FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Prevention is the Only Solution: a Hiroshima Native’s View of Nuclear Weapons

Photo by Gerry Lauzon | CC BY 2.0

At 8:07 on Saturday morning, Hawaii residents woke up to an emergency alert on their cellphones:

BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

Until a second message called it a false alarm 38 minutes later, the people of Hawaii contemplated the end — the end of their lives, of their families, of essentially everything they know and love.

I am originally from Hiroshima. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Park was within walking distance from my grandfather’s house.

As a family physician, I cared for Marshall Islander survivors of nuclear testing. Disaster medicine is one of my academic interests.

The war of words between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un brings the world perilously close to nuclear Armageddon. As North Korea tests nuclear devices and delivery systems, the U.S. conducts military exercises and draws up plans for pre-emptive strikes.

Existential Moment

As adversaries go on hair-trigger alert, the potential for a mistakenly launched nuclear exchange increases. The probability of nuclear war thus approaches the probabilities that during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The standoffs at the Russian border and in Syria are other reasons why the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists have placed the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock at two-and-a-half minutes to midnight.

Under these circumstances, the people of Hawaii had good reason to fear that the threat was real. Many surely had an existential moment.

We should all pause to contemplate how each of us lives each day.

Since on any given day the wind might pick up a roof tile from a Copenhagen building and drop it on one’s head, Kierkegaard suggested that we should live each day in a manner such that we would not regret sudden annihilation. We should all pause to contemplate how each of us lives each day.

A 100 kiloton blast over Honolulu would be expected to cause 156,000 fatalities and 139,000 injuries. Hawaii schools have issued guidance to shelter-in-place “[i]n the event of a nuclear attack.”  The air raid siren is now being tested monthly. Many argue for more robust missile defense for Hawaii.

Nine of 18 flight tests, however, of the missile defense system have failed. Technical experts express grave doubts about the ability of the system to defend against missile attack.

More missiles will not save us. Escalating military threats serves to increase the risk of a nuclear holocaust. The only rational response is prevention.

As pediatrician Helen Caldicott taught us, we must “eradicate nuclear weapons because they are medically contraindicated.” Her observation is not simply that nuclear war will ruin your day. Rather, her insight is that it is our duty as health workers to work to prevent nuclear war.

As Caldicott noted, the German physician, writer and politician Rudolph Virchow said:

Medicine is a social science and politics is medicine writ large,” and I’ve realized in this work that the only way to stop the nuclear arms race is to educate the politicians that nuclear war is medically contraindicated and, if they don’t believe us, remove them from office for the public health of the people of the world.

We need to revive the social movement to oppose the manufacture of nuclear weapons. We must first call for taking the weapons off of hair-trigger alert. We learned this Saturday that it is easy to make mistakes. Hawaii’s governor noted that an “employee pushed the wrong button.”

In this arena, pushing the wrong button has unacceptable consequences. My Kierkegaard moment this Saturday morning has convinced me that I am not doing enough to prevent nuclear war. I will work on correcting that.

This column originally ran on Civil Beat (Honolulu).

More articles by:

Seiji Yamada, a native of Hiroshima, is a family physician practicing and teaching in Hawaii.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
April 03, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Omar Shaban
Gaza’s New Conflict: COVID-19
Rob Urie
Work, Crisis and Pandemic
John Whitlow
Slumlord Capitalism v. Global Pandemic
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Strange Things Happening Every Day
Jonathan Cook
The Bigger Picture is Hiding Behind a Virus
Paul Street
Silver Linings Amidst the Capitalist Coronavirus Crisis
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Control of Nature
Louis Proyect
COVID-19 and the “Just-in-Time” Supply Chain: Why Hospitals Ran Out of Ventilators and Grocery Stores Ran Out of Toilet Paper
Kathleen Wallace
The Highly Contagious Idea
Kenneth Good
The Apartheid Wars: Non-Accountability and Freedom for Perpetrators.
Andrew Levine
Democracy in America: Sorry, But You Can’t Get There from Here.
Ramzy Baroud
Tunisia Leads the Way: New Report Exposes Israel’s False Democracy
David Rosen
Coronavirus and the State-of-Emergency Pandemic
Matthew Stevenson
Will Trump Cancel the Election? Will the Democrats Dump Joe?
Ron Jacobs
Seattle—Anti-Capitalist Hotbed
Michael T. Klare
Avenger Planet: Is the COVID-19 Pandemic Mother Nature’s Response to Human Transgression?
Jack Rasmus
COVID-19 and the Forgotten Working Class
Werner Lange
The Madness of More Nukes and Less Rights in Pandemic Times
J.P. Linstroth
Why a Race is Not a Virus and a Virus is Not a Race
John Feffer
We Need a Coronavirus Truce
Thomas S. Harrington
“New Corona Cases”: the Ultimate Floating Signifier
Victor Grossman
Corona and What Then?
Katie Fite
Permanent Pandemic on Public Lands: Welfare Sheep Ranchers and Their Enablers Hold the West’s Bighorns Hostage
Patrick Bond
Covid-19 Attacks the Down-and-Out in Ultra-Unequal South Africa
Eve Ottenberg
Capitalism vs. Humanity
Nicky Reid
Fear and Loathing in Coronaville Volume 2: Panic On the Streets of Tehran
Jonas Ecke
Would Dying for the Economy Help Anybody?
Jeff Mackler
Capitalism is the Virus!
Andrew Moss
Incarceration, Detention, and Covid-19
Farzana Versey
Prayers, Piffle and Privation in the Time of Pandemic
Will Solomon
In the New Dystopia
Dean Baker
The Relative Generosity of the Economic Rescue Package: Boeing vs. Public Broadcasting
Dr. Leo Lopez, III
We Need a Lot More Transparency From the CDC
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Reflections on a Glass of Homemade Cider
Rashid Nuri
Homegrown Crisis Response: Who Grows Your Food?
Mark Luskus
Worst Case Scenario: Healthcare Workers Need Masks, ASAP
Volker Franke
The Virus That May Bring us Together
Mitchell Zimmerman
A Q & A on the GOP’s Call for Elder Sacrifice
Olfat al-Kurd
COVID-19 Could Be Catastrophic for Us: Notes From Gaza
Eileen Appelbaum - Roesmary Batt
Hospital Bailouts Begin…for Those Owned by Private Equity Firms
Nabri Ginwa
Carcinogens
Jill Richardson
Efficiency vs. Resilience
Lee Ballinger
Eddie Van Halen and the Future of Humanity
David Yearsley
Beset by Bach
Robert Koehler
Developing a Vaccine Against War
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail