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Chris Ford: Sixty Four Years Since Hiroshima And Nagasaki - Lest We Forget

Contributor:
Chris Ford
Chris Ford

Today, August 6th, marks the 64th anniversary of the dropping of the first nuclear weapon, in wartime, over the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

I believe that this, and the subsequent bombing of Nagasaki two days later, is one of the most hideous war crimes ever committed and, within the context of the Second World War, this rates up there with the Holocaust, the fire bombings of both Dresden and London by both respective parties to the European conflict (Britain and Germany) and the appalling treatment of Allied prisoners of war by the Japanese as being callous atrocities.

While the Japanese were the aggressor party in the Pacific theatre, they did not in any way, shape or form deserve the fate that befell them on this day in 1945. The mass destruction wrought by the first atomic bombs wiped out thousands of innocent civilian lives, horrifically injured scores of others and left the impacted areas radioactive zones for some months afterwards.

Those early scientists who assisted in the development of the first atomic bomb, such as Robert Oppenheimer, became vociferous opponents of nuclear weaponry thereafter. Indeed Opeenheimer, upon witnessing the first test of his creation in the New Mexico desert in mid-1945 uttered the old American Indian proverb "we have become death" to describe what he and his fellow Manhattan Project scientists had now unleashed upon the world.

Originally the US intended the bomb to cement their hoped for strategic and military hegemony in the wake of the Second World War so as to make the world safe for a 'New World Order' where a 'Pax Americana' would replace the competition for either a 'Pax Britannica' or a 'Pax Germania' that had transpired before the war. Underpinned by the new capitalist institutions of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the US wanted to be the global superpower whose military might would secure for it easy dominance over post-war international affairs, thus, ensuring a supply of raw materials and resources for that country's continuing economic growth as a spin-off. As a positive side-effect, it was also hoped that many of the Eastern European nations (including Poland and Germany) would emerge from the war as liberal democracies, shaped in the Anglo-American mould.

However, the Americans didn't count on Joseph Stalin and his agents abilities to steal atomic secrets from the Americans. By the time that then new US President Harry S. Truman told Stalin of the existence of 'a powerful new weapon' at the Potsdam Conference in July 1945, the Soviet dictator pretty much knew what the American leader's words meant. Being rightly fearful of a US-British plan for global dominance in the post-war era and wishing to secure Eastern Europe as a strategic buffer against future German agression against the Soviet Union which he feared might be sponsored by the US and Britain, Stalin gave the order for the development of a Soviet nuclear programme during the war.

This development heralded the beginning of a nuclear arms race that, while it has tempered between the original 'Big Five' declared nuclear powers of the US, Russia, China, France and the UK has only increased with the arrival of new nuclear powers India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel (whose stockpile is very much known about but not declared officially). Proliferation is on the increase and this was an inevitable corollary of the decision to develop the first atomic bomb over 65 years ago.

Today, the power of nuclear weapons is much more known about and feared. But more and more people, particularly from the 1950s onwards, stood up to the great powers determination to acquire and possess these weapons for their own selfish strategic ends. From the early 'Ban the Bomb' marches in Britain to New Zealand's proud and defiant legal ban on nuclear weapons in the late 1980s, a growing number of people across the planet have conveyed their continuing abhorrence towards the existence of these weapons.

While it is promising that US President Barack Obama declared his belief in a nuclear free world and its achievability earlier this year in Prague, the American nation that gave the world its first nuclear weapon should be the first to declare an actual end date to possessing nuclear weapons and actually disarm unilaterally but obviously, due to the influence of the hawks in the Pentagon, this will not happen. Also the US should stop its hypocrisy in attacking the Iranians and North Koreans for developing their own atomic programmes when it has actively assisted close ally Israel to do so in the past. Therefore, the Obama Administration should be consistent in applying open pressure upon Israel to engage in nuclear disarmament as well as part of a wider and more open Middle East peace process. But somehow I doubt that this will happen too while Obama remains under the thumb of his White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, a pro-Israel hawk.

For all that, we should re-dedicate ourselves anew to the popular struggle against nuclear weapons as we are to the new struggle against the ravaging impacts of global climate change. Both of these menaces pose great threats to the existence of all life on our planet.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki - Lest We Forget.

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