By Peter Deccy
Japan Congress Against A- and H-Bombs (GENSUIKIN), Nagasaki, August 2013
First I would like to thank my hosts for your kindness and generosity and thank all of you as well for keeping alive the history of the terrible atrocity that happened here 68 years ago today. Across the United States, peace activists take part in annual commemorations of this day and we use this act of remembering as an opportunity to reach out to our communities, to educate our neighbors of the great danger we are still living with and to invite them to take action for a more peaceful and just future. In this way, we stand with you.
At Peace Action, we view your annual invitation to participate in these commemorations a high honor and part of my work here today is to let you know that Peace Action’s 250,000 members and supporters stand with you in opposition to the Rokkasho reprocessing plant. We have written Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae at your request to share with him our belief that separating enough plutonium in a single year to build 1000 nuclear warheads would set a dangerous precedent and that the potential security and proliferation risks ought to be considered unacceptable.
It is worth noting the U.S. has its own history with the commercial reprocessing of nuclear fuel. The West Valley reprocessing plant in the state of New York opened in 1966 and closed in 1972, having accumulated over 600,000 gallons of high level radioactive waste in just 6 years. It was not until 2002 – 30 years after the plant closed – that the process for decommissioning the plant could safely begin and US taxpayers are still paying to this day to clean up the mess.
Our vision is for a just and peaceful future. It is a global vision and our movement is a global movement. The communication revolution has given our movement the capacity for planning and coordination we could barely imagine 20 years ago. The next generation of organizers to lead this global movement – and I see many of you in the audience today – will possess the skills and tools to take us forward and hopefully achieve the success we have long dreamed of.
Fighting the Addiction to Militarism
In June, U.S. President Barack Obama renewed his promise to lead the world to a future free of nuclear weapons. He proposed that a new agreement might be negotiated with Russia that would reduce our deployed nuclear arsenals by 30%. But within a couple weeks of his speech, U.S. military planners had presented their ‘nuclear employment strategy’, a blueprint for how nuclear weapons will in fact remain a key element of U.S. national security policy and it made clear the threat of nuclear war remains with us now and for the foreseeable future.
Instead of ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and completing a treaty to ban the production of fissile materials, the U.S. government plans to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in a nuclear weapons forever program upgrading and expanding the U.S. capacity for building and delivering nuclear annihilation.
In the U.S., peace activists have gained some leverage in the past two years by demanding money spent on nuclear overkill, robotic and cyber warfare – every conceivable form of weaponry – be spent instead on creating green jobs and meeting the needs of our communities. We have built common cause with those activists who fight poverty and injustice and those working to protect the environment, educate our children, and care for the sick and dispossessed and with organized labor. We are building the power to confront our nation’s addiction to militarism together.
Our movement has long made the connections between energy policy and resource war, between war and the destruction of the global environment and between militarism and the cost to our economic wellbeing. This past April we joined with you and peace activists on every continent in a Global Day of Action Against Military Spending. Our message must go viral.
U.S. Leadership and Participation is Essential
It is in this spirit that Peace Action and our allies are pressing for greater US leadership in multi-lateral nuclear disarmament initiatives. The September 26 High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on Nuclear Disarmament is a good place for the U.S. to begin. We are asking President Obama to travel to New York on that day to address the General Assembly. We also want greater U.S. participation in the conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons to be held next year in Mexico and we want the U.S. to vigorously advocate for the convening of the conference on a Middle East Zone free of Weapons of Mass Destruction. The U.S. should be taking part in UN’s open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament, with all of this leading up to Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in 2015. A true leader, committed to a world free of nuclear weapons, does not watch these important initiatives from the sidelines.
In Berlin, President Obama said “so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe.” Our question is ‘what are you prepared to do about it?’ Greater participation in these important multi-lateral initiatives would be an appropriate answer.
Worldwide Solidarity is Growing
For 68 years our movement has worked to insure nuclear weapons will never be used in war again. We work for peace so war will have no place to take root. So the wealth of nations is directed to creating a better world for its citizens and not spent on preparations for its destruction.
That’s why we are never idle in the face of reckless and dangerous preparations for war and we will not be idle as the Asia Pacific becomes the next theater for war planners, the next venue for an arms race and fruitless confrontation.
The challenges we face – economic, environmental, the threat of war and mass destruction – have combined and grown in size and complexity. We can no longer confront them issue by issue or country by country. At the same time, we are growing closer to each other and our connection to one another can define the future. We know we are stronger when we stand together. As an organizer in the U.S., I have come to believe it will take a global wave to carry our demands forward.
Our movement must offer the world a vision of a time when the human race is no longer preparing to do battle over what is left of the world’s resources and when diplomacy, partnership and multilateral cooperation are the foundation of a new, collective security that will allow us to work together to meet the urgent global human needs that challenge all of us.
As our ability to connect and join with one another in common cause grows, as information spreads instantly to every corner of the world I look forward to the day when the Hundredth Monkey moves from forgotten theory to legend. Let us be the spark that lights that future.
We work together, as one, in organizing a global movement for peace and freedom from the threat of mass destruction. In this way, we would all be as the honored Hibakusha, having survived the nuclear age, building a more just and peaceful future.Φ
Peter Deccy is a member of Peace Action’s national staff. He delivered this speech on behalf of Peace Action and other peace organizations at this year’s Japan Congress Against A- and H-Bombs sponsored by the Japanese organization GENSUIKIN in Nagasaki.