2002 World Conference against A and H Bombs
Japan Council of A and H Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Japan Hidankyo)
Greeings from Hibakusha
Friends from abroad, and friends from throughout Japan, welcome to the World Conference against A and H Bombs. My greetings go to all Hibakusha and other victims of nuclear weapons, who are here despite their sufferings and pain.
I am Satoru Konishi, secretary-general of Nihon Hidankyo, the Japan Confederation of A and H Bomb Sufferersf Organizations.
Allow me, on behalf of Japan Hidankyo and the Japanese Hibakusha, to extend my sincere greetings of solidarity to you all. Welcome to Hiroshima!
Several years ago, in my World Conference speech I said, gHiroshima is the most appropriate place to think about the question of peace.h I want to repeat the same words this year, but this time they bear a much more grave significance.
Two years ago, when we gathered here, we were excited. We harbored a great hope for achieving a g21st century without nuclear weaponsh and a gworld without nuclear weapons and war.h We were holding in our hands the wonderful outcome of the NPT review conference.
But during a little more than one year since the inauguration of the Bush administration, the international situation took a sudden turn and an ominous dark cloud is now hanging over the world.
The gwar of retaliation against terrorismh in Afghanistan, the gaxis of evilh threat and the gNuclear Posture Reviewh contributed to that change.
In no time in the past half-century has the warning of Hiroshima had such a serious meaning as today. The world is facing the greatest crisis since 1945. Now is the time to revisit Hiroshima to understand what it really means.
On August 6 fifty-seven years ago, under a scorching sun, in this place where we are now meeting, almost 100,000 people were killed in the cruelest way history ever knew. Most of them were children, women and the elderly.
Some claim that Hiroshima was attacked because it was a military capital. Thatfs not true. By 1945, Hiroshima had lost all war potential.
The soldiers were all near 40 years old. They did not have any proper weapons to fight with, not even small arms. The workers, who clumsily operated heavy machinery in arms factories, were all 15- or 16-year-old boys and girls. I was 16 at the time and was assigned to a shipyard to build ships. By July, the stock of iron plates, the main material for shipbuilding, had run out.
I was a timid boy but I could see that Hiroshimafs war fighting capabilities had been almost reduced to zero. The last ship we were made to build was a very defective one, with the keel bent in a flat V-shape and water leaking everywhere. We could hardly believe that it could be of any use.
Despite this, the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.
I will never forget the horror from the flash, the blast, the mushroom cloud and the sea of flames that continued to scorch the sky all through the night. Countless mothers and young children were burnt alive in these flames.
On the following day, I found a Hiroshima in complete ruin, a vast stretch of burned ruins like a desert. I thought everything was gone. Then a voice came, like a forced whisper: gGive me water!h I looked around and saw something like a piece of swollen soggy white bean curd (tofu).
That must have been near ground zero. But I do not remember what I did or what I saw after that. All my recollection of those moments ends there.
Later, my friends who had been walking by my side at that time told me what it was like. Dead bodies and injured people were lying scattered everywhere. Crowds of people who had died clinging to water tanks, streetcars full of passengers burnt black, corpses sinking and floating covering the surface of river - I must have seen all that, but the only thing I recall now is that gbean curdh face.
That face keeps on asking me: gWhat have you been doing during all this half a century?h
When I am sick and feel depressed, that gbean curdh face always appears and speaks to me from behind, near my neck. gHey, you, what are you doing? Look at Afghanistan, look at Iraq, Okinawa, Yokosuka...h Someday, will that resentful face forgive that 16-year-old boy I was for not giving him the water he needed so badly?
The ghell of nuclear warh is an extreme brutality far beyond all human expression and imagination and should never be repeated. But today, it threatens to recur in the Middle East or in Asia at any moment. And what is more it is the Japanese government that is offering the greatest support to the U.S. nuclear threat.
The country that mercilessly massacred its 20 million Asian neighbors like mere worms and experienced on its own land the atomic bombing of Hiroshima Nagasaki may again become the assailant in a war. In that event, not only Okinawa, Yokosuka or Sasebo, but the whole country could become a stepping stone for nuclear strikes.
Even if it splits their throats, the Hibakusha want to shout out loud: gLook at Hiroshima! Look at Nagasaki! Listen to the voices of the dead!h
Please hear and bring to every corner of the world the message of those who died and now lie under the ground in Hiroshima. Thank you.