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Hiroshima 75

Down the rabbit hole into a crazy word:

75 years ago, nuclear weapons were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This first sight of the weapons of light which bring only darkness was sufficient for the Word Council of Churches to declare war with atomic arms: “sin against God and a degradation of man,” For the life of the world which is from everlasting, the time for every nation: superpowers included prohibit nuclear arms, is now

A strategist: Bernard Brodie coined two axioms about nuclear ams in 1946 which remain true until today: First that they exist, and second that their destructive power is fantastically great. Those wizards of armageddon: closeted intellectuals charged with grappling military utility from this destructive power failed. The only end of attempts to create logical schemes for the employment of nuclear weapons is a rabbit hole winding to death, destruction and certain catastrophe. There is only one way to safely address the pair of axioms. Tackle the first, not the second: disarm, disarm entirely, and disarm now.

For most of the Cold War the military plans for the employment of Nuclear Weapons could be simply characterised: Massive Attack. There was it seemed no likelihood that either side could enter a limited nuclear war without spillover, in part because with weapons each 10 – 100 times larger than that dropped at Hiroshima no sane definition of a limited attack stood scrutiny. Unaware of, or unwilling to model the ionising radiation, fire-aggregation and other effects of nuclear weapons, US planners calculated using blast effects alone. They and presumably their USSR counterparts created a level of overkill which would have devastated the world and left the ruins bouncing.

The Coronavirus pandemic has shaken the globalised world. Every excess death is a tragedy. However a virus that kills around 1:1000 is in historical terms a moderate epidemic. The Black Death at its worst killed between one third and two thirds of Europe. Dreadful though that plague was, it did not poison the earth. Nuclear arms, threaten not only megadeath, but the killing of the wind and water, the earth and sky. A major nuclear exchange ends this civilisation.

In both Russian and US circles there is renewed interest and commissioning of smaller ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons. We are told the Russians consider that it might be necessary ‘to escalate in order to deescalate’ That is, the use of overwhelming force – with ‘small’ nuclear arms might stop conflict in its tracks. In the US the claim is that certain targets are now so hard to destroy with conventional weapons, that it would be proportional to use a small nuclear weapon. As mischief is worked, arms control treaties unravel, weapons proliferate to new countries, strategists are again looking for problems to which the answer are atomic arms.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which was adopted by the United Nations in 2017 has now been ratified by 40 states, albeit not by any state with or in the process of obtaining nuclear weapons. It enters into force, binding the signatories when 50 states have ratified the treaty. Will this uprising by non-nuclear states to declare the obscenity of these weapons illegal have effect in time? Nothing is certain save that, for the life of the world this is time to put our heart and soul into the effort – wherever we live.

Before I was injured I briefly served in the Royal Navy as a very junior officer. The Navy is responsible for the UK’s nuclear deterrent. At the time the idea that the knowledge that vengeance waited in the deep for any who struck the first blow seemed an uncomfortable, but just deterrent to secure peace. I no longer think that it is a peaceable way to make peace, and no longer a thing which I as a follower of the carpenter from Nazareth: Jesus can support.

Reading list

The Wizards of Armageddon (Stanford Nuclear Age Series) Fred Kaplan

The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War. Fred Kaplan

The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. Daniel Ellsberg, Bloomsbury

One reply on “Hiroshima 75”

Peace is always worth fighting for – that battle is one I must fight in my own heart first.

And yes logic and science have said for a long time nuclear weapons make on ethical or moral sense.

Thank you for writing this. My father was a conscientious objector and the arguments over a just war are irrelevant when we have nuclear weapons in the discussion.

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