Reflections on Hiroshima Day
The number killed from that bombing on August 6 or from its effects in the ensuing weeks and months and years remains unknown. An early post-war random-sample survey by the U.S. Occupation forces estimated 66,000 died, a little over one quarter of the population – estimated at 255,000 on the basis of the ration records that somehow were not destroyed.
But the ration records would have counted only Japanese civilians. An unknown number of slave laborers, prisoners, and Japanese military personnel were also in the city but were not part of the rationing system. Some observers have posited that the actual population was 400,000, which at 25.5% fatality rate would mean 102,000 died.
Hiroshima police estimated in 1946 that almost 130,000 were killed or injured by the blast or subsequently died from radiation effects. Of this number, the police determined that 92.000 died or were otherwise unaccounted for at the end of 1945.
As more time passed, the numbers estimated to have been present in the city – and therefore the number of fatalities – grew, despite the fact that in the latter months of the war, the population fled urban areas to escape fire-bombing raids. Aviation author and journalist Daniel Ford believes that the early post-war consensus figure of 90,000-92,000 fatalities is probably as accurate a figure as will ever be determined.
On a new subject.
July 27th marked the 50th Anniversary of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the organization charged with overseeing the peaceful use of nuclear energy. It also is a key participant in attempts to enforce the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty first signed in 1996. Trying to be the world’s watchdog charged with detecting and sounding the alarm when a country tries to develop nuclear weapons is a thankless job when the world community declines to respond or a major power threatens unilateral military action before the weight of the UN can be brought to bear
Despite predictions made decades ago, there are still only eight (possibly nine if North Korea actually has a weapon) nuclear weapons states. Iran hangs in the balance, but with astute diplomacy might not pursue a weapons program. On the other hand, the Bush administration is pushing its nuclear development agreement with India which has inadequate checks to preclude India diverting technology or materials to its weapons program. Congress may not act on the latest administration draft when it returns from its August recess, but pressure will undoubtedly be applied to move forward.
Meanwhile, Pakistan is believed to be building another plutonium reactor at its Khudhsb nuclear weapons site. And Islamabad has also raised the spectre of a new nuclear arms race in Asia if the U.S.-India deal goes through.