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July 2012, Week 5

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Mon, 30 Jul 2012 22:02:42 -0400
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From Hiroshima to Fukushima: Bargaining with the Devil

by H Patricia Hynes

Submitted to portside by the author 
on July 30, 2012

The saturation firebombing of German and Japanese
cities during World War II seasoned the US government
for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
After the first blast on August 6, 1945, which killed
100,000 residents of Hiroshima immediately, the
grievous radiation sickness of Japanese survivors was
not anticipated, nor was it believed when reported.
Without any reconsideration, a second bomb - this one
plutonium - was dropped on Nagasaki three days later,
killing 70,000 people outright. The American military
censored all documentation and photo images of the two
bombs' unparalleled human devastation,[1] sheltering
Americans from the horrors of what our government
perpetrated on mainly Japanese civilians: women, men,
and children instantly reduced to ashes.  Likewise, the
post-war US occupying authority forbade Japanese
citizens, under penalty of law, to own pictures of the
atomic bomb destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

American military leaders from all branches of the
armed forces, among them Generals Eisenhower, Arnold,
Marshall and MacArthur; and Admirals Leahy, Nimitz, and
Halsey strongly dissented from the decision to use the
bombs - some prior to August 1945, some in retrospect -
for the following military and moral reasons. Japan was
already defeated and in peace negotiations with Russia;
surrender was imminent.  Moreover, Russia was willing
to enter the war against Japan, if necessary. Bombing
dense human settlements was barbarous, immoral and
would shock world opinion; and a demonstration bombing
away from residential areas (also suggested by some
atomic bomb scientists) could be used instead to force
immediate surrender. The top military commanders
concurred that the decision to use the atomic bomb was
political, not military.[2]

Dropping the atomic bombs in World War II launched an
arms race in nuclear weapons, now spread to nine
countries, with the ever-present specter of their use.
In the May 2012 Vienna meeting on the Non-Proliferation
Treaty, the nuclear-armed countries explicitly stated
their intention to maintain a nuclear arsenal for
security. The same month, NATO countries convening in
Chicago pronounced, "Nuclear weapons are...essential...for
defense and dissuasion."

Of all post-war presidents and leaders of any country,
Eisenhower - who as Supreme Commander of the Allied
Forces in Europe was repulsed by the atomic bombs
dropped on Japan - fast-tracked building the world's
largest arsenal of nuclear weapons and recklessly
threatened their use when conflicts arose in Korea, the
Suez, and elsewhere.   In 1960 he approved a plan for a
simultaneous Sino-Soviet strike in the event of war,
with a projected death toll of 600 million.  By the
early 1960s, authorizations he had set in place filled
the US arsenal with more than 30,000 nuclear weapons,
the equivalent of nearly 1.5 million Hiroshima bombs.

To divert the attention of a world terrified by our
arms race with the Soviets and to dispel the resultant
taboo around nuclear weapons, Eisenhower's
administration devised the "Atoms for Peace" program.  
Nuclear power was fraudulently marketed as the
peaceful, beneficent, safe and clean counterpart of
nuclear weapons, even though it was well-known in
government that

uranium mined for nuclear power reactors and the
reactors' spent fuel could be re-processed to make
nuclear bombs.  This bargain with the devil has led us
to Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima; an
estimated 150 significant radiation leaks at nuclear
power plants across the world even before Chernobyl;
and the current threat of war with Iran.

The Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant explosion in
March 2011 was caused by a trifecta of risk inherent in
every nuclear power plant: unplanned for natural
disaster, defective technical design, and failed
industry and government oversight.   Fukushima opened a
Pandora's box of ills and risks for the country of
Japan and the world. Radioactive iodine, cesium and
plutonium were carried by air masses across the entire
Northern Hemisphere.  And the worst may yet happen.
Extremely radioactive spent fuel rods at Fukushima are
now exposed to the outside environment. According to a
recent geological study, another similarly strong
earthquake could strike the area again in a reactivated
fault nearer to Fukushima and cause the meltdown of the
exposed fuel rods, releasing immense amounts of
radioactive contaminants across the Northern
Hemisphere.

H Patricia Hynes is a retired Professor of
Environmental Health from Boston University School of
Public Health and author and editor of 7 books. She
chairs the board of the Traprock Center for Peace and
Justice.

[1] A History of Bombing.  Peter Wyden. 1984. Day One:
Before Hiroshima and After. New York: Simon and
Schuster.

[2]Gar Alperovitz. 1995. The Decision to Use the Atomic
Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth. New
York: Knopf.

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