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The time of the Bomb

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  • sacw
    The News International August 06, 2005 THE TIME OF THE BOMB by Zia Mian and A.H. Nayyar When he was told on August 6, 1945, that America s new atom bomb had
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 5, 2005
      The News International
      August 06, 2005


      by Zia Mian and A.H. Nayyar

      When he was told on August 6, 1945, that America's new atom bomb had
      destroyed its first target, the Japanese city of Hiroshima, U.S.
      President Harry Truman declared "This is the greatest thing in
      history." Three days later, on August 9, another atom bomb destroyed
      the city of Nagasaki.

      The coming of the bomb brought pain and death. A 1946 survey by the
      Hiroshima City Council found that from a civilian population of about
      320,000 on the day of the explosion: over 118,000 were killed, over
      30,000 seriously injured, with almost 49,000 slightly injured, and
      nearly 4,000 people were missing. In December 1945, the Nagasaki City
      Commission determined that because of the bombing there, almost
      74,000 people had been killed and 75,000 injured. The injured
      continued to die for months and years later, one of the reasons being
      radiation sickness. Pregnant women who were affected produced
      children who were severely physically and mentally retarded. The
      Japanese created a new word -- hibakusha, -- a survivor of the atom

      In the sixty years since the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
      we have been spared the horror of a nuclear weapon attack on another
      city. But nuclear weapons have grown in their destructive power; each
      can now be tens of times, or even hundreds of times, more powerful
      that those used to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The number of
      nuclear weapons has grown; there are now tens of thousands. Where
      there was one country with the bomb, there are now perhaps nine (US,
      Russia, UK, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea).
      There are many more political and military leaders who, like Truman
      in 1945, see the bomb as "the greatest thing in history".

      From the very beginning, there has also been opposition to the bomb.
      The French writer and activist Albert Camus wrote on August 6, 1945:
      "technological civilization has just reached its final degree of
      savagery... Faced with the terrifying perspectives which are opening
      up to humanity, we can perceive even better that peace is the only
      battle worth waging."

      The American sociologist and critic Lewis Mumford wrote: "We in
      America are living among madmen. Madmen govern our affairs in the
      name of order and security. The chief madmen claim the titles of
      general, admiral, senator, scientist, administrator, Secretary of
      State, even President." There are many more of these madmen now. They
      all mumble the same nonsense about "threats," and "national
      security," and "nuclear deterrence," and try to scare everyone around

      Protest and resistance against the madness of nuclear weapons has
      brought together some of the greatest figures of our times with
      millions of ordinary men and women around the world. Albert Einstein
      and the philosopher Bertrand Russell gave the reason most simply and
      clearly. They published a manifesto in 1955 in which they identified
      the stark challenge created by nuclear weapons: "Shall we put an end
      to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?"

      The only way forward for humanity, Einstein and Russell said, was
      that "We have to learn to think in a new way. We have to learn to ask
      ourselves, not what steps can be taken to give a military victory to
      whatever group we prefer, for there no longer are such steps; the
      question we have to ask ourselves is: what steps can be taken to
      prevent a military contest of which the issue must be disastrous to
      all parties?" Their 1955 manifesto led to the formation of the
      Pugwash movement of scientists. It was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
      for its work against nuclear weapons in 1995. There are now Pugwash
      groups in 50 countries, including in India and Pakistan.

      Global protests eventually forced an end to nuclear weapons testing
      in the atmosphere and under water. These explosions had been spewing
      radioactivity in the air, where it was blown around the world,
      poisoning land, water, food and people. But the "madmen" were blinded
      by the power of the ultimate weapon. They kept building more and
      bigger bombs and threatening to use them. They have been stopped from
      using them only by the determined efforts of peace movements and
      public pressure.

      The bomb and the madmen came to South Asia too. India tested a bomb
      in 1974 and Pakistan set about trying to make one. There was protest
      too. In 1985, a small group of people in Islamabad organised an event
      for Hiroshima Day, August 6, at the Rawalpindi Press Club. There was
      a slide show and talk about nuclear weapons and their terrible
      effects, with pictures of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
      Every picture brought gasps of horror and revulsion from the packed
      audience. The posters and placards and banners on the walls carried
      messages about the need to end war, to reduce military spending and
      increase spending on education and health, and to make peace between
      India and Pakistan. A small, short-lived peace group was born, the
      Movement for Nuclear Disarmament.

      That was twenty years ago. The Cold War is long over, the Soviet
      Union long gone, but there has been little relief. The United States
      still has five thousand weapons deployed, 2000 of which are ready to
      use within 15 minutes, and there are another five thousand in
      reserve. Russia has over 7000 weapons deployed and 9000 in reserve.
      The UK, France, and China are estimated each to have several hundred
      warheads, Israel may have almost as many, and India and Pakistan have
      a hundred or fewer. North Korea may have a handful. And, leaders are
      still mad; they send armies to attack and occupy other countries, and
      kill and maim tens of thousands. In America, they plan for newer and
      more useable nuclear weapons.

      In the meantime, India and Pakistan have also tested their nuclear
      weapons -- which are about as powerful as the bombs that destroyed
      Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They have threatened to use their weapons in
      every crisis since then. They are making more weapons and missiles as
      fast as they can. A nuclear war between Pakistan and India, in which
      they each used only five of their nuclear weapons, would likely kill
      about three million people and severely injure another one and a half
      million. What more proof is needed that we are ruled by madmen?

      If South Asia is to survive its own nuclear age, we shall need to
      have strong peace movements in both Pakistan and India. A beginning
      has been made. The Pakistan Peace Coalition was founded in 1999; it
      is a national network of groups working for peace and justice. In
      2000, Indian activists established the Campaign for Nuclear
      Disarmament and Peace. These movements will need all the help and
      support they can get to keep the generals and Prime Ministers in both
      countries in check. The leaders in both countries must be taught,
      over and over again, that the people will not allow a nuclear war to
      be fought. There should never be a word in any other language for

      Zia Mian, peace activist, is a physicist at Princeton University.

      A.H. Nayyar is a physicist, co-convener of Pugwash Pakistan, and
      president of the Pakistan Peace Coalition.


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