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Coming Clean for the Sake of Peace

The New Straits Times, June 23, 2002

By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak

Enter the 'dirty' bomb, which technologically speaking is just an explosive radiological device. It is regarded as such due to the radioactive materials, usually from civilian sources such as hospitals, industries or laboratories, contained it in.

Through it might resemble a conventional bomb, on exploding it has the potential of poisoning the environment for a long duration of time.

This is due to the radioactive material disbursed over a large area resulting in long-term cancer to those exposed (http://www.terrorismanswers.com/weapons/dirtybomb.html).

While it is unlikely to set off a nuclear explosion or cause immediate death or injury, the fear it sparks can be just as detrimental, especially after Sept 11.

After all, bombs are bombs. They are weapons of mass destruction and are all "dirty" by any standard or definition. Given such threats, in the midst of current waves of violence and aggression permeating the globe, the Peace Week held in Universiti Sains Malaysia last week, was indeed very timely.

Among others, the Peace Week provided a platform for experience sharing. There were speakers of wartorn countries, in and around the region.

One such experience was narrated by Abdul Razak Abdul Hamid, a hibakusha - a survivor of the 1945 Hiroshima atomic bomb.

Indeed, he is the only Malaysian who survived the explosion, although he stood no more than 1.5km from the epicentre of the explosion on that fateful morning of Aug 6.

He was barely 18 when witnessed such a horror. He recounted how, after the dark mushroom clouds had dissipated, literally hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese people suffered, mostly due to radiation.

Recently the largest group of Japanese hibakusha, the Japan Confederation of Atomic bomb Sufferers, held their annual gathering "dedicated to thwarting any recurrence of the August 1945 bombing" (The Guardian, June 6).

They too, were only in their teens when it happened, but their memories were no less vivid. They recall walking around the city with their skin "dripping like wax, among blackened corpses and rivers full of bodies".

Like their Malaysian counterpart, they too expressed a growing sense of foreboding, especially with the situation in the Indian sub-continent.

One of them was quated as saying: "We are terrified at the risk of nuclear was between India and Pakistan.

"We can't stress strongly enough how terrible the implications are of what they are doing. If only they knew what we went through."

This is a timely reminder to all countries to keep the peace.

Particularly so when the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Yearbook 2002 reported that military spending last year rose worldwide for the third consecutive year.

Military expenditure, the Institute reported, increased by two per cent in 2001 to about US$840 billion (RM3.2 trillion). It works out to over 2.5 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product worldwide, or US$137 per capita.

In contrast to the past three years that saw an expenditure rise by seven per cent, the decade between 1987 and 1998 experienced a decline, especially following the end of the Cold War.

Such a contrast adds to the already grave situation that is currently threatening world peace.

According to the Institute, in 2001 alone, the increase in military spending affected almost all regions of the world, except Oceania and, to a "very small" extent, Western Europe.

However, in terms of volume of expenditure, the region that contributed most to the global increase is Middle East, with an increase of US$15 billion.

Coming close were Central and Western Europe with just US$2 billion less, whereas for both North America and East Asia, the increase was about US$7 billion each.

Reportedly, the largest spender is the United States accounting for over two-thirds of the expenditure. As though that this is not enough, in the wake of the Sept 11 tragedy and the so-called "war on terrorism" that followed, the situation continues to worsen.

Instead of fussing about items such as "dirty" bombs, it's time we paid even more attention to usual "dirty business" that is equally and potentially destructive to world peace.

For the sake of an everlasting peace, it is urgent that all parties should come clean.

Recommended website: editors,sipri.se/pubs/yb02/pr02.html 


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