To the editor:
In his letter of Aug. 5, John Dunham claims that the vigil sponsored by the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice commemorating the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki confuses two issues: the proliferation of nuclear weapons today and their use against Japan in World War II. I hold that they are anything but separate.
Two disturbing developments have marked 20th century warfare. One is the introduction of total war, which is directed against civilian as well as military targets. The other is the rapid growth of new weapon technologies that have vastly multiplied the lethal power of war. The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki elevated both of these developments to a new scale. They inaugurated a nuclear arms race that has reached the point where nuclear weapons no longer threaten just individual cities, but the whole of human civilization.
The principal deterrent of nuclear war-mutually assured destruction is called MAD. Madness indeed, for any sane person, all-out war is no longer an option for dealing with human affairs.
Yet we remain hostage to the possibility of an unthinkable cataclysm. The time to act is the day before, not the day after. Hiroshima and Nagasaki stand as darkly ominous portents of what awaits us all if we do not come to our senses. The vigil is an important way to focus our minds on what must be done for our own sake as well as that of our children.