In Colorado last week, we bought a Sunday newspaper at a grocery store. The cashier commented, “I don’t read them anymore, they’re all politics.” Whether it is good for cashiers to comment on items patrons take through the checkout station is one thing, but the exchange we had points to a significant American attitude: almost anything said by anyone in any media is suspect for its “political” content. As we commemorate the 66th anniversary of the United States bombing of Hiroshima, Japan today, this American attitude is troubling.
The proliferation of nuclear weapons remains a threat to the United States; it is hard to deny that. Prominent people, like former Secretary of State George Schultz, say it is the only existential threat to our country and a risk we can mitigate by leading in nuclear disarmament toward a goal of zero nuclear weapons.
The fact that North Korea and Israel have nuclear weapons and might use them is a constant source of media fodder. The worry of a regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan is real and escalates as Pakistani society becomes increasingly unstable. The idea that Iran intends to use its centrifuges to produce weapons grade nuclear material is a constant talking point in the media punditocracy. The more states and groups that possess nuclear weapons, the more likely it becomes that one will be detonated and if that happened, it would have consequences for the United States.
A retired military officer writes regularly to our local paper and has suggested in a couple of letters that the United States use “tactical nuclear weapons” to quell countries, like Iran, that are out of compliance with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. I never met the man, but he seems a fool. When people like former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell have indicated the futility of using tactical nuclear weapons and how their use can lead to a broader escalation of nuclear warfare, the rants of a retired marine seem hollow and vapid. But there I go, into the morass of politics.
When we consider the consequences of a nuclear explosion, like the one that killed more than 90,000 people in Hiroshima in 1945, it should be reason enough to ban nuclear weapons. After the Hiroshima bombing, such an outcry arose from people in the world that there was consideration of a unified world government to prevent such devastation from happening again. Instead we got an ineffective United Nations and nuclear proliferation, with nine nations currently in the nuclear club and more wanting in.
The good news, if there is any, about dropping two atomic bombs on Japan in 1945 is it was the last time they were used in warfare. As we commemorate the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing today, it is hard to believe the devastation the United States caused 66 years ago. What is harder is the understanding that people without living memory of Hiroshima, or access to solid information about it, could risk repeating it.
~ Paul Deaton is a native Iowan and lives in rural Johnson County.