International Meeting
2000 World Conference Against A & H Bombs

Dr. Joseph Gerson
Program Coordinator of New England Office
American Friends Service Committee

Solidarity with the Hiroshima Spirit of the Steadfast Global Hibakusha

I want to begin by saying Domo Arigato to Gensuikyo for the opportunity to return to Hiroshima to participate in this most important gathering of nuclear weapons abolitionists.

I also want to say a very special and equally sincere Domo Domo to the members and leaders of Nihon Hidankyo and to the Hibakusha from other nations, who have been so patient, kind and forgiving in working with the American Friends Service Committee at the Hague Appeal for Peace conference, in speaking tours in New England, and most recently at the United Nations Millennium Forum and in the speaking tour that we were able to arrange in and around the Forum. You have touched and inspired a new generation of citizens and activists, and you have diplomatically pressed the U.S. and other peace movements to honor their most important commitment: preventing nuclear war, working for the complete abolition of nuclear weapons, and preserving the possibility of human life.

Although Hiroshima has, in so many ways, rebuilt itself to become an ultra-modern first world city of the North, it remains "Hiroshima" the city incinerated by a single nuclear weapon in the turning point of human history. Those of us who have consciously and sensitively been here before, who have begun to learn what one, small, and in today's terminology "tactical" nuclear weapon can wreak on people, and who have internalized what the Hibakusha of Japan and other nations have seen and endured cannot return to this city in innocence. This is especially true for those of us who come from nuclear weapons nations whose prestige and many privileges derived from the ability and threats to annihilate nations and even life itself in a nuclear inferno.

Before turning to describe some of the work I have been privileged to share with Hibakusha from Japan and other nations, I want to say a few words about the uncertainties about U.S. nuclear doctrine.

With the renewed debate over Star Wars - so called Ballistic Missile Defenses and the U.S. threat to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty - some in the U.S. and internationally have been asking "Does the U.S. have a nuclear weapons policy?" The answer is yes.

The U.S. "star wars" debate is taking place at a number of levels, only some of which are immediately transparent. First it is more about domestic politics than nuclear doctrine. No serious U.S. scientist or military planner has any illusions that a working BMD system can be deployed by the 2005 target date, but both Republicans and Democrats learned from Ronald Reagan that promoting star wars wins votes. Reagan showed that U.S. voters will cast their ballots for political hucksters who hold out the promise of a shield that can protect them from the horrors of the nuclear age. In a extraordinarily dangerous example of Freudian projection and Machiavellian manipulation, the state which has most frequently prepared and threatened to initiate nuclear war, and which holds the world hostage to its Trident and other nuclear weapons, is mobilizing popular support by raising the specter of North Korean, Iraqi and Iranian nuclear attack. These are poor nations which even the CIA concedes pose not immediate threat to U.S. security. In fact, China, Russia, and ultimately U.S. allies like Japan are the real targets of star wars - a shield to enhance the U.S. sword, but politics and diplomacy prevent this simple truth from being said.

There is another hidden dimension to the star wars debate which helps to explain why Republicans and most Democratic leaders continue to shovel banks full of dollars down the star wars rat hole. Star wars, Ballistic Missile Defenses, are the "thin edge of the wedge" for U.S. weaponization of space.

Star wars spending creates the technology for the eventual deployment of nuclear, laser, and other high-tech weapons in space, while the star wars "debate" creates its "intellectual" and political foundations. And, just as the LDP buys political support with construction spending in communities across Japan, the Pentagon has distributed R & D contracts for star wars in Congressional districts across the U.S., buying itself a potent political constituency.

Confusions also abounds over George Bush simultaneous calls for BMD deployments and unilateral cuts in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Another confusion relates to Al Gore's insistence that the U.S. bottom line in START III negotiations must be 2,500 thermonuclear weapons, not the 1,500 proposed by Russia and supported by many arms control enthusiasts. Both Bush and Gore support BMD - even to the point of possibly abrogating the ABM Treaty.

Bush's call for possible unilateral reductions is consistent with similar initiatives undertaken by his father which were designed to reduce the possibility of accidental nuclear war and the probabilities of nuclear weapons proliferation in ways that reinforce U.S. dominance. Gore, like Clinton, will not challenge the military or militarist voters. Thus he has refused break with the star wars political orthodoxy. If the Joint Chiefs tell him that a minimum of 2,500 strategic nuclear weapons are needed for a growing number of Russian and Chinese targets, that's what he'll promise them.

Secondly, in the age of U.S. hegemony, the star wars debate illuminates divisions in the U.S. ruling elite between unilateralists who advocate maintaining and expanding the United States' global dominion on exclusively U.S. terms, and those who believe that military coercion usually requires the support of the United States' first world allies and the protective coloration of support from U.S. Third World dependents. These divisions, of course, are not absolute, and they apparently do not apply to the development and threatened deployment of Theater Missile Defenses.

What is the U.S. military and nuclear doctrine? Although the details change from year to year, as the Pentagon's recently released "Joint Vision 2020"(1) instructs us, it remains essentially the same as it has been for the past fifty-five years: ensuring "dominance." In this period, the Pentagon is committed to "full spectrum dominance" from counter-insurgency warfare to escalation dominance and nuclear terrorism. Diplomacy forbids naming China as the new "enemy" so the "rogue" North Korean state served as the public rationale for the expansion of the U.S.-Japan alliance, the for the new Guidelines and the reconsolidation of U.S. forces in Okinawa, and for increased U.S. military spending, including new nuclear weapons. With North Korea breaking out of its diplomatic isolation, this approach has outlived its usefulness, thus the Joint Chiefs doctrine focuses on the "peer competitor" - China - that requires a "shift away from...Europe" to the Asia-Pacific.(2)

Finally, there is the recently announced choice of Richard Cheney as George Bush's vice-presidential running mate. Cheney was Bush's father's Secretary of War, and his recent elevation is consistent with the restoration of the old Kissingerian order that the younger Bush has been signaling. Using the grammar of symbolism, Bush the younger (or "Shrub") has made his military pronouncements while flanked by and photographed with the elders of nuclear and military interventionist establishment: Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft, George Schulz, Colin Powell, Caspar Weinberger, Condoleezza Rice.

Cheney is perhaps best remembered of Secretary of Defense (War) during the Desert Storm U.S. war against Iraq. Recall as well that under Cheney's leadership, the U.S. surrounded Iraq with an estimated 700 nuclear weapons, and that he, President Bush, and Secretary of State Baker all threatened Saddam Hussein with their use. And, it was Cheney's military that fired hundred of thousands of tons of depleted uranium munitions against the Iraqi military, people, and environment, resulting in incalculable losses of Iraqi lives and those of U.S. and allied troops who were exposed to D.U. munitions and their fall out.

The U.S. is, of course not the only dangerous nuclear power, but we all know that until it commits to fulfill its Article 6 NPT commitments, there is little chance that the lesser nuclear terrorists will collectively move toward abolition. It is in this context that I want to turn to our work with the Global Hibakusha delegations of the past two years.

Here, I want to begin by celebrating Matsuya-san's Supreme Court victory. We were privileged that she could join the Global Hibakusha delegation to the Hague Appeal for Peace conference where she displayed the same loving, steadfast determination with which she prevailed in Japan. Matsuya-san's victory is also the collective achievement of countless dedicated and generous people who made essential contributions to this victory.

It is a victory for all Hibakusha and all humanity. Nothing better illustrates the "Hiroshima spirit", the compassion, imagination, and will, that are essential to achieving nuclear weapons abolition.

The Global Hibakusha delegations' contributions are best illustrated by their impacts on the Millennium Forum and young people. But first some background: A little more than a year and a half ago, with the help of a one time grant from AFSC's Board of Directors, I recklessly accepted a request from the Hague Appeal for Peace conference's organizers to assemble an international Hibakusha delegation to the conference. They had read a brief article that I had written introducing the reality and concept of the globalization of Hibakusha. It wasn't a terribly original article. It simply reflected some of what I had learned here over the years. It began this way: "We know Hibakusha as the witness/survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings. Yet, as the numbers and circumstances of Cold War era and Post-Cold War era nuclear weapons victims come to light, Japanese Hibakusha, doctors, peace museums and the peace movement have reached out to embrace the non-Japanese Hibakusha. For the last several years, Hibakusha from the Marshall Islands, Kazakhstan, Russia, the United States and Tahiti have participated in the annual World Conference Against A & H Bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, sharing their agonies and joining in the call for No More Hiroshimas! No More Nagasakis! No more Hibakusha"

Of necessity, I turned to Gensuikyo and to Nihon Hidankyo, and Message From Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Together, we organized a delegation of Japanese, Korean, Kazakh, Marshall Island, Tahitian and U.S. Hibakusha to participate in the conference which brought more than 8,000 leaders and activists together from around the world in a planetary "happening." We organized and joined workshops so that delegation members could speak to conference participants, but the main event was a "global forum": a Global Hibakusha panel in one of the conference center's largest halls.

A standing-room-only crowd crammed into our hall, where they listened with rapt attention and more than a few tears. Matsuya-san, Dr. Hida, Choi Il Chul, Kulinhan Rakhimova, Carletta Garcia, Claudia Peterson, Anthony Guarisco, Norio Kebenli and others described what they had experienced, witnessed, endured and hope for. As important as what they said, was the grace and courage with which they spoke through their pain.

The Jewish philosopher Martin Buber wrote of " I-Thou" engagements and of authentic "Meetings." The psychoanalyst Carl Jung wrote that "There is no growth in consciousness without pain." These are what we shared, as we listened, engaged, felt, and were changed.

Lessons from this initiative soon became apparent. Before our evening workshop, a student approached me to ask if she could read a statement that she and students from several countries had written after hearing the Hibakusha. When she spoke, she described what a powerful and transforming experience it had been to hear and see the Global Hibakusha. She announced that they had been inspired to organize a march the following day from the conference center to the International Court of Justice to demand the abolition of nuclear weapons. And, she invited us to join them. Imagine what these young people from Europe, the U.S. Africa, and Asia must have felt when, as the march began the next day, they were joined by many of the Global Hibakusha!

On returning home, I learned that the panel's audience had included a group of Boston area high school and college students. I was deeply moved when I was told that during their evaluation of the Conference, they had agreed that -- Nobel laureates and all -- the most important part of the conference was the opportunity to hear, meet, and be transformed by the Global Hibakusha. Several months later, they assumed leadership in organizing Hiroshima day commemorations that featured Japanese Hibakusha (Professor Niki and Mr. Kondo) and Dorothy Purley who graced us with some of her final days.

I have other powerful memories from that first Global Hibakusha delegation. One is of the pain through which some the Hibakusha spoke. It is too personal to recount here, except to say that I was left awe-struck by the depths of commitment, courage and of human possibility were revealed in a brief and unexpected encounter, and which previously I could only intimate.

I won't claim that the delegation was an unalloyed success. I was deeply hurt and embarrassed some months later when a doctor, who had promised Kulimhan Rahimova that he could arrange medical help for nuclear weapons victims in Kazakhstan, failed to live up to his commitment. I want to apologize again that we were unable to do more.

Nonetheless, this first delegation taught and reminded us of important lessons for building the people's movement that will be required to completely abolish nuclear weapons. Most important is that it is people's stories -- and our eyes and faces (windows to our inner most beings) -- not abstract appeals that best inspire people to action. To be touched by another's pain, suffering and courage is to make it your own.

A second lesson answered a question Professor Tanaka put to me shortly before he traveled to Vermont several years ago and played an unexpected and important role in inspiring the Vermont Town Meeting campaign. (That campaign led Vermont to become the first U.S. state to officially call for nuclear weapons abolition.) "Who" Tanaka-san asked, "will remember after we are gone?" I could only answer awkwardly then. Now I'm clear and more hopeful: Those you have touched will remember. So will those you will continue to touch through written words and recorded speech and images. There is also a tragic but hopeful paradox in the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the globalization of Hibakusha. The Global Hibakusha carry the Hiroshima spirit, which as Wilfred Burchette wrote, exemplifies "the indestructibility of human resistance." Like engaged Hibakusha of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, politically engaged Global Hibakusha are "the most stalwart and militant of peaceniks" through whom "the urgency of Hiroshima is transmitted to us all."(3)

These lessons explain why, AFSC jumped at the opportunity to collaborate on a second - if more geographically limited - Global Hibakusha this spring during and after the Millennium Forum. Within the Forum, the presence, moral authority, and persistence of Hibakusha from Japan, Korea and the U.S. was inescapable. We were able to win time in the opening disarmament plenary to introduce the delegation and to have Japanese and U.S. Hibakusha briefly address the Forum. Only later, when U.S. friends of mine who were in the audience described what conference participants had felt in those moments, did I begin to understand the powerful effect we had already had on the conference. As you know, over the course of the next few days, the morally grounded, disciplined and persistent interventions of the Global Hibakusha and of Gensuikyo's delegation convinced the Forum that the final declaration had to go beyond limited calls for nuclear disarmament to demand abolition. The delegation's presence made it possible for us to arrange for several of its members to meet with U.S. officials in Washington. State Department officials - one of them quite senior - had the rare opportunity to learn first-hand what U.S. nuclear weapons have done to people and to have their insulated world views challenged by the reasoned, passionate and dignified wisdom of the Hibakusha. You may be surprised to learn that after we talked about how the North Korean missile "threat" has been manipulated to mobilize popular support for the U.S.-Japan alliance, in a private conversation one of these State Department officials agreed with me when I raised doubts about the degree to which the United States is a democracy and my observation that Japan is even less so.

There was a more disturbing lesson from our off the record meeting with a senior mandarin of the Department of Energy. He explicitly confirmed that Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission has abused and exploited Hibakusha as guinea pigs. He stated unequivocally that ABCC studies, some of which remain secret, continue to be used for a wide variety of purposes, including the design of nuclear weapons. This man, who oversees all DOE surveys on the impacts of radiation also refused to accept responsibility for the government's refusal to study the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons testing on downwinders in the U.S. It was a grim session, that led me to think about evil and about Adolph Eichmann, the Nazi technician who presided over the extermination of European Jewry and later defended himself by saying that he was only following orders and was not, therefore, responsible.

Fortunately, as with the Millennium Forum's declaration, there were many brighter moments. This year's Global Hibakusha delegation provided us new opportunities for movement building, and I hope that in introducing the delegation to a recently discharged officer who quit the Navy because of his conscientious objection to initiating nuclear war, in the public meetings we arranged, and in the friendship that we shared, that we were able to give something back to the Hibakusha who have given so much.

I can tell you that there are grassroots activists and national peace movement leaders from Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Baltimore who expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to meet, learn from, and be inspired by the delegation. I was especially grateful for the opportunity the delegation provided us to re-engage AFSC's leadership and the leadership of other peace movement organizations (War Resisters League, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Fellowship of Reconciliation) with the deepest human meanings and the urgency of working for nuclear weapons abolition.

Let me conclude by saying, the work of these first two Global Hibakusha delegations continues. We will never know how much of the people who were privileged to be engaged and transformed by the delegation will build from their inspiration. But we do know that delegation members, and other Hibakusha we have worked with over the years, will be very present in commemorations and organizing you have encouraged across the Northeast United States. Your images, wisdom and words are with activists in the United States and Canada as they organize commemorative abolition events this week and in the future. Friends, we may still have a long way to go, but the love and steadfast determination that wrung concessions in the NPT Review Conference, that led the Millennium Forum to call for nuclear weapons abolition, and in Matsuya-san's victory will prevail.

1. Joint Vision 2020, Joint Chiefs of Staff, The Pentagon, Washington, D.C. May 30, 2000.
2. Thomas E. Ricks. "Asia moves to forefront of Pentagon planning" The Washington Post, reprinted in The Manchester Guardian Weekly, June 1-7, 2000.
3. Wilfred Burchett. Shadows of Hiroshima: Verson, 1983. P. 120.

Joseph Gerson
American Friends Service Committee, 2161 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, Mass. 02140, USA
Fax: 617-354-2832

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