The Marshall Islands were devastated by the U.S. nuclear weapons tests held in the Pacific Proving Grounds. Decades of tests poisoned the atolls, including Castle Bravo, the most powerful and destructive test by the U.S.
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by Rawan Alkhatib, WAND Intern, Arlington MA
The capacity for human innovation is extraordinary. Our creative feats over a few decades have demonstrated astounding technological advancements that could hardly be imagined a century ago. Many would consider nuclear strength as an achievement that must forever be proudly and positively marked in the history of humankind. However, the complete and indiscriminate destruction as a result of nuclear weapons may lead humankind in the future to wonder, "What were they thinking?" It is a source of shame that we now manufacture tools with the power to exert colossal damage.
Commemorating the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is an important step in confronting this dark moment of American history. The American bombings of these two Japanese cities resulted immediately in a combined 214,000 approximate fatalities, 175,000 serious injuries, hundreds of thousands of deaths and illness from radiation exposure, and total destruction of infrastructure. The rationale behind striking was to minimize further American casualties in World War II. The obvious and horrifying destruction in Japan did nothing to deter the United States' further nuclear ambitions.
Indeed, after World War II ended, the United States began testing larger and more destructive nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands, with harmful and long-term consequences. The nuclear tests modified the Marshall Island's natural topology, leaving lasting ecological damage that cannot be easily resolved. The citizens of the Marshall Islands' continued exposure to radiation is demonstrating detrimental health risks that are far-reaching. According to one expert, "these tests had an equivalent explosive force greater than 1.5 Hiroshima bombs being detonated daily for 12 years.
Since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the nuclear-armed nations "club" has grown to nine, which can be divided into two groups depending on whether or not a country is party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The NPT, ratified in 1970, aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. The five parties to the NPT are the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China. The remaining four--Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea--are not party to the NPT but, according to a new lawsuit brought by the Republic of the Marshall Islands, are bound by customary international law.
The lawsuit alleges that the previously-mentioned nine countries have failed to live up to their obligations under Article VI of the NPT to take steps toward the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons. The date the lawsuit was filed on April 24, 2014, the tiny Republic of the Marshall Islands demonstrated an impressive act of bravery by taking on these nine nuclear nations.
As the 69th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings approaches, it is essential that we reflect on the lasting consequences of these attacks. Pursuing a world with zero nuclear weapons is one of the best ways to increase security in an increasingly insecure world. As President John F. Kennedy remarked regarding nuclear weapons' power to cause mass extinction, "And we call ourselves the human race." Technological progress, no matter to what end, should never supersede morality.