Thursday, August 7, 2008

Be Careful What You Ask For

Today is the 63rd anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima, which resulted in the deaths of 200,000 people. Three days later a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki and killed another 70,000.

The bombings signify the first time one nation used an atom bomb against another. Apologists for “the Bomb” justify the action because the Japanese would have fought to the death—and brought along a lot of Americans with them.

Col. Paul Tibbits, pilot of the B-52 bomber Enola Gay that carried “Little Boy,” never expressed regret for the Hiroshima mission nor lost sleep over it. In 2002 the retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier General responded to Studs Terkel’s question about whether or not he had any second thoughts.

“Second thoughts? No. Studs, look. Number one, I got into the air corps to defend the United States to the best of my ability. That's what I believe in and that's what I work for.... So, no, I had no problem with it. I knew we did the right thing because when I knew we'd be doing that I thought, yes, we're going to kill a lot of people, but by God we're going to save a lot of lives. We won't have to invade (Japan).

Other people involved in the mission had different reactions, however.

On Tinian Island, Father George Zabelka, a Catholic chaplain with the U.S. Air Force, blessed the crews before their flight and even blessed “the Bomb!” For the next 47 years of his life, he not only had a change of heart about the bombing but about war in general.

In 1985 on the 40th anniversary of Hiroshima, Father Zabelka gave a speech about the bombings, war and the Church’s misguided stance on just war theory. He also talked about how he sought forgiveness from his God and from the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The “father of the atom bomb,” J. Robert Oppenheimer, regretted building his new invention. As he watched the first successful demonstration of “the Bomb,” he reported that a line from the Bhagavad Gita immediately came to mind: “I have become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

There is no argument that the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the war, however, we need to reflect on the effects “the Bomb” has had on the world and on what we have become.

First of all, we must recognize that an American president (Franklin D. Roosevelt) commissioned the Manhattan Project to build “the Bomb” and another one (Harry S. Truman) ordered it to be dropped. Although we tried to beat Hitler in developing “the Bomb,” we must also admit that winning this race allowed us to kill massive numbers of people in the process. Any dictionary would define such action as genocide.

Secondly, the military industrial complex (MIC) has created a culture of fear and a stranglehold on this nation. The military’s needs are pitted against citizens’ needs in a competition for resources and by dangling defense industry jobs in front of people’s votes. The MIC also threatens our democracy by influencing congressional district boundary lines, making deals with private contractors and skewing budgeting priorities in its favor.

Thirdly, after winning World War II the U.S. government decided to build bigger and more lethal bombs. This choice inadvertently unleashed an arms race where other nations followed our lead in playing the same deadly game of “protecting national security.”

The world has become increasingly unsafe with nuclear weapons proliferation. Worse yet, Mohammed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, estimates that another 20 to 30 countries are now capable—and interested—in building their own Bombs!

The following list the world’s nuclear weapons stockpiles, according to data compiled by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Nuclear Weapon Archive. It shows the number of warheads each country has as well as the year of their first successful weapons test:

United States – 9,962 with 5,736 active (1945)
Russia – 8,600 (1949)
United Kingdom - 200 (1952)
France - 350 (1960)
China - 400 (1964)
India - 60-90 (1974)
Pakistan – 24-48 (1998)

In 1974 India began developing “the Bomb” but it wasn’t until 1998 that it successfully tested one. Six months later its archrival, Pakistan, tested its own Bomb in order to counteract India’s.

In 2006, North Korea let the world know it, too, had “the Bomb,” although recent negotiations presumably convinced them to dismantle it.

Many people suspect that Israel has a stash of 75-200 warheads, however, leaders remain tight-lipped about reporting these weapons.

Although the members of the Nuclear Club have been dismantling many of their weapons, the world currently has about 31,000 nuclear warheads, according to Nuclear Files with 13,000 warheads active and about 4,600 on high alert.

The United States alone has a nuclear stockpile worth at least $5 trillion, according to Stephen I. Schwartz, editor of the 1998 book Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940.

Nevertheless, despite all its might, the U.S. military is still not satisfied. In 1997 it stepped up its strategic weapons capacity with Vision 2020. This plan aims to exploit and dominate outer space by linking all land, sea and air-based weapons systems. (It is important to note that Vision 2020 would violate the United Nations’ 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which banned the deployment of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in space.)

“The Clinton administration opened the door to developing space weapons but that administration never did anything about it. The Bush policy now goes further [with a weapon-in-space plan designed in 2004]” said Michael Krepon of the Stimson Center, a Washington-based international peace and security non-profit institution.

Last fall, concern about “the Bomb” was immediately stirred up when President Bush said that Iran’s desire to acquire nuclear power could lead to the development of nuclear weapons, which could lead to World War III. Even recent revelations that the Iranians ended their weapons program in 2003 didn’t quell the administration’s “fears” over Iran.

Fortunately, there is a growing worldwide movement to eliminate nuclear weapons arsenals because of the danger they pose to all life on earth, especially in the hands of would-be terrorists. However, most Americans are largely unaware of the vastness and lethality of U.S. nuclear weapons stockpiles, say Sisters Ardeth Platte, Carol Gilbert and Jackie Hudson. The three nuns did time in federal prison for breaking into a Colorado Minuteman III missile site in October 2002 as a protest to nuclear weapons. They also said that the end of the Cold War somehow gave people the impression that the weapons had disappeared.

On this anniversary of our country’s dropping of two atom bombs on civilians—especially as we continue to wage an unjustified war in Iraq where one million people have lost their lives—let us face the question of why we need to continue this insane preparation for nuclear holocaust.

Let us admit our faults, ask the world’s forgiveness and show authentic leadership by dismantling ALL our nuclear weapons as an example to all nations.

The U.S. government’s desire to save the world from communism, terrorism or any other abstract or imagined enemy is misguided, misspent and extremely dangerous. We should instead be focused on the REAL threats to our lives such as environmental degradation, climate change, resource depletion, overpopulation, world hunger and global capitalism.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

On your second point about the Military Industrial Complex. This is actually a repeat of history. Back in the 3rd Century, as the germanic tribes experienced a population increase and put pressure on the Roman Empire's borders, the legions became more demanding of funding to protect the borders. After the legion commander Diocletion stabilzed the border he over threw the emperor, increased military spending, and in order to pay for it increased the taxes on many professions. When people would no longer enter those professions, he made them hereditary and the only way you could get out was to bond yourself as a slave.