Stopping the Next Hiroshima

Stopping the Next Hiroshima

from the Weekly People, Aug 6, 1977

"We will move this year a step toward our ultimate goal-the elimination of all nuclear weapons from this earth."

So said Jimmy Carter on Inauguration Day. Six months later, the new President has given the green light to the cruise missile, a qualitative escalation of the arms race, and to the neutron bomb, the latest atrocity from the Pentagon's bomb factory. A few more such steps and Carter will have moved this year to the brink of nuclear war.

By now Americans are used to being lied to about nuclear policy. The same administrations, Democratic and Republican, who year in and year out support the expansion of the war machine, are the ones who stage cynical charades about "disarmament." And neither Carter's "human rights campaign" nor his professed interest in morality has made his administration any different.

Appropriately enough, his approval of the neutron bomb came close to another anniversary of the first atomic mass murder at Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. In the three decades since Harry Truman greeted the slaughter oft 78,000 Japanese and the wounding of tens of thousands more as "the greatest thing in history," the U.S. military has progressed from the A-bomb to the H-bomb and now the N-bomb, each more sophisticated and more horrible than its predecessor.

Today the U.S. nuclear stockpile is equivalent to 615,385 Hiroshima A-bombs and it's expanding at the rate of three warheads a day. As each one is put in place, we're assured it will never be used. On the anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, such promises ring with bitter irony.

The latest doomsday device, the neutron bomb, has aptly been called the "super-capitalist weapon." Its ability to kill people while preserving property coldly symbolizes the values of the system that created it (values which the private property system upholds in peacetime as well as war).

The neutron bomb works by radiation in a limited area, bringing a slow, extremely painful death to civilians and soldiers. Because the radiation fades away in a few hours, the Pentagon has given it the bizarre euphemism, "clean bomb." Troops can occupy the body-strewn bomb site hours after it's dropped.

The weapon has been specifically designed for "tactical use" in a European war, and it offers a better chance of securing the industrial wealth, resources and markets that ruling classes seek when they send troops off to fight. In addition, its high accuracy and mobility give it a flexible military potential that increases its chances of being used. Far from a "deterrent," it makes nuclear war more likely.

But the real threat isn't just the technological sophistication of new doomsday weapons like the neutron bomb and the cruise missile. The real problem is that the arms race and the drift toward war are rooted deeply in the U.S. social and economic system.

The imperialist drives of U.S. capitalism haven't changed since it became the first, and to date the only, power to use atomic weapons on human beings. Its current perfection of the war machine is not an idle gesture. Korea, Vietnam and the many interventions in between have amply demonstrated that. If anything, the renewed acceleration of arms production is a measure of capitalism's desperation as its problems at home and abroad grow more acute.

The recent fight against the B-1 bomber has shown that it won't be enough to oppose a particular weapons system in order to halt war preparations and the march toward war. As terrifying as the weapons are, the main enemy is the system that sooner or later is bound to use them.

Ever since 1945, the capitalist military machine has been preparing the Hiroshimas of the future. It's up to us, as potential victims, to stop it by building not just a renewed peace movement, but a deeper one for fundamental easing a concentrated burst of change to a new society.