Eliminate inhumane nuclear weapons now!

Editor’s Note: The following is the text of the speech Rev. Nobuaki Hanaoka gave Aug. 6, 2019 at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

On Aug. 9, 1945, three days after the first atomic bomb was detonated in the sky above Hiroshima, the second and hopefully the last nuclear bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. I was an eight-month-old baby about 20 miles from the ground zero, outside the officially recognized a-bomb affected area. Obviously, I was not aware of the horrifying inferno unfolding in the City of Nagasaki that day.

The Hiroshima bomb was a Uranium bomb, designed to yield the explosive power of 15 kilotons of TNT, while the Nagasaki bomb was a Plutonium bomb, designed to release the explosive power of 22 kilotons. The detonation of those two primitive nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki resulted in the combined casualties of 214,000, nearly a quarter of a million, according to the official Japanese count. Today, the Hiroshima-Nagasaki-size nuclear bomb is used only as a trigger mechanism to induce fusion reaction of hydrogen isotopes. While many of the bombs we have in the U.S. are designed to yield 10 to 15 megatons of TNT, the largest thermonuclear bomb we have in the U.S. has the maximum yield of 25 megatons, or 25 million tons of TNT. The largest Russian thermonuclear bomb, called Tsar Bomba has the yield of 50 megatons. If those bombs are launched, it will cause millions to die and the rest will suffer a global misery.

Basically, there were three destructive elements in the nuclear bombs. The first is the blast, or the sudden expansion of air, caused by the nuclear explosion. The blast was so powerful, that it knocked down almost all the buildings within a few miles from ground zero and tens of thousands were crushed to death under the collapsed buildings or hit by the flying debris. The second is the intense heat. The nuclear explosion created an enormous fireball whose temperature is as high as the interior of the sun. The fireball ignited the entire city. Those who were exposed to the fireball evaporated instantly and many severely burned in the citywide fire. As most of the medical professionals and first responders were also among the dead, the victims were mostly left unattended for days.

The third deadly element of the atom bomb was the most insidious one, the radioactive fallout. After the explosion, the invisible radioactive particles quickly spread into the air; they were then carried by the wind to further spread beyond the city limit. They came back down on earth with rain and contaminated everything including the water reservoirs; thus, the water we drank, the air we breathed, and the food we ate were all contaminated. There was no escape from the radiation. Once the radioactive particles enter the body, they remain in the bone marrow for many years, destroying our immune system. That’s why many of those who were exposed to radiation eventually succumb to leukemia and many other forms of cancer.

As far back as I can recall, both my mother and my sister were always sick in bed, looking pale. They were suffering from leukemia. When my father came home from the war, he moved us out of the radiation infested area to another city, where my mother died, and my sister followed her soon after. I was only six then. Fortunately, radiation did not affect me physically, but psychologically I always lived in fear, not knowing when the residual radiation might begin to kill me.

In 1978, when I was a pastor in Alameda, I met some community leaders and volunteers and with them organized a group called Friends of Hibakusha. Through our activities, I met many survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They said surviving the nuclear explosion is like living with a time bomb inside your body; you never know when the radiation strikes. They all agreed that those who died quickly in the explosion were the lucky ones, because they did not have to suffer the prolonged misery like them. If you include those who died from the residual radiation a few years later like my mother and sister, the number of casualties would easily double.

Earlier this year, Russia announced that they have deployed SSC-8 cruise missiles equipped with nuclear warheads, in violation of the (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty) signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 and has since been the cornerstone of global arms control. Those new hypersonic Russian cruise missiles with land-based mobile launchers can reach anywhere in Europe, North Asia and even North America within minutes and they threaten the entire northern hemisphere. Instead of engaging Russia in negotiation, the Trump administration simply left the Treaty, as they did with the Iran Deal, and vowed to develop an American version of the cruise missile system.

Despite the fact that we have the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and 191 states have signed it;

Despite the fact that in 2017, the Nobel Peace Prize went to the citizens group “International Campaign for Abolition of Nuclear Weapons,”

Despite the fact that the United Nations passed the “Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons” in 2017 and 70 states have signed it,

Despite all that, we still have an alarming situation that requires our urgent attention today. The United States has always maintained that our nuclear weapons are for deterrent only, and there is no pre-emptive strike from the U.S., but President Trump has said that the U.S. could and would use nuclear weapons pre-emptively. That put the rest of the world on edge. He also said that he is determined to keep the U.S. nuclear supremacy. Much like the neocons of decades ago, he still seems to believe that world peace can best be maintained by the overwhelming nuclear supremacy of the U.S. It doesn’t work that way, Mr. President. Our quest for more powerful nuclear weapons results only in more proliferation in the world.

The United States has 1,365 nuclear warheads deployed and ready to go, and 3,800 in the stockpile. No wonder Iran and North Korea feel unsafe unless they have their own nuclear power. We cannot tell them to disarm, while we have thousands of nuclear warheads ready to go. Instead of seeking our supremacy, we must be calling all the nuclear states to come together to a table of negotiation and move to simultaneous nuclear disarmament, because the survival of human race and all other living creatures depends on it.

Let us remind ourselves again that nuclear weapons are the most immoral, most inhumane, most heinous, most destructive, indiscriminate murder machines that could send the entire planet into Armageddon. The whole world should scream for their complete elimination. Let us renew our commitment for the vision of a peaceful, compassionate and nuclear-free world and let us re-energize our movement.

The Rev. Nobuaki Hanaoka is a retired United Methodist minister who resides in San Francisco. The views expressed in the preceding commentary are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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