Do you ever feel lucky to be alive? Most people do, especially those who are well and happy, when they reflect on the notion from time to time that they are, as the colloquial expression goes, “glad to still be around.”
I remind everyone that Aug. 6 marks the 69th anniversary of the first atomic bomb, a “simple” one named Little Boy, was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later, on Aug. 9, 1945, another Japanese city, Nagasaki, received a more complicated bomb nicknamed Fat Man. Afterwards, Japan soon surrendered and World War Two ended.
What about being lucky? The scientists who invented the ultimate bomb didn’t know, whether or not, when detonated, it would cause a chain reaction that would blow the entire planet to smithereens. There were a lot of people in Los Alamos holding their breath the morning of the first drop and were probably, figuratively speaking, still holding it a few days later when the more sophisticated version exploded.
However, what’s stunningly lucky for us earthlings is that, even though atomic and hydrogen bombs of earth-destroying magnitude are now known to be in the possession of the United Kingdom, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel, that another atomic or hydrogen bomb has not been dropped on city targets since 1945. Of course, there were above-ground experimental detonations for years following 1945.
On Aug. 6, 1945, the possibility of the apocalypse passed from the exclusive hands of God into human hands, foretelling a future whose end could be certain should the most lethal weapon in all of human history be used by both sides in the real “war to end all wars,” the rallying cry for involvement in World War One.
We may have the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons although we read more about Iran’s quest to develop one more than the fact that our nuclear arsenal, of more than 4,800 ill-kept weapons with notable security breaches taking place rather regularly, should cause considerable pause. While fun is made of the danger by late-night comics, there should be more talk about the risk considering the possible vaporization of the planet.
Many of our notables have commented on this matter here at home. A former head of the U.S. Strategic Command, General Lee Butler, spoke to it some twenty years ago when he said that we had survived the new age of atomic weapons “by some combination of skill, luck, and divine intervention.” Further, he believed divine intervention to be the greatest factor in keeping the world from ruin. In other words, unless a person believes God governs all earthly happenings, it’s been sheer, blind luck.
I’m not at all certain that the U.S. and the former Soviet Union were ever going to war because both sides knew it was the beginning of the end of anything resembling civilization. We were always a superior power in every way to the U.S.S.R.: the Russians knew it and we knew it, although that would not necessarily have prevented an all-out donnybrook should things have gotten too dicey via the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
Nevertheless, there are ongoing threats of another world war with no holds barred like the serious horseplay underway now in Eastern Europe by Vladimir Putin. Among multiple other possibilities for a nuclear showdown, there was the recent daredevil outing by Navy SEALS to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan that could have resulted in a military contest between the U.S. and Pakistan. President Obama, who promised to stop warring overseas, has now authorized airstrikes in Iraq in a futile effort to control the uncontrollable Middle East, placing the world closer to the “domino effect” with the ever-present H–bombs as the dark and foreboding backdrop.
Where do we stand now? I believe it is a near miracle that we have escaped destruction. The longer we and others tempt fate by placing in human hands the fate of the world, it may require more than mere hope for divine intervention to continue a miracle that’s lasted sixty-nine years effective today.
Former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich wrote in the Huffington Post recently: “We must work together to support all efforts to get rid of nuclear weapons, not through appeals to violence but through the instinct to celebrate life. Let us find a path so we can dismantle the destructive forces which paralyze any sense of compassion necessary for the survival of all life on this planet. Instead, let us build technologies for sustainability and peace.”
I heartily concur, Mr. Kucinich, as I would guess millions of other earthlings do.
(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer. His column appears regularly in the Keizertimes.)