My View - Remembering Hiroshima

LATE last month, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to adopt UN Resolution 2231 in support of a nuclear deal reached by Iran and the P5+1 group, comprising China, France, Russia, the United States, Britain and Germany. According to the final text of the nuclear agreement, Iran will under no circumstances seek to develop or acquire a nuclear weapon and, in exchange, will receive sanctions relief. The text details how the final treaty will positively contribute to regional Middle Eastern security.

While this is very much an encouraging development in support of the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, it is only part of the story. The fact remains that there are many among the rich and powerful nations (ironically including those of the P5+1 group) who harbour nuclear weapons which have been a source of concern for many decades.

Indeed, tomorrow is yet another timely reminder as we recall in horror the explosion of such a weapon over the city of Hiroshima in Japan at precisely 8.15am, 70 years ago. It was detonated by the US, on behalf of the so-called "civilised" world. The justification is still being questioned today, not unlike the invasion of Iraq in more recent times. Indeed the atomic bomb was developed with the support of Britain and Canada. And as though this was not enough, Nagasaki – another Japanese city – was bombed three days later on Aug 9.

Nicknamed "Little Boy", the atomic bomb dropped from a height of about 9,967m (32,700ft) above Hiroshima, was set to detonate at 549m (1,800ft) without hitting the ground unlike conventional bombs. Thus it created, like never before, a high-pressure shockwave with a blinding flash, sending surface temperatures soaring up to 4,000°C. With such power unleashed, it vaporised people and animals, melted buildings and vehicles, pulverising a 400-year-old city virtually to dust without any landmarks left standing. An estimated 80,000 people were killed instantly, a death toll that continues to grow to more than 200,000 until today. A slow death for humanity as it were, putting such a burden of guilt for those who still have some conscience left in them. Albert Einstein, the brainchild of the deadly weapon belatedly realised the enormity of the tragedy. He is reported to have said in December 1945: "The war is won, but peace is not."

While there can never be a "true" cost attached to such a terrible tragedy, in today's monetary terms the Manhattan Project, under which the bombs were secretly developed, would amount to about US$30 billion (about RM1.2 trillion).

Yet despite all these, five years after the two catastrophes, the Soviet Union – not to be outdone – exploded an atomic bomb signalling the start of a nuclear arms race for even more lethal bombs. In 1952, the US tested an even more powerful hydrogen bomb, with the Soviets following suit. This went on for at least four decades during the period of the Cold War with practically no change in mindsets as observed by Einstein when he said: "The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift towards unparalleled catastrophe." It is exactly this "unparalleled catastrophe" that is hanging over our heads for all time until we get rid of all nuclear weapons.

It is in this regard that the call by Iran, following the passage of the Security Council resolution endorsing the Iran nuclear deal, to completely eliminate nuclear weapons worldwide as they are "detrimental to international peace and security" must be supported by all peace-loving people.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran underlines the imperative of total elimination of nuclear weapons, as a requirement of international security and an obligation under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons," quoting Iran's Isna news agency.

Like Tehran, all nations must be committed to actively contribute to "all international diplomatic and legal efforts to save humanity from the menace of nuclear weapons and their proliferation" to make it happen.

In conjunction with the 70th anniversary of the atomic bomb massacre, a book launch open to the public will be held tomorrow at Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, Tanjong Malim, at 9.15am.

The book recounts the experiences of Malaysian eyewitness Datuk Abdul Razak Abdul Hamid, who was studying in Hiroshima in 1945. He was about 1.5km from the epicentre of the blast. Abdul Razak died on July 18, 2013, aged 88.

The governor of Penang, Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas, is the guest of honour at the launch, which will be followed by a panel discussion and exhibition.

With some four decades of experience in education locally and internationally, the writer believes that "another world is possible". Comments: letters@thesundaily.com