FORGIVE me if I am being presumptuous in rejoining the discussion on "Hiroshima, right or wrong?" (Letters, January 8, 9, 14 & 15); your correspondents Quail, Forbes, Brown and Pattison have far more knowledge of history than I. After hastily extending my reading about Japan in the 1930s-40s and its possible development of nuclear energy or weapons my interpretation of the information is that there was no way Japan had the finances to develop or deliver either. I advanced to the present day and know that Japan, like many other nations, could develop its own nuclear bomb if it wished to do so. None of this alters the fact that the United States started the Cold War against our heavily damaged Second World War ally Russia.

No doubt communism, as practised by Stalin, was a threat and frightening to the Western style of democracy. The vast escalation of nuclear arms, in spite of the 1967 non-proliferation treaty and agreements to disarm nuclear weapons among the Big Five, has been spectacular. Now nine countries are known to have these ever more powerful so-called deterrents. Killing power is unimaginably increased and impersonal, rockets, submarines, planes and drones can be fired on remote instructions.

Since 1945 only two or three days have passed without war and slaughter somewhere on our fragile planet. Mankind can wipe out life on earth and in the seas or learn to act responsibly. Never forget we are all Jock Tamson’s Bairns. Support the majority of people on Earth, support the UN Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Treaty and make our appalling leaders think sanely. Pacifism is untried, it will be the answer to survival.

Sandra Phelps,

Kelvin Drive, Glasgow.

EVOLUTION has given Homo Sapiens the ability to empathise and moralise about abstract issues which might affect other creatures (including humans). So we can wring our hands about the use of chemical weapons in Syria only a few decades after we used gas in the First World War, and in Russia and Mesopotamia against so-called “uncivilised” people.

I was a teenager at school during the Cuba crisis. I was based at Faslane twice whilst serving in the Royal Navy. Many serving sailors were against nuclear weapons ever being used again, on moral grounds.

Some correspondents think we can, in hindsight, claim we did the Japanese a favour by the use of a device which killed a huge number of civilian non-combatants. But morality surely doesn’t work that way. You make your choice based on right or wrong at the time you make it. There can be no extenuating circumstances or special pleading. If Bill Brown (Letters, January 15) were to commit an act of homicide on me, he could not use as an alibi “I saved him from a far worse fate” and expect to walk free.

However, the world has moved on from moralising about mega-deaths and body counts: total warfare is what governments round the world now plan for. The Manual of Military Law used to state that the rules of war “do not apply in wars with uncivilised states and tribes”. I think it fair to say we are all uncivilised in warfare these days.

GR Weir,

17 Mill Street, Ochiltree.