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Atomic bomb mushroom clouds over Hiroshima (left) and Nagasaki (right). (Photo: Charles Levy/Public Domain)

Our Nuclear World at 70

Robert Dodge

This week the world remembers events of 70 years ago. Events that killed instantly over 100 thousand human beings as the U.S. dropped the first atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan on August 6th and 9th respectively. In the days and weeks that followed tens of thousands would also die from injuries suffered by the bomb and “A bomb disease”. From 4:15 pm PST August 5th, the exact moment the bomb was dropped over Hiroshima, there will be planetary vigils remembering the events of those days. If we forget these events we run the risk of repeating them and so must educate those among us who are unaware or uniformed.

Over the years, the aging Hibakusha survivors of the atomic bombs are a constant reminder as they speak of the horrors they experienced those August days and in the aftermath.

Unfortunately in the seven decades that have followed, the world has done little to move away from the subsequent use of these weapons and instead moved closer to the brink of destroying civilization and possibly the extinction of our species.

Witnessing the horrific potential of these weapons mankind had two options that remain with us to this day. The first option was to rid the planet of these weapons and the second was to build more. The world chose the latter. The insane doctrine throughout the Cold War, appropriately called MAD for Mutually Assured Destruction, guaranteed the annihilation of an adversary in the event of any use a nuclear weapon. This resulted in a mythological notion of nuclear deterrence that persists to this day, providing a false sense of security and being the major driver of the arms race resulting in 15,685 nuclear weapons on the planet!

Following the bombings of Japan and with continued testing we have seen how destructive these weapons were. However, recently we have learned that they are much more dangerous than we had ever imagined. We now know that even a unilateral attack using the weapons of either the U.S. or Russia without retaliation would ultimately result in such catastrophic global climate change that billions would die from starvation and disease including the attacking nation. In effect the MAD doctrine of the Cold War has become the SAD doctrine of Self Assured Destruction ultimately turning any nation that would unleash its nuclear arsenals into suicide bombers and the destroyers of civilization.

Even a limited regional nuclear war using only 100 Hiroshima size bombs possibly between India and Pakistan, felt by many defense experts to be a vulnerable nuclear hot spot on the planet, would cause death and destruction never imagined. It would kill 20 million people outright but the after effects resulting from global climate change in the days that follow would be catastrophic killing over 2 billion people around the world. These effects would last for over 10 years. Even more remarkably this scenario uses less than ½ of 1% of the global arsenals!

On this 70th Anniversary of the nuclear age we have an opportunity and responsibility to act. Knowing what we now know, we cannot do nothing. Ultimately our luck will run out with the potential of nuclear war either by accident or intent. We must work together with the majority of nations now numbering 113 who have signed the “Humanitarian Pledge” to ban nuclear weapons by convention just as every other weapon of mass destruction has been banned. All attempts at nonproliferation and diplomacy must be supported including the nuclear deal with Iran. We must demand that our nation join the non-nuclear nations of the world whom we hold hostage and work together to abolish these weapons. We owe this to the Hibakusha, to our children and to future generations.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Robert Dodge

Robert Dodge

Robert Dodge, a frequent Common Dreams contributor, writes as a family physician practicing in Ventura, California. He is the Co-Chair of the Security Committee of National Physicians for Social Responsibility and also serves as the President of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles.

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