OPINION | ART HOBSON: Was Hiroshima bombing just the beginning of the end?
Nuclear weapons remain an existential threat
On Aug. 6, 1945, a single B-29 dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, a city of 400,000. Moments later the entire city, three miles across, lay in ruins. On Aug. 9, the United States dropped another bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. The total death toll was between 129,000 and 226,000. On Aug. 15, Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s unconditional surrender.
I was in sixth grade. We were all urged to “remember Pearl Harbor,” but today it’s appropriate, in fact essential, to remember Hiroshima because that city symbolizes the continued threat humankind poses to its own existence. Hiroshima remembrances will be held at 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 8, at the Omni Center for Peace and Justice’s back lawn, 3274 N. Lee Ave. in Fayetteville and at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 6, at the Reservoir Park Pavilion.
It’s become a cliché to say nuclear war can destroy civilization, so I’ll be more specific. Consider just one of the U.S. Navy’s 18 Trident submarines. It can carry 24 intercontinental missiles, each with eight hydrogen bombs, each bomb carrying the explosive energy of seven Hiroshima bombs. Thus one Trident submarine can destroy 192 large cities, which could indeed destroy civilization. Our 18 submarines could do this 18 times over.
But that’s not all. We have an invulnerable fleet of nuclear-weapons-carrying B-52 and B-2 bombers that could quickly bomb the planet back to the stone age.
But that’s still not all. We have 440 Minuteman missiles in silos in the Midwest, each carrying three bombs, each bomb carrying the explosive power of 21 Hiroshima bombs. These are the world’s most dangerous weapons, because they are vulnerable to a quick first strike. In a tense situation, another nation might be tempted to remove these sitting ducks before they are launched. The sooner we get rid of them the safer we’ll be. We should negotiate their removal, and hopefully the removal of equally de-stabilizing land-based missiles in Russia and China, as soon as possible.
Our leaders frequently take us to the brink of nuclear war. For example, in May a British aircraft carrier group of warships sailed into the Black Sea amid rising tensions between Ukraine and Russia. In June, a destroyer from the group ventured into waters claimed by Moscow. The Russians reportedly fired warning shots while a Russian bomber dropped four bombs in the path of the destroyer, forcing it to change course.
For another example, in September 2018, a Chinese destroyer came within 45 yards of the U.S. guided-missile destroyer Decatur in the South China Sea’s disputed Spratly Islands, forcing the American ship to abruptly alter course. The Chinese ship radioed to the Decatur, “If you don’t change course [you] will suffer consequences.” Arms control expert Michael Klare, who reported this incident, asks “What would have transpired had the captain of the Decatur not altered course?”
Were nuclear weapons on board during either incident? We don’t know.
Such cat-and-mouse games go on all the time, and could quickly escalate. We’re talking about the fate of the planet, my friends. Surely we can conduct ourselves in a less asinine manner than adolescent boys engaging in a game of “chicken.”
There is hope: Essentially all policy experts, including conservatives such as former U.S. secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, agree that the world must rid itself of all nuclear weapons. In 2009, President Obama and Russian President Medvedev agreed in principle to a nuclear-weapons-free world.
Most importantly, the non-nuclear-weapons nations of the world have bravely brought to the floor of the United Nations General Assembly an agreement to rid ourselves of these weapons. The International Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is the first legally binding agreement to prohibit nuclear weapons. The UN General Assembly approved this treaty in 2017, with 122 nations in favor and 69 abstentions that included the nuclear weapons nations and the NATO nations. Today, 86 nations have signed the treaty and 107 have not signed.
What with global warming, pandemics and other disasters, we certainly don’t need the artificial self-imposed threat that exists today because of our juvenile inability to get along with fellow humans. All of us, including Americans, need to take the macho chip off our shoulders. In particular, I recommend:
• Reducing the dangerous excess of U.S. nuclear weapons; if we must have them, a few Trident submarines are plenty.
• Dismantling the U.S. Minuteman force. We’ll be safer without it.
• Promoting the UN treaty to prohibit of nuclear weapons.
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