August 6, the anniversary of the day Little Boy, the atomic bomb, exploded always brings Hiroshima to mind. Last Thursday was no different except that I walked downstairs rather than using the elevator – they had just painted the floor of elevator landing in my office building. Walking down the little used stairwell I came across a faded yellow sign – “Fallout Shelter” in block letters bordered in black – a remnant of time past.
The dimly lit stairs tricked me into going on to the basement. The building was built before WWII and in the basement were still more civil defense signs with one reading “Survival Supplies – Drinking Water”. I had stumbled upon the remnants of a cold war, a fallout shelter.
That brought back memories of the 1950’s when as kids we would have monthly civil defense drills. We would sit at our desks and be ordered to “duck and cover”. The shelter of our wooden desks was supposed to shield us from the blast of an atomic bomb. But I remember photographs of the mushroom cloud, the destruction, the wasted bodies, the rubble, the men with white masks picking up what looked like extra-large barbecued spare ribs. How delusional we were back then.
I often wondered what ever happened to that city, the Hiroshima Mon Amour of the film with the unforgettable “You are not endowed with memory” line. After seeing On the Beach, Mad Max and Planet of the Apes I thought Hiroshima a vast arid plain doted by twisted steel girders, a manmade radioactive desert devoid of human life.
Is that the Hiroshima of today? No, judging by the photographs Hiroshima is a modern, all bright, shiny vibrant city pulsing with life. The images of the explosion and its aftermath are as faded and forgotten as that “Fallout Shelter”. And no one speaks much of Nagasaki and the Fat Man atomic bomb that exploded three days later on August 9, 1945. The second atomic bomb was unnecessary, overkill and as, some claim was the first, because Russia with one million soldiers attacked Japan in Manchuria on August 8.
The stark reality of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was kept from public view and remained classified for years on national security grounds – the full extent of destruction that Little Boy and Fat Man wrought is still not fully acknowledged.
The United States never used the bomb again but force continues to trump diplomacy and has become America’s national foreign policy weapon of choice.
There was enough destruction to be had by conventional means without having to resort to atomic weapons. Korea was the first failure in this new approach to shape the world to our image by force – North Korea is still there after 60 years. We tried to bomb the shit out of North Vietnam and when that didn’t work we defoliated the place with Agent Orange. We admitted defeat and left with “Peace and Honor”. After 15 years we are still mired in Afghanistan and once liberated Iraq is now a battleground for the newly minted war against ISIS.
Economic sanctions are another exercise of foreign policy by means of brute force. Do not be fooled in believing that economic sanctions do not cause physical harm. The United Nations reported that 576,000 Iraqi children died because of sanctions in the period 1990-1995.
Harsh economic sanctions did not deter Iran’s nuclear program for civilian ends, as the Mullahs claim, or military goals, as Israel and her allies claim. This state of precarious affairs seems to have been resolved after years of negotiations and diplomatic wrangling in a proposed multilateral treaty. This treaty appears to be a nearly unanimous expression of world opinion with the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council [United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France and China] participating together with Germany and the European Union.
Yet there are some in Congress including New York’s Senator Chuck Shummer who oppose the treaty, notwithstanding near universal support and seek to derail it.
I have tried to read the 159 page long “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” and the many annexes, which is probably more than most members of Congress. I do not have the knowledge and expertise to voice an opinion on the efficacy of the treaty. I must rely that the nations and men and women involved have used their best efforts to prevent another Hiroshima, another Nagasaki. It is without question better than the present dangerous status quo.
On Saturday twenty nine leading American scientists “including Nobel laureates, veteran makers of nuclear arms and former White House science advisers” wrote an open letter in support of the treaty. The authors are “some of the world’s most knowledgeable experts in the field of nuclear weapons and arms control … [who] have advised Congress, the White House [and] federal agencies over decades” include six Nobel laureates, Philip W. Anderson of Princeton University; Leon N. Cooper of Brown University; Sheldon L. Glashow of Boston University; David Gross of the University of California, Santa Barbara; Burton Richter of Stanford University; and Frank Wilczek of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
I doubt that this will make a difference. I predict that the Congressional debate will go into an “I am not a scientist” mode. This allows those that oppose to concede the legitimacy of the scientists’ expert opinion “while simultaneously allowing [them] to ignore that expertise altogether”. As for me I will heed the advice of the experts. I do not want to see another Hiroshima, another Nagasaki in my lifetime.
Deyan Ranko Brashich is a frequent contributor. He is the author of Letters from America and Contrary Views. His contact and website “Contrary Views” is at www.deyanbrashich.com