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Reflection on the Upcoming 75th Anniversary of the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

As the daughter of a nuclear victim, I raise my voice on this upcoming anniversary to say with the Hibakusha (survivors of the original N-blasts) nuclear weapons must be abolished.

"It is fitting that the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reset the Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds to midnight. This is an urgent warning," writes Thea Paneth. (Photo: ICAN)

It is one hundred seconds to midnight by the Doomsday Clock. For seventy-five years the world has lived on the edge of nuclear terror, the horrific knowledge that in a time frame as short as one hour, life as we know it on Planet Earth could be obliterated if nuclear weapons are used. 

My mother was a nuclear victim, indirectly, caught by prevailing nuclear madness, characterized by the institutional, pervasive lies about the dangers of everything nuclear, including x-rays. Radiation was administered instead of a readily available antibiotic. Doctors gave her cancer and cancer killed her. She was sixty years old.  I dedicate these words to her memory.

new nuclear arms race is underway to develop low yield weapons that make battlefield use more likely and a Long Range Stand Off (LRSO) weapon that, if developed, will “penetrate and survive integrated air defense systems.” In other words, this weapon will be used for a first strike, the intention is to neutralize retaliation by a nuclear power. It cannot be accidental that Raytheon was awarded the LRSO contract. In living color, we see the weapons industry merge with government policy-maker:  Secretary of Defense Mark Esper was a chief lobbyist for Raytheon.  

All policy-makers, Pentagon chiefs, and arms manufacturers adroitly shield themselves from responsibility for horrors and harms inflicted, the destruction of cities and cultures, and the dislocation and deaths of millions of people that is the consequence of the cruel enterprise of forever war and forever arms race. 

Lately, multiple arms control treaties and agreements have been scrapped or will not be renewed, the U.S. is threatening to resume nuclear testing, all the nuclear nations are engaged in staggeringly dangerous nuclear brinksmanship as well as global power struggles for scarce resources as the planet heats up. 

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Combined with the speed and urgency of the climate crisis that is upon us, it is fitting that the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reset the Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds to midnight. This is an urgent warning. It is not the only recent urgent warning. The Kings Bay Plowshares 7, at great personal risk, committed an act of symbolic disarmament saying the ultimate logic of Trident is omnicide. 

The global pandemic, with its outsize toll on people of color and all people mired in poverty, combined with decades of cruel “government in a bathtub” social and economic policies compels us to end the forever wars and to cut the Pentagon budget by hundreds of billions of dollars. Treasury monies must be used to fund universal healthcare, affordable housing, public education, public transportation, environmental protections, job programs, renewable energy, mitigation of the climate crisis and more generally, to provide a better life for people, as protesters in the streets have been saying

As few as fifty to one hundred nuclear bombs, if used, decimate the planet, killing as many as 2 billion people from the blasts, radiation, firestorms and the smoke that would cause global cooling and massive famines. The global chaos that would ensue is nearly unimaginable.

At Hiroshima and Nagasaki, people were vaporized and burned.  When they ran to the rivers for relief from suffering they found the rivers to be boiling. As the daughter of a nuclear victim, I raise my voice on this upcoming anniversary to say with the Hibakusha (survivors of the original N-blasts) nuclear weapons must be abolished.

Thea Paneth

Thea Paneth

Thea Paneth is a coordinating committee member of United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), a national peace coalition founded in 2003.

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