Stanley Weiss has strong feelings about the US deploying an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, August 6, 1945. As Weiss writes, on that day he was a US soldier on a troop ship heading for the anticipated invasion of Japan, where he would almost certainly be killed. Instead, two atomic bombs were dropped, Japan surrendered, and Stanley’s troop ship turned around.

Stanley later founded Business Executives for National Security (BENS), and was the Chairman of the Board when I served as the CEO (1991-95).

Ty

/////

Hiroshima Saved My Life

By Stanley Weiss
Founding Chairman, Business Executives for National Security

8th June 1945:  A group of 6th Division Marines take cover behind a wall during their fight amid the wrecked homes and rubble of Naha, capital city of the Japanese island of Okinawa.  (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

 

WASHINGTON—As President Barack Obama prepares tomorrow to become the first American President to visit Hiroshima since that fateful day 71 years ago, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking of friends long since gone. The atomic bombs that America dropped on Japan in August of 1945 took more than 200,000 lives. But they probably saved mine.

At the time, I was a young sergeant in the United States army being readied to participate in the full-scale invasion of Japan. The previous year, I had enlisted in the service just three weeks after my 17th birthday, a skinny Jewish kid from South Philadelphia eager to follow my big brother, Buddy, into war.

In the summer of ‘45, none of us knew how long the war in the Pacific would last. But the reports about the nearly three-month battle for the island of Okinawa were gruesome, with more than a hundred thousand Japanese killed, some by suicide. We didn’t know at the time that America had suffered almost fifty thousand casualties, although we’d heard the number was massive. But we knew that the invasion of Japan would likely begin from this hard-fought island, and we all assumed that the Japanese homeland would be defended with equal ferocity. It was predicted that the mission would take the lives of more than a hundred thousand American G.I.’s — including, most likely, me.

Then everything changed. One day in early August, I sat with a couple of guys in the barracks and puzzled over the local newspaper’s story that an American plane had “dropped one bomb” on some Japanese city I couldn’t pronounce and “destroyed” it. We understood how our B-29 long-range bombers had firebombedTokyo with devastating results, taking 100,000 lives. But we were mystified to read that this so-called “atomic bomb” harnessed “the basic power of the universe” and loosed the “force from which the sun draws its power” upon a city called Hiroshima. What the hell did that mean? We scratched our heads about what the paper called this “greatest achievement of organized science in history.”

I tried to make sense of the following stories about Einstein and E=mc2, but had no more success than I had in my physics classes in school. What most mattered to us was whether this would shorten the war and whether we would still need to risk our lives invading Japan. When we learned about the second bomb three days later, we could see that the war was ending. Imagine our relief a week later, on August 15, when Japan surrendered.

Years later, revisionist historians argued that the Japanese would have surrendered without our using the bomb or invading their homeland. They believe we used the A-bomb not so much to save American troops lives but as a first step into the Cold War with the Soviets. Some of those same arguments have been advanced again in the run-up to President Obama’s visit.

I became a close friend and associate in the 1970s with the pioneer and leading exponent of this revisionist view, Gar Alperovitz, a brilliant political economist and historian who earned his PhD at Cambridge, was a founding Fellow of the Harvard Institute of Politics and a long-time professor at the University of Maryland at College Park.

Gar and I are only nine years apart in age, but we’re of different generations, so we have understandably looked at this issue through different lenses. While I trained for the invasion, Gar was nine. He has studied the key documents of the time with all of his considerable scholarly skills. I never have.

Nonetheless, while Gar often cites some generals who believed that Japan’s fall was imminent, I side with many of the other officers I knew then who believed the Samurai mindset among the military who then controlled Japan would have never surrendered — because to surrender, in that culture, was the ultimate act of cowardice. I believe an invasion of Japan would have been a bloodbath for everyone. I believe Japanese Emperor Hirohito ordered the military to surrender only because of the A-bombs that President Harry S. Truman decided to drop. I realize my beliefs are not based on academic findings. They are existential, a product of my direct experience and the feelings I had as my buddies and I waited in our barracks for our invasion orders.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t look back on what happened in Japan seven decades ago with horror, because I do.

In fact, the threat of another Hiroshima disturbed me so much that years later, I got deeply involved in the anti-nuclear movement. I founded an organization in the mid-1970s called the Nuclear Information Resource Service, or NIRS, so citizens could learn about the dangers of nuclear reactors and take direct action locally. I co-founded a political party in the late 70s, called the Citizens Party, that ran an anti-nuke candidate against Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election.

In 1982, I founded a very different kind of organization called Business Executives for National Security, or BENS, which has focused on a wide range of defense and security issues ever since, including preventing the use of even one nuclear weapon while working to reduce the world’s nuclear stockpiles.

***

I’m proud of that legacy, but it hasn’t been enough. As America today overhauls its nuclear arsenal, Russian officials speak of their warheads as offensive weapons, and Pakistan quietly grows the world’s third largest nuclear arsenal with China’s help, the Doomsday Clock stands at three minutes to midnight. That, in part, is why President Obama’s visit is so important: to remember what happened yesterday so we can prevent what might happen tomorrow.

It does us no good to whitewash history, to change the narrative around Hiroshima, or to take decisions from 1945 out of the context in which they were made. For all the talk about whether Obama should apologize to Japan — with some even going so far to suggest that Harry Truman should be considered a war criminal — I can guarantee one thing: nobody who lived through the Second World War, who fought in it, who lost family and friends to it, will look back on the end of the war with anything but gratitude and relief.

To this day, schoolchildren in Japan aren’t taught the full story of what happened in the 1930s and ‘40s. They don’t learn about the utter brutality of the Japanese war machine and the atrocities it committed across Asia that took more than 20 million lives and precipitated the fall of the atomic bombs. It’s not hard to understand why. As human beings, it is only natural to want to push away the painful and unimaginable past, to avoid reliving the darkest moments of a proud nation’s history.

But we shouldn’t play along. We shouldn’t let the story of that time be rewritten by those who seek today to position Japan in 1945 as a victim and not the aggressor it was. We shouldn’t humor those who so easily want to forget, because many of us still remember. I remember.

I remember the stories from the so-called Rape of Nanking, when the Japanese Imperial Army invaded the Chinese capital in 1937 and murdered up to 600,000 men, women and children in the space of six weeks while sexually assaulting as many as 80,000 women first.

I remember the Palawan Island Massacre in the Philippines in 1944, when Japanese soldiers, wrongly believing an Allied invasion was imminent, herded 150 American POW’s into an air-raid shelter and then burned almost all of them alive.

I remember the massacre of Manila in the winter of 1945 when Imperial troops, surrounded by Americans who stopped their artillery fire so the Japanese could surrender, chose instead to go on a civilian rampage, slaughtering more than 100,000 innocent civilians through beheadings, machine-gun sprays, and fire set to buildings with people inside.

It is hundreds of atrocities like these that America used to remember when we thought of Hiroshima, the tragically leveled city in the country that attacked us first — drawing far, far too many of our friends and neighbors into war in the South Pacific, who were never the same when they came home, or never came home at all.

Tomorrow, I hope the president celebrates the friendship that grew between America and Japan after the war, an example that all adversaries today can learn from. I hope he celebrates the living standards raised and the economies that grew through our partnership. I hope he uses the memory of 1945 to seek a new beginning in our efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons once and for all.

But I hope he doesn’t seek to rewrite the past or erase parts of our common history. In the end, telling the truth about the war is the highest tribute we can pay to the dead — and the living.

***

This column includes excerpts from Stanley Weiss’s upcoming memoir, Being Dead is Bad for Business: Tales from an Improbable American Life, to be published by Disruption Books in the fall.

***

Stanley Weiss, a global mining executive and founder of Washington-based Business Executives for National Security, has been widely published on domestic and international issues for three decades.

Published with permission of the author.

This is the final announcement for the most timely presentation on….

Responding to Increased Security 

Challenges in Europe and Africa

with

General Carter Ham, U.S. Army Retired

Former Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe, and Commander,
U.S. Africa Command

The Ramada, Monday, May 23, 2016, 9:00 a.m.

U.S. security interests in Europe and Africa are increasingly being challenged.  Under President Putin’s leadership, Russia has been aggressive in pursuing its own interests in areas of great concern to the U.S. and NATO.  This includes incursions in Ukraine, the seizure of Crimea, strikes in the Republic of Georgia, and, most recently, provocative military actions in the Baltic Sea.  The dramatic rise in tensions in the Baltic region is of special concern given that the nations there – unlike Ukraine – are members of the NATO alliance.  General Ham served as the Commanding General of U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army from 2008-2011 and we will want to get his assessment of Russian intentions and likely responses from the U.S. and NATO partners.

General Ham also served as the Commander of Africa Command, where he oversaw all military operations on the continent.  During his tenure he led “Operation Odyssey Dawn”, the initial U.S. involvement in the 2011 military intervention in Libya.  He also dealt with the growing threat of radical Islam throughout Africa, including Boko Haram in Nigeria, as well as militant groups in Somalia, Libya, and other parts of North Africa.  Attendees will be particularly interested in General Ham’s assessment of the threats on that continent and what actions he recommends the U.S. and its allies should take.  Of course, questions will come up regarding the attack on Benghazi that left four Americans dead, including our Ambassador to Libya.

General Ham has also served as the Director of Operations, J3, on the Joint Staff, as the Commanding General of the First Infantry Division, and as Commander of the Multinational Brigade-North in Iraq in 2005.

Please join us for what will be a very interesting discussion. A full breakfast will be served ($15 Members, $25 Non-Members, and $10 for students with ID and military personnel in uniform; free for WWII Veterans). We recommend that you arrive by 8:30 to enjoy some breakfast, coffee and conversation.

You are encouraged to RSVP by clicking HERE. You may also RSVP by e-mailinginfo@nationalsecurityforum.org. Just a reminder, after the forum, we will be offering membership applications for the July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017 period. Forms will be available at the forum, though you can also access the application form by clicking HERE. For your convenience, we accept cash, check and credit card payments for both the breakfast and membership fees.

Summary of the NSF Presentation on….

2016: Year of Decision in Afghanistan

with

Major General Rick Olson and General John Abizaid

NSF participants were treated to an extraordinary analysis and presentation by Generals Rick Olson and John Abizaid on Afghanistan going forward.  Olson commanded the 25th U.S. Army Infantry Division in Afghanistan for a year, and General Abizaid served as Commanding General of CENTCOM for four years, overseeing the wars and conflicts throughout the Middle East.

Olson underlined that more so than any time before, 2016 could prove to be a decisive year in the history of US involvement in Afghanistan.  Over the course of the coming months, key trends and events that are likely, and important decisions that will be made, will shape the outcome of close to 15 years of difficult US and coalition military operations in that nation.  From the standpoint of the US and its partners, there is little room for optimism about that outcome.

The year begins with a deteriorating security situation that has seen casualties in the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces—and Afghan civilian casualties—at an all time high.  Taliban and other anti-government forces are claiming significant gains in territory that they control and provincial district centers being held.  Independent assessments of the performance of the Afghan National Army (whose forces are now “in the lead” for all combat operations) point to significant weaknesses that remain unaddressed.  On the domestic front, the experiment labeled the Afghan National Unity Government seems to be failing.  The Afghan economy is in shambles.

On the coalition side, the main effort has shifted from conducting combat operations to providing advice and assistance to the Afghan military at significantly high levels.  The NATO mission Resolute Support is designed specifically to build capacity in defense institutions at the corps level and above.  Combat advising at the brigade level and below has virtually ended except in a few select special operations units.  US forces are operating under extremely limited authorities when it comes to engaging Taliban fighters or formations, usually employed only when NATO forces are under attack or when threat of attack is imminent.

With this backdrop, the recent arrival of a new commander of NATO and US forces in Afghanistan provides an opportunity for key decision makers to take stock of what can and should be done going forward.  The definition of mission success for the coalition at this point seems to be the achievement of what might be called a “manageable level of violence” as the mission winds down.  There is very little prospect of defeating the Taliban in any conventional sense of that term.  The earlier notion that they could be brought to the table to negotiate some form of cease fire or negotiated agreement seems to have faded for the time being.  For now, the best outcome may be achieving conditions on the battlefield that will permit the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces to pick up the fight and establish a security situation that reverses recent trends towards instability—or at least holds them at current levels until conditions can be set for a negotiated settlement that is acceptable to the Afghan national government.

It has become clear that the plan to end US military involvement in Afghanistan that was in place at the beginning of the year will not support the attainment of that end state.  Already President Obama’s plan to halve the size of the 10,000-strong US contingent by the end of the year has been abandoned.  The revised plan would see a “substantial portion” of that force remain deployed for “most of 2016”.  What that translates to in terms of a specific drawdown plan and timelines remains to be seen.  Also to be determined is the need for new missions or expanded authorities for US forces that might be necessary as operations continue.

In his commentary, General Abizaid stressed that the threat of Islamic extremism continues to grow. He pointed out that:

  • Conditions in several failed or failing states in the Middle East, Central Asia, and large portions of Africa provide sanctuary and breeding grounds for groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. These groups will stop at nothing to spread their ideology and inflict violence and destruction on targets in the West.  Especially worrisome is the threat that they will obtain a nuclear weapon or nuclear/radioactive materials to build a “dirty bomb”.
  • To date the US response to this growing threat has been inadequate.  We have failed to even develop a coherent strategic framework to adequately address the threats we face.
  • The next president will be forced to address this significant threat, having been handed a portfolio of failed policies and responses to work from.
  • A stronger set of military responses will be required— going beyond just a disjointed set of decapitation strikes and employing such measures as “boots on the ground” to defeat AQ, IS, and affiliated extremist organizations.

We would like to note that while the presentations themselves were on the record, the Q&A period that featured significant personal viewpoints was off the record.  That seems to be a format that we will be following in most of our upcoming programs.

Save the Date for this upcoming forum on….

Responding to Increased Security

Challenges in Europe and Africa

with

General Carter Ham, U.S. Army Retired

Former Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe, and Commander, U.S. Africa Command

The Ramada, Monday, May 23, 2016, 9:00 a.m.

U.S. security interests in Europe and Africa are increasingly being challenged.  Under President Putin’s leadership, Russia has been aggressive in pursuing its own interests in areas of great concern to the U.S. and NATO.  This includes incursions in Ukraine, the seizure of Crimea, strikes in the Republic of Georgia, and, most recently, provocative military actions in the Baltic Sea.  The dramatic rise in tensions in the Baltic region is of special concern given that the nations there – unlike Ukraine – are members of the NATO alliance.  General Ham served as the Commanding General of U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army from 2008-2011 and we will want to get his assessment of Russian intentions and likely responses from the U.S. and its NATO partners.

General Ham also served as the Commander of Africa Command, where he oversaw all military operations on the continent.  During his tenure he led “Operation Odyssey Dawn”, the initial U.S. involvement in the 2011 military intervention in Libya.  He also dealt with the growing threat of radical Islam throughout Africa, including Boko Haram in Nigeria, as well as militant groups in Somalia, Libya, and other parts of North Africa.  Attendees will be particularly interested in General Ham’s assessment of the threats on that continent and what actions he recommends the U.S. and its allies should take.  Of course, questions will come up regarding the attack on Benghazi that left four Americans dead, including our Ambassador to Libya.

General Ham has also served as the Director of Operations, J3, on the Joint Staff, as the Commanding General of the First Infantry Division, and as Commander of the Multinational Brigade-North in Iraq in 2005.

Please mark your calendars for what will be a most interesting National Security Forum!

No need to RSVP at this time. The full announcement will be forthcoming about a week before the event.

This is the final announcement for the most timely presentation on….

2016: 

YEAR OF DECISION IN AFGHANISTAN

with

MAJOR-GENERAL RICK OLSON (USA-Ret)

Former commanding General, 25th U.S. Infantry Division in Afghanistan
and with a commentary by

GENERAL JOHN ABIZAID (USA-Ret)

Former Commanding General, U.S. Central Command
The Ramada, Friday, May 6, 2016, 9:00 a.m.

After more than 13 years of war, the United States again faces a major decision point in Afghanistan. Specifically, what troop levels are required for success in that conflict and what tactics/strategies should be employed.

The President and his key national security advisors are considering revising troop levels and deployment patterns at this time.  President Obama appears to be inclined toward restraint with respect to force levels and enhanced intervention in that troubled country.  In contrast, his former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and several national security experts, have expressed concerns that if the United States does not enhance its presence on the ground in Afghanistan, the weak government in Kabul will lose additional territory to various insurgent groups, principally Al Qaeda.  The President and his national security team must consider force levels and deployments in the context of escalating tensions and challenges in the broader Middle East.  This includes the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria, and various radical Islamic groups in Libya, Somalia, Nigeria and other areas.

General Olson will review the observations/recommendations made by the outgoing commander of US forces in Afghanistan, General Campbell, and will analyze the vision and expectations laid out by General Nicholson, who replaced Campbell. Olson will provide a candid assessment of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, and will look at what key decisions will need to be made (e.g., what sort of “end state” is envisioned, what forces will be required, and for how long should we anticipate maintaining these forces and capabilities). He will summarize by forecasting what we can “hope for” by the end of 2016, vice where we “should expect to be”.

A West Point 1972 graduate, General Olson has commanded at every level from platoon to division, including his last three years of service as the CG of the 25th Infantry Division (light), including in Afghanistan.  General Olson also served as the Commander of Combined Joint Task Force 76, responsible for all security and reconstruction operations in Afghanistan.

We are pleased that General John Abizaid will offer comments on Olson’s presentation and security challenges in the region.  Abizaid is the former Commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), overseeing American military operations in the 27-country region from the Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, to South and Central Asia.  In that role he commanded over 250,000 U.S. troops and oversaw the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Please join us for what will be a very interesting discussion. A full breakfast will be served ($15 Members, $25 Non-Members, and $10 for students with ID and military personnel in uniform; free for WWII Veterans). We recommend that you arrive by 8:30 to enjoy some breakfast, coffee and conversation.

You are encouraged to RSVP by clicking HERE. You may also RSVP by e-mailinginfo@nationalsecurityforum.org. Just a reminder, after the forum, we will be pro-rated membership applications for the July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016 period. Forms will be available at the forum, though you can also access the application form by clicking HERE. For your convenience, we accept cash, check and credit card payments for both the breakfast and membership fees.