Commentary Magazine


Topic: Hiroshima

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Hiroshima, Obama, and Truman

Today’s ceremony commemorating the 65th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima had something new: the presence of the U.S. ambassador to Japan. Never before had America sent an official participant in the annual memorial to those killed in the world’s first atomic attack. That this should occur during the administration of Barack Obama is no surprise. No previous American president has been at such pains to apologize for what he thinks are America’s sins. So while, thankfully, Ambassador John Roos did not speak at the Hiroshima event, the import of his presence there was undeniable.

In theory, there ought to be nothing wrong with an American representative appearing in Hiroshima. Mourning the loss of so many lives in the bombing is both understandable and appropriate. But the problem lies in the way Japan remembers World War II. One of the reasons why it would have been appropriate for the United States to avoid its official presence at this ceremony is that the Japanese have never taken full responsibility for their own conduct during the war that the Hiroshima bombing helped end. Indeed, to listen to the Japanese, their involvement in the war sounds limited to the incineration of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as the fire bombings of many other urban centers in the country, followed by a humiliating American occupation. The horror of the two nuclear bombs didn’t just wipe out two cities and force Japan’s government to finally bow to the inevitable and surrender. For 65 years it has served as a magic event that has erased from the collective memory of the Japanese people the vicious aggression and countless war crimes committed against not only the Allied powers but also the peoples of Asia who fell under their cruel rule in the 1930s and 1940s. The bombing of Hiroshima was horrible, but it ought not, as it has for all these years, to serve as an excuse for the Japanese people to forget the crimes their government and armed forces committed throughout their empire during the years that preceded the dropping of the first nuclear bomb.

Click here to read the rest of this COMMENTARY web exclusive.

Today’s ceremony commemorating the 65th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima had something new: the presence of the U.S. ambassador to Japan. Never before had America sent an official participant in the annual memorial to those killed in the world’s first atomic attack. That this should occur during the administration of Barack Obama is no surprise. No previous American president has been at such pains to apologize for what he thinks are America’s sins. So while, thankfully, Ambassador John Roos did not speak at the Hiroshima event, the import of his presence there was undeniable.

In theory, there ought to be nothing wrong with an American representative appearing in Hiroshima. Mourning the loss of so many lives in the bombing is both understandable and appropriate. But the problem lies in the way Japan remembers World War II. One of the reasons why it would have been appropriate for the United States to avoid its official presence at this ceremony is that the Japanese have never taken full responsibility for their own conduct during the war that the Hiroshima bombing helped end. Indeed, to listen to the Japanese, their involvement in the war sounds limited to the incineration of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as the fire bombings of many other urban centers in the country, followed by a humiliating American occupation. The horror of the two nuclear bombs didn’t just wipe out two cities and force Japan’s government to finally bow to the inevitable and surrender. For 65 years it has served as a magic event that has erased from the collective memory of the Japanese people the vicious aggression and countless war crimes committed against not only the Allied powers but also the peoples of Asia who fell under their cruel rule in the 1930s and 1940s. The bombing of Hiroshima was horrible, but it ought not, as it has for all these years, to serve as an excuse for the Japanese people to forget the crimes their government and armed forces committed throughout their empire during the years that preceded the dropping of the first nuclear bomb.

Click here to read the rest of this COMMENTARY web exclusive.

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What Will Obama Do About His Pastor?

Barack Obama must have been dreading this for a long time. ABC News has uncovered several examples of unadulterated anti-American fury in the printed sermons of Obama’s Chicago pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright:

Wright’s sermons, offered for sale by the church, found repeated denunciations of the U.S. based on what he described as his reading of the Gospels and the treatment of black Americans.

“The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people,” he said in a 2003 sermon. “God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.

Here’s Rev. Wright the Sunday after 9/11:

“We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye,” Rev. Wright said in a sermon on Sept. 16, 2001.

“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost,” he told his congregation.

In the past, Obama has said Wright is “like an old uncle who says things I don’t always agree with.” Which would be an okay excuse if Wright was Obama’s uncle—a wacky relative you can ignore on the occasional holiday. But Wright is Obama’s spiritual advisor. Wright married Obama and his wife and baptized their children. Furthermore, the level of hateful vitriol that’s now become apparent can no longer be glossed over with a folksy claim to avuncular affection. If I were this man’s nephew, I’d happily denounce my flesh-and-blood. The simpleminded political fury that Wright calls religion demands Obama’s unqualified repudiation.

So why doesn’t Obama repudiate Wright? If it’s true, as Obama’s campaign asserts, that Jeremiah Wright is “one of the country’s ten most influential black pastors,” then hate speech like Wright’s isn’t a big deal to a giant swath of American blacks. Moreover, that vote must be courted. Funny, how Democrats have spent decades stoking fears about the dangerous and discriminatory political influence of the religious Right, and now a demonstrably vile Reverend like Jeremiah Wright has the ear of a man who could become the Democratic nominee for president.

Barack Obama must have been dreading this for a long time. ABC News has uncovered several examples of unadulterated anti-American fury in the printed sermons of Obama’s Chicago pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright:

Wright’s sermons, offered for sale by the church, found repeated denunciations of the U.S. based on what he described as his reading of the Gospels and the treatment of black Americans.

“The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people,” he said in a 2003 sermon. “God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.

Here’s Rev. Wright the Sunday after 9/11:

“We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye,” Rev. Wright said in a sermon on Sept. 16, 2001.

“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost,” he told his congregation.

In the past, Obama has said Wright is “like an old uncle who says things I don’t always agree with.” Which would be an okay excuse if Wright was Obama’s uncle—a wacky relative you can ignore on the occasional holiday. But Wright is Obama’s spiritual advisor. Wright married Obama and his wife and baptized their children. Furthermore, the level of hateful vitriol that’s now become apparent can no longer be glossed over with a folksy claim to avuncular affection. If I were this man’s nephew, I’d happily denounce my flesh-and-blood. The simpleminded political fury that Wright calls religion demands Obama’s unqualified repudiation.

So why doesn’t Obama repudiate Wright? If it’s true, as Obama’s campaign asserts, that Jeremiah Wright is “one of the country’s ten most influential black pastors,” then hate speech like Wright’s isn’t a big deal to a giant swath of American blacks. Moreover, that vote must be courted. Funny, how Democrats have spent decades stoking fears about the dangerous and discriminatory political influence of the religious Right, and now a demonstrably vile Reverend like Jeremiah Wright has the ear of a man who could become the Democratic nominee for president.

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To Fraser (And Flashman)!

I would like to join my contentions colleague Sam Munson in hoisting a tumbler of single-malt to salute the passing of George MacDonald Fraser, the crusty old Scot who produced a brilliant dozen of the Flashman novels.

Fraser has never really gotten his due. Another historical novelist of 19th century warfare—Patrick O’Brian—has received far more critical huzzahs. That is because his Aubrey/Maturin novels are more self-consciously literary, with relatively little action and lots of introspection, dialogue, and description. By contrast, Fraser’s books gallop along at the pace of a runaway mustang, with incident piled atop incident to keep the reader’s attention, many of them violent or salacious. There is also a humorous, mocking tone to Fraser’s work, a bit reminiscent of Thackeray, which contrasts with the somewhat dour mood of the Aubrey/Maturin books.

This is by no means meant to be an indictment of O’Brian, who was undoubtedly a novelist of great merit. Probably greater merit, in fact, than Fraser. But Fraser was more fun to read. And he was no less meticulous in his reconstructions of the past. A reader interested in Victorian history could do a lot worse than to pick up the Flashman series, which contain detailed descriptions of conflicts ranging from the U.S. Civil War to the First Afghan War. Flashman was a Victorian Zelig or Forrest Gump who showed up conveniently enough at every important event between 1840 and 1900.

In some ways, Fraser actually outdid most historians (and I say that as a historian myself): He captured the conversation and perspective of various historical characters in a way that is almost impossible to do for a conventional historian, who can’t embellish on the limited sources available. If there is a modern writer with a better ear for Victorian slang, I have yet to read his or her work.

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I would like to join my contentions colleague Sam Munson in hoisting a tumbler of single-malt to salute the passing of George MacDonald Fraser, the crusty old Scot who produced a brilliant dozen of the Flashman novels.

Fraser has never really gotten his due. Another historical novelist of 19th century warfare—Patrick O’Brian—has received far more critical huzzahs. That is because his Aubrey/Maturin novels are more self-consciously literary, with relatively little action and lots of introspection, dialogue, and description. By contrast, Fraser’s books gallop along at the pace of a runaway mustang, with incident piled atop incident to keep the reader’s attention, many of them violent or salacious. There is also a humorous, mocking tone to Fraser’s work, a bit reminiscent of Thackeray, which contrasts with the somewhat dour mood of the Aubrey/Maturin books.

This is by no means meant to be an indictment of O’Brian, who was undoubtedly a novelist of great merit. Probably greater merit, in fact, than Fraser. But Fraser was more fun to read. And he was no less meticulous in his reconstructions of the past. A reader interested in Victorian history could do a lot worse than to pick up the Flashman series, which contain detailed descriptions of conflicts ranging from the U.S. Civil War to the First Afghan War. Flashman was a Victorian Zelig or Forrest Gump who showed up conveniently enough at every important event between 1840 and 1900.

In some ways, Fraser actually outdid most historians (and I say that as a historian myself): He captured the conversation and perspective of various historical characters in a way that is almost impossible to do for a conventional historian, who can’t embellish on the limited sources available. If there is a modern writer with a better ear for Victorian slang, I have yet to read his or her work.

One of the clever things about Fraser’s writing is that, since he started out in the Age of Aquarius (1969 to be exact), he made sure to gird himself against charges of racism, imperialism, and the like by making his protagonist, Harry Flashman, an anti-hero. The conceit of the books is that Flashman is a consummate coward who through a combination of luck and unscrupulous scheming becomes known as a great hero—winner of the Victoria Cross, the Congressional Medal of Honor, and every other honor known to 19th century man. Yet a careful reader of the books, especially the later ones, will see that for all his protestations of buffoonery, Sir Harry often does in fact act the hero.

While Fraser gently pokes fun at the conventions of G.A. Henty and other “boy’s own” authors who glorified the British Empire, it is pretty clear that he in fact shared many of their pro-imperial prejudices. Like great satirists from Swift to Waugh, Fraser, though he was not in their class by any stretch, was essentially a conservative who managed to poke fun at various poltroons while upholding the age-old order of things.

His views were evident in his first-rate memoir of his days serving in the British army in Burma in World War II: Quartered Safe Out Here. Although written decades after the fact, it paints a convincing picture of how a young soldier reacted to his first taste of combat. It also gives his robust, old-fashioned views on a number of questions. I don’t have my copy in front of me, but this Daily Telegraph obit gives a good summary:

He was particularly firm in his conviction that the use of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima was justified, believing that among the lives it had saved had been his own.

Nor did he have much time for fashionable attitudes about the emotional delicacy of soldiers and their need for counselling. His experience, in what he acknowledged was another age, was that war was a job that needed to be done, one accomplished by his generation without relish but with a common sense and resolve since vanished from the public spirit.

We will not see his like again, and more’s the pity.

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The Most Unfair Blog Fight in History

Readers may recall an argument several weeks ago on the blogosphere between Oliver Kamm and Eric “frequent lecturer and contributor to virtually every significant national publication in the United States and many in Europe” Alterman, which I analyzed here and here. The debate concerned Alterman’s uninformed and typically dashed-off observation that Americans involved in the decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were guilty of racism and of inflating potential wartime casualties should the bombs not be dropped. Kamm’s latest reply to the “unlettered and ignorant” Alterman can be read here.

This is a truly unfair fight: Kamm is a brilliant polemicist who is painstaking in his presentation of history; Alterman, meanwhile, seems capable only of vitriolic snarling. John Podhoretz remarked earlier this month that “making a pretense of civility toward Eric Alterman is like making a pretense of civility to a scorpion.” I’d say this is unfair to scorpions.

Readers may recall an argument several weeks ago on the blogosphere between Oliver Kamm and Eric “frequent lecturer and contributor to virtually every significant national publication in the United States and many in Europe” Alterman, which I analyzed here and here. The debate concerned Alterman’s uninformed and typically dashed-off observation that Americans involved in the decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were guilty of racism and of inflating potential wartime casualties should the bombs not be dropped. Kamm’s latest reply to the “unlettered and ignorant” Alterman can be read here.

This is a truly unfair fight: Kamm is a brilliant polemicist who is painstaking in his presentation of history; Alterman, meanwhile, seems capable only of vitriolic snarling. John Podhoretz remarked earlier this month that “making a pretense of civility toward Eric Alterman is like making a pretense of civility to a scorpion.” I’d say this is unfair to scorpions.

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The Passion of Eric Alterman

In a typically frothing and self-aggrandizing post, Eric Alterman lashes out at any and all enemies:

Speaking of me, I often have trouble deciding which attacks on me in the blogosphere demand responses and which I am elevating to an importance they do not deserve by doing so (in addition to wasting my time). But I see that in the past few days, I’ve been attacked as an anti-Japanese racist by a right-wing blogger, attacked as an anti-black racist by a left-wing blogger, quoted favorably by right-wing anti-Semites, attacked by Naderites, and attacked in Commentary by “Jamie Kirchick,” who I continue to maintain does not really exist but was invented as a sock puppet/imaginary friend, Lee Siegel-style, by the friendless Marty Peretz.

There is an especially amusing piece of this excerpt: amidst all these left-wing bloggers, Naderites, and imaginary friends of Marty Peretz attacking the brave Alterman at the barricades of reason and justice and light, the only people in agreement with him are “right-wing anti-Semites.” (That this might have something to do with Alterman’s ideas does not seem to faze our intrepid friend.) But the bulk of Alterman’s post is taken up with his response to criticism leveled by the brilliant British blogger and London Times columnist Oliver Kamm (whom Alterman incorrectly labels “right-wing;” Kamm is an Advisory Editor of Democratiya, a journal whose founding statement declares: “We will be, everywhere, pro-democracy, pro-labour rights, pro-women’s rights, pro-gay rights, pro-liberty, pro-reason and pro-social justice” and that avowedly attempts to emulate Dissent) about a recent Nation column by Alterman. In his column, Alterman asserted that “virtually no reputable historian would put the casualty figure for a U.S. invasion of Japan anywhere near [1 million].” (I wrote about Kamm’s critique earlier on contentions, here.) Ever the petulant pundit, Alterman provides no links to these critiques that would otherwise help the reader understand this intellectual dispute. But since Alterman’s readership consists, I believe, almost entirely of left-wing cranks on the one hand, and those who read it for laughs on the other (I’m in this camp), Alterman’s failure to insert a simple link to the arguments of his interlocutors comes as no surprise.

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In a typically frothing and self-aggrandizing post, Eric Alterman lashes out at any and all enemies:

Speaking of me, I often have trouble deciding which attacks on me in the blogosphere demand responses and which I am elevating to an importance they do not deserve by doing so (in addition to wasting my time). But I see that in the past few days, I’ve been attacked as an anti-Japanese racist by a right-wing blogger, attacked as an anti-black racist by a left-wing blogger, quoted favorably by right-wing anti-Semites, attacked by Naderites, and attacked in Commentary by “Jamie Kirchick,” who I continue to maintain does not really exist but was invented as a sock puppet/imaginary friend, Lee Siegel-style, by the friendless Marty Peretz.

There is an especially amusing piece of this excerpt: amidst all these left-wing bloggers, Naderites, and imaginary friends of Marty Peretz attacking the brave Alterman at the barricades of reason and justice and light, the only people in agreement with him are “right-wing anti-Semites.” (That this might have something to do with Alterman’s ideas does not seem to faze our intrepid friend.) But the bulk of Alterman’s post is taken up with his response to criticism leveled by the brilliant British blogger and London Times columnist Oliver Kamm (whom Alterman incorrectly labels “right-wing;” Kamm is an Advisory Editor of Democratiya, a journal whose founding statement declares: “We will be, everywhere, pro-democracy, pro-labour rights, pro-women’s rights, pro-gay rights, pro-liberty, pro-reason and pro-social justice” and that avowedly attempts to emulate Dissent) about a recent Nation column by Alterman. In his column, Alterman asserted that “virtually no reputable historian would put the casualty figure for a U.S. invasion of Japan anywhere near [1 million].” (I wrote about Kamm’s critique earlier on contentions, here.) Ever the petulant pundit, Alterman provides no links to these critiques that would otherwise help the reader understand this intellectual dispute. But since Alterman’s readership consists, I believe, almost entirely of left-wing cranks on the one hand, and those who read it for laughs on the other (I’m in this camp), Alterman’s failure to insert a simple link to the arguments of his interlocutors comes as no surprise.

Alterman chiefly takes issue with one of Kamm’s assertions. In the midst of explaining why Alterman would so readily discount the figure of 1 million casualties, Kamm concludes that “the most charitable explanation I can give is that Alterman is (unlike the late General [Paul] Tibbets) sufficiently ethnocentric not to take into account the deaths of Japanese civilians that would have resulted from a conventional invasion and blockade of the home islands . . .” Alterman does not bother to respond to the salient argument (that is, the debate over whether dropping the bomb was necessary, in light of the number of casualties, American and Japanese, that would have resulted in either scenario), but instead repeats the straw-man argument that the only thing Americans cared about at the time were sparing American, not Japanese, lives. This casuistry is encapsulated here in a portion from his original piece about the New York Times obituary of Paul Tibbets, pilot of the Enola Gay:

Indeed, the decision to nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki is presented as so uncontroversial that we read Tibbets’s admission that “I wanted to kill the bastards,” followed later by his claim that “I viewed my mission as one to save lives,” as if no inconsistency is apparent between these two sentiments.

That’s because there is nothing at all inconsistent about these sentiments. Tibbets wanted to kill enough of America’s enemies so as to convince them that further war—which would have taken the lives of even more Americans and more of said enemies—was futile. And that’s what dropping the atomic bombs did. End of story.

And yet, failing actually to engage with Kamm on the merits of the argument in play, Alterman has the gall to announce at the end of his post that “I’ve never taken a position on whether the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima was necessary or not.” This may be the first time Alterman has ever announced he does not have an opinion on something. Stranger, however, is that he could rant endlessly in indignation when he has (or claims to have) no opinion on the actual matter in dispute.

That Alterman is such a careless and nasty journalist might have something to do with his prolificness; after all, when you’re “a frequent lecturer and contributor to virtually every significant national publication in the United States and many in Europe,” it’s hard to find the time to be anything other than sloppy and ad hominem.

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Eric Alterman’s Alternate History

One of the first things you learn as a journalist is that the biographies of writers which appear on the backs of their books, at the end of their articles, or on websites are not written by editors or interns at publications, but the journalists themselves. Most journalists provide their place of employment and list any books they have authored. Some go further, listing awards or scholarships they have won (and even, should they have won too many, declined). Others feel the need to share their incomparable brilliance with the world. Reading the biography of Nation columnist and CUNY professor Eric Alterman, “a frequent lecturer and contributor to virtually every significant national publication in the United States and many in Europe,” you get a sense of the man’s mammoth importance (in his own mind) to the world of American arts and letters.
Alterman is usually better left unread. (This parody, presented as a greeting card Alterman wrote to his grandmother explaining why he did not “forget” her birthday, hilariously captures his pretentious, ad hominem attack style.) But the indefatigable Times of London columnist Oliver Kamm could not allow the ubiquitous pundit’s column last week to stand uncorrected.

Alterman claims, in this column, that “no reputable historian would put the casualty figure for a U.S. invasion of Japan anywhere near” one million, as Enola Gay pilot Paul Tibbets suggested it would be. Alterman makes this claim in the course of articulating a familiar argument: that the U.S. media, as a whole, serves a right-wing agenda. Kamm begs to disagree, painstakingly showing why Alterman’s off-the-cuff assertion is baseless:

One of my regular correspondents, the military historian D.M. Giangreco, wrote a definitive paper on the administration’s casualty estimates, published as “‘A Score of Bloody Okinawas and Iwo Jimas’: President Truman and Casualty Estimates for the Invasion of Japan”, in Pacific Historical Review, Feb 2003, and reprinted in Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism, ed. Robert J. Maddox, 2007, pp. 76-115. From his scrutiny of primary sources, he observed: “Truman’s much-derided accounts of massive casualties projected for the two-phase invasion of Japan are richly supported by US Army, White House, Selective Service and War Department documents produced before the use of nuclear weapons against Japan and stretching back through the last nine months of the Roosevelt administration.”

In his paper, Dennis quotes from a letter to him by George F. Kennan, the most significant figure in US diplomacy in the past century and chief of policy planning to General George Marshall immediately after the War. Writing in 1997, Kennan concurred: “I have no doubt that our leaders, General Marshall among them, had good reason to anticipate a casualty rate of dreadful and sickening proportions in any invasion of Japan.” After the publication of his paper, Dennis also received the views of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (quoted in a letter by Dennis published in The Journal of Military History, January 2004): “The Pacific Historical Review paper is a masterful job of historical research and argument . . . . You have demolished the claim that President Truman’s high casualty estimates were a postwar invention.”

Kamm also knocks down, in the course of his piece, Alterman’s May 2007 assertion that “you have be some combination of crazy, ignorant, dishonest, or ideologically obsessed to believe that Islamic fundamentalists want to kill us because of ‘who we are’ rather than ‘what we do.’” Alterman’s journalism is sadly replete with such blithe assertions and accusations. The work of Kamm, and of other serious political journalists, is an unfortunately necessary corrective.

One of the first things you learn as a journalist is that the biographies of writers which appear on the backs of their books, at the end of their articles, or on websites are not written by editors or interns at publications, but the journalists themselves. Most journalists provide their place of employment and list any books they have authored. Some go further, listing awards or scholarships they have won (and even, should they have won too many, declined). Others feel the need to share their incomparable brilliance with the world. Reading the biography of Nation columnist and CUNY professor Eric Alterman, “a frequent lecturer and contributor to virtually every significant national publication in the United States and many in Europe,” you get a sense of the man’s mammoth importance (in his own mind) to the world of American arts and letters.
Alterman is usually better left unread. (This parody, presented as a greeting card Alterman wrote to his grandmother explaining why he did not “forget” her birthday, hilariously captures his pretentious, ad hominem attack style.) But the indefatigable Times of London columnist Oliver Kamm could not allow the ubiquitous pundit’s column last week to stand uncorrected.

Alterman claims, in this column, that “no reputable historian would put the casualty figure for a U.S. invasion of Japan anywhere near” one million, as Enola Gay pilot Paul Tibbets suggested it would be. Alterman makes this claim in the course of articulating a familiar argument: that the U.S. media, as a whole, serves a right-wing agenda. Kamm begs to disagree, painstakingly showing why Alterman’s off-the-cuff assertion is baseless:

One of my regular correspondents, the military historian D.M. Giangreco, wrote a definitive paper on the administration’s casualty estimates, published as “‘A Score of Bloody Okinawas and Iwo Jimas’: President Truman and Casualty Estimates for the Invasion of Japan”, in Pacific Historical Review, Feb 2003, and reprinted in Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism, ed. Robert J. Maddox, 2007, pp. 76-115. From his scrutiny of primary sources, he observed: “Truman’s much-derided accounts of massive casualties projected for the two-phase invasion of Japan are richly supported by US Army, White House, Selective Service and War Department documents produced before the use of nuclear weapons against Japan and stretching back through the last nine months of the Roosevelt administration.”

In his paper, Dennis quotes from a letter to him by George F. Kennan, the most significant figure in US diplomacy in the past century and chief of policy planning to General George Marshall immediately after the War. Writing in 1997, Kennan concurred: “I have no doubt that our leaders, General Marshall among them, had good reason to anticipate a casualty rate of dreadful and sickening proportions in any invasion of Japan.” After the publication of his paper, Dennis also received the views of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (quoted in a letter by Dennis published in The Journal of Military History, January 2004): “The Pacific Historical Review paper is a masterful job of historical research and argument . . . . You have demolished the claim that President Truman’s high casualty estimates were a postwar invention.”

Kamm also knocks down, in the course of his piece, Alterman’s May 2007 assertion that “you have be some combination of crazy, ignorant, dishonest, or ideologically obsessed to believe that Islamic fundamentalists want to kill us because of ‘who we are’ rather than ‘what we do.’” Alterman’s journalism is sadly replete with such blithe assertions and accusations. The work of Kamm, and of other serious political journalists, is an unfortunately necessary corrective.

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