Today marks 75 years since the world’s first nuclear bombing

After three quarters of a century of the nuclear bombings, the Japanese people continue to resist creeping militarism and right-ward tilt. The government of Shinzo Abe has been pushing for expanding military power

August 06, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after the uranium bomb “Little Boy” was dropped on August 6, 1945. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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.

75-year old Yoji Ishimi, exposed to radiation while he was a fetus, pays his respect at the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park. Photo: Ruptly

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.

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe at the Memorial Peace Park. Abe’s government has come under criticism for pushing to change the pacifist clause in the constitution. Photo: PM’s Office of Japan/Twitter

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.

Hiroshima’s A-Bomb dome, formerly the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, was the only surviving structure in the hypocenter of the blast. The building became iconic of the Hiroshima bombing, and is now part of the city’s Memorial Peace Park.
A group of civil society activists demonstrating in June with boxes filled with 240,000 signatures opposing Abe government’s proposals to amend Article 9 of the constitution. Photo: Kyodo
The nuclear attacks have spurned a global peace movement against nuclear proliferation and US imperialism.
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