I was interested to read your recent article “Racing Towards The Abyss: The U.S. Atomic Bombing of Japan” on your website. I note in particular your reference to the US Strategic Bombing Survey’s conclusion in 1946 concerning the likelihood of an early Japanese surrender even had the A-bomb not been used. You rightly cite the Stanford historian Barton Bernstein on the contradictory character of the USSBS conclusion compared with the survey’s own evidence. (In fact, Bernstein has been sounding caution on USSBS for more than 30 years, and not only in the 1995 article that you reference – see his edited volume The Atomic Bomb: The Critical Issues, 1976, p. 52.)
Forgive my ungraciousness in pointing this out, but I can’t help noticing that you thereby inflict enormous collateral damage on everything that Media Lens has previously said on the subject. Fortunately, the initial letter you wrote to the film critic David Thomson in October 2006, in which you quoted the USSBS conclusion without reservation or scepticism, will have caused no lasting misconception (other than perhaps to Media Lens supporters). Modesty prevents me from pointing out the reason for this fortunate consequence; I merely observe that after you posted your letter on the Media Lens message board, I wrote to Mr Thomson and explained that you were not to be taken seriously as a commentator on the Pacific War. I noted in particular:
“Cromwell is evidently unaware that the assertions of the Pacific report of the US Strategic Bombing Survey concerning Japanese surrender have been refuted using information that was available to the report's author, Paul Nitze, at the time he wrote it (Robert P. Newman, "Ending the War with Japan: Paul Nitze's 'Early Surrender' Counterfactual", Pacific Historical Review, May 1995; Gian Gentile, "Advocacy or Assessment? The United States Strategic Bombing Survey of Germany and Japan", Pacific Historical Review, February 1997).”
However, in your article in the New Statesman, “A strange kind of normality”, 19 January 2004, you stated:
“On 5 January, the BBC, in its 12-part documentary series Days That Shook the World, aired a programme on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Just 35 seconds were spent on the justification for an attack that incinerated 100,000 civilians. The claim that the attack was required in order to avoid a million US casualties during an invasion of the Japanese mainland went unchallenged.
“I wrote to the writer and director, Stephen Walker, providing evidence that no serious effort had ever been made to estimate the likely costs of invasion. I asked him if he knew that the US Strategic Bombing Survey had interviewed 700 Japanese officials after the war and concluded that "certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated".
“Reviewing all the available evidence, the American historian Howard Zinn concluded that the atomic bombings had nothing to do with avoiding casualties or forcing surrender. “They were about "the aggrandisement of American national power". The US was letting the world - and the Soviet Union, in particular - know who was in charge.
“At our prompting, more than 100 people sent e-mails asking the BBC about the 35 seconds and the lack of balance.”
I leave aside, for now, your extraordinary claims that Professor Zinn reviewed “all the available evidence” and that “no serious effort had ever been made to estimate the likely costs of the invasion”. I am concerned merely with your having persuaded more than 100 people to write to the BBC on the basis of evidence that you now acknowledge, after belatedly consulting more serious personalities than Zinn, was flawed and contradictory.
Given that Media Lens’s declared aim is to “correct for the distorted vision of the corporate media”, I should be glad to know if you will be correcting for the distorted vision of Media Lens. I suggest that your most direct course might be a letter of correction to Stephen Walker, copied to the New Statesman and posted on your organisation’s message board.
Despite my criticisms of your behaviour towards David Thomson and my expressed views on your competence to engage in this debate, I’m glad that you have extended your researches beyond the popular history of Howard Zinn. I am certain that in doing so you will have rendered yourselves less susceptible in future to the claims of official propaganda by the military-industrial complex.