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Keeping the Third World in line

Ken Hancock — June 1984

Editors’ note: This is the second in a series of five articles by Ken Hancock on “Nuclearism, Militarism and Third World Intervention.” The first article provided a general introduction to the topic. This article examines three specific examples of U.S. nuclear terrorism against Third World countries. Succeeding articles will deal with (a) nuclear weapons and nuclear energy and their link to Third World oppression; (b) Canada and U.S foreign policy; and © Present trends in. military strategies and their link to global political issues and struggles.

“If the problem of the proper use of this weapon can. be solved… our civilization can be saved.” – Secretary of War Henry Stimson (Emphasis added) Ken Hancock It can be said with reasonable certainty that no empire has been as planned as that of the United States. In fact, during the entire period of the Second World War U.S. policy makers studied how to ensure that their system would emerge as the dominant capitalist colonial power. ‘

During World War II, the U.S. State Department and the Council on Foreign Relations (one of many ~on-elected, but fundamentally important policy-making groups in American society) established what was known as the Grand Area strategy. Its objective was to construct a post-World War II Pax Americana. More specifically, it was intended to identify those areas in the world which had to fall under direct American economic and political ,control if the world capitalist system was to survive.

Underlying the Grand Area strategy was the assumption that the old colonial masters could no longer maintain their imperial interests, and that the United States government (and the elite ecoonomic interests it represented) had to take on the major responsibility for global management.

An obvious example of this ‘change of command’ was the way the responsibility for re-establishing the right wing elites in Greece in 1948 was transferred from Great Britain to the U.S. This included supporting the monarchy (which had belonged to the fascist youth organizations in the 19308); destroying the Communist forces (who had been the ones who resisted the Nazis) and killing 80,000 people in the Civil War.

In other words, the plans of those who carved out the post Second World War order included a clear perception of what would and would not be allowed to happen. The establishment of the International Monetary Fund and the world banking system in 1944; the re-establishment of fascists collaboration governments from Thailand to Taiwan to Greece, and the emergence of a global economic and military system under U.S. control were the dominant political realities of the day.

It is in the context of this emerging post World War II global order that we must analyse Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 1945, Japan had already been devastated by the saturation of conventional bombs. Tens of thousands had been killed. The Japanese sued for peace and sent a message to Molotov, the Soviet Foreign Minister. Molotov passed this information on to Truman at the Potsdam Conference and Truman stated that he already knew that the Japanese had sued for peace: the U.S. military had broken the Japanese will. High-ranking militarists like Curtis Le May stated that the Japanese could not fight past the fall of 1945. But, that would be too late. By then, because of established Allied agreements, Russia would be able to join in the takeover of Japan. (Japan and Germany had already been identified by the Grand Area strategists as essential links to post World War II capitalist development.)

The U.S. decision makers did not want to ‘split up’ Japan like they had agreed to ‘split up’ Europe. The war over China was still going on. The U.S. had already occupied Guam, Hawaii, the Philippines and South Korea. All of Asia was at stake. The Russians could join in the final takeover by August 15, 1945.

Japan asked as a condition of surrender only that the position of, the Emperor be maintained. Truman refused, calling for an unconditional surrender. The Japanese had to be made to continue fighting while the bomb was being perfected. In other words, the Japanese people were used as pawns in the game of world power politics.

Hiroshima was bombed August 6th and Nagasaki on August 9th. In many ways these bombings were experiments. Both Uranium-235 and plutonium would be used as the bomb grade material to discover what effects they would have on the human life.

Japan could have been defeated by other means. But that was not the purpose of the bomb. As Eisenhower said later, the U.S. could not have protected its global interests if it had not possessed the bomb and if it had not shown the world that it would use the bomb on people.

Others have echoed Eisenhower’s opinion. Truman said that the bomb was useless if it was not used. Eugene Rostow stated that “we (the U.S.) could not go forward in planning the use of conventional forces with great freedom because we know that the Soviet Union could not escalate beyond the local level.” In other words, the ‘will’ to use the bomb forced the Soviets to back away from confrontations with U.S. military adventurism around the world.

In 1949, two events occurred which shocked the U.S. elite classes. In the summer, the Soviet Union exploded its first bomb, and China was ‘lost’ to Communist forces. Within two years the United States would be engaged in a war in Korea.

As in Vietnam, the entire arsenal of U.S. destructive power would be unleashed: Curtis le May (head of Strategic Air Command) observed proudly that the U.S. had burned down every town in North Korea. The people were forced to live in caves. Both Harry Truman (by flying simulated, atomic equipped 8-29 bombing raids over North Korea) and Eisenhower threatened to use the bomb. General MacArthur wanted to unleash 50 – 60 atomic weapons against North Korea and China. Only strategic military decisions (not sufficient troop concentration of enemy forces) kept the bomb from being used.

History was repeated in Vietnam. The U.S. flew more than 500,000 sorties against North Vietnam. During the 12 day Christmas bombing of Hanoi in 1972, the tonnage of bombs dropped was greater than that of all of the bombs dropped on Japan during the Second World War, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

According to Seymour Hersh, in his book The Price of Power, in 1969 nuclear equipped 8-52 bombers were kept on ready alert for 29 consecutive days, poised to strike against Vietnam with nuclear weapons. And Kissinger was sent to the Paris Peace talks with the “Madman Theory”. He was ordered to tell the North Vietnamese that Nixon was mad enough to use the bomb if U.S. demands were not met. As Rostow stated, these threats allowed the American military to employ its massive conventional weaponry because the Soviets (on whose support the North Vietnamese depended) would not risk a nuclear holocaust.

Since Hiroshima, we know of seventeen times when the American government has threatened to use the bomb. All but two of these were against Third World countries. The examples show clearly that whether the bomb is used or not is matter of strategic, not moral, concern.

The legacy of the ‘use’ of the bomb in Asia is overwhelming. The purpose of its threatened use has often been to ensure U.S. dominance in Southeast Asia. Repressive systems have been established throughout the region (Taiwan, Indonesia, Philippines, South Korea). The initial use of the bomb ensured American control of Japan. This was seen as essential to capitalist development. The people of the region have paid the price.

The record of history shows that the bomb is a tool for clearly articulated political and economic objectives. And the bomb is quite a rational tool; given global interests and power relations. The next article in this series will look at how these ‘rational’ interests have, to this day, continued to destroy the lives of the peoples of the Third World.