Did Hiroshima teach us any lesson? | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 06, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 05:46 PM, August 06, 2020

Did Hiroshima teach us any lesson?

When the battlefield of Verdun was getting drenched in combatants' blood from all contending sides, the political leadership, unable to define the stalemate, was trying to sell the war as the war "to end all wars". But that war beget countless wars and after a century the end is nowhere in sight. Even worse is with hundreds and thousands of nuclear warheads pointed at each other, the potential of an Armageddon cannot be ruled out. In such an eventuality Hiroshima looks like a tea party. But then developing the most advanced but destructive weapon to destroy or scare or subdue the enemy and establish supremacy is a human failing/ambition/instinct as old as civilisation itself. When any of these elements (or all combined) becomes the motive behind creating such weapons, rationality vanishes into thin air. Humanity gets sacrificed at the altar of greed, and naked ambition to dominate others becomes the guiding principle. 

Developing, acquiring, and deploying WMDs, or for that matter any war of aggression, is never easy to sell. Because they are incredibly costly both human and resource wise, it needs to be justified by depicting enemies as monsters or creating new ones. The real motive, however, always remains hidden. For example when America entered the First World War it was not to liberate Europe from the Germans nor even to pursue the lofty idea of the right to self-determination of nationalities, but in the words of a decorated US general, Smedley Butler: "When the war reached a stalemate in the trenches an allied commission in late 1916 met president Wilson and said this, 'There is no use kidding ourselves any longer. The cause of the allies is lost. We now owe you (American) bankers, munitions makers, manufacturers, speculators and exporters five or six billion dollars. If we lose, which we will without your help, we, England, France, and Italy cannot pay you back... and Germany won't." In early 1917 Wilson declared war on Germany though he was elected to keep the US out of the war. (War is a Racket, p, 43-44). Many such cases abound including the more recent one in Iraq.

The dropping of the first atomic bomb also had a hidden intent other than a military one as I have said in another piece: "It would demonstrate the power of the bomb, bring the Japanese to their knees, while simultaneously warn Russia the US imperial ambition was global and it dare not challenge." Even after learning about the devastation the atom bomb caused in Hiroshima, Truman couldn't care less and ordered the next one to be dropped in Nagasaki. If a hundred thousand Japanese civilians got vaporised instantly it was worth the price to pay to establish US hegemony. The message however, was loud and clear to the Russians who soon joined the nuclear club; and then all hell broke loose.

Subsequently over the next two decades or so all the UN Security Council members acquired theirs and now Israel, Pakistan and India have their globe threatening toys. They not only procured nuclear weapons but chemical and biological weapons also became part of the WMDs. But what no one noticed in their mad rush to get ahead of the perceived enemy, which became crystal clear later, is that the development of all types of WMDs became integral to economic development. Consequently acquiring these weapons became more of an economic necessity than a security concern. Does all this make sense?

Now, everyone is threatening everyone else. Even Obama who had declared dismantling of all nuclear weapons one of his goals ended up revamping the US nuclear arsenal costing trillions. If one cares to read between the line of volumes of literature justifying such huge expenditure even after knowing full well the futility of a nuclear warfare—which at best is unwinnable and at worst will assure mutual extinction—it becomes absolutely clear the programme is a money making machine. The defence establishment and all other affiliated corporations make huge money out of it. Thus, the war industry becomes a racket. And the less said about Trump's ignorant quip "if we can't use the WMDs why do we have them" the better. 

The story is not much different close to home. India and Pakistan are armed to the teeth with nuclear missiles—even though everyone knows that a nuclear showdown will lead to mutual annihilation. The entire subcontinent will be reduced to nuclear ash including the warmongers creating hysteria. But they couldn't care less if nearly half of Pakistan and around 40 percent of Indians barely survive, hovering around the poverty line, so long as the money making machine of war industries go on reaping profits for the few.

When Bertrand Russell had initiated the campaign for nuclear disarmament (CND), ruling elites across the Cold War divide were alarmed and got busy selling the idea that a nuclear war was winnable if one had enough capacity to strike back, totally ignoring the fact that the other side may also possess similar capacity. And now it has become such a vicious cycle that competing powers can no longer stop. The search for the most advanced nuclear, chemical, or biological WMDs must go on. In the process, basic human needs increasingly get ignored triggering anger and resentment, not only in the developing world but even in the most advanced industrial states as well. And that's why a tense situation across the world has become a regular affair. A big chunk of the world's precious resources goes to waste in developing weapons that can never be used unless humans are seeking to destroy themselves.

It's about time CND is revived not only in countries possessing WMDs but across the world in every society. According to the nuclear doctrines and programmes concerning the WMDs, if one nuclear missile is launched whether by intent or accident, reflex reaction would trigger dozens to be launched within minutes. During the Cold War at least, three such nuclear close calls have been recorded. One during the Cuban missile crisis, involving a Russian nuclear submarine, the second during the Yom Kippur War, when Israel deployed nuclear armed bombers, and the third during a NATO exercise in 1983. At present, when sharp threats are being exchanged on a nearly daily basis between superpowers, an accident cannot be ruled out at any moment.

Any sane mind will agree that disarming the entire stock of WMDs is the need of the hour yet, the powers flaunting those weapons justify them using all kinds of excuses. This is the consequence of trying to sustain a fundamentally unsustainable socio-economic and political order that compels competition to turn into a death race. Where does it end? Has Hiroshima taught the world any lesson? 


Ali Ahmed Ziauddin is a researcher and activist. Email: aliahmedziauddin@gmail.com

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