” It is as vital as ever that the left continues to campaign for the Labour Party to put peace, de-escalation of conflict and nuclear disarmament at the heart of an internationalist foreign policy, and to pressure the Government to do likewise .”George Holmes, Leeds East CLP
Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki, George Holmes (Leeds East CLP) argues Labour must say we need rid the world of nuclear weapons for good.
Today marks 75 years since the US dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, on the morning of 6 August 1945.
The resulting blast, which destroyed 13 square kilometres of the city, instantly killed everyone within half a mile, with many who were caught in the open turned to ash. When Tony Benn visited Hiroshima in 1983, he was shown a little dark mark on the pavement and was told that was where a child had been sitting when the bomb landed.
Outside the half-mile radius, tens of thousands were killed by the heat and blast waves. Many who initially survived later died from either burns or the radiation, which poisoned the air and water. According to Kate Hudson, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, “at least 75,000 died in the first hours after the bomb was dropped, with around 140,000 dead by December 1945. The death toll reached around 200,000 by the end of 1950.”
On 9 August, it will be the 75th anniversary of the use of the atom bomb on Nagasaki. CND reported that 70,000 people in Nagasaki were killed in 1945, and around 140,000 had died by the end of 1950. It is estimated that 340,000 people had died by 1950 as a result of both bombs, with unarmed civilians making up most of the casualties. The 136,700 survivors, known as the hibakusha, suffered and continue to suffer from the aftereffects of radiation to this day.
Contrary to popular narratives, the bombings were not necessary to ending WW2, as the Japanese Government were already preparing to surrender. This view was shared at the time by several figures at the top of the US administration. Fleet Admiral William Daniel Leahy, President Truman’s chief of staff, said that: “this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.” The US Military Chief General Eisenhower (later US President) stated that: “Japan was at that very moment seeking some way to surrender with minimum loss of face, and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.”
Rather, there is evidence to suggest that the bombs were used to establish military superiority over the world. Henry Stimson, the US Secretary of War during WWII, referred to the atom bomb as a ‘master card’ for the American Government, which they could use as leverage in the postwar world in the face of an ascendant Soviet Union.
Seventy-five years on, the threat of nuclear annihilation remains high. According to the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, around 14,500 nuclear weapons still exist in the world today. The Trump administration has been attempting to reassert the US as the dominant global power, with the nation withdrawing from arms control treaties, considering the resumption of nuclear testing, and continuing to escalate the risk of a global conflict with China. The result of this conflict would be destruction on an unfathomable scale.
Meanwhile, the UK Government continues to pour billions of pounds into their nuclear weapons programme, while the NHS remained woefully underfunded and unprepared to meet the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a cost we cannot afford, and neither would it ever be morally right to use such weapons.
As we remember both those who have died and the hibakusha, we must also pledge to ensure that such an event never happens again. It is as vital as ever that the left continues to campaign for the Labour Party to put peace, de-escalation of conflict and nuclear disarmament at the heart of an internationalist foreign policy, and to pressure the Government to do likewise. Never again should these horrors be repeated.
- Get involved with Labour CND at http://www.labourcnd.org.uk/