On anniversary of Hiroshima, demands for end to nuclear weapons
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LIVERMORE, Calif. – Determined to oppose the Trump administration’s drive to develop new nuclear weapons and to strengthen the fight to eliminate nuclear weapons worldwide, some 200 demonstrators gathered here on Aug. 6 to rally against what they term “Designing Armageddon” at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Over three dozen peace, justice and faith-based organizations joined Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment (Tri-Valley CAREs), Western States Legal Foundation and the Livermore Conversion Project in cosponsoring the action.

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As they commemorated the anniversaries of the bombings that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and 9, 1945 and mourned the enormous loss of life there, speakers and protesters examined the ways Livermore Lab is contributing to the administration’s growing emphasis on upgrading and expanding the U.S. nuclear arsenal. This expansion, together with U.S. abrogation of longstanding nuclear weapons treaties, increasingly poses an existential threat to the entire world, they said.

Reverend Nobuaki Hanaoka, a retired Methodist minister now living in the San Francisco Bay Area, was an infant living on the outskirts of Nagasaki the day that city was bombed. The blast knocked down most buildings within a few miles of Ground Zero, he said, instantly killing tens of thousands. The fireball that followed engulfed the whole city and radioactive fallout contaminated air, water and all available food, resulting in a spiral of deaths that continued for years, ultimately reaching close to a quarter million.

Though his father moved the family to a different city, Hanaoka said that as far back as he could recall, his mother and sister were in bed, pale and weak from the leukemia which soon took their lives. As a child, Hanaoka overheard a doctor say he himself might not reach his tenth birthday.

Hanaoka pointed out that the bombs that wiped out Hiroshima and Nagasaki, equivalent to 15 and to 22 kilotons of TNT respectively, represent a tiny fraction of the power of today’s 10 to 25 megaton weapons.

“Let us remind ourselves again that nuclear weapons are the most evil, immoral, inhumane, heinous, destructive indiscriminate murder machines that could drive the entire planet to Armageddon,” Hanaoka said. “Let us renew our commitment today to the vision of a peaceful, compassionate, nuclear-free world.”

Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs executive director, began with a note of hope as she cited the July 31 ratification by St. Vincent & the Grenadines of the 2017 United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which now has 24 of the 50 ratifications required to enter fully into force.

“But,” Kelley said, “as you well know, we also gather at a time of grave and growing nuclear dangers.” She cited President Trump’s termination Aug. 2 of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which had banned an entire class of weapons, and has long been seen as pivotal to nuclear arms agreements as a whole. She cited Trump’s repeated references to the possible first use of nuclear weapons.

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Kelley told the gathering that Livermore Lab “is enabling the nuclear Armageddon that Trump so blithely considers,” as it develops new warheads, including the W87-1, designed to sit atop a new land-based Intercontinental Ballistic Missile being developed by the Pentagon.

Picking up on Kelley’s remarks, keynote speaker Daniel Ellsberg – the whistleblower whose 1971 release of the Pentagon Papers helped speed the end of the Vietnam War – called the ICBM missiles the new warhead is to arm, “the most dangerous weapons in the world.”

Ellsworth urged that nuclear weapons and the threat of nuclear war be emphasized as “the other existential crisis,” side by side with climate change, and called on participants to spend the coming year working to convince Democratic candidates for the presidency, House and Senate that the threat of nuclear war is an existential emergency.

“We’re still living with the possibility of extinguishing most human life and all the life of other species larger than a squirrel and smaller than us, who can’t adapt,” he said.

Next year,” Ellsworth pledged, “I will find where the workers are getting into that plant, and try to disturb business as usual, because nuclear weapons must not be made in this country without having to arrest Americans to do it. Combined with all the other work, we may change this planet.”

Dr. Sharat Lin, a medical radiation scientist, researcher and past president of the San Jose Peace and Justice Center, emphasized the contradiction between the U.S.’ simultaneous efforts to denuclearize North Korea and to upgrade its own nuclear weapons. “It’s absolutely hypocritical for this country to call on others to denuclearize, when we are in fact increasing the power of our nuclear arsenal,” he said.

Of North Korea’s insistence on small, reciprocal steps, Lin said, “If this were done with both sides taking small steps, we could certainly reach a successful conclusion, as well as bringing North Korea back into the community of nations.”

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Similarly, he said, a more constructive way to approach Iran – which has been on the same side with us against ISIS and Al Qaida – would be to end the sanctions, restore diplomatic recognition, and to work with Iran as well as North Korea, “in the community of nations and toward peace.”

Western States Legal Foundation’s executive director Jacqueline Cabasso called on rally participants to spread the word about the resolution passed unanimously by the U.S. Conference of Mayors last month, calling on all presidential candidates to make their positions known on nuclear weapons, and to pledge U.S. global leadership in preventing nuclear war, returning to diplomacy, and negotiating the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Following the rally, demonstrators marched to the lab’s West Gate, where they joined in a Japanese ceremonial dance, held a “die-in,” left chalk outlines of their bodies near the gate, and witnessed or joined in the voluntary arrests of over 40 protesters, who were cited and released.

Among other rally speakers were Berkeley Poet Laureate Rafael Gonzalez, Code PINK and transgender activist Roxanne, Phyllis Olin of Western States Legal Foundation and Grace Morizawa of the Livermore Conversion Project.

MCs were Andrew Kodama and Julia Malakiman, executive directors of the Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center and the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center, respectively.


CONTRIBUTOR

Marilyn Bechtel
Marilyn Bechtel

Marilyn Bechtel writes for the People’s World from the San Francisco Bay Area. She joined the PW staff in 1986, and currently participates as a volunteer.

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