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August 6: Remembering Hiroshima

Saturday 6 August 2022, by siawi3


Remember the Atomic Bombing on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, Escalating tensions and threat of Nuclear war continue | Mitra / Dogra

5 August


Remembering August 6, 1945 For First Atomic Bombing On Hiroshima

Time To Take Forward The Goal Of Prohibiting Nuclear Proliferation

by Dr Arun Mitra

August 4, 2022

As we approach August 6, we remember 8.15 am on that day in 1945 when the US exploded first ever nuclear weapon on human population at Hiroshima in Japan. This was followed by another attack on Nagasaki on 9th August. Over two lakh people died on these two days in these two cities. Number of people injured, rendered destitute, homeless and orphaned far exceeds this number. Effect of radiations on the generations after that is still felt. That was the time of unprecedented humanitarian crises and agony never heard of before.

Dr. Marcel Junod, the new head of the ICRC’s delegation in Japan was the first foreign doctor to reach Hiroshima on September 8, 1945, one month after the dropping of the atom bomb. He described that ‘the centre of the city was a sort of white patch, flattened and smooth like the palm of a hand. Nothing remained. The slightest trace of houses seemed to have disappeared. The medical care was in shambles and rudimentary; dressings are made of coarse cloth. A few jars of medicine lying around on a shelf. The injured often have uncovered wounds and thousands of flies settle on them and buzz around. Everything is incredibly filthy. Several patients are suffering from the delayed effects of radioactivity with multiple bleedings. They need small blood transfusions at regular intervals; but there are no donors, no doctors to determine the compatibility of the blood groups; consequently, there is no treatment’.

Dr Junod noted the consequences of the bomb for Hiroshima’s medical corps; out of 300 doctors, 270 died or were injured; out of 1,780 nurses, 1,654 perished or were injured. He made an appeal for the bomb to be banned outright, just as poison gas was outlawed in the aftermath of the First World War.

Ironically the number of nuclear weapons has been increasing and it is assumed that there are nearly 17000 nuclear weapons on earth today. The number of countries which possess these weapons also increased from one to nine. These include USA, Russia, Britain, France, China, North Korea, India, Pakistan and Israel.

The nuclear weapons are a real threat to not only the human population but the whole flora and fauna on earth. The very presence of these weapons is fraught with the danger of their use.

The destructive power of nuclear weapons is well documented now. Ira Helfand, Co President of IPPNW in a study on Climate Consequences of Regional Nuclear War has pointed out that even a limited nuclear war between India and Pakistan using 100 Hiroshima sized nuclear weapons could put over two billion people at risk. Up to 20 million people would be killed outright as the great cities of the subcontinent would be destroyed and it would blanket much of South Asia with radioactive fallout.

But the global consequences are even more alarming. This limited nuclear conflict would even affect weather patterns throughout the world. Soot and debris injected into the atmosphere from the explosions and resulting fires would block sunlight from reaching the earth, producing an average surface cooling of -1.25ºC that would last for several years. Even 10 years out, there would be a persistent average surface cooling of -0.5ºC. This would lead to crop failure and affect the size of available food stocks. If the soot injected into the atmosphere in a nuclear war caused significant ozone depletion that could cause a further major decline in actual food production. The combination of failed harvests and a collapsed distribution system would prevent essential foods from reaching the areas which require these. This scenario will affect the poor countries more and the poor people in these countries even worse.

It is therefore imperative that nuclear weapons are abolished for good. As proved in Hiroshima-Nagasaki medical science has no remedy to offer in the event of a nuclear exchange. The situation is much worse now as the present-day weapons are much more deadly.

It is in this background that the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the NPT RevCon has begun in New York in which 191 member countries will deliberate on the progress made in the Nuclear Non Proliferation since the treaty came in to force in 1970. The participants include five major nuclear powered countries. The deliberations are expected to include various aspects of the treaty including the obligations by the major nuclear powered countries to take steps towards nuclear abolition. Article VI of the NPT is important as according to it ‘Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control’. The major nuclear must answer what they have done till date in the last 52 years.

It is important to note that the event is taking place for the first time after the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). The TPNW was passed by the UN General Assembly in 2017 with 122 votes in favour and only one vote against. The treaty has delegitimized the nuclear weapons and declared them illegal as per the international law. Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Gutteres has on the occasion said that ‘Humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation’ This is genuine feeling of a person who is duty bound to keep the world united and in peaceful co-existence.

Adoption of Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) by the UNO is a big step forward and a real hope. The treaty has been already signed by the 86 countries and ratified by 60 countries. It is time now that ‘all states must condemn the recent threats to use nuclear weapons, the increase and modernization of nuclear arsenals, and the increased role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines’.

The war between Russia and Ukraine is a big threat to peace at the moment. Russia and NATO have threatened to use these weapons. It is therefore very urgent that Russia Ukraine war should stop immediately. Russian President Putin’s letter to the participants in the NPT RevCon as reported by Reuter that ‘there could be no winners in nuclear war and no such war should ever be started’ is welcome. But he must explicitly denounce the use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances during the ongoing war with Ukraine. Tension between the US and China after the arrival of the US House speaker Nancy Pelosi in Taiwan is a worrisome issue.

Some ideologues are stressing that nuclear weapons serve as deterrence. They say had Ukraine not taken the nuclear weapons off from its territory Russia won’t dare to attack. So, more countries should become nuclear weapons countries.

The Nobel laureates ICAN, IPPNW and several other civil society organizations are actively lobbying in New York at the NPT review conference with data of Humanitarian consequences of Nuclear War with the hope that the RevCon will have a positive outcome to convince the nuclear powered countries to join TPNW. (IPA Service)

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Hiroshima Day— Threat of Actual Use of Nuclear Weapons, Accidental or Intended, is Increasing

Bharat Dogra

This year has been extremely threatening in terms of the rise of big power rivalry and tensions. First, the escalation of the Ukraine crisis with Ukraine becoming a proxy country in the real conflict between the USA and Russia has led to tensions worsening steadily. What is most worrying is that unlike in the case of most recent wars, no credible, hope giving peace processes appears to be at work after more than five months of highly damaging war. Then more recently, tensions between the USA and China have also escalated over Taiwan which runs the risk of becoming another proxy country in big power rivalry for dominance.

The most frightening aspect of the present threatening situation, which was not relevant before the start of the two world wars, is that all the three involved countries have the biggest stocks of nuclear weapons. In addition six other countries also have nuclear weapons.

Eric Schlosser, a widely acclaimed writer on nuclear weapons, has spoken at length to top officials and commanders at various stages of planning and control of nuclear weapons. In addition he has close contacts with peace movements struggling for a world free from nuclear weapons. He has written that these very different persons all share a very strong and sincere desire to avoid actual use of nuclear weapons. The reason why both these sections share this strong belief is that both groups are well-informed about what actual use of nuclear weapons means.

Schlosser has written, “The latest studies suggest that a relatively small nuclear exchange (relative to the total number of nuclear weapons that exist in world) would have long-term effects across the globe. A war between India and Pakistan, involving a hundred atomic bombs like the kind dropped in Hiroshima, could send five million tons of dust into the atmosphere, shrink the ozone layer by as much as fifty per cent, drop worldwide temperatures to their lowest point in a thousand years, create worldwide famines and cause more than a billion casualties.”

While this has been written in the context of the use of 100 nuclear weapons of roughly the destructiveness of Hiroshima weapon, the total number of nuclear weapons in the world is over 13,000 and the destructive capacity of many such weapons is much higher than the bomb used on the people of Hiroshima.

It is clear that apart from killing millions of people immediately, exchange of nuclear weapons can lead to unprecedented environmental catastrophe which can kill an even larger number of people while also destroying other life-forms like never before. If the nuclear weapon exchange is between two countries alone, people particularly of neighboring countries will also suffer very serious consequences without being involved in any dispute at all.

Some strategists have argued that there can be a less catastrophic role for nuclear weapons in the form of tactical nuclear weapons. As not just peace movements but several independent experts have pointed out, this is a highly flawed and mistaken view. A nuclear war started with tactical weapons can easily spill into a full-blown nuclear war if the opposing side also has nuclear weapons. Secondly, use of even tactical nuclear weapons can be very destructive, even for the using country!

Pakistan in particular has been keen to develop tactical nuclear weapons in recent times as it feels that this can be one way of checking and defeating an invasion by a country with superior conventional war capability and bigger economic resources. However saner scientific voices in Pakistan have warned that if Pakistan uses tactical weapons against an invading army on its land, its own military and civilian losses can be very high due to the highly destructive impacts of these weapons.

In the much earlier days of the cold war the NATO had stocked a lot of tactical nuclear weapons in West Germany to check a possible Soviet invasion. A war game Carte Blanche was played out to see the possible impacts in case of a Soviet invasion. It was realized only then that German civilian deaths from the use of tactical nuclear weapons on its own land can be higher than total German civilian deaths in the Second World War! Such is the destructive power of these weapons.

Moreover when tactical nuclear weapons have to be prepared for use then control has to be more dispersed and scattered. This increases the possibility that persons with fanatic or fundamentalist leanings can also gain access to this control.

Hence the possibilities of terrorists gaining access to such control also increase at least to some extent.

It is therefore not at all proper to be under the false impression that tactical weapons provide some form of safer nuclear weapons. Let no one create such a false impression as such a delusion can be extremely catastrophic for millions and millions of people.
Let us face the reality. All evidence points to the fact that nuclear weapons should never be used. In fact even accidental use of nuclear weapons or accidents relating to nuclear weapons can be very destructive. Hence ultimately the only safe option if we care for life on earth is to give up all nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction once and for all. The more you study and explore this issue, no matter which side you belong to, the only honest conclusion can be that tomorrow if not today we have to do away with nuclear weapons if we want to save life on earth; so why not make a beginning today itself.

The only safe world is a world which is entirely free of nuclear weapons as well as all weapons of mass destruction. Unfortunately instead of at least moving to some extent in this direction the world has been moving in the opposite direction in recent times and this year 2022 appears so far to have been the worst in this context. Disarmament talks are lagging far behind than earlier expectations while tensions over Ukraine and Taiwan are escalating faster than ever before. Clearly this is a very dangerous situation and all peace loving forces of world should cooperate to soon move out of this dangerous situation.

(The writer is Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Earth Without Borders and Protecting Earth for Children. )