An Age of Nuclear Terror


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“Before becoming the first president of Antioch College, Horace Mann served several terms in Congress, where he was a member of the West Point Board of Overseers. In that capacity he visited the military academy and delivered an essentially antiwar message to the cadets. He urged them to find alternative vocations because eventually someone would invent a weapon so horrible that it would make war obsolete.

Mann’s prediction was correct, though his prophecy would not come true for another hundred years. It was use of just such a weapon, combined with Soviet entry into the war against Japan, that led to the end of World War II and birth of an age of nuclear terror…..”

Authors: Larry Gara is a historian, teacher, and part-time activist, and his wife, Lenna Mae Gara, is a freelance writer and community activist
Date: December, 2007

Read the full article:
An Age of Nuclear Terror
(831 words)
by Larry Gara and Lenna Mae Gara
Before becoming the first president of Antioch College, Horace Mann served several terms in Congress, where he was a member of the West Point Board of Overseers. In that capacity he visited the military academy and delivered an essentially antiwar message to the cadets. He urged them to find alternative vocations because eventually someone would invent a weapon so horrible that it would make war obsolete.

Mann’s prediction was correct, though his prophecy would not come true for another hundred years. It was use of just such a weapon, combined with Soviet entry into the war against Japan, that led to the end of World War II and birth of an age of nuclear terror.

In 1945 it was not immediately apparent that splitting the atom had opened up the possibility of annihilation of the human race. Twenty-five years passed before we Americans were permitted to see photographic proof of the horror the bombs created in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. By then, U.S. monopoly of nuclear technology had ended, and the Soviet Union and other countries were building and testing such weapons.

Although we were assured that atmospheric tests were safe, many American G.I.s died shortly after being exposed to radioactivity from the Nevada tests. Each test released cancer-causing Strontium 90 into the atmosphere, and we will never know how many adults and children have died of leukemia and other forms of cancer because of those tests. Eventually, governmental leaders recognized the danger of atmospheric tests and in 1963 the United States and the Soviet Union negotiated a Limited Test Ban Treaty to end them, though underground testing continued. The Non-Proliferation Treaty was accepted in 1968, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996, though the U.S. Senate refused to ratify the CTBT.

Now, even though nuclear weapons threaten total destruction of modern civilization, our country still has thousands of them ready to be launched, more than enough to destroy all life on the planet. Of course, Russia, France, Great Britain, China, Israel, Pakistan and India, not to be left out of the race, also have nuclear weapons and the capacity to launch them across national borders. North Korea claims to have nuclear weapons and has withdrawn from the Non-Proliferation Treaty, while Iran is eager to join the nuclear club. Every day the threat multiplies.

During the Cold War it was understood that the U.S. would use such weapons only if it were attacked with nuclear missiles. Now the announced policy of the United States has evolved from “No First Strike” to a stated willingness to use them, even against non-nuclear nations, if circumstances warrant. The Bush Administration also plans to create new nuclear weapons and to test them in defiance of world opinion. The proposed military budget includes a request for $6.4 billion for an expanded nuclear weapons program, a move that would betray our treaty obligation to “negotiate toward general and complete disarmament.”

The dangers inherent in nuclear weapons programs, no matter the country in which they may occur, is not a liberal or conservative issue, but transcends national boundaries to address the question of human survival. In January, 2007 a sense of urgency was illustrated by an amazing but little-reported column in the Wall Street Journal. Titled “A Bipartisan Plea for Nuclear Weapons Abolition,” the article was signed by George Schultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry, and Sam Nunn, all major political figures during the Cold War. Not one of them has ever been labeled “liberal.” The unlikely group carefully outlined the dangers of nuclear weapons in today’s world and practical steps that could lead to their abolition. Urging the U.S. to take the initiative they said:

“Reassertion of the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons and practical measures toward achieving that goal would be, and would be perceived as, a bold initiative consistent with America’s moral heritage. The effort could have a profoundly positive impact on the security of future generations.”

For those of us old enough to remember a time when no country had nuclear weapons, such a statement has a stunning impact. If those Cold Warriors have concluded that nuclear weapons must be abolished it is surely time for the media and world leaders to pay attention.

Horace Mann could not foresee that invention of weapons of mass destruction would not automatically persuade humans to give up their ancient reliance on brute force to achieve political ends.With the nuclear cloud in the background, any border dispute or ethnic disagreement poses the threat of a nuclear catastrophe. It remains to 21st century Earthlings to seek new ways to avoid such violent conflicts and build a livable future.

A good place to start is here at home, by supporting Congressman Hobson and others who have denied funding for any new nuclear weapons. Beyond that, we should heed the words of Henry Kissinger and his friends to work strenuously for abolition of nuclear weapons on Planet Earth. The lives of our children and their children depend on it.

Larry Gara, a historian, teacher, and part-time activist, lives with his wife, Lenna Mae Gara, a freelance writer and community activist, in Wilmington, Ohio, where he retired from Wilmington College after 40 years in the classroom. He is concerned that the record of active nonviolence becomes more visible as an important part of U.S. history.