US A-bombs crime

January 29, 1999

In Sir Timothy Garden's review of Hiroshima's Shadow ("Atomic truths exploded", THES, January 8), no reference was made to the number of casualties of the A-bomb dropped in Nagasaki. An estimated 40,000-plus people died immediately, but if one includes those who have died since, the number will rise to over 100,000 in this city alone.

Sir Timothy often cites the argument raised predominantly by Anglo-American authors that the dropping of the A-bombs was necessary to put a speedier end to the war and limit the casualties among US soldiers. But why does he, and many other experts, fail to explain the second bombing on a less populated, strategically less important city of Nagasaki? Was not the element of racial psychology working at that time, as shown in the internment of the US and Canadian citizens of Japanese ancestry but not those of German and Italian ancestry?

Besides, Sir Timothy made a mistake in arguing that conventional bombing in Dresden and Tokyo was more destructive than the A-bombs used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The US carpet-bombing campaign on Tokyo was by far the more destructive: it killed about 150,000 civilians. But if we include those who have subsequently died of the nuclear effect, the death toll in Hiroshima is over 150,000.

The dropping of A-bombs on Japanese civilians was a clear violation of the 1907 Hague Convention and the customary international law. As a human rights lawyer, I fully support the causes of the East Asian population and the Allied prisoners of war who suffered war crimes and crimes against humanity at the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army. Japan must not escape from its moral and legal responsibility for past crimes.

But it is also true that the nuclear weapons deliberately used against civilian targets were blatant crimes against humanity. This is why the site of the dropping of the A-bomb in Hiroshima was designated a Unesco world heritage site by world consensus, including even those East Asian states that suffered from the JIA's aggression. It is symbolic that the only country that voted against it was the US.

Yukata Arai-Takahashi Visiting research fellow, Max-Planck Institute for Public International law, Germany

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