There are still approximately 16,000 nuclear weapons in the arsenals of nine countries today, with more than 90 percent of these in the possession of the United States and Russia. Some 1,800 nuclear weapons remain on hair-trigger alert, ready to be fired within moments of an order to do so. Most of these weapons are many times more powerful than those that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan.
On the 70th anniversary of the use of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is past time for the United States to change course. Rather than pursue current plans to spend $1 trillion on modernizing its nuclear arsenal, the United States should lead the world in negotiations to achieve the phased, verifiable, irreversible and transparent elimination of nuclear weapons. This would make the world safer.
A History We Must Not Forget
On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, killing some 90,000 people immediately and another 55,000 by the end of 1945. Three days later, the United States dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki, killing some 40,000 people immediately and another 35,000 by the end of 1945.
In between these two bombings, on August 8, 1945, the United States signed the charter creating the Nuremberg tribunal to hold Axis leaders to account for crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Under well-established international humanitarian law – the law of warfare – war crimes include using weapons that do not distinguish between civilians and combatants or that cause unnecessary suffering. Because nuclear weapons kill indiscriminately and cause unnecessary suffering by radiation poisoning (among other grotesque consequences), the United States was itself in the act of committing war crimes at Hiroshima and Nagasaki while agreeing to hold its defeated opponents in World War II to account for their war crimes.