Remembering Hiroshima: Nuclear abolition and the will of the people

Sixty-nine years ago August 6, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima killing 80,000 to 140,000 people immediately. Three days later on August 9, a second U.S. nuclear bomb was dropped over Nagasaki killing an additional 74,000 people. From that moment to the present moment the world has been held hostage to the insane threat and potential annihilation by these weapons that now number in excess of 17,000 worldwide.

The arms race that brought about these insane arsenals has ended yet we have been unable or unwilling to rid the world of these weapons. Polls around the world show that 76 percent of the people feel these weapons should be eliminated. Until now, there has been a lack of courage from our leaders to work to achieve this goal, as though survival itself is a political issue.  The people have spoken and are organizing to take this on. Will any or all of our elected officials take on the leadership role and represent we, the people, in this international effort?

There have been four significant events over the past year demonstrating that the time is now to abolish nuclear weapons.

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In March of this year Physicians for Social Responsibility and the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War launched an international speakers bureau and campaign to educate Rotary International among others about the “Humanitarian Effects of Limited Nuclear War.”

Rotary International with 1.2 million members in 212 countries including Russia, Israel, Palestine, among others, with its strong mission of “peace through service” is well positioned to lend support. While some may be surprised, they should not be. Having dealt with seeming insurmountable tasks like the global elimination of polio, they understand that the best solution to overwhelming medical and humanitarian problems is prevention. Eliminating nuclear weapons is the only way to prevent nuclear catastrophe.

This followed the Dec. 2013 release by Physicians for Social Responsibility and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (ippnw.org) of a monumental report identifying the horrific potential devastation and death toll of up to 2 billion from a small limited nuclear war between Pakistan and India using ~100 Hiroshima sized weapons or less than 0.5 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenals. The resulting climatic changes affecting growing seasons and inducing global famine could last over 20 years.

Then on April 24 of this year the tiny heroic island nation of the Marshall Island’s brought suit against the nine nuclear nations of the world in the International Court of Justice and the U.S. Federal District Court in San Francisco for breech of Article VI of the 1970 Non Proliferation Treaty which states that the nuclear nations of the world will work in good faith to eliminate all nuclear weapons. The islands were victim from 1946-1958 of 67 U.S. nuclear bomb tests, equivalent to 1.7 Hiroshima size bombs daily for 12 years. They are seeking no monies or compensation but rather the guarantee that no nation or peoples of the world would ever be subject to these atrocities again.

The international movement to abolish nuclear weapons is building unprecedented momentum behind the Humanitarian Impact Initiative. Last October in Oslo, 124 nations signed onto a statement to the UN calling for complete global nuclear disarmament, based on the intolerable human costs of these weapons. In February 2014, 146 nations--three-quarters of the nations of the world--including major U.S. allies such as Germany and Japan, attended the second Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons Conference in Nayarit, Mexico. Absent and boycotting the conferences were the U.S. and the other P5 nuclear signatory members to the NPT - China, Russia, France and U.K. The U.S. claimed that “while we recognize the seriousness of this subject and attach the utmost importance to it, we are concerned that the conference in Oslo will divert discussion and focus away from the practical steps required to create the conditions for further nuclear weapons reductions”. What are those practical steps and why are they not moving at lightening speed to prevent the potential devastation these arsenals present?

A similar conference is scheduled for Vienna in December, and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) itself is up for review in May 2015.

Nuclear abolition is not a partisan issue. It is a survival issue. From military leaders to architects of the cold war including Sam Nunn, Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, William Perry and Colin Powel to the International Red Cross, U.S Conference of Mayors, the call to eliminate nuclear weapons is being heard. Ronald Reagan said in his 1985 Inaugural Address: “We seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.” Who will provide the leadership to join the people and realize this vision? 

If the U.S. and other nuclear weapons states are truly interested in eliminating nuclear weapons, then the U.S. has an opportunity and obligation to lead by example by attending the conference in Vienna and challenging the other nuclear nations to do likewise. We the people demand that our elected officials push for this participation and that they represent us. Action speaks much more than words alone.

Dodge is a family physician practicing full time in Ventura, California. He serves on the board of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles (www.psr-la.org) as a Peace and Security ambassador and at the national level where he sits on the security committee.  He also serves on the board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org) and Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions (www.c-p-r.net). He writes for PeaceVoice (www.PeaceVoice.info). Jubitz is the founder of the Jubitz Family Foundation (www.jubitzff.org ), the War Prevention Intiative (www.warpreventioninitiative.org) and the Rotarian Action Group for Peace (www.rotarianactiongroupforpeac.org).