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LETTERS

A tragic and fearsome anniversary

The memory of the terrifying harm we inflicted on hundreds of thousands of civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki should lead us to dismantle our nuclear architecture.

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima. Japan is marking 75 years since the world's first atomic bomb attack, with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic forcing a scaling back of annual ceremonies to commemorate the victims.
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima. Japan is marking 75 years since the world's first atomic bomb attack, with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic forcing a scaling back of annual ceremonies to commemorate the victims.PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images

This week marks the 75th year since the Aug. 6 and Aug. 9, 1945, atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When the first bomb detonated, the temperature on the ground was 6,000 degrees Celsius.

The memory of the terrifying harm we inflicted on hundreds of thousands of civilians should lead us to dismantle our nuclear architecture. Instead, the United States has embarked on a $1.2 trillion renewal of our nuclear weapons. Former secretary of defense William Perry tells us we are in more danger of nuclear war than at any other time in our history.

The United States has a presidential first-use policy. That means President Trump (or any other president) can single-handedly launch a nuclear weapon without having any authorization from Congress, from the courts, from the Cabinet, or from the population. The launch order (according to the late missile-launch officer Bruce Blair) is the length of a tweet.

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It is painful to peace advocates throughout the country that the single most important anti-nuclear voice in Congress — Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts — faces a Democratic primary challenger this Sept 1.

During the vigils and ceremonies we participate in during the Aug. 6 and Aug. 9 memorials, we should take time to remember the work of people in Congress like Senator Markey, who have dedicated themselves and their legislation to reducing the nuclear peril.

Elaine Scarry

Cambridge

The writer is the author of “Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom.”