Sunday, August 06, 2006

Nagasaki: August 9, 1945 to ?

The first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 at eight o'clock on a clear morning; the estimate of the deaths range from 70,000 to 140,000 men, women and children. Of those who did not die instantly, thousands in Hiroshima died a horrifying death that lasted hours, days, and sometimes weeks. There is nothing humane about nuclear weapons. With a nuclear weapon, there is no such thing as pinpoint targeting or the minimalization of civilian casualties. For everyone, the United States included, it is a terror weapon. That is exactly how it was used on Japan. After a war that was already costing an estimated 70 million deaths around the world, the dropping of the A-bomb was designed, rightly or wrongly, to terrorize the Japanese government into surrender; some argue that it was also a warning shot to the Soviet Union whose intentions the US government was already uncertain of at the time.

The last nuclear weapon used in a war was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. In three days, that will be sixty-one years without nuclear weapons being used directly in warfare. We have an administration that would like to break the de facto moratorium on the use of nuclear weapons as a first strike weapon. There are right wingers all over the internet who can't think beyond the simple question, 'and then what happens next?'; these right wingers fantasize about the use of nuclear weapons as if the United States is the only one who has them. But of course Americans are not the only ones with fantasies.

It is important to mark the anniversary of Hiroshima but I would argue that it's more important to mark the anniversary of Nagasaki. The future of the world may depend on how long humans can go without using nuclear weapons in a war. Sixty-one years is not a long time but it is still sixty-one years. And then there is sixty-two. And then sixty-three. We have many years to go before we can say we are safe.

Reader BT kindly reminded me to look up TomDispatch; there's a post on Hiroshima and I offer what is essentially part of Tom Englehardt's preface to his piece on Hiroshima : this era, the most obvious nuclear "flashpoint" remains the only country ever to use nuclear weapons -- us. While several American presidents have, in the years since 1945, considered the "nuclear option," they were always held back by the "nuclear taboo." This administration has seemed particularly eager to figure out how to overcome that taboo and turn such weaponry into a usable part of the American arsenal. Its 2002 Nuclear Posture Review was already threatening nuclear use against axis of evil states (among others) as well as suggesting that such weapons might somehow be employed in a "future Arab-Israeli crisis." The administration also developed elaborate plans for building up American nuclear forces, investing in new generations of "mini-nukes" and "bunker-busting" nukes, and planning more generally for the distant nuclear future.

(snip) the name of stopping proliferation, top administration officials, including the President, continually remind us that all options remain "on the table." Thanks to New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh, we learned recently what this really meant in the context of a possible future American assault on Iran's nuclear facilities. In a piece on Pentagon resistance to the administration's desire to attack Iran, he reported:
"In late April, the military leadership, headed by [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs] General [Peter] Pace, achieved a major victory when the White House dropped its insistence that the plan for a bombing campaign include the possible use of a nuclear device to destroy Iran's uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz, nearly two hundred miles south of Tehran."
Nuclear weapons as anti-nuclear-proliferation devices; anti-proliferation wars as a way to end the "nuclear taboo" and open the door to the "ordinary" use of such weaponry -- talk about diabolical. As can now be seen in Lebanon, in Iraq, and in Afghanistan, so in its nuclear policy, the only thing the Bush administration seems actually capable of doing is exporting ruins to the rest of the world. In this sense, it has offered the world a model drawn directly from the charnel house of nuclear policy which began on a clear day over Hiroshima sixty-one years ago and has never ended.

It's long, but Englehardt's piece is worth the read.

Let me remind people that many people, even the 'hawks,' 'realists,' 'cynics,' and even a few evangelical would-be prophets, never envisioned the world, let alone the United States, going sixty-one years without using nuclear weapons. If their is a global will, the streak will continue.

If the American people wish it to be so, the nuclear fantasies of the president and the American right can be held in check.


Blogger dazmanu said...

Great post. Keep up the good work!

The Bamboo Guy

3:45 AM  
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