The Guardian 3 August, 2005

Hiroshima never again

"I would characterise current US nuclear weapons policy as immoral, illegal, militarily unnecessary, and dreadfully dangerous. The risk of an accidental or inadvertent nuclear launch is unacceptably high. Far from reducing these risks, the Bush administration has signalled that it is committed to keeping the US nuclear arsenal as a mainstay of its military power — a commitment that is simultaneously eroding the international norms that have limited the spread of nuclear weapons and fissile materials for 50 years."

These are the words of Robert McNamara, US Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1968 and President of the World Bank from 1968 to 1981, in an article in May this year. He continued:

"The United States has never endorsed the policy of ‘no first use’, not during my seven years as secretary or since. We have been and remain prepared to initiate the use of nuclear weapons by the decision of one person, the President, against either a nuclear or non-nuclear enemy whenever we believe it is in our interest to do so…

"Today, the United States has deployed approximately 4,500 strategic, offensive nuclear warheads. Russia has roughly 3,800. The strategic forces of Britain, France, and China are considerably smaller, with 200-400 nuclear weapons in each state’s arsenal. The new nuclear states of Pakistan and India have fewer than 100 weapons each. North Korea now claims to have developed nuclear weapons, and US intelligence agencies estimate that Pyongyang has enough fissile material for 2-8 bombs….

"Although the number of deployed warheads will be reduced to 3,800 in 2007 and to between 1,700 and 2,200 by 2012, the warheads and many of the launch vehicles taken off deployment will be maintained in a ‘responsive’ reserve from which they could be moved back to the operationally deployed force….

"In addition to projecting the deployment of large numbers of strategic nuclear weapons far into the future, the Bush administration is planning an extensive and expensive series of programs to sustain and modernise the existing nuclear force and to begin studies for new launch vehicles, as well as new warheads for all of the launch platforms.

"Some members of the administration have called for new nuclear weapons that could be used as bunker busters against underground shelters ….

"The plans provide for integrating a national ballistic missile defense into the new triad of offensive weapons to enhance the nation’s ability to use its ‘power projection forces’ by improving our ability to counterattack an enemy….

"The Bush administration … has ordered the national laboratories to begin research on new nuclear weapons designs and to prepare the underground test sites in Nevada for nuclear tests if necessary in the future."

Dr Sasaki

John Hersey, one of the first Western journalists to reach Hiroshima after the bomb was dropped, recorded the experiences of six survivors whose lives had been shattered in an instant. His account, published in a special issue of the New Yorker, shook the world. Here we republish an extract about just one of these survivors.

At exactly 8.15am, on August 6 1945, Japanese time, at the moment when the atomic bomb flashed above Hiroshima, Dr Terufumi Sasaki, a young member of the surgical staff of the city’s large, modern Red Cross Hospital, walked along one of the hospital corridors with a blood specimen in his hand.

Dr Sasaki caught a streetcar at once on his way to work that morning. (He later calculated that if he had taken his customary train that morning, and if he had had to wait a few minutes for the streetcar, as often happened, he would have been close to the centre at the time of the explosion and would surely have perished.) He arrived at the hospital at 7.40 and reported to the chief surgeon. A few minutes later, he went to a room on the first floor and drew blood from the arm of a man in order to perform a Wassermann test. The laboratory containing the incubators for the test was on the third floor.

With the blood specimen in his left hand, he started along the main corridor on his way toward the stairs. He was one step beyond an open window when the light of the bomb was reflected, like a gigantic photographic flash, in the corridor. He ducked down on one knee and said to himself, as only a Japanese person would, " Sasaki, gambare! Be brave!" Just then (the building was 1650 yards[1500 metres] from the centre), the blast ripped through the hospital. The glasses he was wearing flew off his face; the bottle of blood crashed against one wall; his Japanese slippers zipped out from under his feet — but otherwise, thanks to where he stood, he was untouched.

Dr Sasaki shouted the name of the chief surgeon and rushed around to the man’s office and found him terribly cut by glass. The hospital was in horrible confusion: heavy partitions and ceilings had fallen on patients, beds had overturned, windows had blown in and cut people, blood was spattered on the walls and floors, instruments were everywhere, many of the patients were running about screaming, many more lay dead.

Dr Sasaki believed that the enemy had hit the building. He got bandages and began to bind the wounds of those inside the hospital. Outside, all over Hiroshima, maimed and dying citizens turned their unsteady steps toward the Red Cross Hospital to begin an invasion that was to make Dr Sasaki forget his private nightmare for a long, long time.

The sole uninjured doctor on the Red Cross Hospital staff was Dr Sasaki. After the explosion, he hurried to a storeroom to fetch bandages. This room, like everything he had seen as he ran through the hospital, was chaotic — bottles of medicines thrown off shelves and broken, salves spattered on the walls, instruments strewn everywhere. He grabbed up some bandages and an unbroken bottle of Mercurochrome, hurried back to the chief surgeon and bandaged his cuts.

Then he went out into the corridor and began patching up the wounded patients and the doctors and nurses there. He blundered so without his glasses that he took a pair off the face of a wounded nurse, and although they only approximately compensated for the errors of his vision, they were better than nothing.

Dr Sasaki worked without method, taking those who were nearest him first, and he noticed soon that the corridor seemed to be getting more and more crowded. Mixed in with the abrasions and lacerations which most people in the hospital had suffered, he began to find dreadful burns. He realised then that casualties were pouring in from outdoors.

There were so many that he began to pass up the lightly wounded; he decided that all he could hope to do was to stop people from bleeding to death. Before long, patients lay and crouched on the floors of the wards and the laboratories and all the other rooms, and in the corridors, and on the stairs, and in the front hall, and on the stone front steps, and in the driveway and courtyard, and in the streets outside.

In a city of 245,000, nearly 100,000 people had been killed or doomed at one blow; 100,000 more were hurt. At least 10,000 of the wounded made their way to the best hospital in town, which was altogether unequal to such a trampling, since it had only 600 beds, and they had all been occupied. The people in the suffocating crowd inside the hospital wept and cried "Sensei! Doctor!" Many people were vomiting.

Tugged here and there, bewildered by the numbers, staggered by so much raw flesh, Dr Sasaki lost all sense of profession and stopped working as a skilful surgeon and a sympathetic man; he became an automaton, mechanically wiping, daubing, winding, wiping, daubing, winding.

By nightfall, Dr Sasaki, worn out, was moving aimlessly and dully up and down the stinking corridors with wads of bandage and bottles of mercurochrome, still wearing the glasses he had taken from the wounded nurse, binding up the worst cuts as he came to them. Other doctors were putting compresses of saline solution on the worst burns. That was all they could do. After dark, they worked by the light of the city’s fires and by candles the 10 remaining nurses held for them.

Dr Sasaki had not looked outside the hospital all day; the scene inside was so terrible and so compelling that it had not occurred to him to ask any questions about what had happened beyond the windows and doors. Patients were dying by the hundreds, but there was nobody to carry away the corpses. Some of the hospital staff distributed biscuits and rice balls, but the charnel house smell was so strong that few were hungry.

Dr Sasaki and his colleagues at the Red Cross Hospital watched [an] unprecedented disease unfold and at last evolved a theory about its nature. It had, they decided, three stages. The first stage had been all over before the doctors even knew they were dealing with a new sickness; it was the direct reaction to the bombardment of the body, at the moment when the bomb went off, by neutrons, beta particles, and gamma rays. The apparently uninjured people who had died so mysteriously in the first few hours or days had succumbed in this first stage. It killed 95 per cent of the people within a half mile[800 metres] of the centre. The rays simply destroyed body cells — caused their nuclei to degenerate and broke their walls.

The second stage set in 10 or 15 days after the bombing. Its first symptom was loss of hair. Diarrhoea and fever, which in some cases went as high as 106F[41C], came next. Twenty-five to 30 days after the explosion, blood disorders appeared: gums bled, the white-blood-cell count dropped sharply, and petechiae (bleeding from broken blood vessels) appeared on the skin.

The third stage was the reaction that came when the body struggled to compensate for its ills — when, for instance, the white count not only returned to normal but increased to much higher than normal levels. In this stage, many patients died of complications, such as infections in the chest cavity.

Australian involvement

Australia has been locked into a deadly alliance that is part of the new world order being imposed by US imperialism. The Howard Government has signed up Australia as a front-line collaborator with US global space, nuclear and conventional war plans, providing specialist military forces, training and transit facilities and a secure base for US electronic and satellite spying activities.

Australia’s foreign and military policies are strongly influenced by its economic and political ties as part of global imperialism. Australian governments acting in the interests of the capitalist class have made Australia a regional tool of their global interests.

Australia is tied into the nuclear weapons systems of the United States, hosting communications and spy bases and allowing nuclear capable warships and aircraft to use Australian territory.

Beyond its increasing dependence on the US military alliance to bolster Australian capitalism’s strategic interests, the Howard Government is seeking a commercial payoff, both in terms of Pentagon contracts for some Australian-based military suppliers and through the Free Trade Agreement.

The Australian ruling class hopes for US support for Australian operations in the Asia-Pacific region such as the occupation of the Solomon Islands and in East Timor, where Washington endorsed an Australian-led intervention in 1999 which secured corporate Australia’s grip over the oil and gas fields in the Timor Sea.

In recent years, the process of making the Australian military an extension of the Pentagon has been accelerating.


Australian Defence Minister Robert Hill has said joint exercises and other measures are being taken to ensure "seamless interoperability" between the United States and Australian military.

Interoperability is the process of the gradual fusion of the Australian Defence Force into a de-facto arm of the United States military.

Star Wars

The United States missile defence or Star Wars program is about attack, not defence. From behind a "missile shield", the US can launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against any country which does not do its bidding, without fear of retaliation.

Space-based weapons are an essential part of this plan. The US military plans to base weapons in space and to control and dominate space and from it the Earth below.

The US is planning to militarise and commercially exploit space, becoming the master of space and taking corporate globalisation to a new and more terrifying level.

The space missile program is providing super profits for the armaments corporations including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and TRW. This is corporate greed on a global scale. "Missile defence" is the armed wing of globalisation.

Star Wars means loss of national independence with the domination of Australia by US policy makers, the US military and US transnational corporations.

Australia’s Jindalee Operational Radar Network facilities are being upgraded so they can become a component of the US Star Wars program.

The Australian Government provides facilities for part of the system at the Pine Gap base.

Pine Gap

The US military base at Pine Gap (near Alice Springs) is one of the largest and most important US satellite ground control stations in the world.

Pine Gap provides targets for US missiles and bombs, intelligence for US economic and military activities, military command and control functions and early warning of missile launches. The base monitors telephone, microwave and VHF radio communications from allies and enemies alike.

Australia is made a nuclear target by federal government support for Pine Gap.

Satellites controlled by Pine Gap cover areas of primary strategic importance for the US — China, southern Russia and the Middle East oilfields.


The Howard Government decided to spend $6 billion on three air-warfare destroyers with long-range anti-missile (Aegis) capabilities to be based off the coast of Western Australia.

The US intends to base the Aegis combat system in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Australia, essentially surrounding the coast of China

New bases

The government has agreed to three new US "training bases" (the Bradshaw Training Area and Delamere Air Weapons Range in the Northern Territory and Shoalwater Bay in Queensland).

US bases and joint war games on Australia’s soil contribute to the US’s war-fighting strategy. The new bases will assist the US to prosecute wars against the poor in our region and beyond, and to help swell the list of Australia’s enemies.

Pre-emptive strikes

The adoption of a pre-emptive strike policy by the Australian Government is a cover and justification for intervention, invasion and the reoccupation of former colonial countries by the military, the police and the economic controllers of the major imperialist powers.

Economic price

The Howard Government is sacrificing Australia’s economy and security for US imperialism’s dream of world domination.

Australia’s current military spending of over $60 million a day steals the resources needed to provide human and social needs.

An extra $600 million (about two weeks military spending) spent on public hospitals each year would overcome their critical shortcomings.

A small proportion of the military budget would pay for upgrading public education, reducing the cost of university education, supporting childcare, developing Medicare, assisting the needy and creating jobs.

Democratic rights

An atmosphere of fear and insecurity is being fanned to assist a massive attack on civil liberties. Federal and State legislation, being used first against the Muslim community, is intended to destroy democratic rights and stifle all dissent.

The alternative

Lasting peace and harmony will only be guaranteed when the underlying causes of war — the drive for private profit and the racism, nationalism, poverty and oppression that the profit motive creates — are eliminated.

Under capitalism the threat of wars of different types will not disappear, but it is essential to adopt policies which can reduce the danger of war significantly.

Australia needs an independent, non-aligned foreign policy which is effective, affordable and genuinely serves the defence of our country and the need for peace and stability in our region. An independent, made-in-Australia policy for reduced military spending and respect for the sovereign rights of nations to independence, equality and self determination would best serve the need for peace and stability in our region.

Subservience to the US makes Australia poorer, not safer

Australia does not have to become a cog in the US military machine. We can stand up to the powerful United States. Despite its overwhelming military power, the United States is not getting its own way. It is being challenged by a powerful anti-war movement that brought an unprecedented 10 million people onto the streets around the world in February 2003, and by the numerous poor countries of the world which are thwarting its plans in economic forums like the WTO.

A just and peaceful world is possible

The Apocalypse

A 2000 report by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War describes the likely effects of a single 1 megaton weapon. The US and Russian arsenals contain dozens of these weapons.

At ground zero, the explosion creates a crater 900 metres deep and 360 metres in diameter.

Within one second, the atmosphere itself ignites into a fireball more than a 800 metres in diameter. The surface of the fireball radiates nearly three times the light and heat of a comparable area of the surface of the sun, extinguishing in seconds all life below and radiating outward at the speed of light, causing instantaneous severe burns to people within 1.5 to 5 kilometres.

A blast wave of compressed air reaches a distance of 5 kilometres in about 12 seconds, flattening factories and commercial buildings. Debris carried by winds of 400kph inflicts lethal injuries throughout the area.

At least 50 percent of people in the area die immediately, prior to any injuries from radiation or the developing firestorm.


On November 7, 1995, the mayor of Nagasaki recalled his memory of the attack in testimony to the International Court of Justice:

"Nagasaki became a city of death where not even the sound of insects could be heard. After a while, countless men, women and children began to gather for a drink of water at the banks of nearby Urakami River, their hair and clothing scorched and their burnt skin hanging off in sheets like rags. Begging for help they died one after another in the water or in heaps on the banks...

"Four months after the atomic bombing, 74,000 people were dead, and 75,000 had suffered injuries, that is, two-thirds of the city population had fallen victim to this calamity that came upon Nagasaki like a preview of the Apocalypse."

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