On 6th August 1945 the Unites States dropped the very first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. At 08:15 Hiroshima time, Major Thomas Ferebee released the bomb from the Enola Gay, piloted by Colonel Paul. W. Tibbets.
Little boy, a uranium gun-type atomic bomb and the 64kg of Uranium 235 it contained detonated at about 1,900 feet 44.4 seconds later. 70,000 – 80,000 people were immediately killed by the blast and the shockwave, with another 70,000 injured. Ironically the bomb missed its planned target by about 800 feet and exploded instead over the Shima Surgical Clinic situated at 34.39468°N 132.45462°E.
On August 9th the Bockscar, piloted by Major Charles W. Sweeney, carried Fat Man, a Plutonium implosion type bomb. At 11.01 Nagasaki time the bomb was released by bombardier Captain Kermit Beahan and exploded 47 seconds later over a tennis court at 32.77372°N 129.86325°E .
Between 39,000 and 80,000 people were killed overall, with half occurring at the time of the blast.
On August 9th The American President Harry. H. Truman, who had authorised the bombings, said:
I realize the tragic significance of the atomic bomb … It is an awful responsibility which has come to us … We thank God that it has come to us, instead of to our enemies; and we pray that He may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purposes.
In his declaration of surrender, the Japanese emperor, Hirohito, included the following:
Moreover, the enemy now possesses a new and terrible weapon with the power to destroy many innocent lives and do incalculable damage. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilisation. Such being the case, how are we to save the millions of our subjects, or to atone ourselves before the hallowed spirits of our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why we have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the joint declaration of the powers.
This action was undoubtedly the single most anti-human and callous act of mass killings that has ever happened. Whatever your views might be on the morality of such actions or any justifications they may have, it is clear that it was the lesser armed state that suffered.
Both leaders were of the firm opinion that the one-sided nature of their respective weaponry was a hugely significant factor, and that leads to a very important question.
Had Japan possessed an equal capability to deliver a nuclear strike, would the Americans have dropped these bombs? The answer is an unequivocal no! The decision to use nuclear weaponry became a practical option specifically because there could be no equivalent retaliatory response. The moral, if we ever really needed to re-visit it, is that the safest person is the one with the biggest stick.
Another material but often dismissed reality is that the events described above actually happened. One country decided to use a nuclear weapon against another. It is, therefore, possible that a country, any capable country, might be persuaded to take similar actions at some future time to defend what it sees as its own interests. Were that to become a reality would you rather be a Japan or an America?
The subject of nuclear weaponry is again topical because of the decision to go ahead with the renewal of the Trident submarine, Britain’s independent (qualified) nuclear weaponry. Some people think this is the wrong thing to do, but their arguments are as confused as their thinking and range from the cost to a misplaced morality about warfare and nuclear weapons.
Undoubtedly we would all prefer the world to be nuclear free, preferably WMD free and perhaps even small arms free. After all, peoples generally do not want to kill each other, governments and religious dogma enable that. However, in the light of reality, the world isn’t nuclear free so we need to pay particular attention to the things we need to do to protect our nation and our peoples. Whilst we prefer to live in peace, when conflict arises we do take sides and rightly so. If 1,000,000 people are going to be killed it should be them and not us. That isn’t the highest level of moral attainment I know but it is cold hard reality.
I’ve listened to those who espouse the kind of disadvantage that Japan had in 1945. It seems odd that anyone could fail to be influenced by our own recent history but many may be operating on that ethereal level of oneness embodying humanity, peace and goodwill to all, though such altruistic outlooks are hard to maintain when your wife and daughters are raped and murdered before your eyes and your children tortured and beheaded.
That’s why we sometimes have to fight, and when we do we definitely want to be on the side with the most powerful weaponry. Blackadder put it beautifully when reminiscing wars past and sharpened mangoes that ‘these Germans have got guns as well’.
Below are the principle arguments I’ve heard opposing the Trident renewal.
- 1. Nobody is going to threaten us with a nuclear attack let alone actually do that.
- 1.1 History has passed these people by and unless they have truly foreseen all our futures that’s not a reliable assessment.
- 2. If we make ourselves harmless, nasty big boys won’t hit us.
- 2.1 The world is littered with historical examples of the strong subjugating the weak, we are still the same peoples and will continue to face the same threats.
- 3. It costs too much.
- 3.1 Oddly this argument trips itself up as Labour suggest still spending the money but disabling the capability, truly idiotic. Other than that, what price freedom and security? How much would you pay to not be murdered in your bed.
- 4. NATO incorporates allies who do have nuclear weapons so they can protect us and we don’t need to spend the money or carry the weapons ourselves. Presumably this is Scotland’s SNP position. We don’t need an army or weapons as England and NATO will protect us.
- 4.1 That’s the guy with no car who gets lifts from everyone else. Sooner or later he finds people looking the other way or have just left when he’s aut to ask. The British people aren’t spongers on the goodwill of others and will always play their part.
- 5. We can spend the money instead on an increased conventional capability.
- 5.1 Japan had a comprehensive conventional capability.
When it comes down to it unilateral disarmers are simply good people who want the world to be a less dangerous place and perhaps more of that sentiment should prevail. Their arguments aren’t substantive but if you take the view that a million dead is a million people and in the grand scheme of things it is no worse if it were to be us than them, then perhaps laying down one’s defences might eventually lead to some form of Nirvana.
However, we are where we are. Human nature, in evolutionary terms, hasn’t changed much from when we were hunter-gatherers and we still have a need to protect our own against others.
Maybe we’ll eventually live in the ‘Star Trek’ fantasy of a war free and disease free world but perhaps then all we’ll have to look forward to is more crappy TV.