When Will They Ever Learn?

Sixty years ago, the US dropped bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On Aug. 6, 1945, Hiroshima was hit by an American uranium bomb that produced a blast equivalent to the explosion of 12,000 tons of dynamite. It is estimated that more than 80,000 of Hiroshima’s 250,000 residents were killed that day; at least 60,000 more died in the ensuing weeks due to injuries sustained in the atomic blast. And three days after Hiroshima’s horror, another US bomb — this one filled with plutonium — landed on Japanese port city Nagasaki. At least 80,000 more human beings perished.

When Little Boy met Hiroshima, all hell broke loose for innocent people.

The US bombings of Japan brought about an early end to World War II. The massive loss of life was much less than the number of people killed during the Nazi reign of terror. But was it worth it? For many, it seemed so at the time. But how about in the long run? Was resorting to the use of weapons of mass destruction the way to go? I do not think so. This Pandora’s box never should have been opened. I imagine many innocent people in Japan — including the few remaining survivors and their families — and peace-loving people all around the world would agree.

Journalist Walter Cronkite — for my money, still the most trusted man in America — ponders the legacy of the American use of atomic weapons in World War II and the resulting global arms race. And to mark the anniversaries of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, Cronkite offers some sage advice:

[I]n the 60th year of the Nuclear Age, we still have some 30,000 nuclear weapons in the world, and some 4,000 of these are on hair-trigger alert. You have to wonder about a species that seems so incapable of eliminating the greatest danger to its own survival. Not so incidentally, the United States has more nuclear weapons in its arsenal than any other nation.

There has been much emphasis in the news about the dangers of nuclear proliferation in such countries as North Korea. All countries should abide by the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Few Americans are aware, however, that the treaty also provides that the U.S. and other nuclear weapon states must reduce their numbers of nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, disarmament by nuclear weapon states receives limited attention in news reporting, at least within the United States. I think this might be because the continuing existence of our own vast arsenal doesn’t seem to Americans, even if they are aware of it, to be nearly as dangerous as the threat of new nations acquiring the ghastly weapons.

The survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – the hibakusha – have continually warned, “Nuclear weapons and human beings cannot coexist.” In the end, I believe this is the most important lesson of Hiroshima. We must eliminate nuclear weapons before they eliminate us.

The best security, perhaps the only security, against nuclear weapons being used again, or getting into the hands of terrorists, is to eliminate them. Most of the people of the world already know this. Now it is up to the world’s people to impress the urgency of this situation upon their governments. We must act now. The future depends upon us.

Indeed. Here is some advice for Americans: When you talk to your government, tell them this: No one should have or use nuclear weapons. No one. But if you do, and in fact you have enough nuclear weapons to take out civilization as we know it, you have too many. And you have no business telling other countries that they can not have what you have.

Oh, and in case anyone is keeping score, the country responsible for causing the most damage in the world with weapons of mass destruction is not North Korea or Iran. It is certainly not Iraq or Germany or Niger, nor is it Britain or Libya. Look in the mirror, America.

Blessings to the people of Japan. Think peace.

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