Seventy-eight years ago, an act of international criminality and infamy took place, the consequences of which have posed an existential threat to humanity ever since. For the first time, a species had created the capacity to not only bring about its own extinction, but also to threaten virtually all life on our planet.
On August 6 and 9, 1945, the U.S. military bombed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nuclear weapons. Over 200,000 people, mostly civilians, died instantly or later succumbed from burns, malnutrition, and radiation-related illnesses, and their cities levelled to the ground. Those notorious acts will forever be remembered as the first time the devastating impact of nuclear warfare was unleashed.
There was absolutely no justification for this wanton attack. Unclassified documents have confirmed the lie of the constructed ‘myth’ that the atomic attack was necessary to spare the lives of U.S. servicemen and end the war. In fact, Imperial Japan was already on the verge of collapse and surrender by early August 1945. The U.S. Truman Administration proceeded anyway to showcase its awesome new weaponry, thus guaranteeing U.S. military dominance in the post-war period. Hiroshima was the opening salvo in the “cold war” which was to dominate international politics and spur a nuclear arms race for the next half-century.
The experience of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is an object lesson and dire warning for all humanity. All wars spell calamity for its victims, but nuclear weapons – weapons of mass destruction – are in a horrific category of their own, and their use must never, ever again be contemplated or tolerated.
Albert Einstein placed it best when he wrote: “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction. The splitting of the atom has changed everything except the way we think. Thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive.”
And yet today, more than three-quarters of a century later, the world again stands dangerously close to the edge of self-destruction. NATO, the aggressive military alliance which includes Canada, clings stubbornly to its ‘right’ to the first use of nuclear weapons in a conflict, and the U.S. and its allies are pouring billions into scientific research to make their nuclear arsenals even more lethal and ‘effective’ (sic). And much of nuclear R&D is directed to developing delivery systems and war game strategies which will make nuclear wars “winnable” and “survivable”. This is pure insanity! The only way to prevent a nuclear exchange is by banning the research and production of new thermonuclear weapons and eliminating existing stockpiles, as called for in the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).
Britain and the U.S. are providing the Ukrainian government with depleted uranium shells for battlefield use in the conflict in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Russian government officials are now speaking openly of their preparedness to use nuclear arms as well, if they sense an ‘existential threat’ from NATO and its proxies in the region.
At the same time, tensions are also growing in the Asia-Pacific with the formation of AUKUS (including 12 new nuclear-powered subs), and the construction of four new U.S. bases in the Philippines, completing a pearl-like string of bases surrounding and hemming in the People’s Republic of China, and provoking a dangerous conflict with China over Taiwan.
These are only a few indicators that the world is drifting to the very precipice of the nuclear abyss. In January 2023, the Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock to 90 seconds before midnight, reflecting the growing risk of nuclear war.
In early August, the journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) stated the following:
“Any use of nuclear weapons would be catastrophic for humanity. A large-scale nuclear war between the US and Russia could kill 200 million people or more in the near term, and potentially cause a global ‘nuclear winter’ that could kill 5 to 6 billion people, threatening the survival of humanity.” [emphasis added]
“We now call on health associations to inform about the threat to human survival and … to support efforts to reduce the near-term risks of nuclear war, including immediate steps on the part of nuclear-armed states and their allies: first, adopt a no first use policy; second, take nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert; and third, urge all states to pledge publicly and unequivocally that they will not use nuclear weapons in conflicts. We further ask them to work for a definitive end to the nuclear threat by supporting the urgent negotiations among the nuclear-armed states for a verifiable, time-bound agreement to eliminate their nuclear weapons, opening the way for all nations to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.”
And what of Canada’s Role?
One would expect that in the face of this apocalyptic danger, the Canadian government would be in the forefront of international efforts to eliminate this threat and avert catastrophe. But no such good fortune. Instead, the Trudeau government has repeatedly refused to consider – much less ratify – the TPNW treaty, claiming that there is no real danger, and prohibiting nuclear weapons is both a ‘pie in the sky’ and ‘motherhood’ issue.
In July, it was reported that the federal agency Internal Public Safety Canada is updating nuclear preparedness measures, including a highly secret plan to ensure the federal government can continue to function in a severe [nuclear] crisis, and ‘finalizing a protocol to advise the Canadian public of an incoming ballistic missile attack.’ This sounds very much like the Cold War BS of the 1950s that the way to ‘survive’ a nuclear war is by building more bomb shelters, and stocking up on anti-radiation medicines and canned beans!
And Canada is doubling down on its NATO commitments, further increasing defence spending, purchasing a new fleet of F-35 fighter jets and naval frigates, and sending more troops and weaponry to Ukraine and elsewhere in Eastern Europe.
Instead of more war preparations, the Canadian government should adopt a foreign policy of peace and disarmament, sign the TPNW treaty, get out of NATO and NORAD, and cut the arms budget, redirecting those massive expenditures to job creation, funding healthcare and education, building affordable housing, and addressing the scourge of climate change, to the benefit of working people in Canada and around the world.
The clock is ticking. The time to speak out and mobilize against the growing war danger is NOW! Support the work of the Canadian Peace Congress and its affiliates across the country; join the Canada-wide Peace & Justice Network; and build a local peace organization or coalition in your own communities.
No More Hiroshimas!
Take Peace Action Now!
Executive Committee, Canadian Peace Congress
August 6, 2023