Australian news, and some related international items

Examining the myth that since Hiroshima, nuclear weapons keep us safe

nuclear-weapons-3The Manhattan Project Myth

America’s use of the atomic bomb started the dangerous narrative that nuclear weapons keep us safe.

By Erica Fein | May 27, 2016   Today, one of the world’s greatest concerns is the unconstrained advancement of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. Yet, for the most part, the leaders of the eight other nuclear-armed states cling to their own weapons with the belief that the nuclear game of chicken – also known as deterrence – has worked.

The narrative that nuclear weapons are the “ultimate guarantors of security” is powerful and comforting for many. The flip side, that only luck has prevented World War III, is almost too horrible to contemplate.

Nuclear myths extend back to dawn of the atomic age. In 1945, very few people knew about America’s secret project to build the atomic bomb. The Manhattan Project’s purpose remained a mystery even to most of its hundreds of thousands of employees and members of Congress.

It is not surprising, therefore, that most Americans supported the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. War Secretary Henry Stimson quickly pronounced that this new weapon ended the war and saved 1 million American lives by averting an American invasion of Japan. Only later did details of the bombs’ destructive effects come to light – some 200,000 instant deaths, flattened cities and enormous suffering. But by then, the war-winning significance of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had seeped into the American psyche.

With the declassification of archival records, the official story is now debated by historians. Among other things, the 1946 United States Strategic Bombing Survey concluded, “even without the bombing attacks, air supremacy over Japan could have exerted sufficient pressure to bring about unconditional surrender and obviate the need for an invasion.”

Yet, 70 years later, whether the atomic bombings decisively ended the war or saved more total American or Japanese lives seems less important than the myth that their use perpetuated: nuclear weapons keep us safe.

 Most of the roughly 15,000 nuclear weapons on the planet today are hundreds of times more powerful than those dropped on Japan. That North Korea has them reminds us that they pose an unacceptable threat to humanity.

President Harry Truman had the opportunity to try to control the spread of nuclear weapons through international agreements. Instead, he doubled-down and agreed to the development of the H-bomb, which helped to spawn the arms race.

American leadership in ending the nuclear threat is no less of an imperative today. President Barack Obama understands this and deserves credit for negotiating a modest arms reduction treaty with Russia, raising the profile of nuclear terrorism prevention, and negotiating a historic agreement that would prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. However, as the president has admitted, his agenda is unfinished.

Before he leaves office, Obama can do more to head-off the possibility of renewed global nuclear competition. For example, America is planning to upgrade its entire arsenal of land, air and sea-delivered nuclear weapons at an estimated cost of nearly half a trillion dollars. Doing so would maintain excess force levels for decades to come. If Obama takes a step to reverse these unnecessary plans, such as canceling the new nuclear-armed cruise missile, he may not change many minds overnight, least of all those of our adversaries. Nonetheless, any action to lessen the significance of nuclear weapons would help lay bare their mythical power – a step in the right direction.


May 28, 2016 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. While I agree that nuclear weapons have no place in defense or offence in war (the indiscriminate nature of the weapons killing potential; at time of criticality and its lingering consequences define its indiscriminate nature) we have to hold to cause and effect to diagnose and ultimately resolve the problem. The “Atoms for Peace” propaganda of the fifties promoted nuclear energy as the future of humanity; In reality nuclear reactors are more honestly characterized as plutonium production facilities that have the capacity to produce electricity. So if you want to ban the bomb? (I do!) you need to ban the source of the bombs fissile material; fission nuclear reactors. In a post Fukushima world (I use post to highlight the moment not the event as it (Fukushima) is an ongoing disaster of which humanity will forever be plague by now.) we should have the confirmation that nuclear power is not safe, clean nor economical. So I appreciate your work here but I also ask you focus your efforts on the actual cause. First we must admit the problem exists to resolve the problem. Both nuclear weapons and nuclear power are the same animal as are the US DOD and DOE. In realizing that you can clearly scope in on the shear amount of propaganda you have working against your efforts. We live is a propaganda filled environment in which so much we like to believe is filled with cognitive dissonance pitfalls. My suggestion is to prioritize ceasing all fission no matter its goal; energy or war. Still nicely written and stated.


    Comment by Nuda Waya | May 29, 2016 | Reply

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