PORT TOWNSEND, WA.-The United States “is responsible for the greatest act of terrorism in the history of the world, the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” So said Veterans for Peace activist, David Jenkins, during a candlelight vigil August 8 at the marina in this small port city across the bay from a U.S. Navy nuclear arms depot.
It was one of hundreds of vigils across the nation and around the world on the 65th anniversary of the atom bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Jenkins greeted as long-overdue the decision of the Obama administration to send John Roos, U.S. Ambassador to Japan to Hiroshima Peace Park to join with 55,000 other people in the Aug. 8 commemoration of the attack.
Also present at the Hiroshima gathering were the ambassadors of France and Britain. It was the first time in 65 years that any nuclear-armed nation has joined in the Hiroshima-Nagasaki commemorations. Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General also joined the Hiroshima ceremony.
Hiroshima Mayor, Tadatoshi Akira told the gathering, “Clearly, the urgency of nuclear weapons abolition is permeating our global conscience.”
Jenkins echoed that sentiment. “I’m hoping that President Obama does go to Hiroshima to commemorate that horrendous event. I hope he takes seriously that goal of abolishing all nuclear weapons.” He was referring to Obama’s vow in a speech in Prague last year that he will seek the abolition of all nuclear weapons starting with the U.S. arsenal. Obama said the U.S., as the only nation ever to use nuclear weapons, has a special responsibility to lead the effort to totally abolish them.
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) released a statement Aug. 8 deploring the proliferation of nuclear weapons since 1945. “Since then, in the name of ‘national security’ we have spent trillions of dollars, contaminated our air, land, and water with radioactive waste and stockpiled thousands of weapons,” the AFSC statement declared. “Yet we have become less secure as other nations follow in our footsteps.”
Despite Obama’s “soaring rhetoric” the administration has requested billions more to develop and produce more nuclear weapons, “a new generation of these terrible weapons at a time when we need to be moving toward disarmament and job creation.”
They asked people to sign and send to lawmakers the AFSC postcard urging support for Obama’s new START treaty, elimination of funding for nuclear weapons, increased funding to clean up sites like the Hanford plutonium site in eastern Washington and abolition of all nuclear arms.
Carolyn Wildflower, told the Port Townsend crowd it is a “solemn time” to remember the 200,000 or more children, women, and men who died in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki firestorms. Worldwide revulsion – and an organized peace movement – prevented nuclear weapons “from ever being used again,” she said. “But we want to get rid of these weapons completely, including the nuclear weapons across Port Townsend Bay from here.”
Peace movement leader, Doug Milholland, pointed out that a few miles further down Hood Canal is the Bangor Nuclear Submarine base, largest and most menacing nuclear weapons stockpile in the western hemisphere.
“Those nuclear submarines have been refurbished and are now deployed in the Yellow Sea,” he said. “It is possible that in the next few months we could see another war.” He called for a change in the “culture” of the U.S. from war to peace and disarmament. A woman in the crowd said she has “stopped paying federal taxes” to protest the wars and preparations for war. “I didn’t go to jail for it,” she said.
Another participant sang the haunting elegy for the children who died in Hiroshima written by the great Turkish poet, Nazim Hikmet, a Communist: “I come and stand at every door but no one hears my silent tread/I knock and yet remain unseen/For I am dead, for I am dead.”
People at the vigil crowded round and placed their candles in a glass-sided coffin. Pallbearers loaded the coffin on a small sailboat and Milholland sailed it off into the darkness toward the Navy’s arms depot across the bay.
Photo: Tim Wheeler