58 years on

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Where may nuclear developments lead? What will be the role of the U.S., and how have artists responded to the nuclear danger?

Father Kleinsorge heard a voice from the underbrush, “Have you anything to drink?” He saw a uniform. Thinking there was just one soldier, he approached with the water. When he had penetrated the bushes, he saw there were about twenty men, and they were all in exactly the same nightmarish state: their faces were wholly burned, their eyesockets were hollow, the fluid from their melted eyes had run down their cheeks. (They must have had their faces upturned when the bomb went off; perhaps they were anti-aircraft personnel.) ... One of them said, “I can't see anything.” Father Kleinsorge answered, as cheerily as he could, “There's a doctor at the entrance to the park. He's busy now, but he'll come soon and fix your eyes, I hope.”

- John Hersey, Hiroshima

8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945, and a second sun lit the skyabove Hiroshima.

For 45 years, our lexicon contained doublethink: balance of terror, mutually assured destruction and the friendly idea of a “nuclear umbrella.”

With talks between Gorbachev and Reagan, and U.S. fundingunder the Nunn-Lugar agreement for increased nuclear security in the former USSR, the world seemed to have an opportunity.

That window may now be closing. A variety of negativesigns can be read month by month:

Post-Chernobyl, the world was already fragile, and September 11 shattered an elite perception of nuclear stability. A simple DHL brochure, that boasts of shipping five tonnes of radioactive material per week using 113 aircraft, now seems dangerous to mention aloud.

The U.S., by its position morally as the only nation to have used nuclear arms, and numerically by having the 2nd largest nuclear arsenal, should be taking the lead on disarmament.

Instead, as rabble outlines below, the Bush administration is contemplating a new mini-nuke build-up.

To conclude rabbles coverage of the 58th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we also offer some web locations to find artistic interpretations and film documentaries on the nuclear issue. Perhaps by the 59th anniversary, we, as a planet, will have found a similarly creative way out of our collective predicament.

Current US policy and nuclear war:

  • Democracy Now interviews Greg Mello, director of the Los Alamos Study Group which monitors arms labs. 150 top U.S. officials and defense contractors quietly met in Omaha, Nebraska this Thursday to develop plans for the U.S. to expand its nuclear arsenal. Mello took part in protests in Nebraska and attempted to conduct a citizens weapons inspection at the United States Strategic Command but was denied entry.
  • On April 21, 2003, the mayor of Hiroshima wrote a letter to U.S. President George Bush. In it, he criticised Bushs 2004 budget request for funding the development of small nuclear weapons. Tadatoshi Akiba said it represented “an extremely regrettable frontal attack on the process of nuclear disarmament.”
  • American Friends Service Committee, The Bush Administrations nuclear weapons policy: a double standard with lethal implications, June 2003
  • "A Threat to Peace" - a map of the U.S. from NYC Indymedia that outlines all submarine bases, mercenary companies, nuclear facilities and corporate partners of the US military-industrial complex.

Art and nuclear war:

  • Art of the Hibakusha — this collection of paintings began in 1974 when a survivor presented a hand drawn picture to the NHK (the Japan Broadcasting Corporation). The drawing was broadcast on Japanese television. Soon, thousands of drawings by other hibakusha began to arrive at the offices of NHK. An exhibition of the collected Paintings and Drawings was mounted at the Peace Culture Center of Hiroshima in 1975. Since that time the Artworks have been compiled into several books and travelling exhibitions.
  • The Hiroshima Archive is at Lewis & Clark College, Portland, Oregon. Their Hiroshima Directory offers Internet resources as well as a selected bibliography of printed books, articles, and other research materials. Their Gallery shows poignant imagery from the postwar work “Hiroshima” by Hiromi Tsuchida, published with permission.
  • Paul Quayle, a photographer based in Hiroshima, has a website of photos from his book, “Hiroshima Calling”
  • The War Game, a drama documentary made for BBC TV in 1965 about a “limited” nuclear attack on England was banned from British TV for 20 years. The director, Peter Watkins, exposes the inadequacy of the nations Civil Defence programme and questions the philosophy of the nuclear deterrent
  • Anand Patwardhan battled the Indian censor board for 1 ½ years. The board had requested 21 cuts to his award-winning documentary, War and Peace. From the plight of residents living near the nuclear test site, and the horrendous effects of uranium mining on local indigenous populations, it becomes clear that, contrary to a myth first created in the U.S., there is no such thing as the “peaceful Atom.”

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