It was a sinister cloud, an enormous explosion, a terrible flash, a heavy roar. Nothing like it had ever happened before and we hope will never happen again. It was the atomic bomb attack on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The perpetrator was the United States, the post powerful military force during World War II and the then President Harry Truman justified the holocaust by saying it was intended to end the bloodiest war in human history.
President Truman’s public announcement in Washington, D.C., 16 hours after the attack, was Japan’s first knowledge of what had really happened to Hiroshima:
“Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima. It is an atomic bomb. We are now prepared to obliterate more rapidly and completely every productive enterprise the Japanese have above ground in any city. If it does not now accept our terms it may expect a rain of ruin from the air the like of which has never been seen on this earth.” At 8:15 a.m., on August 6, 1945, the Little Boy bomb exploded, instantly killing 80,000 to 140,000 people and seriously injuring 100,000 more.
In less than one second, the fireball had expanded to 900 feet. The blast wave shattered windows up to a distance of ten miles and was felt as far away as 37 miles. Over two-thirds of Hiroshima’s buildings were demolished. The hundreds of fires, ignited by the thermal pulse, combined to produce a firestorm that had incinerated everything within about 4.4 miles of ground zero. Even today hundreds of thousands of people are suffering from the side effects of Hiroshima’s atom bomb doom.
Nearly 71 years later, the Present US President Barack Obama is visiting Hiroshima today, the first US President to visit this area. Most observers say that while President Obama may not directly apologise for the Hiroshima doom, it is likely he may appeal for the world to go beyond nuclear non-proliferation and work towards the vision of complete nuclear disarmament or the elimination of all nuclear weapons.
At 10:58 A.M., on August 9, 1945, the second atom bomb attack was made on Nagasaki, one of the largest seaports in southern Japan, and of great wartime importance because of its wide-ranging industrial activity. The exact number of casualties was impossible to determine. The Japanese listed only those they could verify and set the official estimate at 23, 753 killed, 1,927 missing, and 23, 345 wounded. U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey figures were much higher, but still less than those for Hiroshima.
More than 70 years later, as many as nine countries have developed much more sophisticated nuclear weapons which could blast the whole world into pieces within minutes. According to latest information given by international peace research institutes, nine nations — the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea — possess about 17, 000 nuclear weapons in total.
Under the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms or the new START treaty, Russia and the United States have reduced their inventories, but still account for more than 93% of all operational nuclear warheads.
All five legally recognized nuclear weapon states — China, France, Russia, Britain and the US— are either deploying new nuclear weapon delivery systems or have announced programmes to do so.
Sri Lanka could be proud that one of the world’s most eminent Jurists and peacemakers leading the campaign for nuclear disarmament is Justice C. G. Weeramantry. At conferences and seminars all over the world Justice Weeramantry, once a member of the International Court of Justice, has said there was no case in which nuclear weapons use or threat of use would be legal. He argues that nuclear weapons in and of themselves represent a violation of both international humanitarian law and the laws of all of the world’s major religions. He points to the examples from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Islamic texts and beliefs, all of which condemn weapons of mass destruction.