Baroness Jones: This Hiroshima Day, the Iran crisis means we need a voice of reason and calm in Number 10

Posted On: 
6th August 2019

Writing on the 74th World Hiroshima Day Baroness Jones states that as we remember the devastation of nuclear war there is a rising standoff between the US and Iran.

Paper lanterns are seen floating on the Motoyasu river near the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, Japan.
Credit: 
PA Images

Tuesday marks the 74th anniversary of the day that the world started living under a deadly, terrifying cloud.

That’s the dark threat of nuclear weapons. The cloud was the mushroom shape that formed over Hiroshima, as human beings underneath going about their lives were incinerated in a flash and horribly burnt to death. Many were left with horrifying injuries or slowly poisoned by the radioactivity unleashed.

 And three days later, Nagasaki was similarly devastated by a nuclear bomb.

You have to be a very senior citizen now to remember living in a world that wasn’t under that threat.

I can remember hearing year after year at Hiroshima and Nagasaki Days from the “hibakusha”, as the cities’ survivors are known, and their message has always been the same: we must ensure nowhere else suffers what their cities suffered.

They’re part of three generations that have known a world in which mass destruction, death and disaster, human-inflicted, is always potentially just minutes away. 

The level of fear, the obvious immediate cause for fear, has risen and fallen. This is sometimes because of events we know about, like the Cuban Missile Crisis, and sometimes on occasions that we only learnt about long after the event - like the day Stanislav Petrov saw information that suggested the US was firing missiles at the USSR, but judged it to be a false alarm. He saved billions of lives. 

After the end of the Cold War, the threat of an accident remained, the concern about the proliferation states continued, but the issue largely disappeared from the front pages. It was something to be sorted out, some day.

There are positive and negative reasons why that has changed on the 74th Hiroshima Day.

The positive first: the Nobel Peace Prize-winning ICAN (the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) got real impetus behind the simple, obvious fact that none of us will be secure until we have rid the world of these hideous weapons of mass destruction. 

A ban has the backing of a majority of the world’s countries and is now well on the way to entering into force, with 24 of the necessary 50 countries having signed up to it.

But there are also many reasons on this Hiroshima Day to have a new focus on the urgent need for a safe, nuclear-weapons-free world.

One is the formal death last week of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which is often said to have ended the nuclear stand-off in Europe, and that the Greenham Women can certainly claim to have had a significant hand in.

Another is the rising standoff between the US and Iran, an increasingly heated conflict that the UK has managed to put itself right at the centre of, despite formally being on the side of the European states trying to keep alive the anti-nuclear weapons deals that Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of a year ago.

Trump’s man in No 10, Boris Johnson, is not the ideal person to be in charge of British decision making at this moment. Not when a voice of reason and calm is needed. The Iranian nuclear deal is crucial to ensuring that the world does not get a new nuclear weapons state, just at the point when we should be going the opposite way.

As Green Bundestag member Omid Nouripour has said: "No deal means no inspections, and no inspections is the best way for Iran to get the bomb on a fast track," Nouripour told Deutsche Welle.

"And Iran getting the bomb means a nuclearization of a neighbor region of Europe."

Any extra nuclear state is a bad thing - an innate increase in the risk of accident, misjudgement or human malevolence on a planetary catastrophe scale.

But there’s a further cause for grave concern at this moment; one of the largest arsenals in the world is in control of one of the states that looks most unstable, the US.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb is a Green Party Peer.