<-Johan Galtung


Logo from the Domain www.transcend.org


International Symposium for Peace, Hiroshima, 3 August 2003
By Johan Galtung, dr hc mult, Professor of Peace Studies
Director, TRANSCEND: A Peace and Development Network
E-mail: <galtung@......> Site: <www.transcend.org>

Lord Mayor, Hiroshima City, The Asahi Shimbun, Ladies, Gentlemen,
We are 58 years away from 0815 in the morning of 0608 1945 when that B-29
dropped "Little Boy", and USA committed nuclear genocide on Hiroshima, and
then on Nagasaki.  The call for the abolition of nuclear weaponry is as
urgent as ever given the nuclear politics of USA, North Korea, Israel,
Iran and others. To understand better the causes, we have to ask again why
USA committed this atrocity.
          The decision was not made by any single person but by a group so
we are talking of collective motivation. Some of the motivation
was probably built around a desire to bring the war to a quicker
end and to impress the No. 2 contender for world power, the
Soviet Union.  But much naivete is needed to assume that all
motivation is conscious, passes through the brain and in the
collective case is verbalized in a meeting and leaves a
paper-trail for historians to uncover, decipher and use as
evidence. For individual decisions we would readily assume
deeper motives, often unknown to the actor, located in his/her
subconscious, not articulated, leaving neither sound-waves nor
paper-trails. And that the verbal, oral or written, serves to
rationalize what comes from the subconscious.
          Why should collective decision-making be different?  Because
they sometimes record not only conclusions but even the
premisses? But why should they verbalize collectively shared
motivations they sense but do not articulate because they are
taken for granted as normal and natural and stored in the
"gut-brain" rather than the head-brain, in other words in the
collective subconscious or deep culture of the group?  Why
reiterate the obvious, the trivial?
          So the thesis is that the decision to drop the bomb, not on an
uninhabited island to demonstrate its devastating power, but on
a highly inhabited city, derived from a deep culture in the
deeper recesses of the collective US elite mind.  That act of
genocide did not spring only from a rational, political-military
strategy arrived at in ways open to public scrutiny and
challenge where deductions and factual basis are concerned.  The
act was also justified in a theological discourse based on
irrational articles of faith, not open to scrutiny, and
certainly not to challenge:
[1]  Americans are God's Chosen People;
[2]  The President is their Chosen Leader, hence semi-Divine;
[3]  The USA is their Promised Land, with a Manifest Destiny.
This was adapted for "New Cana'an" from Genesis 1:15-17.  The similarity
to Israeli self-conception from the time of King David serves today as a
basis for joint Jewish-Christian fundamentalism, on the assumption that
Messiah/First Coming=Christ/Second Coming.
          That elect position in the world puts the USA above all other
countries, accountable to nobody but God, certainly not to the
UN with so many non-God like members, let alone an ICC.  Their
"laws" are laws for the lesser fry, not for a country that close
to God: "Being elect is a theological notion that means: not as
a matter of merit but by a supernatural judgment, a free, even
capricious, determination by God a person is chosen for
something exceptional and extraordinary" (Milan Kundera)
          We are dealing here with a pre-Enlightenment, pre-modern niche
in US culture, brought across the Atlantic on ships from England
in the 1620s to what was to become the USA, revealed to Cotton
Mather the theologian, and to John Winthrop the statesman, the
first governor of Massachusetts and the real founder of the USA,
sedimented in the deep culture as the civic religion of the USA,
very difficult to uproot.  Like the nuclear problem.
          Such articles of faith are particularly meaningful to
[1] the Anglo-Saxons in the USA, the people originally chosen;
[2] the fundamentalist Christians like those found in the Southern Baptist
Convention in the US South, and
[3] the military whose task it may be to enact such tenets of faith, also
most densely packed in the US South.
          In short, particularly meaningful in the US South where these
three categories are found in large quantities.  That part of
the USA lost the Civil War on 9 April 1865 but is currently in
power.  Michael Lind, in his Made in Texas: George W. Bush and
the Southern Takeover of American Politics (New York: Basic
Books, 2003) tells how.  At present US deep culture = US surface
culture, comes forth with shock and awe clarity. The Bush regime
rests on Big Business Economics+Neocon Geopolitics+Christian
          The Pilgrims of the 1620s referred to themselves as "Saints";
the implication being that they were surrounded by non-saints.
They saw the workings of Satan everywhere.  Today 68% of
Americans believe in Satan as an active force (in the South of
the USA also as the force behind the UN and the European Union)
as against 34% believing in the theory of evolution.  A heavy,
deeply entrenched pre-modern niche, preserving Old Time culture.
 Such niches are found as enclaves in all countries, like the
17th century French spoken by many in the province of Quebec,
Canada.  But this niche, bypassed by Enlightenment, is in the
deep culture of WASP elites, defining the civic religion,
spreading all over the nation.
          The rest is simple: a God-like country will worship God-like
weapons capable of carrying out God's=USA's wrath and
"The fires came forth from Jehovah's hand and burned up the two hundred
and fifty men who were offering incense" (Numbers 16:35).
The Japanese had attacked a Sacred Land, so multiply by 1,000 to come
closer to the number of Hiroshima-Nagasaki victims.
          To be mandated by a covenant to enact Divine punishment is not
revenge/retaliation.  Revenge is for conventional countries, and
to be carried out with conventional weapons. Non God-like, let
alone satanic countries, should never possess god-like weapons.
          The production of new nuclear weapons and doctrines, known only
to the President and His circle, follows, as do wars on those
who are non God-like with uppity attitudes against the USA, like
Iran and North Korea, suspected of (close to) nuclear
          To God-like countries God-like weapons.  And if God has chosen
only one country, that country has to have weapons like no
others.  Nuclear disarmament is possible, but only if
alternative weapons inspiring shock and awe, tremendum
fascinans, are already developed and possessed by the God-like
country. And that country, accountable to God only, decides over
such matters itself, not a group of ordinary ambassadors,
foreign ministers etc.
          The same applies to world public opinion, like the 10 million+
manifestation on 15 February 2003 in 600 places around the world
of a clear NO! to the foretold US/UK attack on Iraq.  Even a
world parliament would not count.  The US Congress matters,
however, because only Chosen People, Americans, vote.  But even
Chosen People may be misled by Satan, so they may also have to
be properly informed of God's Will - and TV spots cost lots of
          A God-like country is condemned to exceptionalism, having not
only the right, nay, the duty to step unilaterally out of
treaties and conventions with mutual rights and obligations for
ordinary countries if they prevent God's own country from
exercising its divine mandate properly.  God = USA is causa sui,
its own cause, its own decision-maker, unbound by commoners.
Exceptionalism and exceptional weaponry for an exceptional
          That nuclear weapons are special, transmilitary, instruments of
destruction is not only a US theme.  Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the
Pakistani leader later executed, referred to a Pakistani bomb as
an "Islamic bomb". The general drift for Bomb tests is eastward:
from the US Protestant bomb 1945, the Soviet Orthodox/Communist
bomb 1949, the UK Anglican bomb 1952, the French
Catholic/Secular bomb 1960, the Chinese Confucian bomb 1964, the
Israeli Judaic bomb l965(?), the Hindu test 1974, and the
Islamic bomb 1998.
          In this perspective nuclear proliferation is an effort to
preserve and assert civilizations, an existential sine qua non
rather than as part of an actio-reactio arms race with one bomb
stimulating another across conflict faultlines. Militarily
nuclear bombs are problematic, better for having than using,
even when miniaturized and even when the energy profile is more
          This process was started by the Most Chosen Nation (unlike the
Most Favored Nation of international economic discourse not the
be extended to others).  We also note that from a world religion
point of view the Buddhist and Shinto bombs are missing.  And
the (dirty) bombs of the lesser, not "world", civilizations.
          The Buddhist bomb sounds like an oxymoron, but state Buddhism
might produce such a thing. Meanwhile India offended Buddhists
by the outrageous codeword for its 1998 detonation of a nuclear
bomb, this time not only a "nuclear device": "The Buddha has
          And as to the Shinto bomb: there is no scarcity of high ranking
Japanese itching to fill that gap, thereby "normalizing Japan",
like they once wanted to normalize and "modernize" through
empire-building.  The third criterion of world upper class
status, a permanent seat in the Security Council, is, of course,
also pursued by the same type of people, and not only in Japan.
          But the similarities between the USA and Japan are deeper.  Once
also a God-drunk nation Japan was convinced that the Emperor,
the tenno (heavenly?) was the biological descendant of the Sun
Goddess, Amaterasu-omikami, and the Japanese the instruments of
divinely inspired action.  "A divine country centered on the
Emperor" in ex-Prime Minister Mori's memorable words, letting
the collective subconscious come forth without passing his brain
where a moment's reflection would have triggered warning lights.
A solid niche of non-modernity and not-Enlightenment that one,
similar to the US niche, good reason for launching them on
collision courses.
          A Chosen, but defeated, People Japan had a theodisť problem. If
chosen, why were we left by the wayside by the Divine?  One
interpretation is that the Chosen People did not merit
protection, not having fulfilled its part of the sacred
covenant.  Another would be that the Divine had not fulfilled
its part and hence no longer merited that people's devotion.
Either way Japan was left with a gaping hole in its cosmogony: a
dechosen people in the wilderness, with the position as Divine
Guiding Light vacant.
          The Sun Goddess-Tenno-Japanese people constellation having been
beaten by the God-US President-American people constellation
made the USA an obvious candidate for that vacancy, with
democracy making the elected elect. And thus Japan became a
monotheistic country, with God having a name.  The name of God:
the USA.
          Having committed the Hiroshima-Nagasaki double genocide Japan
now had one more theodisť problem to come to grips with.  Like a
disaster visiting a Christian community the local parson may
have to make up his mind quickly: is this God=USA punishing us
for our sins?  Or God=USA trying to test us or teach us
something?  Or - lo and behold - could USA be Satan at work and
not God at all?
          Maybe the first interpretation became the majority view: we
Japanese have sinned, as evidenced by the fact that we were
defeated, in our idolatry, our devotion to false gods, and fully
deserve being stripped of both divinity and the right to wage
war.  Democracy and Article 9 became their mantra, the latter
supposedly ushering in peace the more frequently it is chanted.
           But a growing proportion started picking up the second
interpretation: God/USA is teaching us something.  This is what
you can achieve if you have such weapons.  What we did unto
you, making you submit, you can do unto others.  "Normalizing
Japan" became their mantra, eagerly imitating the Great Master,
          The third interpretation, USA as Satan, was picked up both to
the left and to the right of the Japanese political spectrum.
The left saw Hiroshima-Nagasaki as Satan's Empire-building,
rejected USA=God, and is still searching for a new God. The
"realist" right saw USA as Satan's tool to impede Japanese
Empire-building, but also as God's Way, Shinto, for Japan, in a
Satanic world.
          Those who see the USA as Satan may find interesting support in
standard Christian theology.  God punishes by sudden acts of
decreation, eliminating the life of which He is the Prime
Creator.  God does not torture; Satan does, in Hell.  But
USA=God used for punishment a fire that included secondary
radioactivity, exposing thousands to the slow, agonizing death
brought about by tissue damage.  Does God really do such things?
 It certainly happened.  So what do true believers do faced with
this massive cognitive dissonance?  Denial, of course, selective
inattention.  The US-imposed tabu on reporting radioactivity can
be understood as a way of preserving the purity of God's motive.
 And this, then, spills over into under-reporting radioactivity
          We would assume such deep culture themes over time to recede
from conscious layers in Japanese elites to subconscious
recesses.  The theme will then come forth under the 3C
conditions of Crisis, Complexity and the need for Consensus.
After 9/11 Nostradamus was often consulted on amazon.com in the
USA.  And Japan obediently added occupation to the US/UK illegal
aggression.  India not.
          But Germany had also adopted USA as a God-substitute after the
Second world war, but chose another course: no German soldier in
Iraq.  How can we explain that?  And EU reluctance in general?
          Because the German elite, with deep support from the German
people, had another God, a new God: the European Union.  Maybe
it is like in science: a theory is not discarded merely because
the propositions derived from it are not all confirmed.  A
theory is discarded because a new theory has emerged even if
that new theory also may produce a number of unconfirmed, even
disconfirmed, hypotheses.  The USA has non-God like, even
satanic, features.  But that can always be denied or become the
object of selective inattention till an alternative Guiding
Light becomes sufficiently strong, even if also with facets
demanding heavy inattention.
          This points to two complementary alternatives to US=God for
Japan in general, and for the Japanese elite in particular.
          The first is an East Asian Community, of China and Taiwan, South
and North Korea, ViÍt Nam, Japan and Okinawa, possibly with the
latter as a center.  For this Japan has to learn equality.
          The second is a United Nations with a democratic People's
Assembly and a Security Council more like the ECOSOC, enlarged,
no veto powers and with the General and eventually People's
Assembly as ultimate authority. For that Japan also has to learn
equality. Women, youth, NGOs/NPOs are ready.  When will Tokyo
          But back to the USA and nuclear weaponry.  The problem is
theological more than military/political. The hard,
fundamentalist Christian theology of certain WASP circles has to
be abandoned in favor of a softer, gentler perspective,
Christian or not. As long as USA sees itself as God's trustee on
earth, licensed to kill and dominate, they are forced to pursue
omniscience through CIA, NASA, Office of Reconnaissance &c;
omnipresence through globalization; and omnipotence in the shape
of ultimate weapons, such as nuclear weaponry and other forms of
WMD.  And as long as that happens the world will be a US Empire
and not a family of thriving nations.
          The USA in general, and the US South in particular, have been
through this at least twice before, and with positive outcomes.
          The US South was convinced that slavery was their right and
their duty. The Bible mentions slaves without rejecting slavery.
 And Antiquity, in Greece and in Rome, combined slavery with the
most exquisite in cultural production.  Greek columns, slavery,
magnolia and moonlight --.  But a distinct culture came not from
them but from the Black slaves, drawing on their African
          Slavery was doomed because of doubts about legitimacy more than
from the civil war or treaties and conferences. Even Reagan said
that "nuclear arms must never be used", possibly because of the
strong opposition from the Catholic church and the Methodists,
from 1983, the very same year when Reagan gave his Center of
Evil and Star Wars speeches.  The key author of the powerful
Catholic pamphlet once told me that it was above all about a God
loving His Creation as opposed to a stern Puritan God out to
          That struggle has to be both from the inside and the outside of
the USA, hand in hand. And possibly with the Mother of
Anglo-Saxons, England, playing a leading role, like she did for
          So the basic thesis of this paper is that we have to rethink our
thinking about nuclear weapons in general and their abolition in
particular given that the USA with its atavisms is the kingpin.
          The key lies in the word "abolition" because it directs our
thought, our discourse in general, toward slavery and
colonialism. And slavery and colonialism were not abolished by
tit-for-tat negotiations and maneuvers, "I (slave-owner,
colony-owner) cut down this much (on slaves, colonies) provided
you cut down that much, so that neither of us gains any
advantage by any unilateral abolition."  Western slavery and
colonialism were based on an entitlement, a right, legitimized
by that particular culture in general and its deep culture in
particular, to possess individuals and entire peoples, with
their lands, as property, like cattle or land, for agricultural
or mineral exploitation.
          And abolition was not based on questioning, challenging that
right but rejecting it as totally false, dead wrong, a
blasphemy, fighting violently or nonviolently against such evil
institutions. Abolition did not come about through a negotiated
deal between slave/colony-holders but by denying any entitlement
to possess slaves/colonies.  There was nothing to negotiate
about because freedom, like survival, is non-negotiable.
          If the cause of abolition had had recourse to a negotiated deal
at the top only, then the two institutions would probably still
have been with us, possibly in a slightly modified,
"humanitarian" way.  The thesis about nuclear weapons is the
same: the arms will be with us at least as long as we try to
deal with them by way of Tokyo Forums, NPT, CTBT, and similar
   Like for slavery and colonialism the theological base has to be
challenged. And like for them this calls on all peaceful forces.