Closer to Midnight

Finally some good news! Today’s Daily News report that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is willing to talk with the United States about giving up his nuclear weapons program is a remarkable turnaround. This announcement followed meetings between Kim and a South Korean delegation. South Korean national security chief Chung Eui-yong said the North’s leader had also agreed to refrain from conducting nuclear and missile tests while engaging in dialogue with Seoul. This thawing of tension has been a welcome relief after months of sabre rattling between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump.

Unfortunately, though, the nuclear one upmanship has not ended – only shifted stage. Recent announcements between Donald Trump, and Vladimir Putin have been terribly worrying.

On the 2nd of February, this year, the BBC reported on the US military proposal to diversify its nuclear arsenal and develop new, smaller atomic bombs, largely to counter Russia. The US military’s ‘Nuclear Posture Review’ (NPR) shows their concern that Moscow no longer sees US nuclear weapons as a deterrent to its expansionist ambitions, as they are too big to ever be used. Whereas developing smaller nukes would challenge that assumption. These low-yield weapons are smaller, less powerful bombs with strength below 20 kilotons.

This short-sighted mentality is alarming as these weapons would still be devastating. They would have the same explosive power as the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, which killed more than 70,000 people. And once one is used, it doesn’t matter how small it is, a domino effect would result and for the world it will be game over. This is a clear challenge of the non-proliferation agreements by the Trump administration. This doesn’t sound like good insurance but rather a step closer towards nuclear war.

To be fair, this program to modernise America’s nuclear forces actually began under the Obama Administration. However, what is new is the perceived need for a “more flexible capability to give tailored deterrence.” Such weapons could blur the distinction between nuclear and non-nuclear systems and actually make a nuclear war more likely.

To add to the tension, on the 3rd of March, this year, Vladimir Putin stated, at the annual state of the nation address, that Russia has tested an array of new strategic nuclear weapons that cannot be intercepted. Mr. Putin said the weapons included a nuclear powered cruise missile, a nuclear-powered underwater drone and a new hypersonic missile.

This is clearly a reply to the US military’s attempt at deterrence. A statement to the US that they have failed to contain Russia’s ambitions. Mr. Putin’s speech obviously has the March 18 re-election in its sights.

The nuclear-powered cruise missile tested last autumn was said to have high-speed manoeuvrability, allowing it to pierce any missile defence. The high-speed underwater drone had, according to Mr. Putin, an intercontinental range and was capable of carrying a nuclear warhead that could target both aircraft carriers and coastal facilities, and its operational depth and high speed would make it immune to enemy interception.

Mr. Putin said that the new weapons have made NATO’s US-led missile defence ‘useless,’ and meant an effective end to what he described as Western efforts to stymie Russia’s development. He also said that Moscow would be ready to use the new weapons not only in response to an attack on Russia, but also in defence of its allies.

Dana White, the Pentagon’s spokeswoman, said the weapons had been in development for ‘a very long time,’ and that the American people should rest assured that the US military was fully prepared.

The Trump administration, meanwhile, accused Moscow of violating a Cold War-era treaty which banned nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of 500-5,500 km. “President Putin has confirmed what the United States Government has known all along, which Russia has denied: Russia has been developing destabilising weapons systems for over a decade in direct violations of its treaty obligations,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

I ask myself if these leaders in government today are too far removed from the horrors of the Second World War, that they flippantly play with the lives of millions of people and the future of the planet. It is worth reviewing the words of Douglas MacArthur’s speech to the world on the occasion of the Japanese surrender, ‘Today the guns are silent,’ given aboard the USS Missouri, in Tokyo Bay, September 2, 1945:

“Today the guns are silent. A great tragedy has ended. A great victory has been won. The skies no longer rain death — the seas bear only commerce men everywhere walk upright in the sunlight. The entire world is quietly at peace. The holy mission has been completed. And in reporting this to you, the people, I speak for the thousands of silent lips, forever stilled among the jungles and the beaches and in the deep waters of the Pacific which marked the way. I speak for the unnamed brave millions homeward bound to take up the challenge of that future which they did so much to salvage from the brink of disaster.

As I look back on the long, tortuous trail from those grim days of Bataan and Corregidor, when an entire world lived in fear, when democracy was on the defensive everywhere, when modern civilization trembled in the balance, I tank a merciful God that He has given us the faith, the courage and the power from which to mold victory. We have known the bitterness of defeat and the exultation of triumph, and from both we have learned there can be no turning back. We must go forward to preserve in peace what we won in war.

A new era is upon us. Even the lesson of victory itself brings with it profound concern, both for our future security and the survival of civilization. The destructiveness of the war potential, through progressive advances in scientific discovery, has in fact now reached a point which revises the traditional concepts of war.

Men since the beginning of time have sought peace. Various methods through the ages have attempted to devise an international process to prevent or settle disputes between nations. From the very start workable methods were found insofar as individual citizens were concerned, but the mechanics of an instrumentality of larger international scope have never been successful. Military alliances, balances of power, leagues of nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. We have had our last chance. If we do not now devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature and all material and cultural developments of the past two thousand years, It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.

We stand in Tokyo today reminiscent of our countryman, Commodore Perry, ninety-two years ago. His purpose was to bring to Japan an era of enlightenment and progress, by lifting the veil of isolation to the friendship, trade, and commerce of the world. But alas the knowledge thereby gained of western science was forged into an instrument of oppression and human enslavement. Freedom of expression, freedom of action, even freedom of thought were denied through appeal to superstition, and through the application of force. We are committed by the Potsdam Declaration of principles to see that the Japanese people are liberated from this condition of slavery. It is my purpose to implement this commitment just as rapidly as the armed forces are demobilized and other essential steps taken to neutralize the war potential.

The energy of the Japanese race, if properly directed, will enable expansion vertically rather than horizontally. If the talents of the race are turned into constructive channels, the county can lift itself from its present deplorable state into a position of dignity.

To the Pacific basin has come the vista of a new emancipated world. Today, freedom is on the offensive, democracy is on the march. Today, in Asia as well as in Europe, unshackled peoples are tasting the full sweetness of liberty, the relief from fear.

In the Philippines, America has evolved a model for this new free world of Asia. In the Philippines, America has demonstrated that peoples of the East and peoples of the West may walk side by side in mutual respect and with mutual benefit. The history of our sovereignty there has now the full confidence of the East.

And so, my fellow countrymen, today I report to you that your sons and daughters have served you well and faithfully with the calm, deliberated determined fighting spirit of the American soldier, based upon a tradition of historical truth as against the fanaticism of an enemy supported only by mythological fiction. Their spiritual strength and power has brought us through to victory. They are homeward bound—take care of them.”

Lest we forget!!!


About Passionist JPIC Australia

I am a priest with the Passionist Congregation and a part of our Australian Province which includes Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam. I have been ordained since December of 1992. I was born in the Philippines, though am from Spanish decent. I came to Australia in 1972 with my family when I was 11 years old, and we settled in Brisbane. That is where I did the rest of my growing up. On completing high school, I went to Queensland University where I studied for 4 years, completing a B.Sc. with a major in Microbiology. The following year I decided to enter into the Passionist Congregation to study for the priesthood. I trained for 9 years, and have been a priest for 25 years. In my time as a priest I have been Director of the Passionist Family Group Movement in Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland; conducted over 400 Parish Missions all around Australia and New Zealand, but particularly in Victoria and Western Australia; worked in adult faith education, Sacramental preparation for children and parents; Hospital chaplaincy; High school chaplaincy, in-services and retreats. In the year 200 I became engaged in developing young adult retreat teams and training them to carry on our high school retreat programs. I am also chair of our Province’s committee for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC). I am also a member of ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans).
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