By John Pilger
July 04, 2020 "Information
Clearing House" - When I first went to
Hiroshima in 1967, the shadow on the steps was still
there. It was an almost perfect impression of a human
being at ease: legs splayed, back bent, one hand by her
side as she sat waiting for a bank to open.
At a quarter past eight on the morning of August 6,
1945, she and her silhouette were burned into the
I stared at the shadow for an hour or more, then I
walked down to the river where the survivors still lived
I met a man called Yukio, whose chest was etched with
the pattern of the shirt he was wearing when the atomic
bomb was dropped.
He described a huge flash over the city, “a bluish
light, something like an electrical short”, after which
wind blew like a tornado and black rain fell. “I was
thrown on the ground and noticed only the stalks of my
flowers were left. Everything was still and quiet, and
when I got up, there were people naked, not saying
anything. Some of them had no skin or hair. I was
certain I was dead.”
Nine years later, I returned to look for him and he
was dead from leukaemia.
“No radioactivity in Hiroshima ruin” said The New
York Times front page on 13 September, 1945, a
classic of planted disinformation. “General Farrell,”
reported William H. Lawrence, “denied categorically that
[the atomic bomb] produced a dangerous, lingering
Only one reporter, Wilfred Burchett, an Australian,
had braved the perilous journey to Hiroshima in the
immediate aftermath of the atomic bombing, in defiance
of the Allied occupation authorities, which controlled
the “press pack”.
“I write this as a warning to the world,” reported
Burchett in the London Daily Express of
September 5,1945. Sitting in the rubble with his Baby
Hermes typewriter, he described hospital wards filled
with people with no visible injuries who were dying from
what he called “an atomic plague”.
For this, his press accreditation was withdrawn, he
was pilloried and smeared. His witness to the truth was
The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was an
act of premeditated mass murder that unleashed a weapon
of intrinsic criminality. It was justified by lies that
form the bedrock of America’s war propaganda in the 21st
century, casting a new enemy, and target – China.
During the 75 years since Hiroshima, the most
enduring lie is that the atomic bomb was dropped to end
the war in the Pacific and to save lives.
“Even without the atomic bombing attacks,” concluded
the United States Strategic Bombing Survey of 1946, “air
supremacy over Japan could have exerted sufficient
pressure to bring about unconditional surrender and
obviate the need for invasion. “Based on a detailed
investigation of all the facts, and supported by the
testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it
is the Survey’s opinion that … Japan would have
surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been
dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war [against
Japan] and even if no invasion had been planned or
The National Archives in Washington contains
documented Japanese peace overtures as early as 1943.
None was pursued. A cable sent on May 5, 1945 by the
German ambassador in Tokyo and intercepted by the US
made clear the Japanese were desperate to sue for peace,
including “capitulation even if the terms were hard”.
Nothing was done.
The US Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, told
President Truman he was “fearful” that the US Air Force
would have Japan so “bombed out” that the new weapon
would not be able “to show its strength”. Stimson later
admitted that “no effort was made, and none was
seriously considered, to achieve surrender merely in
order not to have to use the [atomic] bomb”.
Stimson’s foreign policy colleagues — looking ahead
to the post-war era they were then shaping “in our
image”, as Cold War planner George Kennan famously put
it — made clear they were eager “to browbeat the
Russians with the [atomic] bomb held rather
ostentatiously on our hip”. General Leslie Groves,
director of the Manhattan Project that made the atomic
bomb, testified: “There was never any illusion on my
part that Russia was our enemy, and that the project was
conducted on that basis.”
The day after Hiroshima was obliterated, President
Harry Truman voiced his satisfaction with the
“overwhelming success” of “the experiment”.
The “experiment” continued long after the war was
over. Between 1946 and 1958, the United States exploded
67 nuclear bombs in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific:
the equivalent of more than one Hiroshima every day for
The human and environmental consequences were
catastrophic. During the filming of my documentary, The
Coming War on China, I chartered a small aircraft
and flew to Bikini Atoll in the Marshalls. It was here
that the United States exploded the world’s first
Hydrogen Bomb. It remains poisoned earth. My shoes
registered “unsafe” on my Geiger counter. Palm trees
stood in unworldly formations. There were no birds.
I trekked through the jungle to the concrete bunker
where, at 6.45 on the morning of March 1, 1954, the
button was pushed. The sun, which had risen, rose again
and vaporised an entire island in the lagoon, leaving a
vast black hole, which from the air is a menacing
spectacle: a deathly void in a place of beauty.
The radioactive fall-out spread quickly and
“unexpectedly”. The official history claims “the wind
changed suddenly”. It was the first of many lies, as
declassified documents and the victims’ testimony
Gene Curbow, a meteorologist assigned to monitor the
test site, said, “They knew where the radioactive
fall-out was going to go. Even on the day of the shot,
they still had an opportunity to evacuate people, but
[people] were not evacuated; I was not evacuated… The
United States needed some guinea pigs to study what the
effects of radiation would do.”
Like Hiroshima, the secret of the Marshall Islands
was a calculated experiment on the lives of large
numbers of people. This was Project 4.1, which began as
a scientific study of mice and became an experiment on
“human beings exposed to the radiation of a nuclear
The Marshall Islanders I met in 2015 — like the
survivors of Hiroshima I interviewed in the 1960s and
70s — suffered from a range of cancers, commonly thyroid
cancer; thousands had already died. Miscarriages and
stillbirths were common; those babies who lived were
often deformed horribly.
Unlike Bikini, nearby Rongelap atoll had not been
evacuated during the H-Bomb test. Directly downwind of
Bikini, Rongelap’s skies darkened and it rained what
first appeared to be snowflakes. Food and water were
contaminated; and the population fell victim to cancers.
That is still true today.
I met Nerje Joseph, who showed me a photograph of
herself as a child on Rongelap. She had terrible facial
burns and much of her was hair missing. “We were bathing
at the well on the day the bomb exploded,” she said.
“White dust started falling from the sky. I reached to
catch the powder. We used it as soap to wash our hair. A
few days later, my hair started falling out.”
Lemoyo Abon said, “Some of us were in agony. Others
had diarrhoea. We were terrified. We thought it must be
the end of the world.”
US official archive film I included in my film refers
to the islanders as “amenable savages”. In the wake of
the explosion, a US Atomic Energy Agency official is
seen boasting that Rongelap “is by far the most
contaminated place on earth”, adding, “it will be
interesting to get a measure of human uptake when people
live in a contaminated environment.”
American scientists, including medical doctors, built
distinguished careers studying the “human uptake’. There
they are in flickering film, in their white coats,
attentive with their clipboards. When an islander died
in his teens, his family received a sympathy card from
the scientist who studied him.
I have reported from five nuclear “ground zeros”
throughout the world — in Japan, the Marshall Islands,
Nevada, Polynesia and Maralinga in Australia. Even more
than my experience as a war correspondent, this has
taught me about the ruthlessness and immorality of great
power: that is, imperial power, whose cynicism
is the true enemy of humanity.
This struck me forcibly when I filmed at Taranaki
Ground Zero at Maralinga in the Australian desert. In a
dish-like crater was an obelisk on which was inscribed:
“A British atomic weapon was test exploded here on 9
October 1957”. On the rim of the crater was this sign:
WARNING: RADIATION HAZARD
Radiation levels for a few hundred metres
around this point may be above those considered
safe for permanent occupation.
For as far as the eye could see, and beyond, the
ground was irradiated. Raw plutonium lay about,
scattered like talcum powder: plutonium is so dangerous
to humans that a third of a milligram gives a 50 per
cent chance of cancer.
The only people who might have seen the sign were
Indigenous Australians, for whom there was no warning.
According to an official account, if they were lucky
“they were shooed off like rabbits”.
Today, an unprecedented campaign of propaganda is
shooing us all off like rabbits. We are not meant to
question the daily torrent of anti-Chinese rhetoric,
which is rapidly overtaking the torrent of anti-Russia
rhetoric. Anything Chinese is bad, anathema, a threat:
Wuhan …. Huawei. How confusing it is when “our” most
reviled leader says so.
The current phase of this campaign began not with
Trump but with Barack Obama, who in 2011 flew to
Australia to declare the greatest build-up of US naval
forces in the Asia-Pacific region since World War Two.
Suddenly, China was a “threat”. This was nonsense, of
course. What was threatened was America’s unchallenged
psychopathic view of itself as the richest, the most
successful, the most “indispensable” nation.
What was never in dispute was its prowess as a bully
— with more than 30 members of the United Nations
suffering American sanctions of some kind and a trail of
the blood running through defenceless countries bombed,
their governments overthrown, their elections
interfered with, their resources plundered.
Obama’s declaration became known as the “pivot to
Asia”. One of its principal advocates was his Secretary
of State, Hillary Clinton, who, as WikiLeaks revealed,
wanted to rename the Pacific Ocean “the American Sea”.
Whereas Clinton never concealed her warmongering,
Obama was a maestro of marketing.”I state clearly and
with conviction,” said the new president in 2009, “that
America’s commitment is to seek the peace and security
of a world without nuclear weapons.”
Obama increased spending on nuclear warheads faster
than any president since the end of the Cold War. A
“usable” nuclear weapon was developed. Known as the B61
Model 12, it means, according to General James
Cartwright, former vice-chair of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, that “going smaller [makes its use] more
The target is China. Today, more than 400 American
military bases almost encircle China with missiles,
bombers, warships and nuclear
weapons. From Australia north through the Pacific to
South-East Asia, Japan and Korea and across Eurasia to
Afghanistan and India, the bases form, as one US
strategist told me, “the perfect noose”.
A study by the RAND Corporation – which, since
Vietnam, has planned America’s wars – is entitled War
with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable.
Commissioned by the US Army, the authors evoke the
infamous catch cry of its chief Cold War strategist,
Herman Kahn – “thinking the unthinkable”. Kahn’s
book, On Thermonuclear War, elaborated a plan for a
“winnable” nuclear war.
Kahn’s apocalyptic view is shared by Trump’s
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an evangelical fanatic
who believes in the “rapture of the End”. He is perhaps
the most dangerous man alive. “I was CIA director,” he
boasted, “We lied, we cheated, we stole. It was like we
had entire training courses.” Pompeo’s obsession is
The endgame of Pompeo’s extremism is rarely if ever
discussed in the Anglo-American media, where the myths
and fabrications about China are standard fare, as were
the lies about Iraq. A virulent racism is the sub-text
of this propaganda. Classified “yellow” even though they
were white, the Chinese are the only ethnic group to
have been banned by an “exclusion act” from entering the
United States, because they were Chinese. Popular
culture declared them sinister, untrustworthy, “sneaky”,
depraved, diseased, immoral.
An Australian magazine, The Bulletin, was
devoted to promoting fear of the “yellow peril” as if
all of Asia was about to fall down on the whites-only
colony by the force of gravity.
As the historian Martin Powers writes, acknowledging
China’s modernism, its secular morality and
“contributions to liberal thought threatened European
face, so it became necessary to suppress China’s role in
the Enlightenment debate …. For centuries, China’s
threat to the myth of Western superiority has made it an
easy target for race-baiting.”
In the Sydney Morning Herald, tireless
China-basher Peter Hartcher described those who spread
Chinese influence in Australia as “rats, flies,
mosquitoes and sparrows”. Hartcher, who favourably
quotes the American demagogue Steve Bannon, likes to
interpret the “dreams” of the current Chinese elite, to
which he is apparently privy. These are inspired by
yearnings for the “Mandate of Heaven” of 2,000 years
ago. Ad nausea.
To combat this “mandate”, the Australian government
of Scott Morrison has committed one of the most secure
countries on earth, whose major trading partner is
China, to hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of
American missiles that can be fired at China.
The trickledown is already evident. In a country
historically scarred by violent racism towards Asians,
Australians of Chinese descent have formed a vigilante
group to protect delivery riders. Phone videos show a
delivery rider punched in the face and a Chinese couple
racially abused in a supermarket. Between April and
June, there were almost 400 racist attacks on
“We are not your enemy,” a high-ranking strategist in
China told me, “but if you [in the West] decide we are,
we must prepare without delay.” China’s arsenal is small
compared with America’s, but it is growing fast,
especially the development of maritime missiles designed
to destroy fleets of ships.
“For the first time,” wrote Gregory Kulacki of the
Union of Concerned Scientists, “China is discussing
putting its nuclear missiles on high alert so that they
can be launched quickly on warning of an attack… This
would be a significant and dangerous change in Chinese
In Washington, I met Amitai Etzioni, distinguished
professor of international affairs at George Washington
University, who wrote that a “blinding attack on China”
was planned, “with strikes that could be mistakenly
perceived [by the Chinese] as pre-emptive attempts to
take out its nuclear weapons, thus cornering them into a
terrible use-it-or-lose-it dilemma [that would] lead to
In 2019, the US staged its biggest single military
exercise since the Cold War, much of it in high secrecy.
An armada of ships and long-range bombers rehearsed an
“Air-Sea Battle Concept for China” – ASB – blocking sea
lanes in the Straits of Malacca and cutting off China’s
access to oil, gas and other raw materials from the
Middle East and Africa.
It is fear of such a blockade that has seen China
develop its Belt and Road Initiative along the old Silk
Road to Europe and urgently build strategic airstrips on
disputed reefs and islets in the Spratly Islands.
In Shanghai, I met Lijia Zhang, a Beijing journalist
and novelist, typical of a new class of outspoken
mavericks. Her best-selling book has the ironic
title Socialism Is Great! Having grown up in the
chaotic, brutal Cultural Revolution, she has travelled
and lived in the US and Europe. “Many Americans
imagine,” she said, “that Chinese people live a
miserable, repressed life with no freedom whatsoever.
The [idea of] the yellow peril has never left them… They
have no idea there are some 500 million people being
lifted out of poverty, and some would say it’s 600
Modern China’s epic achievements, its defeat of mass
poverty, and the pride and contentment of its people
(measured forensically by American pollsters such as
Pew) are wilfully unknown or misunderstood in the West.
This alone is a commentary on the lamentable state of
Western journalism and the abandonment of honest
China’s repressive dark side and what we like to call
its “authoritarianism” are the facade we are allowed to
see almost exclusively. It is as if we are fed unending
tales of the evil super-villain Dr. Fu Manchu. And it is
time we asked why: before it is too late to stop the
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views expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and do not necessarily reflect the
opinions of Information Clearing House.