World Conference against A & H Bombs
Madelyn Hoffman, New Jersey Peace Action, U.S.A.
2015 World Conference against A and H Bombs
Executive Director, New Jersey Peace Action
My name is Madelyn Hoffman. I am the Executive Director of New Jersey Peace Action, (NJPA) founded in November of 1957, as New Jersey SANE, Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy. I was born in November of 1956, so it is sobering to me to realize that there has been a need for our peace organization every year of my life save one. I have been the director since August 2000.
New Jersey SANE’s primary mission was and still is the abolition of nuclear weapons, what our founders called “a danger unlike any that had ever before existed,” especially as a nuclear arms race was underway between the United States and the former Soviet Union.
Because of our work on this issue for so many years, I am most moved and honored to have been invited to Japan for the 70th anniversary commemorations of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On July 16th, at a gathering for writers titled “The Story: Exploring our Personal Encounters with History,” I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Midori Yamanouchi, one of the translators of “Listen to the Voices from the Sea.” Dr. Yamanouchi is also a Hibakusha from Okayama. She described her experiences and memories of the day the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima after weeks of firebombing throughout Japan. Dr. Yamanouchi described much death and destruction and certain unacceptable behaviors of U.S. civilian men and soldiers in Japan at that time.
In response to what Dr. Yamanouchi described, I apologized to her for some of the actions of the U.S. military in Japan during World War II. I wasn’t alive at the time, but I felt nauseous thinking about the impact of U.S. actions on the Japanese – and the widespread belief that dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the only way to end the war. Not only was that not true, but U.S. actions in 1945 in Japan still affect the Japanese today. The U.S. agenda for Asia is forcing Japan to make a decision about reversing 70 years of a commitment to pacifism under Article 9 of the Japanese constitution and to succumb to U.S. pressure to become a military ally in surrounding and isolating China.
After my apology, Dr. Yamanouchi turned to me and said, “You’re the first American who has ever apologized to me for the actions of the United States during World War II.”
But we aren’t here only to look back at what happened 70 years ago, and the millions of people in the Asia Pacific who lost their lives during World War II, but to assess where we are today on the issue of ridding the world of nuclear weapons. We are here to discuss the legacy of the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945, for Japan, for the United States and for the entire world. Prime Minister Abe recently suggested that the New Security Deals currently under discussion by the Diet will allow Japan to change its status from an “exception” to becoming a “normal” nation once again, one that can act militarily in self-defense and help allies fight against their “enemies.” In other words, Japan would finally shed its pacifism, originally adopted 70 years ago due to Japan’s all-too-painful understanding of the dangers and terrors of war and free Japan to become more like the United States.
At the same time, those of us working for peace in the United States have looked to Japan post-World War II as a model for how a country should act internationally. We know that the majority of Japanese disagree with Prime Minister Abe and oppose the New Security Deals. We stand together with you in your efforts to maintain Japan’s constitutional commitment to pacifism. Barack Obama said in a 2009 campaign speech in Prague that since the U.S. was the only country in the world to have used nuclear weapons, the U.S. has a “unique responsibility” to work for a world without nuclear weapons. Moving the United States closer in policy and perspective to Japan would help to accomplish the abolition of nuclear weapons, not the other way around.
It isn’t time for Japan’s “peace experiment” end. In fact, it’s time for Japan to become the new “normal” and to lead the way toward genuine peace and security by finding ways to resolve international conflicts that don’t involve war. Peace Action will stand alongside you in resisting this change, first because it will help create a more thriving Japan and second, because if more countries followed Japan’s lead, the world would be a better place.
If Japan were to become more like the United States and provide military support to advance the U.S. agenda, what would that mean? Current U.S. foreign policy requires a huge monetary outlay. The U.S. Congress typically agrees to spend between 45% and 55% of all the money it can decide how to spend (discretionary spending) on the military, or close to $800 billion for 2016, leaving only 6% for education and less for individual items like housing, alternative energy, the environment and climate change, jobs creation, infrastructure improvement and more. You may have heard about the recent collapse of a 30-foot section of a bridge in California due to excessive flooding, leading to the indefinite closure of the bridge and a major highway between California and Arizona. We need more money to spend on infrastructure in the U.S. The U.S. agenda has already pushed Japan to allocate more money for the military, as for 2016, the U.S. is counting on Japan to provide half of the costs for Japan to become a U.S. military ally in the Asian-Pacific region.
In addition, Peace Action knows that 65% of Okinawans oppose the expansion of the military base in Okinawa. We know that U.S. plans are proceeding, despite protests from the people of the region concerned about the impact of such expansion on the environment and the increased militarization of the area. Haven’t we already caused enough destruction to Japan? We know that people have been arrested because of their protests and that both the recently elected mayor of Nago City and the governor of the Prefecture oppose the expansion. We stand in solidarity with those protesters – both because of the impact that an expanded military base would have on Japan and for the costs of such an expansion to the U.S. domestic economy, ranging in the billions of dollars.
Peace Action is one of the main organizations behind a “Move the Money” campaign in the U.S., one that advocates for the U.S. Congress to take at least 25% of the money in the U.S. military budget and move it into the kinds of programs the community needs. We also support legislation that calls for cuts in nuclear weapons spending and oppose the President’s proposal to spend $1 trillion in the next 30 years on “modernizing” the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Ironically, President Obama promised this in exchange for U.S. Senators’ support for the new START Treaty on nuclear disarmament between the U.S. and Russia and while the world makes sure Iran doesn’t acquire even one nuclear weapon. Additionally, in May 2015, the U.S. blocked the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference’s final agreement because of a provision to hold an international conference on creating a nuclear-weapons-free, weapons-of-mass-destruction-free Middle East, already agreed to by all participants in 2010. Such a conference would have required Israel to look at the 200 – 400 nuclear weapons it possesses.
There is an unemployment problem in Japan, primarily affecting single mothers. In order to meet some of the financial obligations increased militarization of Japanese society would require, Japan’s government is already cutting money for education and for other programs that assist single mothers and other low-to-moderate income people in making it through their lives. A more militarized society will demand even more money for war preparations and leave less money for the kinds of community programs necessary for a country (and a culture) to survive.
But this isn’t only an issue of money, peace and security, it is also an issue of democracy. More than 50% of the Japanese people oppose this change. Many remember all too vividly the horrors of war, including the horrors of fire-bombing and the horrors of the atomic bomb. Does any politician have the right to ignore the majority of the people – particularly in matters of peace and war, life and death? I don’t think so.
The Hibakusha have worked so hard for so long and have given so much of their time to travel all around the world to plead with world leaders and with ordinary citizens to never again allow atomic bombs to be used by anyone. NJPA has had the privilege of hosting many Hibakusha over the years and arranging for Hibakusha to speak to many gatherings. One such speaking event included the Hibakusha being given a key to the city of Newark, New Jersey’s largest city and one of its poorest.
Despite these pleas, and the presence of hundreds of Japanese in New York City this April, before the five-year review conference under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, no agreement was reached for reducing the world’s nuclear weapons for the next five years. Thankfully, 110 countries have signed the Humanitarian Pledge calling for the world-wide elimination of nuclear weapons, so we can build on that. In addition, we believe that a “Move the Money” campaign, both here and in Japan could help create a movement large enough and strong enough to change our nations’ spending priorities – people affected by cuts to domestic spending or concerned about the environment or in need of housing, food, education or health care – can join together to oppose nuclear weapons and more war – as the war machine and war profiteers continue to steal money from our communities and funnel it into violence, death and destruction.
Thank you again for the honor of participating in this conference. Together we can promote Japan’s Article 9 as the model of a “new normal” for peace and make militarization the exception!