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U.S. Goal of Preventing World Domination by Hitler Turned to Hope of a U.S. Bomb Monopoly to Shape World Politics
Wartime Bomb Project Has Created a Moral and Military “Monstrosity”
Takoma Park, Maryland, May 2, 2003: Manhattan Project officials began to consider the use of the atom bomb well before it was ready and well before anyone knew when World War II might end. The original purpose of the bomb project to prevent Hitler armed with an atomic-bomb from taking over the world was bent to other purposes during the very first targeting discussion, which took place sixty years ago, according to an article published in the current issue Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
While Manhattan Project scientists were still pursuing the bomb with the single-minded desire to beat Hitler to the punch, a meeting of the Project’s Military Policy Committee on May 5, 1943 produced the first official signals that the government was beginning to take a much broader view of the project: Such a weapon could be used not only to deter the Nazis, but to craft and maintain a U.S.-dictated post-war new world order, the article says.
“They were afraid that if the bomb was a dud, German scientists might recover the plutonium, make a bomb and use it on Britain,” said Dr. Arjun Makhijani, author of the article and president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER), who has published many studies on nuclear-weapon-related questions. “So, they targeted Japanese forces at the island of Truk at first, and then Japanese cities.”
As the project went into 1944, and it was certain that Germany had no effective bomb program, the U.S. program became its own justification, according to the article. The bomb had to be used because it was built. The immense expenditure had to be justified by something more than the fact that a project of deterrence had been undertaken as a precaution. The proof of the scientific and engineering work had to be carried through to a nuclear test. The technical questions about the destructive power of nuclear bombs had to be answered by their use on cities. The power of the bomb had to be demonstrated to the world, especially to the Soviet Union.
The idea of using the monopoly of the bomb to dominate the world, the very thing U.S. bomb scientists were afraid Hitler might do, was explicitly discussed with the incoming President Truman by then-Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson on April 25, 1945. Stimson said that “If the problem of the proper use of this weapon can be solved, we will have the opportunity to bring the world into a pattern in which the peace of the world and our civilization can be saved.”
“Hiroshima and Nagasaki were really the first experiments on what Stimson called the ‘proper use’ of the bomb,” said Dr. Makhijani. “The unspeakable terror of a single bomb dropped from a lone plane that could destroy a whole city in a flash was to replace the armadas of bombers dropping thousands of bombs that were incinerating Japanese and German cities in early 1945. It was to be the most fearsome kind of ‘shock and awe.’”
But if a single bomb could replace the power of an entire military, then controlling the world with it depended on the maintenance of a monopoly, which was soon broken. So instead of bringing sole control to the possessor, the fearsome unveiling of the bomb at Hiroshima became the principal driving force in nuclear proliferation. The German threat led to the U.S. bomb to the Soviet bomb and in a chain whose end does not seem to have arrived yet.
Well over half the world’s population now lives in countries that have nuclear weapons or are allied with a nuclear weapon state. Forty four countries have the technical capability to make nuclear bombs. The article disputes those who argue that nuclear weapons have brought peace. It points out that the United States and the Soviet Union fought proxy wars because they were now too afraid to fight one another in Europe. Nuclear weapons did not stop violence but shifted it. Millions have been killed in proxy wars, whose violence continues. The problem of global terrorism is a direct result of some of those wars. Now some of that terrorism threatens to go nuclear.
“Today, sixty years after that fateful decision, the idea that you can dictate your terms to the world if you have the bomb has migrated from the capitals of civilization to the caves of Afghanistan,” said Dr. Makhijani. “Osama bin Laden has more than once made reference to Hiroshima in asserting his own determination to use nuclear weapons to destroy and kill.”
The article catalogs the host of problems that have arisen as nuclear establishments around the world have become entrenched. They have subverted the rule of law and democracy, where they existed, in the name of national security. They have covered up hazards of radiation and lied to their people. For instance, while the U.S. military was reassuring the public that nuclear tests posed no radiation danger, it was contemplating radioactive terror for potential enemies. The article cites a 1947 Joint Chiefs of Staff report:
“We can form no adequate mental picture of the multiple disasters that would befall a modern city, blasted by one or more bombs and enveloped by radioactive mists. Of the survivors in the contaminated areas, some would be doomed by radiation sickness in hours, some in days, some in years . . . . Added to every terror of the moment, thousands would be stricken with a fear of death and the uncertainty of the time of its arrival.“
“Stimson himself had been fearful at other times that the bomb might get out of control instead of a U.S-shaped ‘peace of the world’,” said Dr. Makhijani. “Today we seem to be on the brink of nuclear chaos in large measure because the most powerful, led by the United States, proclaim loudly their own prerogative to hold on to nuclear weapons, while they are intent on disarming others. India, which complained loudly of ‘nuclear apartheid’ before it tested the bomb five years ago, now is quiet, having joined the ‘White’ side of the plutonium club. Not a happy result for the land of Gandhi, whose own struggle for freedom began in apartheid South Africa.”
Gandhi, while condemning the “misdeeds” and “unworthy ambitions” of the Japanese imperialists, the article notes, thought that that the United States might find itself confronted by nuclear terror one day: “What has happened to the soul of the destroying nation is yet too early to see. . . . A slave holder cannot hold a slave without putting himself or his deputy in the cage holding the slave.”
“Scientific brilliance is not enough,” Dr. Makhijani writes in the article. “Bereft of moral and political vision or consideration for future generations, it can lead to chaos, violence, and, in the case of nuclear weapons, annihilation.