On the 67th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we need to call an end to the nuclear experiment.
At 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, killing around 140,000 people. The death toll included men, women and children who died instantaneously, and thousands who died within months from the lingering radiation sickness. The U.S. attack on Nagasaki three days later took the lives of 75,000 more.
To these numbers should be added the plight of the Hibakusha: survivors of the nuclear bombings. The Hibakusha, who suffered lifelong diseases, including cancer, have been unwavering in their demand to ban nuclear weapons.
Hiroshima-Nagasaki Memorial Day is an occasion to ponder the destructive capacity of nuclear weapons, as well as the wisdom of all uses of nuclear energy — particularly given the specter cast by the meltdown of the reactors in Fukushima, Japan, last year.
As the mayor of Hiroshima said last August on the anniversary of the bombings, "Nuclear energy and humankind cannot co-exist."
Every Aug. 6 in Hiroshima at 8:15 in the morning, a memorial protest is held. But such protests also take place in the United States.
One will occur this week at Los Alamos, N.M., home of the Manhattan Project, which produced the first atomic bomb and is still producing parts for nuclear weapons. Demonstrators plan to draw attention to the hazards not only of the weapons themselves but also of nuclear waste and of the involvement of private companies in the nuclear weapons system.
Reasonable-sounding arguments can be made to justify the original development of an atomic bomb (ensuring victory against fascism), and for the maintenance of a nuclear arsenal (lest the United States fall prey to a hostile country or group with its own nuclear weapons).
But the nuclear age is a suicidal age. We've had several near misses, the Cuban Missile Crisis being the most obvious. And we've almost had accidental nuclear war when our radar systems (and Russia's) have thought they were seeing incoming nuclear weapons and have prepared to launch nuclear weapons in response. At some point, we won't be able to avert the catastrophe.
Similarly, nuclear power plants may seem to provide part of the solution to our energy crisis. But Fukushima highlighted the dangers of accidents, and nuclear waste can never be truly safely stored.
This Aug. 6th, let us remember the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and let us finally get out from under the nuclear shadow.
Darryl Lorenzo Wellington is a writer for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine. Email: pmprojprogressive.org