty Wages"
    Will Venezuela's New Floating Exchange Rate Curb Inflation?
    The European Central Bank's War on Wages is Pushing Europe's Economy to the Brink
    Supreme Court Decision Opens Floodgates for More Campaign Cash
    Charles Keating, the Financier Behind the Savings and Loan Scandal, Dies at 90
    Saudi Arabia and the al-Qaeda Monster (3/5)
    Maryland Residents Voice Opposition to Natural Gas Fracking Export Facility
    Supreme Court Ruling Gives Wealthy Individuals More Influence Over Elections
    What are the Saudis Afraid Of? - Madawi Al-Rasheed (2/5)
    Baltimore's MICA Adjunct Professors Set to Vote on Unionization
    Boycott of Israel Moving to Next Level?
    Hypocrisy Dressed Up as "Realism" Justifies American Alliance with Saudi Dictatorship
    Immigration Reform in the Shadows of Cesar Chavez's Legacy
    Leaked Senate Report Shows Use of Torture As "Ineffective"
    UN Report Says Climate Change Will Threaten Food Production Worldwide
    The Hypocrisy of US Calling for Enforcement of International Law
    How the Ecuadorian Economy Grew in a Global Recession
    'Shadows of Liberty' Trailer
    Kristina Borjesson on Why CBS Shut Down Her investigation into Flight 800 (2/8)
    Glen Ford on Racism in the American Media (3/8)
    Paul Jay on What Drives Corporate Media and What Drive The Real News (4/8)
    Creating a New Media Paradigm After Citizens United (5/8)
    Should The Left Engage with the Mainstream Media? (6/8)
    What Is the Financial Backing For The Real News? (7/8)
    Standing up to Character Assassination (8/8)
    Oligarchs, Fascists and the People's Protest in Ukraine
    TRNN Debate: Is Obamacare In the Interest of Workers?
    Too-Big-To-Fail Advantage Remains Intact For Big Banks
    Obama and the Saudi Agenda
    TRNN Replay: Investigating the Saudi Government's 9/11 Connection and the Path to Disilliusionment - Sen. Graham on Reality Asserts Itself pt 1
    The Iraq War's Real Legacy
    Petitions with 100,000+ Signatures Call for Snowden's Passport to be Reinstated
    We Need to Harness People Power - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (4/4)
    BC Pipeline Fight and Quebec Elections - The Canada Panel
    Jonathan Schell - 1943-2014: Board Member of TRNN on Why We Need The Real News
    Teachers on Strike from the UK to Argentina
    Connecticut Poised to Become First State with $10.10 Minimum Wage
    Oil Spill Threatens Wildlife and Local Economy
    DC School Test Scores Up, But Poor Black Kids Are Doing Worse - Andy Shallal on RAI (3/4)
    Obama's Proposal To End NSA Bulk Data Collection Won't Protect Privacy
    How Google, Apple & The Biggest Tech Companies Colluded to Fix Workers' Wages
    An American Should be One that Questions Their Government - Andy Shallal on RAI (2/4)
    What's Driving Putin & Obama's Posturing on Ukraine?
    Hundreds of Students & Faculty Occupy College Campus to Fight Cuts to Public Higher Ed
    Due Process 'Impossible' In Harsh Death Sentencing Of Over 500 Muslim Brotherhood Members
    Has Anglo-American Capitalism Run Out of Steam?
    Being the "Other" in America - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (1/4)
    TRNN Debate: Should Baltimore 'Ban The Box'?
    How Fallujah Became the Iraqi Government's New Battleground
    Why I Decided to Blow the Whistle on the NSA
    NASA Climate Predictions Show Serious Threat To Humanity
    Professor Who Teaches Israel-Palestine Conflict Accuses College of Violating His Academic Freedom
    CIA and NSA Wrongdoing Requires Independent Investigation, Says Former Church Committee Staff
    Are Tuition Breaks Enough To Combat High Student Debt And Low Graduation Rates?
    Industries Across the U.S. Are Stealing Wages From Their Lowest Paid Workers
    Who In Ukraine Will Benefit From An IMF Bailout?
    NSA Recording All International Calls From U.S.
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (2/2)
    BP Gets Green Light to Drill in Gulf, But Has Safety Improved?
    Residents Still Not Drinking Tap Water Two Months After West Virginia Spill (1/2)
    Libya's Descent Into Turmoil Three Years After NATO Intervention
    From Pipelines to Peladeau - Canadian Report
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (1/2)
    Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget Strikes Back Against Austerity
    Libya Three Years Later - Chaos and Partition
    Why Was Gaddafi Overthrown?
    Should Ukraine and West Accept De Facto Crimea Joining Russia? (2/2)
    Tony Benn Saw Socialism as the Culmination of Democratization
    Why Didn't Bush/Cheney Attack Iran and Can Obama Make and Sell a Deal? - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (3/3)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi? (2/2)
    Crimea Referendum: Self Determination or Big Power Manipulation? (1/2)
    Sen. Graham: President Must Side with Openness About CIA and 9/11
    Manufacturing a Narrative for War - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (2/3)
    Protesters Hit the Streets of Brooklyn to Demand $15 Minimum Wage
    Hammer: 'Moral Bankruptcy' Behind Massive GM Recall
    White House Withholds Thousands of Documents from Senate CIA Probe
    I Grew Up Believing in Time Magazine's Version of America - Gareth Porter on RAI (1/3)
    Western European Banks Vulnerable to Ukrainian Sovereign Debt Crisis
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (2/2)
    CIA vs. Senate: Who Is Obama Protecting?
    Will Tipped Workers Get Excluded Again From Minimum Wage Hike?
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (1/2)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi?(1/2)
    TRNN Replay: A Look at Who's Poised to Become No.2 at the Fed
    How Right-Wing Nationalism Rose to Influence in Ukraine (2/2)
    Netanyahu Attacks Boycott As Campaign Enters New Phase
    Moving Towards a Police State - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (7/7)
    Fighting Reagan's Secret, Illegal Wars - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (6/7)
    Puerto Rican Independence Movement and Cuba Further Radicalized Me - Michael Ratner on RAI (5/7)
    The Butcher of Attica - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (4/7)
    MLK and a Radicalizing Moment in American History - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (3/7), Real News Network, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of IWT.TV inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and Real News Network.

    All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network.  Click here for more

    Problems with this site? Please let us know

    Linux VPS Hosting by Star Dot Hosting