Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
August 6, 2006

Remembering Hiroshima
This morning tens of thousands gathered in Hiroshima, Japan to try to use the memory of what happened to their city to advance the cause of peace against long odds. They deserve our attention and respect.

Sixty-one years ago today Hiroshima, a city about the size of Des Moines, became the first human target for an atomic bomb. Three days later, a second bomb was detonated over Nagasaki. These remain theonly instances of such horror being inflicted on human beings. They were carried to their targets by American B-29s.

Though those 1945 bombs were puny by today’s standards they shocked the world. Tens of thousands died instantly. Many more perished later as a result of agonizing radiation poisoning or burns. The ultimate death toll in Hiroshima—nearly all civilians—was close to a quarter-million.

We have always been told the bombings were necessary to save lives. Invasion of Japan would have killed hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions of Japanese, it is claimed. That's bogus.

By August, 1945 the Japanese homeland was starved of food and fuel. Even if the will to fight had remained they had few resources with which to fight. In fact, at the time of the bombings, the Japanese were putting out surrender feelers through diplomatic back channels in Sweden and the Soviet Union (Stalin did not enter the war against Japan until after the bombing of Hiroshima.) The only guarantee they sought was preservation of the Emperor.

The Truman administration rejected these overtures, demanding unconditional surrender. Of course the U.S. maintained the Emperor during the American occupation of Japan after the war.

The real reason for the atomic bombings of these two cities, that had long ceased to be military targets of any kind, was to demonstrate to the world—especially to the Soviet Union—the awesome power at Washington's command.

But the American monopoly of these new true weapons of mass destruction didn't last long. Not only allies Britain and France but soon the Soviet Union and China as well, developed their own nuclear weapons, along with delivery systems. By the Sixties there were enough bombs in place to totally destroy our planet many times over.

Some facts to keep in mind:

* It’s estimated that more than 11,000 nuclear weapons remain armed and ready for delivery on targets.

* More than 6,000 are in the arsenal of the U.S., which continues to spend 27 billion dollars a year on this program.

* Russia, heir to the old Soviet Union’s nuclear might, still has about 3,000.

* Intelligence experts guess Israel has 200 nuclear bombs. Arab countries have zero nuclear weapons.

After a brief period of perceived progress in disarmament with the dismantling of the Soviet Union, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists famous Doomsday Clock currently stands at seven minutes to midnight–exactly where it was set when launched 56 years ago.

As long as wars continue to rage the danger of new Hiroshimas–even destruction of the planet as we know it–is real and imminent. In the short term those of us in the United States have a duty to defuse this threat by working to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to stop American complicity in the Israeli war drive into Lebanon. And we need to demand that the government that speaks in our name cease its both overt and covert interventions in Cuba and Venezuela.

We can take heart from actions elsewhere. Yesterday an estimated 100,000 marched in London against the war drive in Lebanon. Demonstrations numbering in the thousands also took place in Cairo, Pretoria, Ottawa—and Tel Aviv.

In the long run, we will only get rid of that Doomsday Clock when working people around the world secure peace with justice by taking political power away from those whose drive for profits and power inevitably lead to war.

Conflicting Smells
When I was a kid there was always natural competition to determine what odor source would prevail in downtown Kansas City. Most days strong winds out of the west would carry the unmistakable scent of the West Bottoms stockyards. But some days the wonderful aroma of coffee would drift in from the Folger roasting and canning plant at 7th & Broadway.

The stockyards have been gone for over twenty years now. A few years ago Proctor & Gamble moved most Folger production elsewhere, leaving behind only 75 of 225 IAM-represented jobs. Diesel became the dominant downtown odor.

A headline in yesterday’s Kansas City Star piqued my interest, “KC to smell the coffee more.” The article began, “Activity at the downtown Folger Coffee Co. plant, a slow drip a few years ago, should perk up considerably with a major reinvestment returning it to full production.…The necessary equipment will be funded by up to $30 million in revenue bonds approved Friday by the city’s Planned Industrial Expansion Authority.”

And how many jobs will result from this return to “full production?” Ten. I guess three million dollars per job is a good investment in our city’s “industrial expansion.” Still, I think the Star got one thing wrong. That smell we’re getting more of isn’t of coffee.

There We Go Again
Next weekend I plan to attend what I think will be an important conference in suburban Chicago, the National Immigrant Rights Strategy Convention. Among the issues slated to be dealt with will be plans by unions to tailor organizing campaigns to the needs of immigrant workers.

As is always the case when I have to go on the road, the down side is that I will be unable to update our Daily Labor News Digest feature after Wednesday until the following Tuesday, and the next Week In Review may be a day or two late.

That’s all for this week.

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