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Commentary: Remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki! Build the Struggle for Nuclear Disarmament!

By Naomi Nakamura

Sixty years ago, on Aug. 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing 140,000 Japanese from the blast, heat and radiation. Three days later, another atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing another 75,000. Thousands more suffered, and many died, from the long-term effects of the heat and radiation from the bombings that also caused scarring, cancer and birth defects.

While the U.S. government claims that the atomic bombs were necessary to end the war, in fact Japan was already seeking to surrender. A month before the bombs were dropped, General MacArthur, supreme commander of the Allied forces in the Pacific, heard that Japan was seeking to negotiate a surrender. He then told his staff to hold work on the invasion of Japan to focus on the occupation.

The reality is that the U.S. government decided to drop the atomic bombs as an opening shot of the Cold War. The bombs were to send a message to the Soviet Union that the United States had a new weapon of terror in its effort to replace the old colonial powers of Europe and Japan with an American empire. This sparked an arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union, leading to the more powerful hydrogen bombs, intercontinental bombers and missiles and submarine launched missiles.

Worldwide protests and calls for nuclear disarmament led to the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NNPT). Nuclear powers, including the United States, the Soviet Union, France, Britain and China pledged to reduce their nuclear stockpiles, while over 100 other countries promised not to develop nuclear weapons.

While the mainstream media in the United States raises a big fuss about the possible development of nuclear weapons in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea [ North Korea] and Iran, it ignores the development of atomic bombs by U.S. allies Israel and Pakistan. Even less is said about the huge U.S. stockpile of over 6000 atomic weapons, almost as much as the rest of the world combined.

Given the military might of the United States, and its willingness to exercise that strength, it is not surprising that small countries, like Democratic Korea, find the development of nuclear weapons crucial to their national defense.

The Bush administration is working hard to undermine the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty even though the U.S. signed and ratified the treaty in 1970. Rather than reducing the number of atomic weapons that the United States has, Bush wants to develop new atomic weapons that are designed to be used against non-nuclear enemies. While the U.S. is supposed to restrict the export of nuclear technology, Bush just signed an agreement with India, a new U.S. ally in the ‘war on terror,’ to provide India with U.S. nuclear technology despite India’s development of atomic weapons. No wonder the recent NNPT conference deadlocked after non-nuclear countries faced off with the United States over its government’s refusal to live up to its commitment to disarm.

The 1960s and 1980s saw the development of grassroots movements for nuclear disarmament. Such a movement, that would target the United States, is badly needed today. We need to demand that the U.S. government promise to never be the first to use nuclear weapons, to cut off military and nuclear aid to new nations who develop atomic weapons such as Israel, Pakistan and India, to withdraw all U.S. atomic weapons from other countries and to cut its own nuclear stockpile. These acts would start a path for the other nuclear powers to begin their own disarmament, with the goal of the total abolition of all nuclear weapons.

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