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The Nuclear Age Turns 70, But We Are Not Talking About It

Friday 4 September 2015, by Dimitri Roussopoulos

I can never forget, the heavy impact that August 6, 1945 had on me. And again, another heavy blow against my mind and body, a few days later on August 9, 1945. On the first day, I learnt many days later that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima killing 140,000 human beings of all ages. Several days later another atomic bomb was dropped by the American air force on Nagasaki, whereby 80,000 were killed.These greater details of the bombardments became known more widely outside Japan only in 1953, because the American military occupation forces censored any information as to the consequences of what happened on those two days for fear of world-wide reaction. These two mass killings left a scorching impact on me for the rest of my life. Last year, when I was invited for a television programme in Hiroshima, I went to view the Museum. It was crowded with people, especially Japanese, and young Japanese in particular. The horrors of the well documented exhibit so deeply affected me that by the end my mouth was dry, my heart was pounding wildly and my brain was raging with anger.

This summer marks the 70th anniversary of the Trinity test in the New Mexico desert. Shortly after the test, the USA dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The human beings of those two cities are the only civilian populations to suffer the wide-spread destruction and hundreds of thousands of deaths. Deaths which continued decades later as people died from radiation related illnesses. Needless to say, the nuclear bombing of European cities was never contemplated. The public view in the USA is that the atom bombings hasted the end of the war and save American solider lives. The pacifist view however is based on some historical facts, namely that Emperor Hirohito was ready to surrender and that the War Cabinet was divided between those who wanted the end of the war and those who wanted to continue. It was further revealed that the Emperor prepared a radio broadcast announcing surrender, and that the War Party sought to militarily assault the radio station before the broadcast, in order to prevent it from going on the air, but this failed. All this and more throw a different light on why the atomic bombing took place at all.

The ongoing challenge which is not widely discussed today is, what will it take to prevent nuclear war from happening now. The mass terror of August 6th and 9th and what followed ought to convince anyone of the need to answer this concern and to act upon it. The extreme danger of the nuclear menace will throw its dark shadow on us for the indefinite future,if silence prevails.

The only news item one reads about is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action---the nuclear control agreement signed on July 14 in Vienna by Iran and the P5+1 countries: China,France,Russia,the UK, and the USA, plus Germany. While this agreement is important, it has outshone the larger matter of the massive nuclear arsenals, largely poised at each other over thousands of kilometres in various national military sites, both overground, underground and in the high seas. And around this concern there are many issues.

First, the most dangerous and expensive nuclear weapons programme in the world is that of the USA in which each budget year since 2010, President Obama has signed measures to undertake an extremely aggressive plan to maintain upgrade and replace the entire US nuclear arsenal. The total cost may exceed $300 billion in the first 10 years and could break the $1 trillion during the proposed 30 year cycle, massive expenditures during a time of budget cuts. Both land and sea based ballistic missiles along with delivery platforms, and huge new investments in command and control systems plus new nuclear facilities of various other kinds are currently part of the grand plan.

In one project, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is proposing to build a new Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) for warhead component manufacturing at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. According to the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) estimated over-budget costs have skyrocketed to $11 billion.

Beyond extreme expense (in the "age of austerity’) the Obama nuclear rebuilding program raises serious questions of war and peace. Will potential adversaries try to counter the new aggressive US programme ? Will a new arms race heat up with all the potential of disaster and accidents that have brought us to the edge in the past.

Second, the original intent of the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has been turned on its head. Though the NPT-signer Iran was singled out while not possessing a single nuclear warhead, there are several countries beyond the original nuclear club that are allowed to have actual operational nuclear arsenals, Three of these countries - India,Pakistan and Israel - each with deployed warheads numbering in the hundreds, are not signatories of the NPT.

It is not surprising to me, how the principles of the NPT, are in tatters and never reported on as such. Non-signatory atomic bomb possessors are completely tolerated, a signer with no bombs receives incredible scrutiny, and the recognised nuclear bomb possessors (the USA,Russia,the UK, France,and China) are allowed to maintain and modernise their nuclear weapons complexes in stark contrast to the supposed principles of Article VI - which requires them 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."

It’s time to focus a lot more attention and reporting on the real dangers we face 70 years years into the atomic age, and to admit, that a radical peace movement needs to bring generations together to do so, blending this movement into the larger one which admits, that this important danger facing humanity is yet another example of the State’s mismanagement of the present and future of us all.