Remembering Hiroshima—Ending the Nuclear Threat

By Andy Mager, Printed in the Syracuse Post-Standard

August 6, 1945 is a date seared into the memory of the people of Japan and people of conscience throughout the world.

This year marks the 57th anniversary of this first use of nuclear weapons on a civilian population. It is an important occasion to reflect on how we can create a safer world for ourselves and for all people. Each year since 1945, the Syracuse Peace Council has commemorated this important event with public calls for nuclear disarmament and other steps to create a peaceful and just world.

On Tuesday, August 6, we join with the American Friends Service Committee, Citizens Awareness Network, Peace Action and others for a procession of mourning and hope, followed by a vigil. Concerned citizens are invited to join the procession, gathering at 11:30 am at the corner of Madison St. and Warren St. downtown or at the vigil at 1:00 pm at Columbus Circle.

We gather to mourn the horrific loss of life—those immediately incinerated and those who died slow painful deaths from radiation sickness.

As our government continues its “War on Terrorism,” we don’t feel any safer. In fact, the actions taken by the U.S. government increase the danger of future violence—escalating a cycle which imperils all life. “The dangers posed by huge arsenals, threats of use, proliferation and terrorism are linked: The nuclear powers’ refusal to disarm fuels proliferation, and proliferation makes nuclear materials more accessible to terrorists,” write the authors of “End the Nuclear Danger: An Urgent Call.”

In recent months the Bush Administration has threatened unilateral “pre-emptive first strikes” against countries it accuses of supporting or harboring “terrorists.” Iraq sits atop this extensive list of targets, with various plans of assault under discussion. Former UN Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter has argued persuasively in these pages that Iraq poses no threat to the United States. As the corporate scandals get closer and closer to the White House, the President may see an attack on Iraq as a way to unite Americans against a common “enemy.”

Aggression against Iraq is part of a larger plan for “permanent war” which has been enunciated by Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld. Such an effort may boost the profits for US multinational corporations (especially weapons contractors), but won’t make the world safer for U.S. citizens or other ordinary people around the globe.

When many Americans hear the word Hiroshima, their first thought is: “the Japanese attacked us first in Pearl Harbor.” This is true and their attack warrants our complete condemnation. However, the scale of the attacks is incomparable:

The attack on Pearl Harbor killed 2,400 killed people and injured 1,178. The nuclear bombing of Hiroshima killed approximately 140,000 people and injured approximately 90,000. The bombing of Nagasaki killed approximately 74,000 people and injured approximately 75,000. (Nagasaki was destroyed by a 2nd nuclear bomb three days after Hiroshima)

Significant historical evidence undermines the myth that nuclear bombs saved lives by preventing an invasion of Japan. President Dwight Eisenhower, then supreme commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, said, “I was against it on two counts. First, the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing. Second, I hated to see our country be the first to use such a weapon.” President Truman’s Chief of Staff Admiral William Leahy, concurred, “In my opinion the use of this barbarous weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.”

In the years since 1945, massive resources, which could have been invested in local communities, have been wasted to produce a vast arsenal of nuclear weapons. In addition to the threat that these deadly weapons will be used, their production created a legacy which will threaten the health of future generations for millenia to come.

Instead of relying on saber-rattling, military attacks and unilateral policies, we urge the U.S. government to seek international solutions which address the inequalities and exploitation which lead to terrorism and other forms of violence.

In honor of Hiroshima Day, we call on the Bush administration to reverse its nuclear policies by:

    * Renouncing the first use of nuclear weapons
    * Permanently ending the development, testing and production of nuclear warheads
    * Seeking agreement with Russia on the destruction of nuclear weapons withdrawn under treaties
    * Strengthening non-proliferation efforts
    * Removing all nuclear weapons from hairtrigger alert, and
    * Initiating talks with the Russians for further reductions in nuclear weapons.

These suggestions come from “An Urgent Call to End the Nuclear Danger” being circulated throughout the U.S.

Another world is Possible! Please join our efforts to create it.

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