Oppenheimer & Hiroshima 78 Years On: Has the world learned nothing?
At 8:15am on 6 of August 1945, the world’s first nuclear weapon was detonated by US forces on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Then unleashed again on the city of Nagasaki just three days later. The US’s nuclear bombs decimated both cities, destroyed all forms of life within miles, and instantly incinerated hundreds of thousands of innocent people.
Today it is estimated that both bombs killed well over 250,000 people, but the exact amount has not been confirmed, as deaths caused by the bombings came in three devastating waves. First were those instantaneously incinerated, who’s entire bodies immediately turned to ash leaving only their shadows imprinted on the rubble of streets. The second wave came days, weeks and months after the initial bombings and saw vast amounts of both cities' populations die slow agonising deaths from radiation poisoning and radiation-induced illnesses. The third wave continues to this day, as people are still dying from radiation-induced cancers.
The recent release of Christopher Nolan’s film Oppenheimer couldn’t have been any more timely. This film based around American scientist Robert Oppenheimer, creator of the atomic bomb, is yet another example of the US’s history revisionism. The film distorts the reality of how these nuclear weapons were first tested, created, and used, instead glorifying the man who invented the deadliest weapon in human history.
''78 years ago the US unleashed unfathomable death and destruction within seconds, which will forever be immortalised in the memory of millions of Japanese people and that changed the course of history forever. The survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have yet to attain justice, and have spent their lives tirelessly campaigning for nuclear disarmament.''
The existence of nuclear weapons has been unimaginably insidious throughout every stage of their existence, they bring about human suffering, from when they’re tested, to their detonation, and then their lasting impacts.
The film includes its own revised depiction of the US’s nuclear ‘Trinity Test’ which took place in New Mexico in 1945, as it fails to inform audiences about the fact that entire Indigenous - Apache and Latino communities living there, were displaced. The population was also subsequently exposed to radiation poisoning without their knowledge, which led to radiation-related cancers. Those exposed are still reporting health issues they’ve experiences including stillbirths and physical disabilities.
Similarly, the Hanford Nuclear site in Washington, where plutonium was produced for the nuclear weapons the US was stockpiling during the Cold War, was also home to indigenous communities who were exposed to radiation poisoning. Whilst the facility is today inactive, worryingly, it stores 56 million gallons of nuclear waste. It is of no surprise that there hasn’t been any TV series or movies made about the site, which is one of the most polluted place in the US, like there has been on Chernobyl for instance.
One of the most inhumane stages of the US’s development of nuclear weapons, its human-radiation experiments, remain vastly underreported. From the 1940’s onwards, American scientists funded by the US government carried out unethical and lethal experiments involving nuclear radiation on some of the most vulnerable within society. From feeding radioactive material to children with mental and physical disabilities, to administering radioactive iron to impoverished pregnant women, to irradiating prisoners’ testicles to test for birth defects, and even carrying out these tests on the dead bodies of still born babies without parental consent.
One of their most notorious human-radiation experiments took place in Fernald Children's School in Massachusetts for over a decade between 1940-1950. The students, who exclusively had either physical or mental disabilities, were routinely fed radioactive porridge without theirs or their parents’ consent as part of the government's nuclear weapons development programme.
But of course none of this was included in the Oppenheimer – imagine all that the US would have to account for if it were. From its inhumane nuclear development and weapons acquisition, to thus far being the only country to have actually used them without facing any consequence.
Oppenheimer ignited a plague of nuclear weapons acquisition, from their testing to their waste disposal that has affected communities all around the world. For instance, Israel’s nuclear programme, which Oppenheimer himself helped the Israeli government to develop shortly after Hiroshima, has had disastrous impacts on Palestinians living in the occupied south Hebron Hills. Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor in Hebron routinely dumps its nuclear waste in vastly populated Palestinian villages nearby. Its careless disposal of nuclear waste has led to an increase in miscarriages, cancer, and birth defects amongst Palestinians in the area.
78 years ago the US unleashed unfathomable death and destruction within seconds, which will forever be immortalised in the memory of millions of Japanese people and that changed the course of history forever. The survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have yet to attain justice, and have spent their lives tirelessly campaigning for nuclear disarmament.
Let the overdue justice they long deserve not be glossed over in a Hollywood blockbuster, let us deliver global nuclear disarmament in our lifetime. This process should begin with disarming the US of the 1,744 nuclear weapons it has actively deployed in fighter jets and submarines, and ensuring its ‘B83 nuclear gravity bomb’, said to be 80x times more powerful than Hiroshima, with the capacity to kill millions of people within a split second, cease to exist.
Farrah Koutteineh is founder of KEY48 - a voluntary collective calling for the immediate right of return of over 7.4 million Palestinian refugees. Koutteineh is also a political activist focusing on intersectional activism including, the Decolonise Palestine movement, indigenous people's rights, anti-establishment movement, women's rights and climate justice.
Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @key48return
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