Lighting The Path
Candles On The Water--2007 (Photography by J. D'Angelo)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Never Forget--Never Again
Today, August 8th, like every year since I moved to Harrisburg, PA, and perhaps for years before that, the "Candles on The Water" will take place. The event is designed to remember when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.
To begin with, I'm always impressed by the program that takes place before the launch of the lantern boats. Young people standing up and speaking out. It gives me hope to see young people, and perhaps their parents, willing to speak for peace in an American Culture that makes war today seem like a video game and violence not only a necessity, but cool.
But I also see how what happened August 6th in Japan may have echoes that resonate today. To start with, I do believe Truman made the correct call to drop the bomb. I have see estimates of the costs of a D-Day style invasion of Japan, and can only imagine how many lives would have been lost during the occupation.
But the day the U.S. bombed Hiroshima may have been the opening shot of the Cold War as well. We had likely already started the nuclear arms race when we successfully tested the atomic bomb. If Germany, the former Soviet Union and perhaps Japan itself didn't have programs in place to develop and build an atomic weapon, they probably started them. When the Soviets demonstrated theirs, the arms race had been joined and the Cold War, which would define world policy until the late early part of the 1990s had begun.
The main basis of the cold war was to me the cleverly dubbed MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction, the idea that the US and Soviets would possess enough nuclear weapons to destroy the other with one single 1st strike. In a sense, the two countries had guns pointed at each others heads. Over time, treaties were passed to reduce the threat, but things like the Strategic Defense Initiative, and other anti-missile technologies, may have been ways to keep some elements of the arms race going. You see echoes of this with Iran's nuclear aims; Israel is the sole nation in the Middle East with nuclear capabilities. The idea may be for Iran, and other states to have the same capability and deter Israel.
The US and Russia also fought a "proxy war". Korea and Vietnam are the best examples, but America's support of the mujahudien in Afghanistan, many of whom would become the leadership of the Taliban, America's opposition to populist leaders in Central America, and the boycotts of the 1980 and 1984 Summer Olympics all were efforts by the two superpowers to exert their power.
In the end, the U.S did win, but it may have been more because the Soviets couldn't maintain their empire. A lesson that America and Americans may not get from AM-Radio and FOX. In Iraq and Afghanistan, we're dealing with the aftermaths of the Cold War, and seeing a new arms race.
My teacher always reminded us that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the only time that Atomic Bombs have been used in warfare. The folks gathering later today in Harrisburg, PA are dedicated to keeping it that way.