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Hiroshima & Nagasaki: Seven Decades & Counting

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"Evening Glow over Hiroshima," woodcut by atom-bomb survivor, Asai Kiyoshi
Either Countdown to Armageddon, or Countenancing Humanity's Rise From Capital-Intensive Empire
crossposted from SouthEast Review of Culture Media and Politics

I've written about Hiroshima in general for forty-odd years, and I've composed something tangible for every annual commemoration of the bombing for plus or minus a decade-and-a-half. Thus, again, I proffer ideas about this event and the even more egregious slaughter that followed three days' hence at Nagasaki.

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I can offer evidence for all that follows. That data, and those citations and links and sources, make a persuasive, perhaps a dispositive, case for all that follows below. However, I'm not bothering this year to provide citations or links or other connections to that material, except to refer anyone interested to items that I have been composing for lo these many years about all of this.

Instead, here I am--as old as the hills, a veritable representation of Father Time, who appears again, Cassandra-like, asking for attention on which human survival depends--with a relatively brief listing of conclusions about what Hiroshima means for, what it implies about, and what it portends for the human condition. The hundreds of thousands--overwhelmingly, women and children and elderly non-combatants--whom United States action incinerated in 1945, and the plus or minus tens-of-millions--a much more varied demographic--who have subsequently expired as a result of the subsequent iterations of the uranium economy and the Modern Nuclear Project, might if nothing else appreciate our considering such anniversaries as this one as an opportunity to reflect both on making human survival more likely rather than less likely, and on facilitating rather than precluding human thriving.

detail from the Hiroshima Panels by Iri and Toshi Maruki
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The dead call us to account. They beg for our attention. The words of a translation that I've done of Sadako Kirihara's poem, "New Life," articulates this point:

Her promise is the one we live by still.
Even in the fires of hell, as life's blood seeps away,
We will bring forth new life, even unto death.
A birth to tie ourselves to Earth even as we go,
Life is our vow; life is our will.
My advice is that folks pay attention, but I'm not attached to advising such. People can do whatever they like.

The following five conclusions are merely a tiny sample of critical or at minimum useful deductions about Hiroshima's impact or significance. However, they do represent far-reaching or even central judgments in regard to Hiroshima's influence on Homo Sapiens' problems and prospects.

First, the innovation and enterprise and work of nuclear research and development have always been near the top of the agenda of monopoly capital. This extends from well before the 'discovery' of radioactivity and the actual structure of the atom.

Whether one examines Germany or England or Japan, the elevation of scientific inquiry and expertise, and the delving of electromagnetism in particular, have sought to turn the nature of nature to the purposes of profit. The names of the principle-investigators in different cases end up reading like a who's who of nuclear history--from Faraday to Teller, from Einstein to Thompson, from Curie to Soddy, from Becquerel to Szilard, from Fermi to Heisenberg.



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Moreover, these people themselves, as in the case of 'Lord Kelvin' or Frederick Soddy, or their backers and funders, were central actors in the monopolization and financialization of capital's ruling dynamic. Those who picked up the tab for the increasingly expensive devices that the likes of Lawrence Livermore and Ernest Rutherford and others dreamed of building always represented vast wealth and even plutocracy: the Rockefeller interests' ubiquitous presence on the subatomic-research scene, Ernest Solvay's family's ongoing imprimatur in these matters, and the presence of other multi-billionaire financiers such as Alfred Loomis and Alexander Sachs among the 'hobbyists' who effected the Modern Nuclear Project, altogether demonstrate this conjunction between the bourgeois stratosphere and the revelation of colossal 'energy-potential' from the atom and its components.

Second, the Manhattan Project, which in and of itself is another irrefutable agglomeration of evidence in support of the first point, had as its primary purpose the creation of mass-murder devices to serve the geopolitical and imperial agendas of the monopoly capital puppeteers who 'paid the piper' all along the path to apprehending these fundamental energies of existence. This is not some 'conspiracy theory,' but is an unmistakable "conspiracy fact", as the redoubtable if not completely 'respectable' Michael Rupert put the case.

Moreover, the connection between an interest in nature's energy stores, the electromagnetic spectrum, and a bomb 'destructive enough to make war unthinkable' rests at the root of the entire process of investigation. Thompson's work makes this clear in general. Both Frederic Soddy's Interpretation of Radium and the Nobelist's famed early twentieth-century lecture circuit made this point crystal clear. No particle physicist was unaware of the implication of e = mc-squared.

Not only did scientists and businessmen apprise themselves explicitly of this connection between the EMS and weapons of unimaginable lethality, but writers and other artists all along narrated this scenario, decades in advance of the creation of the aptly named Manhattan Engineering District. Frank Stockton's The Great War Syndicate, H.G. Wells' The World Set Free, Eric Ambler's The Dark Frontier, and Robert Heinlein's Solution Unsatisfactory are just a sampling of the yarns--that none of them are literary gems is beside the point--that 'scoop' the 'great secret' of nuclear weapons by periods of a few years to nearly a century.

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The original 'odd bird,' my stint as head of High School ROTC included my wearing MFS's black armband just before I turned down an appointment to West Point to go to Harvard. There, majoring in bridge, backgammon, and poker for my middle years as (more...)
 

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