My heartfelt thanks to the organizers of the 2003 World Conference Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs for the opportunity to address this magnificent gathering of peace activists. Tragedy brought me here. On September 11, 2001, my sister Laura left her New York apartment at 6AM. She was going to work for two days to run a conference on information technology on the 106th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. No one in my family knew that that was where Laura was that day. It wasn't until late in the afternoon that one of my sister's friends telephoned and told me the horrible truth. Then I had to telephone my father and mother and tell them their daughter was almost certainly dead. It was the most difficult thing I have ever done. Yes, tragedy brought me here, but I leave with hope that together we can end violence and war. I leave inspired by the Hibakusha who turned their pain and suffering into a campaign to abolish nuclear weapons. I will return to my country more strongly committed to disarm the U.S. war machine.
These are dark and troubling times. In response to the events of 9/11, my government is waging what could become a continual war on terrorism. I felt tremendous pain - it was like experiencing my sister's death yet again - when on September 12, 2002 President Bush went before the U.N. to threaten war against Iraq. We later learned that in that same month Bush signed a classified document, National Security Presidential Directive 17, in which he asserted the right of the U.S. to respond with overwhelming force, including the use of nuclear weapons, to attacks on the U.S. or its armed forces abroad. The Bush Administration's foreign policy of illegal, pre-emptive war, disregard for the United Nations, and threatened use of nuclear weapons is an outrage. None of these are policies I wanted adopted in response to my sister's death.
So, together with other relatives of those killed on 9/11, I work with a group called Peaceful Tomorrows. We have pledged to turn our grief into action for peace. Our name comes from a speech Martin Luther King, Jr. made criticizing the Vietnam War. He said, "Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows. . . . We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means."
Seeking "peaceful ends through peaceful means" is what compelled me to travel to Iraq last January. The U.S. government made it illegal for its citizens to go to Iraq, so members of the Peaceful Tomorrows delegation had to commit civil disobedience to make the trip. But we believed it was urgent that peace-loving U.S. citizens express their solidarity with the citizens of Iraq who would be the real victims of President Bush's reckless and immoral war.
The Peaceful Tomorrows delegation returned to the U.S. hopeful that our voices could help stave off a devastating war. An unprecedented international peace movement grew in opposition to war in Iraq. And while war did ultimately occur, we should never underestimate how much peace activists achieved by calling for U.N. weapons inspections, by challenging U.S. unilateral action, and by questioning U.S. and British claims about the existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. We must keep that peace movement alive and strengthen it international ties.
In the next year, Peaceful Tomorrows will continue to raise public awareness of the innocent civilians who suffer and die because of America's wars. We will work to get legislation passed by the U.S. Congress to compensate families in Afghanistan and Iraq for their losses. Peaceful Tomorrows will also be working as part of a growing coalition of more than 600 U.S peace organizations, called United for Peace and Justice, to protest U.S. occupation of Iraq and to demand that the lies the Bush Administration told about the need to go to war are investigated. The links we have forged between national peace movements at the 2003 World Conference Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs will strengthen our work to abolish nuclear weapons and end war. Together we can redefine the 21st century as an era of peace and justice for a truly global community.