By Rivera Sun
Two days. Two bombs. More than 200,000 men, women, and children incinerated and poisoned. It has been 70 years since the United States military dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This August 6th and 9th citizens around the world will gather to remember–and to renew their efforts in working toward nuclear disarmament.
At Los Alamos (the cradle of the bomb), citizens will gather to mark the days with peace vigils, demonstrations, public speeches from nationally renowned activists, and trainings in nonviolence. Campaign Nonviolence, one of the organizing groups, will livestream four days of events to everyone, including broadcasts in Japan.
Los Alamos is a city that exists solely to research and develop nuclear weapons. The vigils for peace and disarmament will take place on the exact ground where the original bombs were built. In 1945, a set of buildings surrounded the top-secret laboratory. Today, Ashley Pond has been turned into a public park. The lab has been moved across a deep canyon, protected by security checkpoints, and pedestrians are not allowed to cross the bridge. Los Alamos National Laboratory consumes two billion taxpayer dollars annually. The county is the fourth-richest in the nation. It is located in the northern part of the second-poorest state, New Mexico.
When local anti-nuclear activists converge with the hundreds coming from across the country, they represent the reality of living in the shadow of the wanton destruction of nuclear weapons. The land was taken from three surrounding native tribes without legality or due process. Radioactive waste was routinely tossed into and buried in the canyons, leaving a miles-long chromium plume that contaminates one of Santa Fe’s water supplies after heavy rainfalls. Deer and elk hunted by the tribes contain tumors and growths. When a record-breaking forest fire swept within a few miles of the laboratory in 2011, the fire was turned aside into Santa Clara Pueblo lands. Sixteen thousand acres of Santa Clara Pueblo burned in the fire, much of it in the pueblo’s watershed.
Los Alamos National Laboratory employs a public relations firm at a price that exceeds the operating budgets of many of the surrounding towns. The impact of income and wealth inequality shapes the landscape of New Mexico politically, culturally, and economically.
In 2014, a billion dollar radioactive waste storage facility (WIPP) caught fire from Los Alamos negligence and ensuing complications irradiated some workers. The facility is currently unusable. It is the only one of its kind in the nation. Stockpiles of radioactive waste are building up in unsafe conditions at laboratories, facilities, and military sites across the country.
Currently, the Department of Energy (which overseas the nuclear weapons program) is gearing up for an expansion of the nuclear arsenal, although the sugarcoating phrase is “refurbishment” and “modernization.” Watchdog organizations say the Obama Administration is committing one trillion dollars over the next 30 years to maintain and grow the nuclear weapons program. Meanwhile, citizens protest nuclear weapons because they are objectionable in every conceivable way.
One public talk Campaign Nonviolence will broadcast via livestream during the 70th anniversary events is James Doyle, former scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, who was fired over the publication his paper debunking the myth of nuclear deterrence. The theory of deterrence is the main justification of the obscene expenditure of taxpayer dollars on a type of weaponry that, for the survival of the world, should never, ever be used. Doyle has stripped away the lies, leaving only the stark truth: nuclear weapons are a scam that the American public should reject utterly and completely.
Nuclear weapons are presented to the public in the guise of horrifying but necessary evils perpetuating our security. In reality, they are an obsolete, monstrous system of weaponry that exists only because they rake in fortunes for the military industrial complex. Los Alamos continues to occupy its position of respect in New Mexico not because of its service to national defense, but because of the two billion dollars it can sink into an impoverished community. The nationwide nuclear weapons research, development, maintenance, manufacturing, and deployment operations fling money at Capitol Hill lobbyists who ensure funding for nuclear weapons.
Hannah Arendt used the phrase, the banality of evil, to describe the Nazis. Local activists in New Mexico have been known to call Los Alamos, Los Auschwitz. In one day, the H-bomb destroyed 100 times what a concentration camp could in a similar timeframe . . . and the bombs of 1945 are cheap firecrackers compared to the thousands of missiles currently standing on full alert. Los Alamos, New Mexico is a quiet town busily constructing global annihilation. The budget of the laboratory pays for the well-paved streets, the orderly public parks like Ashley Pond, superior education, museums, and large county office buildings. It is banal. One must super-impose testimonies from Hiroshima and Nagasaki to conceive of the evil it masks.
The horror of nuclear weapons cannot be conveyed by towering plumes of mushroom clouds. One must learn the reality on the ground of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Heaps of charred bodies. Survivors desperately racing to fling their flaming bodies into the river. Eyeballs forced out of sockets from the impact of the explosions. Miles of city blocks turned to rubble. The bustle of an ordinary morning annihilated in an instant. Schools in session, banks opening their doors, factories revving up for production, shops arranging goods, streetcars packed with commuters, dogs and cats skirmishing in the alleyways – one minute, the city was awakening; the next moment, a searing sound, blinding flash of light, and a shock of heat beyond description.
On August 6th and 9th, 2015, commemorate these horrific tragedies with thousands of citizens who are gathering to renew the effort toward nuclear disarmament. Watch the Campaign Nonviolence livestream and see Los Alamos with your own eyes. Bear witness to the past. Become a part of a different future.