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Fifty Years of Denial

by Robert Jay Lifton & Greg Mitchell

Pub Date: July 18th, 1995
ISBN: 0-399-14072-7
Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

 Noted authors Lifton (Protean Self, 1993, etc.) and Mitchell (The Campaign of the Century, 1992) ``explore what happened to America as a consequence of Hiroshimaboth the bomb's existence in the world, and our having used it.'' In a painstaking and painful psycho-historical analysis, the authors are concerned with examining the motivations of those who made the decisions, particularly Truman, and the effects of that decision on Truman and on the development of subsequent US policy. A careful analysis, for instance, of Truman's announcement of the bombing shows his ambivalence about it and his determination to justify the bomb's use as a military necessity. As this ``official story'' continued to develop, early American responses included government suppression of evidence of the radiation effects on residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Lifton and Mitchell also analyze the process that resulted in Truman's fateful decision. He emerges as a fundamentally decent man who, as an inexperienced president newly inducted into the nation's secret weapons program, became caught up in the atomic fervor of scientists and military men. The authors appear to argue that the official Hiroshima narrative was a myth driven by a psychological need on the part of Americans to distance themselves from what they had done. In the end, the authors argue, our need to defend the official narrative and avoid thinking about what happened when we dropped the atomic bombs is dangerous: the existence of the bomb, and the moral consequences of the US having been the first to use it, have had profound moral, psychological, and political effects on Americans as a people, and our failure to recognize this has made it easier for us to decide to use these weapons again. Eloquent, somber, and immensely thought-provoking. (Book-of- the-Month Club/History Book Club featured alternates)