By PATRICIA HYNES and VICKI ELSON
Published: 7/22/2019 9:26:07 AM
Originally published in the Greenfield Recorder.
Give back my Father,
Give back my Mother.
Give my sons
and daughter back.
Give me back
the human race.
as this life lasts,
Give back Peace
Peace that will never end.
Poet Sankichi Toge survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945; his loved ones did not. He voices the anguish and grief of atomic bomb survivors who lost forever their families and friends, who live in the shadow of death themselves, and who long for the world to reject the madness of nuclear weapons and choose lasting peace.
He is not alone.
The non-nuclear nations of the world are clamoring for the abolition of nuclear weapons. They have held high-profile conferences on the catastrophic global consequences of accidental or deliberate detonation of nuclear weapons on human health, food and water, climate change “by
fire and ice” and the economy. And they have taken a major step for humanity toward lasting peace.
On July 7, 2017, nearly two-thirds (122 in all) of the world’s countries adopted the new UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons banning nuclear weapons. The nine countries possessing nuclear weapons boycotted the UN vote. Among them, the United States lobbied hardest against this treaty, contending these weapons of mass destruction keep us secure.
Despite this morbid logic, we learned recently that our government’s leaders have a set of fortified sites constructed to save themselves in the event of nuclear catastrophe while the rest of us fend for ourselves (See Garrett Graff’s book, “Raven Rock: The Story of the Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself While the Rest of us Die”).
Mayors of U.S. cities are equally alarmed about the extreme danger of these weapons and the theft of resources away from cities and towns. Under presidents Barack Obama and now Donald Trump, our government has authorized more than $1.7 trillion to upgrade and replace nuclear weapon delivery systems, bombers, missiles and submarines over the next 30 years. This death money comes from the coffers of our taxes and should be used more sustainably for renewable energy, high-speed rail, a living wage, affordable housing and eliminating child poverty — in short the Green New Deal.
Opposition to nuclear weapons has been unfailingly bipartisan since 1945. Key World War II military leaders from all branches of the armed forces, including generals Eisenhower, Arnold, Marshall and MacArthur; and admirals Leahy, Nimitz and Halsey strongly dissented, for both military and moral reasons, from President Harry Truman’s decision to drop the bombs on two civilian Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. At their 40th anniversary reunion in Los Alamos, N.M., 70 of 110 physicists who had worked on the atomic bomb signed a statement supporting nuclear disarmament.
In February 1998, retired Air Force General Lee Butler, who had overseen the entire nuclear arsenal, urged his government to take the lead in abolishing all nuclear weapons. “Nuclear weapons have no politically, militarily or morally acceptable justification. … They expunge all hope for meaningful survival.”
Fewer than four months ago (April 11), George Schultz, Republican secretary of state under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, and Democrat William Perry, defense secretary under President Bill Clinton, co-authored an article in the Wall Street Journal urging for a world without nuclear weapons. They quoted Reagan’s 1984 State of the Union Address: “Nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”
Underlying the 2017 UN Treaty are decades of activism in the U.S. and globally: “ban the bomb,” “nuclear weapons freeze,” nuclear test ban campaigns, “nuclear-free zones,” and most recently and significantly, the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).
In Northampton, NuclearBan.US, an ICAN partner, has just published “Warheads to Windmills: How to Pay for a Green New Deal.” The report is a detailed analysis of what it will take to
adequately address the climate crisis and where the needed money and scientific and engineering expertise could come from: namely, the nuclear weapons program.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say that these weapons threaten our very existence as a species,” says author Timmon Wallis. “And so does the climate crisis. But if we eliminate nuclear weapons, we can convert an industry of death to an industry of life. We can shift massive amounts of money and scientific talent to green technologies we need to survive — and we can create millions of jobs.”
On Aug. 6, join us at Unity Park Riverfront, Turners Falls, at 5:30 p.m. to commemorate the atomic bomb victims and to resolve “never more.”
Patricia Hynes directs the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice. Vicki Elson is co-director of NuclearBan US.