August 6-9 marks the 59th anniversary of the atomic bombs that
obliterated the Cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the instant slaughter
of over 100,000 individuals, with tens of thousands of others dying in the
days that followed. People who were outside at the time of the blast simply
disappeared, leaving only a shadow on the ground where their bodies had
blocked the intense heat from scorching the ground a lighter color.
Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the development of the far more powerful hydrogen
bomb initiated the first period of the nuclear nightmare. The second period
was the Cold War when enough nuclear weapons were stockpiled to kill every
human being on the planet many times over and create a "nuclear winter" that
would spell the end of
civilization, if not humanity.
The continuing nightmare is that same nuclear threat that dominated the cold
war remains with us today with many analysts convinced the situation may be
even more dangerous. The reason is the deterioration of Russia's nuclear
command structure, its early warning system, the proliferation of nuclear
weapon states, and the intention of the Bush administration to build a new
class of nuclear weapons.
Moreover, thousands of U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear warheads
are on a hair-trigger alert, ready for launch in a few minutes notice. A
recent Rand think tank study warned that this situation could result in a
nuclear exchange either by accident or miscalculation that would
destroy both countries in an hour.
About 20 close calls to nuclear war have been documented over the
years, and who knows how many others never recorded. The sad indictment on
the values and priorities of our civilization is that the warning made by
President Kennedy before the UN General Assembly in 1961 remains true today:
"Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of
Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut
at any moment by accident or miscalculation or madness. The
weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us."
In his recent article "Cloud Over Civilization" the economist and former
ambassador John Kenneth Gailbraith wrote: "Civilization has made
great strides over centuries in science, healthcare, the arts and, if not
for all, economic well-being. But it has also given a privileged position
to the development of weapons and the threat and reality of war. Mass
slaughter has become the ultimate civilized achievement."
Nuclear weapons are the ultimate tool of mass slaughter, conceivably
of the human race. They cannot be allowed to exist if we are to avoid a
disaster beyond history. The playwright Anton Chekhov who wrote that if a
gun hung on the wall in the first act of a play it would be fired by the
third act. We're in the third act of the nuclear drama and the gun on the
wall is fully loaded with 30,000 nuclear weapons stockpiled
worldwide. It's Hiroshima 59 and we are running out of time.
The Association of World Citizens and Friends of Earth Australia have
produced a resolution that calls for the removal of all nuclear warheads
from "hair-trigger" alert to end the daily threat of a nuclear exchange
initiated by an accidental missile launch, miscalculation, or early
warning system failure.
The resolution is being endorsed by influential individuals such as
Nobel Laureates, with peace laureates Oscar Arias and the Dalai Lama
among the first to sign. Nearly 100 peace organizations have also endorsed
the resolution that will be presented to the United Nations General Assembly
when it meets in September. The Australian Senate passed a version of this
resolution on June 23, and it is being submitted to other national
It's long overdue to put our priorities in order. Number one is to end the
nuclear terror that began with the fireballs from Hell over Hiroshima and
Nagasaki 59 years ago by eliminating all nuclear weapons from the face of
the earth. The future of civilization depends on it. The responsibility lies
within each of us.