By Arjun Makhijani
Transcript of radio commentary that aired April 30, 2003 on KUNM public radio 89.9 fm in Albuquerque.
Sixty years ago, in the thick of World War II, on May 5, 1943, the Military Policy Committee of the Manhattan Project met for the first time to discuss potential targets for the nascent atomic bomb. Out of fear of German nuclear capability, the committee decided not to target Germany. Japanese forces, and then Japan, were to become the target. The scientists building the bomb still thought they were in the business of deterring Hitler. But the government secretly added an agenda that was soon to become dominant one: using the bomb to try craft and maintain a U.S.-dictated world order after the war.
That idea was raised by Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, in April 1945 when he told the newly installed President Truman, “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.”
The first experiments in “proper use” were the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But instead of establishing long-term peace monitored and maintained by a single bomb-wielding overseer, we now have eight nuclear weapons states, and 36 others who are capable of making bombs.
Winston Churchill, in 1955, said of the bomb that peace would “be the sturdy child of terror, and survival the twin brother of annihilation.” Yet, the Cold War did not create peace. It gave us hot proxy wars – partly because Europeans were too afraid to fight one another again. For millions proxy wars meant death, not safety. The consequences of those wars are with us still. The problem of global terrorism, which threatens to go nuclear, is one direct result. The message that nuclear bombs are all-determining has migrated from the capitals of civilization to the caves of Afghanistan.
Mahatma Gandhi, while condemning the “misdeeds” and “unworthy ambitions” of the Japanese imperialists, predicted after Hiroshima that the United States might find itself confronted by nuclear terror one day: “A slave holder cannot hold a slave without putting himself or his deputy in the cage holding the slave,” he said.
Six decades after the nuclear cross hairs were first redirected from West to East, it is imperative that we heed Gandhi’s warning. Nuclear weapons are not instruments of peace or civilization. They are engines of terror, unsafe in any hands. It is time to put nuclear disarmament at the center of the agenda for peace.
For more details about May 5, 1943, you can read my article in the May/June issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. This is Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research,www.ieer.org.