I am in the ancient Japanese city of Hiroshima for the annual ceremonies on Aug. 6 to honor the souls of over 140,000 Japanese, South Koreans and Chinese who died instantly and over 300,000 who suffered serious wounds 64 years ago when the United States used weapons of mass destruction -- atomic bombs -- on the people of Hiroshima, and three days later, on the people of Nagasaki.
The rationale for dropping the atomic bombs was to force the Japanese government to surrender to end World War II, not by killing more of the Japanese military, but by killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and putting fear of a similar fate in the remaining civilian population of Japan.
The U.S. government still tells us that tens of thousands of American military would have been killed if the United States had had to invade the mainland of Japan and that American lives were saved by using these bombs on civilian populations.
Yet historical documents reveal that the United States government knew that because of Japanese losses in the Pacific, the Japanese government would have surrendered -- probably within a month. There was no need to have incinerated hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians, except to test for the first time the effects of atomic bombs on a civilian target, thereby sending a warning of U.S. military dominance to not only the Japanese government, military and citizens, but to the rest of the world! Even today, the Department of Energy's website details the need for scientific data on the effects of the bombs and steadfastly ignores the fact that specific targeting of a civilian population is a war crime. But, history shows us that the victors of war prosecute the losers of wars for their war crimes, while the losers cannot hold accountable the victors for their crimes.
The Japanese targeting of the U.S. military facility Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, which killed 2,402 and wounded 1,282, brought the United States into World War II. The 2,974 civilians killed in the four September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States brought America into the eight year invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and paved the way for the Bush administration to attack Iraq in which hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of innocent civilians have been killed.
Atomic bombs were not the only weapons of mass destruction used by both allied and axis military forces during World War II. Nazi Germany firebombed hundred of British cities and towns and British and U.S. air forces retaliated by firebombing hundreds of cities in Germany.
In 1945, virtually every major city in Japan was fire bombed by the United States. In a three-month period from February to July, 1945, the U.S. Air Force conducted 14 days of air raids sending over 2,500 B-29 bombers to drop firebombs on Tokyo. In one day alone, March 10, 1945, B-29s dropped incendiary bombs that killed over 100,000 people and burned more the 25 percent of the city.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki were spared being firebombed so they would be in tact to ensure that the destructive power of the atomic bombs dropped on those two cities could be better measured by the U.S. government. Neither city was a large military town or had huge war industries. Japanese friends have pointed out that Nagasaki was home to one of the largest Christian populations in Japan and have remarked on the irony of a "Christian nation" targeting the Christian population of Japan.
For the past few days I have attended and been a speaker at the 2009 World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (http://www.antiatom.org/GSKY/en/discription_gensuikyo.htm). This conference is held annually to re-focus the world's attention to the horrible destructive power of the atomic and hydrogen bombs and the necessity to abolish them for the sake of the future of the planet.
We heard the emotional and moving testimony of the Habakusha of Japan who survived the 1945 bombings, but have had life-long medical problems. Most Habukusha have now died -- victims of cancer from the radioactivity of the bombs. Those still surviving are in their late 70s and 80s and live with the memories of August 6 -- stories of having their clothes seared into their bodies, seeing friends and teachers with skin handing from their bodies, faces gone, injured, jumping into the river to try to cool their bodies, people calling for help from under collapsed buildings, thousands of dead lying in the streets -- having to help keep cremation fires going for weeks to burn the bodies. Many school children on weekly work details in the city vanished -- incinerated with no trace left on this earth. Painful stories retold to educate others to the horrors of nuclear weapons.
We also heard the stories of men and women who were contaminated in the 2000 tests of atomic and nuclear weapons by the British on Christmas Island and in Australia, the French in French Polynesia and Algeria, the Soviet Union in Semi-Palatinsk, and Novaya Zemlya Island, the Chinese in Lop Nor, the Indians in the Rajastan desert, the Pakistanis in Baluchistan, the North Koreans in P'Unggye-yok, the South Africans and Israelis in a suspected test above Prince Edward Island in the Indian Ocean and the United States in the Marshall Islands, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Alaska and Mississippi.
Most of those injured during the testing are still having difficulty getting acknowledgment of their injuries so they may receive treatment.
And we have heard from international delegates from other nations that have been invaded by the United States and suffered the effects of U.S. weapons of mass destruction. Bui Van Nghi, a delegate from Vietnam, told us of America's use of Agent Orange 45 years ago to defoliate the jungles of Vietnam in order to expose the supply routes of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army, but which also exposed hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese (and American soldiers) to the cancer causing carcinogens -- killing many and causing cancers and deformities in first, second and third generations.
Dr. Sami from Iraq told of targeting and destruction of civil infrastructure facilities in Baghdad in America's "Shock and Awe" campaign in March, 2003 and purposeful destruction of the city of Fallujah in 2004. As a medical doctor, he is concerned about the effects of depleted uranium used in America weaponry. High levels of cancer in Iraqis exposed to exploded depleted uranium shells and to materials contaminated with low level radioactivity from the depleted uranium during 1990-91 are being tracked, as are still-births and deformities in second generations, reflecting data complied on American military personnel who served in Gulf War I and their families. The six years of U.S. combat in Iraq from 2003 to 2009 has created another wave of exposure of Iraqis and Americans to depleted uranium.
The Japanese people are looking forward to a new approach on nuclear weapons from the United States. Each speaker in the Hiroshima ceremonies referred to President Obama's April 5, 2009, speech in Prague, Czech Republic, in which he affirmed his commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and his belief that countries with nuclear weapons would move toward disarmament, those without them would not acquire them and that all countries should have access to peaceful nuclear energy. In contrast to the Bush administration, Obama said he is committed to the success of the 2010 NPT review conference to be held in May, 2010 in New York.
The speakers focused on President Obama's historic comments on nuclear weapons and chose not to mention his military strategy for conventional wars -- the largest military budget in the history of the world, the dramatic increase in military operations in Afghanistan and America's continuing military presence in Iraq.
Our job as citizens is ensure that President Obama follows his words with concrete actions to reduce, and then eliminate nuclear weapons from the planet. It won't be easy, that's for sure, but the safety and security of the people on our earth is at stake. The May, 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty conference in New York City, will bring tens of thousands of citizens from around the world committed to abolishing nuclear weapons -- come join us!!
Today, Hiroshima looks like any other modern Japanese city, except for the Peace Memorial Park built in the center of the city. In the past 64 years, until the Bush administration arm-twisted the Japanese government to ignore its own Article 9 constitutional prohibition against war to send naval refueling vessels and air transport planes as a part of the coalition of the willing in the war on Iraq, Japan has not participated in military operations against any country.
In these 64 years, the people of Japan have enjoyed the benefits of peace while the United States has begun wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan and has invaded and occupied numerous other countries-Grenada, Haiti, Panama, and has funded and provided weapons for Israel's wars in the Middle East.
No more Hiroshimas and Nagasakis! No more war!
Ann Wright served 29 years in the US Army and Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. She was a U.S. diplomat for 16 years and served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. She resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She has co-led 3 trips to Gaza since January, 2009. She is the co-author of "Dissent: Voices of Conscience" (www.voicesofconscience.com).