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Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the two most important places in the world where memory is preserved about what nuclear weapons do to people and to cities. Each year on August 6th and 9th respectively, the anniversaries of the bombings, the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki deliver the Peace Declarations for their cities. These statements provide a pulse of the status of efforts to eliminate the nuclear weapons threat to humanity and all life.
On the 57th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba lamented that the painful experience of those who survived the bombings “appears to be fading from the collective memory of humankind,” and that consequently “the probability that nuclear weapons will be used and the danger of nuclear war are increasing.”
Mayor Akiba noted that the “path of reconciliation…has been abandoned.” He called for “conscientious exploration and understanding of the past.” To achieve this end, he called for establishing a “Hiroshima-Nagasaki Peace Study Course in colleges and universities around the world,” and indicated that plans for this are already in progress. He also urged President Bush to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki to “confirm with his own eyes what nuclear weapons hold in store for us all.” Thus far, no American president has visited either city.
Mayor Akiba called upon the government of Japan “to reject nuclear weapons absolutely and to renounce war.” The Japanese government, he said, “has a responsibility to convey the memories, voices, and prayers of Hiroshima and Nagasaki throughout the world, especially to the United States, and for the sake of tomorrow’s children, to prevent war.”
Mayor Iccho Itoh of Nagasaki condemned the United States for its withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty; its rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; and its plans to move forward with missile defenses, to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons, and to use preemptive nuclear strikes. “We are appalled,” he said, “by this series of unilateral actions taken by the government of the United States, actions which are also being condemned by people of sound judgment throughout the world.”
Mayor Itoh called for the government of Japan to confirm in law the three non-nuclear principles that have guided Japan (that it will not possess, manufacture or allow nuclear weapons into the country). He also called for the Japanese government to help create a Northeast Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, to cease its reliance on the US “nuclear umbrella,” and “to enhance the welfare of aging atomic bomb survivors residing both within and outside Japan.”
Mayor Itoh announced that the City of Nagasaki would be hosting in 2003 a second worldwide gathering of civil society organizations to add impetus to efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons. The City of Nagasaki, he said, will also be reaching out to youth by promoting the Nagasaki Peace Education Program.
“The abolition of nuclear arms through mutual understanding and dialogue,” said Mayor Itoh, “is an absolute precondition for the realization of a peaceful world. It is up to us, ordinary citizens, to rise up and lead the world to peace.”
Ordinary citizens of the United States must soon come to understand the critical message of Hiroshima and Nagasaki being conveyed by the mayors of these cities on behalf of those who perished and those who survived the atomic bombings. Without such understanding, and with such enormous power left in the hands of men like George W. Bush and many of his advisors shaping nuclear policy, the world moves closer to the day when more cities will share the fate of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He is the co-author with Daisaku Ikeda of Choose Hope: Your Role in Waging Peace in the Nuclear Age recently published by Middleway Press. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.