August 6, 2020
It is natural and human to commemorate what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But these stories, films and photos from back then must never come to serve as a museum for just a historical event.
It would also be fairly naive – now 75 years later – to believe that showing such images of the destruction and listening to Hibakushas (survivors) will help abolish the nukes of today. They’ve been seen too many times to make such an impact on today’s people; there is a certain psychic numbing and a mass denial of the fact that “it could happen this afternoon too.” 1)
If they had such a – desirable deterrent – effect, nuclear weapons would be gone long ago.
While of course Hiroshima and Nagasaki and their victims must never be forgotten, it’s extremely important that Hiroshima and Nagasaki Days are used to focus on today’s nuclear weapons and nuclearism – the assumptions, values, thinking, beliefs and (non)ethics surrounding nuclear weapons.
Here are some examples of what would be relevant – in the contemporary world – to discuss. And of course not only these two days but every day (numbers not indicating priorities):
- Nuclear weapons are terrorist weapons. States which possess nuclear weapons and people who argue in favour of their continued existence build on a central feature of terrorism’s philosophy: that it is right to kill scores of innocent civilians to achieve a political goal. Remember, we used to talk about the “balance of terror”. So, why talk so much about ISIS and so little about nuclear terrorism?
- Deterrence means to use if… There exist no nuclear weapons that are not meant to be used. It’s pure nonsense to say that nuclear weapons are there to never be used. If two parties know for sure that the other will never under any circumstances use them (also not reactive, second strike back), there would be no deterrence.
- Nukes are incompatible with democracy. These weapons have never been accepted by any people through a referendum or other democratic measures. They’ve been imposed by a few on the rest of us. And there exists no opinion poll that proves that any citizens’s majority would like their country to have them or be ‘defended’ by them.
- These weapons violate the letter and spirit of international law, including the UN Charter. Here is the famous 1996 statement by the International Court of Justice: The UN Charter states both that war should be abolished (preamble), that peace shall be established by peaceful means (Article 1) and that it is prohibited even to threaten other states (Article 2).
- Nukes are unethical. There can be no kind of goal or purpose whatsoever that legitimizes the killing of – likely – millions of people and afterwards make parts of the world or all of it uninhabitable. Also, the tendency in the US Nuclear Posture Review to treat (smaller) nuclear weapons as though they were conventional weapons and thereby reducing the nuclear threshold, is as de-stabilizing as unethical. So too is the doctrine, therefore, of First Use and use of nuclear weapons against conventional threats and even cyber-attacks.
And, certainly, no human being, or small group, should ever be given the power – the very tempting power – to decide the future of all humankind, not to speak of ending it.
The power of nuclear weapons should compel us to humility and an ethics of care.
- Nuclear weapons cause terrible conflicts even when not used. The US argued that Saddam Hussein had them and that he shouldn’t. The West has been in conflict with Iran which also does not have these weapons for which reason it’s been constantly threatened with war and the object of suffocating sanctions, embargo, demonisation, and more.
- How come everybody talks about climate issues while the entire peace discourse has been eradicated – and links between the two hardly ever made?
- Who controls the media, critical research, education and the public discussion to such an extent that the far majority of humanity completely ignore this everyday challenge to our very survival? How come people are in denial, accept or engage so little in this? While black lives certainly matter – nuclear weapons threaten all life and are weapons of omnicide.
- Focus on the non-nuclear countries that have decided by constitution or political decision to never acquire nuclear weapons – like Sweden, Austria, Kazakhstan, South Africa, to mention some. The positive list is much longer than the negative. And focus on the Treaty On The Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) what 122 UN member states voted for in 2017 and 40 states have ratified as of July 2020.
- Focus on the MIMAC – the Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex that consists of small elites in these sectors plus government leaders – a few thousand who administer the nuclear weapons only to serve their own interests in power and wealth and in total contempt for humanity’s safety, security and wellbeing. Enormous resources are so much needed to solve urgent global problems – but wasted in development of even more and more sophisticated nukes and doctrines.
- Discuss why “disarmament and arms control” was never effective and how the nuclear “haves” have systematically undermined – violated – the Non-Proliferation Treaty and use sanctions, boycotts, diplomatic isolation, and marginalisation against these few arrogant actors.
- These weapons are compatible with dictatorship and Nazi values – using them physically or as a threat is fully compatible with the Nazi values of utter contempt for those who are considered weaker. In this perspective, nuclear weapons embody a particular global racist attitude: “We can do to them what we want because they are lower/weaker/inferior compared with us…” – or “We can have these weapons because we are responsible, noble and civilized – but others are not at our level and should therefore never acquire these weapons…”
- Finally, imagine how much safer and beautiful the world would be if it was completely nuclear weapons-free. And discuss strategies to get there, not just campaign and slogans…
We need to revolutionize politics, including peace activism – to re-think why we haven’t gotten rid of these weapons. You know, humanity decided to end – or at least look down upon – absolute cannibalism, absolute monarchy, slavery, child labour, rape – and even smoking. Why on earth have we not, long ago, done the same to nuclear weapons?
As Danish philosopher, designer, poet and visionary, Piet Hein, has stated: “It is Co-Existence or No-Existence”. 2)
It is indeed time to abolish nuclear weapons before they blow up our world by a mad human act, human or technical failure. You and I should refuse to live under the regime of nuclear terrorism.
That’s how we can turn Hiroshima and Nagasaki into a contemporary opportunity more than a historical memory. And how the victims and the tremendous suffering could achieve true recognition and meaning.
If you found this relevant and want TFF to continue to do our best for peace, send us the equivalent of a cup of coffee…
- It is true that a political crisis would take some time to develop but the world is generally unaware of all the human and technical failures there have been over the years in the nuclear weapons sector and remarkably under-reported by virtually all media.
- More about this remarkable multithinker here and here.
Recommended articles and videos
More than 200 articles concerning nuclear weapons on The Transnational, see here.
And see in particular, TFF Associate Farhang Jahanpour’s excellent historical analysis from 2015, Hiroshima and the Dangers of a New Cold War.