August 7, 2015 Matsui Kazumi, Mayor of the City of Hiroshima & Akira Kawasaki / Peace Boat.org
In our town, we had the warmth of family life, the deep human bonds of community, festivals heralding each season, traditional culture and buildings passed down through history, as well as riversides where children played. At 8:15 a.m., August 6, 1945, all of that was destroyed by a single atomic bomb. Below the mushroom cloud, a charred mother and child embraced, countless corpses floated in rivers, and buildings burned to the ground. Tens of thousands were burned in those flames.
Let me express our heartfelt gratitude for your continued support for the activities of Mayors for Peace. Today, the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Mayor Matsui of Hiroshima delivered this year's Peace Declaration at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony.
Please visit the City of Hiroshima website.
Shinichiro Murakami Division Director Mayors for Peace Secretariat 1-5 Nakajima-cho, Naka-ku, Hiroshima 730-0811 JAPAN
PEACE DECLARATION: The City of Hiroshima Matsui Kazumi, Mayor of the City of Hiroshima
(August 6, 2015) -- In our town, we had the warmth of family life, the deep human bonds of community, festivals heralding each season, traditional culture and buildings passed down through history, as well as riversides where children played. At 8:15 a.m., August 6, 1945, all of that was destroyed by a single atomic bomb.
Below the mushroom cloud, a charred mother and child embraced, countless corpses floated in rivers, and buildings burned to the ground. Tens of thousands were burned in those flames. By year’s end, 140,000 irreplaceable lives had been taken, that number including Koreans, Chinese, Southeast Asians, and American prisoners of war.
Those who managed to survive, their lives grotesquely distorted, were left to suffer serious physical and emotional aftereffects compounded by discrimination and prejudice. Children stole or fought routinely to survive. A young boy rendered an A-bomb orphan still lives alone; a wife was divorced when her exposure was discovered. The suffering continues.
“Madotekure!” This is the heartbroken cry of hibakusha who want Hiroshima -- their hometown, their families, their own minds and bodies -- put back the way it was.
One hundred years after opening as the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall and 70 years after the atomic bombing, the A-bomb Dome still watches over Hiroshima. In front of this witness to history, I want us all, once again, to face squarely what the A-bomb did and embrace fully the spirit of the hibakusha.
Meanwhile, our world still bristles with more than 15,000 nuclear weapons, and policymakers in the nuclear-armed states remain trapped in provincial thinking, repeating by word and deed their nuclear intimidation. We now know about the many incidents and accidents that have taken us to the brink of nuclear war or nuclear explosions. Today, we worry as well about nuclear terrorism.
As long as nuclear weapons exist, anyone could become a hibakusha at any time. If that happens, the damage will reach indiscriminately beyond national borders. People of the world, please listen carefully to the words of the hibakusha and, profoundly accepting the spirit of Hiroshima, contemplate the nuclear problem as your own.
A woman who was 16 at the time appeals, “Expanding ever wider the circle of harmony that includes your family, friends, and neighbors links directly to world peace. Empathy, kindness, solidarity -- these are not just intellectual concepts; we have to feel them in our bones.” A man who was 12 emphasizes, “War means tragedy for adults and children alike. Empathy, caring, loving others and oneself -- this is where peace comes from.”
These heartrending messages, forged in a cauldron of suffering and sorrow, transcend hatred and rejection. Their spirit is generosity and love for humanity; their focus is the future of humankind.
Human beings transcend differences of nationality, race, religion, and language to live out our one-time-only lives on the planet we share. To coexist we must abolish the absolute evil and ultimate inhumanity that is nuclear weapons.
Now is the time to start taking action. Young people are already starting petition drives, posting messages, organizing marches and launching a variety of efforts. Let’s all work together to build an enormous ground swell.
In this milestone 70th year, the average hibakusha is now over 80 years old. The city of Hiroshima will work even harder to preserve the facts of the bombing, disseminate them to the world, and convey them to coming generations.
At the same time, as president of Mayors for Peace, now with more than 6,700 member cities, Hiroshima will act with determination, doing everything in our power to accelerate the international trend toward negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention and abolition of nuclear weapons by 2020.
Is it not the policymakers’ proper role to pursue happiness for their own people based on generosity and love of humanity? Policymakers meeting tirelessly to talk -- this is the first step toward nuclear weapons abolition. The next step is to create, through the trust thus won, broadly versatile security systems that do not depend on military might.
Working with patience and perseverance to achieve those systems will be vital, and will require that we promote throughout the world the path to true peace revealed by the pacifism of the Japanese Constitution.
The summit meeting to be held in Japan’s Ise-Shima next year and the foreign ministers’ meeting to be held in Hiroshima prior to that summit are perfect opportunities to deliver a message about the abolition of nuclear weapons.
President Obama and other policymakers, please come to the A-bombed cities, hear the hibakusha with your own ears, and encounter the reality of the atomic bombings. Surely, you will be impelled to start discussing a legal framework, including a nuclear weapons convention.
We call on the Japanese government, in its role as bridge between the nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon states, to guide all states toward these discussions, and we offer Hiroshima as the venue for dialogue and outreach.
In addition, we ask that greater compassion for our elderly hibakusha and the many others who now suffer the effects of radiation be expressed through stronger support measures. In particular, we demand expansion of the “black rain areas.”
Offering our heartfelt prayers for the peaceful repose of the A-bomb victims, we express as well our gratitude to the hibakusha and all our predecessors who worked so hard throughout their lives to rebuild Hiroshima and abolish nuclear weapons.
Finally, we appeal to the people of the world: renew your determination. Let us work together with all our might for the abolition of nuclear weapons and the realization of lasting world peace.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Lessons Learned? Akira Kawasaki / Peace Boat.org
In August 1945, little more than three weeks after the Trinity test inaugurated the Atomic Age, the United States detonated "Little Boy" over Hiroshima, killing tens of thousands. Days later, the same fate was visited on Nagasaki with "Fat Man." Historians have debated whether the bombings were necessary or gratuitous; justified or criminal; responsible for Japan's surrender or largely irrelevant to it.
Today, with the remaining survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki approaching the end of life, to what extent has the world absorbed the lessons of the bombings -- and can seven more decades elapse without the wartime detonation of a nuclear weapon?
The 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings is a highly symbolic one. Seventy years, after all, is roughly an average human lifespan -- so time is running out for the relatively few individuals who have first-hand experience of a wartime nuclear detonation.
Many survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, known in Japanese as hibakusha, have already passed away. Fewer than 200,000 are still living. The average hibakusha is now more than 80 years old. What will their legacy be? Has the world absorbed the lessons that the hibakusha have sought to teach? And how will Hiroshima and Nagasaki be remembered by generations to come?
For decades, hibakusha have spoken tirelessly and courageously about their tragic experiences. They have warned the world about the cruel, inhumane, and immoral effects of nuclear weapons. They have repeatedly sent delegations to the UN General Assembly and to review conferences for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). They have conducted letter-writing campaigns urging nuclear weapon states to accelerate disarmament. They have appealed to both policy makers and ordinary people to create a world free of nuclear weapons.
But outside Japan, their voices have often been ignored. Indeed, their message has sometimes been misinterpreted so badly that the horrific experiences they describe have been portrayed as an incentive for nations to develop nuclear weapons in the name of deterrence.
But deterrence doesn't explain why nuclear weapons have not been used in wartime over the last seven decades. The United States considered using nuclear weapons during both the Korean and Vietnam Wars -- but did not use them.
US leaders rejected the nuclear option not because they feared retaliation but because they understood the physical, humanitarian, and political consequences that the nuclear option would have entailed. In other words, it is not an adversary's readiness to use nuclear weapons, but rather recognition of these weapons' catastrophic impact, that has prevented wartime nuclear detonations for 70 years.
But as hibakusha continue to age, and as their memories fade, the taboo surrounding the use of nuclear weapons may weaken in national policy debates. Even in Japan nowadays, the doctrine of nuclear deterrence is challenged less and less. This has provided space for a handful of ideologues to advocate that Japan become nuclear-armed itself.
Still, the hibakusha, whose dream is to see a world without nuclear weapons within their lifetimes, have in recent years gained hope for disarmament. Their renewed hope is largely due to the international community's increased focus on the humanitarian consequences of using nuclear weapons.
A Movement Gets Moving
The "humanitarian initiative" arguably began with a 2010 appeal by the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross that noted "the unspeakable human suffering" that nuclear weapons cause and called for their elimination "through a legally binding international treaty."
The next year, the Council of Delegates of the Red Cross and Red Crescent issued a resolution that highlighted the "destructive power of nuclear weapons [and] the threat they pose to the environment and to future generations." The resolution appealed to all states to "ensure that nuclear weapons are never again used" and to work with urgency and determination toward a binding agreement that eliminates nuclear weapons.
Then, during a 2012 NPT meeting in Vienna, the nation of Switzerland issued a statement on behalf of 16 countries emphasizing the humanitarian dimensions of nuclear disarmament. The statement stopped short of calling for a ban on nuclear weapons. But the number of countries that support the statement has grown. By April of this year, 159 countries had signed on to a sixth version.
In the interim, a series of international conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons was conducted. Featuring testimony from hibakusha, these conferences built upon the lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; there was also testimony from survivors of nuclear tests. Experts highlighted the catastrophic effects that would proceed from any nuclear detonation -- whether intentional, accidental, or as a result of miscalculation.
Tens of millions would be killed, injured, or displaced. The global climate would be disrupted, leading to famine. Communication infrastructures would be destroyed and the global economy would be impaired, rendering impossible any effective humanitarian response by governments or relief agencies.
In response to these appalling scenarios, the chair of the 2014 humanitarian conference in Nayarit, Mexico stated that the "time has come to initiate a diplomatic process" toward reaching "new international standards and norms, through a legally binding instrument."
He also stated that "in the past, weapons have been eliminated after they have been outlawed" and that "this is the path to achieve a world without nuclear weapons."
In other words, he called for an outright ban on nuclear weapons -- something that would go far beyond the relatively weak disarmament requirements of the NPT. He identified the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks as "the appropriate milestone to achieve our goal."
Existing international law doesn't regulate nuclear weapons properly. Unlike other weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons are not banned in explicit terms. The NPT is the only multilateral treaty that contains a binding commitment to nuclear disarmament -- but this treaty, while it prevents most states from acquiring nuclear weapons, effectively allows five states to possess them. What's needed, then, is a complete legal prohibition against all nuclear weapons.
In order to redress this fundamental deficit in the disarmament regime, the Austrian government at the 2014 humanitarian conference in Vienna initiated what has become known as the Humanitarian Pledge. In the pledge, Austria called on all parties to the NPT to "identify and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons."
This statement, though rendered in rather bland diplomatic language, appears to identify the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as inadequate for achieving disarmament and pledges action to create an alternate, much stricter legal structure. A number of civil society groups have begun promoting the pledge -- and it has now been endorsed by some 110 governments, a number that continues to grow.
A Fitting Legacy
For 70 years, hibakusha have worked to communicate that nuclear weapons are inhumane and the consequences of using them are unacceptable. In Nayarit, the hibakusha Setsuko Thurlow said that "Although we hibakusha have spent our life energy to warn people about the hell that is nuclear war, in nearly 70 years there has been little progress in the field of nuclear disarmament. . . . It is our hope that this new movement to ban nuclear weapons will finally lead us to a nuclear weapon-free world."
Now, within the limited time left to those who have first-hand experience of wartime nuclear detonations, is the moment to establish an international treaty that stigmatizes nuclear weapons, criminalizes them, and provides for their total elimination. Such a treaty would honor the hibakusha's seven decades of work and provide them a fitting, lasting legacy.
Akira Kawasaki is an Executive Committee member of the Peace Boat campaign -- http://www.peaceboat.org/english