The headlines in the obituary section of the Los Angeles Times in November called attention to the passing of Paul Tibbets by proclaiming him “as the man who ushered us into the atomic age”. Yes, he piloted the Enola Gay to Hiroshima, but the reality is that he didn’t fly us into a new world but took us straight back into the Stone Age. Make no mistake about it. The action to drop the bomb meant the death of over 100,000 civilians..men, women, children, the physically handicapped, the elderly, --everyone!!
The power of denial is such that it will lead us to blur the memory of mass killings. “Millions of lives were saved because of the dropping of the bomb.” was Tibbets’ belief to his dying day. Such is the nature of trying to excuse inhuman behavior. Denial has the power to turn us into “moral zombies”.. to forget that there is such a thing as right and wrong in our conduct as human beings. Finding excuses for the killing of non-combatants is usually the first step downward toward criminal behavior and creating our own hell on earth!
We can always find some excuse to rationalize our actions no matter how foul. Tibbets was quoted as saying that “He didn’t lose any sleep over what the atomic bomb did over Hiroshima. Far from it. In an air show in Texas in 1979, he piloted a restored B-29 dropping a simulated atomic bomb, complete with a small mushroom cloud. The wave of controversy surrounding the bomb finally got him to state that he wasn’t proud of all the death and destruction that was caused but “he was proud that he did his job well.” To read this sort of thing is like listening to a Hutu in Rwanda lamenting the death of his neighbor, a Tutsi, while dispassionately describing his own role in the slaughter. It also has echoes of the trials at Nuremburg, where those accused of war crimes routinely claimed that they were “only doing their duty,” for Germany.Congress recently opted for temporary amnesia in the genocide of Armenians because Turkey is such a valuable ally. It’s easy to forget something when it is convenient to do so. If the point by now hasn’t been made clear, let us restate it. Denial by governments or individuals will not change the fact that the deliberate targeting of innocent civilians will always be a crime against humanity! This is true whether it be Armenians, the Jewish victims of Dachau, the people of Hiroshima, the Tutsi of Rwanda or the workers of New York who found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time on September 11th.
By Jim Matsuoka, NCRR