Hiroshima Haunting

Remarks at Hiroshima-Nagasaki Commemoration at Peace Garden at Lake Harriet, Minneapolis, Minn., Aug. 6, 2017

Thank you for inviting me to speak here. I’m grateful and honored, but it is not an easy task. I’ve spoken on television and to large crowds and to important big shots, but here you are asking me to speak to hundreds of thousands of ghosts and billions of ghosts in waiting. To think about this subject wisely we must keep all of them in mind, as well as those who tried to prevent Hiroshima and Nagasaki, those who survived, those who reported, those who forced themselves to remember over and over in order to educate others.

Perhaps even more difficult is thinking about those who rushed to make all those deaths and injuries happen or who went along unquestioning, and those who do the same today. Nice people. Decent people. People superficially similar to you. People who do not abuse their children or their pets. People perhaps like the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet who was asked last week if he would launch a nuclear attack on China if President Trump ordered him to. His response was a very principled and reasonable yes, he would obey orders.

If people don’t obey orders, the world falls apart. Therefore one must obey orders even when they rip the world apart — even illegal orders, orders that violate the U.N. Charter, orders that ignore the Kellogg-Briand Pact, orders that annihilate forever all existence of or memory of every beautiful childhood memory and every child.

In contrast, Jeremy Corbyn, the head of the Labour Party in the U.K., and the next prime minister if current trends continue, has said he would never use nuclear weapons. He was widely denounced for being so unreasonable.

We can and must eliminate nuclear weapons from the face of the earth before they are intentionally or accidentally used. Some of them are thousands of times what was dropped on Japan. A small number of them could create a nuclear winter that starves us out of existence. Their proliferation and normalization guarantees that our luck will run out if we do not eliminate them. Nukes have been accidentally launched in Arkansas and accidentally dropped on North Carolina. (John Oliver said not to worry, that’s why we have TWO Carolinas). The list of near misses and misunderstandings is staggering.

Steps like the new treaty advanced by most of the world’s nations to ban possession of nuclear weapons must be worked for with everything we’ve got, and followed with campaigns to divest all funding, and to extend the process to nuclear energy and depleted uranium.

But bringing the nuclear nations, and in particular the one we are standing in, to join the world on this will be a major hurdle, and it may be insurmountable unless we take steps not only against this worst of all weapons thus far manufactured but also against the institution of war itself. Mikhail Gorbachev says that unless the United States scales back its aggression and military dominance with non-nuclear nations, other nations will not abandon the nuclear missiles that they believe protect them from attack. There is a reason that many observers view the latest sanctions against Russia, North Korea, and Iran as a prelude to war on Iran, and not on the other two.

It is the ideology of war, as well as the armaments and agencies of war, that condemns Jeremy Corbyn while applauding a man who professes blind obedience to an illegal order. One wonders whether such good soldiers and sailors view Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov as a degenerate or a hero. He was of course a Soviet Navy officer who refused to launch nuclear weapons during the Cuban missile crisis, thereby quite possibly saving the world. As enjoyable as we may find all the lies and exaggeration and demonization directed at Russia by our elected and unelected officials and their media outlets, I think erecting statues of Vasili Arkhipov in U.S. parks would be much more useful. Perhaps next to statues of Frank Kellogg.

It’s not simply the ideology of war we have to overcome, but parochialism, nationalism, racism, sexism, materialism, and the belief in our prerogative to destroy the planet, whether by radiation or by fossil fuel consumption. This is why I have misgivings about something like a March For Science. I have yet to hear of a march for wisdom or a rally for humility or a demonstration for kindness. We even had a rally for Nothing, in opposition to rallies, organized by a comedian in Washington, D.C., prior to ever having had one demonstration for these other important causes.

There’s a line in a book and movie by Carl Sagan called Contact that has the main character sagely wanting to inquire of a more technologically advanced civilization how they made it past the stage of “technological adolescence” without destroying themselves. But this is not technological adolescence we are in. Technology will continue to produce more and more dangerous devices as time goes by. Technology will not become mature and begin producing only helpful stuff, because technology is not a human being. This is MORAL adolescence we are in. We empower delinquents who urge police to crack heads and their buddies to assault women, and who try to solve problems with giant walls, junior-high-level propaganda, denial of healthcare, and the frequent firing of people.

Or we empower equally adolescent prom-king characters like the U.S. president who went to Hiroshima a little over a year ago and declared quite falsely that “Artifacts tell us that violent conflict appeared with the very first man,” and who urged us to resign ourselves to permanent war with the words: “We may not be able to eliminate man’s capacity to do evil, so nations and the alliances that we form must possess the means to defend ourselves.”

Yet a dominant militarized nation gains absolutely nothing defensive from nukes. They do not deter terrorist attacks by non-state actors in any way. Nor do they add an iota to the U.S. military’s ability to deter nations from attacking, given the United States’ ability to destroy anything anywhere at any time with non-nuclear weapons. They also don’t win wars, and the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, and China have all lost wars against non-nuclear powers while possessing nukes. Nor, in the event of global nuclear war, can any outrageous quantity of weaponry protect the United States in any way from apocalypse.

We must work to eliminate nuclear weapons, President Barack Obama said in Prague and Hiroshima, but, he said, probably not in his lifetime. We have no choice but to prove him wrong about that timing.

We need to evolve beyond what our leaders tell us about nuclear weapons, including what our schools tell our children about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Weeks before the first bomb was dropped, Japan sent a telegram to the Soviet Union expressing its desire to surrender and end the war. The United States had broken Japan’s codes and read the telegram. President Harry Truman referred in his diary to “the telegram from Jap Emperor asking for peace.” Japan objected only to surrendering unconditionally and giving up its emperor, but the United States insisted on those terms until after the bombs fell, at which point it allowed Japan to keep its emperor.

Presidential advisor James Byrnes had told Truman that dropping the bombs would allow the United States to “dictate the terms of ending the war.” Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal wrote in his diary that Byrnes was ‘most anxious to get the Japanese affair over with before the Russians got in.’ They got in the same day Nagasaki was destroyed.

The United States Strategic Bombing Survey concluded that, “… certainly prior to 31 December, 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November, 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.” One dissenter who had expressed this same view to the Secretary of War prior to the bombings was General Dwight Eisenhower. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral William D. Leahy agreed: “The use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender,” he said.

The United States needs to stop lying to itself and start leading a reverse arms race. This will require humility, deep honesty, and openness to international inspections. But as Tad Daley has written, “Yes, international inspections here would intrude upon our sovereignty. But detonations of atom bombs here would also intrude upon our sovereignty. The only question is, which of those two intrusions do we find less excruciating.”

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  • ZARTAN

    Tall Order, ” Get Rid of all Nuclear Weapons.”

    Solution to Tall Order, ” Put 1-million peace activists on the NYSE, and close it, violently, if necessary, until tall order is met.”

    Citizens Arrest : A Constitutional Right allows for USE OF FORCE, by the people, and therefore, legalizes force to be used by protesters who are given Said Rights.

    You know, I am really getting bored. This slave planet Revolves around Wall Street, but the People ( slaves) cannot figure out that, WALL STREET, is their KEY to FREEDOM. IF, you can Control it, YOU will Get your FREEDOM!

    • kimyo

      close it, violently, if necessary

      post your calls for violence elsewhere, this is not the place (from the sidebar above):

      We are NOT calling for the overthrow of the government.

      We are not calling for lawlessness.

      • ZARTAN

        You are responsible for every bomb dropped: You support them by being pacifist.

        The Consititution allows for “FORCE” with Citizens Arrest. You can go, elsewhere, because YOUR methods, and your like ILK, have lead to the “Slaughter of Countless MILLIONS,” while you sit in praise of your foolish peace. Yes, You are responsble.

        THE LAW ALLOWS FOR “FORCE,” Learn what the LAW says; before You criticize others who have the solutions to your problems.

        Afraid, then BOW DOWN AND WORSHIP YOUR MASTERS!

        • ZARTAN

          And, remember this, “All Who Tremble in Fear for Peace at any Cost.” They never could have done “JACK” without YOU, And, in the End, they will BLAME YOU!

          The US government is a governemnt (by and for the people) and YOUR name is attatched to every US KILL made. You pay tax voluntarily! You have no defence to play LAME because your Founders gave you a Constitution (Still Legal) with the Rights to Bear Arms, ( not for shooting Turkey) Assemble, Militia, Citizens Arrest ( allows for FORCE) and Free Speech. Those dissenting against the government actually have more specific rights to FREE SPEECH.

          Your ways of PEACE, at ANY COST, have allowed the Tyranny of the US government to reign supreme. You are responsible for MILLIONS of MURDERS. And, in the afterlife, Every one of US ( ME TOO) will have US Taxpayer Stamped on their Foreheads! This is something for all of you to ponder, while you enjoy your peace at any Cost! IS there a HELL deep enough to BURY all the SINS of the US Taxpayers?

          • kimyo

            not for shooting Turkey

            look, dr bronner-san, take it elsewhere. feel free to call for violence at some other website. don’t take it upon yourself to ruin this one sensible spot on the planet.

            gentle, washingtonsblog readers, i believe it is time to flag zartan for repeated calls to violence, which is expressly against the stated policy here.

          • ZARTAN

            First, You need to learn how to read.

            The Statement reads: ” IF NECESSARY,” and is perfectly fine. These are my “expressed opinions” ( Protected as Free Speech and Expression) and not official opinions of this site. Are You a NAZI, ( I am asking, not insulting) because it seems that You want to be the Dictator of Speech and Expression? The US government does not complain about my posts! Do You want to report me to Gestapo? Perhaps, I am on the wrong side, because I can now see why they treat the people with contempt!

            Second … I am not who-ever you list and you should not be delusional about such things!

            All I want to get accross is that YOU ( the entire lame peace movements: all of them) will NEVER, NEVER achieve anything, except to be Mocked, Spat Upon, and YOUR HEADS SMASHED BY POLICE “WHO despise you for your weakness,” for peacefully protesting! I do not think it is fair for “peace-fools” ( that is a proper term) to go about soliciting to the public because YOU bring nothing but misery upon them and offer no solutions! Police do not Like Peaceful Protesters! Peacful Protesters get Beat and then Jailed.

            And, You, ( those like you) are responsible for the Murderous Government we have today. They could never, never have done it without people like YOU. Congratulations!

          • Michael Kavanaugh

            Dear Zartan, Your intention to provoke and do violence will be music to those in power’s ears. They are more than ready to greet your pitiful efforts with overwhelming lethal force. And your abortive efforts will give them one more excuse for repressive laws, and funding larger prisons to contain you and your deluded friends.

          • Michael Kavanaugh

            I suggest you might study the history of violent revolutions and their aftermaths. Isn’t that some of what got us where we are today? And you just want us to do more of those failed gestures? Why not use your mind to come up with deeper and more lasting solutions to our ever repeating cycles of war?

          • ZARTAN

            I am not asking anyone to ATTACK with GUNS OR “IDIOTIC VIOLENCE” … NO … but I am asking for people to Attack with Protest. The Media will do the Rest. THE PEOPLE HAVE TO BE ACCEPTABLE TO “DEFENDING THEMSELVES,” HOWEVER, OR THEY SHOULD NOT EVEN SHOW UP.

            Nobody in History ever Shorted Wall Street -by Protest- Imagine, if you had total control of the Worlds Markets, Americans! You would be more powerful than Congress, NWO, UN, lobbies … YOU WOULD OWN THEM ALL!

            No War, No Killing. Bloodless…. Almost, and only “almost” because YOU cannot be LAME in the FACE OF a Challenge! If Challenged, the people must Issue Challenge back, and discipline, or they should never protest in the first place! Americans are not supposed to be SHEEP!

            NOW … When DOW hits 10,000, in a couple days of Heavy Protest, the Bankers and Governments will BEG, and I mean “BEG,” for forgiveness or Capital Flight and Downgrades destabilize a Quad-Trillion in Derivatives and they all GO BK! They will never let that happen and will BEG for PEACE! They will meet any demand, and then some, but most importantly, they will OBEY the PEOPLE!

            This is the Best Deal You will Ever See, America, because it is the only Mostly NON-Violent way to Achieve all of your Goals.

            Failure to undestand, well, that is why you are all Slaves.

            THINK ABOUT IT, AMERICA!

          • ZARTAN

            Nope … Music to their ears is a nice Juicy “Peace Protest” where nobody fights back. To show how far off you are, with 1-MILLION PEOPLE, I will dance naked in the Street, if, “any” police or military do anything but RUN AWAY! You are a prisoner trapped by his own mind. Sad.

            Lethal Force … On, ONE MILLION … NOT Even Hitler would be so Foolish! You need the numbers, now if go in small ABUSABLE groups and you will be beat ” BLACK and BLUE,” and Jailed for Protest.

            Wake up and Smell the Coffee!

          • ZARTAN

            All you can do is Cry. It is not like , You, or even 10,000 “like you” could even possibly debate a topic … No, You would not stand a snowballs chance in hell. So… You want to play the Flag game, do it, and I will flag you for Harassment.

  • Sister Jane

    Any quote from Obama can largely be ignored. Obama kept producing Nuclear weapons under his administration and further dropped over 26,000 bombs on people, that’s three bombs every hour 24 hours a day. What Obummer says and what Obummer does is entirely different, there were also 7 different wars going on under Obama, the military Industrial Complex made out like bandits just as they have under almost all administrations since WWII. Now we are faced with rhetoric against Russia and pressure is being applied to a mentally unstable country North Korea, plus the western offensive capabilities are now surrounding Russia and even China. I’d say wishful thinking and reality are 2 different things.

    I submit that to end Nuclear arms and stop interventions into sovereign nations would require a revolution within the USA and I don’t see that as likely at present, a total collapse is more likely rather than any revolution, thanks in a large part due to our State and Banksters (Banksters include some large Corporations.). I would also submit looking at the number of interventions the US of A has committed since the end of WWII makes the US the biggest aggressor on the planet, with what’s going on at present within Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and our stance against China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and on and on, I see an increase in this kind of War rhetoric rather than any hopeful decrease. Our politicians (the State.) have absolutely no interest in Peace, probably because they see no profit in it. To actually aim for Peace would open anyone trying for Peace to be labeled as weak and ineffectual, nobody in DC has any courage to go against the trend, as they would receive many labels one of which would be Unpatriotic. It seems as if today Patriotism is associated with how confrontational one can be with other Nations who disagree with us in any way what so ever = American Exceptionalism.

    • Zartan

      You only need to Checkmate Wall Street ( this minimizes Revolution) and take their profit away. IF, Americans do not come to their senses, and stop “being afraid,” it will come to nuclear war, because the peaceful, lame and cowardly people will allow for their own, and all, extinction of life on the planet.

      The People are Responsible for the Sins of their Government. This was never so true, not with the NAZIS, but more so with the Americans “who have a Constitution” that even entitles them to make Citizens Arrests, Authorizing FORCE.

      • Violatkincaid

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      • Saraacatoe

        Academy184s

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  • ZARTAN

    Perhaps, America, you should think about my Ideas ( below) rather than “try” and fault find, because the BEST Ideas in Humanity ( Einstein would Agree) are always MOCKED, or Called Crazy, because of FEAR. This is the Tragedy of Humanity.

    Simply, America, “GOD could not help you,” because YOU reject the Help.

    Oh, and for all of you “NON-VIOLENT” ( US taxpayers, Imagine, the Hypocrisy!) types; Well, it Seems you Never read Your Bible? And, for those of you who do not believe ( a minority) well, you can believe “anything” you like because your numbers are irrelevant!

    However, you really need to think about that evolution from “Ape Scat,” Really, People … If that does not give you faith in other forms of life, ( ETs/Gods/Angels) well, I feel sorry for you.

    Don`t you see the Humor, People?

    You are all the Butt of an Eternal Joke upon Mankind. Nice.