On President Obama’s Hiroshima Visit
By Robert Dodge, M.D.
President Obama will be the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima since the bombing 71 years ago in 1945.
Japan seeks not an apology or reparation but an awareness and intimate connection to the common humanity we all share and that is at once threatened by the continued existence of nuclear weapons.
Any nation that continues to keep these weapons is not more secure or powerful but rather a bully ready to threaten others and indeed themselves.
Current scientific and medical research has drawn an even closer connection between nuclear war and catastrophic climate change. We now recognize that a small regional nuclear war for example between Pakistan and India using 100 Hiroshima-size bombs and representing less than ½ percent of the global nuclear arsenals would put at risk the lives of two billion people on the planet from the global famine that would follow.
The ballistic thermonuclear weapons on a single U.S. Trident submarine can produce this same disaster. The U.S. has 14 of them, plus a fleet of land-based missiles and strategic bombers.
The old adage of MAD for Mutually Assured Destruction is now better termed SAD for Self Assured Destruction as whomever would unleash such an attack would put their own people at risk from this climate change becoming de facto suicide bombers.
We must ignore the voices who continue to promote the myth of nuclear deterrence which in reality is the greatest driver of the arms race. They do so either out of ignorance of the effects of these weapons, suicidal ideation, raging irrational hatred, or financial gain for war profiteers who make and sell these weapons of extinction.
Indeed, the continued existence of these weapons comes at a staggering financial burden as well. We are spending $4 million an hour on nuclear weapons and the Obama administration proposes the U.S. spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years to pursue a second nuclear arms race that, in turn, will encourage the other nuclear powers to follow our lead and do likewise. These current and proposed massive expenditures rob future generations of critical funds needed to address their basic needs including the threat of climate change.
It is important for President Obama to meet with Hibakusha, survivors of the attack, and listen to what they are saying. For more than seven decades the Hibakusha have tried to make the world understand the full horror of what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to make sure that nuclear weapons are never used again. Like survivors of the Nazi Holocaust they have, over and over again, made themselves relive the most painful experiences imaginable in the hope that others will not have to suffer their fate. For decades nuclear-armed states have talked about these weapons as though they were playing some abstract game of chess. The Hibakusha make flesh and blood the real nature of nuclear war.
President Obama came to office offering the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons, but since the successful negotiation of the New START treaty, which was a major step in that direction, even considering his groundbreaking Iran nuclear deal, his administration has seemingly abandoned that goal.
The United States has refused to join the growing Open Ended Working Group of more than 140 nations supporting a nuclear weapons ban treaty, just as other weapons from chemical, to biologic, and land mines have been banned.
If the President is serious about seeking a world free of nuclear weapons, we must change course. We need to abandon the trillion dollar nuclear spending spree and embrace instead the international movement to eliminate nuclear weapons and the existential threat to human survival that they pose.
In Hiroshima, we don’t need another speech. We need a new nuclear weapons policy.
We have a choice – to continue down the path of a second nuclear arms race or to abide by our legal treaty obligations as required under Article VI of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and to move toward nuclear disarmament.
So, we the people implore you, Mr. President, as you process your experience, the choice is clear. You have the opportunity to make history. Choose life Mr. President. The world longs for your leadership on this issue. This is our prescription for survival.