Globe Columnist: Ashamed of Hiroshima, America Was Awaiting 9/11 Payback

Ashamed of their sins at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Americans were actually awaiting payback along the lines of 9/11. You say you were unaware of any such feelings? That's only because your feeling was 'subliminal.' Your shame was 'unconscious.' Well, that, or the fact that you just don't have the same exquisitely refined sensibilities of Boston Globe columnist James Carroll.

Here's how Carroll spelled it out in his column, The Nagasaki Principle:

"Thus, what I am calling the Nagasaki principle consists in momentum, which obfuscates responsibility before the fact, and denial, which prevents a necessary moral reckoning afterward.

"This may seem like airy theorizing, but the psychologically unfinished business of the Nuclear Age, dating to the day after Hiroshima, defined the American response to the trauma of Sept. 11, 2001. The nation had lived for two generations with the subliminal but powerfully felt dread of a coming nuclear war.

"Unconsciously ashamed of our own action in using the bomb, we were waiting for pay-back, and on that beautiful morning it seemed to come. The smoke rising up from the twin towers hit us like a mushroom cloud, and we instantly dubbed the ruined site as Ground Zero, when, as historian John Dower observes, the only true Ground Zeros are the two in Japan."

Reading Carroll's bio, one senses it is the author, rather than Americans in general, who has 'subliminal,' 'unconscious' issues to resolve:

"James P. Carroll is best known for his work, An American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War That Came Between Us (1996), about the conflict between his father and himself over America's role in the Vietnam War. His father was General Joseph Carroll, the director of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency during most of the war in Southeast Asia.

"James Carroll, spent a year in the ROTC program at Georgetown University and was honored as ROTC Cadet of the year in 1961. The following year Carroll decided to become a priest, entering the novitiate of the Paulist Fathers. In early 1969, he was ordained in New York by Terrence Cardinal Cooke, the U.S. military vicar. At the speech he gave at his first mass, the next day, he quoted a biblical passage from the prophet Ezekiel, referring to death and bones "burned by time and by desert wind, by the sun," and he added, "and by napalm." The addition of those words would cause an unresolved rift between him and his father."

Could Carroll's column be a classic bit of projection of his own Oedipal issues?

Mark Finkelstein lives in the liberal haven of Ithaca, NY, where he hosts the award-winning public-access TV show 'Right Angle.' Contact Mark at

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