Hiroshima and Nagasaki: A Historical Turning Point

HIROSHIMA/NAGASAKI: AN HISTORICAL TURNING POINT

The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki marked the crucial turning point in the history of the twentieth century. By the end of WWII Europe, the Soviet Union and the Japanese Empire lay in ruins, and the United States was in a position of unprecedented power in sole possession of the Bomb. Unfortunately, the U.S. used this power to launch the Cold War against the Soviet Union, and initiated a nuclear buildup that has impoverished the entire world and brought us to the brink of nuclear oblivion. The question remains; why did the U.S government decide to initiate the Cold War with the atomic bombings instead of pursuing a course of diplomacy and negotiated settlement?

There is a broad consensus among serious historians that atomic bombings were not necessary to end the war with Japan. By 1945 Japan was a destroyed and starving nation desperately seeking a negotiated surrender and the Soviet Union was scheduled to enter the war in early August, eliminating the need for an invasion of the Japanese mainland. To the Truman administration the use of the Bomb served two purposes; a demonstration of the terrible power of the split atom to be held against the entire world, and a means to quickly compel Japanese surrender and deny the Soviet Union a major role in the post war settlement.

On August 6(August5, 7:15PM EDT), Hiroshima was annihilated in a flash by a single uranium bomb, and on August 8, one day after the Soviets entered the war, Nagasaki was likewise eradicated by a plutonium bomb. More than two hundred thousand Japanese civilians and Korean laborers were slaughtered unnecessarily to expedite the promotion of U.s. foreign policy throughout the world.

But, to truly understand the decision to use the Bomb and initiate the Cold War we need to understand who benefitted the most. The big winners were the claque of corporations which stood to “make a killing” if the U.S. were to initiate a massive nuclear build-up and launch a Cold War. Corporations led by General Electric, Dupont, Union Carbide, Bechtel and Westinghouse made billions developing generation after generation of “first strike” nuclear weapons and “conventional weapons.

But it was not only the “Military Industrial Complex” which benefitted from the atomic bombings, but the entire spectrum of corporate America which applauded the government policy of using military force and nuclear threats to compel a.dependable supply of cheap labor and cheap natural resources, primarily from impoverished Southern Hemisphere nations.

Analysts like Daniel Ellsburg, and Michio Kaku have pointed out that the U.S. government has threatened the use of nuclear weapons numerous times since Nagasaki, usually against Third World nations exercizing their rights to self-determination. They argue that the primary function of U.S. nuclear weapons, from the beginning, has been as a foreign policy instrument, not for deterrence. Now we see the example of the U.S. throwing its military might(including threats to use nuclear weapons) against Iraq in the name of a “New World Order,” to insure control over the international oil market. But, if the multi-national corporations have been the “winners” of the nuclear build-up, what about the losers? What about the farmers, the plumbers, the small business people, the homemakers, the doctors, the children … all the rest of us

The challenge for the Peace, Justice and Environmental movement is to organize a broadly-based political base capable of challenging the presently prevailing corporate power structure. Their nearly absolute corporate control over the Media, including public broadcasting, complicates our already difficult task. To educate and mobilize the public we must adopt strategies that reflect the current political and technical realities.

Increasingly, grassroots activists are turning to computers, desktop publishing and video/satellite technology to reach a broad audience. Community and neighborhood based social change groups emphasize the inter-connectedness of issues and the importance of networking. A multitude of computer networks have sprung up over the past few years enabling a small community group to communicate directly, at small cost with hundreds of similar groups nationwide. These networks permit a degree of networking among disarmament and antiintervention groups, both nationally and internationally, unheard of just a few short years ago.

Each anniversary of the atomic bombings provides us a unique opportunity to study and reflect on the horrors of possible nuclear war and the massive destruction already wrought by pursuing 46 years of nuclear madness and a Cold War. As we listen to the warnings of the Hibakusha (living survivors of Hiroshima/ Nagasaki), we should also listen to the voices of the children of New York and Washington; of Ethiopia and Angola; of Love Canal and Bophal; of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and understand how militarism polarizes and exploits our communities.

The annual Remembrance of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a time to recommit ourselves to work unceasingly to establish a just Peace, to oppose militarism, and to completely dismantle all nuclear weapons, that all the world’s children may be free of the threat
of nuclear war and may share and enjoy a beneficent and bountiful future.

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