From Manila to Hiroshima

8 Aug

It all started in Manila. When the US easily defeated a weaker Spanish fleet in the Caribbean during the Spanish-American War, the US shrugged off the modest and prudent restraints of a constitutional republic and embraced the heavy burdens of empire. Victory over Spain allowed the US to conquer Spains’ former colonies (Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Guam) and stretched its imperial guns to the shores of the Philippines.

Imposing our will on the Philippines was no easy task, and the US Army wiped out 200,000 Filipinos who dared to resist foreign occupation. President McKinley, proud of “Christianizing” the already Catholic Filipinos, put on an emperor’s crown as he saw the Stars and Stripes fly on foreign soil, and the American Empire was born.

A couple decades later, the Japanese began dabbling in their own imperial slaughter, razing their way through the Asian mainland in a fury. US hegemony in the Pacific was soon threatened by the Japanese Empire, and the US responded provocatively with an oil embargo, selling boatloads of weapons to China, and encircling the island. The Japanese, sick of being bullied and provoked by the US, bombed Pearl Harbor (yet another US colony, not even a state at the time).

The rest, as they say, is history. The world witnessed a war that left continents in ashes, cities destroyed, millions dead and wounded, and massive ethnic cleansing. 64 years ago, WW2 finally came to a close when the US dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, then three days later dropped another on Nagasaki.

Anniversaries are a time for reflection, and this haunting one is no exception. Yes, these acts were war crimes and in a just world, FDR and Truman would be scorned and hated for what they sanctioned. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were terrible, but not much is mentioned about the firebombing of Tokyo and the incineration of over 100 Japanese civilian cities under their watch.

More than examining the horrors that occurred on August 6th and 9th, 1945, the nuking of Japan should be a reminder to the entire world of the dangers of nuclear war. The Cold War is over, and the thought of nuclear war has somewhat faded from the American mind, but the threat is not entirely hidden. There are still nine countries (US, Russia, Israel, England, France, Pakistan, India, North Korea) that have a combined 27,000 operational nuclear weapons that could destroy plenty of Earths.

The threat of nuclear war is even more dangerous now considering that the ones dropped on Japan were 115-ton bombs, which are slingshots with rocks compared to the nukes that the US and Russia now possess. In a matter of 15 minutes, the US and Russia could conceivably launch 100,000 Hiroshimas.

President Obama deserves some credit for publicly embracing the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, talking with Russia about nuclear disarmament, and initiating talks in the Senate about finally signing the long overdue Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (which would effectively ban the production of nuclear material for weapons). Despite these positive signs, the Obama Administration will still spend $6 billion this year researching new ways to incinerate the world.

The anniversary of the atomic bombings of Japan may be in the past, but they serve as a constant reminder of the incredibly destructive power of modern warfare.

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