"Climate change threatens the future of humanity, but we refuse to
respond rationally" was how George Monbiot opened his essay
on the use of fossil fuels. Here, John Pilger adds Nuclear War
to the list of dire and immediate threats, and makes as pressing an
argument. I don't have the article in front of me, but the Bush
administration is currently meeting in closed session with the nuclear
industry, discussing using the energy crisis to reopen closed plants,
including those with known deadly radiation leaks, and build new
ones on the theory that people are now concerned enough about
energy to accept this. And, of course, this also will be used to
persuade us to accept nuclear weapons up to and including war.
We must defeat these sub-humans.
The above was written in 2003
Published on Friday, August 15, 2003 by John Pilger
August Marks Another Anniversary of the Atomic Bombing of Japan, the
Ultimate Act of Terrorism in Which 231,920 People Have Now Died,
the Latest, the Children of 1945, from a Plague of Cancers
by John Pilger
I first visited Hiroshima 22 years after the atomic bombing. Although the
city had been completely rebuilt with glass boxes and ring roads, its
suffering was not difficult to find. Beside the river, less than a mile from
where the bomb burst, stilts of shacks rose from the silt, and languid human
silhouettes searched pyramids of rubbish, providing a glimpse of a Japan few
can now imagine.
They were the survivors. Most of them were sick, impoverished, unemployed
and socially excluded. Such was the fear of the "atomic plague" that people
changed their names; most moved away. The sick received treatment in a
crowded state-run hospital. The modern Atomic Bomb Hospital, surrounded by
pines and overlooking the city, which the Americans built and ran, took only
a few patients for "study".
On 6 August, the anniversary of the bombing, the Mainichi Shimbun reported
that the number of people killed directly and after exposure to radiation
had now reached 231,920. Today, in the same hospital wards I visited, there
are the children of 1945, dying from a predictable plague of cancers.
The first Allied journalist to reach Hiroshima following the bombing was
Wilfred Burchett, the Australian war correspondent of the London Daily
Express. Burchett found thousands of survivors suffering mysterious symptoms
of internal hemorrhage, spotted skin and hair loss. In a historic despatch
to the Express that began, "I write this as a warning to the world", he
described the effects of radiation.
The Allied occupation authorities vehemently denied Burchett's reports.
People had died only as a result of the blast, they lied, and the "embedded"
Allied press amplified this. "No radioactivity in Hiroshima ruin" was the
headline in the New York Times of 13 September 1945. Burchett had his press
accreditation withdrawn and was issued with an expulsion order from Japan,
which was later rescinded. Japanese film shot in the hospitals was
confiscated and sent to Washington, where it was classified as top secret
and not released for 23 years.
The true motive for using this ultimate weapon of mass destruction was
suppressed even longer. The official truth was that the bomb was dropped to
speed the surrender of Japan and save Allied lives. Today, as the public
becomes more attuned to the scale of government deception, this was probably
the biggest lie of all. As the historian Gar Alperovitz, among others, has
documented, US political and military leaders, knowing that Japan's
surrender was already under way, believed the atomic bombing was militarily
unnecessary. In 1946 the US Strategic Bombing Survey confirmed this. None of
this was shared with the public, nor the belief in Washington that the
atomic bomb "experiment" in Japan, as President Truman put it, would
demonstrate US primacy to the Russians.
Since then declassified files have shown that the United States has almost
used nuclear weapons on at least three occasions: twice in the 1950s, during
the Korean war and in Indo-China (against Ho Chi Minh's forces, which were
then routing the French), and during the 1973 Arab/Israeli war. During the
1980s, President Reagan threatened the use of "limited" nuclear weapons,
until huge demonstrations in Europe curtailed the American short-range
missile program. Under George W Bush's essentially Reaganite administration,
the US (and British) military's love affair with nuclear weapons is on the
rise again. In 2001, the United States withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic
Missile Treaty, the landmark agreement with the Russians signed in 1972.
This was the first time in the nuclear era that Washington had renounced a
major arms control accord.
The most important official behind this is John Bolton, the under-secretary
of state for arms control and international security: an ironic title,
surely, given the extraordinary stand Bolton has taken and the threats he
has made. A former Reagan man who is probably the most extreme of George W
Bush's "neo-cons", Bolton had his appointment endorsed by Senator Jesse
Helms, one of America's greatest warmongers, with these words: "John Bolton
is the kind of man with whom I would want to stand at Armageddon...for the
final battle between good and evil."
Bolton is Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's man at the "liberal" State
Department. He is a strong advocate of the blurring of the distinction
between nuclear and conventional weapons. This is described vividly in last
year's leaked Nuclear Posture Review, in which the Pentagon expresses its
"need" for low-yield nuclear weapons for possible attacks on a shopping list
of "enemies of the United States": Libya, Syria, Iran, Iraq and North Korea.
The inclusion of Iraq is significant. During the long charade about Saddam
Hussein's elusive weapons of mass destruction, no mention was made in
Washington of US willingness to use nuclear weapons against Iraq. It was
left to Britain's Defense Secretary, the caustic Geoff Hoon, to disclose
this. On 26 March 2002, Hoon told parliament that "some states" - he
mentioned Saddam Hussein by name - "can be absolutely confident that in the
right conditions we would be willing to use our nuclear weapons". No British
minister has ever made such an outright threat. As Hoon himself later
admitted, British policy is merely an extension of US policy.
As for John Bolton, there is little doubt that he has been assigned to lead
the charge against North Korea, which has nuclear weapons. Bolton has been
traveling the world trying to assemble a "coalition" that will send warships
to "interdict" North Korean vessels. Two weeks ago he was in Seoul, where he
unleashed a remarkable stream of abuse against the North Korean dictator Kim
Jong-il who, he said, ran "a hellish nightmare". (In reply, Pyongyang
described Bolton as "human scum".)
Last month I interviewed Bolton in Washington and asked him: "If you stop
ships, isn't there an echo of what happened in 1962, with the threat of
nuclear war? Won't the North Korean regime be moved to defend themselves
with the nuclear weapons they have?" He replied that a North Korean ship had
already been stopped and "the regime did nothing in response".
"But if you take action, the nuclear risk is there, isn't it?" I asked. He
replied, "The risk is there if we don't take action... of them blackmailing
other countries." He quoted Condoleezza Rice, Bush's closest adviser: "We
don't want to wait for the mushroom cloud."
Two weeks ago, on the 58th anniversary of Hiroshima's incineration, a secret
conference was held at the Strategic Air Command in Omaha, Nebraska, the
base where, 24 hours a day, the United States keeps its "nuclear vigil". (It
was the setting for Stanley Kubrick's Dr Strangelove.) In attendance were
cabinet members, generals and leading scientists from America's three main
nuclear weapons laboratories. Members of Congress were banned, even as
observers. The agenda was the development of "mini-nukes" for possible use
against "rogue states".
The mantle of the greatest rogue state of all cannot be in doubt. Since the
end of the cold war, the United States has repudiated, rejected or subverted
all the major treaties designed to prevent war with weapons of mass
destruction, especially nuclear weapons. This is the rampant power to which,
says Hoon, we are inexorably tied.
That, not an establishment brawl between the government and the BBC, ought
to be our most urgent concern.
© CARLTON INTERACTIVE 2000/JOHN PILGER
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