With everything else going on today, we should still take a moment to reflect on the first use of a weapon of mass destruction and what it means for us today. World War II had more than enough ugliness to go around. The Nazi death camps, the firebombing of Dresden, the Bataan death march and, of course, the atomic bombing of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There were atrocities on all sides. No one was innocent, that’s the nature of war. I’m not going to debate the morality of annihilating Hiroshima. That’s a pointless exercise. What I will do is take a short look at what we learned from it,why we need to remember those lessons and how one of our political parties has chosen to ignore them.
The first thing we, as a world, learned from nuclear weapons is to be very, very afraid of them. And for good reason. I am firmly convinced that if the United States government had seen and understood what had happened at Hiroshima, they would not have dropped the second bomb on Nagasaki. There’s a reason we never used it again, even during the four years when we were the only ones to have it. It was too much, too horrible. It was so horrible that the US government kept the details from the country.
So we learned that it was a better threat than an actual weapon. But we began to forget just how horrible those original WMDs were and the Cold War made the prospect that we would use them again loom large. Oddly enough, Hollywood came to the rescue. In 1983, the made-for-TV movie The Day After painted a stark, no holds barred picture of what a nuclear war would look like for the civilian population. Ronald Reagan famously attributed his work toward the first arms reduction treaty, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, to the film. The Joint Chiefs of Staffs watched it as well. Suddenly, no one was particularly gung-ho to start World War III.
The terrible sacrifices of the people of Japan was not, it seems, in vain.
However, we are, once again, forgetting those lessons but in an even more insidious way. The United States and Russia still possess enough nuclear weapons to lay waste to the world. It is in everyone’s best interest that these weapons go away. Not just because they might get used by our respective governments but because they are vulnerable to theft or being “lost” and end up in the hands of someone crazy enough to actually use it, even if only as a dirty bomb. Obviously, this is more of a problem in the remains of the Soviet Union but there’s no reason whatsoever we can’t match their disarmament. Yet, the GOP fought the new START treaty to continue the process of securing loose nukes tooth and nail. Almost as if the potential threat were more important than actual safety.
In a perverse reversal of this, the GOP has been agitating for an attack on Iran on the merest of speculation that they might someday think about developing nuclear weapons. This is in spite of every major intelligence agency, including the Israeli Mossad, stating, publicly, that the Iranians have not even seriously contemplated exploring the possibility of a nuclear weapon program. History has shown that threatening a country with the technological capability to build a nuclear weapon will lead to them actually building one. China, Russia, Pakistan and North Korea come to mind. The more the GOP bangs the war drums, the more likely it is that Iran will attempt to develop one in order to avoid the fate of Iraq. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that the GOP seems to relish. A nuclear armed Islamic state that hates us? We could milk that new Cold War for decades!
So they oppose a treaty that will keep nuclear weapons away from terrorists while agitating for a war that will lead to an enemy developing their own nukes in self-defense. It is clear that the Republican Party has deliberately discarded 67 years of history to pursue an agenda that will lead to ruin for millions; all for the sake of regaining and holding onto power. It’s a sad testament to the blind pursuit of politics and a slap in the face of the hundreds of thousands that died so, at the very least, we would know enough to never let it happen again.
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