Scary: US Presidents Still Have Unchecked Authority To Launch Nuclear First-Strike

Reprinted with permission from Greg Mitchell’s newsletter Oppenheimer: From Hiroshima to Hollywood.

There’s an important, if scary, opinion piece today at The Washington Post by Jon Wolfsthal, director of global risk at the Federation of American Scientists and former National Security Council senior director under President Barack Obama. He cites the (still) current remnant of Cold War tensions that seemingly allows any U.S. president to start a nuclear war without what you might call checks and balances.

Wolfstahl recalls the dangerous final days of the Nixon and Trump presidency when others did intervene to try to block any nuclear launches ordered from the White House but he insists these roadblocks were not really allowed under present policy. Especially with Trump having a real chance to return to power in January 2025, he calls on President Biden to change policy now. Of course, warning about our “first-use” policy has driven my own writing of three books and hundreds of articles and directing a current PBS movie…

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Oppenheimer Finally Gets Release Date in Japan

Reprinted with permission from Greg Mitchell’s newsletter Oppenheimer: From Hiroshima to Hollywood.

Despite its global popularity last summer and early fall, including in China and other Asian markets, it was no shock to find that a wide release in Japan was kept on hold. Might have happened anyway, but this was guaranteed after Japanese protested some of the early “Barbenheimer” promotion there, which I wrote about here. Sample of an offending poster:

Some Japanese Twitter users responded with photos of the 1945 bombing victims.

Yesterday we finally got word of a release in Japan, with no fixed date but likely in spring, for Oscar season, which even there gets wide attention. The distributor has the rather too on-the-nose name, Bitters End.

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Best Early Reactions to Death of Henry Kissinger, War Criminal

Reprinted with permission from Greg Mitchell’s newsletter Between Rock and a Hard Place.

Greg Mitchell is the author of a dozen books and director of three films for PBS since 2021. He first wrote about the evils of Kissinger for Crawdaddy more than a half century ago.

Came back from dinner tonight to learn that ogre who has haunted my life for six decades, Henry Kissinger, has finally died. At least Jimmy Carter outlived him, though perhaps a million others he killed around the globe did not. But Christopher Hitchens, wherever he is, no doubt smiling and ordering a round of drinks for everyone. And I can say for the last and perhaps most apt time: Who’s Kissinger now?

No time to write my own anti-obituary, but I have collected some telling early reactions from media and social media. That’s a Steve Brodner classic illustration above. See my recent piece here on Victor Jara, the “Bob Dylan of Chile,” who died in Kissinger-directed coup in Chile.

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When Shady Groves Mocked Radiation Effects

Reprinted with permission from Greg Mitchell’s newsletter Oppenheimer: From Hiroshima to Hollywood.

I have noted previously here that Manhattan Project director Gen. Leslie R. Groves – depicted by Matt Damon in “Oppenheimer” as a tough cookie but smart, and basically a good guy – not only was the prime mover behind the use of the atomic bomb against Japan but in private conversation mocked early evidence of survivors afflicted with deadly radiation disease. Even as more of that evidence emerged in the weeks after the bombings, Groves gave little ground, influencing (due to his stature) the rather casual way the U.S, military and nuclear industrial sites would handle protection for soldiers and workers.

Seventy-eight years ago this week, Groves testified before a special U.S. Senate committee on Atomic Energy. The National Security Archive, which holds the transcript of the hearings, calls Groves’ testimony “bizarre and misleading.” Their summary on one portion:

On radioactivity and the bombings generally, Groves said that he saw no choice between inflicting radioactivity on a “few Japanese” and saving “10 times as many American lives.” He claimed that no one suffered radiation injury “excepting at the time that the bomb actually went off, and that is an instantaneous damage.”

Groves continued to go out on a limb by declaring that it “really would take an accident for … the average person, within the range of the bomb to be killed by radioactive effects.” Going further out on a limb, Groves stated that the victims of radiation whose exposure was not enough to kill them instantly would die “without undue suffering. In fact, they say it is a very pleasant way to die.”

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Hiroshima Photo Archives Finally Getting UNESCO Attention

Reprinted with permission from Greg Mitchell’s newsletter Oppenheimer: From Hiroshima to Hollywood.

It’s taken nearly eight decades since J. Robert Oppenheimer’s “deadly toy” (as per Sting) was sent on its first mission, but the Japanese government decided Tuesday to recommend a collection of photos and videos depicting the devastation in Hiroshima after the August 1945 atomic bombing to a UNESCO documentary heritage program for 2025, the 80th anniversary of the U.S. attack.

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As Oppenheimer Returns… New Warnings About Nuclear Dangers Today

Reprinted with permission from Greg Mitchell’s newsletter Oppenheimer: From Hiroshima to Hollywood.

Oppenheimer finally arrives as a streamer (and for purchase with extras) tomorrow, see my post here that previewed the bonus material. You still won’t see any Japanese victims of the atomic bombings but you already expected that. What is surprising is that two leading publications, in what seem to be unrelated moves, are taking this moment to issue strong messages about new nuclear threats today and in the future.

Just last week, I posted here a dire warning from a special issue of the venerable Scientific American: “The U.S. is beginning an ambitious, controversial reinvention of its nuclear arsenal. The project comes with incalculable costs and unfathomable risks.”

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