Larry Snider

War Games

“On August 6, 1945, I was a 13-year-old grade 8 student at Hiroshima Jogakuin and a member of The Student Mobilization Program. I was one of a group of 30 students assigned to help at the army headquarters. We were on the second floor of the wooden building about a mile from the hypocentre, about to start our first day of work. At 8:15 a.m., I saw a bluish-white flash like a magnesium flare outside the window. I remember the sensation of floating in the air. As I regained consciousness in the total silence and darkness, I realized I was pinned in the ruins of the collapsed building. I could not move. I knew I was faced with death. Strangely the feeling I had was not panic but serenity. Gradually I began to hear my classmates’ faint cries for help, “Mother, help me!”, “God, help me!” Then suddenly, I felt hands touching me and loosening the timbers that pinned me. A man’s voice said, “Don’t give up! I’m trying to free you! Keep moving! See the light coming through that opening. Crawl toward it and try to get out!” By the time I got out, the ruins were on fire. This meant that most of my classmates who were with me in the same room were burned alive. A solider ordered me and a few surviving girls to escape to the nearby hills.

I turned around and saw the outside world. Although it was morning, it looked like twilight because of the dust and smoke in the air. People at a distance saw the mushroom cloud and heard a thunderous roar. But I did not see the cloud because I was in it. I did not hear the roar, just the deadly silence broken only by the groans of the injured. Streams of stunned people were slowly shuffling from the city centre toward nearby hills. They were naked or tattered, burned, blackened and swollen. Eyes were swollen shut and some had eyeballs hanging out of their sockets. They were bleeding, ghostly figures like a slow-motion image from an old silent movie. Many held their hands above the level of their hearts to lessen the throbbing pain of their burns. Strips of skin and flesh hung like ribbons from their bones. Often these ghostly figures would collapse in heaps never to rise again. With a few surviving classmates I joined the procession carefully stepping over the dead and dying,” said Setsuko Thurlow in a speech remembering the day the bomb was dropped on her City:

It is hard to believe both that we have lived for 67 years since that day and that still we face the question of whether we will allow a country to build, possess and utilize a nuclear bomb. The questions surrounding the presentation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations and his drawing of a red line beyond which Israel and hopefully its allies are willing to take military action against Iran hangs in the air surrounding the efforts of the United States to use diplomacy and economic sanctions to convince Iran, its Ayatollah and its President to cease and desist and turn off the centrifuges before they produce enough enriched uranium to be able to make a bomb.

The big question of nuclear disarmament was addressed most directly in 1968 with the signing of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. NPT was created to enfranchise international non-proliferation, disarmament and the peaceful utilization of nuclear energy. This Treaty has now been signed by 190 nations. These actions have helped limit the growth of the so-called Nuclear Club to only nine by 2012; including five members who have signed the NPT; United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France and China, three members who have not; India, Pakistan and North Korea and one that remains undeclared; Israel.

Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, fresh from hosting the 15th annual meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement, (an organization comprised of 120 member nations), in Tehran and becoming its Chair for the next three years spoke at the United Nations on Yom Kippur against Israel; “Continued threats by the uncivilized Zionists to resort to military action against our great nation is a clear example of this bitter reality. A state of mistrust has cast its shadow on the international relations whilst there is no trusted or just authority to help resolve world conflicts,” and in favor of what he called “a new world order.” .

There are many who fear the ramifications of a first strike and the reprisals by an Iran that can then claim to be a victim as it sets in motion an international campaign of terror, rocket fire and economic disruptions targeting civilians and government officials alike in Israel and at Western capitals and embassies around the world.  There are ancillary question about timing, the effects of sanctions and how much military power is necessary to actually end Iran’s nuclear arms development versus engineering a short postponement that produces even more dramatic consequences including regional arms race. You can read opinions in every newspaper and website in the Middle East and across the globe.

It appears to me that there are only two answers. Either the United States builds the coalition of Western and Eastern powers necessary with carrots and sticks and all the help that is required to stop Iran or Israel, the Middle East and the whole world pays a wicked and indeterminate price. It is the same answer that was taught to the computer in the 1983 movie War Games: “A Strange Game. The Only Winning Move Is Not To Play.” .

Setsuko Thurlow ends her 2003 speech by quoting the inscription from the Peace Park that now stands silently in Hiroshima; “Rest in peace; the mistake will not be repeated.”


The words here represent the beliefs of the author and should not be construed as the policy of the Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace.



About the Author
Larry Snider was President of the Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace a non-profit based in suburban Philadelphia. Today he lives in New Jersey and is a Board Member of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Southern New Jersey.