Posts Tagged ‘nuclear bomb’

The Power of One

May 9, 2011

Just Imagine What An Insane Terrorist Armed with Nuclear Weapons Could Do

To me, the most dangerous person in the world is a religious fanatic.  When a person believes he will go to heaven because he sacrificed his life to murder people who he perceives do not believe the way he does, I can’t think of a more dangerous person.  Logic and reason mean nothing to such people.  The fact that they are in the minority – it appears most religious people are not that fanatical – offers little comfort.

Just look at what 19 religious fanatics, armed with box cutters, accomplished.  Not only did they bring down the twin towers of the World Trade Center,  killing more than 3,000 people,  they propelled the United States to go to war in Afghanistan, and were used as an excuse to attack Iraq,  all of this costing the US thousands more killed and wounded,  and more than three trillion dollars, much of which was borrowed from China because as we went to war our government cut taxes.

FBI's latest Ten Most Wanted poster of Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden, the late head religiously fanatical terrorist, was not living in a cave near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, protected by heavily armed al-Qaeda guards as media speculation led us to believe.  As we now know, he was living in Pakistan in a large house – some call it a mansion, but it didn’t look like one on TV to me – with three wives, and was guarded by one courier who was quickly dispatched by US Navy SEALS.  It didn’t take jet fighters, or a drone, or artillery or thousands of troops to bring this evil man down, only two helicopters and a few Navy SEALS. This man, without a large army and no nuclear weapons, led his relatively small group of fanatics to terrorize the world.  He is gone, but his organization is not and the threat remains.

Just think of the even worse havoc he could have caused if he had nuclear weapons, even primitive ones.  And just think what the terrorists who are still with us can do if they get them.  The reason that “mutually assured destruction” has prevented any nation from using a nuclear weapon is that its leaders have been sane enough not to set off the destruction of life on earth.  If a violent religious fanatic gets hold of one he would have no qualms about ending life on earth because he thinks he would be going the heaven for doing it.

World leaders, knowing no one is exempted from this threat,  are coming together to address it.  They started their nuclear nonproliferation efforts years ago. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty dates back to 1970, according to an article in the “Great Decisions” 2011 magazine edition.  It states that with that treaty in place, “the spread of the bomb has been limited to nine nuclear powers today.”  The fear is that the more nations get nuclear weapons the greater the chance of terrorists getting hold of them.  Not only preventing the spread of nuclear weapons concerns world leaders, but also the security of the weapons already stockpiled. The United States is leading a multilateral effort to secure nuclear material around the world in four years. President Obama hosted a 47-nation nuclear security summit last year to address the problem.

All it would take is for one terrorist armed with nuclear weapons to possibly set off the destruction of the world.  This thought leads me to the often-used excuse for not voting:  My one vote won’t make any difference. Never underestimate the power of one for good or evil.


August 3, 2009


I was 14 years old, a doorman at the Bradley theater in downtown Columbus, when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, and  three days later, when one was dropped on Nagasaki.  I don’t remember where I first learned about it,  but I do have recollections of the screaming headlines in the Columbus Ledger and Enquirer newspapers.  I don’t think I fully grasped the lasting effects of those blasts at the time,  just that I, like everyone else I knew, was glad that the U.S. had the weapon and not the other side. 

Atom bomb blast at Nagasaki, Japan,  August 9th, 1945 (Photograph by the U.S. Army Air Force)

Atomic bomb mushroom cloud over Nagasaki, Japan, August 9th, 1945 (Photograph by the U.S. Army Air Force)

I do remember exactly where I was and what happened six days after the Nagasaki bomb was dropped, because that was when Japan surrendered,  ending the most destructive war in history.  I was on duty at the Bradley.  It was the only time I ever recall that a feature film was stopped for an announcement.  A slide came up on the screen saying that the theater was going to broadcast a bulletin from WRBL.  The projectionist connected the sound system to the radio station and we heard the announcement that Japan had surrendered and the war was over.  People cheered, of course,  then left.  The theater became virtually empty.

We could hear the mill whistles blowing and horns honking on Broadway outside the theater.  Though on duty, we just couldn’t stand it any longer,  and went out on the street to see what was happening.  Cars were circling Broadway bumper to bumper,  horns blaring away,  and the sidewalks were full of excited smiling people, and, though Columbus had no skyscrapers from which to throw confetti,  people adjusted by tearing strips off of newspapers and tossing them in the air.  The sidewalk was littered with paper.

I knew of no one at the time who said we should not have dropped the bomb.  It ended the war, and that was justification enough. Our servicemen and women would be coming home.  Besides, after four years of anti-Japanese propaganda in movies,  radio programs, magazines and newspapers,  most people had no love at all for the Japanese.  It wasn’t until later when we saw newsreels in theaters of the human suffering, mainly civilians, including children, that we started to comprehend the moral dilemma of the event.  Still, as President Truman had said,  dropping the bombs ended the war and saved possibly a million American lives and millions of Japanese lives that would have been lost in an invasion of Japan. Estimates of the time it would take to win the war without dropping the bombs ran from six months to two years. 

Col. Paul Tibbets waving from the Enola Gay, 1945 (Photo by the U.S. Army Air Force)

Col. Paul Tibbets waving from the Enola Gay, 1945 (Photo by the U.S. Army Air Force)

Once, when Colonel Paul Tibbets,  the pilot of the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima,  came through Columbus to see some old friends in the 1980’s, he gave me an exclusive interview, which aired on WTVM.  I had to promise not to reveal the location of the interview  because  Tibbets did not like for people to know his whereabouts since he could attract anti-nuclear bomb demonstrators.  

Once the interview started,  he told me, if I remember correctly,  that the crew had been told it had a special bomb on the plane, but only he, his co-pliot,  and the scientist aboard the plane who came along to arm the bomb in flight, knew what kind of bomb it was.  The rest of the crew didn’t know until they saw the mushroom cloud.  

How did he live with the knowledge of knowing the bomb killed about 140,000 people, most of them civilians?  He said that he was doing his job, and that he agreed with President Truman that it would end the war and save many more lives. 

Tibbets achieved the rank of Brigadier General before he retired in 1959.  He died in 2007.

Though there has been great proliferation of nuclear bombs in too many countries for comfort,  none has been used in war since the United States dropped them to end World War Two.  So far,  even the nationalistic fanatics have not dared use one.   The balance of nuclear terror has held.  Nobody would win in a nuclear exchange;  the world, we are told, would become uninhabitable.   The danger, however, is still very much with us.