Posted by: Madman in the Marketplace | August 6, 2009

A War Crime

The mayor of Hiroshima, the city where 140 000 people died from the blast, renewed his call for the abolition of what he said are 24 000 remaining nuclear warheads over the next decade as he led the solemn ceremony.

About 50 000 people, including “hibakusha” or atom bomb survivors, politicians and envoys from 59 countries and the United Nations, gathered near the A-bomb Dome, the skeleton of a hall burnt by the bomb’s intense heat.

“The abolition of nuclear weapons is the will not only of the hibakusha, but also of the vast majority of people on this planet,” said the mayor, Tadatoshi Akiba, head of the international group Mayors for Peace.

This country can never atone for a crime it refuses to accept it committed. We murdered two cities three score and four years ago, and we still tell ourselves it was justified. The LEAST we could do is start destroying our huge, dangerous nuclear arsenal.

For the Sixty-Fourth Time: No More Nuclear War By Frida Berrigan

Sixty-four years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we need more than symbols of peace. Folding paper cranes alone cannot, unfortunately, end the threat of nuclear war. Memories of the destruction fade, the hibakusha grow even older and die, the haunting pictures end up in books stored spine out on bookshelves.

Meanwhile, the terror of nuclear annihilation — so keen at certain moments during the long superpower Cold War stand-off — seems to have worn off almost completely. That’s too bad, since the actual threat of nuclear war remains hidden but potent. The nine nuclear powers — the United States, Russia, France, England, China, Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea — have more than 27,000 operational nuclear weapons among them, enough to destroy several Earth-sized planets. And in May, Mohamed ElBaradei, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned that the number of nuclear powers could double in a few years unless new disarmament is a priority. Is it any wonder then that, according to a recent Rasmussen opinion poll, one in five Americans believe nuclear war “very likely” in this century, and more than half, “likely”?

The unthinkable is still under consideration — even as the Obama administration takes its first steps in the right direction. In an April speech in Prague, President Obama publicly embraced the goal of seeking “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” In its wake, his administration has begun taking still quite modest but potentially important steps towards that goal, including: renewed talks with Russia over mutual nuclear reductions, conversations initiated in the Senate about jump-starting the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban, stalled these last 10 years, and of negotiations for the also stalled Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, imagined as an internationally verified ban on the production of nuclear materials for weapons.

Right now, however, the American nuclear landscape — little acknowledged or discussed — remains grimly potent. According to the authoritative Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the United States still maintains a nuclear stockpile estimated at 5,200 warheads — of which approximately 2,700 are operational (with the rest in reserve), while the Obama administration will spend more than $6 billion on the research and development of nuclear weapons this year alone.

At some point early next year, the administration will complete a Nuclear Posture Review outlining the role it believes nuclear weapons should play in the American pantheon of power, and, if the president follows through on his anti-nuclear statements, perhaps that document will at least begin to limit the scenarios in which such weapons could be used. In the meantime, the policy of the United States remains no different than it was in 2004, when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed the Nuclear Weapons Employment Policy. It said, in part, that the United States possesses nuclear weapons for the purposes of “destroying those critical war-making and war-supporting assets and capabilities that a potential enemy leadership values most and that it would rely on to achieve its own objectives in a post-war world.” Read that sentence again, and think, under such a doctrine, what might the United States not bomb?

Keep in mind as well that the bombs which annihilated two Japanese cities and ended so many lives 64 years ago this week were puny when compared to today’s typical nuclear weapon. Little Boy was a 15 kiloton warhead. Most of the warheads in the U.S. arsenal today are 100 or 300 kilotons — capable of taking out not a Japanese city of 1945 but a modern megalopolis. Bruce Blair, president of the World Security Institute and a former launch-control officer in charge of Minutemen Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles armed with 170, 300, and 335 kiloton warheads, pointed out a few years ago that, within 12 minutes, the United States and Russia could launch the equivalent of 100,000 Hiroshimas.

It is unthinkable. It seems unimaginable. It sounds like hyperbole, but consider it an uncomfortable and necessary truth. The people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the children of our future need us to understand this and act upon it — 64 years too late… and not a minute too soon.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: