This article was originally published by the Santa Fe New Mexican.
The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 70 years ago marked a turning point in U.S. history from which this country never recovered.
Many wartime leaders had warned against using the bomb, and after the war the Air Force Strategic Bombing Survey found it was of no material aid in ending the war.
But despite or because of the horror and repressed guilt, we clung to it. We embraced a policy of threatened annihilation as a core principle of policy. Had we rejected the bomb, as many prestigious voices argued, postwar U.S. development would have been quite different. With the bomb in our pocket, we did not become a people of justice and equality, or a social democracy.
Chris Hedges quotes D.H. Lawrence: “The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never melted.”
I would like to tell Hiroshima survivors that we have changed, but we have not. America is as brutal and violent as ever, at home and abroad. Recently, President Barack Obama bragged about bombing seven countries.
E.L. Doctorow described our postwar devolution: “The bomb first was our weapon. Then it became our diplomacy. Next it became our economy.
Now it’s become our culture. We’ve become the people of the bomb.”
When Ivan quit we became even more of an empire. There was nothing holding us back — or so it seemed. We became the Unipower, the Indispensable Nation. Just ask us.
In 1945 as today, we sought and still seek to control as much of the world’s resources as possible, not just to feed our grotesque consumerism but also to satisfy our controlling oligarchs, while denying those declining resources to others.
The 1992 Wolfowitz doctrine spells it out: “Our first objective is to … prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would … be sufficient to generate global power.” Since the Russian Federation is such a region all by itself, this is a formula for destabilization and war, both of which are ongoing projects. They are not going well.
Despite, or because of, all our material and moral sacrifices, the only “victory” in 70 years for America’s vast, self-serving nuclear-military complex has been the destruction of our own democracy. As a result, our children’s prospects are nothing short of abysmal.
Obama has budgeted a trillion dollars to operate and upgrade each and every warhead, bomb and delivery system we have, a vast expense that is itself dwarfed by the rest of our gargantuan military. But there is no plan to wean the U.S. from oil and gas, no plan to address inequality and poverty, no serious plan to forestall climate change.
And no disarmament. Seventy years on from Hiroshima, there are far more nuclear weapons in the world than when the peace movement started in earnest in the aftermath of the disastrous 1954 Castle Bravo test in the Marshall Islands.
Today’s U.S. stockpile of 7,100 warheads range in yield up to 80 times the Hiroshima bomb, with most in a middle range of 100 to 400 kilotons, sufficient to incinerate a large city. Peer-reviewed studies have concluded that detonation of just 2 percent of U.S. warheads alone over cities would result in global nuclear darkness and famine, civilizational collapse and the extinction of many higher life-forms and quite possibly humanity itself.
Movements for nuclear disarmament have not been successful. Why?
Generally citizens, on every issue, want to believe they can change history with a few hours of activist entertainment. We need instead the opposite: full-time committed organizers and revolutionaries, supported by local communities. We are well past the point where mere reform can save the country, the climate or the planet. This is the path of maturity and fulfillment today. Accept no substitutes.
Greg Mello is the executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group, a nonprofit policy think-tank and lobbying organization. His formal education is in engineering, environmental sciences and regional planning.