quotations about nuclear war

Nuclear War quote

Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

J. ROBERT OPPENHEIMER, interview, The Decision to Drop the Bomb


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The atom bomb fueled the entire world that came after it. It showed that indiscriminate killing and indiscriminate homicide on a mass level was possible ... whereas if you look at warfare up until that point, you had to see somebody to shoot them or maim them, you had to look at them. You don't have to do that anymore.

BOB DYLAN, Rolling Stone, May 3, 2007


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In nuclear war all men are cremated equal.

DEXTER GORDON, attributed, 100 Common Misconceptions About Dexter Gordon


Every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, Address to the United Nations General Assembly, September 25, 1961


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The arms race is a race between nuclear weapons and ourselves.

MARTIN AMIS, "Introduction: Thinkability", Einstein's Monsters


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The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing waist deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five.

CARL SAGAN, attributed, Lost in Transition: Ethnographies of Everyday Life After Communism


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The living will envy the dead.

NIKITA KHRUSHCHEV, speaking of nuclear war, "Hiding from the Bomb--Again", Harper's, August 1979


Now, for the moment, we are safe. The only kind of international violence that worries most people in the developed countries is terrorism: from imminent heart attack to a bad case of hangnail in fifteen years flat. We are very lucky people--but we need to use the time we have been granted wisely, because total war is only sleeping. All the major states are still organized for war, and all that is needed for the world to slide back into a nuclear confrontation is a twist of the kaleidoscope that shifts international relations into a new pattern of rival alliances.

GWYNNE DYER, War: The Lethal Custom


For the love of God, for the love of your children and of the civilization to which you belong, cease this madness. You are mortal men. You are capable of error. You have no right to hold in your hands -- there is no one wise enough and strong enough to hold in his hands -- destructive power sufficient to put an end to civilized life on a great portion of our planet.

GEORGE F. KENNAN, Boston Globe, March 18, 2005


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A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used. But then would it not be better to do away with them entirely.

RONALD REAGAN, State of the Union Address, 1984


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Our moral imperative is to work with all our powers for that day when the children of the world grow up without the fear of nuclear war.

RONALD REAGAN, attributed, Reagan's Secret War


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Had I known that the Germans would not succeed in producing an atomic bomb, I would not have lifted a finger.

ALBERT EINSTEIN, Newsweek Magazine, March 10, 1947


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I am going to tell you something you must not tell to any human being. We have split the atom. The report of the great experiment has just come in. A bomb was let off in some wild spot in New Mexico. It was only a thirteen-pound bomb, but it made a crater half a mile across. People ten miles away lay with their feet towards the bomb; when it went off they rolled over and tried to look at the sky. But even with the darkest glasses it was impossible. It was the middle of the night, but it was as if seven suns had lit the earth; two hundred miles away the light could be seen. The bomb sent up smoke into the stratosphere... It is the Second Coming. The secret has been wrested from nature.

WINSTON CHURCHILL, letter to his doctor, Lord Moran, July 23, 1945, Winston Churchill: The Struggle for Survival


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But this very triumph of scientific annihilation--this very success of invention--has destroyed the possibility of war's being a medium for the practical settlement of international differences. The enormous destruction to both sides of closely matched opponents makes it impossible for even the winner to translate it into anything but his own disaster.... Global war has become a Frankenstein to destroy both sides. No longer is it a weapon of adventure--the shortcut to international power. If you lose, you are annihilated. If you win, you stand only to lose. No longer does it possess even the chance of the winner of a duel. It contains now only the germs of double suicide.

DOUGLAS MACARTHUR, speech to a joint session of the Congress of the Republic of the Philippines, July 5, 1961


The atom bomb was no "great decision." It was used in the war, and for your information, there were more people killed by fire bombs in Tokyo than dropping of the atomic bombs accounted for. It was merely another powerful weapon in the arsenal of righteousness.

HARRY S. TRUMAN, in reply to a question at a symposium, Columbia University, NYC, April 28, 1959


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Nuclear war is just understood to be the inevitable climax of a danger that's lived long enough to be completely forgotten, until it all suddenly comes roaring in at 5 a.m.

SEAN O'NEAL, "If you want to see how we'll handle nuclear apocalypse, watch Miracle Mile", A.V. Club, September 12, 2017


The children of the nuclear age, I think, were weakened in their capacity to love. Hard to love, when you're bracing yourself for impact. Hard to love, when the loved one, and the lover, might at any instant become blood and flames, along with everybody else.

MARTIN AMIS, Experience


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The news today about 'Atomic bombs' is so horrifying one is stunned. The utter folly of these lunatic physicists to consent to do such work for war-purposes: calmly plotting the destruction of the world! Such explosives in men's hands, while their moral and intellectual status is declining, is about as useful as giving out firearms to all inmates of a gaol and then saying that you hope 'this will ensure peace'. But one good thing may arise out of it, I suppose, if the write-ups are not overheated: Japan ought to cave in. Well we're in God's hands. But He does not look kindly on Babel-builders.

J. R. R. TOLKIEN, letter to Christopher Tolkien, August 9, 1945


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What is the only provocation that could bring about the use of nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons. What is the priority target for nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons. What is the only established defense against nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons. How do we prevent the use of nuclear weapons? By threatening the use of nuclear weapons. And we can't get rid of nuclear weapons, because of nuclear weapons. The intransigence, it seems, is a function of the weapons themselves.

MARTIN AMIS, "Introduction: Thinkability", Einstein's Monsters


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War had become nothing more than slaughtering soldiers from a safe distance. When this failed to produce victory, civilians too became targeted for annihilation. It took more than a century, two world wars and the invention of the ultimate weapon, the atomic bomb, before the impact of this change started to become fully realized: war had become 'total war'. Warfare in the twentieth century is now an industry. It is bureaucratized, to the extent that its main decisions are being taken anonymously and committed to paper by people far removed from the actual killing zones.

HYLKE TROMP, "On the Nature of War and the Nature of Militarism"


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