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Looking Back on the Bomb, 1075
Wed Aug 3, 2016 22:42

By H. Patricia Hynes

Kyoko Hayashi nearly died on August 9, 1945. She was 14-years-old and working at a factory less than a mile from the epicenter of the atomic explosion in the bombing of Nagasaki. She traveled barefoot for nine hours through the ruins of the city, passing many dead and dying who had been crushed, burned and wounded.

The unique tragedy of those who lost their lives to the bomb, she feels, is that the weapon deprived them not only of their lives but also of “their own personal deaths.” And for the survivors like herself, known as hibakusha, “the shortening of a given life, not being able to live fully—this was the promise made between an atomic bomb and its victims.”

The bomb changed time for her. “I could not make an appointment longer than a month ahead,” she said, given many hibakusha friends died from unpredictable bleeding. “The past is always present and the future is never countable.”
A friend of Hayashi’s observed, “[The] quietness in her seems to flow from her sustained mourning over those who lost their lives in the Nagasaki bombing. Every hibakusha knows their survival carries within it the wailing and silence of the dead.”

In one of Hayashi’s many published stories, she invents a new calendar, the “A-bomb calendar,” which designates 1945 as the first year. “The significance of the birth of Christ or Buddha pales in comparison” with the atomic event, which demonstrated that “humans had gained the means to destroy their own species, all other species and the earth.”

Fifty-four years after surviving the bomb, Hayashi journeyed from Japan to the Trinity Site in New Mexico, the site of the first atomic bomb explosion and a national landmark since 1975. She deems it “a hibakusha’s birth place,” and may be the sole survivor of the atomic bombs to have made this morbid pilgrimage.

At Trinity Site and also on her visits to Los Alamos, New Mexico and the National Atomic Museum, she looked out to the red mountains and wilderness beyond and suddenly sensed a kinship with desert plants and animals.
She wrote, “Until now as I stand at Trinity Site, I have thought it was we humans who were the first atomic bomb victims on Earth. I was wrong. Here are my senior hibakusha. They are here but cannot cry or yell.”

After seeing museum films that lionized the scientists of the atomic bomb project, she wrote, “I understand winners create a proud history…[but] the world did not need your experiment.’’ Hayashi’s bitter words echo the stark sentiment expressed by Admiral William Halsey, commander of the Third Fleet, in 1946: “The first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment…It was a mistake to ever drop it.” Halsey testified before Congress in 1949 that “bombing—especially atomic bombing—of civilians is morally indefensible.”
Pursuit of Global Domination

Key World War II American military leaders from all branches of the armed forces—among them Generals Eisenhower, Arnold, Marshall and MacArthur and Admirals Leahy, Nimitz, as well as Halsey—strongly dissented from the decision to use the bombs. Some did so before August 1945; some in retrospect. Their reasons were both military and moral. American intelligence had broken the Japanese codes and knew that Japan was already defeated and in peace negotiations with the Soviet Union. Surrender was imminent. Further, a demonstration bombing away from residential areas (an idea also supported by many atomic bomb scientists) could have been used instead to force immediate surrender.

Political advisors to President Harry Truman overrode the expert military opinion against dropping the atomic bomb. Among them was Secretary of State James Byrnes, who argued that using atomic weapons would daunt Russia and secure American domination after the war.

This morally corrupted compass—contravening all international conventions of war—set the course for Vietnam, Korea and Iraq.

At their 40th anniversary reunion in Los Alamos in 1983, 70 of 110 physicists who had worked on the atomic bomb signed a statement in support of nuclear disarmament. Many had changed their minds about the bomb long before. In December 1996, retired Air Force Gen. Lee Butler, former commander of the Strategic Air Command that oversaw the entire nuclear arsenal, used a National Press Club luncheon address to urge his government to take the lead in abolishing all nuclear weapons. “Nuclear war,” he said, “is a raging, insatiable beast whose instincts and appetites we pretend to understand but cannot possibly control.” Nothing, he concluded—not deterrence, not national security—could justify these weapons of physical and genetic terror.

Most recently, William Perry, the highly respected former defense secretary in the Clinton administration, offered a bleak and chilling assessment: “Today, the danger of some sort of a nuclear catastrophe is greater than it was during the Cold War and most people are blissfully unaware of this danger.”
“Our chief peril,” he writes in “My Journey at the Nuclear Brink,” “is that the poised nuclear doom, much of it hidden beneath the seas and in remote badlands, is too far out of global public consciousness. Passivity shows broadly.”
We have escaped nuclear war thus far only by dumb luck, he says.
Contrary to government and defense industry groupthink, nuclear weapons do not provide security—they only endanger it.

Contrast this realist wisdom from military and defense experts with our government’s current nuclear weapons policy. Over the next 30 years, the United States plans to spend $1 trillion to modernize the existing arsenal of nuclear bombs and warheads and their delivery systems by air, land and sea. This is despite our existing capacity to destroy the world many times over. No other discretionary long-term public expenditure approaches this immense sum, nor is it clear how it will be paid for. Undersecretary of Defense Brian McKeon concedes, “We’re … wondering how the heck we’re going to pay for it.”
Nor did moderators of the presidential debates this primary season raise this mammoth public expenditure for nuclear weapons modernization in questions to the candidates.

Pick your issue to illustrate Americans’ insecurity and suffering: 20 percent overall child poverty (38 percent for Black children), paychecks that working people cannot live on, education and housing costs, climate change, prison reform, human trafficking … Now imagine what our trillion-dollar taxes, currently targeted to modernize nuclear weapons and police the world, could do if reinvested in the things the majority of Americans need and want for a sustainable and secure future.

  • Looking Back on the Bomb, H. Patricia Hynes, 1246 - jt.indypendent, Fri Jul 29 10:24
    By H. Patricia Hynes Kyoko Hayashi nearly died on August 9, 1945 in the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. She was fourteen years old and working at a factory less than a mile from the epicenter of the... more
    • Looking Back on the Bomb, 1075 - jt.indypendent, Wed Aug 3 22:42
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