L’histoire cachée de la bombe d’Hiroshima

Dans « Le monde comme projet Manhattan », Jean-Marc Royer bat en brèche la légende du bombardement de Hiroshima et de Nagasaki comme moyen de mettre un terme à la guerre. Pour les promoteurs états-uniens de la bombe atomique au sein du « projet Manhattan », l’enjeu était celui de « l’exercice du leadership mondial ». Ils ont donc recherché l’effet de destruction maximal

Dans «Le monde comme projet Manhattan», Jean-Marc Royer bat en brèche la légende du bombardement de Hiroshima et de Nagasaki comme moyen de mettre un terme à la guerre. Pour les promoteurs états-uniens de la bombe atomique au sein du «projet Manhattan», l’enjeu était celui de «l’exercice du leadership mondial». Ils ont donc recherché l’effet de destruction maximal.

On croyait tout savoir. On ne savait rien. Voilà le constat qui s’impose à la lecture des premiers chapitres de l’ouvrage de Jean-Marc Royer. On croyait tout savoir ou presque du « projet Manhattan» et de son aboutissement : le largage au-dessus d’Hiroshima (puis de Nagasaki) de la première bombe atomique par les États-Unis début août 1945.

Côté jardin, l’explication était limpide : pour éviter les pertes prévisibles liées à une invasion du Japon (on avançait le chiffre de 500.000 militaires états-uniens) et contraindre Tokyo à capituler, les États-Unis avaient opté pour une solution radicale en faisant exploser au-dessus des deux villes nippones une arme nouvelle au pouvoir destructeur sans équivalent, mise au point par des scientifiques particulièrement brillants. Le calcul était le bon puisque le bombardement d’Hiroshima et de Nagasaki allait être suivi peu après par une reddition du Japon et le retour de la paix.

«Le plus important projet militaire de tous les temps et, simultanément, le plus secret»

Voilà pour la légende que Jean-Marc Royer s’emploie à démonter en exhibant sous nos yeux quantité de pièces à conviction, au profit d’une tout autre histoire. Celle d’une entreprise folle, d’un projet prométhéen conduit effectivement par la fine fleur des savants atomistes états-uniens (et européens exilés outre-Atlantique) avec la complicité active d’une escouade de galonnés et le concours intéressé des grands noms de l’industrie, de Dupont à Monsanto en passant par Kodak et General Electric. Einstein a-t-il eu sa part de responsabilité en attirant l’attention des autorités américaines sur les caractéristiques de l’uranium? Royer affirme qu’«[une] lettre d’Albert Einstein[au président] Roosevelt a beaucoup contribué à faire de la recherche atomique une priorité politique». Une biographie récente du célèbre physicien (Einstein. Les vies d’Albert, de Vincenzo Barono, éd. De Boeck Supérieur, 200 p., 17 euros) affirme le contraire et assure que la fameuse lettre, datée de 1939, «n’avait pas été concluante».

Des opératrices de calutron, à l’usine Y-12 de Oak Ridge, pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Les calutrons servaient à raffiner le minerai d’uranium.Tout est gigantesque, hors-norme dans le projet Manhattan, «le plus important projet militaire de tous les temps et, simultanément, le plus secret». Fin 1944, il occupait plus de 100.000 personnes et en a mobilisé près d’un demi-million, pour des durées variables, entre 1942 et 1945. Des dizaines de sites industriels (32 au total) étaient concernés. Sur celui de Hanford, dans l’État de Washington, où fut construit un réacteur nucléaire, il n’y avait pas moins de 1.200 bâtiments. Les dimensions de certains d’entre eux construits dans le cadre du projet donnent le vertige : 260 mètres de long, 30 mètres de large, autant en hauteur, et aucune fenêtre pour celui (baptisé «Queen Mary») destiné à la séparation chimique du plutonium. Un autre site, celui d’Oak Ridge, s’étalait sur une superficie deux fois plus étendue que Paris.

«Le complexe scientifico-militaro-industriel» était décidé à utiliser la nouvelle arme désormais entre ses mains

Le coût du programme, quintessence de la modernité industrielle de l’époque, est tout aussi colossal, équivalent à celui de la Nasa lorsqu’elle s’est lancée dans la conquête spatiale quelques décennies plus tard. Le plus étonnant, observe l’auteur, est que «ces dépenses pharaoniques furent […] engagées sans la certitude de réussir».

Une première explosion atomique menée à bien en juillet 1945 dans le désert du Nouveau Mexique, quel enchaînement a conduit à larguer des bombes au-dessus du Japon? Jean-Marc Royer rappelle que c’est pour contrer la menace nazie que fut lancé le projet Manhattan. Les États-Unis redoutaient que l’Allemagne nazie acquière la bombe avant eux. Mais, dès 1943-1944, cette hypothèse était exclue et c’est donc le Japon impérial qui devenait la cible naturelle, mais pas obligée.

Car rien, souligne l’auteur, n’obligeait à passer à l’acte. En mai 1945, l’Allemagne défaite, le Japon n’était pas en meilleure posture. Il était à genoux et, à Tokyo, une partie de la classe dirigeante, que ne désavouait pas l’empereur, était disposée à une reddition sans condition pour peu que l’institution impériale soit sauvegardée. Mais, et c’est là où le livre de Royer prend tout son sens, il était trop tard. Aux États-Unis, les acteurs du projet Manhattan — «le complexe scientifico-militaro-industriel» — étaient décidés à utiliser la nouvelle arme désormais entre leurs mains. Il s’agissait d’ailleurs moins de vaincre des Japonais exsangues que de prendre le dessus face à l’Union soviétique, le nouveau rival sur la scène mondiale. «L’exercice du leadership mondial» était en jeu. Il demeure…

Le bombarbier B-29 «Enola Gay» et son équipage (le pilote, Paul Tibbets, est au centre), aux îles Mariannes, dans les années 1940. Cet avion largua la bombe atomique «Little Boy» sur Hiroshima le 6 août 1945.Dès lors, l’effet de la bombe devait être maximal : pas question de la faire exploser à titre de démonstration dans une zone désertique, de viser un site industriel japonais éloigné de tout centre urbain ou de prévenir la population civile pour qu’elle évacue les lieux. Non. Était recherché un effet maximal en termes de destruction.

«Produire un effet de focalisation du souffle qui augmenterait considérablement les dégâts de l’explosion»

Ce sera le cas au terme d’une sélection de villes-cibles effrayant.e. Ainsi, Hiroshima l’a emporté, selon un document officiel, parce qu’«il s’agit d’un important dépôt de l’armée et d’un port d’embarquement au milieu d’une zone industrielle urbaine. C’est une bonne cible radar et d’une dimension telle qu’une grande partie de la ville pourrait être gravement endommagée. Il y a des collines adjacentes, qui sont susceptibles de produire un effet de focalisation du souffle qui augmenterait considérablement les dégâts de l’explosion». Kyoto, la capitale culturelle du Japon, figurait également sur la liste. Elle présentait un avantage «psychologique. [Il] consiste dans le fait que Kyoto étant un centre intellectuel japonais, les gens y seront mieux à même d’apprécier l’importance d’une telle arme». Mais, pour d’autres raisons, elle ne fut pas choisie.

Il serait absurde d’isoler les bombardements d’Hiroshima et de Nagasaki du fil de l’Histoire, soutient l’auteur. Au même titre qu’Auschwitz-Birkenau, ils s’inscrivent dans une trame qui s’articule depuis le XIXe siècle autour de trois «inventions» : la naissance des États-nations, les découvertes scientifiques et l’essor du capitalisme. Ce sont ces trois facteurs qui ont débouché sur les «crimes contre l’humanité» du XXe siècle parmi lesquels l’auteur, ingénieur de formation, féru de sociologie et de psychanalyse, et homme de gauche revendiqué, range Hiroshima-Nagasaki. Le succès des thèses eugénistes, les massacres de la Grande Guerre sont d’autres jalons de cette même barbarie que l’Occident refoule, écrit Royer.

On peut ne pas partager en totalité l’analyse de l’auteur, lui reprocher de faire la part trop belle à une psychanalyse de plus en plus décriée, son travail sur le projet Manhattan, et les ponts qu’il établit entre Hiroshima et l’accident de la centrale de Fukushima (et les mensonges officiels auxquels il a donné lieu) donnent à réfléchir. Au cœur d’un système politique ou au cœur de l’Homme, la barbarie est toujours là.

 

Source: Reporterre

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