‘Oppie’ | Cassandra Voices



So White Supremacist, U.S. Senator, Lindsay Graham, visiting Israel last week, called for nuclear Armageddon to be unleashed on Gaza.

Apart from blatant attempts to curry favour with the genocidal regime in Israel, and his Far Right base back in the USA, Senator Graham must (one presumes) be aware that in January, only three months into the catastrophic mechanised slaughter by Israel in Gaza, ‘the weight of the explosives dropped by Israel exceeded 65,000 tons, or more than the weight and power of three nuclear bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima’.

With the bomb payload now, as Israel – under pressure – drops more, and larger bombs, every day, killing a child every ten minutes, reducing Gaza to rubble and sand.

Gaza has already suffered the equivalent of nuclear Armageddon for over eight months.

Not enough blood Senator Graham and friends? You need more?

It got me thinking about the Daddy of Armageddon, ‘Oppie’, and his lionisation in Christopher Nolan’s ‘blockbuster of the century’, or ‘the epic, biographical, thriller, drama’ (Wiki),  we were all mightily encouraged to go see last Summer, ‘Oppenheimer’.

But was ‘Oppenheimer’ the movie really an ‘epic, biographical, thriller drama’ about the guy who invented the nuclear bomb, or was it just the Patriarchy up to its old tricks – glorifying War, shiny weaponry and ENORMOUS bangs whilst blatantly ignoring Wars mostly female and child victims? Not to mention that which is never, ever mentioned, the catastrophic effects on our shared planet, Mother Earth?

Cillian Murphy as Robert Oppenheimer and Matt Damon as Leslie Groves

Cillian Murphy

Of course like everyone I was proud of our own Cillian Murphy and his portrayal of Oppenheimer, eerily channelling the brilliant, charismatic, ‘overwhelmingly ambitious’ scientist co-opted by the American military to create the bomb to end all bombs, Murphy so  committed to faithfully portraying ‘Oppie’s’ legendary intensity, and skinniness that legend has it during filming while the rest of the cast sat around chomping down on convivial suppers, the wine flowing freely, Cillian retired alone to his trailer to consume one cashew.

Dedication to the cause.

The real Oppenheimer was the eldest son of wealthy German-Jewish immigrants to the US.  Brought up in New York, schooled in America, England and Germany’s (pre-Hitler) finest universities, he hung out with the greatest scientists of his day.

When asked to create an atom bomb, offered billions in funding, 760 scientists, and an entire purpose-built town in New Mexico to do so, he accepted. For an incredibly ambitious scientist it was too tempting an offer to turn down.

Creating the bomb was an extraordinary achievement. Terrible, but extraordinary. As they watched the first test go off in the desert only three years later, Oppenheimer said: ‘Some people laughed. Some people cried. Most people were silent’.

But here’s the thing: Christopher Nolan’s three hour extravaganza about the  bomb that doesn’t question the morality of making such a hideous ‘weapon of mass destruction’; that doesn’t show us Hiroshima or Nagasaki; that perpetuates what U.S. journalist Greg Mitchell calls ‘America’s dirty secret’ in not calling out the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as war crimes, isn’t that a falsehood?

Isn’t that endorsing the terrible lie at the heart of the Patriarchy: that might is right. That military might is righter still?

For decades we were soothed with platitudes around America’s decision to bomb: America had to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki! It was the only way to ‘save’ lives! The Nazis were about to build their own bomb! The Soviets were minutes from building theirs! The Japanese were nasty slitty-eyed monsters, bad, bad people trying to take over the whole world, of course they had to be bombed!

The Enola Gay dropped the “Little Boy” atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

The usual claptrap

None of which claptrap the film interrogates.

It doesn’t tell us:

a) that the bomb could have been dropped on the many military targets dotted around Japan (as opposed to being dropped on a city packed with civilians).

b) that the bomb could have been dropped over an unpopulated area, or over the sea. A demonstration, and warning, of America’s new and deadly power.

c) that with the Soviet Union launching a separate attack, if the US had waited two to three more months, Japan would have sued for peace. No bombs needed.

d) that the Nazis were already defeated, barely capable of raising a fart, never mind a nuclear bomb.

e) that the U.S. top brass’s estimation that it would take ten years and one million US soldiers to ‘subdue’ Japan sounds about as scientific as UK and US claims that Saddam Hussein had ‘weapons of mass destruction’ ready to destroy us all within minutes.

Tragically, and as per damn usual, the drum beat for War drowned out all other voices. Sadly for us all, Christopher Nolan goes  with the central platitude: of course Japan had to be bombed.

One of the main reasons the American ‘brass’ wanted to obliterate two cities in Japan was the seriously bloody nose inflicted by the Japanese on America at Pearl Harbour, when 2,400 American military personnel were killed, and tons of military equipment destroyed.

Just as Afghanistan and Iraq had to be destroyed by an enraged American military after the surprise attack on the Twin Towers, just as Gaza has had to be pounded into rubble, thousands of its people slaughtered ‘because’ of Hamas’s incursion into Israel, Japan had to be fucked in the head by the American military because of Pearl Harbour.

Yōsuke Yamahata photographed this child incinerated in Nagasaki. American forces censored such images in Japan until 1952.

No Matter What

Weeks after Oppie and co. ran the first test in New Mexico, sending radioactive plumes fifteen kilometres into the sky, turning the desert sand to glass, poisoning the land from which its indigenous inhabitants had been driven, Hiroshima, then three days later, Nagasaki, and their completely innocent inhabitants, felt the full force of the nuclear bomb.

210,000 people were ‘vaporised’ instantly. 95% of them civilians. Most were women and children. Hundreds of thousands more died horrendous deaths from ‘radiation sickness’, in the hours, days and years to come. One survivor remembers the sound of cracking. Not of the wooden houses burning, but human beings’ limbs, heated to impossible temperatures, snapping off.

Eerily akin to Israel’s current destruction of Gaza’s health system, 90% of Hiroshima’s doctors, nurses and medical staff were killed, or injured. Forty-five hospitals were either destroyed or damaged. Medical help for victims was poor to non-existent.

Nolan also conveniently forgets to mention the indigenous peoples driven off their lands so that ‘Oppie’s’ town could be built. Their lands destroyed to this day by the nuclear testing. ‘Our land, our sea, our communities and our physical bodies carry the legacy of these deadly experiments, with us now, and for unknown generations to come’.

Oppenheimer in 1946.

Important Men

While the first two thirds of ’Oppenheimer’ is super busy with what my friend called, ‘Important Men rushing along corridors, writing mysterious calculations on blackboards and peering into pipettes’, as if to make up for ignoring the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the final section of the film is taken up with the crucifixion of Oppenheimer at the hands of America’s military. Essentially for refusing to say the bomb was 1,000% brilliant.

Brought in to visit President Truman, Oppenheimer worried he had ‘blood on his hands’. As he left the Oval Office Truman hissed he never wanted to ‘see that cry baby scientist again’.

Oppenheimer, the darling of America, became Oppenheimer the Jew. The Communist. The spy. The unmentionable.

Horribly, his Jewish ancestry made him vulnerable. Jewish anti-semitism was embedded in every layer of American society at the time. Recommending a young Oppenheimer his Harvard professor said, ’Oppenheimer is a Jew but entirely without the usual qualifications’. At Berkeley, attempting to get a position for a colleague, he was told No. ‘One Jew in the department is enough’. Which was ironic, since the most brilliant scientists in America were Jewish refugees from Hitler’s genocidal Germany would soon be working in Los Alamos with Oppenheimer. Many of them women – another blindspot in Nolan’s re-telling.

Prophetically, Oppenheimer himself died of cancer at only sixty-two years of age. The guy who unleashed nuclear Armageddon on the world succumbed to radiation’s deadly kiss himself. An extraordinary black and white clip on YouTube shows him, more ghost than man, whisper: ‘Hiroshima was far more costly in life and suffering, and inhumane, than it needed to have been, to have been an effective argument for ending the war.’

Sadly Nolan shows us none of this. Like so many other big beasts working in Hollywood he seems dedicated to the glorification of weaponry. Of War. Most of all of minimising War’s terrible human cost to innocents.

The Patriarchy’s pet project

War is the Patriarchy’s pet project. How the Patriarchs, including those nasty handmaidens to the Patriarchy who never get their own hands dirty, love it. How they make millions from it in their arms factories. How conveniently they forget that it’s women and children, who always pay the highest price.


Can we honestly claim to be civilised democracies as Gaza is reduced to dust, with billions in ‘military aid’, i.e, 2,000 lb bombs from America the UK and Germany, with thousands of its people killed, maimed, burnt alive, buried alive under the rubble of their houses in front of our eyes?

As the orders of the highest courts in the world – the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court – are openly flouted by Israel, America and Britain?

As we enjoy blockbusters glorifying War’s killers?

Can we?


About Author

Rosita Sweetman is a member of the well-known Sweetman family, a brewing, legal and political Irish dynasty dating back to Norman times. She is a founding member of the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement, (the IWLM) which flamed brilliantly into life in a horribly restrictive and repressive 1970’s Ireland; restrictions that impacted mostly on women. When the architecture of Patriarchy gave all the advantages to men – no matter how useless they were. The IWLM existence was short lived, but it’s impact continues to this day. It gave birth to the first organisations in the country that helped ‘battered wives’, women in crisis pregnancies, women in need of support at work. Most of all it opened women’s eyes to a different way of life, a life not dictated to them by the Church. Rosita has worked in writing and journalism since her teens. First at the BBC in London, then RTE, the (ex) Irish Press, the Sunday Independent, the Irish Times. She has published three books. ‘On Our Knees’, 1972, a look at contemporary Ireland via a smorgasbord of interviews with interesting people. ‘Fathers Come First’, 1974, a coming of age novel, re-issued as a modern classic by the Lilliput Press in 2015. And ‘On Our Backs’, 1979, a startling look at ‘sexual attitudes in a changing Ireland’. All sold out their print run of 60,000. Rosita believes passionately in equality, and that Feminism really can save the world from the planet wide disaster we are currently plunged into. She is mother to wonderful jeweller Chupi, and to wonderful filmmaker Luke, and very, very recently, grandmother to Chupi and Brian’s beautiful little daughter Aya.

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