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P R E F A C E It is hard for me to believe that almost three decades have passed since my wife and I arrived in Hiroshima for the first time. But I have no doubt that what I learned there has affected everything I have done or felt since. Hiroshima, along with its pain, offers a special kind ofillumination. For many years I felt lonely in relation to my Hiroshima experience. It was part of our family life—our son had his first birthday there—but distanced from the imagination of most Americans. I felt asurvivor-like responsibility to make known in my own country, through writings and talks, what I found there. The work in general, this book in particular, was very well received. Yet I had the distinct sense that people would express their horror but turn away from the subject. Then the Vietnam War and its horrors so preoccupied Americans that Hiroshima-related questions of nuclear danger were blunted. Overall, people resisted knowing— and especially feeling—the full truth of Hiroshima because that truth was too threatening, too unfamiliar in its dimensions, and, for Americans, a potential accusation. During the 1970s all that changed. People in the United States and throughout the world became more interested in Hiroshima. They gradually recognized that what happened there had great relevance for their own struggles with nuclear weapons. The relevance was not simply a question of levels of destruction: by then the Hiroshima bomb had become old- PREFACE fashioned in comparison to hydrogen bombs that could bring about 10, 100, or even 1,000 Hiroshimas in a single explosion. Rather, Hiroshima and Nagasaki came to be seen as having special value for the world. Only in those two places had human beings been subjected to the radically new weapons technology, many of them capable of rendering powerful accounts of what they had experienced. These accounts gradually, all too gradually I would say, began to enter into nuclear-weapons discussions. Once that happened, those discussions could no longer be confined to detached "scenarios" of nuclear "exchange "—calm projections of what amounted to planetary self-destruction put forward by advocates of nuclear weapons on behalf of what they called "deterrence" and "national security." The result was that more people could share the sentiment expressed to me by a Hiroshima survivor commenting on nuclear testing by the United States and the Soviet Union: "It is utterly absurd. Both countries seem to be playing a sort of game . . . because they don't really grasp its terror." Hiroshima survivors could grasp that terror all too readily. More than any other group, they convey a sense of human consequences that counters the murderous abstractions of nuclear-war planners. That human reality is still insufficiently appreciated, as evidenced by attitudes expressed during the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91. Among the many reasons given by President Bush and others in his administration for mounting a devastating attack on Iraq, the most effective, polls showed, was the claim that the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, wasclose to acquiring nuclear weapons. The claim was systematically exaggerated, but the response suggested that nuclear fear did exist and could be manipulatively exploited. During the war itself, there was serious talk by elected American officials about the desirability of using small "tactical" nuclear weapons in the ground war in order to "save American lives." It would seem that national leaders are more prone to invoke the human consequences of their adversaries' weapons than those of their own. Moreover, American decision makers had no hesitation about using newly developed "conventional " weapons almost as draconian as nuclear bombs. Yet some general appreciation of the human consequences of nuclear weapons is reflected in the simple fact that, despite the many wars and military campaigns of their possessors, the weapons have not been used since Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors deserve more credit than they have received for bringing about this degree of restraint. As truth tellers where x Preface truth is resisted, they have been a crucial source of wisdom. Their narratives have informed the work of every authentic chronicler of nuclear threat, whether through interviews with American or Japanese or other investigators or tireless public testimony which they have given in countries throughout the world. Their words and images, in ways that are not easily measurable, have contributed, as nothing else has, to a collective world consciousness of nuclear danger. For that reason we can say that atomic-bomb survivorsmade a...


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MARC Record
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