Thursday, 6 August 2009

The greatest moral imperative of our age


Hiroshima Day, 6 August 2009

Revd Canon Patrick Comerford, President, Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (Irish CND)

1 p.m. Merrion Square, Dublin

In the last few weeks, in the last few days, we have seen some interesting developments internationally, some developments that should gladden the hearts of all who are seeking nuclear disarmament.

Former President Bill Clinton has visited North Korea, the last bastion of “Cold War” politics. There was an old adage that jaw-jaw is better than war-war. And real diplomacy is better than megaphone diplomacy.

As he returns home having achieved real results, heart-warming results, for his ground-breaking diplomacy, I’m sure Bill Clinton will be able to tell the US Secretary of State that North Korea is a country where real people, with real needs, live.

Meeting real people means you can longer stand back at a distance from them and condemn their whole nation as part of an “axis of evil.”

In the last few weeks, I’m sure, everyone here has been moved and impressed by the bravery and courage of the people who took to the streets throughout Iran to condemn the hijacking of the ballot box, to condemn the election coup.

The people of Iran are heirs to one of the greatest classical civilisations in the world. The personal risks they have taken in recent weeks make the people an heroic example to all who struggle for democracy and human rights. These people are no instruments or agents of an axis of evil.

People are not evil. Their leaders may have evil intentions. But they are not evil.

Their leaders may plot with evil intent to make, deploy and use nuclear weapons. But the people are not evil.

Let’s now hope that having opened the door to North Korea and having realised where the popular choice is in Iran, those who fear the acquisition of nuclear weapons by rogue states will start putting pressure on the real states when it comes to threatening to use nuclear capability: Israel and Pakistan.

President Obama’s catchphrase throughout his election campaign was “Yes we can.”

Well now is the time for Washington to commit itself to the greatest moral imperative of our age – the abolition of nuclear disarmament … the abolition of all nuclear weapons, whether they are held by so-called rogue states or the self-confessed nuclear powers.

For we know that together we can abolish all nuclear stockpiles. “Yes we can.”

The old justifications and the lame excuses for holding on to nuclear stockpiles have vanished slowly. The pretence of deterrence no longer exists, for the Cold War has faded away. Why, even this week NATO’s new Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said the Cold War had been consigned to history. Now he wants a “true strategic partnership” with Moscow, and talks about their “shared interests.”

Well it’s in the interests of us all to abolish nuclear weapons. And we can. “Yes we can.”

When old enemies become new friends, they can do so much together for peace. Wouldn’t nuclear disarmament be one good step forward to creating the world we all want?

Do you think we can? …

Last April, during a speech in Prague, President Obama called for the abolition of all nuclear weapons. Does he think he can help the world take the first brave steps towards this monumental achievement? I think he can. CND thinks he can. If he calls on the goodwill of the world, then, yes we can.

In Hiroshima last weekend, a panel of experts at a peace symposium asked President Obama to attend – and even host – a disarmament conference. According to Frank von Hippel, who was Bill Clinton’s Assistant Director for National Security, Hiroshima “would be the right place for a summit of the leaders of all the nuclear states to discuss disarmament.”

But let’s not just talk about it. Let’s do it. Let’s achieve it.

Frank von Hippel needs to take his advice to Bill Clinton’s wife, the American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. He needs to make his views known to President Obama.

But talking and listening aren’t enough. The stockpiles of nuclear weapons are too great. They have already been used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That’s not once, but twice, too often. President Obama, you can ensure that they are never used a third time.

Let’s not talk about it. Let’s do it. Can we do it? I believe, “Yes we can.”

Canon Patrick Comerford is President of the Irish campaign for Nuclear Disarmement (Irish CND). This address was delivered at the 64th Hiroshima Day commemoration at the Hiroshima Cherry Tree in Merrion Square, Dublin, on Thursday, 6 August 2009.