Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 12:04 pm
"We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest.” Russell-Einstein Manifesto, July 9, 1955.
On July 16, 1945, the first nuclear bomb was tested in the desert near Alamogordo.
While the scientists of the Manhattan Project had been confident the design of the uranium bomb, “Little Boy,” would work, the design of the plutonium bomb, “Fat Man,” needed to be tested. The “Gadget,” as the device was called, exploded at 5:29 a.m.
After that, the world would not be the same.
Fear of the German bomb had been the initial justification and psychological fuel of the research at Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and elsewhere, after Einstein’s famous letter to Roosevelt in 1939.
But Germany had surrendered to Allied Forces on May 8 and it had long been clear that Germany had not tried to develop its own nuclear weapon. However, the war in the Pacific was still raging on, and the Soviet Union was preparing to enter the battlefield.
On Aug. 6, 1945, the “Little Boy” was used in an attack on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. At least 70,000 people were immediately killed by the blast and fire. A similar number of “survivors” died in the weeks and months following the attack.
On Aug. 9, bombardier Beahan “made the run, let the bomb go” as soon as he could identify Nagasaki through the clouds, which was lying there “pretty as a picture” as he later put it. “Fat Man” missed its aim point, but even so approximately 40,000 people were killed immediately and again thousands died from radiation.
When reporting back to the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross on Aug. 30, 1945, a representative of the ICRC in Hiroshima described the conditions as “appalling” and “beyond description.” He called the effects of the bomb “mysteriously serious.” By December 1945 anywhere from 150,000 – 220,000 people had died from the acute effects of the two attacks.
Now, 68 years later, around 17,300 nuclear weapons still exist in Russia, the United States, France, China, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea. The first five of these countries have committed themselves to nuclear disarmament under Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Yet 43 years after the ratification of said treaty, the world has seen only minor arms control efforts, which somewhat decrease the number of nuclear weapons and so far have made no difference in the devastation that would accompany their use. There are no real efforts to reach zero any time soon.
In March this year the Norwegian government hosted a conference on the “Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons.” During this meeting of 127 states and various intergovernmental organizations it became clear that no country or international organization has the means to respond to the humanitarian, environmental and economic challenges a nuclear attack would pose.
While the U.S. is spending billions of dollars on the modernization of its arsenal, food stamps are not included in the recent Farm Bill and state funding for education is below the international average.
New Mexico, host of the two best-funded nuclear laboratories in the world, has been declared 50th among U.S. states in recently released the Kids Count study, which tracks the well-being of children in the U.S.
This contrast of investing into weapon systems that feed fear and sustain a Cold War-like mindset, rather than investing in the future in the form of education and a healthy upbringing for every single child in this country, is a core problem of U.S. politics today.
Sooner rather than later Americans must reevaluate their priorities and rethink their strategy to cope with the challenges of the 21st century. If not, U.S. national decline is certain to accelerate.