It would be 75 years today since the United States dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, followed by another bomb on Nagasaki on August 9. People in Japan and the world over are holding commemorations today in memory of the victims of the attack. The bombings not only marked the end of the Second World War, but also Japan’s militaristic and imperialist ambitions even as they marked a new era in US aggression across the globe. Today, as Japan considers a fresh phase of rearmament under the US umbrella, there is rising resistance which argues against militarism.
The bombings killed over 230,000 people in the two cities, an overwhelming number of whom were civilians. A large number died immediately, while many others succumbed later to injuries or exposure to radiation. Records have shown that deaths related to radiation exposure continued for the next few generations. Apart from the deaths, the attack also destroyed Japan’s biggest industrial units, and displaced millions.
For decades now, the world holds the bombings as a reminder of the dangers of nuclear proliferation. In the meanwhile the Japanese people have used the occasion to remind themselves annually of the dangers of letting fascists and the military take over.
This year major public events stand cancelled, as Japan is witnessing a new onslaught of the COVID-19 outbreak. Nevertheless, the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park witnessed a large turnout including senior members of the government and prime minister Shinzo Abe. According to reports, tens of thousands of people arrived at the Park to pay homage to the victims and survivors.
This year is especially significant as prime minister Abe and his conservative ruling bloc seem intent on pursuing a long-standing goal of theirs: amending Article 9 of the Constitution. Article 9 maintains Japan’s pacifistic international policy, by outlawing war as a means to settle international disputes. It also permits the use of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces only if there is a threat of foreign aggression.
Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party has for long proposed amendment of Article 9, along with expanding military powers of Japan and even inserting provisions for greater emergency powers to the executive. In 2014, the Abe government expanded the interpretation of “self-defense” in Article 9, to include defense of its “allies”, allowing it to deploy forces to South Korea against supposed threats from the North.
These policies and attempts to expand Japan’s military powers have been opposed strongly by its people. An opinion poll conducted in June by Jiji Press, showed that over 69% of the respondents opposed any amendment to Article 9. Even among the supporters of the Abe government, the proposals were unpopular, nearly 57% of whom opposed it.
A petition against the proposal attracted over 240,000 signatures across the country, within days. The survivors of the bombing and peace advocates are determined to continue keeping the bombings in living memory, and fight against attempts at militarization. A movement against the US’ continued presence in Japan, is also gaining momentum, calling for a demilitarized and nuclear-free East Asia.