Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy wrote this poem in 2009 to mark the deaths of Henry Allingham and Harry Patch, the two longest surviving soldiers from the First World War.
It makes a great headline but is unfortunately wrong. The Japanese had been trying to negotiate a cease fire since August 1944 via neutral embassies in Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and Russia. The Allies’ 1941 Atlantic Treaty, anticipating the war’s end, decreed no benefit from territorial gain and everyone to return to peaceful self-government. Japan couldn’t countenance “unconditional surrender” which was too humiliating for their culture. In 1944 they realised their war was lost and were ready for conditional surrender. They did not want to be invaded and occupied but they wanted the Emperor and his dynastic line to remain.
The Potsdam conference of July 1945 could have approved their offer but the US delegation insisted on perpetuating a demand for “unconditional surrender”, knowing it would be rejected.
The greatest single bombing attack of WWII was the Tokyo firebombing with (mostly) napalm on 9 March 1945, which killed at least 100,000, razed 16 square miles and made one million homeless. It was unsurpassed as a demonstration of Allied determination to force surrender. The Emperor and his Imperial Palace were fortunate to survive. The Japanese Imperial war machine was callous and barbaric showing neither mercy nor humanity to victims, both military and civilian. Over the months in 1945 Japan became acclimatized to the destruction of its cities and massive civilian death tolls.
In April 1945 plans for dropping the atom bomb were secretly agreed when it was decided to use it to demonstrate its destructive capability on cities of at least 3 miles diameter and with populations of over 250,000. The shortlist included Hiroshima, Kokura, Yokohama, Niigata and Kyoto. Already, by summer 1945, 59 of Japan’s 66 major cities had been destroyed by bombing, but cities selected for atom bombing were left unscathed by aerial bombardment to demonstrate the atom bomb’s potential. Nagasaki was only added to the list at a later date when Kyoto was removed for cultural and religious reasons, and some aerial bombardment had taken place there, so it was not an ideal candidate for evaluation of damage by an atom bomb.
In summer 1945 urgent negotiations between Russia and Japan, between whom there was a non-aggression pact, came to nothing and Russia invaded Manchuria, resulting in Japan feeling the threat of invasion and the western allies being concerned about communist Russia gaining a foothold in the far east.
By August 1945 the Japanese were impotent in the face of Allied aerial bombardment. Urgent pleas by scientists working on the atom bombs, not to use them, were ignored.
Clear skies were essential for visual targeting of the atom bombs, and on the fateful day of August 6 the weather over Hiroshima was perfect. The plane flew very high to avoid blast and a rapid getaway avoided radioactive contamination. President Truman declared it “the greatest day in history”. The target selected for the second bomb on 9 August was Kokura. Three runs were made over the city, but it was covered in cloud. With fuel supply problems, the flight commander moved to Nagasaki, which was also covered in cloud, but at the last minute a break in the cloud allowed sufficient visibility for the bomb to be dropped.
When surrender was agreed on 10 August (it was not announced by the Emperor until five days later) the US insistence on “unconditional surrender” was dropped in favour of conditions accepting self-determination and the preservation of the Imperial dynasty.
Leo Szilard, spokesman for the atomic scientists, said: “using the bombs against Japan is one of the greatest blunders in history.” In July 1946 an official US report said the atom bombs did not end the war or persuade the Japanese to agree “unconditional surrender”. Surrender was achieved when the US modified the surrender terms, having used the opportunity to test its new weapons.
Noel Hamel, July 2014
Chilling words from Jeff Halper (Director of Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions - ICAHD)
“The Kerry initiative may have ended with a whimper instead of a bang, but its impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was significant and fundamental nonetheless. The end of the political process, futile as it may have been, triggered the collapse of the status quo as we have known it for the past 47 years. It set in motion a series of events that will confront us with two stark alternatives regarding Israel and Palestine: either the permanent warehousing of an entire population or the emergence of a single democratic state.
Both the blatantly disproportionate response to the kidnapping and killing of the three Israeli boys and, as I write, the all-out air strikes on Gaza, have been cast by Israel as military operations: Operations Brothers’ Keeper and Operation Protective Edge. Neither had anything to do with the operations’ purported triggers, the search for the boys or rocket fire from Gaza. Palestinian cities supposedly enjoying extra-territorial status were invaded in Operation Brothers’ Keeper, more than 2000 homes were ransacked, some 700 people arrested. Who knows as yet the devastation wrought on Gaza – 100 dead in more than 1,100 air attacks so far, mostly civilians according to reports; deafening around-the-clock bombing of communities by American-supplied F-15 and artillery from the ground and sea that amounts to collective torture; Israel’s Foreign Minister calling for cutting off all electricity and water amidst threats to completely obliterate Gaza’s infrastructure; and the prospect of almost two million people being permanently imprisoned, reduced to bare existence just this side of starvation.
What is clear is that the military operations had a purpose of their own, that they would have been launched regardless, that they were merely waiting on a pretext. They had to come because the vacuum left by Kerry had to be filled. “Closure” was necessary – and it was clear that the Palestinian Authority, which had several months to take an initiative that would have bolstered the Palestinians’ position, would not do so, even though Martin Indyk, the American’s chief negotiator and former AIPAC leader, placed the blame squarely on Israel for the talks’ failure.
In fact, the end of the Kerry initiative marked the culmination of a decades-old campaign, systematic and deliberate, of eliminating the two-state solution. From the start, in 1967, successive Israeli governments officially denied that there even was an occupation, claiming that since the Palestinians had never had a state of their own they had no national claim to the land. The Labor Party denied the very applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention that protects civilian populations finding themselves under hostile rule with no means of self-defense – and which had been formulated specifically with the intent of providing the protection denied to Jews during the Holocaust. It therefore embarked on a project of establishing settlements, now numbering some 200, in clear violation of international law that prohibits an Occupying Power from moving its civilian population into an occupied territory.
Indeed, Labor (the “Zionist left”) bears more responsibility for eliminating the two-state solution than does the Likud of Begin, Sharon and Netanyahu. It was Labor who ruled during almost all seven years of the Oslo peace process, and it was Labor that chose to double Israel’s settler population during that period. Labor fragmented the Palestinian territories into tiny and impoverished enclaves, Labor imposed the economic closure and impediments to Palestinian movement these last 21 years, and Labor – not Likud, which actually opposed the project – initiated the construction of the Separation Barrier, the Apartheid Wall.
The Likud, of course, was a willing partner, as were all the secular and religious parties from the center to the extreme right, but it has fallen to Netanyahu to kill the two-state solution once and for all. The first step was to decisively end Kerry’s initiative and any that might follow it. This Netanyahu did by raising his demands to intolerable levels. He declared that the Palestinians must relinquish their own national narrative and civil rights by recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, and he held to the position that Israel would retain permanently East Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and Israel’s main settlement blocs (about a third of the West Bank), as well as the water and natural gas resources, the country’s electro-magnetic sphere (communications) and all of its airspace.
He left the Palestinians with less than a Bantustan, non-viable and non-sovereign, a prison comprised of the 70 islands of Areas A and B of the West Bank, ghettos in “east” Jerusalem, tightly contained enclaves within Israel, and the cage which is Gaza – half the population of the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River confined to dozens of islands on 15% of historic Palestine.
Operations Brothers’ Keeper and Protective Edge represent the imposition of a regime of warehousing, of outright imprisonment of an entire people. The seemingly blind and atavistic destruction and hatred unleashed on the Palestinians over the past few weeks is not merely yet another “round of violence” in an interminable struggle. It is the declaration of a new political reality. The message is clear, unilateral and final: This country has been Judaized: it is now the Land of Israel in the process of being incorporated into the state of Israel. You Arabs (or “Palestinians” as you call yourselves) are not a people and have no national rights, certainly to our exclusively Jewish country. You are not a “side” to a “conflict.” Once and for all we must disabuse you of the notion that we are actually negotiating with you. We never have and never will. You are nothing but inmates in prison cells, and we hereby declare through our military and political actions that you have three options before you: You can submit as inmates are required to do, in which case we will allow you to remain in your enclave-cells. You can leave, as hundreds of thousands have done before you. Or, if you choose to resist, you will die.
Warehousing is worse than apartheid. It does not even pretend to find a political framework for “separate development,” it simply jails the oppressed and robs them of all their collective and individual rights. It is the ultimate form of oppression before actual genocide, and in that it robs a people of its identity, its land, its culture and the ability to reproduce itself, it is a form of cultural genocide that can lead to worse. This is what Israel has left the Palestinians, this is the meaning of the bombing of Gaza, the terrorizing of the West Bank – and the ongoing destruction of Bedouin and Palestinian homes within Israel.
Assuming that apartheid and warehousing are absolutely unacceptable “solutions” and, indeed, are ultimately unsustainable, generating even more violence and conflict in the volatile Middle East, Israel has in fact left us with only one workable, just and lasting way out: a single democratic state in Palestine/Israel that guarantees the individual and collective rights of all its citizens. This is what we must struggle for. Israel’s military operations mark the beginning of the collapse of the Occupation. It is incumbent on Palestinian civil society, joining with their partners on the critical Israeli left, to urgently formulate how that state would look and, ensuring everyone in that land a part in its future, to begin the struggle to achieve it. Despite the suffering of the moment, public opinion the world over supports us. Only our effective mobilization will defeat warehousing.”
This article originally appeared in Mondoweiss on July 11th 2014. It is printed with its original American spelling - Ed.
Of course there has now been a tremendous rise in house demolitions, as more and more desolate people are made homeless every day. You will find the most current news on the ICAHD Facebook page.
You can find out more about ICAHD UK and help them continue their crucial work in Resisting the Occupation, Rebuilding Homes and Constructing Peace by looking at their website www.icahd.org
STOP PRESS GAZA – the terrible situation changes from day to day. Please continue to attend protests and complain to your MP and to the BBC if they don’t put forward Palestine’s case properly.
The timing of this horrific act has shifted the terrible reports from Gaza to further down the news reports – but are there any facts we can be sure of amongst all the chat and accusations?
As usual we cannot “start from here”. Ever since ethnic Russians living in the East of Ukraine began to fear and resist the right-leaning Government in Kiev which was set up more or less overnight and legitimised immediately by Western powers, USA and the European Union, there have been accusations of Russian infiltration and interference at best.. direct war-fighting at worst.
Brian Denny in the Morning Star issue of July 21st attempted some clarification of the situation. He draws attention to the fact, under-reported if mentioned at all in our media, that Kiev-based neo-nazi paramilitary groups have been attacking and killing trade-unionists, communists and other Russian –speaking civilians, causing many to flee across the Russian border.
This follows the attack in Odessa in May when a trade union building was set alight . Many burnt to death inside, and others were attacked as they attempted to escape. Police stood by and fire engines were prevented from reaching the scene by fascist gangs. This was very sketchily reported in the West.
Going back to last November when President Yanukovich was overthrown, the fascist party Svoboda were very active in this, bringing great fear to the Russian speaking population and other left-leaning civilians who remember with horror the activities of these groups during WW2. After what was effectively a coup was accepted by the EU and USA virtually overnight the Government that was set up after very flawed elections now includes 5 ministerial positions held by Svoboda, and the Ukraine Communist Party (KPU) and other left-leaning groups have been banned or edged out.
President Poroshenko has announced plans to lead Ukraine into a security alliance with the West (no doubt this will involve NATO), and also to sign an economic agreement with the EU, this will necessitate mass privatisation and austerity measures, leading to unemployment and price rises which will impact most heavily in the east of the country.
As I write this it is too early to say if there is any truth in whether Russia had a hand in the shooting down of the Malaysian Airlines plane, whether it was just a tragic mistake of the local rebel fighters in the area, or even if it was part of a wider plot to discredit all things Russian and “on the left”, unlikely as this may seem.
However it does seem a very dangerous echo of a certain shooting in Sarajevo 100 years ago which had unimaginable consequences. So it is important not to jump to easy conclusions or to allow accusations and counterclaims to escalate.
Our last fund-raising event of 2014 will be our stall at Carshalton Environment Fair on Bank Holiday Monday, August 25th. This is always a lovely and peaceful event, with many campaigning, crafts, green and veggie food stalls. It takes place in The Park, Ruskin Road, Carshalton. Often the sun shines!
We would love to see you on our stall, if only for a short time. For more information, including transport possibilities please get in touch via anyone listed on the contacts page.
Replies to Harry’s question in the July edition of Kingston Peace News.
Harry asked what answer readers would give to the question “Would Germany have invaded France if France had had nuclear weapons?”
Two answers have been received so far:-
Joanna Bazley (Wimbledon CND) wrote: "The Vietcong were not deterred by the American bomb. Argentina was not deterred by the British bomb. Exploding nuclear weapons over Germany would have rendered most of France uninhabitable if the wind had been in the right direction but perhaps the military planners might not have thought of that. Nuclear weapons are a threat to global security and do not confer real national security on any of the nuclear weapons states"
And Charles Wicksteed (our Webmaster) wrote: "Not answering the question, but I suggest one should listen carefully. It is an opportunity to find out a little more about what really makes people support nuclear weapons. Obviously people are reticent about their real reasons, if they know themselves, but you may get a clue if you can get them talking. Putting our new-found knowledge to use is not easy: do we tune our message to what will really change people's minds (which would be so painful that they will dismiss us as unrealistic), or avoid that issue in order to gain credibility?”
Any more ideas? Please send them to Phillipjcooper@hotmail.com
Joanna Bazley of Wimbledon Disarmament Coalition/CND bravely offered to coordinate the metre-long, knitted pieces of pink scarf made by campaigners in the south west London area. She and her helpers had already held sessions where dozens of pieces were sewn together. On Saturday 28 June many disarmament supporters met outside Wimbledon Library to walk through Wimbledon displaying this section of the scarf to raise awareness of the “Wool against Weapons” campaign which will culminate in the whole scarf stretching between the Atomic Weapons Research Establishments at Aldermaston and Burghfield – see below.
Joanna said: “The campaign is intended to be a fun and creative way for people to show their support for the cause. It has captured the imaginations of thousands of people up and down the country, who have all got involved by knitting metre-long rectangles. We have even heard of shortages of pink wool. We hope that it will alert people to the fact that there are two fully functioning nuclear weapons factories in this country, and it is a plea to the Government to find better ways of solving global crises”.
Despite a reasonable start to the day on 28 June, by the time about half of the large rolls were spread out on clothes lines, the weather deteriorated and it began to rain. A very large roll was left unfurled as it was obvious by then that the thirty to forty people present weren’t going to be half enough to carry the scarf through Wimbledon. The approximately 100 metre length was walked through the crowds of shoppers and people waiting outside the station for buses and taxis to take them to see the tennis. It certainly attracted attention and enabled leaflets to be given out and questions to be answered.
The excellent Wimbledon and South London Press had followed the progress of the scarf section and had published two eye-catching articles prior to this event. Their intrepid photographer was there once again getting as wet as those of us taking part and this resulted in another article in the newspaper the following week. The publicity was welcomed by all and the event ended with Joanna being helped into a taxi with metres and metres of wet wool to take home to dry.
A coach is being arranged by WDC/CND to take supporters/scarf holders to the great unrolling on 9 August. It will need thousands of hands: please add your pair.
On 9th August we will connect the nuclear bomb factories at Aldermaston and Burghfield.
Come and join us to roll-out the seven mile pink peace scarf!
Hundreds of you have been knitting beautiful pieces of pink wool and crochet which will form part of our seven mile long peace scarf. We still need your pieces but we also need as many people as possible to come to the demonstration on the roll-out day - the 69th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki - whether you've knitted or not!
Why connect the AWE factories with a seven mile pink scarf? The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston and Burghfield are the bomb factories which make Britain's nuclear warheads. Ahead of an expected Parliamentary vote in 2016 on whether the government should spend over £100 billion on a new nuclear weapons system, there will be increasing demonstrations at AWE calling for Trident and its replacement to be scrapped.
Come to the demonstration on 9th August! You don't need to have knitted for the scarf to come along - simply being there will be a fantastic contribution to the day.
There will be coaches coming from all across the country. CND will be arranging shuttle buses from Mortimer train station. If you are booked on or are planning to take a particular train please let them know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org so that they can guarantee to pick you up!
But if you live in the Kingston area there is a coach departing Wimbledon Theatre at 8am. Price £10/£5. Email to book a place via anyone listed on the contacts page.
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Rosemary Addington
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND