Artvoice: Buffalo's #1 Newsweekly
Home Blogs Web Features Calendar Listings Artvoice TV Real Estate Classifieds Contact
Previous story: Once Were Creators
Next story: Round 2, Week 2: Speak Easy Three vs. Canoe

Hiroshima and Nagasaki Remembered at E.H. Butler Library

The Bomb

As if to underscore the lunacy of recent nuclear provocations on one side and the other of the Korean DMZ (see Michael I. Nimam’s column in Artvoice last week), the Buffalo State Library has a current exhibit of photos, maps, and other data on the twin horrific bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.

Even more than lunacy, however, the library exhibit is about morality. Among the display items are amateurish drawings of soon-after-the-event scenes of so-far survivors immersing themselves in whatever available water sources—rivers, cisterns—in an attempt to slake the searing pain of the burn wounds. These alongside photos of charred and fragmented remains of instant victims of temperatures up to 7,000 degrees Fahrenheit at the hypocenter and blast pressures up to 35 tons per square meter. The instant victims were the lucky ones.

There are data on more or less immediate deaths—140,000 at Hiroshima, 74,000 at Nagasaki—and on residual effects. Cancer data for the decades since. Leukemias showed up soon after the bombings, but other cancers with longer latency periods didn’t display elevated rates until 20 or 30 or 40 years later. Most of the people who were alive at the time of the bombing have to be dead by now, but who can know the residual effects on further generations and on the environment?

If the notion of a “just war” has any meaning at all, surely it has to stipulate, in addition to a just cause, only targeting combatants and specifically military or military-value objectives. This was wholesale devastation of civilian populations. Obliteration of cities. An area of about 13 square kilometers at Hiroshima was reduced to ashes. The ashes area at Nagasaki was about seven square kilometers. Much more extensive areas were left ruins. Rubble fields.

There’s a photo of J. Robert Oppenheimer, director of the Manhattan Project, which created these weapons, examining the scorched desert remains of the first nuclear explosion test site at Almagordo, New Mexico, along with the Hindu sutra text he is said to have pronounced in assessing his handiwork: “I am become Death. Destroyer of worlds.”

More in the lunacy area, there’s information also on the present world situation regarding nuclear weapons. The United States now has more than 5,000 of them, and Russia has more than 5,000. (Obama has an agreement in the works with the Russians that would reduce each of those lethal stockpiles by about a third, but it may not go anywhere because the Republicans will oppose it on the basis that, if it goes, Obama could get some credit for it.)

After the United States and Russia, the country listed as having the largest number of nuclear weapons is France, with about 350. The chart notes that Israel is not listed because the Israeli government has never owned up to possessing nuclear weapons, though most experts believe it surely does.

The exhibit was put together by SUNY Oswego professors John Kares Smith and Alok Kumar. It runs until December 15.

jack foran

blog comments powered by Disqus