Why wouldn’t you push the button?

Last night I watched a TV audience despair at a politician for refusing to use nuclear weapons if he was elected to lead the country. After all, it isn’t much of a deterrent if one is reluctant to use it, right? Surely a strong leader is one prepared to ‘Push the button’.

Allow me to remind us what happened the last time someone ‘pushed the button’.

World Map Inked

“And this is what happened on 6 August 1945 at Hiroshima: 8:15am. The streets are full of people; people going to work, people going to shop, people – smaller people – going to school. It was a lovely summer morning, sunshine and blue sky. Blue sky stands for happiness in Japan. The air raid siren sounds. No one pays attention. There’s only a single enemy aircraft in the sky. The aircraft flies across the city. Above the centre, something falls. It’s hard to see – the bomb is very small, two kilograms in weight, a little larger than a tennis ball in size. It falls for ten to fifteen seconds, it falls and falls.

“Then there is a searing flash of light, brighter and hotter than a thousand suns. Those who were looking directly at it had their eyes burnt in their sockets. They never looked again on men or things. In the street below there was a business man in charge of large affairs, walking to his work. A lady, as elegant as she was beautiful. A brilliant student, the leader of his class; a little girl, laughing as she ran. And in a moment they were gone. They vanished from the earth. They were utterly consumed by the furnace of the flash. There were no ashes even on the pavement. Nothing but their black shadows on the stones. Scores of thousands more, sheltered by walls or buildings by the flash, were driven mad by an intolerable thirst that followed from the heat. They ran in frenzied hordes towards the seven rivers of the delta on which Hiroshima is built. They fought like maniacs to reach the water. If they succeeded, they stooped to drink the poisoned stream, and in a month they too were dead.

“Strength is only strength when it makes the weak strong.” – Kosuke Koyama.

“Then came the blast, thousand of miles an hour. Buildings in all directions for kilometres, flattened to the ground. Lorries, cars, milk-carts, human beings, babies’ prams, picked up and hurled like lethal projectiles, hundreds of metres through the air. The blast piled its victims up in frightful heaps, seven of eight corpses deep. Then the fireball touched the earth and scores of conflagrations, fanned by hurricane winds, joined in a fire-storm. And many thousands more, trapped by the walls of flame, that leaped higher than the highest tower in the town, in swiftly or longer agony, were burnt to death. Then all went black as night. The mushroom cloud rose to 40,000 feet. It blotted out the sun. It dropped its poison dust, its fall-out, on everything that still remained not lethal in Hiroshima. And death by radioactive sickness from the fall-out was the fate of those who had survived the flash, the river, the blast, the fire-storm.”

– Philip Noel Baker.

Is this really what we want our elected officials to inflict on anyone? Is this description really an accurate depiction of the effects of ‘strong and stable leadership’?

And let us not wash our own hands of this responsibility. It is not enough to say ‘not in my name’. Our elected officials represent us; they work on our behalf therefore we share responsibility for their actions: If our Prime Minister or President pushes the button… we push the button!

I suggest that the leader in question maybe stronger than some think when, confronted by a room of people apparently comfortable with unleashing the kind of destruction described above, he stayed true to his principles of peace, communication and reconciliation instead of bowing to the vocal ‘Bomb now, talk later’ tactics; one who is prepared to meet, talk and negotiate with those who are different; one who is willing to try something new and not, even hypothetically to win votes, repeat the atrocities of the past.

The truth is simply this, there are no positives in the possession or use of nuclear weapons.

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