“The coast is the greatest disaster I ever saw. It’s like someone set off a nuclear bomb there.” This was Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour’s description of Katrina’s devastation to CNN’s Larry King on Wednesday. On Tuesday, Governor Barbour, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, told reporters, “it is not a case of homes being severely damaged, they’re simply not there. I can only imagine that this is what Hiroshima looked like 60 years ago.”
Clearly Governor Barbour feels justified in using nuclear references when examining the aftermath of Katrina. And since Mr. Barbour takes these analogous liberties, one would presume he fully understands the cataclysmic consequences a nuclear weapon can cause.
Or does he? Let us examine this comparison more closely.
Both Hiroshima and Hurricane Katrina are disasters of epic proportions. Both tragedies leveled entire cities, took thousands of lives, changed the geography of entire regions, displaced millions, contaminated bodies of water, and eliminated potable water. The infected environments were breeding grounds for illness, deadly and rampant. Fires broke out and food was scarce. Those with property before, had none after. Victims were stunned, some inconsolable, their suffering unimaginable. Devastation was everywhere, inescapable and unavoidable. Families were separated and desperate to reunite. Their painful memories will be shared for generations, and their lives will be evermore changed.
The victims of Katrina and Hiroshima are both quartered in regions where others fear to go. Few want in. All want out. But leaving isn’t easy. Chaos abounds. As the government of Japan was ill prepared for Hiroshima, the government of America is ill prepared for Katrina, even though there was a considered possibility each tragedy could occur. At the time of Hiroshima, Japan’s military was entrenched in a war that diminished its resources. At the time of Katrina, America’s military was entrenched in a war that diminished its resources. Both catastrophes are so overwhelming, even the unaffected are affected, leaving the people of both nations overwrought. Tragedy, in the most perverse sense is an equalizer, reducing all to nothing, and nothing, to all.
This is where the ‘good’ Governor’s comparison ends. The devastation of Katrina, since it remains a horror in progress, cannot yet be described in full. And sadly, even sixty years later, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are horrors in progress, too. However, enough time has passed to describe much of what their horrendous aftermath has been. Barbour’s comparison of Katrina and Hiroshima is best dispelled by looking back at the actual events of 1945. The intention here is not to detract from the devastation of Katrina, a monumental and horrific event. The intention is simply to expose the overwhelming magnitude of nuclear destruction, which as a force for annihilation, compares to nothing else.
In 1945, two atomic bombs, mere firecrackers when compared to today’s nuclear weapons, leveled two residential cities with total civilian populations of approximately 425,000. Hiroshima, with a population of 250,000 suffered 45,000 IMMEDIATE deaths and another 20,000 within the first three months.
In Nagasaki, over 22,000 died on that first day out of a total population of 175,000, with another 17,000 fatalities within a 90-day span. To that staggering figure of 104,000 deaths, we can add likely thousands of survivors who have developed cancers over their lifetimes and have passed this deadly legacy on to their children.
To further illustrate the folly of Governor Barbour’s comparison, and demonstrate the perversity of developing nuclear weapons in America’s geopolitical hegemonic quest, let us examine the effects of one thermonuclear weapon on an American city today, or on a foreign city if launched by the U.S.A. According to Dr. Jack Geiger of the City College of New York, “If a bomb with the explosive force of 20 megatons was detonated over a city of three million, one million people would die instantly. Of the two million survivors, 1.1 million would be horribly injured. The rest would be condemned to the same genome damage as the poor souls of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” Fires would ignite, people would incinerate, and the environment would be contaminated forever.
But there is one difference that rises above them all. Since the magnitude of Hurricane Katrina was exacerbated by global warming and global warming is manmade, the massive destruction caused by Katrina in part is also manmade. Indeed, better care of the environment could have curtailed the level of Katrina’s destruction. But Katrina, herself, was UNINTENTIONAL and UNPLANNED. Nuclear attack, on the other hand, is PURPOSELY PLANNED and designed to create the most horrific devastation possible. It is meant to destroy everything and everyone in its path in the most grotesque and painful way.
Hopefully, the horrific results of Katrina will inspire nuclear “evildoers” to relinquish their weapons and allow humanity to survive. Any human who deliberately inflicts such pain and suffering is despicable, cowardly and inherently EVIL.
As for you, Governor Barbour…. may a “hibakusha” be your guide!!
Linda Milazzo is Los Angeles based writer and John A. Stern is Assistant Professor, History at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, NYC. They can be reached at: email@example.com
ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH
We published an article entitled “A Saudiless Arabia” by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the “Article”), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the “Website”).
Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.
As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.
We are pleased to clarify the position.
August 17, 2005