It is a clear sunny spring day. The Japanese festival of Hanami, the celebration of the beauty of flowers, is in full swing as people shake out of their heavy winter coats and enjoy the season of renewal and rebirth. Sakura petals drift gently down from promenades and parks onto the picnics of friends and families enjoying the warm weather. It is a time for new life to grow out of the long and harsh winter and the darkness of days. Along the river promenade is the endless hustle and pitter patter of people of all walks of life appreciating the flowers in bloom.
Tourists have come here from every corner of the world to pay their respects. Between the glistening steel and polished glass of trendy office buildings lies the skeleton of a lonely building in the middle of the park. While it might be 2PM on April 2nd for the world outside the park, it is always yesterday there. Through the fast changing times and the slow turning of seasons it is always 8:15AM on August 6th 1945. For the Atom Dome of Hiroshima time is forever stopped underneath the long shadow of the bomb.
Almost 73 years ago a miniature sun briefly emerged above this dome, freezing it in time. A tiny spark of Vedic fury ignited the heart of a star and unleashed its vengeful energy across the sleepy city. Everything within its divine presence was utterly obliterated. Shockwaves vaporised entire buildings and transformed all those exposed to its baleful light into twisted tallow candles and shadows on the wall. Skin peeled off pus ridden and bleeding flesh, clothes ripped off by the blast. People flailed screaming, turned into melting scarecrows, their faces dripping and oozing like plastic in a furnace. Survivors, blackened and burned, threw themselves into nearby rivers and became part of a sea of fire. Lone children stumbled around, transfigured into masses of burnt skin and bone, crying out for their parents buried under rubble, wondering which of the unrecognisable bodies were theirs.
Halfway across the world, isolated from the evil they had unleashed upon the world, Americans cheered and heralded the end of the war. It had all gone without a hitch. Their plan was a success. A few harboured doubts at the monstrous forces they had unleashed from Oppenheimer’s box. But many were jubilant. They had freed the world from the evil of Fascism; they had helped defend democracy from the forces of tyranny. Few understood that the war had ended long before with the announcement of Soviet troops advancing toward Japan. Few knew that the Japanese had already expressed a desire to surrender, so long as their emperor remained, and were rejected in favour of unconditional surrender. Doubt after all is anathema to patriotism. Skepticism is the enemy of obedience.
Walking through the memorial museum I see black and white photos of victims – largely women and children – on the walls. Civilians who had suffered under the iron yoke of their military police state and its increasing demands. Mothers who had already given their husbands to be fed into the war machine as soldiers. Who had handed over their sons to be turned into fireflies and fired like human bullets as kamikaze pilots. Children who had grown up hungry under extreme austerity – mobilised to work in fields and factories, fed what little scraps trickled down from the top. Who had been indoctrinated since birth to believe in the Imperial Rescript on Education – to swear every day in schools their unfaltering allegiance and obedience to the emperor. I look at the photos of their burned and broken bodies and know that I’ve seen them before.
I have seen them before in the photos of dead Koreans, between one out of every 5 to one out of every 6, killed by American bombs that rained on innocent and guilty alike. I see them in the personal letters and accounts of Americans laughing and bragging about how incensed the gooks were when they destroyed dams and flooded their rice fields, exacerbating the famine that drove the Korean diaspora. I have seen these photos before in the terrified faces of Vietnamese children, covered in napalm, while American military officers claim that they had to destroy their town in order to save it.
I can hear the words of General Westmoreland who pushed for more bombs, more napalm, more bodies to stack up and count, “The Oriental doesn’t put the same high price on life as does the Westerner. Life is plentiful. Life is cheap in the Orient.” Or the words of General Smith who defended his orders to murder everyone over the age of ten in villages in the Philippines that were suspected of harbouring rebels, “It has been charged that our conduct of the war has been cruel… Senators must remember that we are not dealing with Americans or Europeans. We are dealing with Orientals.”
I have seen photos before in the glazed and numb expressions of Palestinians hit with white phosphorus, as gleams of bone shine out from the morass of melted and scarred flesh. I can close my eyes and see the words of the Israeli Minister of Justice urging for genocide against Palestine, calling Palestinian children, “little snakes” to the cheers and jubilation of the public behind their safe walls.
I see these photos every day in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia as death rains from clear blue skies in newer and more efficient ways. Stamped on the side of every bomb and missile are the words Made in the USA, or Made in the United Kingdom, briefly seen in the moments before they explode in a fireball of fury.
But remember these are not people. They are terrorists, they are insurgents, they are enemy combatants. They are extremists, they are Muslims, they are collateral damage in the grand War on Terror and the fight for Western Civilization.
We have always been at war with Eurasia.
Sixteen cents of every dollar an American pays in taxes goes toward this. It goes into the bulging coffers of Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop-Grumman, and General Dynamics. It goes into the stuffed pockets of major politicians who mouth pithy slogans about inclusivity and human rights and progress while looking the other way as bombs take flight all over the world. It goes toward major political parties through ‘donations’ and ‘campaign contributions’ who claim they will change things while obeying the hand that feeds them. A trillion dollar industry whose products are death and whose trade is misery, and every day over the airwaves they will chant that we need to deal with Iran and North Korea, that we need to fear these ‘rogue states’ who threaten peace and stability. That we need more bombs, more missiles, more intervention where we don’t belong. The old song got it wrong, war is certainly good for one thing – it is good for business.
Seventy years may have passed and the photos might be in colour instead of black and white but all over the world I see the looming shadow of the bomb in the pictures of its victims. I see humanity hanging from a cross of iron as we stubbornly march in lockstep toward our own destruction, minutes from midnight. I see the faces in the sea of fire, pushed into the margins of headline news about celebrity gossip and Donald Trump’s tweets. Hidden under euphemisms of ‘clashes’ and ‘incidents’ I see broken bodies that look remarkably similar despite the insistence they are different. That we are the heroes and they are the villains – we are here to liberate them from their limbs and emancipate them from their children. Spreading democracy they call it.
As I leave the memorial museum I pass a young Japanese man around my age. He is casually dressed in jeans and a bright hoodie. He is alone in the bustling crowds and he is silent in the constant cacophony around him. In his hands he holds a simple sign with a picture of a dove and a slogan: “No more war; no more Hiroshimas”. No one pays him any mind but in the face of this young Japanese man I see the words of Article 9 in the Japanese Constitution:
“Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognised.”
In the face of this young Japanese man, standing alone in the teeming crowd, I see the dream of a world beyond the long shadow of the bomb.
 From the translated autobiographical comic series Barefoot Gen by survivor Keiji Nakazawa. Considered by Art Spiegelman, author of Maus – a comic depiction of the Holocaust, to be a harrowing and influential account of the bombing from a Japanese perspective.
 Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, Chapter 12 “The Empire and the People” http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/zinnempire12.html
 https://theintercept.com/drone-papers/ for a thorough overview on the American drone program and how it operates based on leaked reports and files.
Born somewhere between the old world of Korea and the new world of New Zealand Isaac is an award winning writer, teacher of literature and nomad currently residing in Nanjing.