06 August 2019

The memory of the victims
of Hiroshima demands
Trump is silenced today

Patrick Comerford

Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (Irish CND)

Annual Hiroshima Day commemoration,

Merrion Square, Dublin,

1 p.m., 6 August 2019

Today marks the 74th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing.

In Hiroshima this morning, they placed a list with the names of 319,186 victims of the bombing inside a cenotaph. This list includes the names of people who died within the past 12 months.

As we stand here today on this anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing on 6 August 1945, the word stands still at a time of growing uncertainty about ever achieving a nuclear-free world.

A landmark nuclear arms control treaty, signed over 30 years ago between the United States and the former Soviet Union, expired last Friday.

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, was an important pillar of nuclear disarmament. But the US and Russia are pulling out of the 1987 treaty, and China, which has never been a party to it, continues to build its nuclear forces unabated.

Today, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a landmark international agreement meant to prevent the spread of nuclear arms, seems to be in meltdown. The preparatory meeting in May for the treaty review conference next year [2020] failed to produce any concrete outcomes.

As long as there are nuclear weapons in the world, and as long as world leaders threaten to use them, we must continue to remember the victims of Hiroshima, for they are a reminder of the consequences we all face if we fail not only to control nuclear weapons, but to abolish them completely.

When I was on a student fellowship in Japan 40 years ago [1979], I stayed in Hiroshima and met survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

But today, the number of survivors of the atomic bombing – as with the number of survivors of the Holocaust – is dwindling rapidly. And in my late 60s, I realise that even the number of people who have met survivors of Hiroshima and the Holocaust are beginning to fade away too.

A count earlier this year showed that 145,844 people are living victims of the Hiroshima bombing, people who hold Atomic Bomb Survivors’ certificates. The number has fallen below 150,000 for the first time since the end of World War II. The average age of survivors is now over 82, almost 83, meaning the hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) are fast aging.

We cannot trust the people who are in charge of the world’s stockpiles of nuclear weapons.

Consider the on-again, off-again nuclear talks between President Trump and Chairman Kim. They have all the hallmarks of a teenage romance, on-again, off-again. There are love letters, furtive meetings, promises, hugs, followed by mistrust, name-calling, threats and a messy break-up. Then Trump storms off to flirt with other dictators (such as Putin, and bin Salman). Kim angrily fires off some missiles. The weeks drift by, then both men realise they have something special; they owe it to themselves to give the relationship another chance.

And the world’s nuclear fate lies in the hands of these two lovebirds.

We may ridicule them. But it is not funny.

Indeed, it is frightening.

What is the likelihood of Trump initiating a nuclear strike? He has withdrawn from a key bilateral nuclear weapons treaty with Russia, he has pulled out of the Iranian nuclear deal, he has announced he will increase the US nuclear arsenal.

Yet more Americans have been killed this weekend than have been injured or jailed in Iran all this year … for many years.

He is a narcissist and he is irrational. As Hillary Clinton once noted, ‘A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.’

We are living in a frightening world. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council are all in possession of nuclear stockpiles: the US, Russia, China, Britain and France.

Forget about Trump’s friends. Who are the friends of the world today?

When I was growing up, we were told: mind the pennies and the pounds will mind themselves.

If we were to apply this to weapons, if someone is capable of dealing with smaller weapons, perhaps – just perhaps – we might be able to trust them to deal with the largest of weapons.

But look at how Trump refuses to accept that there is a massive rise in the number of mass shootings in America.

Statistics last night showed that there have been 246 mass shootings in the US so far this year: we have heard of Dayton and El Paso at the weekend, but another six mass shootings have taken place this month already, with seven dead and 32 people injured.

In terms of weapons of mass destruction, more weapons of mass destruction have been used in America than this year than ever provided the excuses for the war in Iraq.

And still Trump laughs and jokes at a rally when someone suggests shooting immigrants.

His passive encouragement of violence is insidious and is eating away at the fabric of decency throughout the world.

Can Trump be defeated?

Who can rein him in?

Certainly not Russia’s Vladimir Putin or Britain’s Boris Johnson.

Having let Trump know that he was not welcome in Ireland a few months ago, we must now organise to make sure Pence knows he is not welcome either.

Trump and Pence must know that they have no friends here, that they can expect no passive acceptance.

Organisation is essential.

The women who protested at Greenham Common in the 1980s, who occupied the silos and the sites where Cruise and Pershing missiles were to be deployed, were successful.

Their voices, their protests, their bravery, their persistence, also brought about the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

We need their spirit, their bravery, their resilience, their organisation today. And we need them before it is too late.

The memory of the hibakusha of Hiroshima deserves at least that.

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is President of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (Irish CND). He was speaking at Irish CND’s annual Hiroshima Day commemoration at the Hiroshima Cherry Tree in Merrion Square, Dublin, on Hiroshima Day, 6 August 2019.

The Peace Memorial in Hiroshima … the names of 319,186 victims of the Hiroshima bombing were placed inside the cenotaph today

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