"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." — Elie Wiesel

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Time to watch (NPT) TV!


After nearly a month of trying to keep up with activities at the 2010 NPT Review Conference I finally decided that I needed to watch TV, but not just any TV. I've discovered NPT TV, a Website designed and run by a team of students from Germany. They have been running brief video interviews with a wide variety of people involved with the 2010 NPT RevCon; people like John Burroughs, Executive Director of the Lawyer's Committee on Nuclear Policy. Check out one of the interviews with him here as he talks about "watered down drafts" negatively affecting the outcome of the conference:

Changes in the drafts from NPT TV on Vimeo.

I've watched a few of these videos, and they have provided me with insights I would not get by following the UN 2010 Review Conference Website or even the excellent coverage at Reaching Critical Will (which I highly recommend!). There is nothing like the power of video.

I discovered a particularly powerful video created by NPT TV's art branch; it's called "Hair Trigger Alert", and through the stark contrast of everyday images woven through a series of interviews with people like David Krieger of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Hair Trigger Alert is intended to engage those who aren't yet convinced that all this disarmament work is worth the effort. Check it out (below), and then share it with your as yet unaware friends.

Hair Trigger Alert from NPT TV on Vimeo.

As for what the final day of the conference will bring, I would wager that those of us working to abolish nuclear weapons won't be breaking out the champagne. "Consensus" was a lovely pipe dream. It will be time to roll up our sleeves and continue the struggle. Until then, enjoy a little TV time...



Note: NPT TV is a project of the Heidelberg-based Student Peace Bureau, a grassroots organization, initiated, and organized by students, working on issues of peace and development.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Planting (and Nurturing) Seeds of Peace

Dear Friends,

The movement to abolish nuclear weapons is not for those of faint heart. It requires a deep sense of commitment and sense of purpose because we are working not only to secure humanity's very future, but we are also working against extraordinary odds. This is no small task.

I have been fortunate to work with many extraordinary people, most of whom have many more years of experience than me; I learn from all of them. I recently learned a great lesson from one in particular, Father Bill "Bix" Bischel. One might think of Bix as a gardener of sorts. Here's the story.

One day in October, 2009 I was standing in front of the U.S. District Courthouse in Tacoma with fellow abolitionists during a vigil preceding court proceedings for a fellow nuclear resister. Bix was there, and he approached me and said, "Leonard; wouldn't it be wonderful if we could get a few Hibakusha to speak in Seattle?" My first thought was, "Wow, that is a great idea!" It was immediately followed by, "Uh oh; Bix is asking me to make this happen!"

If you ever have the honor of getting to know Bix you will learn that it is difficult to say "NO" to someone of his deep faith and commitment, demonstrated throughout his long, rich life. This gentle Jesuit embodies the essential elements of justice, mercy and peacemaking (and, of course, humility) from which the "church" could learn (if it would only free itself from the bonds of 1700 years of empire).

My simple answer to Bix was, "I'll start working on it." The rest, as they say, is history. Bix planted a seed within me; I watered and nurtured it (with help from many others), and it grew into something extraordinary. Along the way I had my doubts, but I persevered. I began right away, making contacts, sending emails and making phone calls. Rejection after rejection made me wonder if something would ever come together. Then, months later (in February 2010), I received an email from Yayoi Tsuchida, Assistant General Secretary of the Japan Council against A and H Bombs. He thanked me for my invitation, and informed me that a delegation of 40 persons representing Gensuikyo would be arriving in Seattle on May 5. Talk about a shocker!!!

Over the next few weeks I reached out to countless individuals (in a variety of organizations) who came through to make sure that the visiting delegation would be warmly welcomed. I organized an evening presentation at First United Methodist Church of Seattle, and Bix organized a series of activities in Tacoma for the following day (this man is tireless). Members of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action (GZ) prepared a special welcome at GZ for the last leg of the delegation's tour.

As for the "history", the delegation arrived around noon on May 5th. My wife and I greeted them at SeaTac airport, and we then set off for Seattle. Besides enjoying the sites of Puget Sound, the delegation brought its message of peace and nuclear abolition, and established relationships (through people to people exchange) that will make our movement (to abolish nuclear weapons) a little stronger. It's very much like the Sister City Mission Statement (that Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland quoted: "Promoting peace through mutual understanding and cooperation, one individual, one community at a time." We forged new and (what I deeply hope will be) lasting relationships with our new friends from across the Pacific.

As for me, after all is said and done, and my new friends and partners in nuclear abolition have gone home, I am savoring (if only for a brief moment before getting back to work) the joyful memories of their visit. But I am also feeling a profound sense of gratitude towards Bix for the gift he gave me on that day in October when he planted that seed, one that grew strong, and will continue to grow into something greater than any one of us; one that we all nurture with our individual contributions. My hope for each of us in this movement (and the peace movement as a whole) is that we will each find strength in role models like Bix and continue to plant and nurture seeds of peace.



P.S. - Enjoy this slide show of the Gensuikyo delegation's visit to Seattle.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Voices of the Hibakusha

Dear Friends,

While all the BIG international citizen's events were going down in New York City leading up to the United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, some pretty cool things were happening in other places as well. Here in the Puget Sound region of the Pacific Northwest we had a number of events (intended to raise awareness) including our own rally and march coinciding with last Sunday's march in New York.

The (personal) high point of the past week was the arrival in Seattle of the 38 person delegation representing the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuikyo). 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 (a survivor of the atomic bombing of that city).

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 courage and 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.

We also heard from Mr. KIMURA Isamu, General Secretary, Fukuoka Council against A & H Bombs (Fukuoka Gensuikyo), who spoke eloquently of the need to abolish nuclear weapons, and all the members of the delegation were wonderful ambassadors of peace ("Heiwa" in Japanese). I am grateful for each of these ambassadors of peace and new-found friends; as their host I was honored to spend time with them and see their tremendous, steadfast dedication to building a peaceful world. They are people of deep, generous spirit.

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 courage) 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),



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.

Click here to download the PDF program for Ms. Mizuno's presentation with the complete translation.
Click here to view a slideshow from the May 5th evening at Seattle First UMC taken by Helen Jaccard.
Blogger's Notes: Click here to learn more about the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuikyo).

The delegation came to Seattle from New York City after participating in international actions leading up to and beginning the May 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference at the United Nations. Hosts for their Seattle visit were Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, Tacoma Catholic Worker, Journey of Repentance and Bainbridge Island Nipponzan Miyohoji Buddhist Temple. Special thanks to First United Methodist Church of Seattle for hosting the Seattle presentation, and the chancelor, staff, faculty and students of the University of Washington Tacoma for their gracious hospitality.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

"Disarm Now!", says UN Secretary-General

Dear Friends,

It is the eve of the opening of the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference at the United Nations in New York City, and on the previous day UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a ground breaking speech at the historic, Riverside Church yesterday. Addressing an international conference of leading peace, justice and environmental activists, the Secretary-General gave the keynote address at the two-day conference, “For a Nuclear Free, Peaceful, Just and Sustainable World,” which has been organized by a network of 25 leading peace and nuclear weapons abolition organizations in the U.S., Europe, Japan and Israel.

Nearly 1000 participants from 30 nations have gathered to call on the nuclear nations to disarm, to honor their promises to work toward nuclear abolition; to build a world free of the nuclear Sword of Damocles. The Secretary-General's address is a clarion call as well as a clear reminder that the work of creating peace is too important to be left up to governments alone; it is up to the citizens of the world to bring pressure to bear on the world's leaders to do what is necessary (and right) to bring the nations together in peace, and abolishing nuclear weapons is a critical element that cannot wait.

You can read the Secretary-General's address below in its entirety. Following the rally in Times Square today, there will be a presentation to the Chair of the NPT Review Conference of more than seven million petition signatures urging that negotiations to eliminate the world’s nuclear arsenals begin without further delay. For more on the international gathering in progress in New York City, check out the Disarm Now Website.


P.S. - Thanks to Judith LeBlanc, Field Organizer, Peace Action & Peace Action Education Fund, and NPT Coordinator, Peace Action Fund of New York State, for providing the text of the Secretary General's speech.





Riverside Church , New York , 1 May 2010

Mr. Gerson,
Reverend Thomas, Minister with Education, Ecumenical and Interfaith relations,
Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, mayor of Hiroshima
Ms. Maris Socorro Gomes, President , World Peace Council
Ms. Arielle Denis, Co-chair, Le Mouvement de la Paix
Ms. Jacqueline Cabasso, Executive Director, Western States Legal Foundation

Ladies and gentlemen,

Reading the list of organizations and individuals with us this evening, I want to say what an honour it is to be here.

I know of your hard work and dedication.

I know how much you have sacrificed in standing for your principles and beliefs.

I know how much courage it takes to speak out, to protest, to carry the banner of this most noble human aspiration … world peace.

And so, most of all, I am here tonight to thank you.

Let me begin by saying how humbling it is to speak to you in this famous place, Riverside Church .

It was here that Martin Luther King Junior spoke against the war in Vietnam .

Nelson Mandela spoke here on his first visit to the United States after being freed from prison.

Standing with you, looking out, I can see what they saw: a sea of committed women and men, who come from all corners to move the world.

It reminds us that what matters most in life… is not so much the message from the bully pulpit, but rather the movement from the pews.

From people like you.

And so I say: keep it up.

Our shared vision is within reach … a nuclear-free world.

On the eve of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference … beginning on Monday … we know the world is watching.

Let it heed our call . Disarm Now !

Ladies and gentlemen,

From my first day in office, I have made nuclear disarmament a top priority.

Perhaps, in part, this deep personal commitment comes from my experience as a boy in Korea , growing up after the war.

My school was rubble. There were no walls. We studied in the open air.

The United Nations rebuilt my country. I was lucky enough to receive a good education.

But more than that, I learned about peace, solidarity and, above all, the power of community action.

These values are not abstract principles to me. I owe my life to them. I try to embody them in all my work.

Just a few weeks ago, I travelled to Ground Zero — the former test site at Semipalatinsk, in Kazakhstan, where the Soviet Union detonated more than 450 nuclear explosions.

It was strangely beautiful. The great green steppe reached as far as the eye could see. But of course, the eye does not immediately see the scope of the devastation.

Vast areas where people still cannot go. Poisoned lakes and rivers. High rates of cancer and birth defects.

After independence, in 1991, Kazakhstan closed the site and banished nuclear weapons from its territory.

Today, Semipalatinsk is a powerful symbol of hope … it is a new Ground Zero for disarmament, the birth-place of the Central Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone.

In August, I will travel to another Ground Zero — Mayor Akiba’s proud city of Hiroshima . There, I will repeat our call for a nuclear free-world.

The people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki … and especially the hibakusha … know too well the horror of nuclear war.

It must never be repeated! .

Yet 65 years later, the world still lives under a nuclear shadow.

How long must we wait to rid ourselves of this threat!? How long will we keep passing the problem to succeeding generations?

We here tonight know that it is time to end this senseless cycle.

We know that nuclear disarmament is not a distant, unattainable dream.

It is an urgent necessity, here and now. We are determined to achieve it.

We have come close in the past.

Twenty-four years ago, in Reykjavik , Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev came within a hair’s breadth of agreeing to eliminate nuclear weapons.

It was a dramatic reminder of how far we can go — as long as we have the vision and the will.

Today’s generation of nuclear negotiators must take a lesson from Reykjavik:

Be bold. Think big … for it yields big results.

And that is why, again, we need people like you.

People who understand that the world is over-armed and that peace is under-funded.

People who understand that the time for change is now.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The NPT entered into force 40 years ago.

Ever since, it has been the foundation of the non-proliferation regime and our efforts for nuclear disarmament.

To quote you, Mr. Gerson: It is one of the seminal agreements of the 20th century.

Let’s not forget. In 1963, experts predicted that there could be as many as 25 nuclear powers by the end of the last century.

It did not happen, in large part because the NPT guided the world in the right direction.

Today, we have reason for renewed optimism.

Global public opinion is swinging our way.

Governments are looking at the issue with fresh eyes.

Consider just the most recent events:

Leading by example, the United States announced a review of its nuclear posture … foreswearing the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states, so long as they are in compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In Prague, President Obama and President Medvedev signed a new START treaty, accompanied by serious cuts in arsenals.

In Washington, the leaders of 47 nations united in their efforts to keep nuclear weapons and materials out of the hands of terrorists.

And on Monday, we hope to open a new chapter in the life of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In 2005, when leaders gathered for the last review of the NPT, the outcome did not match expectations.

In plainer English, it failed — utterly.

We cannot afford to fail again.

After all, there are more than 25,000 nuclear weapons in the world’s arsenals.

Nuclear terrorism remains a real and present danger.

There has been no progress in establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East .

The nuclear programs of Iran and the DPRK are of serious concern to global efforts to curb nuclear proliferation…

To deal with these and other issues, I have set out my own five-point action plan, and I thank you for your encouraging response.

I especially welcome your support for the idea of concluding a Nuclear Weapon Convention.

Article VI of the NPT requires the Parties to pursue negotiations on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under international control.

These negotiations are long overdue.

Next week, I will call on all countries … and most particularly the nuclear-weapon states … to fulfill this obligation.

We should not have unrealistic expectations for the conference. But neither can we afford to lower our sights.

What I see on the horizon is a world free of nuclear weapons.

What I see before me are the people who will help make it happen.

Please keep up your good work.

Sound the alarm, keep up the pressure.

Ask your leaders what they are doing … personally … to eliminate the nuclear menace.

Above all, continue to be the voice of conscience.

We will rid the world of nuclear weapons.

And when we do, it will be because of people like you.

The world owes you its gratitude.

Thank you.