Seventy-five years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Bomb is in the news in August 2020. Among the many voices filling screens, airwaves, newspapers and magazines, the most compelling are those of the women and men who witnessed the bombing. They are the hibakusha. Each had a different, personal, devastating experience of the bombing and its aftermath. But they are united by at least four things—they understand the truth about weapons of mass destruction and the suffering they cause; they have the courage to recall and talk about the past in order to teach others; they are determined to deliver their plea—Never Again!—to the world; and they are united in their belief that the only way to make sure nuclear weapons are never used again is to abolish them altogether.
For many of them, now in their 80s and 90s, the path to nuclear abolition is through the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, passed by the United Nations in 2017 and on the verge of entering into force.
You can see a brief video of Setsuko Thurlow speaking at the UN on the occasion of the Treaty's passage here.
The terrible truth is that 75 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear weapons have not been abolished. In fact, the threat they pose to the world is greater than ever before. It is an existential threat. Even a limited exchange between India and Pakistan would kill hundreds of millions of people instantly and create the condition called nuclear winter—a loss of sunlight around the globe and a lowering of earth's temperatures leading to mass starvation.
Things aren't getting better. Right now, the United States is leading a new global nuclear arms race, investing billions and planning to invest trillions to reconstitute the massive US nuclear stockpile from the ground up—new bomb plants, new warheads, new delivery vehicles. Not surprisingly, this plan has brought a response from Russia and China who are investing to modernize their nuclear weapons, too.
The current state of US plans—new bomb plants, new warheads—is outlined in the Powerpoint presentation that was made on a recent Veterans for Peace southeast zoom meeting by Ralph Hutchison of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance. We are posting it because many of those who were on the zoom presentation asked us to.
Of all the voices being raised 75 years after the first use of nuclear weapons, the hibakusha are the most compelling. And they are also the clearest about linking the devastating suffering of the past with a different vision of the future. Setsuko Thurlow spoke at length in July of this year with the Peace Boat; they recorded the discussion and you can view it on vimeo here. The first minutes of Setsuko's comments are compelling, reminding us all of the work we have left to do.
One very simple thing everyone can do is to sign the hibakusha appeal: It is a simple statement calling on world leaders to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and you can sign it here. But signing is only the first and easiest step of the long journey we will have to take to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
If you would like to be more involved in the work of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, you can check out www.orepa.org; if you want to be on their listserv, send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As Setsuko reminds us so eloquently, we have the power to create the world we want to live in—even to banish nuclear weapons.