Exhibit urges end to nuclear weapons

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OAKLAND, Calif. — “Nuclear-Free Future Month” was launched here Aug. 1 with the opening of a remarkable exhibit at City Hall, “Witnesses to History: Conveying the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

The month-long observance, initiated by the broad national United for Peace and Justice coalition, aims to bring nuclear issues including the urgent need to ban nuclear weapons into the 2008 presidential and congressional elections.

The displays, provided by the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, give a heart-wrenching panorama of the human and physical destruction caused by the U.S. atomic bombing of the two Japanese cities on Aug. 6 and 9, 1945. The exhibit will be shown through Aug. 15.

The exhibit’s message, and that of speakers including the Rev. Nabuaki Hanaoka, who survived the bombing of Nagasaki as an infant, is that today it is more urgent than ever to completely eliminate nuclear weapons from the earth, starting with the U.S. arsenal of some 10,000 warheads.

Emphasizing that today’s nuclear weapons are vastly more powerful and efficient than the relatively small, primitive U.S. atomic bombs that leveled the two Japanese cities, Hanaoka said their use would result in world genocide.

“We worry about other countries developing nuclear weapons,” he said, “but we don’t realize how nervous the rest of the world is about U.S. nuclear arms.”

While the U.S. calls its warheads a deterrent, he said, the Bush administration’s attack on Iraq over allegations it possessed nuclear weapons raised fears around the world.

Hanaoka, a retired Methodist minister who lives in the U.S., said as he was growing up, his family “just didn’t talk” about the bombing. His mother died when he was six, and his sister died the following year. “I recall them both as sick in bed, as far back as I can remember,” he said. The youngest in the family, he described his childhood fears that any illness might be his last.

“Now we must hold our government accountable for its decisions,” he said. While Washington claims it is trying to reduce nuclear arms around the world, he said, in fact it is using the Reliable Replacement Warhead program to develop more destructive nuclear weapons.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors’ recent unanimous passage of a resolution calling for a nuclear weapons-free world by 2020 is helping to highlight the urgency of banning nuclear arms, said Jacqueline Cabasso, executive director of the Western States Legal Foundation and convenor of United for Peace and Justice’s Nuclear Disarmament/Redefining Security working group.

Also speaking were City Council President Pro Tem Jean Quan, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and a representative of Mayor Ronald Dellums. In a proclamation declaring Aug. 1 “Witnesses to History Day,” Dellums called the exhibit “a profound reminder of the tragedies that can be created when the pursuit of military power diverts resources that could be used to build a world that is fair, just and serves the interests of all humanity.”

Information on more events around the country this month can be found at .

mbechtel @pww.org