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Women’s Action for New Directions responds to Obama’s Hiroshima speech

In Justice, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on May 28, 2016 at 3:06 am

President Obama Shines a Light on Horrors of Nuclear War

May 27, 2016

Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) praises President Obama’s historic visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and his meeting with hibakusha, Japan’s atomic bomb survivors. He is the first sitting president to visit nuclear ground zero, now a memorial to the lives lost to the atomic bomb dropped there and at Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945.

We are inspired by the President’s statement that concluded with, “Hiroshima and Nagasaki should be known not as the dawn of atomic warfare but as a start of our own moral awakening.” We hope this moment inspires real action for nuclear disarmament.

Erica Fein, WAND’s Nuclear Weapons Policy Director, led a delegation of peace and security organizations to the White House to deliver over 52,000 petition signatures. The petitioners called on the President to go to Hiroshima and take concrete action to further the vision for a world without nuclear weapons.

Speaking about the 15,350 global nuclear weapons, the President strongly affirmed that we can “chart a course that leads to the destruction of these stockpiles.” The President must take immediate steps toward this goal by:

1. Reversing plans to spend $1 trillion upgrading the U.S. nuclear arsenal. A first step would be to cancel the planned new nuclear air-launched cruise missile.

2. Reinforcing the global moratorium on nuclear explosive testing and lay the foundation for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty’s entry into force.

3. Reducing tensions with Russia by taking the intercontinental ballistic missile force off of “hair-trigger” alert to lower the risk of a nuclear exchange.

In addition, WAND calls on Members of Congress to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki, meet with hibakusha, and take action that make us safer. Congress must thwart dangerous and expensive plans to rebuild the entire nuclear arsenal, and must ensure vigorous efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, reduce threats of nuclear terrorism, and promote all the tools of tough diplomacy and multilateral arms control.

Only strong and sustained U.S. leadership will move us forward on the path to a world without nuclear weapons.

Obama’s speech in Hiroshima, May 27, 2016

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy on May 28, 2016 at 2:57 am

The following is a transcript of President Obama’s speech in Hiroshima, Japan, as recorded by The New York Times.

Seventy-one years ago, on a bright cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed. A flash of light and a wall of fire destroyed a city and demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy itself.

Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in a not-so-distant past. We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 Japanese men, women and children, thousands of Koreans, a dozen Americans held prisoner.

Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become.

It is not the fact of war that sets Hiroshima apart. Artifacts tell us that violent conflict appeared with the very first man. Our early ancestors having learned to make blades from flint and spears from wood used these tools not just for hunting but against their own kind. On every continent, the history of civilization is filled with war, whether driven by scarcity of grain or hunger for gold, compelled by nationalist fervor or religious zeal. Empires have risen and fallen. Peoples have been subjugated and liberated. And at each juncture, innocents have suffered, a countless toll, their names forgotten by time.

The world war that reached its brutal end in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was fought among the wealthiest and most powerful of nations. Their civilizations had given the world great cities and magnificent art. Their thinkers had advanced ideas of justice and harmony and truth. And yet the war grew out of the same base instinct for domination or conquest that had caused conflicts among the simplest tribes, an old pattern amplified by new capabilities and without new constraints.

In the span of a few years, some 60 million people would die. Men, women, children, no different than us. Shot, beaten, marched, bombed, jailed, starved, gassed to death. There are many sites around the world that chronicle this war, memorials that tell stories of courage and heroism, graves and empty camps that echo of unspeakable depravity.

Yet in the image of a mushroom cloud that rose into these skies, we are most starkly reminded of humanity’s core contradiction. How the very spark that marks us as a species, our thoughts, our imagination, our language, our toolmaking, our ability to set ourselves apart from nature and bend it to our will — those very things also give us the capacity for unmatched destruction.
How often does material advancement or social innovation blind us to this truth? How easily we learn to justify violence in the name of some higher cause.

Every great religion promises a pathway to love and peace and righteousness, and yet no religion has been spared from believers who have claimed their faith as a license to kill.

Nations arise telling a story that binds people together in sacrifice and cooperation, allowing for remarkable feats. But those same stories have so often been used to oppress and dehumanize those who are different.

Science allows us to communicate across the seas and fly above the clouds, to cure disease and understand the cosmos, but those same discoveries can be turned into ever more efficient killing machines.

The wars of the modern age teach us this truth. Hiroshima teaches this truth. Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution as well.

That is why we come to this place. We stand here in the middle of this city and force ourselves to imagine the moment the bomb fell. We force ourselves to feel the dread of children confused by what they see. We listen to a silent cry. We remember all the innocents killed across the arc of that terrible war and the wars that came before and the wars that would follow.

Mere words cannot give voice to such suffering. But we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.

Some day, the voices of the hibakusha will no longer be with us to bear witness. But the memory of the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, must never fade. That memory allows us to fight complacency. It fuels our moral imagination. It allows us to change.

And since that fateful day, we have made choices that give us hope. The United States and Japan have forged not only an alliance but a friendship that has won far more for our people than we could ever claim through war. The nations of Europe built a union that replaced battlefields with bonds of commerce and democracy. Oppressed people and nations won liberation. An international community established institutions and treaties that work to avoid war and aspire to restrict and roll back and ultimately eliminate the existence of nuclear weapons.

Still, every act of aggression between nations, every act of terror and corruption and cruelty and oppression that we see around the world shows our work is never done. We may not be able to eliminate man’s capacity to do evil, so nations and the alliances that we form must possess the means to defend ourselves. But among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.

We may not realize this goal in my lifetime, but persistent effort can roll back the possibility of catastrophe. We can chart a course that leads to the destruction of these stockpiles. We can stop the spread to new nations and secure deadly materials from fanatics.

And yet that is not enough. For we see around the world today how even the crudest rifles and barrel bombs can serve up violence on a terrible scale. We must change our mind-set about war itself. To prevent conflict through diplomacy and strive to end conflicts after they’ve begun. To see our growing interdependence as a cause for peaceful cooperation and not violent competition. To define our nations not by our capacity to destroy but by what we build. And perhaps, above all, we must reimagine our connection to one another as members of one human race.

For this, too, is what makes our species unique. We’re not bound by genetic code to repeat the mistakes of the past. We can learn. We can choose. We can tell our children a different story, one that describes a common humanity, one that makes war less likely and cruelty less easily accepted.

We see these stories in the hibakusha. The woman who forgave a pilot who flew the plane that dropped the atomic bomb because she recognized that what she really hated was war itself. The man who sought out families of Americans killed here because he believed their loss was equal to his own.

My own nation’s story began with simple words: All men are created equal and endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Realizing that ideal has never been easy, even within our own borders, even among our own citizens. But staying true to that story is worth the effort. It is an ideal to be strived for, an ideal that extends across continents and across oceans. The irreducible worth of every person, the insistence that every life is precious, the radical and necessary notion that we are part of a single human family — that is the story that we all must tell.

That is why we come to Hiroshima. So that we might think of people we love. The first smile from our children in the morning. The gentle touch from a spouse over the kitchen table. The comforting embrace of a parent. We can think of those things and know that those same precious moments took place here, 71 years ago.

Those who died, they are like us. Ordinary people understand this, I think. They do not want more war. They would rather that the wonders of science be focused on improving life and not eliminating it. When the choices made by nations, when the choices made by leaders, reflect this simple wisdom, then the lesson of Hiroshima is done.

The world was forever changed here, but today the children of this city will go through their day in peace. What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child. That is a future we can choose, a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.

Japanese Group opposes Obama’s visit to Hiroshima

In Human rights, Nuclear Guardianship, Peace on May 27, 2016 at 9:13 am

Statement Opposing US President Barack Obama’ Visit to Hiroshima

Action Committee for the 71st Anniversary of the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima on August 6th

We oppose the planned visit of the US President Barack Obama to Hiroshima on May 27th after Ise-Shima Summit. The summit is a conference of warmongers and plunderers representing the interest of financial and military big powers of only seven countries called the G7 to discuss how to share and rule the markets and resources and their sphere of influence over the world. The main agenda will be a new Korean war (i.e. nuclear war) to overthrow the North Korean regime. Obama is to play the leading role of this war meeting as the possessor of the world’s largest nuclear military force. On his visit to the city of Hiroshima, Obama will be accompanied by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose Cabinet passed a new law permitting Japan to engage in war and trampled on the peoples’ anti-war voices with the A-bomb victims at the forefront of the struggle. Further, the Abe administration decided in a recent Cabinet meeting that “both the use and the possession of nuclear weapons is constitutional” (April 1, 2016), reversing the previous interpretation of the Constitution that Japan can never participate in war. Abe insists that Obama’s visit will be a major force for the realization of a world free from nuclear weapons. But these words are utterly deceptive. We must not allow Obama to set foot in the Peace Park with his “nuclear football.” The United States is the world’s largest nuclear military power and one that is continuing to wage destruction and slaughter by air raids in the Middle East and continues to use Okinawa island to house its base and prepare for a new war: a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula. And Obama is the commander in chief of the United States Armies. How can we call this warmonger “a figure of hope for the elimination of nuclear weapons” or a “messenger of peace”? Moreover, Obama intends to come to Hiroshima with his emergency “nuclear football.” We must never allow his visit to Hiroshima! Obama and the US government have repeatedly refused to apologize for the atomic bombings on Hiroshima. This declaration means that Obama and his government do not allow any attempt to question the legitimacy of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. By inviting Obama to Hiroshima, Abe himself has tried to deny the responsibility for Japan’s war of aggression just as Obama evades US responsibility for the A-bombs. By denying responsibility for the war, Abe aims to open a way toward a new imperialist war: nuclear war.

What Obama actually said in his Prague speech is the maintenance of the nuclear monopoly and ability to carry out nuclear war by US. “As long as these weapons exist, the United States will maintain a safe, secure and effective arsenal to deter any adversary… But we go forward with no illusions. Some countries will break the rules. That's why we need a structure in place that ensures when any nation does, they will face consequences.” This is the crux of Obama‘s Prague speech in April 2009. In fact, the Obama administration has been maintaining and evolving its nuclear forces. Obama plans to spend $1 trillion (more than 100 trillion yen) to modernize nuclear weapons over 30 years. For this reason, 12 subcritical nuclear tests and new types of nuclear tests were carried out between November 2010 and 2014. In addition, the USA has entirely opposed on many occasions any resolution for banning nuclear weapons. The very person who has strongly supported this outrageous USA policy is Abe, who insists on the need for a nuclear deterrent while advocating Japan as the “only bombed nation” in the world. Abe’s aim is that Japan becomes “a potential nuclear power” by restarting nuclear power plants and developing rocket technology. With the recent Cabinet decision that both the possession and use of nuclear weapons are constitutional, the Abe administration has explicitly revealed its intention for nuclear armament. “The USA must monopolize nuclear weapons.” “The nation which does not follow the USA’s rules should face consequences.” This logic to justify nuclear monopoly and nuclear war is totally incompatible with the anti-war will of the workers and people, most of all the survivors of the atom bombs, known as the hibakusha. Obama is preparing a new nuclear war all while he is making deceitful propaganda by talking about “a world without nuclear weapons.” This January, Obama dispatched the strategic nuclear bomber B52 over the Korean Peninsula to counter North Korea’s nuclear tests with the aim of demonstrating that the US was ready to actually carry out a nuclear war. Then from March through April, he enforced the largest US-ROK joint military exercises ever on the assumption of a nuclear war. On February 24th, USFK (the United States Forces Korea) commander testified at the US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee hearing: “If a collision occurs on the Korean Peninsula, the situation becomes the equal to that of the WWII. The scale of troops and weapons involved is comparable to that of the Korean War or the WWII. There will be a great number of dead and wounded due to its more complicated character.” The USA military is now thoroughly calculating and intends to execute a plan of a Korean war (nuclear war), one which will exceed the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the orders of Obama, commander in chief.

In short, by visiting Hiroshima, Obama seeks to deceive the survivors and working people of the world as if he is striving for nuclear disarmament all while he aims to get the approval for his nuclear strikes on North Korea. There is no room for reconciliation or compromise between Obama and us Hiroshima people who have been fighting against nuclear weapons and war since August 6th, 1945. The unity and international solidarity of the working class people has the power to abolish nuclear arms. People say that when Obama comes to Hiroshima and visits the Peace Museum, he will be more serious in working for the abolition of nuclear arms. But this is a groundless illusion. What was the content of the review of US Secretary of State Kerry, who visited the Peace Memorial Museum and “sincerely” viewed the exhibition after the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in April? He wrote: “War must not be the first means but the last resort.” That was Kerry’s immediate impression of the Peace Museum. And still they Kerry and Obama alike are preaching the need to maintain the war (that is, a nuclear war) as a last resort! The rulers of the United States have enough knowledge about the reality of the nuclear explosion through the findings of the ABCC (Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission) research, including the cases of serious internal exposure, and have long concealed the facts and materials regarding nuclear disaster. That is why they will by no means renounce the nuke as a final weapon. War and the nuke are indispensable for the capitalists and the dominant power of the 1% to rule and divide the working people of the 99%: they try to bring antagonism among working people of the world and force them to kill each other for the interests of imperialism. We are witnessing the politics of “killing workers” such as dismissal, irregularization, ultra-low wages and overwork, and the politics of suppressing struggles such as those against war, nuclear arms and power, and military bases. The aggressive war (nuclear war) is the continuation of these politics and it’s Obama and Abe who are enforcing these politics. We reject the idea to ask Obama and Abe to make efforts for peace or to take countermeasures by means of nuclear weapons like the rulers of North Korea and China. Instead, the working people of the 99% will unite and achieve international solidarity to fight back firmly against the rulers of the 1%. This is the only way to eliminate war and nuclear arms. The primary task we have to do is forming solidarity with the KCTU (Korean Confederation of Trade Unions), who is fighting with repeated decisive general strikes against the new Korean war being prepared by the “Korea- USA-Japan military alliance.” We call upon all citizens to participate in the demonstrations on May 26th-27th against the visit of Obama to Hiroshima, shoulder to shoulder with atomic bomb sufferers who stand fast to their anti-war and anti-nuclear principle in solidarity with fighting labor unions and student councils. May 19th, 2016

Israeli citizens seek oversight of Israel’s nuclear weapons program

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy on May 26, 2016 at 3:06 am

More than 100 citizens who are members of the Israel Disarmament Movement filed an appeal to Israel’s Supreme Court to require regulation of all activities of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, which has operated without oversight since the program was created in 1952. For details, see http://disarmament.org.il/english/?page_id=1096

My comments on the $375 million settlement with Dow & Rockwell

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Plutonium, Rocky Flats on May 23, 2016 at 3:49 am

Earlier I posted John Aguilar’s Denver Post May 19, 2016, article about the $375 million settlement of the lawsuit against Rocky Flats operators Dow Chemical and Rockwell International. Here I will add three comments.

  1. This case was filed in 1990 and the verdict by the jury finding Dow and Rockwell guilty was reached in 2005. It’s been more than a quarter-century in the making, a long time to pay the downwind affected people, some of whom have died by now. Even with the settlement made, affected people will not receive compensation for a couple of years.
  2. It’s regretful that the judge in the case restricted it solely to harm to property value. When the case was originally filed, the plaintiffs sought compensation for decline of property value but also for harm to health. The judge unfortunately dropped the latter from the case as it went forward. At DOE’s Fermald, Ohio, plant that processed uranium for bombs, as a result of a citizen’s lawsuit, DOE paid for medical monitoring of affected people for 18 years, saving some because health problems were found early and relieving others who found that their health had not been harmed by any possible exposure. I was told by one of the official managing this medical surveillance that DOE personnel said they would never again pay for medical monitoring for people whose health may be endangered by exposure to toxins released from DOE plants.
  3. I am grateful that those in the designated area downwind of Rocky Flats will finally be compensated for loss to value of their property to the tune of $375 million. But neither Dow nor Rockwell will pay a cent of this. The money will come from the DOE, which means from the taxpayers. You and I will pay people for the carelessness of two companies operating the Rocky Flats plant. They and other companies working for the DOE nuclear weapons program are indemnified for any harm they do.

Nuclear weapons are scary — but we can do something about them.

In Environment, Human rights, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on May 23, 2016 at 2:29 am

Susi Snyder, Nuclear Disarmament Programme Manager for Pax in the Netherlands,  Updated May 13, 2016
Nuclear weapons are scary. The risk of use by accident, intention or terror. The climate consequences. The fact that they are designed and built to vaporize thousands of people with the push of a button. Scary. Fortunately, there is something we can do.

We know that nuclear weapons are scary, but we must be much louder in defining them as unacceptable, as illegitimate. By following the money, we can cut it off, and while this isn’t the only thing necessary to make nuclear weapons extinct, it will help.

That’s why we made Don’t Bank on the Bomb. Because we want to do something about nuclear weapons. Investments are not neutral. Financing and investing are active choices, based on a clear assessment of a company and its plans. Any financial service delivered to a company by a financial institution or other investor gives a tacit approval of their activities. To make nuclear weapons, you need money. Governments pay for a lot of things, but the companies most heavily involved in producing key components for nuclear warheads need additional investment — from banks, pension funds, and insurance companies — to sustain the working capital they need to maintain and modernize nuclear bombs.

We can steer these companies in a new direction. We can influence their decision making, by making sure our own investments don’t go anywhere near nuclear weapon producing companies. Choosing to avoid investment in controversial items or the companies that make them — from tobacco to nuclear arms — can result in changed policies and reduces the chances of humanitarian harm. Just as it wasn’t smokers that got smoking banned indoors across the planet, it’s not likely that the nuclear armed countries will show the normative leadership necessary to cut off the flow of money to their nuclear bomb producers.

Public exclusions by investors have a stigmatizing effect on companies associated with illegitimate activities. There are lots of examples from child labor to tobacco where financial pressure had a profound impact on industry. While it is unlikely that divestment by a single financial institution or government would enough for a company to cancel its nuclear weapons associated contracts, divestment by even a few institutions, or countries, for the same reason can affect a company’s strategic direction.

It’s worked before.
Divestment, and legal imperatives to divest are powerful tools to compel change. The divestment efforts in the 1980s around South Africa are often cited as having a profound impact on ending the Apartheid Regime. Global efforts divesting from tobacco stocks, have not ended the production or sale of tobacco products, but have compelled the producing companies to significantly modify behaviors — and they’ve helped to delegitimize smoking.

According to a 2013 report by Oxford University “in almost every divestment campaign … from adult services to Darfur, tobacco to Apartheid, divestment campaigns were effective in lobbying for restricting legislation affecting stigmatized firms.” The current global fossil fuel divestment campaign is mobilizing at all levels of society to stigmatize relationships with the fossil fuel industry resulting in divestment by institutions representing over $3.4 trillion in assets, and inspiring investment towards sustainable energy solutions.

US company Lockheed Martin, which describes itself as the worlds largest arms manufacturer, announced it ceased its involvement with the production of rockets, missiles or other delivery systems for cluster munitions and stated it will not accept such orders in the future. The arms manufacturer expressed the hope that its decision to cease the activities in the area of cluster munitions would enable it to be included in investors portfolios again, thereby suggesting that pressure by financial institutions had something to do with its decision.

In Geneva right now, governments are meeting to discuss new legal measures to deal with the deadliest weapons. The majority of governments want action- and want it now. Discussions are taking place about negotiating new legal instruments — new international law about nuclear weapons. The majority of the world’s governments are calling for a comprehensive new treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons.

And they’re talking about divestment too. For example, the Ambassador from Jamaica said:

“A legally-binding instrument on prohibition of nuclear weapons would also serve as a catalyst for the elimination of such weapons. Indeed, it would encourage nuclear weapon states and nuclear umbrella states to stop relying on these types of weapons of mass destruction for their perceived security. Another notable impact of a global prohibition is that it would encourage financial institutions to divest their holdings in nuclear weapons companies.”

Governments are talking about divestment, and it’s something you can do too.
If you have a bank account, find out if your bank invests in nuclear weapon producing companies. You can either look at our website and see if your bank is listed, or you can ask your bank directly. We found that a few people, asking the same bank about questionable investments, was enough to get that bank to adopt a policy preventing them from having any relationship with nuclear weapon producing companies.

Anyone, no matter where they are can have some influence over nuclear weapons decision making. From the heads of government to you from your very own pocket — everyone can do something about this issue. It doesn’t take a lot of time, or money, to make a difference, but it does take you. Together we can stop the scary threat of massive nuclear violence. If you want to help end the threat of nuclear weapons, then put your money where your mouth is, and Don’t Bank on the Bomb.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Future of Life Institute (FLI) on nuclear security. FLI supports research and initiatives to safeguard life and develop optimistic visions of the future, and the series aims to better inform the public about the global catastrophic risks of our current nuclear policies. For more information about FLI, visit futureoflife.org.

Satyagraha Institute, August 2016

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship on May 23, 2016 at 1:43 am

For details on the Satyagraha Institute nonviolence training this August in South Dakota, see http://www.satyagrahainstitute.org/usa#2015

I will be one of the resource persons present for this year’s U.S. event.

Dan Berrigan memorial, Denver

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Rocky Flats on May 23, 2016 at 1:34 am

Yesterday, May 21, I went to the chapel at Regis University, a Jesuit school in Denver, for a memorial service for Daniel Berrigan, the activist priest who died a couple of weeks ago. The service was beautiful, not a Catholic mass, but a wide-ranging time of words and music, with short readings from his poems, writings and talks. I saw old friends I hadn’t seen for years.

In the mid-80s a group that I was part of invited Dan to Boulder to give a talk. While he was here Ina Russell, Brian Mahan and I took him to Rocky Flats, 9 miles south of Boulder. We stopped the car at a high point from which you could see the skyline of downtown Denver 16 miles away, three nearby downstream lakes that were contaminated with plutonium and tritium released from the plant, the mountains just a short distance to the west, with the buildings of the plant about two miles from where we stood. Pointing, I told him, “There’s Rocky Flats.” He quickly said, “But it isn’t flat.” “Yes, but it’s rocky,” I replied. He looked at me and said, “Ah, a rocky road. Are you up to it?” “We’ll see,” I said. Then we drove into town and went to a restaurant where he ordered vodka.

Public meeting in Denver on high-level nuclear waste, May 24

In Environment, Human rights, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Nuclear powere on May 22, 2016 at 1:52 am

The topic of this DOE meeting is “consent based siting” of location(s) for storage of the most dangerous nuclear waste. For details, see http://www.eventbrite.com/e/consent-based-siting-public-meeting-denver-colorado-registration-23429680806

 

For opposition news, including talking points from Nuclear Information and Resource Service, see http://www.nirs.org/fukushimafreeways/stopfukushimafreeways.htm

 

 

Obama on nukes: All talk, no action

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Public Health on May 19, 2016 at 11:56 pm

BY SETSUKO THURLOW
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Thursday, May 19, 2016, 5:00 AM
As a 13-year-old schoolgirl, I witnessed my hometown flattened by a hurricane-like blast, burned in 7,000-degree Fahrenheit heat and contaminated by the radiation of one atomic bomb.

Miraculously, I was rescued from the rubble of a building, a little more than a mile from ground zero. Most of my classmates in the same room were burned to death. I can still hear their faint voices, calling their mothers for help, and praying to God.

As I escaped with two other girls, we watched a procession of ghostly figures: grotesquely wounded people whose clothes were tattered or gone. Parts of their bodies were missing. Some were carrying their eyeballs in their hands. Some had their stomachs burst open, their intestines hanging out.

Of a population of 360,000 residents of Hiroshima — largely noncombatant women, children and elderly — most became victims of the atomic bombing. Many were killed immediately; some, over time. Nearly 71 years later, people are still dying from the delayed effects of the bomb, called Little Boy, considered crude by today’s standards for mass destruction.

This same city, rebuilt over the decades with few reminders of its tragic past, will soon play host to President Obama, as he becomes the first sitting U.S. President to journey to the place where nuclear weapons were first used in war. For me, and for many survivors, this historic occasion presents a conflict of emotions. Of course we appreciate the courage it takes to come to Hiroshima, especially given the current political climate in the United States.

But still we are frustrated by Obama’s eloquent propensity to say one thing and do another.

In his famous speech in Prague, in 2009, he said, “As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it.”

Why then has the U.S. government, under the Obama administration, pledged $1 trillion over the next 30 years to modernize its nuclear arsenal? Exactly where is the moral responsibility and leadership in that?

Regarding disarmament, Obama stated, “Our efforts to contain these dangers are centered on a global nonproliferation regime, but as more people and nations break the rules, we could reach the point where the center cannot hold.” Why then are the U.S. and other nuclear weapon states actively boycotting the latest international nuclear negotiations?

ADVANCE FOR SUNDAY, AUG. 8, 2010; U.S. ARMY VIA THE HIROSHIMA PEACE MEMORIAL MUSEUM; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT AP PROVIDES ACCESS TO THIS PUBLICLY DISTRIBUTED HANDOUT PHOTO TO BE USED ONLY TO ILLUSTRATE NEWS REPORTING OR COMMENTARY ON THE FACTS OR EVENTS DEPICTED IN THIS IMAGE. AP provides access to this publicly distributed HANDOUT photo to be used only to illustrate news reporting or commentary on the facts or events depicted in this image.Never again (AP)
If the President is serious about disarmament, he should have sent a delegation to the UN in Geneva, where, this month, representatives from nearly 100 countries discussed the prospects for a nuclear ban treaty.

Currently endorsed by 127 nations, the nuclear ban treaty is the most significant advance for nuclear disarmament in a generation. Yet there is little attention in the media, so the public remains unaware.

The President also made the bold and accurate claim that, “If we believe that the spread of nuclear weapons is inevitable, then in some way we are admitting to ourselves that the use of nuclear weapons is inevitable.”

It is crucial to understand that this use may result by design or by accident. Indeed, nuclear risk is on the rise as accidents and aging infrastructure have been revealed in recent research, proving that the very existence of nuclear weapons presents an avoidable threat to life on Earth.

Let us not forget that within two flashes of light three days apart, two beloved cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, became places of desolation, with heaps of rubble, horrifically wounded people and blackened corpses everywhere.

He may be courageous to visit Hiroshima, but the President’s symbolic and rhetorical courage must be backed up by action for disarmament.

Thurlow, a former social worker and founder of Japanese Family Services of Metropolitan Toronto, is an advocate for nuclear disarmament.

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