It's about time to wake up to the nuclear reality

Thursday, October 14 2004 @ 01:59 AM JST

Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto

We are already more than two months into the 60th year since the A-bombs crushed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The August 1945 bombings on the two cities burned hundreds of thousands of Japanese lives instantly and the survivors have suffered a long-lasting after-effects out of exposure to radiation. Without a doubt these victims went through one of the worst mass-destructions in history.

But have we overcome the national trauma by now? Not at all.

You don't have to be a psychiatrist to be able to point out that the only way to get over a traumatic ordeal such as A-bombing is to summon, too the fullest, one's courage with which to face up to what has actually happened, and more importantly, why it had to happen to him the way it did. Any PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), more or less, involves amnesia in one way or the other.

On August 6 Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba declared the next twelve months "The Year of Memory and Actions" at the ceremony to commemorate the 59th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.

As to the "actions" part, I don't think the socialist Mayor, whose denunciation in the speech of the North Korean nuclear aspiration was once again nothing but lukewarm, will be able to come up with a specific, valid and viable proposition by May 2005 when an NPT review conference is scheduled to take place at the U.N.

Neither can we expect Koizumi, another amnesiac, to be able to elaborate, very specifically, on that all-too-familiar line that he and his predecessors have worn out by now: "We are the only nation that has experienced A-bombings". So what? He, or his foreign minister, would insist at the U.N. conference that Japan is better off than any other country to draw a scenario and roadmap toward a nuclear-free world just because of the baptism it underwent sixty years ago. And where is the workable roadmap? Where is the realistic scenario?

When it comes to the "memory" part of the Akiba's speech, every indication thus far from left-wing anti-nuke organizations such as gensui-kyo (Japan Council against A- and H-Bombs) and gensui-kin (Japan Congress against ditto), Koizumi and his predecessors, and right-wing professors, leads us to suspect that we won't come to, from the mass-amnesia, anytime soon.

You may have read some works by black-humorist Kurt Vonnegut. Back in 1963 he wrote "Cat's Cradle" that depicts a cranky nuclear scientist who spends the day of the first A-bombing playing cat's cradle all day long. Maybe Vonnegut was just one of those anti-nuclear daydreamers at that time. But six years later, at the height of the Vietnam quagmire, he wrote "Slaughterhouse-Five" that deals with the February 13, 1945, destruction of Dresden. The author had witnessed the air-raid, first-hand, which literally flattened the German city overnight and resulted in a death toll of 135,000. Throughout this novel, Vonnegut always remains detached from and even sarcastic about the tragedy. Toward the end of the story, the author writes: "There was a silver chain around Montana Wildhack's neck. Hanging from it, between her breasts, was a locket containing a photograph of her alcoholic mother... Engraved on the outside of the locket were these words: 'God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom always to tell the difference'."

Note 1: Wildhack is a prostitute, with whom Billy, the protagonist, used to live and sleep on a star called "Tralfamadore".
Note 2: Vonnegut somehow failed to give the Alcoholics Anonymous due credit for his quote from the AA's "Serenity Prayer".

Forgive me for the lengthy quote from the outdated literary work. But this is not really irrelevant to Japan's inability to deal with the nuclear issues and come up with a valid and viable countermeasures against nuclear ambitions harbored by North Korea, Iran, China, and international terrorist groups,

The Seiron (sound arguments) column of the Sankei Shimbun daily sometimes discusses the real relevant issues with the nuclear threat and its proliferation. And yet scholars and other experts contributing to the column have seldom given their readers a sound, detached, specific, valid, or viable solution to the issue.

On the eve of the 59th anniversary of Japan's war defeat (Aug. 14), Professor Emeritus at Tokyo University Keiichiro Kobori argued in the same Sankei column that it's a gross misperception that Japan complied with the demand by the 1943 Cairo Declaration for an unconditional surrender. Then-prime minister Kantaro Suzuki, in June that year, addressed the 87th extraordinary imperial diet session. According to the professor emeritus, Suzuki said in that speech to the effect that the hundred million Japanese people would choose to die rather than surrender. Kobori went on to insist Suzuki's "coded message" got through to then-U.S. Undersecretary of State Joseph Grew and that it was an important diplomatic success. That's how Japan could avoid a total dismantlement of the statehood and keep the imperial institution intact, Kobori argued.

The most important point Kobori overlooked in his argument is that by letting things drift while sending a "coded message" to the "understanding" and perhaps friendly enemy as any other Japanese leader would have done in that situation, prime minister Suzuki invited the first-ever nuclear disaster to the Japanese soil.

It seems to me that because of the inability of these politicians, scholars and the media to emancipate themselves from the spell dating back to the summer of 1945, they still keep on talking over which side was to blame for the A-bombings six decades after we saw the inferno. And also that's why this nation can only send very unclear (forgive the pun), mixed, and unconvincing signals to North Korea, China and the entire international community.

It's about time we got over the 6-decade-old post-traumatic demensia and woke up to the reality behind the nonproliferation hypocrisy. I am afraid the first step for our PM to take before becoming able to talk sense, with Kim Jong-il, or any other member or nonmember of the NPT is to attend an AA Serenity Prayer so he can possibly overcome the protracted hungover. I'm serious.

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