By Laura Skelton
This week marks the 74th anniversary of the United States dropping atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As we have every year since 1984, a diverse community gathered on August 6, the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, at Green Lake to remember the more than 200,000 lives extinguished by those two bombings. Thursday, August 9, is the anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki, which has a direct connection to Washington State. It was here in Washington, at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, that the plutonium for the bomb dropped on Nagasaki was manufactured.
It is vital that we remember the very real and devastating consequences of these weapons of mass destruction. Yet, it is even more important that we take steps to ensure that nuclear weapons do not claim any more lives. Important progress in the form of diplomacy and international treaties has been made since the wartime bombings of 1945. Unfortunately, it seems that we as a nation are departing from our longtime commitment to nuclear disarmament.
President Trump has pulled the United States out of the Iran Deal (a deal that would limit Iran’s ability to create a nuclear weapon, and one that experts agree was working). And just last week, the United States formally withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia, which for decades has limited the possibility of land-based nuclear attacks. Other developments, such as the creation of a new class of “low-yield” nuclear weapons (today’s “low yield” weapons are equivalent to the bomb dropped on Hiroshima) and the plan to “modernize” the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal, send a message to the rest of the world that we are nowhere close to relinquishing our nuclear firepower.
On a more hopeful note, there are policies being discussed that could dramatically improve the dangerous situation we find ourselves in. At the very least, the U.S. could finally adopt a “no first use” policy, which would match the Pentagon’s rhetoric that nuclear weapons are only needed for defensive reasons. If we only have nuclear weapons to defend ourselves, why would we ever need to launch them first? Senate bill 272 (introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren) and House bill 921 (introduced by Rep. Adam Smith from Washington’s 9th district; also co-sponsored by Rep. Denny Heck and rep. Pramila Jayapal) would help to de-escalate tensions that have been growing among nuclear states.
Before another year moves the memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki further from our minds, let us honor the victims by taking real and meaningful actions to protect current and future generations.