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a place between the towns of Carrizozo and Socorro, New Mexico, in the Jornada del Muerto in the southwestern United States (33.6773°N 106.4754°W)

a name derived in part from the poetry of John Donne, for example "Batter my heart, three person'd God"

a 100-foot high steel tower

the time, after delays because of weather, 5:29:45 AM Mountain War Time

the force equal to an explosion of approximately 20,000 tons of TNT

the crater in the desert of radioactive glass 3 meters deep and 330 meters wide

a mushroom cloud 12 KM in height

the blast felt over 100 miles away

On July 16, 1945, we entered the age of nuclear weapons

I am not a scientist. Nor am I either engineer or military strategist.

My entire life has, however, been lived under the shadow of the only real weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons, which have no trouble destroying entire cities and annihilating more than 100,000 people in less than a second.

In my youth, we practice "duck and cover" as if somehow hiding under our desks might somehow protect us.  By the time I was ten I knew better:  we lived less than 25 miles from Times Square.  Most of our fathers worked in Manhattan and would be vaporized in a nuclear exchange.  And we might well suffer from serious radiation sickness.

My sister's closest friend growing up was Japanese-American, and had been born in one of the internment camps.  As bad as that was, I was also aware that we used the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not on the Nazis.  Nagasaki was not even an intended target, with little military significance, and was the center of Christianity in Japan.  No matter, we were at war, and Japan refused to surrender.

Or did it matter that we used these weapon on people of a different "race" and culture?  Those arguments continue today, and I will not attempt to resolve them.

When I was 16 I lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962.  That may have been as close to a nuclear exchange as the world has ever been.  I can remember that when we went to bed on some night we were not sure if we would wake up.  What if the Soviet ships did not turn around?  What if we bombed the missile sites in Cuba as some on the joint chiefs had wanted and killed Soviet soldiers?  

Mankind builds things because we can.  One person or nation having done so, others will try to equal that achievement, however vile the results.

For all the efforts at non-proliferation, there are two things to bear in mind

  1. It is somehow immoral that some nations can claim the right to maintain nuclear arsenals that then can be used to blackmail other nations while denying the other nations the right to build their own weapons as a deterrant
  1. Many nations could produce nuclear devices:  with enough raw material it then becomes a simple engineering process - build the centrifuges, enrich the fuel, build the device.

The nickname for that first weapon was "the gadget."  

United States, Russia (as successor to the USSR), United Kingdom, France, China (with the change from the KMT regime to the Communist regime): the "legitimate" holders of nuclear weapons.  Also the permanent members of the Security Council.

India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea - the unofficial members of the "club" of possessors of these gadgets, one of which can destroy a city.

In naming the test, Oppenheimer thought of the poetry of Donne.  I read the line I previously mentioned and cannot help but rephrase, for the souls of all of us should be battered by the awful knowledge we have, the ability to kill millions, or even billions.  

I have no appointment as moralist to the world.

I am a human being.  Like all humans I have the right to think and express on issues of moral content.

If one pays attention, I think one might, as do I, feel obligated to reflect - even aloud - on moral issues, on moral consequences.

This is a political site.  In that vein I offer the following political litmus test to be applied to all candidates for high office:   would you trust this person with the power of unleashing the US nuclear arsenal?  On that question, if you have the slightest doubt, should not that be disqualifying?

That is not a matter of party identification.  I can think of current Democrats I would not trust.  I certainly can remember that Dwight Eisenhower said no to those among his military commanders who wanted to use our nuclear arsenal to help the French at Dien Bien Phu.  The late (apparently still going strong) Mark Hatfield was as a naval officer a person who visited Hiroshima almost immediately after the Japanese surrender:  what he saw affected him for the rest of his life.  Unlike some of his Senate contemporaries he was never reckless or foolhardy in advocating even the threatened use of our nuclear arsenal.

Nuclear weapons will not, at least in my lifetime, disappear from the earth. That is, not unless someone initiates a total nuclear catastrophe and destroys all of humankind and all of civilization.   For better or worse we must live with the consequences of our inventiveness, our ability to create which gives us our ability to destroy.

The greatest assemblage of scientific talent in history was probably that groups of scientists and engineers based in Los Alamos under the direction of Oppenheimer, especially if one includes those working at other sites in support of the effort to build the bomb.  We viewed the effort as a matter of necessity, of national urgency, because we feared that the Nazis might beat us to a bomb with consequences that would be devastating.  It was only after the War that we learned how poorly the Nazi effort had advanced.  

I wonder what we could accomplish with the other crisis that face this nation and the world were we willing to similarly concentrate scientific and engineering talent and devote a fraction of the treasure of the nation that we did to developing the bomb?  Alternative energy sources, for example.  Energy efficiency.  More efficient production of healthier food. So many possibilities . . .

Yet as a student of history I realize that it is rare for any nation to make such an effort except in the case of war, of national survival, easily understood.  Energy and food and pollution should be seen as issues of national and global survival, but they are not.  So we do not mobilize as this nation did.  Then, in the 1940s, we produced 'the gadget' which lead to Fat Man and Little Boy, and the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed.

For someone who is deeply faithful, as my wife is as an Orthodox Christian, using the title of the three-person deity is more than somewhat offensive.  I would counter that Oppenheimer might have been wiser than he knew.  I would explain this by reference to the Jewish Bible, to Genesis.  We sought the knowledge of good and evil, and in the process achieved a power like a deity, a power to destroy on a scale previously unimaginable.  

Oppenheimer realized this.  He said that when he saw the Trinity test he was reminded of a line from the Bhagavad Gita:  

Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

I prefer the line spoken to Oppenheimer by Kenneth Bainbridge, a physicist from Harvard who was the director of the Trinity test:  

Now we are all sons of bitches.

Anniversaries are, or at least can be, occasions for reflection.  We can look back and see how we have progressed - or regressed - since the event we could commemorate on that day.  

We may not have advanced as far as we sometimes imagine.

We may tend to gloss over the less pleasant aspects of the event in question, perhaps of its impact.

It can benefit us all to take a few moments, and consider honestly.

This I can say.  For whatever reason, since early August 1945 no one has again unleashed a nuclear "gadget" on other human beings, for which we can be grateful, all of us.

We still live under a nuclear shadow.

Yes, we can kill people in thousands of ways.

We can kill hundreds with poison gas releases.

We might kill thousands or tens of thousands with biological weapons.

We can kill with guns, with IEDS, by cutting the brakelines of motor vehicles, by crashing planes into buildings.

We can shock by how we kill and who we kill.

For me, still, the idea of vaporizing entire cities in a fraction of a second remains in a unique category.

If we can contain that power, that possible destruction, I have hope that we will be able to contain much of man's other destructive capabilities.

July 16, 1945.

In the high desert of what is now White Sands

the world entered the nuclear age


and knowing that, remembering that, reflecting on that, my final word becomes even more urgent.


Originally posted to teacherken on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 04:50 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Did you hear/feel the earthquake this AM? (6+ / 0-)

    Centered at Gaithersburg, MD. Sounded and felt like a distant explosion at my house (Charles Town, WV).

    How appropriate that we have one today...

    "Ridicule may lawfully be employed where reason has no hope of success." -7.75/-6.05

    by QuestionAuthority on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 04:57:53 AM PDT

  •  Countdown to Zero (9+ / 0-)

    "What is the difference between an al Qaida terrorist and a misguided American terrorist?" "The planes they fly!"

    by jimstaro on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 04:59:49 AM PDT

  •  Duck and cover (11+ / 0-)

    has become part of our school's tornado drills. The kids think it is funny.
    What a generational difference.

    Thank you for sharing the consciences behind the nuclear decisions.

  •  Perhaps the most powerful experience (29+ / 0-)

    of my life came when, as a young Marine in Japan between tours in Viet Nam, I was able to tour the Peace Park and museum at ground zero in Hiroshima.
    With nearly a year of first hand experience of war under my belt, and another soon to come, the things I saw and heard there were, in the old fashioned sense, awesome.
    And then I came to the bell. A Japanese bell, with the clapper a log suspended on ropes outside the bell and a little pull rope hanging beneath. The sign read, in more languages than I could count, "He Who Would Be for Peace Would Ring This Bell".
    Especially because of the horrors I'd just viewed in the museum, no one has ever done a more sincere act than I did when I swung that rope.

    I had a brother at Khe Sanh, fightin' off them Viet Cong, they're still there, but he's all gone. The Boss

    by DaNang65 on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 05:10:48 AM PDT

  •  We bombed Japan because Europe was over. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Geekesque, longislandny

    I know that is too simple an explanation when so many here would prefer to think it was racism, but there you go.

    "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." - G. Marx

    by Skeptical Bastard on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 05:18:08 AM PDT

    •  Yes, too simple (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NYFM, Jimdotz, Skeptical Bastard

      There were a lot of reasons why we bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which both were military targets BTW.

      1. Okinawa
      1. Pearl Harbor
      1. We had the bomb

      Many consider Hiroshima/Nagasaki bad choices.  I don't.  There are many reasons why the bombing of these cities was militarily acceptable.

      I am a restrictionist, and that is a progressive position.

      by numberzguy on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 05:33:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Dont forget the US casualty (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jimdotz, Skeptical Bastard
        projections of 1,000,000 plus had we invaded. We had just lost more soldiers than they did in a battle to take a tiny island.

        Are you working to reduce pain, or just distribute it?

        by Liberaltarianish on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 05:40:23 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That was the point of "Okinawa" (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Geekesque, Jimdotz, Skeptical Bastard

          That was the name of the tiny island.  Okinawa was a terrible experience.

          Although 100,000 died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, more civilians had died in the battle of Okinawa just a few weeks before H-N.  The number of Japanese civilians who would have died in an invasion of Japan is a staggering figure, for certain.

          I am a restrictionist, and that is a progressive position.

          by numberzguy on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 05:53:24 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  To say nothing of (0+ / 0-)

          the projected ten million Japanese (mostly civilians) who would die in an invasion.  The bombs were an Evil Thing, but clearly the lesser evil.

      •  ...and don't forget we were firebombing Tokyo (5+ / 0-)

        We were killing a jillion Japanese civilians every day before Hiroshima.

        Don't be a DON'T-DO... Be a DO-DO!

        by godwhataklutz on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 05:49:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  We also had no idea how horrific a weapon... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        minerva1157, Skeptical Bastard

        it really was going to be. At least, the politicians couldn't quite appreciate it's power like some of the scientists may have.

        Groucho Marx sings the new GOP motto: I'm Against It!

        by Jimdotz on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 05:55:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  On the other hand, there's the minority views (5+ / 0-)

        that if "we" had just responded to overtures from a Japanese government also sick of war shoved down their throats by their version of the MIC, and agreed to do what "we" did anyway, to guarantee that "we" would not remove the Emperor as spiritual and titular head of the nation, they would have surrendered without the need to "invade."

        But it's swimming upstream against a massive flood of patriotic-tribal-rage-and-guilt-driven opinion to even try to float that kind of notion. The kind of response, the "absolute certitude" of people who blast these notions, ought to give a little clue to the genesis and credibility of the "things everybody, every sane person, knows..."

        ken, this Vietnam vet thanks you for having open eyes and empathy and all those squishy virtues that the Martial Marchers and Flag Wavers sneer at and categorize as TREASON!

        "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

        by jm214 on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 06:01:55 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  All of that is simply speculative hypotheticals (0+ / 0-)

          and part of it is a successful campaign from Japan in the last 20 years to blame the US for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and entirely exempt any Japanese source for any culpability whatsoever.  Today, Japanese history books do not explain the Japanese role in WWII.

          I am a restrictionist, and that is a progressive position.

          by numberzguy on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 06:30:23 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Talk about speculative hypotheticals-- (0+ / 0-)

            Including the old chestnut about millions of deaths "saved" by nuking two cities. The same class of people who showed us the light at the end of the Vietnam tunnel and "Mission Accomplished" in Iraw and now Surge, Surge, Surge in Fannypackistan were the folks who so wisely told us how many GIs would get killed in an invasion of the House of the Rising Sun.

            And gee, how about at least one citation for your "everybody knows" statement about the Japs (my dad and uncle were Pacific Theater vets) exempting any JKapanese source for any culpabilitywhatsoever. Yep, as with our home-grown apologists for everything Exceptional and American, there are Japanese neohistorians, but even Wiki has looked at least at part of the issue:You might look here to read at least about what the equivalent of the Texas school board tries with our own texts.

            And of course The War, whichever one is being referred to in any context, is so nice and simple: Us, and The Enemy. We kill them -- so? But there are always little caveats and little imbecilities, like the assault on a little place called Peleliu, and even semi-mainstream stuff like this.

            But not to worry -- there is always room for grim-faced, clench-jawed Patriots, to Tell It Like It Should Be Told...

            "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

            by jm214 on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 01:55:40 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  There was a coup attempt against (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NYFM, sargoth

          Hirohito after he decided to surrender in the aftermath of the nuclear attacks.  So this notion that Japan was just looking for an excuse to surrender is silly, and certainly not known by the United States.  

          "[R]ather high-minded, if not a bit self-referential"--The Washington Post.

          by Geekesque on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 06:35:59 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  and there was a coup attempt against FDR (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            during the New Deal, when Smedley Butler was approached by people organized by Vanderbilt.

            So what.

            Were there elements in Japan  that wanted to fight to the bitter end? Yep.

            Just like there have been those in the US willing to recklessly use nuclear weapons to make a point, as some in the Joint Chiefs urged Eisenhower to intervene to help the French at Dien Bien Phu, as some urged LBJ to use the power at his disposal to break the siege of Khe Sanh.

            I did say in the diary that I was not going to debate the rightness of using the weapons.  The point of the diary is very different.

            I of course cannot stop you from commenting as you choose.  But you are, on the record, too dismissive of the fact that there were serious efforts in Japan to end the war.  That country was divided.

            So was this country in our attitude prior to Pearl Harbor.  Remember, there were significant people who tilted towards Hitler versus the British.  

            And even after Pearl Harbor, there has been a strong strand of people who believe that FDR provoked the Japanese attack to give him an excuse to enter the war, just like in our day there is a strong strand who believe that Bush had prior knowledge and allowed 9-11 to happen to give him an excuse to invade Iraq.

            That you can point to some examples of people resisting surrender does not mean an absence of a serious movement within Japan to find a way to end the war.

            "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

            by teacherken on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 06:52:35 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  "That country was divided" (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              That country was a military dictatorship.

              And the elements wanting to fight to the bitter end?  They were known as the Japanese military.

              The only people who had any say were the Emperor and the Japanese military.  

              Here is what the Japanese government was conveyed to the Soviets two weeks before Hiroshima:

              With respect to unconditional surrender (I have been informed of your July 18 message)we are unable to consent to it under any circumstances whatever.  Even if the war drags on and it becomes clear that it will take much more bloodshed, the whole country as one man will pit itself against the enemy in accordance with the Imperial Will so  long as the enemy demands unconditional surrender.  It is in order to avoid such a state of affairs that we are seeking a peace which is not so-called unconditional surrender through the good offices of Russia.  It is necessary that we exert ourselves so that this idea will be finally driven home to the Americans and the British.

              Therefore, it is not only impossible for us to request the Russians to lend their good offices in obtaining a peace without conditions, but it would be both disadvantageous and impossible, from the standpoint of foreign and domestic considerations, to make an immediate declaration of terms.  


              "[R]ather high-minded, if not a bit self-referential"--The Washington Post.

              by Geekesque on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 07:44:43 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  the military was divided at the end (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                and it was not totally a military dictatorship.  There were ongoing disputes between the Army and the Navy, among other divides in the nation.

                Hitler may have had absolute power.  No one person in Japan did.

                "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

                by teacherken on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 07:48:33 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  The military was divided (0+ / 0-)

                  after two nuclear bombs had been dropped and the Soviets invaded Manchuria.  They were unified in opposing surrender before that.

                  The invasion of Japan was going to happen in October 1945.  There was not much time to force Japan's hand.

                  "[R]ather high-minded, if not a bit self-referential"--The Washington Post.

                  by Geekesque on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 08:04:57 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Interesting, isn't it, when matters of history (0+ / 0-)

                  intersect with matters of patriotic secular religion?

                  So an extract from a diplomatic note to the Soviet government declining to let the Reds claim credit for the surrender is "proof" that but for opening the nuclear Pandora's Box over H&N, the US would have had to spend millions more lives "ground-pounding" the Nips? Anybody see a reason or three why the Japs might not have seen that as a good way to commit national seppuku? Gee, I wonder what's in the diplomatic pouches and secure "telexes" from around the world, coming to Foggy Bottom today? Not much fun eating liverwurst if you have a look at how it's made.

                  And gee, is it not interesting that there is a class of people who form the militarist/imperialist cadres of every nation, who end up at or near the top of the power pyramid, who drive the rest of us into this stupid freakin' corner we are in? And how in Japan, and in many other contexts (didn't some German generals try to "off" one Adolph Hitler, 'cuz they saw he was sawing off the branch they all were sitting on?), there have been "divided opinions?" Speaking of Gen. Smedley "War is just a racket" Butler and the Kitchen Conspiracy or whatever it was called...

                  And how if you adjust the color on your HDTV to take out the surface differences, these militarists and jingoists and Chauvinists (the old-fashioned political, as opposed to politically-incorrect, kind) are like the pigs at the card table in the House on the "Animal Farm," indistiguishable from one another or the devils in suits? Setting down to knock out contracts for the rendering of any less-equal animals for their meat and fat?

                  Doesn't matter, of course -- The Narrative rules all, and the ways we are coming up with to kill ourselves off as a species just keep rolling off the lab tables and the fertile brains of those people who think that all the world's a threat, and all the world's resources need to be marshalled into counter-counter-counter-counter-threats. "My mind is made up like a Marine's bed, so tight you can bounce a penny off it."

                  Go Cockroaches! Go Rats! You guys rule! or will...

                  Stupid frickin' humans.

                  Not US, of course -- we're RIGHT, and BETTER than THEY are, and DESERVE hegemony over everything, and can rationalize and justify with endless self-congratulatory and self-deluding "examples" why that is so.

                  Lost cause, ken -- too bad, we could have been so much more...

                  "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

                  by jm214 on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 09:42:03 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

    •  To keep the Russians out? (3+ / 0-)

      The series "The World at War" suggests that a major motive was to keep the Russians out of China.

      According to this view, it was a sure thing that the Japanese would lose eventually in a siege maintained by the U.S.  However, this left the countries occupied by Japan, including China, in a state of turmoil that could be exploited by the Russians, to whom Nazi Germany was no longer a threat.  In fact, the Red Army invaded Manchuria on the day Nagasaki was bombed.

      Ending the war would mean the Russians could not claim they were "fighting Japan" as part of an Allied effort.

      •  that reasoning falls apart (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        aufklaerer, swaminathan

        the Soviets entered the war against Japan on August 1st.  We bombed Hiroshima on August 6.  They were already in the war against Japan.   You can argue that a sick FDR gave too much leeway to Stalin at Yalta, but you cannot argue that we dropped the bombs to keep the Soviets out of the Asian theater of war.

        You can justifiably argue that some in the military wanted to try to intimidate Stalin by using the bomb.  What they did not know, nor did Truman meeting with Stalin at Potsdam shortly before we dropped the bombs, is that Stalin already knew about the nuclear weapons from his spies at Los Alamos.  And rather than be intimidated he was convinced of his need to build his own nuclear weapons to protect his regime from the threat of nuclear weapons from the US.

        "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

        by teacherken on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 06:57:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Keep the Russians out of *Japan*, not out of (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          the war.

          The US had to hurry so Stalin had no chance to claim a role in the post-war restructuring of Japan.

          Why do you think there was a 'race for Berlin'?

          After the Soviets had fought most of the war and practically defeated the Third Reich, the Western allies didn't want to see France or Italy go communist, and they made sure Western Europe stayed capitalist, but they had to put up with Marshall Nikolai Erastovitch Bersarin being the first allied commander of Berlin (and Eastern Europe being occupied by Soviet instead of US troops) - and they wouldn't have that happen to them again.

          The fact that the Soviet Union had officially declared war on August 1 just added to the pressure, quite possibly was the trigger for the decision. Japan was done, anyway.

          And I agree that it might have been easier to bomb Asian people, given the long Western tradition of a special kind of xenophobia directed towards Asians.

          Also: Thanks for an important and moving diary.

          "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach XI

          by aufklaerer on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 08:51:39 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Oh, Ken (13+ / 0-)

    I have to tell you, I am also a child of the duck and cover age. And we just had this earthquake, and, waking to it and not immediately identifying it, and being in the rough vicinity of the DC area, I briefly was terrified that someone had set off a nuclear device.

    Growing up, my dad was an assistant to a cabinet secretary, and he had a ticket to one of the underground government bunkers. He had one, we didn't. We knew (although my parents had never told us, and I can't tell you how we found out) that if that call ever came, that our daddy was going to go away and leave us behind.

    A couple of nights ago, watching the series about the universe that Morgan Freeman is hosting, he and others speculate that one of the reasons we may not find technically advanced civilizations out in the cosmos is that all technically advanced creatures eventually manage to destroy themselves and all their brethren finally and completely.

    Thanks for what you wrote. I spent the day yesterday with my grandkids so I have to hope we can still manage to save us from ourselves.

    •  How true! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      historys mysteries, uzeromay

      It seems inevitable that insufferable  and dangerous arrogance accompanies success.  When spread out over a civilization, it's almost guaranteed to destroy.  It's a shame.  Just when we think we've got it right, the ignorant, arrogant fools manage to screw it up.

      -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

      by luckylizard on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 05:36:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Many thanks TK, and Peace......eom (4+ / 0-)

    Compost for a greener piles?

    by Hoghead99 on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 05:28:11 AM PDT

  •  Nagasaki... (7+ / 0-)

    In the far recesses of my mind, I remember a beloved history teacher talking about the decision of where to drop the bomb(s).  I seem to recall that there was some discussion about targeting Kyoto as the second city, but it was discarded because of it's historic significance to the Japanese people as an ancient capital.  I could be wrong, of course.  That class was over 40 years ago :-)

    Also, we lived less than a mile (right across the river) from the Rock Island Arsenal.  Our house had permanent cracks in the plaster from the daily testing of howitzers over the Mississippi.  Mom always said duck and cover was useless for us.  We'd be at ground zero, perhaps not in a first strike, but eventually.  If we didn't get enough notice to head out to the hinterlands, we'd be toast before we heard the explosion.  Looking back at it gives me an odd feeling.  I guess every child grows up thinking that whatever s/he experiences is 'normal' but it was a really strange time...

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 05:32:10 AM PDT

    •  True about Kyoto (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      someone (I forget who) high up in the Pentagon knew Kyoto's cultural importance and it was removed as a target. If you read John Hersey's "Hiroshima" (a must read for anyone I must emphasize) you learn that under the right circumstances (and a bit of luck) a nuclear bomb is indeed survivable if properly sheltered from the blast and shielded from the radiation. Obviously survivability odds have decreased significantly with the larger and ever larger yield devices.
      And ken took a little poetic license here, it's officially "Trinity Site".

      •  Thanks for the confirmation. (0+ / 0-)

        I was hoping I'd gotten it right.  Damn!  The things you think you'll never forget seem to get hazier as time marches on.

        There were all kinds of air raid shelters around when I was growing up.  Most of them were just the basement of public buildings which were stocked with provisions of some sort.  When I was a teenager, they started closing them down.  Somehow, my dad got hold of a big tin (think popcorn can) of hard candy from one of them.  Despite its age, it was pretty good and we had candy for nearly a whole year.  We weren't rich, so it was a great treat, not to mention the stories we could tell when we set out a bowl of the wrapped goodies for guests.  :-)

        -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

        by luckylizard on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 07:17:56 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  It was Henry Stimson (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        someone (I forget who) high up in the Pentagon knew Kyoto's cultural importance and it was removed as a target.

        Henry Stimson, who was Secretary of War at the time, used his influence to remove Kyoto from the target list.

        Procrastination: Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now.

        by Linnaeus on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 08:28:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Absolutely correct (0+ / 0-)

        IIRC, the majority of the Hiroshima fatalities were not those killed in the blast, but those who survived the explosion, only to suck up a lethal dose of radiation as soon as they stepped outside.

  •  Use of "the gadget" worse than most people know (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aufklaerer, swaminathan, zenox

    The number of civilians killed, maimed and injured is bad enough, worse still is the reason for their use.

    We are taught in school that the bombs were used to end the war.  That the calculus of war suggested that fewer people overall--specifically fewer American troops--would die if we used the bomb than if we invaded.  Lots of folks can get comfortable with that.

    What if that is not the truth?

    Japan had agreed to surrender prior to the bomb being used at Nagasaki.  They only asked that they be allowed to retain their emperor.  We demanded "unconditional surrender", dropped two bombs, killed 250,000+ people, got Japan's unconditional surrender, and then allowed Japan to retain its emperor.

    We dropped the bombs to send a message to Stalin.

    "The Universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it." Marcus Aurelius

    by Mosquito Pilot on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 05:34:30 AM PDT

    •  'They offered to surrender' (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Geekesque, the fan man
      They also had peace envoys in the US a week before Pearl Harbor. It was total war.

      Are you working to reduce pain, or just distribute it?

      by Liberaltarianish on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 05:47:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  How would we respond (0+ / 0-)

        if a nation cut off our access to oil?

        "The Universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it." Marcus Aurelius

        by Mosquito Pilot on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 06:01:44 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm not placing fault anywhere (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          It takes 2 to war, and the Japanese were certainly not pacifists.

          Just saying, an 'offer' is not something you could reasonably assume to be airtight true, in those circumstances.

          Are you working to reduce pain, or just distribute it?

          by Liberaltarianish on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 06:15:07 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  accepting the offer (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            sargoth, aufklaerer

            is the only way to find out if it's valid.

            We rejected the offer, nuked 'em, and then gave them exactly what they asked for before we nuked them.

            Agree it takes 2 to war.  Either party can chose peace or at least the direction toward peace, at any point in time.

            "The Universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it." Marcus Aurelius

            by Mosquito Pilot on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 08:57:34 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  The Japanese wanted oil to kill the Chinese (0+ / 0-)

          And prosecute their war to make the entire west Pacific their sphere of dominance.  Remember that Japan had annexed Korea in 1910, occupied Manchuria in 1931, and invaded the rest of China in 1937 -- years before Pearl Harbor.  The Japanese wanted the United States to keep on supplying them with the raw materials to carry on their war; every barrel of oil, every shipment of steel, was indirectly killing the Chinese and boosting the power of the Japanese Empire.

          Whether or not you believe that the U.S. refusing to continue to empower the Japanese military in this way was a hostile act, you cannot intelligently deny that it was morally justified.

          •  the oil was Indochinese oil and we embargoed it (0+ / 0-)

            It was only US oil in the sense that all oil everywhere is US oil under our "We'll kick your ass and take your gas" energy policy.

            If you provide materiel when it's used to make war against others and then cease when it might be used against you doesn't seem to have anything to do with moral justification.

            "The Universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it." Marcus Aurelius

            by Mosquito Pilot on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 09:54:19 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Totally wrong in every respect (0+ / 0-)

              The United States did not control "Indochinese oil"; the Japanese did, because they had invaded French Indo-China in 1940, as part of their drive to create a Greater Japanese Empire.

              The United States oil embargo effected oil being exported from the United States to Japan.  It was intended to give diplomatic muscle to the effort to stop, or at least slow, Japanese aggression in East and Southeast Asia.  The Japanese could at any time have backed off and withdrawn troops.  But in fact they were committed to a plan of imperial conquest at any and all costs.

              You cannot justify one series of aggression (against Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaya et cetera) by saying that those aggressions were absolutely necessary so that Japanese forces would have the means to continue another series of aggressions in China and French Indo-China.

              It requires a special kind of moral incompetence to equate diplomatic muscle being used to undermine a war of aggression with that same war of aggression.  Should have just sat by and given the Japanese whatever they wanted in order to be able to conquer any country they liked?  Would that have been morally correct?  I don't think so.  Neither did President Roosevelt.

              •  wrong in the critical respect (0+ / 0-)

                I have never justified aggression.  I did not justify aggression in my comment.

                My point is that US corporations were happily making money off of Japanese aggression until that aggression became a threat greater than the return they were getting.  The decision to stop was economic, not moral.

                Re: oil.  I think you'll find that we weren't exporting oil to Japan, but aviation fuel.  As you point out, the Japanese had the Indochinese oil so there was no point in importing US oil.  What they lacked was refining capacity.  We broke that link in the chain.

                "The Universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it." Marcus Aurelius

                by Mosquito Pilot on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 10:49:06 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  The Japanese invasion into mainland China (0+ / 0-)

            was very difficult for the women who lived there.
            "Comfort Women." Google that.

            If you have an interest in seeing where history was made, the White Sands Missile Range opens Stallion Gate twice a year -- the first Saturday of April, and the first Saturday of October.


            It is not an unholy pilgrimage, unless you choose to make it so.

            Texas is NO Bush League! LBJ, Lady Bird, Sully Sullenberger, Ike, Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, Drew Brees -7.50,-5.59

            by BlackSheep1 on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 10:02:26 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  All of that "Japan offered to surrender" (0+ / 0-)

        sounds like more Japanese propaganda to me.  The Japanese were evil during WWII.  They were IMHO more evil than the Germans.

        I am a restrictionist, and that is a progressive position.

        by numberzguy on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 06:25:43 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  UH OH (0+ / 0-)
          Prepare for your own nuclear war with the relativists!

          Are you working to reduce pain, or just distribute it?

          by Liberaltarianish on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 06:29:52 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Perhaps - but remember these facts` (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            1. Comfort women
            1. Nanking
            1. Bataan
            1. Singapore ("Empire of the sun") and civilian concentration camps

            The Japanese were evil during WWII.

            I am a restrictionist, and that is a progressive position.

            by numberzguy on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 06:33:04 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  An entire nation cannot be "evil" (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              aufklaerer, SilentBrook

              Individuals can do evil.  Some may do evil so consistently that they seem to be evil.  And states -- which are controlled by small numbers of people -- can do evil, sometimes consistently enough, or dreadfully enough, to lead one to categorize the state as evil.

              But the state is not the nation.  The nation exists independently of the state; it is every single individual who lives under the dominion of the state.  Even when the acts of the leaders of the state are evil, that does not translate into criminal, capital guilt for all the people who work (or are enslaved) under that state.

              To say "Oh, your rulers and masters are evil, therefore it is just and right and proper that I incinerate you or gas you or leave you to die over months of radiation sickness" is barbarous and wrong.  You cannot justify attacks on civilians by slurring over the distinction between them and their rulers, identifying the state and the nation, and calling the whole thing "evil".  By that logic, the Soviets could have pointed to the actions of the U.S. in Central and South America, in Korea and Vietnam, and yes, in Japan and Germany, and said "America is evil" and therefore it would be okay to drop nuclear weapons on all our cities.

              As if every single citizen of the United States were, personally and equally, responsible for the extermination of the Native Americans and the enslavement of African-Americans and for napalm and My Lai; and we all deserved capital punishment.

              I don't believe that.  I don't believe in collective guilt.  I think collective guilt is a convenient excuse by which the leaders of a state escape responsibility for their atrocities.  And weapons like the atom bomb, which kill indiscriminately (and of course there are many 'conventional' weapons that do the same), simply muddy the waters and deny that moral simplicity you find so attractive.

        •  how then do you classify allied actions (6+ / 0-)

          such as firebombing the cities of Tokyo, Hamburg and Dresden?

          Had we lost the war, would not those involved in those actions have justifiably been executed for deliberately targeting civilians?

          Is our idea of justice that because we won whatever we did was justified?

          It becomes interesting to see the implications of applying the standards we used to convict and execute our opponents from World War II to our actions since.  Methinks if Americans knew, for example, about our execution of Tomoyuki Yamashita under the doctrine of Command Responsibility, who in the US Army should have been executed for My Lai?  Yet instead Calley served only several years.

          Americans do not understand that people in other nations are often aware of our hypocrisy.  If we challenge them for breaking treaties they bring up all those treaties with the "Indian Nations" that we simply ignored when gold was discovered, or we had other reasons for wanting to pretend we had not signed them.  If we accuse a nation of mistreatment of a minority, we are reminded of our mistreatment of our African American population and more recently our Hispanic population.  If we raise questions of genocide we might here back about Sand Creek.  If we complain about the suppression of a minority culture we might be told of our forcible conversion of Native Americans, of punishing young Native Americans who wore their hair long or spoke their native languages.

          Some Japanese were evil.  Some Germans were evil.  Some Italians were evil.  So were some Americans, some British, some French.

          If you argue the way Germany bombed London justified the firebombing of Hamburg and Dresden,  or that what happened in Japanese occupations and in the bitterness of Okinawa justified Hiroshima and Nagasaki, might I point out the wisdom of the insight that an eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind?  That if our answer to someone else's violence and atrocities is to impose upon him greater violence and atrocities, where then will it ultimately end?

          Please note -  I am not, either in this comment nor in the diary, saying that we should not have dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.  That is a separate issue, and i thought I made clear that I did not intend to address it.

          I am responding to your use of the term "evil" -  I tend to question the use of that term as intellectual laziness, as the first step on a slippery slope to justify an action in response that, if looked at in isolation, might well by a neutral observer also be called evil.

          I will end with an anecdote I have told before.  It is something I read, from a now-deceased very holy man.  During WWII he lived in a cave on Mount Athos, and served as confessor to several monasteries there.  He wrote that in his isolated setting he heard bits and pieces about the war.  And this:  he prayed that the less evil side might win.

          War, however justifiable we may make it, is of necessity always evil.  It may be the lesser of two or the least of many possible evils, but it is still evil.

          Which is why I hesitate to apply the term evil to only one side of a dispute.

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 06:45:28 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The concept of evil (0+ / 0-)

            is deeply complicated, for those who don't use it lightly.  I'm still trying to understand the concept, and where it applies.  I was reared to think or believe  "There is no evil, only evil acts". When I was a child, I was drawn to the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil monkeys statues - they actually fit my understanding at that time.  I've decided there's much more to it than that.

        •  to calibrate you ear (sounds like propaganda) (0+ / 0-)

          you may want to follow the link and check out some data you may be unfamiliar with.

          "The Universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it." Marcus Aurelius

          by Mosquito Pilot on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 09:02:17 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Don't forget the radiation (0+ / 0-)

      impacts on future generations, both here downwind from NV and NM and in Japan as well.

  •  Ty for this. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Actbriniel

    I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. - Gandhi

    by Dom9000 on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 05:39:20 AM PDT

  •  Fly little bird (0+ / 0-)

    The aftermath

    Afghanistan - Come for the lithium and stay for the opium.

    by BOHICA on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 05:40:06 AM PDT

  •  Thank you Ken... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    For the joy of reading your diaries. In this one, the following line made me think

    Yes, we can kill people in thousands of ways.

    That is true but this power, the ability to kill, is only half of the power game, namely the "evil," not the whole of it. The "good" is missing, I think. And if the ability to kill is the "evil" half, then what would be the other half, the ability for "good"?

    The ability to create life?

    We can kill people and other living things, meaning we have the power to destroy life, but...

    We do not have the power to bring dead back to life or create life out of the dead...

    Or, do we...

    What is the mirror reflection of

    Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

    How do we become Life, the creator of the worlds, then?

  •  Mark Hatfield (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, NYFM

    Was one of only two republicans I ever voted for, the other being Gov. Tom McCall.

    Afghanistan - Come for the lithium and stay for the opium.

    by BOHICA on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 05:43:19 AM PDT

  •  Mankind is capable of SO MUCH. And yet, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, prettygirlxoxoxo

    we marvel at our ability to destroy, rather than to create.

    "Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight." - Albert Schweitzer

    by Apost8 on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 05:45:31 AM PDT

    •  To be fair (0+ / 0-)

      many of the men involved in the Manhattan project, from Einstein to Oppenheimer, were terrified to see exactly what they had helped to unleash upon the world.  Oppenheimer resisted efforts to research the Hydrogen bomb, and was labeled a Communist sympathizer.

      Nuclear Power is the "power of the gods".  Its energy is what literally lights the Universe.  I'd say that the fact that humanity has survived 65 years with this knowledge - and also is searching for peaceful applications of it -  is something that should be admired.

  •  TK, beautifully written. Nuclear weapons are hard (3+ / 0-)

    to build, at least in a compact enough package to fit on a missile. Enriching uranium is also tricky, not simple engineering. While I fear a nuclear terrorist attack far more than a nuclear exchange between nations, I take some comfort in the fact that they are not easy to put together.

    As far as the haves dictating to the have-nots, all I can say is if international politics were rational, well, you could take the word politics out of the phrase. As we work to reduce our arsenal, we damn sure better do our best to make sure the club is as small as possible. We no longer need to blackmail nations with nuclear weapons, our non-nuclear arsenal is fearsome enough.

    The odds of a "regional" nuclear exchange in Asia will be far more likely as resources and food become scarce in a rapidly changing climate. As terrible as that will be for those incinerated, burned and sickened as a result, the rest of the earth will suffer a ten year nuclear winter that will certainly threaten our survival.

    Nuclear weapons must never be used again, period. That was what was so scary about the Bush/Cheney regime. They really thought they could unleash tactical nuclear weapons without consequences. I could hear the thought process, "Why have them if we're never going to use them?"

    Trinity was an odd choice, I would have gone for Gomorrah. A place of unredeemable sin turned to glass instead of salt by human sons of bitches demi-gods.

    "Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied." Friar Lawrence, Romeo and Juliet

    by the fan man on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 05:45:33 AM PDT

    •  to make for a missile, difficult (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      the fan man

      even to package as a bomb that can be dropped from a plane

      but to be carried on railroad car or tractor trailer?  Not so difficult, is it?

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 05:58:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not difficult enough, that's for sure, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Heart of the Rockies

        but it makes delivery far more tricky and more likely to be intercepted. (I guess you're thinking terrorism.) I have a relative in corporate risk management for a multinational that has already been trained to respond to such an event. They see it as more likely than I'd like to think.

        "Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied." Friar Lawrence, Romeo and Juliet

        by the fan man on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 06:13:53 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  thinking on a number of levels (2+ / 0-)

          even without miniaturization to a suitcase bomb.

          I remember that at one point less than 5% of the cargo containers coming into this country were inspected

          I remember thinking about how someone might be able to put something into a horse-drawn wagon covered by hay and take it into a city in central Europe, or in South Asia

          and if one can hijack a plane to use it as a weapon, one could hijack a plane and load a nuclear device on to it

          or smuggle on a ship

          or so many other ways

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 06:22:34 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  In my relative's work, the scenario played (2+ / 0-)

            out is a cargo container unloaded in Bayonne or Newark trying to makes it's way into lower Manhattan. Some have detonation in NJ, some Hudson Harbor, some in Manhattan. All frightening and sickening beyond description.

            "Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied." Friar Lawrence, Romeo and Juliet

            by the fan man on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 06:37:23 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I doubt we share relatives (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              the fan man

              but I have one who worked for several years on detecting "bad things" in containers.  Even with sophisticated sensors, it would be an overwhelming job, given the incoming volume at ports like Long Beach.

            •  in the world I used to work in (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              the fan man

              the scenarios were detonations in Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, or perhaps Los Alamos itself.

              PanTex is an hour and a half from me; my son's wedding, July 31, will be practically under its shadow, in a church camp chapel barely south of Palo Duro Canyon.

              What power do we imagine we control?

              Texas is NO Bush League! LBJ, Lady Bird, Sully Sullenberger, Ike, Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, Drew Brees -7.50,-5.59

              by BlackSheep1 on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 10:06:43 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  To put "the bomb" in technological perspective... (4+ / 0-)

    consider this: The first atomic bomb was dropped on Japan by a plane that was powered... by propellers!

    In other words, the jet engine was tougher technology to design and implement than the atomic bomb.

    It's amazing to me that the bomb has NOT spread further than it has.

    Groucho Marx sings the new GOP motto: I'm Against It!

    by Jimdotz on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 05:46:40 AM PDT

  •  I was born just shortly before (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Heart of the Rockies

    Trinity and grew up with the "duck and cover" stuff;
    and I remember the stand off October, 1962 as I
    traveled to Denver for State Music Festival.  I grew
    up with nightmares (yes, the real nighttime dreams of
    a War to end all Wars).  I worked for the Freeze
    movement during the 80's; discounted because I was
    just a housewife with no access to the "real" policies
    about nuclear weapons, nevertheless the START program
    happened soon after that.  We will probably never know
    how close we came to nuclear annihilation from the
    '50s to the present.  Looking back, I think that the
    powers that were (and are) knew (and know) the
    outcomes of any nuclear exchange.  A rogue enterprise
    very well could gather materials and expertize to
    build a device and even detonate one in a major city,
    but I think we have muddled through and have
    confidence that nuclear war won't be our demise.  Now
    if I could be so confident about our response to AGW.

  •  If we spent 1/10 (5+ / 0-)

    our Budget for Destroying the World --

    on actually Creating the World,

    I suspect, that most of our motives for Conflict,

    would simply fade into history.


    but alas we've growth accustom to

    The 'True Wealth' Deficit

    What is the definition of "insanity" again?

    The press is impotent when it abandons itself to falsehood. --Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Seymour, 1807

    by jamess on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 05:53:56 AM PDT

  •  In a way, nukes have saved us from (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NYFM, Jimdotz, sargoth, prettygirlxoxoxo
    Other world wars, where powerful countries and/or alliances have at each other in a total committment to victory. I don't think a nuke would ever be used offensively unless it came from a non-state actor.

    Now, if the world powers can just stop sacrificing soldiers to touchy, regional conflicts...

    Are you working to reduce pain, or just distribute it?

    by Liberaltarianish on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 05:54:27 AM PDT

  •  I've always believed that moment marked (0+ / 0-)

    a real change in America's psyche.  I believe that realization was reflected in the popular phrase from the '60s: "Dont' trust anyone over thirty." Often credited to Jerry Rubin during the YIPPIE assault on the Democratic Convention in 1968 , it actually was coined by Jack Weinberger in 1965.  

    Anyone who was 30 in 1965 would have been 10 in 1945.  By the time it became common parlance, the age of pre-atomic Americans would have dropped to 6 or 7 in 1945.  The difference, presumably, being those of us who grew up on this side of The Bomb had always known a world where total destruction was a very real possibility that we were reminded of routinely.

    Now I look back at what we so earnestly believed and laugh.

  •  Once upon a time (16+ / 0-)

    There were three nations identified by one of the most powerful nations that ever existed on this Earth as nations that formed an Axis of Evil.

    Iraq, North Korea, and Iran.

    All three were governed with an iron fist by brutal and repressive regimes.

    But one of the three was not like the other two.

    One of the three was thought to be a nuclear power.

    The evils and abusive excesses of North Korea, suspected of, perhaps, possessing at least a rudimentary bomb, were actions tolerated through gritted teeth and ice-cold international glares, while Iraq, who was alleged to be in possession of non-nuclear WMDs, but known not to possess the bomb, was bombed back to the stone age and invaded in the name of regime change.

    The powers that be in Iran... noticed.

    Every non-nuclear nation on Earth noticed as well.

    I am of the opinion that it is in humanities best interest to work incredibly hard towards the day when the horrors of nuclear war are relics of the human past.

    Which is fundamentally why I am not a Hawk.

    But we have also, repeatedly, hammered home the message that it is in your best interest, tactically and strategically, to have at least a Hiroshima-era atomic device.

    That is the ultimate lesson of the Bush era, and of the Neoconservative Movement embodied by people like Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, if you are a regime likely to find yourself at odds with the US or its allies: get the bomb. Suffer the sanctions. Endure the excoriations and condemnations. Put the suffering on the backs of your innocent civilian population and justify it with an eye on a small mushroom cloud that can move a needle-like arm ending with a pen tip angrily up and down on a moving roll of graph paper somewhere in the West.

    You have it, and air-strikes and smart bombs that can come to your neighbors, do not come to your door.

    You don't, and your secretive and abusive regime gets to hear about how you may be bombed any day now by x, y, and z before you get the chance to stand where North Korea stands and not under the rubble that hides the blasted bits of your Iraqi counterparts in international pariah-dom.

    This is the reason why I am not a Neoconservative.

    It's a Chess kind of world, and some of the most influential Hawks are playing Checkers and decrying the Chess players on their own team as weak or cowardly.

    Hawks don't seem to think very far ahead, seem to fall for their own narratives about human events, dismiss their critics as stupid or weak, and disregard the complicated consequences of reducing complicated problems to the simplest answers that allow a case for bombing.

    Bill Kristol, who thinks of himself as an Avatar of Peace (through superior firepower) is the greatest living advertisement for the worst of the worst acquiring nulcear technology as a deterrent.

    Nuclear weapons will not, at least in my lifetime, disappear from the earth. That is, not unless someone initiates a total nuclear catastrophe and destroys all of humankind and all of civilization.  

    For better or worse we must live with the consequences of our inventiveness, our ability to create which gives us our ability to destroy.

    For better or worse, we also must live with the consequences of the mentality that allows you to stand watch over a device that could exterminate all life on Earth... and call it "the football" or "the gadget", and let people like Curtis LeMay or Bill Kristol have any serious influence over our state of international affairs.

    What I learn when I think of the Trinity blast and what the existence of nuclear weapons means to the human race is that we cannot afford to indulge  people who are willing to put as many hypothetical lives in the abstract as it takes to get their worldview accomplished, as long as their real lives are never ever directly involved.

    We have to be smarter than ever to ensure the survival of the species.

    The Atomic Bomb is a device of the 1940's. A dedicated team of college students could assemble a device that only lacks the fuel to make it detonate, and plenty of nations have the ability to refine a small amount of fuel if they dedicate their national pride to suffering and enduring the ordeal to get it done.

    Iran will have its bomb, and the Middle East will have its little Cold War between the Israelis and the Iranians. The lesson of North Korea and Iraq has been learned.

    I'm, frankly, shocked that more of the world, including some of the worst of the worst, don't possess the bomb already. Once you get on the other side of the fence, your status in the world is elevated to another level forever no matter how abusive or ugly your ruling regime.

    I happen to believe, however, that our grandchildren and their children will see a time when we have moved beyond the era of the Mushroom cloud. I have faith that the best and the brightest will not quit on the pursuit of both Peace and sane national security initiatives.

    It's that hope that keeps me sharp and unwilling to give up on achieving Peace while also maintaining our national security as a people.

    You can have both.  

  •  One of your best essays, Teacherken n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Dems go big on climate, GOP apologizes to BP/twittering @RL_Miller

    by RLMiller on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 06:08:38 AM PDT

  •  Our technology is more advanced (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, NYFM, SherwoodB, aufklaerer

    But when it comes to deciding what to do with that technology, we are not much more advanced than the primates in the opening scenes of 2001 Space Odyssey.

    Photobucket; an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action -1.75 -7.23

    by Shockwave on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 06:16:27 AM PDT

    •  Not readily clear to viewers of "2001" (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shockwave, aufklaerer

      but when the ape throws the bone into the sky and the imagery then cuts to the orbiting satellite many thousands of years into the future, the satellite is in fact an orbiting nuclear device.  The circle of weaponry is meant to be complete since the ape had just killed another with the bone.

  •  Oppenheimer cited a poem (0+ / 0-)

    that glorified war. That's epic poetry for you, and today there are images of war and military technology, movies and airshows and violent games. In epics and movies war is beautiful.

    Novels are different. They require more thought and they inspire compassionate actions we describe as "thoughtful". The awakening of social conscience brought about by Stowe and Hugo and Dickens and Steinbeck, it changed the world and we don't have anything like it today in terms of influence. The beauty of mercy is not appreciated or cultivated in noisy entertainments or in political discourse that is really in a state of war.

  •  Trinity (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Heart of the Rockies, aufklaerer

    This is maybe more of a side note, but one of the most powerful games I have ever played was the Infocom interactive fiction game named "Trinity".  As the name suggests, it is entirely about the Trinity experiment and takes you on a very odd exploration of the event, seemingly trying to stop the test from taking place.

    For those who might want to play it, I'll not say anything more, but I remember it being a very powerful and emotional engagement with the story.

    It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes. ~~ Douglas Adams

    by Remillard on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 06:36:15 AM PDT

  •  I remember those hide-under-the-desk drills (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I was living in Ft. Lauderdale during the Cuban missile crisis and we had to "practice" regularly since we were so close to Cuba. How absurd. Strange times.

    We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars. --Oscar Wilde

    by zerelda on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 06:51:17 AM PDT

  •  I don't really have any recollection (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Heart of the Rockies

    of the cold war.  I was 7 when the wall came down in Berlin.

    But I find these stories in the comments fascinating.  I can't really imagine what the constant threat of possible nuclear attack would feel like, and it really goes to show how short American memories are, when we have morons like Mitt Romney lecturing President Obama terribly about START.

    Do not ever look at my Twitter feed! @Ralpheelou

    by Ralpheelou on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 06:56:27 AM PDT

  •  Actually we came close to nuclear war another (3+ / 0-)


    Last night on Rachel Maddow's show she spoke about an incident in 1995 when a US missle to study the Northen Lights was mistaken for inital missle launch to start a nuclear war.  The first missle would be release an EMP.  Russia had opened it's "nuclear football" and if Yeltsin had been drunk at the time, we may have all been blown to smithereens.

    But he called the US only to find that the information on what the missle actually was had been given to the Soviets, it just hadn't made it's way to the proper channels.

    Scary isn't it.

    While under my desk doing duck and cover, it had occurred to me that I was sitting under kindling .... it occurred to Lewis Black as well

    Bumper sticker seen on I-95; "Stop Socialism" my response: "Don't like socialism? GET OFF the Interstate highway!"

    by Clytemnestra on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 07:11:19 AM PDT

  •  Great diary teacherken... (0+ / 0-)

    I've read Rhodes's "Making of the Atomic Bomb" (amazing read), and I'm currently reading "American Prometheus," on Oppenheimer, so you're diary struck a real chord with me.

    "Clubs and sticks and bats and balls for nuclear dicks with their dialect drawls." -Spoon 9.00, -8.05

    by New Mexico Dem on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 07:21:05 AM PDT

  •  its 2010 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    its 2010, you arent going to be able to keep 1945 technology out of the hands of countires that want it.

    (regarding the bank mess) They want to cure the patient but not deal with the disease.

    by dark daze on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 07:32:24 AM PDT

  •  The scariest art I've seen in a long time: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    1945-1998, by Isao Hashimoto

    "Speaking for me only." -Armando

    by JR on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 07:39:36 AM PDT

  •  I don't prefer (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    the Bainbridge line

    Now we are all sons of bitches.

    I know it's just a phrase and one that was widely used at the time.  But leave the mothers out of it.  These were grown men. They can take responsibility for this all by themselves.

  •  We can shock by how we kill? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ByTor, swaminathan, freerad

    hell, I'm shocked by how we pay good money to sit in air conditioned comfort and watch young people be tortured to death while we eat Milk Duds and  buttery popcorn.  I'm talking about films which have no other raison d'etre like the Hostel films, Saw films, Devil's Rejects, Borderlands, etc.  The fact that people can sit there and eat gummy bears while watching such atrocities shocks me.  I think it is a real mistake to pollute one's mind with images of and justifications for such shocking acts of cruelty and madness.

    People are fungible. You can have them here or there. - Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, responding

    by peterborocanuck on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 07:49:36 AM PDT

  •  Engineering and physics are not biology (0+ / 0-)

    We are putting in the equivalent of Manhattan projects in biomedical research -- look at NIH, NSF, funding. I should know, that's how I get paid! But living creatures are more complicated things than plutonium cores. You can describe everything that happens during nuclear fission with tidy mathematics, you can calculate well behaved probabilities, and the number of components in the system can be understood and characterized. But even the simplest organism has thousands of components, and each of these components is an independent machine that responds to local conditions and influences other components in networks that comprise systems that comprise other systems, and in more complicated organisms, even higher orders of interaction and dependency. So the problem is much more complex, and the molecular tools that we use to observe and manipulate organisms are far more primitive and imprecise than what you need to get a fission chain reaction going.

    So of course I believe in the promise of biomedical science, I just try to be realistic about the future outcomes of this work :) Many of the brightest minds in the world are working on these health challenges, it's just the difficulty is far greater.

  •  Hello, tk. I would love to get your take on (0+ / 0-)

    Obama's non-proliferation efforts.

    Thanks for a thoughtful, thought-provoking essay.

    "It's not enough to be right. You still have to use your nice voice." -said by my then six-year-old daughter; "Love binds us all."-willb48

    by be the change you seek on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 09:25:46 AM PDT

    •  don't really have time to explore (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      be the change you seek

      since I last checked comments on this several hours ago have received 5 emails with info encouraging me to write about the contents, two of which involved education.  I am behind already on other writing, and like to leave time to respond to some things as they occur.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 10:22:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  One of your best, Ken. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I think it always worth reflecting on the vast power of indescrimanant destruction that is contained in nuclear weapons.

    I worked at one of the facilities involved in building the bomb, Oak Ridge, Tn and often thought about what I was doing. It was sobering to say the least. My reason for going there and how I was able to rationalize the decision was that I could be part of the research into peaceful uses of nuclear technology such as fusion reactors.

    Unapologetically pro-citizen. Not anti-corporation just very pro-citizen.

    by CanYouBeAngryAndStillDream on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 09:30:32 AM PDT

  •  Mark Hatfield is still alive (0+ / 0-)

    Hi, this is an excellent and thoughtful diary. Just one nit to pick---apparently Mark Hatfield, ex-Senator from Oregon, is still alive at age 88--so says Wikipedia.

    My karma ran over my dogma

    by Phillyfreedom on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 10:38:23 AM PDT

  •  Some late thoughts (0+ / 0-)
    1. We've had nuclear weapons for 65 years now.  We've used them twice, in quick succession, right after we got them.  Is that a sign of hope?  Perhaps
    1. Albert Einstein said "I do not know what weapons will be used to fight World War III.  World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones"
    1. Oppenheimer was a strange and brilliant man.  He and Einstein did not get along.  Oppenheimer also once said "Everything I have done in my entire life fills me with disgust".

    We all differ in ways that matter. But we're all the same in the ways that matter most.

    by plf515 on Sat Jul 17, 2010 at 10:48:11 AM PDT

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