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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le choix entre "l’enfer et la raison"

by Paul Quilès

The Choice Between "Hell and Reason"

Translated Thursday 6 August 2015, by Henry Crapo

Paul Quilès is former Minister of Defense, in France, and President of the association "Stop the Bomb!" [1], and co-author of a book with the same title.

In the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and on the day before the bombing of Nagasaki, the revue Combat published a remarkable editorial by Albert Camus, of which certain passages merit meditation as we pass in memory the 70th anniversary of that terrible destruction, which caused more than 200,000 deaths.

"... The mechanical civilization has reached its ultimate degree of savagery. We must choose, in a more or less near future, between collective suicide and the intelligent use of scientific conquests. In the meanwhile, it is permissible to think that there is a certain indecency in celebrating such a discovery, which has been first-off placed at the service of the most formidable destructive rage of which Man has been capable in centuries. That in a world torn to pieces by violence, incapable of any control, indifferent to justice and to the simple happiness of mankind, Science devotes itself to organized murder, no one, without doubt, save through impenitent idealism, will dream of being astonished."

Further on, in a way, Camus tries to console himself by suggesting that the bombing may convince the Japanese to capitulate. We know today that the capitulation of Japan was for other reasons. Nevertheless it remains, seventy years later, after the insane arms race that has led the world to accumulate 70,000 nuclear arms in 45 years, that false truths still abound. It is in this way that this weapon is presented as "life-insurance", or as "the guarantee of our security and our independence".

There is no truth in this. It suffices to observe the state of the world, the threats and international relations, to convince oneself. The recent agreement with Iran leaves room for hope that nuclear proliferation can be dammed up, but we must bear in mind that the 16,000 nuclear missles possessed by 9 countries constitute an arsenal still as dangerous as ever for world security.

More than ever, the conclusion of Albert Camus’ editorial must hold: "In face of the terrifying perspectives that present themselves for humanity, we see even more clearly that peace is the only combat worth waging. This is no longer a prayer, but an order that the peoples must place before their governments, the order to choose (...) between Hell and Reason."

The original French version of this article is unfortunately not freely available on the web site of l’Humanité. But the original of Albert Camus’ article is on line.

[1Their web site "Arrétez la bombe"

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