70 years after Hiroshima

It is painful to look back 70 years today to the huge loss of innocent human life caused by the of dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

War is brutal. It is never a pleasant experience for the military participants.  Witnessing the killing and maiming of one’s comrades must leave marks on a soldier for as long as he or she lives.  The killing and wounding of opposing military personnel must take an equal or greater toll on the personality and psychological well-being of the perpetrator even if what is done is carried out in a moment of on-the-spot self-defence.

But the indiscriminate bombing (and in this case obliteration) of an entire city population can never be justified. Seventy years on the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki must still rank high among the bloodiest and ugliest acts of cruelty in mankind’s long and tragic history of war and conflict.

Two Japanese cities and their people were transformed in two instants of unprecedented horror into clouds of choking dust. Hundreds of thousands of people who happened to be in places more remote from the initial blasts endured long painful illnesses. Many faced slow and difficult deaths caused by the radiation effects of the world’s first (and mercifully only) wartime use of nuclear weapons.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not proud moments in the history of the United States or the world.

The 70th anniversary of this outrage should cause us all to press for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction.  We have more than enough weapons and fire power for hand to hand combat than society should ever need.  The leaders of modern warfare never take part in the bloody action on the ground.

The Hiroshima anniversary is also a reminder of the horrors that can be unleased when our technology advances beyond our sense of morality.  Today the power to kill can be delegated to programmable machines.  Drones are already in use delivering payload of destruction under the control of people at computer screens far remote from the target zone and for whom the manipulation of these devices is little more than the equivalent of a video game.  The controller sees nothing but a flash.  He or she does not hear the explosion, does not see the pain on the faces of the unfortunate recipients of this fire from the sky.

Today more than ever we need to heed the call of John F. Kennedy in his inaugural speech when he addressed, as he put it, “those nations who would make themselves our adversary”:

“Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.

Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.

Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths and encourage the arts and commerce.”

The earth today faces unparalleled challenges which affect the future of every man woman and child born and to be born on the planet.  Can we work together to face this common threat and concentrate our resources and imagination in ways which will enhance life for everyone?

Can we all work to finally bring into reality the words of Isaiah “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

Tony – 6 August 2015

PS: since publishing the above I have seen on Netflix the BBC TV movie Hiroshima (available on Netflix) and featuring harrowing descriptions by some survivors of the dreadful Hiroshima event.

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