Members of several peace groups and concerned citizens converged in front of the offices of the Consulate General of Japan in Midtown on Wednesday, August 5 to commemorate the 70th anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.
Brooklyn For Peace; CODEPINK Long Island: Women for Peace; CODEPINK NY; Granny Peace Brigade; Hibakusha Stories; Manhattan Project; NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security; New Jersey Peace Action; NYC Metro Raging Grannies; NYC War Resisters League; Nuclear Age Peace Foundation; Pax Christi Metro NY; Peace Action NY State; Peace Boat US; Ribbon International; and Veterans For Peace-Chapter 34 (NYC) formed a coalition to honor the memory of those who lost their lives as a result of the atomic bombings and to emphasize their support for retaining Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.
Mari Inoue, an attorney and member of the peace activist group Manhattan Project, along with Richard Greve of Veterans for Peace-Chapter 34 (NYC) and two nuns, Sister Gwen and Sister Jean, delivered flowers and an open letter (full text below) to the Deputy Consul General of the Japanese Consulate.
Greve, who has been involved with peace groups for around ten years, says that it was an honor to be part of the group that delivered messages of support and peace.
“My work was in the parishes, so we were very close to the people,” says Sister Jean, who arrived in Japan in 1951, when times were still difficult following the end of WWII. “Our biggest goal was trying to get the people enough food to eat . . . After the ‘60s things were changing in Japan.”
When Sister Gwen first moved to Japan in 1964, “Tokyo was spruced up” for the Olympics. She spent 50 years in Japan, returning to the States in 2014.
The Sisters are concerned with issues around nuclear weapons as well as the ongoing crisis in Fukushima, the military relocation in Henoko Bay in Okinawa, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s attempts to amend Article 9, which prohibits Japan from using force to settle an international dispute.
Inoue says that the goal of the event wasn’t simply to acknowledge the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but to stand in solidarity with groups that are passionate about the abolition of nuclear weapons with the goal of maintaining peace.
Two members of the Granny Peace Brigade, Eva-Lee Baird and Nydia Leaf, echo Inoue’s sentiments. Baird, who has been arrested twice during two “very orderly events,” never considered herself a political activist and was “marginally involved in the anti-nuke protests in the ‘70s” says the Granny Peace Brigade is “anti-war, anti-drone strikes, anti-extrajudicial killing, and anti-militarism in schools.”
“We’re older people who remember a time before nuclear weapons,” says Leaf, who attended the 2011 World Conference Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs in Japan and has a close relationship with Japanese peace groups. “There has to be an abolition of everything nuclear.”
An Open Letter to People of Japan from Concerned Peace Organizations and Citizens of the United States
–In observance of the 70th Anniversary of the Atomic Bombings of Japan–
We are a coalition of concerned peace organizations and citizens of the United States who wish to abolish nuclear weapons and achieve world peace. We are gathered here, in front of the office of the Consulate General of Japan in New York City, to present a bouquet to honor those who have lost their lives from the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We also would like to express our deep condolence to the atomic bomb survivors, or Hibakushas, who had to endure great mental and physical difficulties for a long time, as a result of the horrific bombings.
Although our government has so far refused, we would like to offer today our sincere apology to all those affected by the tragic events, which amounted to reprehensible war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Mr. Senji Yamaguchi, who was 14 at the time of the Nagasaki bombing, appealed to the world at the Second UN Special Assembly for Arms Reductions in 1982, that “for the sake of the people of the world, those yet to be born, the children and atomic bomb survivors like us, we cannot forgive the suffering or death of even one person in an atomic bombing.” In the speech, he also hoped that those Hibakushas were the last ones to die or suffer due to nuclear weapons. Mr. Sumiteru Taniguchi, who has been suffering from various health issues from the bombing, said in New York in April that “nuclear arms are weapons of the devil, which will not allow humans to live nor die as humans.” Mr. Terumi Tanaka, a Hibakusha from Nagasaki, recently emphasized in the U.S. that “the policy of nuclear deterrence is against humanity.” He made an important point that “no state would be spared and its existence would be threatened by a use of a nuclear weapon, even if the use of such weapon is to protect the survival of the state.”
We agree with them. Nuclear weapons must never be used again against any nation under any circumstances. We are here today to pass on the message of peace from the Hibakushas who have repeatedly appealed to the people of the world to realize a world free of nuclear weapons.
We were disappointed when the US, UK, and Canada, at this year’s Non-Proliferation Treaty Conference (NPT), blocked any final consensus for progress on nuclear disarmament, blaming Egypt for its insistence on a Middle East Conference on a Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone, over objections by Israel, which is not even a party to the treaty. We would like to express our deep regret not only over the longstanding failure of the U.S. government to negotiate a treaty in good faith for the total elimination of nuclear weapons, as required by the NPT, but also by its ongoing efforts to “modernize” the U.S. nuclear arsenal now projected to cost one trillion dollars over the next thirty years!
In the U.S., American people and cities suffer today because more than 50% of the national discretionary budget is consumed by the military. Many U.S. soldiers returning from Afghanistan or Iraq suffer from PTSD and homelessness. We do not wish to see Japanese people facing similar hardships if Japan chooses to deploy its troops to war zones abroad to fight alongside the U.S. military and/or its allies.
Japan has a strong culture of peace, while the U.S. has a strong economy of war. Article 9 of your peace constitution is more powerful and honorable than the possession of nuclear weapons, and more powerful than the policy of nuclear deterrence or reliance on a nuclear umbrella. Your constitution has an inspiring introduction clause, which recognizes that “all peoples of the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear and want.”Thus, we sincerely appeal to Japan to protect its peace constitution, and discard its military reliance on the U.S. nuclear umbrella in order to build more humane, safer world- free from the fear of nuclear weapons.
As not only the sole country victimized by the use of atomic bombs in war, Japan has also been a victim of the world’s worst nuclear power plant accident since Chernobyl, suffering from massive radiation leaks that have spread well into the Pacific Ocean, the evacuation of more than 150,000 people, most of whom haven’t yet been able to return home, and a rise in childhood cancer. The use of nuclear technology, whether military or civilian, comes with enormous risks and unthinkable consequences; therefore, we are calling on Japan to play a more active role in supporting and promoting the Humanitarian Pledge, an international commitment endorsed by 113 non-nuclear weapon states around the world, to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons, just as the world had done for chemical and biological weapons.
No more Hiroshima.
No more Nagasaki.
No more War.
No more Hibakusha.
Dated: August 5, 2015
Veterans For Peace-Chapter 34 (NYC)
Peace Boat US
Brooklyn For Peace
CODEPINK Long Island: Women for Peace
Granny Peace Brigade
NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
NYC Metro Raging Grannies
NYC War Resisters League
Pax Christi Metro NY
Peace Action NYS
Professor Peter Kuznick