Quotable

"If I had foreseen Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I would have torn up my formula in 1905." - Albert Einstein




Sunday, January 31, 2016

POLITICAL RESPONSIBILITY IN THE NUCLEAR AGE: AN OPEN LETTER TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE


Prefatory Note [by Richard Falk]: What follows below is An Open Letter to the American People: Political Responsibility in the Nuclear Age. It was jointly written by myself in collaboration with David Krieger and Robert Laney. The three of us have been long connected with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. For further information on the work of the foundation see wagingpeace.org. The NAPF focuses its effort on the menace posed by nuclear weaponry and the urgency of seeking nuclear disarmament. The nuclear agreement with Iran and the North Korean nuclear test explosion are reminders of the gravity of the unmet challenge, and should serve as warnings against the persistence of complacency, which seems to be the prevailing political mood judging from the policy debates that have taken place during the early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign. This complacency is encouraged by the media that seems to have forgotten about nuclear dangers since the end of the Cold War, except for those issues arising from the real and feared proliferation of the weaponry to countries hostile to the United States and the West (Iran, North Korea). Our letter proceeds on the assumption that the core of the problem is associated with the possession, development, and deployment of the weaponry, that is, with the nine nuclear weapons states. The essence of a solution is to eliminate existing nuclear weapons arsenals through a phased, verified process of nuclear disarmament as legally mandated by Article VI of the Nonproliferation Treaty (1968, 1970).

We would be grateful if you could help us reach the widest possible audience through reposting and dissemination via social media networks.


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by Richard Falk, David Krieger and Robert Laney

Dear fellow citizens:

By their purported test of a hydrogen bomb early in 2016, North Korea reminded the world that nuclear dangers are not an abstraction, but a continuing menace that the governments and peoples of the world ignore at their peril. Even if the test were not of a hydrogen bomb but of a smaller atomic weapon, as many experts suggest, we are still reminded that we live in the Nuclear Age, an age in which accident, miscalculation, insanity or intention could lead to devastating nuclear catastrophe.

What is most notable about the Nuclear Age is that we humans, by our scientific and technological ingenuity, have created the means of our own demise. The world currently is confronted by many threats to human wellbeing, and even civilizational survival, but we focus here on the particular grave dangers posed by nuclear weapons and nuclear war.

Even a relatively small nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan, with each country using 50 Hiroshima-size nuclear weapons on the other side’s cities, could result in a nuclear famine killing some two billion of the most vulnerable people on the planet. A nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia could destroy civilization in a single afternoon and send temperatures on Earth plummeting into a new ice age. Such a war could destroy most complex life on the planet. Despite the gravity of such threats, they are being ignored, which is morally reprehensible and politically irresponsible.

We in the United States are in the midst of hotly contested campaigns to determine the candidates of both major political parties in the 2016 presidential faceoff, and yet none of the frontrunners for the nominations have even voiced concern about the nuclear war dangers we face. This is an appalling oversight. It reflects the underlying situation of denial and complacency that disconnects the American people as a whole from the risks of use of nuclear weapons in the years ahead. This menacing disconnect is reinforced by the media, which has failed to challenge the candidates on their approach to this apocalyptic weaponry during the debates and has ignored the issue in their television and print coverage, even to the extent of excluding voices that express concern from their opinion pages. We regard it as a matter of urgency to put these issues back on the radar screen of public awareness.

We are appalled that none of the candidates running for the highest office in the land has yet put forward any plans or strategy to end current threats of nuclear annihilation, none has challenged the planned expenditure of $1 trillion to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and none has made a point of the U.S. being in breach of its nuclear disarmament obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In the presidential debates it has been a non-issue, which scandalizes the candidates for not raising the issue in their many public speeches and the media for not challenging them for failing to do so. As a society, we are out of touch with the most frightening, yet after decades still dangerously mishandled, challenge to the future of humanity.

There are nine countries that currently possess nuclear weapons. Five of these nuclear-armed countries are parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (U.S., Russia, UK, France and China), and are obligated by that treaty to negotiate in good faith for a cessation of the nuclear arms race and for nuclear disarmament. The other four nuclear-armed countries (Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea) are subject to the same obligations under customary international law. None of the nine nuclear-armed countries has engaged in such negotiations, a reality that should be met with anger and frustration, and not, as is now the case, with indifference. It is not only the United States that is responsible for the current state of denial and indifference. Throughout the world there is a false confidence that, because the Cold War is over and no nuclear weapons have been used since 1945, the nuclear dangers that once frightened and concerned people can now be ignored.

Rather than fulfill their obligations for negotiated nuclear disarmament, the nine nuclear-armed countries all rely upon nuclear deterrence and are engaged in modernization programs that will keep their nuclear arsenals active through the 21st century and perhaps beyond. Unfortunately, nuclear deterrence does not actually provide security to countries with nuclear arsenals. Rather, it is a hypothesis about human behavior, which is unlikely to hold up over time. Nuclear deterrence has come close to failing on numerous occasions and would clearly be totally ineffective, or worse, against a terrorist group in possession of one or more nuclear weapons, which has no fear of retaliation and may actually welcome it. Further, as the world is now embarking on a renewed nuclear arms race, disturbingly reminiscent of the Cold War, rising risks of confrontations and crises between major states possessing nuclear weapons increase the possibility of use.

As citizens of a nuclear-armed country, we are also targets of nuclear weapons. John F. Kennedy saw clearly that “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.” What President Kennedy vividly expressed more than 50 years ago remains true today, and even more so as the weapons proliferate and as political extremist groups come closer to acquiring these terrible weapons.

Those with power and control over nuclear weapons could turn this planet, unique in all the universe in supporting life, into the charred remains of a Global Hiroshima. Should any political leader or government hold so much power? Should we be content to allow such power to rest in any hands at all?

It is time to end the nuclear weapons era. We are living on borrowed time. The U.S., as the world’s most powerful country, must play a leadership role in convening negotiations. For the U.S. to be effective in leading to achieve Nuclear Zero, U.S. citizens must awaken to the need to act and must press our government to act and encourage others elsewhere, especially in the other eight nuclear-armed countries, to press their governments to act as well. It is not enough to be apathetic, conformist, ignorant or in denial. We all must take action if we want to save humanity and other forms of life from nuclear catastrophe. In this spirit, we are at a stage where we need a robust global solidarity movement that is dedicated to raising awareness of the growing nuclear menace, and the urgent need to act nationally, regionally and globally to reverse the strong militarist currents that are pushing the world ever closer to the nuclear precipice.

Nuclear weapons are the most immediate threat to humanity, but they are not the only technology that could play and is playing havoc with the future of life. The scale of our technological impact on the environment (primarily fossil fuel extraction and use) is also resulting in global warming and climate chaos, with predicted rises in ocean levels and many other threats – ocean acidification, extreme weather, climate refugees and strife from drought – that will cause massive death and displacement of human and animal populations.

In addition to the technological threats to the human future, many people on the planet now suffer from hunger, disease, lack of shelter and lack of education. Every person on the planet has a right to adequate nutrition, health care, housing and education. It is deeply unjust to allow the rich to grow richer while the vast majority of humanity sinks into deeper poverty. It is immoral to spend our resources on modernizing weapons of mass annihilation while large numbers of people continue to suffer from the ravages of poverty.

Doing all we can to move the world to Nuclear Zero, while remaining responsive to other pressing dangers, is our best chance to ensure a benevolent future for our species and its natural surroundings. We can start by changing apathy to empathy, conformity to critical thinking, ignorance to wisdom, denial to recognition, and thought to action in responding to the threats posed by nuclear weapons and the technologies associated with global warming, as well as to the need to address present human suffering arising from war and poverty.

The richer countries are challenged by migrant flows of desperate people that number in the millions and by the realization that as many as a billion people on the planet are chronically hungry and another two billion are malnourished, resulting in widespread growth stunting among children and other maladies. While ridding the world of nuclear weaponry is our primary goal, we are mindful that the institution of war is responsible for chaos and massive casualties, and that we must also challenge the militarist mentality if we are ever to enjoy enduring peace and security on our planet.

The fate of our species is now being tested as never before. The question before us is whether humankind has the foresight and discipline necessary to forego some superfluous desires, mainly curtailing propensities for material luxuries and for domination of our fellow beings, thereby enabling all of us and succeeding generations to live lives worth living. Whether our species will rise to this challenge is uncertain, with current evidence not reassuring.

The time is short and what is at risk is civilization and every small and great thing that each of us loves and treasures on our planet.

The authors are affiliated with the Santa Barbara based Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

Vaya aquí para la versión española.

Original Source URL: https://www.wagingpeace.org/political-responsibility-in-the-nuclear-age-an-open-letter-to-the-american-people/


Thursday, January 21, 2016

King & Obama: A Tale of Two Legacies

Friends,

On January 26th the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists will announce whether the minute hand of the historic “Doomsday Clock” will be adjusted. . The Doomsday Clock is that icon of the nuclear age that, since 1947, has conveyed “how close we are to destroying our civilization with dangerous technologies of our own making.” The hands of the clock are currently at 3 Minutes to Midnight, and one can only hope they will not be set closer to that fateful hour.


Much of the world knows Dr. King as one of the great peacemakers of all time. What many people are not aware of is just how deep was King's opposition not only to war, but also to nuclear weapons.

Dr. King warned us, in his famous “World House” essay that:
When scientific power outruns spiritual power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men.
As we consider the current and pending position of the minute hand on the Doomsday Clock in the context of Dr. King's recent birthday it is hard not to consider the stark contrast between his legacy and the legacy being created by U.S. President Barack Obama. Two Nobel Peace Prize recipients - two radically different paths.

Dr. King was an extraordinary orator. His words flowed deep from within his spiritual consciousness that was rooted in the struggles of human beings for their basic rights. They inspired people to come together in the spirit of nonviolence to build a better world. He most certainly lived out the words he spoke.

On the other hand President Obama, a prisoner of the National Security State and Military-Industrial Complex, is quite the orator, although his rhetoric has fallen far short. In his famous 2009 Prague speech Obama stated, “America's commitment to see the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” and specified that the United States would “reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, and urge others to do the same.” Nearly seven years later these words are nothing but empty promises.

Rebuilding the infrastructure that develops, builds and maintains nuclear weapons is not "progress." Rebuilding nuclear warheads and bombs is not “progress.” Moving ahead with plans to build a new generation of ballistic missile submarines, bombers, and land based missiles is most certainly not “progress.”



As the President begins his last year in office, and with the greatest nuclear weapons modernization effort (since the end of the Cold War) underway, we must ask what legacy will he leave?

What would Dr. King say to President Obama as he approaches final year in office? I imagine him speaking of the President's two daughters and asking,"Mr. President, what legacy do you want to leave for your children Malia and Sasha, and indeed what legacy do you want to leave for all the children of the world? Mr. President, just when is our nation going to truly lead the world to peace? When will we learn to live together in this great big World House that we all share? You and I know, Mr. President, that the alternative to disarmament is the dark abyss of annihilation? So Mr. President, what legacy will it be?"

Getting back on track toward Obama's vision in his Prague speech will require extraordinary vision, engagement and decisive action. Engagement and action already face strong opposition on many levels in both the civilian and military sectors of the government and on Wall Street. The President will not be moved to lead the world toward disarmament without significant prodding from civil society.

Certainly, since the end of the Cold War, a malaise set in as people assumed the peace dividend had eradicated the nuclear menace, and so they went about business as usual. Yet, the few in control of humanity's destiny have continued to make preparations for the unspeakable.

It is time for all citizens, and not just a small percentage, to be informed about the issues surrounding nuclear weapons and how they affect all of us. It is time for citizens to step forward and become engaged in decisions that were never in their hands in the first place, but should have been. It is time to bring nuclear weapons into the center of a public dialogue and debate, and for the citizenry to make its voice heard loud and clear in the halls of The White House, Congress and the Pentagon (and beyond).

If this United States in which we live is to be a true democracy, then it is up to us as citizens to make it so. And there is no greater issue, in terms of the survival of humanity, in which we can (and must) become engaged than the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Dr. King once said that "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." King understood that change (at least lasting change) does not occur overnight. It is a long, hard struggle, as evidenced by every struggle for human rights throughout history.

Therein lies one major difference between Dr. King and President Obama. In his Prague speech, Obama recognized that, "This goal will not be reached quickly –- perhaps not in my lifetime." The difference is that Dr. King didn't stop working toward his goals even though he knew they may not be realized in his lifetime.

We, as citizens, must remind President Obama that he needs to change course and be in this for the long haul - for the sake of his children and all the children of the world. And – We must do it now!

So - Happy Birthday Martin. May our gift to you be our commitment to a nonviolent world free of the scourges of war and nuclear weapons.

Peace,


Leonard

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Nuclear War: No Cure - Only Prevention (A Call to Medical Professionals)

Editor's Note: This is an important perspective from physicians deeply invested in ridding the world of the scourge of nuclear weapons. They know quite well that for nuclear war, there is no cure - only prevention. Medical professionals have a particular responsibility to support the movement to abolish nuclear weapons, and this letter is a direct appeal. It was recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine

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Perspective
Docs and Nukes — Still a Live Issue
Ira Helfand, M.D., and Victor W. Sidel, M.D.
October 14, 2015 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1509202

Seventy years ago, the medical profession alerted the world to the devastating effects of nuclear weapons. Just weeks after the bombing of Hiroshima, Dr. Marcel Junod, a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Japan, visited the devastated city and sent back one of the first eyewitness reports to reach the outside world: “The center of the city was a sort of white patch, flattened and smooth like the palm of a hand. Nothing remained.”

Ever since that time, members of the medical profession have played a key role in warning governments and the public about the danger of nuclear war and the urgent need to abolish nuclear weapons. During the period of intense international tension that preceded the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Journal devoted the issue of May 31, 1962, to articles prepared by members of the newly formed Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), detailing the medical consequences of nuclear war.

During the period of increased Cold War tension in the early 1980s, the medical community mobilized again to educate the public about the enormous threat to public health posed by the arms race. Working with PSR, medical schools throughout the country organized public symposia to explain what would actually happen if nuclear weapons were used. A newly formed global federation called the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), of which PSR became the U.S. affiliate, carried out similar educational work around the world. Doctors met with Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev to urge them to end the arms race that had brought the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation.

These efforts had a profound impact. In his memoirs, Gorbachev described the effect his meetings with physicians had on his thinking about nuclear weapons when he was launching the series of initiatives, ultimately embraced by the United States, that led to the end of the arms race. For this work, and in recognition of the special role and responsibility that physicians have had in preventing nuclear war, the IPPNW was awarded the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize.

In the years since the end of the Cold War, the medical community has paid far less attention to this issue. We, like most of the world, have acted as though the danger of nuclear war were a thing of the past. To the extent that we have considered the matter, we have focused on the possibility that terrorists or “rogue states” such as North Korea and Iran will acquire nuclear weapons. Although these are important threats, it is critical that we understand that the greatest danger is posed by the arsenals of the countries that already have nuclear weapons. There remain in the world today more than 15,000 nuclear warheads, 95% of which are in the arsenals of the United States and Russia.(1) Of these warheads, some 2000 are on hair-trigger alert. They can be fired in less than 15 minutes and can destroy their targets across the globe 30 minutes later.

These weapons pose an existential threat to humanity. A 2002 study showed that if just 300 Russian warheads got through to targets in the United States, 75 million to 100 million people would die from the blast and heat effects in the first half hour.(2) In addition, the entire economic infrastructure on which we depend would be destroyed. The public health system, the communications network, the electric grid, the banking system, the food distribution system — all would be gone. In the months after such an attack, the vast majority of Americans not killed in the initial attack would die from starvation, radiation sickness, epidemic disease, or exposure to the elements. A corresponding U.S. attack would create the same devastation in Russia, and if NATO were drawn into the war, much of Europe would suffer the same fate.

As incomprehensible as these direct effects are, they are only a part of the picture. The fires created by the use of nuclear weapons over urban targets would loft enormous quantities of black soot into the atmosphere, disrupting climate worldwide. A war involving the strategic weapons deployed today by the United States and Russia would generate some 150 million tons of soot, enough to reduce temperatures around the world by an average of 8°C. In the interior regions of North America and Eurasia, temperatures would drop by as much as 30°C, to levels not seen in 18,000 years, since the coldest point of the last ice age.(3) Food production would collapse, the vast majority of the human race would starve, and it's possible that our species would become extinct.

For 25 years, since the end of the Cold War, we have been told that we did not need to worry about war between the United States and Russia. The deepening crisis in Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin's repeated nuclear threats give the lie to these assurances: armed conflict between the nuclear superpowers remains a real possibility. Even if neither side ever uses its nuclear weapons deliberately, there remains the very real danger of accidental nuclear war. We know of at least five times since 1979 when either Moscow or Washington prepared to launch nuclear weapons in the mistaken belief that it was already under attack by the other side. U.S. military leaders now warn that cyberterrorists might be able to launch a U.S. or Russian nuclear missile.

Even a much more limited, regional nuclear war, as might take place between India and Pakistan, would have catastrophic consequences worldwide. Studies have shown that a war involving only 100 Hiroshima-sized weapons, less than 0.3% of the world's nuclear arsenals, would cause temperatures to fall an average of 1.25°C around the world.(4) Climate disruption of this magnitude would cause major declines in world agricultural output. At this time, there are some 800 million people who are malnourished and 300 million who get adequate nutrition but live in countries that depend on food imports that would not be available in the event of such a war. There are also about 1 billion people in China, which would see particularly severe effects on food production, who have not shared in China's recent economic growth. All these people, some 2 billion, would be at risk in the “nuclear famine” that would follow even a limited nuclear war.(5)

In recognition of this grave threat to human survival, governments around the world have come together over the past 3 years in a series of extraordinary conferences to discuss the medical consequences, what they have called the humanitarian impact, of nuclear war. A total of 116 countries have signed the Humanitarian Pledge to seek a new treaty to fill a key gap in international law, which does not yet prohibit the possession of these weapons, and to push for their abolition.

We believe the medical community has a responsibility to support this movement. The American Medical Association recently passed a resolution calling on all nations to “ban and eliminate nuclear weapons,” and the World Medical Association is considering a similar resolution at its Moscow meeting in October. Physicians need to act on these resolutions, sounding the alarm for a world that has grown dangerously complacent about the nuclear peril as we drift closer to an unimaginable catastrophe. We need to again educate our patients, the general public, and our political leaders about the medical consequences of nuclear war and the urgent need to abolish these weapons before they are used.

Disclosure forms provided by the authors are available with the full text of this article at NEJM.org.

This article was published on October 14, 2015, at NEJM.org. Source URL: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1509202#t=article

From Physicians for Social Responsibility, Washington, DC (I.H., V.W.S.); the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Somerville (I.H., V.W.S.), Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Leeds (I.H., V.W.S.), and the Family Care Medical Center, Springfield (I.H.) — all in Massachusetts; and the Department of Social Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center, New York (V.W.S.).

References

1) Federation of American Scientists. Status of world nuclear forces (http://fas.org/issues/nuclear-weapons/status-world-nuclear-forces/).

2) Helfand I, Forrow L, McCally M, Musil R. Projected US casualties and destruction of US medical services from attack by Russian nuclear forces. Med Glob Surviv 2002;7:68-76

3) Robock A, Oman L, Stenchikov GL. Nuclear winter revisited with a modern climate model and current nuclear arsenals: still catastrophic consequences. J Geophys Res 2007;112:xD13107-xD13107 (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/wol1/doi/10.1029/2006JD008235/full).

4) Robock A, Oman L, Stenchikov GL, Toon OB, Bardeen C, Turco RP. Climatic consequences of regional nuclear conflicts. Atmos Chem Phys 2007;7:2003-2012
CrossRef | Web of Science

5) Helfand I. Nuclear famine: two billion people at risk? International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (http://www.ippnw.org/nuclear-famine.html).

Friday, August 14, 2015

Remembering the bomb that changed the world

The use of nuclear bombs on Japan should be a time of national reflection.

By David P. Barash & Judith Eve Lipton

Special to the [Seattle] Times, Originally published August 5, 2015

WE Americans like celebrations. We prefer happy holidays, not downers. Even Veterans Day and Memorial Day are opportunities for patriotic reflection and gratitude, not regrets or remorse.

Since many Americans consider the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to have been legitimate, it isn’t surprising that Hiroshima Day (Aug. 6) and Nagasaki Day (Aug. 9) haven’t made it onto the national calendar. But they should. We propose Aug. 6 and Aug. 9 should be “Nuclear Awareness Days.”

There is much to be said for reflecting on these events, and not simply for their historical significance. Aug. 6, 1945, was the first time a nuclear weapon was used to kill people deliberately, and Aug. 9, 1945, was the last — so far. On this, everyone agrees. In addition, use of nuclear weapons would constitute a tragedy of immense proportions. Nearly everyone agrees with this, too.

An Allied correspondent stands in front of the shell of a building that once
was a movie theater in Hiroshima, Japan, a month after an atomic bomb
was dropped by the United States. (Stanley Troutman/The Associated Press)
Although there is debate about whether nuclear weapons “keep the peace” via their avowed role as deterrents, informed opinion — including increasing numbers of military and strategic authorities — has been moving toward the position that these weapons are a liability (to everyone, including their possessors) rather than an asset.

Seventy years after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world is still not a peaceful place. There is no evidence that possessing more than 16,000 bombs and warheads have made the nuclear states any more secure than their non-nuclear counterparts.

Nuclear arsenals have not provided any discernible leverage. Imagine a policeman armed with a backpack nuclear weapon, confronting a bank robber. His “deterrent” would simply be too blunt, destructive and lacking in credibility to provide any benefit. Thus, nuclear weapons have not helped Russia in Ukraine, the United States in Iraq or Afghanistan, the United Kingdom in the Falkland Islands, France in Algeria, nor China in Tibet or Taiwan.

Nuclear North Korea is a nightmare, but what good has armament done? India and Pakistan are less safe in their struggles over Kashmir, with nuclear weapons aimed at each other. Israel has a nuclear monopoly in the Middle East, but this hasn’t prevented decades of war — and when other states or terrorists get the bomb, only one or two warheads could effectively destroy Israel. Only nuclear abolition and careful verification could ultimately protect anyone.


A massive column of billowing smoke
mushrooms over Nagasaki, Japan,
after the United States dropped
an atomic bomb on Aug. 9, 1945. (AP)
Taking the events at Hiroshima and Nagasaki seriously by establishing Nuclear Awareness Days would give us an opportunity to meditate on the terrible reality of what transpired in 1945 and condemn the world’s worst weapons before they are used again. Chemical and biological weapons, land mines and cluster munitions are illegal, so why aren’t nuclear weapons? Some 112 countries have signed a petition calling for nuclear weapons to be banned.

The U.S. nuclear arsenal is especially relevant to Puget Sound — Trident submarines are based at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor. A single vessel can carry 24 nuclear missiles (restricted to 20 by treaty), each capable of delivering eight to 12 independently targetable warheads, each roughly 40 times the size of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. To repeat: This is the potential output of just one Trident submarine — eight are currently deployed west of Seattle, and an additional five at Kings Bay, Ga., and one in Portsmouth, Va.

Even if the theory of deterrence has any validity at all, how much extinction is enough? Bangor and other sites in Washington that house nuclear weapons are not just sources of planetary destruction, but also targets.

Maybe the United States will eventually wake up, abandon nuclear arms and embrace fundamental decency and basic planetary hygiene. Toward that end, we fervently recommend Nuclear Awareness Days as an opportunity to reflect not only on what has happened but also what might yet be achieved — and preserved.
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Original Source URL: http://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/remembering-the-bomb-that-changed-the-world/

David P. Barash, professor of psychology at University of Washington, is the author of “Buddhist Biology: Ancient Eastern Wisdom Meets Modern Western Science.” Judith Eve Lipton, a retired psychiatrist, is the founder of the Washington state chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Keeping Alive the Voices of the Hibakusha

Dear Friends,

In just a few days people around the world will commemorate the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The historical importance of these anniversaries is of special significance because we must maintain the collective consciousness of the bombings or humankind is certainly doomed to the consequences of continuing as slaves to the myth of the necessity of nuclear weapons for our protection.

Of special standing in the telling of this history are the Hibakusha, the survivors of the atomic bombings. Some have told their stories to be recorded to share with future generations, while some have yet to do so. As the Hibakusha reach the end of their lives, it becomes imperative that we record the stories of those who are still willing to tell them.

In 2010 I hosted a large delegation representing the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuikyo) on their way home after the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)Review Conference in New York. The delegation consisted of Japanese citizens from many cities, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The most venerable member of the delegation, Tokie MIZUNO, is a Hibakusha of Hiroshima.

Ms. MIZUNO was 5 years old when the bomb exploded over her city, and she has never forgotten that day. She still bears the scars both visible and invisible that have affected her life and health. I could tell you more, but the story should be told by Ms. MIZUNO (in her own words). This is her story, and she wrote it down and then stood before people in Seattle, and then in Tacoma, and with great conviction told her story, gave her testimony, and called on everyone to work together for a nuclear weapon-free world.

Ms. MIZUNO honored us with her testimony, and as witness to that testimony I feel a responsibility to pass on her words exactly as she spoke them on both occasions. You may read them here, and I hope that you will be touched by her words and pass them on to others, especially those who are still unaware that the nuclear-armed nations still brandish thousands of nuclear weapons, and are prepared to use them; the results of such action would be horrific.

This year, which is the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings, I was in New York for many activities surrounding the NPT Review Conference. Once again I met with many representatives of the Gensuikyo, including a number of Hibakusha. Each of their stories is compelling, and it gave me a renewed sense of the importance of our responsibility to honor them.

The voices of the Hibakusha help keep the memory of those terrible events in 1945 alive so that we may choose (if we find our own conviction) to not allow such things to ever happen again. For if we do not remember history, we are doomed to repeat it; this terrible history must never be repeated. Let us hear the voices of the Hibakusha with our hearts and minds so that we may carry their message with us wherever we go...

No more Hiroshimas! No more Nagasakis!

 
Heiwa (Peace),

Leonard

Toki Mizuno with offering at Seattle's Sadako Statue, May 2010
 
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This is the testimony of Tokie MIZUNO as it was written by Ms. MIZUNO in April 2010, and translated by Nobue KUGIMIYA; and presented by Ms. MIZUNO at First United Methodist Church of Seattle, Washington on May 5, 2010 and at the University of Washington Tacoma on May 6, 2010. The two black and white photos were also included with her testimony.

My name is Tokie MIZUNO and I am a survivor of Hiroshima. 65 years ago, when I was 5 years old, the atomic bomb was dropped on my city, Hiroshima. I was near my grandmother’s house, 1.2 kilo-meters from ground zero.

The City of Hiroshima was completely destroyed and was turned into rubble by the enormous destructive power of the atomic bomb. As other survivors, I was barely alive and the damage on my body and mind was unbearable.

I might have been lucky to survive but life hasn’t been easy on me financially, physically and mentally. This agony should not be repeated on anybody else on earth. That’s why I have become involved in anti-nuclear actions with other Hibakusha as well as many other Japanese people.

We have been collecting signatures for a nuclear-weapon-free world, and engaging in activities to defend the Japanese Constitution, especially the Preamble and Article 9, which pledges never to wage war again.

Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution clearly states “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat of use of force as means of settling international disputes.”

And it adds “In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.” Article 9 is our treasure.

This treasure for Japan was achieved with the sacrifice of precious lives of 20 to 30 million people in Asia and Pacific. This is one of the greatest achievements for the world, too, and we will hold on to it forever.

Let me talk about that day.......

On the morning of August 6th, 1945, just before Hiroshima was hit by the atomic bombing, one of the women in my neighbourhood came to my house and said “We have some sweets. Why don’t you come and have some?”

So my little 3-year-old brother and I happily followed her. In those days it was very difficult to have sweets. My neighbour’s son, a soldier, was back from the battlefront to treat his wounds. He brought some sweets with him for his family and the neighbour invited us in.

We were about to eat our sweets when the bomb exploded.

With a blinding flash, the whole house was flattened.

I found myself trapped under the rubble. I tried to look out from my little prison and saw my younger brother, rescued by a soldier, standing there with blood on his face and head.

I myself was pulled out of the rubble. My right arm was heavily injured and I had several cuts on my face. My neighbour tore her underwear into pieces and covered my arm to stop it bleeding. Later I was told that it was her treatment that saved my right arm.

I don’t remember how many hours had passed, but I saw my mother crawling to me over piles of rubble. She was desperately looking for me and my younger brother. She looked awful with only tattered patches of her clothing on her body and her hair standing on end.
My 12-month-old baby brother was still buried under the rubble. My mother and grandmother were desperate and were removing the debris saying they should get him back home, even if he was dead.

They also called out for help to people walking by but nobody stopped. They went on their way absentmindedly - they were like ghosts.

We saw flames in the distance coming towards us. Terrified, my younger brother and I were both crying. I don’t remember the pain of my injury, but many collapsed houses around us horrified me, although my father thought I was just stunned.

Fortunately, my baby brother was alive, and we managed to escape to a raft on the river. There were countless dead bodies floating and fire balls were falling all around. Red-hot galvanized plates darted towards us and made a huge noise when they dropped into the river. It was not a safe place to be.

At that time I was so young that I don’t remember exactly what happened. But my deceased parents and grandmother told me a lot about that day.

There was a woman on the raft who gave us food and water. She also gave my mother part of a Kimono to use as bandages and as a strap to carry me on her back.

In the evening, cooling our bodies with river water, we finally found a place to evacuate to. It was a shrine near a railway station called Koi.

Because my grandmother and I were seriously injured, we two were left at the shrine while my mother and brothers escaped to my aunt’s house in Itsukaichi City. My uncle who rushed to Hiroshima to search for us carried them on his handcart.Grandmother thought we could have some treatment at the shrine but nothing was available. We were given only one rotten rice ball. We finally evacuated to my aunt’s house.

They were farmers and gave us good food. I had tomatoes, cucumbers, pickled shallots etc. to my heart’s content. It may be this diet that has kept me healthy.

My father had to spend several nights at shelters in Hiroshima. He died abruptly from TB in August 1956, which we believe was due to residual radiation. Later when I was working to collect survivors’ stories, I learned that there were many Hibakusha who suffered from TB during those difficult times.

My mother died in Oct. 1967. I believe that both of my parents were killed by the atomic bomb. At that time I thought that it was our fate and that because Japan was at war we couldn't complain about it.

I also thought we were just unfortunate because we were in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped. Later I learned history, which completely changed my mind. I knew why the US had done it.

The US government has kept saying that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the war and saved millions of people’s lives. That’s what they teach at schools.

However, in 1944 there was scarcely any food left for Japanese people. People were dying from hunger. Japan’s ground and air forces and navy were almost completely destroyed. It was obvious that Japan was finished.

Nonetheless, 210,000 people were killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Why?

In 1945 the war ended, but another war, the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union had already started. The US wanted to have an advantage over the Soviet Union militarily and politically by showing the power of nuclear weapons. They also wanted to test their newly developed technology, atomic bombs.


Hiroshima and Nagasaki were chosen as testing grounds with real live people.

Let me share with you what the atomic bombing had done to us. The atomic bomb caused massive destruction and killed tens of thousands instantly and indiscriminately. It also emitted massive amounts of radiation which has afflicted us for decades.

Hibakusha describe the moment of the bombing as “The Sun dropped on us and burnt us”. When Bomb exploded, a huge fireball, 280 meters in diameter, was generated in the air.

Heat rays emitted from it raised the ground temperature, from 3000 to 4000 degrees Celsius (5500 to 7300 degrees Fahrenheit) near the hypocenter.

This was a boy, the charred remains. 700 meters from the hypocenter (Aug. 10. Nagasaki).

This is the shadow of a man (Shadow burnt into the granite steps).

Within 1.2 kilo-meters of ground zero, those who were directly affected by the heat rays suffered terrible burns and their internal tissues and organs severely damaged. Most of them died instantly or within a few days.

The explosion also created a powerful blast and destroyed most of the wooden houses in 2-kilometer radius of ground zero. People were blown through the air and many crushed to death under collapsed buildings.

Radiation left the human body with serious damage. It penetrated deeply into our bodies, damaged cells and diminished the blood generation function of bone marrow.

It also damaged inner organs. Even those who looked uninjured later became ill and died.

Residual radiation left on the ground affected many long after the explosion. Those who entered the city to search for their families/friends or for relief operations eventually developed similar symptoms and died.

Nuclear weapons are unspeakable weapons. They don’t allow us to live nor die as humans. They are weapons of absolute evil which can never co-exist with human beings.

3.2 million Japanese people lost their lives in the Asia-Pacific War. 20 to 30 million people were victimized by the Japanese military in Asia.

Learning from it, we have acquired the war-renouncing Japanese Constitution. However, military spending in the world is growing. Trillions of dollars are being spent for military purposes. If used for peaceful purposes, this money could solve many problems for human-kind.

20th century war is gone. Our responsibility is to hand over a peaceful and cultivated 21st century to the next generation. I strongly believe that we can hand over a nuclear-weapon-free world to future generations if we work together in solidarity with the people of the U.S. and with the people of the world.

Thank you.


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Click here to download the original program for Ms. Mizuno's presentation with the complete translation.

Click here to learn more about the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuikyo).