This week is the 74th anniversary of the unnecessary and immoral U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Adm. William Leahy, chief of staff to presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman, commented on these bombings: “It is my opinion that the use of the 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. … My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”

Reflecting on these horrific crimes, I wonder, have we learned the right lessons? We learned that nuclear weapons kill large numbers of innocent civilians, but so do so-called conventional weapons. Perhaps what we should have learned is that war is not the answer and that the world needs alternatives for solving crises.
Unfortunately, the lesson the U.S. and a few other countries took away from Hiroshima and Nagasaki was that more nuclear weapons were needed. Once the atomic genie was unleashed, nuclear proliferation became the name of the game. Might, not diplomacy, was “in.”

By the early 1960s, five nations had nuclear weapons, with the Soviet Union and the U.S. armed to the teeth and following the policy of mutual assured destruction (MAD). The leaders of these countries were indeed mad!

Two thousand years ago, Seneca the Younger addressed humanity’s madness: “We are mad, not only individually, but nationally. We check manslaughter and isolated murders; but what of war and the much-vaunted crime of slaughtering whole peoples?” Army Gen. Omar Bradley, the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reiterated this point: “Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.”

Has all the trillions of dollars spent on nuclear weapons and the military brought us peace and security? Or has it simply improved the killing capability of our military and enriched the merchants of death, our Congressional-military-industrial complex, at the expense of our people and worldwide peace and security? A look at the past 74 years shows that our huge and bloated nuclear-armed military has not brought peace. In fact, it appears that the U.S., by having such a powerful military, tends to turn to it instead of solving problems diplomatically.

Unfortunately, insanity still reigns supreme. Diplomacy had worked to reduce the number and types of nuclear weapons. However, since 2002, the U.S. has pulled out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and, just this month, out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, further endangering the world. Making matters worse, the public doesn’t understand that aggressive U.S. actions against Russia are threatening the future of humanity.

One hope is that the U.S. and the other nuclear-armed nations would sign on to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Encourage Congress to get the U.S. to sign and ratify this treaty — your life may depend on it.

The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center’s “Peace Train” runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.

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