The reverential death efficiency syndrome

Posted: September 3, 2008 in History, War
Tags: , ,

Nancy Pelosi , as a representative of the United States, has just visited Hirosama to put flowers on the Hiroshima Peace Memorial.

I understand about 140,000 people were killed instantly from the atomic bomb blast on Hiroshima.  Another 80,000 were killed a few days later in Nagasaki. What is curious is why the atomic bomb deaths have taken on almost spititual overtones in the memorial zeitgeist. Is it because so many died in so short a time (a split second really)? If the time element is the reason what about the Dresden fire bombing? There thousands of tons of incendinary explosives were used that, as the name implies, caused a firestorn (some likened it to a typhoon of fire, killing–and here there is controversy about the actual number–anywhere from perhaps 40,000 or 50,000 to a quarter million. This also happened in a relatively short period of time (but certrainly longer than a split second). History.com describes it this way:

More than 3,400 tons of explosives were dropped on the city by 800 American and British aircraft. The firestorm created by the two days of bombing set the city burning for many more days, littering the streets with charred corpses, including many children. Eight square miles of the city was ruined, and the total body count was between 35,000 and 135,000 (an approximation is all that was possible given that the city was filled with many refugees from farther east). The hospitals that were left standing could not handle the numbers of injured and burned, and mass burials became necessary.

The way they died–by immense heat and  flame-blasting winds– must have been very similar to the way they died in Japan (many also were killed and later died from Dresden type firestorms in other Japanese cities). The point is Pelosi, as far as I know, has never laid wreaths in Dresden (or those other firestorm cities) so what is the moral difference between deaths caused by atomic blast and those by non-atomic-firestorm other than the span of time? Is Pelosi laying a memoral wreath to an extemely short span of time? That is, is she memoralizing only those deaths that took seconds, and ignoring those that took somewhat longer? Therein lies the mystique of the Atomic Bomb, able to do in a mere second what otherwise would take hours or days. It represents the hallowed respect we have for the science of efficient mass extermination.

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