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Hiroshima Never Again

Posted by Will Ossoff, PSR Security Program Intern on July 23, 2014

Sixty-nine years ago, mushroom clouds rose over major population centers for the first (and fortunately, only) time in the history of warfare. At approximately 8:16 A.M. on August 6, 1945, the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later, the Army Air Force dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki. Since that week, nuclear weapons have posed a constant threat to the health and safety of the world.

17,000 of these weapons still exist, many on active alert and ready to be fired within minutes. Nuclear weapons have not been used in warfare since 1945.  But miscalculation, technical failure, and human error have nearly caused catastrophic accidents. These risks have been strongly amplified in recent months by escalating instability in the Middle East and Ukraine, including the missile attack upon the  Malaysian Airlines plane. How much longer are we willing to push the odds and hope that a similar incident does not involve nuclear weapons?

The use of even a miniscule fraction of the world’s nuclear arsenal would be catastrophic not only for those directly involved, but for the health and safety of the entire world. "Nuclear Famine: Two Billion People at Risk," a 2013 report from Physicians for Social Responsibility and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, outlines this potentiality. A “limited, regional” nuclear war between contentious neighbors India and Pakistan, involving the use of 100 Hiroshima sized nuclear weapons, would have devastating effects on the global climate. Increased amounts of soot in the atmosphere would block sunlight and cause an acute drop in global temperatures. Because of the resulting decline in food production for over ten years, up to two billion people would be at risk of starvation, and massive conflict would ensue over depleted food supplies.

The mere existence of nuclear weapons poses an unacceptable health risk to humanity.

Fortunately, the international movement to abolish nuclear weapons is building unprecedented momentum behind the Humanitarian Impact Initiative. Last October, 124 nations signed onto a statement to the UN calling for complete global nuclear disarmament, based on the intolerable human costs of these weapons. In February 2014, 146 nations--three-quarters of the nations of the world--including major US allies such as Germany and Japan, attended the second Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons Conference in Nayarit, Mexico. A similar conference is scheduled for Vienna in December, and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) is up for review next May. Meanwhile, in April, the small but brave Republic of Marshall Islands filed suit against all nine nuclear weapons states for violating customary international war by holding onto their nuclear arsenals. (See www.nuclearzero.org.) The opportunity is ripe for a serious political and legal push toward global nuclear disarmament. (For more about the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons Initiative, click here.)

In a 2009 speech in Prague, President Obama stated “clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” In the five years since, the United States has not followed through on this commitment, boycotting the Nayarit conference and instead planning to spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years on modernizing the nuclear arsenal. If President Obama truly believes the words that he spoke in Prague, then he must join the international human community by ensuring that the United States constructively participates in the upcoming Vienna conference and supports efforts toward nuclear disarmament at the NPT conference in May, 2015.

On these solemn anniversaries, we must remember the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the clearest illustration of the human costs of nuclear weapons. As we commemorate those who lost their lives in the atomic bombings of 1945, we must continue to work to make sure that there are no further victims of these horrific weapons. Most importantly, we must convince President Obama to keep his promise and lead the world toward the security of a nuclear weapons free world.

Comments

Ille said ..

nuclear weapons are a threat to the whole world and must be eliminated!

July 23, 2014
Jamie McGee said ..

I can't agree with Joseph's blanket critique of Obama's "lack of leadership," but I completely agree with the importance and relevance of this article.

July 23, 2014
Andrew Cadot said ..

Sent to Bangor Daily News: On August 6, 1945, the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Since then, nuclear weapons have posed a constant threat to the health and safety of the world. 17,000 nuclear weapons still exist, many on active alert and ready to be fired within minutes. While such weapons have not been used since 1945, miscalculation, technical failure, and human error have nearly caused catastrophic accidents. These risks have been strongly amplified in recent months by escalating instability in the Middle East and Ukraine, including the missile attack upon the Malaysian Airlines plane. What if the next incident involves nuclear weapons? In a 2009 speech in Prague, President Obama stated clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, the United States has not followed through on this commitment, boycotting a recent international conference and instead planning to spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years on modernizing its nuclear arsenal. If President Obama truly believes the words that he spoke in Prague, then he must ensure that the United States constructively participates in the upcoming Vienna conference in December seeking a ban on all nuclear weapons. The use of even a small fraction of the world’s nuclear arsenal would be catastrophic not only for those directly involved, but for the health and safety of the entire world, as outlined in a 2013 report from Physicians for Social Responsibility and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, [“Nuclear Famine: Two Billion People at Risk”]. A limited, regional nuclear war between contentious neighbors such as India and Pakistan would have devastating effects on the global climate by blocking sunlight which would cause an acute drop in global temperatures. Because of the resulting decline in food production, up to two billion people would be at risk of starvation. The mere existence of nuclear weapons poses an unacceptable health risk to humanity. As we commemorate those who lost their lives in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we must convince President Obama to keep his promise and lead the world toward the security of a world free of nuclear weapons. Andrew A. Cadot, USNR 73 Calf Point Roque Bluffs, ME 04654

July 23, 2014
JerzBoiV said ..

This is like what they say about hand guns on the street. There are people that own hand guns legally and there are some that own illegally. Nuclear weapons I would hope are not accesible the same way as hand guns. If I were a country known for having them (nuclear weapons) I would be hesitant to disarm mine because I would be scared for the country/countries that has a nuclear weapon that I nor my allies know about.

July 23, 2014
Paula Bourgeois said ..

I remember this....it was a tragic day for our country....the pictures of what happened were truly horrendous...there has to be a better way...and God punish the United States of America if it ever stoops to this kind of action again...we were given a brain to use...and the reasoning to know right from wrong...just amazes me how often both are ignored

July 23, 2014
John Comella said ..

Nuclear weapons should NEVER be used. They kill MANY more innocent people than "guilty" ones (assuming there are some guilty ones). And the risk of some nut launching a missile or setting off a bomb is FAR HIGHER than the risk of a nut in Moscow or some other place launching an attack against us. 100 to 200 nuclear warheads are MORE THAN ENOUGH to deter anyone with any hint of rationality.

July 23, 2014
Joseph Pizzurro said ..

Great article on a most important humanitarian subject, however asking President Obama to lead the world would be a failure since he has shown, in many world crisis, a lack of leadership ability.

July 23, 2014

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