Remembering Hiroshima

As the war between Israel and Lebanon approached one month and the US continues to pursue expansion of its nuclear arsenal, people around the world stopped to remember August 7, 1945.

On that day more than 240,000 people were killed or injured when the US dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and three days later on Nagasaki, to force a Japanese surrender during World War II. While an end to the war immediately followed the bombings, many have debated whether it was necessary, given that preparations for surrender were under way in Tokyo, and the staggering long-term effects on civilians of radiation poisoning in the destroyed cities.

Some experts warn that the nuclear clock is ticking again, this time in the Middle East. “This is one of the most serious threats of nuclear war we’ve had in a long time,” said Eric Laursen of the New York-based War Resister’s League. Combined with the potential threat from Iran’s uranium enrichment programme, he said.

Under the Bush administration, the US has pulled out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and refused to support ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, as of January 2006, the US stockpile contained almost 10,000 nuclear warheads. The administration is also pursuing the Reliable Replacement Warhead programme, which includes the potential for new bomb design and construction within the next four years.

Over the weekend, the 1945 bombings were commemorated in candlelight vigils, marches and peace rallies across the globe, including a Hiroshima/Nagasaki exhibit at New York City’s Tompkins Square Park and an interfaith peace gathering at the New York Buddhist Church. This year’s peace gatherings were especially potent in light of the intensifying war between Israel and Lebanon, in which more than 600 Lebanese and nearly 100 Israelis have been killed.

“A huge number of people are protesting as a result of the situation in Lebanon and Israel,” said Laursen. “The concerns we bring to the day of remembrance are closely linked to all these other concerns in the Middle East.” Many believe Hiroshima itself was chosen as a target because the bombs had the most potential for destruction. A large city of 300,000 people living in mostly wood-frame houses, free of US prisoner-of-war camps, and surrounded by mountains that could focus on the effects of the blast, Hiroshima was a

perfect target.

Jackie Cabasso, a steering committee member of the US group United for Peace and Justice, said, “As we commemorate one of the most horrific acts of US military policy, our movement for peace and justice recommits itself to the immediate task of ending the war and occupation in Iraq; the urgent need for a comprehensive ceasefire in the ebanon/Israel/Gaza crisis; our demand for the global abolition of all nuclear weapons, starting with those in the US arsenal; and stopping the outrageous war profiteering of giant corporations like Bechtel (a leading nuclear weapons contractor).”

Non-violent protests were planned in more than 60 cities in 24 states across the country to demand an end to nuclear weapons and war. Other commemorations took place in dozens of countries, including Germany, Japan, Canada, India and Bangladesh. — IPS