International Meeting

2002 World Conference against A & H Bombs

Joseph Gerson

American Friends Service Committee


Resisting the Bush Administration's Global Military Crusade

In these increasingly dangerous times, it is a privilege to return to Hiroshima to participate in the World Conference against A- & H-Bombs. As we confront the horrors of what Senji Yamaguchi rightfully describes as "the worst act of terrorism in history", the post September 11 wars, and the terrible prospects of post-9-11 state and non-state terror, it is a special pleasure to be joined by Rita Lasar of September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows and by the other members of AFSC's delegation to this conference. They represent a new generation of activists and organizers who are providing moral vision and leadership in the revitalized U.S. peace movement. Together, we will be inspired and rejuvenated by the vision, the energies, and the commitments of the Japanese peace movement and by those of our other international allies.

Last year I spoke of the urgency of "resistance in dark times."  We could not then fully anticipate where the recklessly ambitious, militarist, and imperialist Bush Administration would lead, but it was clear that these Cold War retreads were leading us into an extraordinarily dangerous period of imperial reconsolidation, aggression and possible nuclear war. Before summarizing our experiences and understandings of the Bush Administration's global military crusade, I want to say a few words about the September 11 terrorist attacks that have been exploited in order to,  as Vice President Cheney said more than a year ago, impose "the arrangement [for] the twenty-first century."

The criminal and indiscriminate September 11 attacks against innocent civilians came as a terrible shock.  Those of us with friends and family in New York and Washington or who were  flying  were deeply anxious about the fates of our loved ones.  And, although the savagery of the attacks cannot be compared to nuclear holocausts,  as I watched televised images of wounded and frightened New Yorkers fleeing the city, I could not help but recall the images from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

The U.S. has, of course,  visited incomparable death and destruction on other nations. In addition to what it wrought on Hiroshima  and Nagasaki, its neo-colonial wars from Indochina to Iraq and from Panama to Pakistan, have threatened to initiate cataclysmic nuclear war on more than twenty occasions during international crises and wars.  As Noam Chomsky reminds us, what was new about last September was that, for the first time, the violence was targeted against the hegemon. 

It is also important to know that the losses, shock, and vulnerability resulting from the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have led to a national identity crisis in the U.S.  For the first time in nearly 200 years, we have suffered a significant attack on our national territory (Hawaii was a colony, not a state at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.)  During the Cold War we knew that the oceans were not vast enough to protect us from missile attacks, but now we have actually suffered deadly attacks from across the seas by men who are committed to "the destruction of the United States."

No strangers to the exercise of power, the Bush Administration harnessed the sympathy, fear, disorientation, and anger that followed the 9-11 attacks to, as Colin Powell put it, "set the reset button" on U.S. foreign and military policies. Rather than relying on legal, diplomatic, police and intelligence means to bring those responsible to justice, the Bush Administration launched its war against Afghanistan which has resulted in an estimated minimum of 5,000 civilian deaths - nearly double that of 9-11. Afghanistan's brutal warlords to power have been restored to power,  and the war has bled into Pakistan, Kashmir and even India.  The Bush government has been clear that what it has described as World War III will be fought overtly and covertly in as many as eighty countries, with Iraq next on the list after the Philippines.

The post 9-11 trauma and the government and media inspired quasi-fascist "United We Stand" patriotism have provided the Bush Administration with the political and diplomatic cover to withdraw from the ABM Treaty, to increase the U.S. military budget by nearly one-third to $400 billion - more than the world's 25 next largest military spenders combined!  It has permitted the Administration to breach  the Vietnam Syndrome, to expand discredited alliances and to create new ones with corrupt and repressive regimes from Indonesia to Uzebekistan, to consolidate what were incipient alliances with Russia and India, to expand the global network of U.S. foreign military bases - especially in oil and gas-rich Central Asia, to release its frightening Nuclear Posture Review, to abandon and subvert international law governing the use of force - from the Geneva Conventions to the United Nations Charter -  that have been painfully and patiently negotiated over centuries. Even Cold Warriors like former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke describe this as a "radical break" with "tradition"

As we meet here in Hiroshima, Washington's reckless unilateralists are preparing for war - even nuclear war - against Iraq in the coming months. The military and the "national security" establishment believe this will be "the most momentous use of force by the United States since the Vietnam war."

As the young Japanese activists who joined us know, we were far more successful on April 20 than we had anticipated.  100,000 people responded to our call to protest Bush's global war and the assaults on our civil
liberties and constitutional democracy. But the unhappy truth is that, for the most part, the U.S. people remain asleep.  With the possible exception of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the political situation and culture in the U.S. are the worst they have been in my lifetime, including the McCarthy, Vietnam War and Reagan eras.

Condoleeza Rice, President Bush's National Security Advisor, tells us that this period is analogous to the years 1945- 47, when Washington (with Stalin's help,) created the Cold War.  Not since the so-called "Spanish-American War" in 1898, when the U.S. first conquered the Philippines, Guam, Cuba and Puerto Rico, have U.S. leaders and the mainstream media spoken so freely about the U.S. and its global sphere as an empire.  Unfortunately, the New York Times had it right when it reported that not since the Roman empire has a single nation enjoyed such superiority, and that while the Roman Empire was limited to but one region of the world, Washington's empire is global, and it penetrates and subverts other cultures more deeply and fundamentally. 

Before turning to the Bush Administration's first-strike and preemptive nuclear weapons and war policies, I want to say a few words about the assault on constitutionally guaranteed civil rights and liberties that are important aspects of the Bush Administration's global military crusade.  In the 1930s and 40s, Japanese militarism required a near totalitarian environment, and today people are rightfully concerned about the impacts of the proposed "contingency laws." In the U.S., just as the Bush Administration insists that the world's nations must be "with us or against us," it is working to crush critical thinking and democratic dissent within the U.S.  Attorney General Ashcroft,  the nation's chief law enforcement officer, has warned that criticism "gives ammunition to America's enemies, and pause to America's friends."

 A new Cabinet ministry for "Homeland Security" has been created, and the military is in the process of putting its new "Northern Command" into place with a mandate to defend the U.S. and to "provide assistance to civil authorities."  Of still greater concern is the plan to review 125 year-old legislation that prohibits the military from law enforcement within the United States.  In addition, the proposed "TIPS" program will bring Stalinism to the United States with millions of U.S. Americans encouraged to spy and report on their neighbors.  The Vice-President's wife and former Democratic presidential candidate Senator Lieberman have launched a campaign to limit academic freedom, and the Attorney General wants to place undercover agents in places of worship and within religious institutions. To understand the nature of the popular mobilization for war, it may help to know that as in World War II, the Pentagon has recruited Hollywood to play a major role in its national and international propaganda campaign. Despite President Bush's reassuring words about the importance of respecting Moslems and Arab-Americans, many Arab- and South Asian-Americans are living in fear as they face daily doses of discrimination and, in some cases, abuse.  More than 5,000 people have been "invited" by the police for "interviews," and more than 1,000 people have been detained, held incommunicado and without changes for extended periods. The protection of lawyer-client confidentiality has been removed. And, the President's Executive Order makes up to 20 million immigrants vulnerable to secret military tribunals, where evidence can be withheld from the defendant who, in the most extreme cases, will face the threat of execution, with no right of appeal. 

As with its other propaganda campaigns, the three-page U.S.-Russia agreement signed by presidents Bush and Putin is more important as a manifestation of Russia's tacit alliance with the United States than as an arms control and reduction agreement.  Neither country has committed itself to destroy a single nuclear warhead.  And, with its abrogation of the ABM Treaty, the Nuclear Policy Review (NPR,) and the planned  fusion of the military's strategic (nuclear) and space commands, we see the United States' commitments to the terrorism of nuclear superiority and first-strike nuclear warfighting.

The Bush Administration has fully embraced what has become the pattern in recent routine U.S. warfighting. As it prepares to go to war, Washington threatens nuclear attack to ensure that the governments it is targeting are not tempted to defend themselves with weapons of mass destruction - especially chemical or biological weapons. Just as Bush the
elder threatened nuclear attack before the 1991 Desert Storm War, this Bush Administration communicated nuclear threats to Al Queda and the Taliban, and it has announced its doctrine of preemptive and first strike nuclear warfare as is prepares for a "regime change" war against Iraq.  This is but one manifestation of the Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine.

The Nuclear Posture Review (the Bush Administration's nuclear weapons and war doctrine) was quietly released when the world's attention was focused on the Afghan war. In one of the earliest and most widely reported critiques of the doctrine, the Natural Resources Defense Council was clear that the Bush Administration is infatuated with nuclear weapons and "faking nuclear restraint" as it attempts to "breakout" of the NPT regime.  Even the New York Times has editorialized that the U.S. has become a nuclear "rogue" nation, and it is in essential agreement with the NRDC that "Not since the resurgence of the Cold War in Ronald Reagan's first term has there been such an emphasis on nuclear weapons in U.S. defense strategy." 

In addition to naming Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Libya, China and Russia as the most likely targets for U.S. nuclear weapons, the Bush Government is reinforcing "Full Spectrum Dominance" with a  "New Triad" of nuclear and conventional weapons, missile defenses, and a technologically more sophisticated nuclear weapons infrastructure.  Far from honoring its NPT commitments, the Bush Administration has reaffirmed that nuclear weapons will remain the cornerstone of U.S. military power for the next fifty years. Yes, the Pentagon is moving to honor the START II treaty and the recent agreement with Russia by reducing the number of "operationally deployed" nuclear forces.  BUT, behind these illusory numbers lie another 12,770 nuclear warheads that can be redeployed and used to attack other nations across Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe. As the NRDC reported, "the Bush administration is actually planning to retain the potential to deploy not 1,700 to 2,200 nuclear weapons, but as many as 15,000."  (240 warheads of Trident submarines being overhauled, 1,350 strategic missile and bomber warheads in the "responsive force reserves", 800 "nonstrategic" nuclear weapons deployed on US/NATO dual capable aircraft, 320 "nonstrategic" "sea-launched cruise missile warheads in the reserve force", 160 "spare" "strategic and non-strategic warheads", 4,900 "intact warheads in the 'inactive reserve' stockpile", 5,000 "stored 'primary" and "secondary" components available for reassembly.)

Then there are so-called "missile defenses" and the revitalization of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex.  With the abrogation of the ABM Treaty, the construction of a "missile defense" base in Alaska, and the rapid-fire succession of increasingly secret and rigged tests, the Bush Administration is on a fast-track to deploy "missile defenses."  Even if they don't work, they provide the means to monopolize the militarization of space, to finance a revolution in military electronics, and they hold the promise of creating a shield to reinforce the U.S. first-strike nuclear and high-tech swords. Washington seems to have little concern that missile defense deployments will ignite a new arms race here in Northeast Asia.

The third leg of the nuclear war triad is revitalization of the U.S. nuclear weapons infrastructure.  They want to prepare for "surge" production of new nuclear weapons, and to develop and deploy "entirely new systems.". The Oak Ridge and Pantex nuclear weapons plants are to be expanded, "[A]dvanced teams" are to be reestablished at the Los Alamos, Sandia
and Lawrence Livermore Laboratories, and new earth-penetrating "bunker busting" nuclear weapons are to be designed and deployed.  To make sure the new weapons work, the Bush Administration wants to reduce the time needed to resume nuclear weapons testing.

In short, as Professor Zia Mian says, the Bush Administration seeks to ensure that no one even thinks about challenging U.S. dominance. We are resisting, but we have a long way to go and desperately need your help. Since September 11, the movement's primary demands have been 1) to bring those responsible for terrorist attacks to justice by legal means, 2) war is not the answer, 3) protect endangered communities and our constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties, and 4) address the root causes of the September 11 attacks and of the war that has followed. With conferences, protest vigils, the April 20th  demonstration, growing opposition to a war against Iraq, and new energy generated by the recently released "Urgent Call to End the Nuclear Danger," opposition is growing to the Bush Administration's global military crusade and to its "arrangement for the 21st century".

In the coming months, our most urgent task is to prevent the threatened, and possibly nuclear, war against Iraq.  This war has nothing to do with Al Qeada terrorism, and it has everything to do with re-consolidating U.S. hegemony over the oil-rich Middle East and thus over humankind. Under pressure the U.S. peace movement, sectors of the military, and "national security" managers associated with the Democratic Party, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is beginning hearings on the war.  There are growing fears that a unilateral and unprovoked war against Iraq will lead to heavy civilian casualties, will create chaos throughout the Middle East, will result in an endless U.S. occupation of Iraq or worse, and could cause a profound schism between the United States and its traditional allies. But hearings are not enough to prevent the Bush Administration, which is obsessed with Iraq, from going to war.  As with the Vietnam War and Reagan's nuclear madness, only unrelenting opposition from within the U.S., combined with equal or greater nonviolent protests internationally, can prevent further catastrophe.

The American Friends Service Committee, Voices in the Wilderness, and other organizations are sending delegations to Iraq to help break the economic sanctions that have claimed the lives of at least a half million children, and these activists are returning to their communities to speak out against the coming war. On August 6, U.S. community based activists will be making the links between the A- bombing of Hiroshima and the threatened war against Iraq. To counter the government campaign to transform the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks into a massive mobilization for war, peace vigils and meetings are being planned across the country, and AFSC is organizing a "No More Victims" speaking tour which will include members of Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Hibakusha, and members of Afghan, Iraqi, Palestinian, Israeli, and Filipino families who have suffered losses since September 11.  Like other peace groups, AFSC is planning conferences and demonstrations throughout the fall, and we are developing a Pledge of Resistance campaign with nonviolent action and civil disobedience, if and when the U.S. launches the war.

Turning from prevention of nuclear war to nuclear weapons abolition, I am encouraged to point to the recently published "Urgent Call To End the Nuclear Danger" initiated by leading figures of the 1980s nuclear weapons freeze movement. The Call, which was launched at a mass meeting in New York on the twentieth anniversary of the  largest peace demonstration in U.S. history,  makes four demands on Washington: 1) Renounce first use of nuclear weapons," 2) "Permanently end the development, testing and production of nuclear warheads", 3) "Seek agreement with Russia on the mutual and verified destruction of nuclear weapons withdrawn under treaties..." and 4) ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The Call's authors are short on strategic thinking, but they hope to secure a million signatures for the call this year and ten million before the 2004 U.S. presidential elections. They have a legislative vehicle in the form of a joint Congressional resolution introduced by Representative Markey, and organizations including the AFSC are beginning to build popular support for the call.

I am also happy to be able to report that in meetings ten days ago, AFSC staff from across the United States and from Korea to the Congo, resolved to increase the priority given to nuclear weapons abolition. We have outlined a campaign that will focus on popular education, city council and community based resolutions, referenda, and focused pressure on Congress to build and demonstrate popular support for the Urgent Call and other abolitionist initiatives. We look forward to working collaboratively with Asian and European peace movements. Central to all of this is collaboration with Japanese and Global Hibakusha.

As I close, I would like Anna Galland to stand for a moment. This spring, Anna and others in the state of Rhode Island generated hundreds of phone calls and faxes to their senator, who we knew would be casting the determining vote on whether or not to fund research and development for the new earth-penetrating nuclear weapon. Anna and a member of her program committee actually met with Senator Reed on the day of the vote, and to our good fortune, they were successful in winning his support and winning that round of our collective struggle.

Friends, these are extraordinarily dangerous times. Diplomats in Europe and thoughtful people in the U.S. are beginning to make comparisons between Germany in the 1930s and the United States under the Bush regime. Thousands, if not millions of lives lie in the balance.  Veterans of the U.S. peace movement are doing all that we can to overcome the lassitude of the 1990s and to respond authentically to the dangers that confront us all. We cannot do it alone. I urge us all to recognize and to respond as fully as we possibly can to our moral and historic responsibilities.

Thank you.