At the time of writing this article, the film Oppenheimer, directed by Christopher Nolan, had not yet been released. Expectations are high and critics are already suggesting that the British filmmaker has made the right choice by focusing on one of the key figures of the last century: the scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, known in history as the “father of the atomic bomb”.
Previewing one of the most anticipated films of the year, I see the documentary “To end all war: Oppenheimer & the atomic bomb,” in which Nolan himself, nuclear experts, and biographers of the Manhattan Project’s promoter pay tribute to the chiaroscuro of a contradictory genius responsible for the creation of an ominous deadly weapon that its defenders say marked the end of World War II with Japan’s surrender after nuclear destruction at Hiroshi-ma and Nagas aki brought about that claimed the lives of more than a hundred thousand people.
The documentary notes that shortly after the test, conducted in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945, Oppenheimer bemoaned what awaited “these poor people,” referring to the US government’s plans to bomb strategic locations in Japan to subdue a formidable enemy. The paradox is that on that summer night, the group of scientists led by the renowned physicist saw for the first time, with astonishment and fear, the great cloud that produced an atomic bomb, the consequences of which were not yet known in populated cities, but whose creators already suspected that it would not only forever change the course of scientific progress and the field of warfare, but would also have devastating consequences.
Robert Oppenheimer in real life and the character in the movies
Oppenheimer never publicly bemoaned the repercussions of his vast project, funded by the administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt and later Harry Truman, but he supported nuclear disarmament policies until becoming an uncomfortable figure for Washington and the Atomic Energy Commission’s General Advisory Committee, who until then had viewed him as an undeniable figure. Plagued by McCarthyism’s witch hunts, he took refuge in his final years in academia at Princeton University, where he shared a chair with another giant of science, Albert Einstein, who also helped develop the atomic bomb, something he eventually regretted, believing it to be a “great misfortune.”
If Oppenheimer knew something very soon, it was that once the baskets of the nuclear age were opened, there was no going back, but he went so far as to point out what he believes distinguishes poetry from science: “The essence of science is to learn not to make the same mistake again.” However, this reasoning does not seem to correspond to the reality of politics. As crucial battles are fought in the Russia-Ukraine conflict sparked by the Putin-led invasion, the US has sent to Kiev highly controversial cluster bombs, the manufacture of which is banned in more than a hundred countries.
The lethality and damage caused to the population (particularly children) by this type of bomb, used from World War II onwards, is well documented. From the 1970s to the 1990s, cluster bombs became air-dropped submunitions capable of hitting an area the size of four football fields. Also, like anti-personnel mines, they can detonate years later, injuring or killing civilians. Today, powers like France, the UK and Germany are signing an international treaty banning the manufacture, sale and use of these weapons, but other nations like China, Iran, Israel and Syria are failing to comply with the norms defended by human rights organizations. From the beginning of the invasion, Russia used cluster bombs and Kiev responded accordingly. Also, the United States does not comply with the bans set out in the 2008 Oslo Convention; In both the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the US military used cluster bombs, also known as cluster bombs.
The great scientist Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer in a pleasant conversation in those times when science began to be used as a weapon of mass destruction.
At the request of Volodomir Zelensky, who believes it is essential to have the largest possible artillery to defeat the Russian invader, Joe Biden has agreed to include the supply of cluster bombs in the multi-million dollar military aid package Washington has earmarked for Ukraine. Regarding this decision, the US President admitted that it was “difficult” for him to make it. Western allies and human rights organizations have made no secret of their reservations about the consequences of mutual use of a highly destructive weapon in the occupied territories.
As much as he wanted to hide in academia, the creator of the atomic bomb could never escape the impact of the images of destruction and mass extinction caused by the atomic clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Many years later, when debating whether cluster bombs could be crucial in the senseless war Putin provoked, Oppenheimer’s conclusion lingered: “We knew the world would never be the same.”