"If I had foreseen Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I would have torn up my formula in 1905." - Albert Einstein

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Nuclear War: No Cure - Only Prevention (A Call to Medical Professionals)

Editor's Note: This is an important perspective from physicians deeply invested in ridding the world of the scourge of nuclear weapons. They know quite well that for nuclear war, there is no cure - only prevention. Medical professionals have a particular responsibility to support the movement to abolish nuclear weapons, and this letter is a direct appeal. It was recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine


Docs and Nukes — Still a Live Issue
Ira Helfand, M.D., and Victor W. Sidel, M.D.
October 14, 2015 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1509202

Seventy years ago, the medical profession alerted the world to the devastating effects of nuclear weapons. Just weeks after the bombing of Hiroshima, Dr. Marcel Junod, a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Japan, visited the devastated city and sent back one of the first eyewitness reports to reach the outside world: “The center of the city was a sort of white patch, flattened and smooth like the palm of a hand. Nothing remained.”

Ever since that time, members of the medical profession have played a key role in warning governments and the public about the danger of nuclear war and the urgent need to abolish nuclear weapons. During the period of intense international tension that preceded the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Journal devoted the issue of May 31, 1962, to articles prepared by members of the newly formed Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), detailing the medical consequences of nuclear war.

During the period of increased Cold War tension in the early 1980s, the medical community mobilized again to educate the public about the enormous threat to public health posed by the arms race. Working with PSR, medical schools throughout the country organized public symposia to explain what would actually happen if nuclear weapons were used. A newly formed global federation called the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), of which PSR became the U.S. affiliate, carried out similar educational work around the world. Doctors met with Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev to urge them to end the arms race that had brought the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation.

These efforts had a profound impact. In his memoirs, Gorbachev described the effect his meetings with physicians had on his thinking about nuclear weapons when he was launching the series of initiatives, ultimately embraced by the United States, that led to the end of the arms race. For this work, and in recognition of the special role and responsibility that physicians have had in preventing nuclear war, the IPPNW was awarded the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize.

In the years since the end of the Cold War, the medical community has paid far less attention to this issue. We, like most of the world, have acted as though the danger of nuclear war were a thing of the past. To the extent that we have considered the matter, we have focused on the possibility that terrorists or “rogue states” such as North Korea and Iran will acquire nuclear weapons. Although these are important threats, it is critical that we understand that the greatest danger is posed by the arsenals of the countries that already have nuclear weapons. There remain in the world today more than 15,000 nuclear warheads, 95% of which are in the arsenals of the United States and Russia.(1) Of these warheads, some 2000 are on hair-trigger alert. They can be fired in less than 15 minutes and can destroy their targets across the globe 30 minutes later.

These weapons pose an existential threat to humanity. A 2002 study showed that if just 300 Russian warheads got through to targets in the United States, 75 million to 100 million people would die from the blast and heat effects in the first half hour.(2) In addition, the entire economic infrastructure on which we depend would be destroyed. The public health system, the communications network, the electric grid, the banking system, the food distribution system — all would be gone. In the months after such an attack, the vast majority of Americans not killed in the initial attack would die from starvation, radiation sickness, epidemic disease, or exposure to the elements. A corresponding U.S. attack would create the same devastation in Russia, and if NATO were drawn into the war, much of Europe would suffer the same fate.

As incomprehensible as these direct effects are, they are only a part of the picture. The fires created by the use of nuclear weapons over urban targets would loft enormous quantities of black soot into the atmosphere, disrupting climate worldwide. A war involving the strategic weapons deployed today by the United States and Russia would generate some 150 million tons of soot, enough to reduce temperatures around the world by an average of 8°C. In the interior regions of North America and Eurasia, temperatures would drop by as much as 30°C, to levels not seen in 18,000 years, since the coldest point of the last ice age.(3) Food production would collapse, the vast majority of the human race would starve, and it's possible that our species would become extinct.

For 25 years, since the end of the Cold War, we have been told that we did not need to worry about war between the United States and Russia. The deepening crisis in Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin's repeated nuclear threats give the lie to these assurances: armed conflict between the nuclear superpowers remains a real possibility. Even if neither side ever uses its nuclear weapons deliberately, there remains the very real danger of accidental nuclear war. We know of at least five times since 1979 when either Moscow or Washington prepared to launch nuclear weapons in the mistaken belief that it was already under attack by the other side. U.S. military leaders now warn that cyberterrorists might be able to launch a U.S. or Russian nuclear missile.

Even a much more limited, regional nuclear war, as might take place between India and Pakistan, would have catastrophic consequences worldwide. Studies have shown that a war involving only 100 Hiroshima-sized weapons, less than 0.3% of the world's nuclear arsenals, would cause temperatures to fall an average of 1.25°C around the world.(4) Climate disruption of this magnitude would cause major declines in world agricultural output. At this time, there are some 800 million people who are malnourished and 300 million who get adequate nutrition but live in countries that depend on food imports that would not be available in the event of such a war. There are also about 1 billion people in China, which would see particularly severe effects on food production, who have not shared in China's recent economic growth. All these people, some 2 billion, would be at risk in the “nuclear famine” that would follow even a limited nuclear war.(5)

In recognition of this grave threat to human survival, governments around the world have come together over the past 3 years in a series of extraordinary conferences to discuss the medical consequences, what they have called the humanitarian impact, of nuclear war. A total of 116 countries have signed the Humanitarian Pledge to seek a new treaty to fill a key gap in international law, which does not yet prohibit the possession of these weapons, and to push for their abolition.

We believe the medical community has a responsibility to support this movement. The American Medical Association recently passed a resolution calling on all nations to “ban and eliminate nuclear weapons,” and the World Medical Association is considering a similar resolution at its Moscow meeting in October. Physicians need to act on these resolutions, sounding the alarm for a world that has grown dangerously complacent about the nuclear peril as we drift closer to an unimaginable catastrophe. We need to again educate our patients, the general public, and our political leaders about the medical consequences of nuclear war and the urgent need to abolish these weapons before they are used.

Disclosure forms provided by the authors are available with the full text of this article at NEJM.org.

This article was published on October 14, 2015, at NEJM.org. Source URL: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1509202#t=article

From Physicians for Social Responsibility, Washington, DC (I.H., V.W.S.); the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Somerville (I.H., V.W.S.), Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Leeds (I.H., V.W.S.), and the Family Care Medical Center, Springfield (I.H.) — all in Massachusetts; and the Department of Social Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center, New York (V.W.S.).


1) Federation of American Scientists. Status of world nuclear forces (http://fas.org/issues/nuclear-weapons/status-world-nuclear-forces/).

2) Helfand I, Forrow L, McCally M, Musil R. Projected US casualties and destruction of US medical services from attack by Russian nuclear forces. Med Glob Surviv 2002;7:68-76

3) Robock A, Oman L, Stenchikov GL. Nuclear winter revisited with a modern climate model and current nuclear arsenals: still catastrophic consequences. J Geophys Res 2007;112:xD13107-xD13107 (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/wol1/doi/10.1029/2006JD008235/full).

4) Robock A, Oman L, Stenchikov GL, Toon OB, Bardeen C, Turco RP. Climatic consequences of regional nuclear conflicts. Atmos Chem Phys 2007;7:2003-2012
CrossRef | Web of Science

5) Helfand I. Nuclear famine: two billion people at risk? International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (http://www.ippnw.org/nuclear-famine.html).

Friday, August 14, 2015

Remembering the bomb that changed the world

The use of nuclear bombs on Japan should be a time of national reflection.

By David P. Barash & Judith Eve Lipton

Special to the [Seattle] Times, Originally published August 5, 2015

WE Americans like celebrations. We prefer happy holidays, not downers. Even Veterans Day and Memorial Day are opportunities for patriotic reflection and gratitude, not regrets or remorse.

Since many Americans consider the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to have been legitimate, it isn’t surprising that Hiroshima Day (Aug. 6) and Nagasaki Day (Aug. 9) haven’t made it onto the national calendar. But they should. We propose Aug. 6 and Aug. 9 should be “Nuclear Awareness Days.”

There is much to be said for reflecting on these events, and not simply for their historical significance. Aug. 6, 1945, was the first time a nuclear weapon was used to kill people deliberately, and Aug. 9, 1945, was the last — so far. On this, everyone agrees. In addition, use of nuclear weapons would constitute a tragedy of immense proportions. Nearly everyone agrees with this, too.

An Allied correspondent stands in front of the shell of a building that once
was a movie theater in Hiroshima, Japan, a month after an atomic bomb
was dropped by the United States. (Stanley Troutman/The Associated Press)
Although there is debate about whether nuclear weapons “keep the peace” via their avowed role as deterrents, informed opinion — including increasing numbers of military and strategic authorities — has been moving toward the position that these weapons are a liability (to everyone, including their possessors) rather than an asset.

Seventy years after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world is still not a peaceful place. There is no evidence that possessing more than 16,000 bombs and warheads have made the nuclear states any more secure than their non-nuclear counterparts.

Nuclear arsenals have not provided any discernible leverage. Imagine a policeman armed with a backpack nuclear weapon, confronting a bank robber. His “deterrent” would simply be too blunt, destructive and lacking in credibility to provide any benefit. Thus, nuclear weapons have not helped Russia in Ukraine, the United States in Iraq or Afghanistan, the United Kingdom in the Falkland Islands, France in Algeria, nor China in Tibet or Taiwan.

Nuclear North Korea is a nightmare, but what good has armament done? India and Pakistan are less safe in their struggles over Kashmir, with nuclear weapons aimed at each other. Israel has a nuclear monopoly in the Middle East, but this hasn’t prevented decades of war — and when other states or terrorists get the bomb, only one or two warheads could effectively destroy Israel. Only nuclear abolition and careful verification could ultimately protect anyone.

A massive column of billowing smoke
mushrooms over Nagasaki, Japan,
after the United States dropped
an atomic bomb on Aug. 9, 1945. (AP)
Taking the events at Hiroshima and Nagasaki seriously by establishing Nuclear Awareness Days would give us an opportunity to meditate on the terrible reality of what transpired in 1945 and condemn the world’s worst weapons before they are used again. Chemical and biological weapons, land mines and cluster munitions are illegal, so why aren’t nuclear weapons? Some 112 countries have signed a petition calling for nuclear weapons to be banned.

The U.S. nuclear arsenal is especially relevant to Puget Sound — Trident submarines are based at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor. A single vessel can carry 24 nuclear missiles (restricted to 20 by treaty), each capable of delivering eight to 12 independently targetable warheads, each roughly 40 times the size of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. To repeat: This is the potential output of just one Trident submarine — eight are currently deployed west of Seattle, and an additional five at Kings Bay, Ga., and one in Portsmouth, Va.

Even if the theory of deterrence has any validity at all, how much extinction is enough? Bangor and other sites in Washington that house nuclear weapons are not just sources of planetary destruction, but also targets.

Maybe the United States will eventually wake up, abandon nuclear arms and embrace fundamental decency and basic planetary hygiene. Toward that end, we fervently recommend Nuclear Awareness Days as an opportunity to reflect not only on what has happened but also what might yet be achieved — and preserved.

Original Source URL: http://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/remembering-the-bomb-that-changed-the-world/

David P. Barash, professor of psychology at University of Washington, is the author of “Buddhist Biology: Ancient Eastern Wisdom Meets Modern Western Science.” Judith Eve Lipton, a retired psychiatrist, is the founder of the Washington state chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Keeping Alive the Voices of the Hibakusha

Dear Friends,

In just a few days people around the world will commemorate the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The historical importance of these anniversaries is of special significance because we must maintain the collective consciousness of the bombings or humankind is certainly doomed to the consequences of continuing as slaves to the myth of the necessity of nuclear weapons for our protection.

Of special standing in the telling of this history are the Hibakusha, the survivors of the atomic bombings. Some have told their stories to be recorded to share with future generations, while some have yet to do so. As the Hibakusha reach the end of their lives, it becomes imperative that we record the stories of those who are still willing to tell them.

In 2010 I hosted a large delegation representing the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuikyo) on their way home after the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)Review Conference in New York. The delegation consisted of Japanese citizens from many cities, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The most venerable member of the delegation, Tokie MIZUNO, is a Hibakusha of Hiroshima.

Ms. MIZUNO was 5 years old when the bomb exploded over her city, and she has never forgotten that day. She still bears the scars both visible and invisible that have affected her life and health. I could tell you more, but the story should be told by Ms. MIZUNO (in her own words). This is her story, and she wrote it down and then stood before people in Seattle, and then in Tacoma, and with great conviction told her story, gave her testimony, and called on everyone to work together for a nuclear weapon-free world.

Ms. MIZUNO honored us with her testimony, and as witness to that testimony I feel a responsibility to pass on her words exactly as she spoke them on both occasions. You may read them here, and I hope that you will be touched by her words and pass them on to others, especially those who are still unaware that the nuclear-armed nations still brandish thousands of nuclear weapons, and are prepared to use them; the results of such action would be horrific.

This year, which is the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings, I was in New York for many activities surrounding the NPT Review Conference. Once again I met with many representatives of the Gensuikyo, including a number of Hibakusha. Each of their stories is compelling, and it gave me a renewed sense of the importance of our responsibility to honor them.

The voices of the Hibakusha help keep the memory of those terrible events in 1945 alive so that we may choose (if we find our own conviction) to not allow such things to ever happen again. For if we do not remember history, we are doomed to repeat it; this terrible history must never be repeated. Let us hear the voices of the Hibakusha with our hearts and minds so that we may carry their message with us wherever we go...

No more Hiroshimas! No more Nagasakis!

Heiwa (Peace),


Toki Mizuno with offering at Seattle's Sadako Statue, May 2010

This is the testimony of Tokie MIZUNO as it was written by Ms. MIZUNO in April 2010, and translated by Nobue KUGIMIYA; and presented by Ms. MIZUNO at First United Methodist Church of Seattle, Washington on May 5, 2010 and at the University of Washington Tacoma on May 6, 2010. The two black and white photos were also included with her testimony.

My name is Tokie MIZUNO and I am a survivor of Hiroshima. 65 years ago, when I was 5 years old, the atomic bomb was dropped on my city, Hiroshima. I was near my grandmother’s house, 1.2 kilo-meters from ground zero.

The City of Hiroshima was completely destroyed and was turned into rubble by the enormous destructive power of the atomic bomb. As other survivors, I was barely alive and the damage on my body and mind was unbearable.

I might have been lucky to survive but life hasn’t been easy on me financially, physically and mentally. This agony should not be repeated on anybody else on earth. That’s why I have become involved in anti-nuclear actions with other Hibakusha as well as many other Japanese people.

We have been collecting signatures for a nuclear-weapon-free world, and engaging in activities to defend the Japanese Constitution, especially the Preamble and Article 9, which pledges never to wage war again.

Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution clearly states “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat of use of force as means of settling international disputes.”

And it adds “In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.” Article 9 is our treasure.

This treasure for Japan was achieved with the sacrifice of precious lives of 20 to 30 million people in Asia and Pacific. This is one of the greatest achievements for the world, too, and we will hold on to it forever.

Let me talk about that day.......

On the morning of August 6th, 1945, just before Hiroshima was hit by the atomic bombing, one of the women in my neighbourhood came to my house and said “We have some sweets. Why don’t you come and have some?”

So my little 3-year-old brother and I happily followed her. In those days it was very difficult to have sweets. My neighbour’s son, a soldier, was back from the battlefront to treat his wounds. He brought some sweets with him for his family and the neighbour invited us in.

We were about to eat our sweets when the bomb exploded.

With a blinding flash, the whole house was flattened.

I found myself trapped under the rubble. I tried to look out from my little prison and saw my younger brother, rescued by a soldier, standing there with blood on his face and head.

I myself was pulled out of the rubble. My right arm was heavily injured and I had several cuts on my face. My neighbour tore her underwear into pieces and covered my arm to stop it bleeding. Later I was told that it was her treatment that saved my right arm.

I don’t remember how many hours had passed, but I saw my mother crawling to me over piles of rubble. She was desperately looking for me and my younger brother. She looked awful with only tattered patches of her clothing on her body and her hair standing on end.
My 12-month-old baby brother was still buried under the rubble. My mother and grandmother were desperate and were removing the debris saying they should get him back home, even if he was dead.

They also called out for help to people walking by but nobody stopped. They went on their way absentmindedly - they were like ghosts.

We saw flames in the distance coming towards us. Terrified, my younger brother and I were both crying. I don’t remember the pain of my injury, but many collapsed houses around us horrified me, although my father thought I was just stunned.

Fortunately, my baby brother was alive, and we managed to escape to a raft on the river. There were countless dead bodies floating and fire balls were falling all around. Red-hot galvanized plates darted towards us and made a huge noise when they dropped into the river. It was not a safe place to be.

At that time I was so young that I don’t remember exactly what happened. But my deceased parents and grandmother told me a lot about that day.

There was a woman on the raft who gave us food and water. She also gave my mother part of a Kimono to use as bandages and as a strap to carry me on her back.

In the evening, cooling our bodies with river water, we finally found a place to evacuate to. It was a shrine near a railway station called Koi.

Because my grandmother and I were seriously injured, we two were left at the shrine while my mother and brothers escaped to my aunt’s house in Itsukaichi City. My uncle who rushed to Hiroshima to search for us carried them on his handcart.Grandmother thought we could have some treatment at the shrine but nothing was available. We were given only one rotten rice ball. We finally evacuated to my aunt’s house.

They were farmers and gave us good food. I had tomatoes, cucumbers, pickled shallots etc. to my heart’s content. It may be this diet that has kept me healthy.

My father had to spend several nights at shelters in Hiroshima. He died abruptly from TB in August 1956, which we believe was due to residual radiation. Later when I was working to collect survivors’ stories, I learned that there were many Hibakusha who suffered from TB during those difficult times.

My mother died in Oct. 1967. I believe that both of my parents were killed by the atomic bomb. At that time I thought that it was our fate and that because Japan was at war we couldn't complain about it.

I also thought we were just unfortunate because we were in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped. Later I learned history, which completely changed my mind. I knew why the US had done it.

The US government has kept saying that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the war and saved millions of people’s lives. That’s what they teach at schools.

However, in 1944 there was scarcely any food left for Japanese people. People were dying from hunger. Japan’s ground and air forces and navy were almost completely destroyed. It was obvious that Japan was finished.

Nonetheless, 210,000 people were killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Why?

In 1945 the war ended, but another war, the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union had already started. The US wanted to have an advantage over the Soviet Union militarily and politically by showing the power of nuclear weapons. They also wanted to test their newly developed technology, atomic bombs.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were chosen as testing grounds with real live people.

Let me share with you what the atomic bombing had done to us. The atomic bomb caused massive destruction and killed tens of thousands instantly and indiscriminately. It also emitted massive amounts of radiation which has afflicted us for decades.

Hibakusha describe the moment of the bombing as “The Sun dropped on us and burnt us”. When Bomb exploded, a huge fireball, 280 meters in diameter, was generated in the air.

Heat rays emitted from it raised the ground temperature, from 3000 to 4000 degrees Celsius (5500 to 7300 degrees Fahrenheit) near the hypocenter.

This was a boy, the charred remains. 700 meters from the hypocenter (Aug. 10. Nagasaki).

This is the shadow of a man (Shadow burnt into the granite steps).

Within 1.2 kilo-meters of ground zero, those who were directly affected by the heat rays suffered terrible burns and their internal tissues and organs severely damaged. Most of them died instantly or within a few days.

The explosion also created a powerful blast and destroyed most of the wooden houses in 2-kilometer radius of ground zero. People were blown through the air and many crushed to death under collapsed buildings.

Radiation left the human body with serious damage. It penetrated deeply into our bodies, damaged cells and diminished the blood generation function of bone marrow.

It also damaged inner organs. Even those who looked uninjured later became ill and died.

Residual radiation left on the ground affected many long after the explosion. Those who entered the city to search for their families/friends or for relief operations eventually developed similar symptoms and died.

Nuclear weapons are unspeakable weapons. They don’t allow us to live nor die as humans. They are weapons of absolute evil which can never co-exist with human beings.

3.2 million Japanese people lost their lives in the Asia-Pacific War. 20 to 30 million people were victimized by the Japanese military in Asia.

Learning from it, we have acquired the war-renouncing Japanese Constitution. However, military spending in the world is growing. Trillions of dollars are being spent for military purposes. If used for peaceful purposes, this money could solve many problems for human-kind.

20th century war is gone. Our responsibility is to hand over a peaceful and cultivated 21st century to the next generation. I strongly believe that we can hand over a nuclear-weapon-free world to future generations if we work together in solidarity with the people of the U.S. and with the people of the world.

Thank you.

Click here to download the original program for Ms. Mizuno's presentation with the complete translation.

Click here to learn more about the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuikyo).

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Why Americans Believe that Bombing Hiroshima was Necessary

Editor's Note: This is a guest column by Gary Kohls, MD. Gary G Kohls. Kohls is a retired physician who practiced holistic mental health care, dealing extensively with the totally preventable and difficult to treat reality known as posttraumatic stress disorder, which is always a consequence of violence. He is a member of the Community of the Third Way (a local Every Church A Peace Church affiliate) and the Just Peace Committee of Peace Church UCC in Duluth, Minnesota.

August 6, 2015, is the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, a civilian city that had minimal military value, despite the claims of President Truman when he announced the event to the American people.

The whole truth of what the Nuremburg tribunal would later help define as an international war crime and a crime against humanity has been heavily censored and mythologized ever since war-weary Americans in 1945 accepted the propaganda that the bombings were necessary to shorten the war and prevent the loss of a million US soldiers during the allegedly planned November 1945 invasion.

Of course, the reason that the United States wasn’t sanctioned like Germany was for the Jewish holocaust was that America was the victor and the occupier and thus it was in charge of making and enforcing the rules in the New World Order.

The United States military ambushed the equally defenseless Nagasaki City three days later with the second atomic bomb to ever be used against a civilian population (that no longer had any military value to Japan). “Fat Man”, the plutonium bomb named after Winston Churchill, was detonated before the Japanese leadership fully understood what had happened at Hiroshima.

My high school history teachers all seemed to be ex-jocks who weren’t athletically talented enough to make it to the majors. The main chance for them to continue playing games for pay was to join the teaching profession and coach high school athletics. American history was of secondary importance in many small town high schools but it hardly made the list of interests for coaches, who reluctantly accepted the job; and so my classmates and I “learned” our lessons from some very uninspired, very bored and/or very uninformed teachers who would rather have been on the playing field.

In my coach’s defense, the history books that they had to teach from had been highly censored in order to promote patriotism; and so we “learned” that most everything that the “noble” British colonizers and “honorable” US empire builders ever did in the history of warfare was self-sacrificing, democracy-promoting and Christianizing - and that everything their freedom-seeking, revolutionary colonial victims did was barbaric, atheistic and evil. Anybody who resisted colonial oppressors was treated as a terrorist.

It was from these history books that we learned about the “glorious” end of the war against Japan via nuclear incineration. Everybody in my high school, including myself, swallowed the post-war propaganda hook, line and sinker.

Of course, I now realize that my classmates and I, just like most other Americans (including the volunteer or conscripted members of the military), have been na├»ve victims of “lies our history teachers taught us”. In their defense, those teachers had been misled in their own schooling by equally mis-informed teachers who got their information from a variety of dis-informers who wrote the books: and those authors were the war- and empire-justifying militarists and assorted uber-patriotic pseudo-historians who had been duped into believing the myth of American exceptionalism.

Not included in that group of true believers were the 50,000 WWII American soldier-members of the “Greatest Generation” who, in many cases, logically and understandably deserted or went AWOL during their war service, a reality that has been conveniently censored out of our consciousness.

One of General Douglas MacArthur’s first acts after taking over as Viceroy of Japan was to confiscate or otherwise destroy all the photographic evidence documenting the horrors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He imposed total censorship over journalists who wanted to report to the world about what had really happened at Ground Zero, again proving the old adage that “the first casualty of war is truth”. Embedding journalists in the US military so that only America-friendly reportage happened wasn’t the original idea of General Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf in Gulf War I.

Back in 1995, the Smithsonian Institution was preparing to correct some of the 50-year-old pseudo-patriotic myths about the Pacific War by staging an honest, historically-accurate display dealing with the atomic bombings from the Japanese civilian perspective.

Swift, vehement and well-orchestrated condemnations directed at the Smithsonian historian’s plans to tell unwelcome truths about war came from right-wing pro-war veterans organizations, the GOP-dominated Congress at the time, and other militarist groups (such as Newt Gingrich’s paymaster Lockheed Martin, one of many war-profiteering merchants-of-death multinationals whose profits and products depend on Congressional and Pentagon largesse). Gingrich actually threatened to stop federal funding of the Smithsonian, thus forcing it to censor-out all of the contextually important parts of the real story. And so the pseudo-patriotic myths about Hiroshima and Nagasaki continue to be preserved to this very day.

We historically-illiterate Americans are blocked, again and again, from learning historical truths about the American Empire - and the control that the military and multinational corporations have over it. Anything that might shake voter confidence in – or incite grassroots revolution against - the unelected ruling elites, the Pentagon or the conscienceless transnational corporations (that control our two major party politicians, the mainstream media and the “invisible hand of the market”) is verboten.

The Smithsonian historians did have a gun to their heads, of course, but in the melee, we voters failed to learn an important historical point, and that is this: the war in the Pacific could have ended in the spring of 1945 without the need for the August atomic bombings, and therefore there might have been no Okinawa bloodbath that senselessly doomed thousands of American Marines.

And there would have been no need for an American land invasion of Japan in November. Indeed, in the 1980s, released top secret records revealed that the contingency plans for a large-scale US invasion (planned for no sooner than November 1, 1945) would have been unnecessary.

To the victors go the spoils, and the American victors were the ones running the war crimes tribunals and thus also determined the content of my history text books.

American intelligence agencies, with the full knowledge of President Roosevelt’s and President Truman’s administrations, were fully aware of Japan's search for ways to honorably surrender months before Truman gave the fateful order to incinerate Hiroshima.

Japan was working on peace negotiations through its ambassador in Moscow as early as April of 1945, with surrender feelers from Japan occurring as far back as 1944. Truman knew of these developments because the US had broken the Japanese code even before Pearl Harbor, and all of Japan's military and diplomatic messages were being intercepted. On July 13, 1945, Foreign Minister Togo wrote: "Unconditional surrender (giving up all sovereignty, including the deposing of Emperor Hirohito) is the only obstacle to peace."

Truman’s advisors knew about these efforts, and the war could have ended through diplomacy by simply conceding a post-war figurehead position for the emperor (who was regarded as a deity in Japan). That reasonable concession was - seemingly illogically - refused by the US in their demands for unconditional surrender, which was first demanded at the 1943 Casablanca Conference between Roosevelt and Churchill and then reiterated at the Potsdam Conference between Truman, Churchill and Stalin. Still, the Japanese continued searching for an honorable peace through negotiations.

Even Secretary of War Henry Stimson said: “the true question was not whether surrender could have been achieved without the use of the bomb but whether a different diplomatic and military course would have led to an earlier surrender. A large segment of the Japanese cabinet was ready in the spring of 1945 to accept substantially the same terms as those finally agreed on.” In other words, Stimson knew that the US could have ended the war before Hiroshima.

After Japan officially surrendered on August 15, 1945, MacArthur allowed the emperor to remain in place as spiritual head of Japan, the very condition that forced the Japanese leadership to refuse to accept the earlier, humiliating, “unconditional surrender” terms.

So the two essential questions that need answering in order to comprehend what was going on behind the scenes are these: 1) Why did the US refuse to accept Japan's only demand concerning its surrender (the retention of the emperor) and 2) why were the atomic bombs used when victory in the Pacific was assured?

There are a number of factors that contributed to the Truman administration’s fateful decision to use the atomic bombs.

1) Investment. The US had made a huge investment in time, mind and money (a massive 2 billion in 1940 dollars) to produce three bombs, and there was no inclination - and no guts - to stop the momentum.

2) Revenge. The US military and political leadership – as did many ordinary Americans - had a tremendous appetite for revenge because of the Pearl Harbor “surprise” attack. Mercy wasn't in the mindset of the US military, the war-weary populace or even of average American Christians and their churches. The missions against Hiroshima and Nagasaki were accepted as necessary, with no questions asked, by most of those folks who only knew the sanitized, national security state version of events. Most Americans wanted to believe the cunningly-orchestrated propaganda.

3) A “use it or lose it” mentality and scientific curiosity. The fissionable material in Hiroshima's bomb was uranium. The Trinity test bomb (exploded on July 16, 1945) and the Nagasaki bomb were plutonium bombs. Scientific curiosity was a significant factor that pushed the project to its deadly completion. The Manhattan Project leaders were curious. “What would happen if a city was leveled by a single uranium bomb?” “What would happen if plutonium was used?” Now that the war against Nazi Germany (the original intended target) was over, the most conscientious scientists felt that the bombs should not be used against civilian targets.

4) “Orders are orders”. Actually, the military decision to drop both bombs had been made well in advance of August 1945. Accepting the surrender of Japan prior to their use was not an option if the experiment was to go ahead. It should be obvious to anybody that the three-day interval between the two bombs was unconscionably short if the purpose of the first bomb was to force immediate surrender. Japan’s communications and transportation capabilities were in shambles, and no one, neither the US military nor the Japanese high command, fully understood what had happened at Hiroshima. (It is a fascinating fact that the Manhattan Project had been so top secret that even MacArthur, commanding general of the entire Pacific theatre, had been kept out of the loop - until July 1)

5) The Russians. Stalin had proclaimed his intent to enter the war with Japan 90 days after V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day, May 8, 1945), which would have been two days after Hiroshima was bombed. Indeed, Russia did declare war on Japan on August 8 and was advancing eastward across Manchuria when Nagasaki City, the center of Japanese Christianity, was incinerated.

Certainly Russia was still feeling the sting of humiliating defeat and the loss of territory from the disastrous Russo-Japanese War of 1905 when they were beaten by upstart Japan. Elephants and ego-bloated nation-states have long memories, especially when they lose an argument, lose a fight or are embarrassed in public. Witness the 150 year old enduring promise from segregationist devotees of the Confederate flag like Dylan Roof, the KKK, and the White Citizen’s Councils that “The South Will Rise Again”; or consider the rabid right-wing, sociopathic NeoNazis all around the world in their devotion to Adolf Hitler and their symbol of fascism, the Swastika.

The US didn't want Japan surrendering to Russia and thus sharing the spoils of war. Russia was soon to be one of only two world superpowers - and therefore a future enemy of the United States. So the first "messages" of the Cold War were sent by the US to the USSR on August 6 and 9, 1945: “Stalin, stay away from Japan’s carcass. We own it. And besides, we have the bomb.”

Russia didn’t receive the spoils of the Pacific War that they had anticipated, and the two superpowers were instantly mired in the multi-trillion dollar stalemated nuclear arms race and the multitude of proxy wars that regularly risked the total extinction of humanity. What also happened along the way was the moral bankruptcy of both of the paranoid super-power nations that insisted on fighting the stupid cold war, a war that was fueled by war-profiteering corporations and borrow and spend economics.

An estimated 80,000 innocent civilians, plus 20,000 weaponless young Japanese conscripts died instantly in the Hiroshima bombing raid. Hundreds of thousands more suffered slow deaths and disabilities from agonizing burns, radiation sickness, leukemia, anemia, thrombocytopenia and untreatable infections. The Japanese survivors and their progeny suffered a fate similar to the survivors and progeny of America’s “Atomic Soldiers”. (Atomic Soldiers were those soldiers who were exposed, in the line of duty, to the hundreds of nuclear tests in the 50s and 60s or to the depleted uranium that the US military used in the two Gulf Wars.) Each of those groups were afflicted with horrible radiation-induced illnesses, congenital anomalies, genetic mutations, immune deficiencies, cancers and premature deaths, still going on to this very minute.

(Another shameful reality that has been covered up is the fact that 12 American Navy pilots, their existence well known to the US command prior to the bombing, were instantly incinerated in the Hiroshima jail on that fateful day.)

So the official War Department-approved, highly censored version of the end of the war in the Pacific was added to an ever-lengthening list of myths that we Americans have been continuously fed by our corporate-controlled military, political and media opinion leaders. In the process, the gruesomeness and cruelty of war has been cunningly propagandized so that we consumers of information see only the glorification of American militarism.

Among the other censored out realities include what really happened in the US military’s participation in the destabilize-and-conquer campaigns and coups d’etat in Ukraine, Honduras, Venezuela, Libya, and bloody invasions and/or occupations of Korea, Iran, Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia, Lebanon, Granada, Panama, the Philippines, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Haiti, Colombia, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc, etc. This list doesn’t necessarily cover the uncountable secret Pentagon/CIA covert operations and assassination plots in the rest of the world, where some 150 “sovereign” nations have been coerced into allowing the building of American military bases (permission lavishly paid for by bribes or threats of economic or military sanctions).

But somehow most of us still hang on to our shaky "my country right or wrong" patriotism, desperately wanting to believe the cunningly-orchestrated myths that say that the war-profiteering corporate elite (and the politicians, military leaders and media talking heads who are in their employ) only work for peace, justice, equality, liberty and “making the world safe”, not for democracy, but for predatory capitalism.

While it is true that the US military has faced down the occasional despot, with necessary sacrifice from dead and incurably-wounded (in body, mind and spirit) American soldiers and veterans, more often than not the rationalizations for going to war are the same as those of the "godless communists", the anti-American “insurgents” and “freedom fighters” who just want us Yankees to go home where we belong.

August 6 and 9, 1945 are just two more examples of the brain-washing that goes on in all "total war” political agendas, which are consistently accompanied by the inevitable human death and destruction that is euphemistically labeled “splendid slaughter”, "collateral damage" or "friendly fire".

It might already be too late to rescue and resuscitate the (mythical?) moribund humanitarian, peacemaking America that we used to know and love. It might be too late to effectively confront the corporate hijacking of liberal democracy in America. It might be too late to successfully bring down the arrogant and greedy ruling elites who are selfishly dragging our planet down the road to destruction. The rolling coups d’etat orchestrated by the profiteers of what I call Friendly American Fascism may have already accomplished its goal.

But I suppose there is always hope. Rather than being silent about the destabilizing conflicts that the war-mongers are provoking all over the planet (with the very willing assistance of Wall Street, the Pentagon, the weapons industries and their lapdogs in Congress), people of conscience need to start learning the whole truth of history, despite the psychological discomfort that they may feel (cognitive dissonance) when the lies that they had been led to believe can’t be believed any more. We need to start owning up to America’s uncountable war crimes that have been orchestrated in our names.

And so the whistle-blowers among us need to rise up in dissent, go to the streets in protest and courageously refuse to cooperate with those sociopathic personalities that have gradually transformed America into a criminal rogue state. Like Nazi Germany or Fascist Japan, rogue nations throughout history have been eventually targeted for downfall by its billions of angry, fed-up, suffering victims who live both inside and outside its borders. That fate awaits America unless its leaders confesses their sins, honestly ask for forgiveness and truly promise to join the peace-loving human race.

Doing what is right for the whole of humanity for a change, rather than just doing what is profitable or advantageous for our over-privileged, over-consumptive, toxic and unsustainable American way of life, would be real honor, real patriotism and an essential start toward real peace.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Nuclear Age at 70; Time for Mandatory Retirement!

Yesterday marked the anniversary of the day in which the world entered the atomic age. On July 16, 1945, at 5:29:45 AM at the Alamogordo Test Range, on the Jornada del Muerto (Journey of Death) desert, in the test named Trinity, the experimental device known as the "Gadget" was detonated, creating a light "brighter than a thousand suns." A mere 6 kilogram (13.2 pound) sphere of plutonium, compressed to supercriticality by the surrounding high explosives, created an explosion equivalent to 20,000 tons of TNT (20 Kilotons). It was a stunning sight.

No one who saw it could forget it, a foul and awesome display.
- Kenneth Bainbridge, physicist
Was this, as thought nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer, the beginning of the end? These scientists had "become death", and they had created what could become (quite literally) "the destroyer of worlds"(Oppenheimer quoted a verse from the Bhagavad Gita which read, "I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.")

Less than a month after the Trinity test, the United States dropped two atomic bombs - on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - that killed over 100,000 people in less time than it took me to type a few of these words. As many as 220,000 were dead from the effects of radiation by the end of 1945. Even today, 70 years later, survivors (the Hibakusha) and subsequent generations suffer the effects of radiation.

From its horrific beginnings the nuclear arms race has led humanity down a perilous road of preparation for its own destruction. Scientists have continued to seek the power of gods, creating ever more destructive nuclear devices over the years, and military planners continued asking for more of these awful weapons in every shape and form (and method of delivery).

The fall of the Berlin Wall provided an extraordinary opportunity for the U.S. to reach out to Russia to begin the process of bilateral disarmament that would have sent a clear signal to other nuclear armed nations, as well as the non-nuclear nations, that it was time to rid the world of the weapons of humanity's demise.

So why didn't this happen? The U.S. was so set on taking hold of the former Soviet republics, controlling resources in the region, and weakening the new Russian state that it barely throttled back on its nuclear weapons program. Oh yes, we cut back on the overall numbers of nuclear warheads and some delivery vehicles, Yet, the ICBM forces stayed (for the most part) on alert, and ballistic missile submarine (Trident) patrols have remained at near-Cold War levels to this day.

The nuclear weapons infrastructure has been in the process of rebuilding in recent years, a new generation of ballistic missile submarines is in the works, and other delivery systems are on the drawing boards. Is it any wonder then that other nations, including Russia, are building up their nuclear forces?

Of course, for the U.S., all this nuclear weapons modernization is about projecting force in our insane colonial quest to control resources around the world. The irony is that nuclear weapons do not provide any real security at all; they are only a liability, and their eventual use will mean the end of life on Earth as we know it. Don't future generations deserve better?

With the very real threats posed by Global Warming and its associated Climate Change, shouldn't we be spending our precious human and financial capital on works that will help humanity adapt and find sustainability in what will be a difficult enough future?

A new Cold War is brewing as the bomb approaches its 70th birthday. Is it not time to send this demonic creature into forced retirement and to transition the entire nuclear weapons infrastructure to sustainable industries and jobs to build a positive future for humankind?

Here in Washington State we have Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor and the Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific. Bangor is home port to 8 of the nation's 14 ballistic missile (Trident) submarines, and the two facilities together represent the largest operational concentration of nuclear weapons in the U.S., and possibly anywhere in the world.

Trident is a first-strike weapon system designed during the height of the earlier Cold War in the bad old days of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Those days are long gone, and with them any possible argument for the concept of Strategic Deterrence that continues to justify our nation's continued nuclear weapons modernization.

The Navy's plans for a successor to Trident, known as the OHIO Class Replacement, SSBN(X) or as I call it, "New Trident," are moving full speed ahead. Of course, the Russians are responding and building their submarine fleet (and the associated missiles) back up.

This madness must stop, or we will be assuring the eventual destruction of everything we hold dear. Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action has, for nearly four decades, resisted the Trident nuclear weapons system and worked for the abolition of all nuclear weapons, while grounding its work in the study and practice of nonviolence.

This August we will remember the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on this 70th anniversary and continue to work to retire Trident and all nuclear weapons. 70 years is long enough (or perhaps I should say far too long).

Wherever you may be this August, I invite you to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings and begin or continue your work (in whatever way you are able) to rid the world of the scourge of nuclear weapons. There are events around the country, and you click here to find one thanks to Physicians for Social Responsibility.

While you're reading this, consider taking one of the actions (at the top of the right-hand column of this blog) to help build a nuclear weapons free world. You can also check out (and get involved at) our campaign to stop production of New Trident at NO To NEW TRIDENT.

Towards a peaceful retirement for the nuclear age,