⭕ Issue 3: the Hiroshima special
An issue dedicated to the first nuclear bombs, and the state of their successors .
Welcome to this week’s issue of the Anti-Apocalyptus newsletter. Each week I send you five links about some of the most important challenges of our time: climate change, weapons of mass destruction, emerging technologies, mass causes of death and great power wars. If you haven’t done so yet, free to subscribe at the button below or share this email with anyone who would be interested.
I hate reading about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.
The details of these first and only wartime nuclear bombings, that happened 75 years ago on the 6th and 9th of August, are gruesome. The horrifying burns, the people trapped underneath buildings, loved ones dying from the unknown and unseen radiation poisoning, it’s all not very pretty.
Besides that, the historiography about the events is mainly focused on issues of guilt. Views range from histories where the Japanese are racialised victims of American war-crimes to interpretations that simply didn’t see Japan surrendering without the bombs, and everything in between.
But nevertheless it remains a forceful reminder of the threat that nuclear bombs offer. Their power could destroy large parts of humanity, and even end our existence through cascading processes like a nuclear winter. Today around 14,000 of these weapons remain, largely in the hands of the US and Russia, and they are a major existential risk for humanity.
Which is why I’m dedicating this edition of the newsletter to nuclear issues. This week several great articles were published about Hiroshima, Nagasaki and nuclear war. So below you can find my selection of the five best.
The New Yorker - Hiroshima
This is the famous 1946 long (almost book-length) article by journalist John Hersey about the Hiroshima attack. He was one of the first journalists to talk to the bombing victims, and in the piece he tracks the experiences of six survivors. The contents can be gruesome, but this article has been elected as one of the best pieces of journalism of the 20th century.
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists - Counting the dead at Hiroshima and Nagasaki
In-depth article by historian Alex Wellerstein about how many people actually died in the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Which turns out to be a hard exercise, with figures ranging between 110,000 dead and 210,000. These “high” and “low” numbers are then often employed to emphasise either the legitimacy, or illegitimacy of the bombings.
Impressive article about how nuclear arms control came into being, how it evolved since the Cold War and how it is now increasingly being questioned because of increased international conflict. It contains great information about key treaties like New START, the last treaty between the US and Russia limiting nuclear weapons, that is about to expire without a replacement. It also highlights the role of the anti-nuclear weapons movement in bringing governments to the table.
New York Review of Book - The New Nuclear Threat
A review essay discussing a range of new books about nuclear war. It contains many contemporary and historical details about it (and its madness). Such as how the US put Albania on its attack list for nuclear weapons, which would wipe out the country, just to eliminate one radar station. Or how president Trump wanted to again increase the number of nuclear weapons in the US arsenal, after decades of post-Cold War disarmament.
A great discussion of the moral implications of nuclear war. It includes a number of interesting, although sometimes troubling, thought experiments, such as how Harvard professor Roger Fisher once suggested the US nuclear launch codes should be stored inside the heart cavity of a volunteer. This way the president had to directly kill someone to be able to launch an attack that would kill millions.
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