Remember, and Prevent, Nuclear War

By ANNA GYORGY

Originally published on July 25, 2019 in the Montague Reporter.

TURNERS FALLS – The Japanese city of Hiroshima was bombed on August 6, 1945, and three days later Nagasaki. Each year, many people around the world gather to remember this first use of atomic weapons, and urge an end to the nuclear age.

This year, area peace and justice groups invite all to a local event on
the banks of the Connecticut River in Turners Falls on Tuesday, August 6. Organized by the peace taskforce of the Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution (FCCPR), and co-sponsored by the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice, the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding, and the Interfaith Council of Franklin County, the event will start at 5:30 p.m. at the Unity Park riverfront.

There the flowers and banners we bring will create a peace symbol on the grass. At 6 p.m. we will circle it for a short program of remembrance – and calls for nuclear disarmament. We will remember the innocent civilian victims in the two cities: an estimated 135,000 deaths in Hiroshima, over 64,000 in Nagasaki. Many succumbed later from radiation exposure, burns, and related health effects.

In the decades since 1945, survivors known as “Hibakusha” have spoken around the world, warning of the dangers of atomic weapons. One of these, Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow, spoke with great feeling and conviction on December 10, 2017, on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), who received the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.

The Nobel Peace prize ICAN won was for their decade of work for a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. In July 2017, at the conclusion of a special “UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons,” 122 countries voted in favor of an historic treaty to legally prohibit nuclear weapons – though none of the nine nuclear-armed nations joined.

The Dorothy Day Catholic Worker community and other DC peace groups will demonstrate at the Pentagon and White House. They write:

The US has never repented for the use of these weapons of indiscriminate mass murder. Moreover, it has continued to build even deadlier weapons which endanger all of creation. Today the US possesses over 6,000 nuclear weapons, many of which are on hair-trigger alert, and proposes to spend an estimated $1 trillion over the next 30 years to modernize its existing nuclear arsenal.

This includes the W76-2 Trident nuclear warhead, designed to carry a relatively small destructive payload of five kilotons, far less than the 100 kiloton thermonuclear warheads with which Trident missiles are currently armed. This reduction fulfills the Trump administration’s quest for nuclear-war-fighting “flexibility.” This deadly venture not only endangers the world, but represents a direct theft from the poor of our nation and world. Under Presidents Obama and now Trump, more than $1.7 trillion has been authorized to upgrade and replace all things nuclear over the next 30 years. “This death money from our taxes could instead provide life-bringing jobs in renewable energy and high-speed rail, health care, affordable housing, and eliminating child poverty – in short, a Green New Deal,” Traprock director Pat Hynes and Vicki Elson, co-director of NuclearBan.US, wrote in a recent editorial.

Instead, the Trump administration brings us closer to wars that could
turn nuclear. In May 2018, it pulled the US out of the long-negotiated
international treaty blocking Iranian nuclear development. In February
2019, charging Russian violations, it withdrew from the Reagan-Gorbachev-era Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which had banned many Russian and US ground-launched missiles.

Along with peaceful demonstrators bearing witness in the nation’s capital, in Hiroshima, and elsewhere around the world, we call on the United States, the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons, to endorse this treaty – see www.icanw.org/the-treaty – and lead the way to total worldwide nuclear disarmament.

Anna Gyorgy lives in Wendell. She is a member of the Traprock Center’s board of directors and FCCPR’s peace taskforce.