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Saito Osamu - Inhumanity of Nuclear Weapons

International Meeting
2015 World Conference against A and H Bombs

Saito Osamu
Physician of clinical hematology
Representative Director, Japan Council against A and H Bombs (Gensuikyo)
M.D. at Watari Hospital (Fukushima)/
Former Director, Fukushima Medical Coop Hospital (Hiroshima)

Inhumanity of Nuclear Weapons

  [1] Seventy years after the first use of nuclear weapons, the international community still retains the possibility of using nuclear weapons as a means for resolving conflicts. Nuclear weapon states continue to maintain their nuclear arsenals, because they see value in nuclear weapons evidenced by those tragic days that occurred 70 years ago. For any Hibakusha, this is nothing but an utter affront which will not allow them to live in peace. For the last 70 years, the Hibakusha have lived on with patience, carrying the memories of the atomic devastation and of their loved ones lost in the bombing. 

  [2] The atomic bombing by the United States was also to verify whether their atomic arsenals were powerful enough to enable them to fight the Cold War to their advantage. How was it possible?  On that day, 2,314 students were mobilized for the demolition of buildings to make fire lanes in the city. They were not able to escape from the sudden attack by the Enola Gay at 08:15. Those students near Ground Zero were burned, torn to pieces and disappeared. The exact number of those students and where they were working at the time had been recorded, so it was possible to be sure that they had disappeared.

  [3] When the flash and blast wind subsided, fire broke out all over the city and soon generated a gigantic cumulonimbus cloud. It caused Black Rain that showered radioactive substances on the citizens of Hiroshima, including those students. It was one of the major sources of residual radiation. 

  [4] Most of the students working near Ground Zero were killed instantly.  What parts of the human body did the heat rays affect most heavily? One of the surveys conducted on a vast group of Hibakusha indicated that 70% of burns were concentrated on arms and faces. Another study showed that many of the dead had their spine and pelvis crushed by the blast, which prevented them from immediately moving. Most of proximal victims were killed on the spot, because they were unable to take refuge due to the burns on their face and their smashed spine and pelvis.
  This slide shows the mortality rate curve of the students exposed to the atomic bombing when outdoors. Within 2 kilometers from Ground Zero, 80% of them died. It is this mortality rate curve that for the first time in the world allowed the killing power of atomic weapons dropped on cities to be evaluated. It was precise evidence of the destructive power of a nuclear bomb provided at the sacrifice of innocent children’s lives. The collected data were stored as confidential for a long time at the U.S. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.

  [5] Three days later, similar atrocities were committed on Nagasaki. In the burned ruins, many corpses, petrified in a posture of trying to escape, were found scattered around. When such tragic scenes unfold one after another in silence, human consciousness gradually adapts to them, assimilates them and, after some time, people are able to stand besides these strangely shaped corpses as if it were completely normal.  However, this can be regarded as an advanced state of apathy.
  The mental wounds sustained by Hibakusha are usually treated as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but the total picture of this disorder has not been fully elucidated. The biggest reason is that traumas of each Hibakusha, surface and submerge repeatedly over decades, sometimes lay the foundation for different mental disorders. Among researches conducted about A-bomb aftereffects, those on Hibakusha’s psychological wounds remain the most incomplete. When one thinks about a major event in which an entire city with hundreds of thousands of people living disappears in a very short time, what would be the most appropriate methodology to be used to analyze and explain the traumas sustained by the survivors? It is hopeless to find such a methodology. What should be kept in mind here is that not a few Hibakusha have lived accepting that hopelessness.    

  [6] In 1952, in Saka-machi town, Aki district in the north of Hiroshima City, the remains of 156 A-bomb victims were unearthed. They were buried because of the massive A-bomb dead had greatly exceeded the town’s capacity for cremation. Blast pressure and heat rays were the major causes of death within 2 weeks from the atomic bombing. The victims were unable to understand what happened to themselves. In those days, an average family was made up of slightly over 4 people. Out of them, on average 2 or more members were lost in the atomic bombing.  It was a very significant loss for the family and made the living of surviving members extremely difficult.  The death of one spouse in a family significantly raised the death rate of the other spouse. 
In the photo, lying on top of the long bones, the sculls with deep hollow eye sockets facing us seem to be asking, “Why has this happened?” There are also remains of children. To this day, for each child there is a father and a mother lamenting bitterly for not being able to find the remains of their children.

   [7] Hibakusha who narrowly escaped death from the bomb blast and heat rays were stricken by radiation sickness. With most of the doctors and nurses in the city injured or killed, those doctors who entered the city from neighboring areas after the bombing could do nothing but observe the development of common symptoms appearing on victims’ bodies. They were caught by a deep feeling of incompetence, realizing the fact that medical science was totally helpless to save them.
   Hibakusha who developed violent radiation disease eventually died without knowing why they had to die. A 21-year-old man who was at 1 kilometer from Ground Zero noticed loss of hair on the 12th day from the A-bombing. He started bleeding from his gums and skin on the 23rd day, developed fever on the 25th day, tonsillitis on the 26th, delirium on the 27th, and died on the 28th day. He was precipitated irreversibly towards death. 

   [8] A 29-year-old man who was A-bombed at a distance of 1 kilometer died on the 29th day. The postmortem found an abnormally large number of bacilli colonies in his bone marrow. They were not attacked at all by white blood cells and were proliferating as if they were in a seedbed.  His bone marrow had stopped producing white blood cells. His body succumbed to the rule of the bacilli.

   [9] A 23-year-old male, who was exposed at 900 meters from the blast center died on the 26th day.  His heart was found with a large number of petechial hemorrhagic lesions. Although it sustained his life for 26 days, it was doomed to fail in the end. The hemorrhage of blood from the pumping system meant the failure of capillary vessels and depletion of platelets, indicating that not only his heart but all his internal organs were bleeding uncontrollably.

   [10] The photo of two brothers who missed their parents was taken on August 10, 1945. The younger boy’s face was badly burned. We do not know how much longer they actually survived after that.  Many children in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were made orphans. The Hibakusha quoted on the first slide said, “Hibakusha lived with patience.” These Hibakusha of course included many orphans.
   On August 6, 1955, ten years after the bombing, 50,000 Hibakusha who gathered at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony appealed that surviving victims were in great agony. The Japanese government had not tried to establish any laws to provide relief for the Hibakusha.  The short history of 10 years had taught us an important lesson: the inhumanity was inevitably further demonstrated in the fact that the government closed its eyes to the inhumanity of nuclear weapons. The year 1955 saw the convening of the First World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs. Hibakusha were determined to be self-reliant and take necessary actions.

   [11] Now that 70 years have passed since the atomic bombing, are the traces of the radiation no longer visible among the diseases of the Hibakusha? It is said that leukemia, a typical condition among radiation-induced illnesses, would not affect people who had been radiated over 30 years ago, or after around 1975. However, that was not the case at all. According to the latest report of 2013, leukemia incidence for Hibakusha was significantly higher than for the general public even 55 years after the atomic bombing.  

   [12] In conclusion, I want to make two points.
   The first is the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons. The atomic bombs brought about unbearable tragedy to the citizens. They eradicated all lives without leaving even a trace of anything human. In addition, Hibakusha are still living with the possibility of encountering the atomic bombing in later years. Thus the inhumanity of nuclear weapons was two-fold: life-eradicating effects and sustained violation as long as the victims survive.
   At the same time, we should remember that this inhumanity was created by humans. So the creators had to conceal the inhuman facts. Regarding the life-eradicating nature, they confiscated photos and banned press reports depicting the atrocious effects of the bombs, thereby hiding the facts from the public. In terms of the sustained violation, they tried to wipe out the traces of the misery and concealed the creators of the inhumanity by showing merely the relationship between radiation dosage and incidence of illnesses through epidemiological methods.
   The second point I want to make is the power of the nuclear weapons abolition movement. The abolition movement was driven fundamentally by the inhuman nature of nuclear weapons. If we dare to ask, what is the power necessary for us to make progress in the movement to abolish these weapons? The answer is the understanding of the history of the Second World War, which was the aggregation of such evils as massive aerial bombing, development of weapons of mass destruction, ethnic discrimination, the intentions of shrewd political leaders, etc. We need understanding so that we can prevent the recurrence. In other words, the power should be the positive understanding of history.
   More concretely, what is necessary for solving international conflicts is moral thinking, and for political response and economic philosophy to remain absolutely separate from the military. It requires universal determination to seek justice and trust in relations with neighbors and all countries around the world, and to work together hand in hand in living the 21st century. In this sense, we can say that the Japanese movement to abolish nuclear weapons is now entering the most important stage in the last 70 years.
   So far, the international movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons has been complex and never easy. However, the World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, ever since its first meeting in 1955, has consistently worked actively to bring together, discuss and learn about national peace movements and nuclear related issues of different countries. Despite the complexity of problems, we have worked to advocate justice and build mutual confidence. The friendship we have built over these 60 years is so invaluable. I would like to express a heartfelt thank you to all our forerunners in different parts of the world for being able to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the conference.

   [13] Thank you for your kind attention.