2004 World Conference against A & H Bombs

International Meeting
2004 World Conference against A & H Bombs

Dr. Joseph Gerson
American Friends Service Committee

Nuclear Hypocrisies, Dangers & The Imperative of Abolition

I want to begin by honoring Gensuikyofs fundamentally important and steadfast organizing for nuclear weapons abolition. Your leading role in our collective struggle for human survival cannot be overstated and needs to be honored. You have helped to ensure that the world never forgets the true meanings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the imperatives of preventing nuclear war and abolishing nuclear weapons. Given what my country has wrought on Hiroshima, on Nagasaki, and on much of the world is a humbling privilege to be invited to return to the World Conference. I thank you for this opportunity to be re-inspired by your movement, to be renewed by the Hiroshima spirit, and to deepen our collaborations to achieve nuclear weapons abolition.
I come before you with humility, not only because of gmyh governmentfs catastrophic nuclear weapons and nuclear war policies, but also in the shadow as we all are of Washingtonfs catastrophic invasion of Iraq and its wider global military crusade. These disastrous wars, launched on blinding ideological foundations of national chauvinism, idolatrous worship of military power, hypocrisy, an army of lies, mind-boggling ineptitude, and at the cost of the lives of more than ten thousand of innocent Iraqi civilians, uncounted thousands of Iraqi soldiers, nearly a thousand U.S. and allied troops, and the walking wounded on all sides. It has increased the dangers of terrorist attacks and dangerously destabilized the Middle East. It has spurred nations like Iran to develop deterrent forces - including possibly nuclear weapons. And, it has solidified the understandable rage of Islamic and other peoples against the United States and its subservient allies.

The Bush regime has provided us all a lesson written indelibly in blood and suffering that war is not the answer. Former Vice-President Al Gore got it right for once when he said that the Iraq war gis the worst strategic fiasco in the history of the United States. It is an unfolding catastrophe without any comparison.h

Even as it builds permanent military bases across Iraq in order to dominate the Middle East for decades to come, the Pentagon concedes that military victory in Iraq is a chimera. Ironically, Israeli intelligence has concluded that the only question is how much humiliation (and I would add death and destruction) the U.S. chooses to suffer and inflict before it withdraws in disgrace. Just as Nixonfs gVietnamizationh strategy was doomed to fail three decades ago, so is the sham transfer of sovereignty to a puppet government led by a former Baathist thug turned acknowledged CIA agent which has no legitimacy.

What kind of sovereignty or legitimacy could any nation have while occupied by 160,000 foreign troops? When its laws have been set in stone by a foreign proconsul? When its economy has been privatized and transformed to serve the occupier? Or when the occupierfs ambassador wields the incomparable and corrupting economic power of controlling the allocation of $18 billion for reconstruction of a devastated society?

At best, the Bush war has made Iraq safe for fundamentalist Shiite rule. At worst, the refusal of the Bush Administration to permit Hans Blix and his U.N. inspectors to complete their U.N. mandated task of scouring Iraq for possible nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, will lead Iraq to catastrophic civil war or leave it as a sanctuary for embittered men and women who are recklessly willing to use any means necessary to rid the Islamic world of any Western influences, values and practices. State crimes and related transgressions always have their unanticipated consequences.

The Iraq war, as we now know, was not about weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, or the spread of democracy to Arab and Islamic nations. It was about oil. Paul Wolfowitz, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense (read war) put it bluntly a year ago, gwe had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oilc.for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy we settled on the issue that everyone could agree on: weapons of mass destruction.h

Since the introduction of the internal combustion machine a century ago, petroleum has been gThe Prizeh of empire. In 1944, with the British and French empires suffering irreversible decline, and with President Franklin Roosevelt embracing Arabian King Saud as a strategic ally, the U.S. State Department reported that with its growing control over Middle East oil, the U.S. had won gone of the greatest material prizes in the history of warfare.h Since then, as Noam Chomsky has observed, gPolitical Axiom Number Oneh of U.S. foreign and military policy has been to ensure that neither Washingtonfs enemies gnor its alliesh gain independent access to Middle East oil. With control over Europe and Japanfs - now also Chinafs and Koreafs - primary sources of fuel, the U.S. has had its hand on the jugular vein of global capitalism. In addition to controlling the lionfs share of the worldfs oil (and gas,) and with oil traded in Petrodollars instead of Petro Euros or in Asian currencies, U.S. dominance over the worldfs oil supplies has also created artificial subsidies for U.S. financial and industrial capital. As the former Director of the United Nations gOil for Foodh program Hans Van Sponeck, explained six weeks ago in Barcelona, gSaddam Husseinfs decision to shift form dollars to euros in the Oil for Food program may well have sealed his fate.h

The two Bush wars against Iraq have sought to consolidate these U.S. advantages in order to impose what Vice President Cheney has called gthe arrangement for the 21st centuryh that will guarantee that the U.S. will remain the worldfs dominant economic, military and political power for decades to come. Bush the Elder called it gThe New World Order.h

The Iraq wars have not been only about Iraq. The recent war is also about Saudi Arabia. As the rise of Al Qaeda and other challenges to the Arabian monarchy illustrate, Saudi rule is becoming increasingly brittle and thus vulnerable. This has raised fears in Washington that the Saudis may go the way of the Shah of Iran and Marcos of the Philippines, leaving other hands on the jugular vein of global capitalism. U.S. control over Iraqi oil could, if necessary, serve as a temporary alternative to Saudi oil. And, with Iraqfs strategic location, Cheney and Rumsfeld plan for Iraq to serve as a new home for the U.S. military bases needed to control the region as a whole.

U.S. wars, threats of nuclear attack, and subversion of Middle East governments are not new. On at least nine occasions, beginning in 1946, Washington has prepared or threatened to initiate nuclear war to ensure continuing dominance over the regionfs resources. The U.S. has subverted governments from the over throw of Mossadeq in Iran in 1954 and its conspicuous buying of Lebanese elections in 1958, to supporting brutal dictatorships like the Saudis and Mubarak of Egypt. Perhaps the deadliest manifestation of this imperial will was the decade-long siege of Iraq through sanctions, which the United Nations tells us claimed a toll of more than a million Iraqi civilians lives.

A little more than a decade ago Joseph Rotblat, the Nobel laureate, sounded a simple and clear warning from this podium. gAs long as this nuclear cult exists, as long as the belief is sustained that nuclear weapons bestow status, strength and security, the pressure to join the club will be irresistiblecIn the long term, there are only two alternatives: allow the possession of nuclear weapons to all states that desire them, or deny them to all states by eliminating nuclear weapons.h

The blatant hypocrisies of the nuclear powers - led by the United States - are increasingly dangerous. Without determined, good faith actions that will credibly lead to the elimination of nuclear weapons, we will suffer accelerating nuclear weapons proliferation, the nearly inevitable nuclear wars, attacks, human suffering, and environmental catastrophe will follow. Iran and North Korea today. Countries as disparate as Brazil and quite possibly Japan in the not-so-distant future. The situation has become so dangerous that the usually understated Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed El Baradei has warned that we must eabandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to pursue nuclear weapons but morally acceptable for others to relay on them.h The U.S. gsearch for a new class of nuclear weapons is a prime example of this double standard, and, as El Baradei has said, eIf such efforts proceed, it is hard to understand how we can continue to ask the nuclear have-nots to accept additional nonproliferation obligations and to renounce any sensitive nuclear capability as being adverse to their security.h

The hypocrisies, denials, and realities with which we live are staggering for those who retain vestiges of moral clarity and consciousness. Thus in June, when President Bush visited the Pope, ostensibly to talk about peace but really to pose for an electron campaign photo, a Reuters correspondent could not ignore that the President traveled with his nuclear gfootball.h Readers of arcane reports in back pages of our newspapers thus learned that the attache case with the codes needed for the President to launch a nuclear war was in the next room with a military attache when the president and the pope met alone in the Pontifffs study.

At about the same time, a lead article in the New York Times, reported on commemorations marking the gD-Days of the Pacifich - the battles leading to the end of the war against Japan. Reporting from Saipan, the U.S. gnewspaper of recordh quoted ga former bomber piloth 89-year old retired Air Force Brig. General Paul W. Tibbets who complained that gThe world knew about Normandy right awayh but still did not appreciate U.S. victories and sacrifices in the Pacific. One had to read deep into the article to find the uncritical information that Tibbets gpiloted the Enola Gay, a B-29, on its August 6, 1945 sortie to Hiroshima, the worldfs first nuclear bomb attack.h

This year also saw the opening of a new exhibit featuring the Enola Gay at the Smithsonian Museum just outside Washington. There, a simple plaque explains that the plane was the bomber which dropped the first atomic bomb on a city called Hiroshima which brought the war against Japan to an end. There is no reference, no photographs, no artifacts of the Hell inflicted on the Hiroshshima target. Nowhere does one read that the criteria for the cities identified as possible targets for the nuclear attacks had to have gvital war plant employing a large number of workers and closely surrounded by workers' homes.h
Denial and fantasy are essential to Full Spectrum Dominance and to imperial fantasies. The Smithsonianfs celebration of the Enola Gay is designed to help ensure that no one will remember what occurred on August 6, 1945. Like Orwellian gNewspeakh and gmemory holes,h the new Enola Gay exhibit was been designed to eliminate memory so that other nuclear wars can be fought.
The U.S. has become a nuclear state. For nearly six decades, preparations for and threats to initiate nuclear war have served as a gcornerstoneh of U.S. foreign and military policies. And, every U.S. president since Truman - with the possible exception of Jerry Ford - has prepared and threatened to initiate nuclear war - most recently George W. Bush shortly before he launched the invasion of Iraq. Since Nagasaki, successive U.S. governments threatened and prepared to initiate nuclear war: at least nine times to guarantee its Middle East hegemony and control of that region's oil, at least four times during the Vietnam War, as many as seven times against North Korea, and during crises and confrontations in Latin America and Europe. During the first Gulf War, Bush the Elder, Vice President Quayle, Secretary of War Cheney, and British Prime Minister Major all threatened Iraq with possible nuclear attack, and an estimated 700 nuclear weapons were deployed to the war zone to back up those threats.
Many believe that nuclear war is more likely now then during the Cold War. The U.S. still has nearly 15,000 nuclear warheads on alert, deployed at U.S. bases across the U.S. and internationally, and stockpiled for potential future use. As the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists editorialized, gNot since the resurgence of the Cold War in Ronald Reaganfs first term has U.S. defense strategy placed such an emphasis on nuclear weapons.h The Bush Administration's Nuclear Posture Review reiterates a first strike nuclear war fighting doctrine and audaciously named Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, North Korea, China and Russia as targeted nations. Reinforcing these threats are the commitments of leading - if faceless - Bush Administration figures like Linton Brooks who speak of their gbias in favor of things that might be useable.h This has fueled the Bush Administrationfs campaign to the grobust bunker busterh, a so-called mini-nuke that will be seventy times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb if it is produced. Preparations in Nevada for the resumption of nuclear weapons testing are being accelerated and are expected by 2007 if Bush is re-elected. A new post-modern nuclear pit facility is about to be built to produce new nuclear weapons, and billions of dollars are being spent to revitalize the nuclear weapons laboratories. Not surprisingly, this also fuels global pressures for nuclear weapons proliferation.
Bushfs preparations for future nuclear wars are, of course, consistent with the Bush I and Clinton military doctrines. Bush was not breaking new ground when his National Security Strategy identified Washingtonfs first priority as preventing the emergence of regional or global rivals. New and most frightening in the current doctrine is the declared policy of preventive unilateral attack to prevent the emergence of such rivals. This is not limited to annoyances like Iraq, Iran and North Korea, but it applies as well over the longer term to capitalist rivals - the European Union and China - the latter of which is seen as the most likely strategic competitor to the U.S. in the decades to come. And the policy is clear that the priority is not pre-emptive attacks against imminent threats posed by these rivals, but simply the possible emergence of new rivals.
The danger is not limited to Republicans. For nearly six decades Democrats and Republicans alike have maintained, modernized, augmented and threatened to use the U.S. nuclear arsenal. When Howard Dean, the hope of many so-called progressives within the Democratic Party went out of his way six months ago to say that nuclear weapons gare a fact of life,h he was attempting to demonstrate that he was part of the mainstream. The Clinton Administration called nuclear weapons the gcornerstoneh of our foreign and military policy, and Clinton's CIA Director, John Deutch was clear that the U.S. "never intended, nor does it intend now, to implement Article VI" of the NPT.
Days after the September 11 terrorist attacks, with no sense of irony, President Bush barked in his authoritarian way that gWe will not permit the worldfs most dangerous regimes and terrorists to threaten us with the worldfs most destructive weapons.h John Kerry and a growing number of Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives can be praised for opposing funding for research and development of new nuclear weapons, resumption of nuclear weapons testing, for his commitment to enter bilateral talks with North Korea, and for his articulated respect for international law and treaties. But, he and the Democratic Party establishment share the Bush Administrationfs double standard when it comes to the dangers of nuclear weapons proliferation and the commitment to U.S. nuclear superiority.
This spring John Kerry gave a series of well publicized speeches to articulate and publicize his Kissingerian approach to gnational security issues.h He began by saying that gMore than a century ago, Teddy Roosevelt defined American leadership in foreign policy. He said America should walk softly and carry a big stick.h Theodore Roosevelt is best known as one of the leading figures of the late 19th century who envisioned the possibility of the United States replacing Britain as the worldfs dominant power, and who led the U.S. in building the military and fighting the wars needed to do it.
In Kerryfs first speech, he named four principle imperatives for U.S. policy: 1) launching and leading ga new era of alliances for the post-9/11 worldh; 2) gmodernize[ing] the worldfs most powerful military to meet the new threatshf 3) gdeploy all that is in the American arsenalh including its economic, intelligence, diplomatic and cultural power; and 4) reducing U.S. dependence on Mideast oil.
Days later, Kerry named the possibility of nuclear terrorism as gthe greatest threat we face todayh and promised that g[a]s President, my number one security goal will be to prevent the terrorists from gaining weapons of mass murder, and ensure that hostile states disarm.h His slogan was gno material, no bomb, no nuclear terrorism.h
Rather than lead by removing the primary causes of nuclear weapons proliferation, continued U.S. preparations and threats to initiate nuclear war and the imperial Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine, Kerry outlined a four-step strategy: 1) safeguard all the worldfs bomb-making materials, with a primary emphasis on those in the nations of the former Soviet Union; 2) ban the creation of new nuclear weapons materials, gincluding production of plutonium and highly enriched-uranium; 3) adopt a more discrete nuclear weapons profile by reducing gexcess stocksh of U.S. nuclear weapons and materials and halting research and development of a gnew generation of bunker-busting nuclear bombsh which gwe donft needh; and 4) halt the nuclear weapons programs of Iran, North Korea and other countries, in part through strengthening the enforcement powers of the IAEA and tightening controls to prevent black markets sales of nuclear materials. Like Bush and Clinton before him, there is no reference to fulfilling the United Statesf Article VI NPT obligations. And, his answer to the ongoing catastrophe in Iraq is to send in more U.S. troops while appealing to U.S. allies to assist with burdensharing.
Kerry isnft saying much about so-called gmissile defenses,h but it should be remembered that he and his advisors have long supported their deployment as soon as the technology is proven reliable. While differing with Republicans on the questions of timing of the deployment, the Democratic Establishment has long supported gmissile defensesh as the leading edge of the wedge to monopolize the militarization of space and to threaten China with the destruction of all of its missile forces - delusionally seeking to take us back to the power relations that prevailed in the wake of the Opium Wars a century and a half ago.
These dangers are not abstract, and they are not confined to the long-term. The Bush-Cheney decision to derail the Clinton-era peace process with North Korea ratcheted up that potentially nuclear confrontation. This, in turn, has encouraged North Koreafs leaders to accelerate development and possible production of nuclear weapons. And, as you well know, Pyongyangfs response to the U.S. threat has reinforced the LDPfs continuing remilitarization of Japan, the campaign to revise your treasured Peace Constitution, and has also opened the way for some in the Japanese elite to argue that Japan may need to develop a nuclear option.
To our good fortune, the nations of East Asia have thus far surrounded and sufficiently isolated the Bush Administration so that it has been forced to limit its threats to attack Pyongyang and to finally present a preliminary proposal that provides a minimum of substance to the six-party negotiating process. But, another way to read the current situation is that the Bush Administration has simply bought itself time to get through the Presidential elections. It may also build on this, and finally negotiate a deal with Pyongyang in October to show that Bush can do diplomacy as well as war in order to win the election. After November, we could easily face sharply increased tensions, including renewed threats of U.S. unilateral attacks against North Korea. With his greater commitment to allies and multi-lateralism, and his principle of launching war as the glast resorth rather than fighting gwars of choice,h Kerry is not as confrontational. He has offered to go beyond the Six Party talks, and to negotiate directly with North Korea.
Because it has yet to become a nuclear weapons state with continuing commitments to Political Axiom #1, Iran is another story. The situation is not good. Mohammed El Baradei has reported that the Iranian government has been less than forthright in fulfilling its commitments to the IAEA. And Kerry and many Democrats are charging that Bush made a mistake by focusing on non-nuclear Iraq while giving Teheran valuable time and opportunities to accelerate its pursuit of nuclear weapons. While the U.S. is hardly in a position to launch another invasion in the Middle East, and while I do not want to go so far as to predict it, it would not be surprising if the Bush Administration countered by using the specter of a Iranfs nuclear program to frighten the U.S. people or even to launch an Osirak-like attack on Iranfs nuclear infrastructure in order to rally their support in his uphill battle for re-election. Such first strikes are also conceivable in the years ahead as part of what has become the bi-partisan U.S. gcounterproliferationh doctrine.
What can be done?
Most immediately we must continuing building the power and pressure of what the New York Times calls gthe worldfs second superpowerh: international public opinion against the U.S. wars. At no time since the Vietnam War and the nuclear disarmament movement of the 1980s has the global peace movement been so powerful and so successful. As you watch advertising for U.S. products during the Olympics, you will see that many U.S. corporations are distancing themselves from the Bush Administration and are wrapping their products in messages of peace. They know what the world wants. At the same time, the polls tell us that most U.S. people want our troops to come home from Iraq.

Our other priority is Emergency Campaign for nuclear weapons abolition launched by the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Any successful campaign must address what people experience as a pressing problem, and people need to easily understand how their actions - even small ones- can help solve the problem. The Mayorsf campaign is ingenious, because it is based in peoplefs lived experiences and easy to understand. By talking to, educating, and mobilizing our neighbors, we can encourage our mayors to do what they know is right: to take a stand for the elimination of nuclear weapons which increase security and unleash funds that are sorely needed for everything from new fire engines and schools to new jobs and health care for the poor and aged.

If we mobilize enough mayors from across the world to travel to the U.N. next May, we will be demonstrating in a powerful and very visible way that the people of the world and the people who represent us want the nuclear powers to stop stonewalling* and to bend to our demands to eliminate nuclear weapons. Along the way, we will have educated and mobilized a new generation of nuclear abolitionists who can press our Congressmen and women, senators, members of parliament, presidents and prime ministers to stop threatening human survival and to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

I want to share a little of our experience and successes in our New England campaigning. In Massachusetts, last spring after a number of high profile mayors across the U.S. endorsed the campaign, we launched a peace march across the state. At each stop, marchers talked about the continuing dangers of nuclear war and the possibilities of the Mayors Campaign. In some towns and cities they met with mayors and members of city or town councils. Several mayors signed on in those meetings, and in other cases local activists committed themselves to do the educating and organizing that some mayors seem to need before they take public positions on what they think are controversial issues.

Our march was followed by a visit to Boston by Hiroshima Mayor Akiba. At least as important as his public speech broadcast nationally from Boston, was the meeting we organized at Boston City Hall that brought together people - including mayors and other elected officials - from across our six-state region and as far away as Australia. Within days, we had won new endorsements and a commitment to take the campaign to voters in a number of communities.

This was followed by the National Mayorsf Conference held in Boston. Between some very savvy organizing by Aaron Tovish - one of the central organizers of the global campaign - including use of a video made during the NPT Prep Com, we won the endorsement of the Conferencefs international affairs committee. This will serve as an important boost for our organizing.

And, a week ago, in collaboration with the European Network for Peace and Human Rights and the U.S. Peace Council, we organized a nuclear weapons abolition conference within the Boston Social Forum in which the Mayors Campaign was highlighted as the focal point of our work over the next year. And, a few days from now, when people in more than sixty communities across the United States solemnly commemorate the anniversary of the Hiroshima A-bombing, the Mayorsf Campaign will be the primary organizing initiative to which people will be dedicating themselves.

So, yes, these are very dangerous times. While our has been difficult and sometimes lonely, over the years and especially since the Bush Administration launched its global military crusade, we have built a gsecond superpowerh that can confront, contain and transform the nuclear powers. And, with the Mayors Campaign, we can energize and direct our movement to have a major impact in the struggle to secure human survival through the abolition of nuclear weapons. I look forward to our work together in the coming year.
No More Hiroshimas!
No More Nagasakis!
No More Enola Gays!
Abolish All Nuclear Weapons!
* Note for translator and interpreters. gStonewallingh means to resist. The idea is that if you put up, or hide behind, a stone wall, you can fend off criticism.



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