In August 1945, I was an aircraft apprentice helping to produce torpedo bombers for the war in the Pacific. The immediate effect on me of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the subsequent Japanese surrender, was to make that job redundant. I hoped that henceforth my talents would be devoted to more peaceful purposes in a world without war. How naive I was. By the time I read John Hersey’s Hiroshima I was convinced that there was no future for the human race unless nuclear weapons were abolished. I still believe so (Forgetting the apocalypse: why our nuclear fears faded – and why that’s dangerous, 12 May).
So long as they exist, there is a probability that they will be used – by design, miscalculation, accident, malfunction or escalation. Any event that has a finite probability will eventually happen. The first leader of a nuclear weapon power who acknowledges this, really means it, and ensures that it will never happen by turning words into deeds, will be the greatest statesman/stateswoman in history. I submit to all present (mis)leaders and future aspirants that to leave such a legacy is a more worthwhile ambition than merely being the head of a “superpower”. Failing that, the ordinary people of the world must awaken from their sleepwalk to Armageddon, and claim their right to a secure future in a nuclear-weapon-free world.
Former co-chair, World Disarmament Campaign
• Daniel Immerwahr concludes: “Our nuclear consciousness is badly atrophied. We’re left with a world full of nuclear weapons but emptying of people who understand their consequences.”
A group of people who do understand the consequences is the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). A charitable wing of the CND offers talks to schools across the country on the awful potential of these horrifying weapons. There are still some who seek to alter this fateful trajectory.
Dr Douglas Saltmarshe
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