Nuclear Weapons, 65 years after Hiroshima & Nagasaki
Everyone should know that over the last week we marked the 65th anniversary of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. On August 6th 1945, a four-tonne uranium bomb nicknamed “Little Boy” detonated over Hiroshima, killing an estimated 140,000 people. Three days later, Nagasaki was devastated by a plutonium bomb nicknamed “Fat Man” killing another 80,000 people.
Despite several months of heavy fire bombings to over sixty Japanese cites (cities constructed mainly out of wood houses), the Empire of Japan refused to surrender unconditionally. Hiroshima & Nagasaki were spared the same fire bombings in order to accurately examine the damage the new armaments would bring. The destruction and death was so substantial that only Mother Nature could ever hope to top it.
With Japan at the time being surrounded and bombed routinely on a daily basis as well as the declaration of war by the Russians, the debate over the use of the bombs has and will continue to rage on for decades to come. Did the United States intend to simply save the lives of tens of thousands of American service men that would have been needed for a ground invasion? Or did President Truman want to show off America’s might and put some fear into the Russians?
Some believe that Hiroshima was a necessary evil, but that Nagasaki was too soon after as the Imperial Government of Japan did not have sufficient time to formulate the unconditional surrender that the United States had been demanding.
Regardless of the reason, I believe Truman and company were guilty of war crimes. Even if reports and images from the bomb sites hadn’t been censored at the time, it would have been hard to convince the American public to turn in their newly victorious leader. After all, the Japanese were so hated that 13% of Americans actually favored genocide to deal with the Japanese problem.
Since that fateful week in 1945, no one has been a more vocal opponent of nuclear proliferation than the Japanese. Who better to listen to than the only country to ever be on the receiving end of not one, but two atomic bombings? Clearly though, a small, but important part of the world has never paid attention.
The cold war saw a massive build up of nuclear weapon stockpiles between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. During the sixties, the United States had accumulated roughly thirty thousand warheads, while in Russia they were up to about forty-five thousand at the fall of the Soviet Union. The levels have since fallen to about twenty thousand between them, still enough to blow up the world a few times over, however.
The other nuclear armed members of the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) other than the U.S. and Russia are the United Kingdom, France and China. Of course, these countries are also the only five permanent nations on the UN Security Council. They are also responsible for more than 75% of the world’s total conventional weapons sales; securing the world and arming it at the same time.
India, Pakistan, North Korea and (most say) Israel are the other remaining nuclear armed non-NPT countries.
With the cold war over and the world fully aware of the dangers of nuclear weapons having seen firsthand the destruction in Japan and then taking a deep breath through the Cuban missile crisis, why are we seeing other nations in the 21st century trying to get their hands on the tools of mutually assured destruction? The answer I believe ironically is fear.
When the Little Boy & the Fat Man fell over Hiroshima & Nagasaki, the A-bomb was used solely as an offensive weapon. Since then it has been used exclusively as a deterrent. When former American President George W. Bush coined and threatened in a state of the union address the “axis of evil” he also said that all options are on the table (including the nuclear one), he later followed up by invading one of them. The only defensive conclusion that the other regimes could think of is acquiring the same nuclear option. No country has ever invaded another nuclear armed nation.
In spite of the dangerous games that certain countries continue to play, it’s encouraging to see more and more delegates from other countries going to Hiroshima and Nagasaki every year to commemorate the anniversary of those historic, yet horrific days. Hopefully, one day the nuclear powers of the world will listen to what Japan has been saying for the past sixty-five years and realize that these weapons really have only one use.
The United States has never complied with demands in Japan for an apology for the loss of innocent lives in the atomic bombings.