Hoping against hope
This week, the steadily dwindling survivors and witnesses to the world's first atomic bombing marked the 75th anniversary of the day their world and the world at large changed. Always a sombre affair, the anniversary was given an even more grim undertone with masked survivors and their families congregating in small numbers before the memorial. But in contrast to the heavy silence that has pervaded such remembrances, the survivors have not been silent about the reality they witnessed on the day the bomb fell. They witnessed the moment that humanity gained the power to destroy worlds and they understood that we are not meant to possess this power. Since the day the 'Little Boy' fell on Hiroshima killing at least 90,000 on impact, the survivors have rebuilt their lives and homes while living with the hope that their suffering will be lesson enough for humanity regarding the cost of using such weapons. To this date, there is no established 'necessity' behind America's decision to drop the bombs. Most experts then and now have dismissed the excuse of America dropping the bomb to bring a quick end to a war that may have otherwise dragged on. Japan was already nearing a state of unconditional surrender when the bombs were dropped. America has never apologised or admitted to the bombing being a war crime that targeted a civilian population. The closest the nation has come to acknowledgement is Barack Obama's 2016 visit to Hiroshima where he embraced survivors and called for a nuclear-free world. But that is a matter for history to decide. What concerns the survivors, their families and those who sympathise with their message is the perceived reluctance of the Japanese Government to commit to creating a nuclear weapon free world. In his speech to commemorate the event, Hiroshima's Mayor Kazumi Matsui called on the Japanese Government to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, something the Japanese Government has shown visible opposition to ratifying. He also urged the world at large to not fall prey to the cyclic nature of history and reject self-centred nationalism, a real concern as nationalist sentiment is on the rise worldwide.
For his part, Japanese PM Abe recognised the need for Japan to act as a bridge between different sides of the nuclear weapons debate but urged patience as a nuclear weapon free world was not something that could be created in a day and ground realities must be respected. And the realities are grave Even today, conservatively speaking, there are still over 13,000 nuclear weapons still present in the world with close to 4,000 of them being active warheads. While testing and development on the surface have slowed to a near halt worldwide, both US and Russia have threatened on multiple occasions recently to break this decades-long halt on the nuclear arms race. At the same time, it hard to say how many nations across the world have acquired nuclear technology in the years following the end of the Cold War. Most importantly, the nuclear arms holding nations are unlikely to ever accept any plea for complete disarmament due to the fact that nuclear weapons are seen as the ultimate security that a nation can possess against hostile intentions. Peace built on nuclear weapons is a tenuous one by its very nature. Unless the whole world disarms, meaningful disarmament is a dream. It is hard to call the reduction in nuclear weapons since the Cold Wars as a true victory for those who seek disarmament. Practically speaking, there is little difference in being able to destroy the world four times over and ten times over. In their twilight years, it would seem that these survivors will leave the world disappointed as their message for a safer, more humane, nuclear weapon free world continues to be ignored in favour of convoluted politics.