7 August 2004

From Hiroshima to world peace

By Jacqui McCarney

6th August 1945: the innocuous sounding 'Little Boy' drops on Hiroshima - a huge flash like the sun falling to earth, a mushroom cloud, vaporized bodies, a flattened city - 66,000 people die instantly. 9th August 1945 : 'Fat Man' drops on Nagasaki. A fireball kills 39,000 people instantly. Clouds of radioactive filth engulf both cities - radioactive diseases, leukemia and cancers linger for years - combined death toll by 1950 is 350,000. People still die from it.

Not military targets, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were cities filled with men and women and children and animals who had no idea they were about to die. Gandhi said "The soul of Japan may recover", and asked "what will happen to the soul of America?". From Hiroshima, Vietnam, numerous proxy wars to Iraq, we see that war breeds war - the unequivocal lesson of America history. Nearly 60 years later, America is still dropping bombs on civilian populations, increasing the likelihood of terrorist attack, and increasing the feeling of fear and isolation among its citizens.

It is impossible to justify modern warfare when the target is largely innocent men, woman and children. At the beginning of the last century 90% of war casualties were military. By its end, 95% of war casualties were civilian. Eleven thousand is a conservative estimate of those Iraqis killed since the beginning of hostilities but who will count the numbers who continue to die from the increased childhood and adult cancers as a result of the use of depleted uranium.

The great achievements of many international treaties, painstakingly negotiated, show what can and MUST be accomplished - 1907: Hague Conventions; 1945: the UN Charter; 1948: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; 1949 & 1977: Geneva Conventions; and 1946: Nuremberg Principles. These make it illegal to cause unnecessary suffering, exercise a disproportionate use of military force, use weapons that do not distinguish between military and civilian targets, and create long-term damage to the environment.

Britain has signed up to all of them, but as our government ignores them, they are the basis for challenging it to cease its hypocrisy, and begin to fulfill its pledges and commitments towards a war-free and nuclear-free world. But Geoff Hoon recently announced plans to make 'defence' even more hi-tech - so the dominant can inflict great damage from a distance. Modern warfare has become a cowardly unequal battle increasingly favouring the richer nations.

On nuclear weapons specifically: the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) commits its signatories to work 'in good faith' for the abolition of nuclear weapons; and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) bans all nuclear test explosions. Britain has ratified both of these treaties, but has done nothing to comply with the NPT pledge to work for nuclear disarmament - we have in fact joined in with US in efforts to undermine it while loudly claiming to be in support. And along with the US we are planning to circumvent the CTBT by building testing facilities at Aldermaston which will give the necessary information without actual explosions.

The 60th anniversary of the bombings on Japan is an important year. Nearly 190 States will meet at UN Headquarters to consider developments affecting the NPT Treaty at its 2005 Review Conference. Issues affecting the purpose, operation and implementation of the Treaty and strengthening measures must be approved and agreed.

If the US carries on with its strategy of world dominance, terrorism will continue to escalate and we the people of the world can look forward to a 21st century in which our TV screens will continue to satellite images of endless - brutality, bloodshed, violence and human suffering.

Where lies the hope? The 75 million who signed Manifesto 2000 for a peaceful 21st century, and the millions of voices raised on February 15th 2003 from London to Sydney calling for another way. Behind these millions are 500 organizations in the UK alone working for peace. The internet has energized these groups and allowed communication links across the world. This is the "other Superpower" - people who can threaten to topple any government that takes its people into unnecessary war, as the people of Spain did in a magnificent show of true democracy in action.

People everywhere must work to stop their governments developing further nuclear weapons, and to really meet the NPT treaties objectives. These themes are currently explored further in the Norwich Cathedral "Hiroshima to World Peace" exhibition, remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I am grateful to Davida Higgin and Jean Davis for inspiration and research materials.