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Every year on August 6th. the city of Hiroshima in Japan makes a Peace Declaration. The Mayor of Hiroshima addresses the international community, recalling the bombings of Hiroshima and evoking the strength behind the demand for the abolition of nuclear weapons. (The word “hibakusha” is a traditional word which refers to the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.) Mayor Tadasoshi Akiba said:

“In the company of hibakusha who, on this day 65 years ago, were hurled, without understanding why, into a “hell” beyond their most terrifying nightmares and yet somehow managed to survive; together with the many souls that fell victim to unwarranted death, we greet this August sixth with re-energized determination that, “No one else should ever have to suffer such horror.”

Through the unwavering will of the hibakusha and other residents, with help from around Japan and the world, Hiroshima is now recognised as a beautiful city. Today, we aspire to be a “model city for the world” and even to host the Olympic Games. Transcending the tortures of hell, trusting in the peace-loving peoples of the world, the hibakusha offer a message that is the cornerstone of Japan’s Peace Constitution and a beacon to the world.

The results of the NPT review conference held this past May testify to that beacon’s guiding influence. The Final Document expresses the unanimous intent of the parties to seek the abolition of nuclear weapons; notes the establishment of timelines for the nuclear weapons abolition process, and highlights the need for a nuclear weapons convention or new legal framework. In doing so, it confirms that our future depends on taking the steps articulated by Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the more than 4,000 members of Mayors for Peace, and the two-thirds of all Japanese municipalities that formally supported the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Protocol.

That our cry of conscience, the voice of civil society yearning for a future free from nuclear weapons, was heard at the U.N is due in large measure to the leadership of His Excellency Ban Ki-moon, who today has become the first UN Secretary-General to attend our Peace Memorial Ceremony. President Obama, the United States government, and the 1,200-member U.S. Conference of Mayors also wielded their powerful influence.

The ceremony is honoured today by the presence of government officials representing more than 70 countries as well as the representatives of many international organizations, NGOs and citizen’s groups. These guests have come to join the hibakusha, their families, and the people of Hiroshima in sharing grief and prayers for a peaceful world. Nuclear-weapon states Russia, China and others have attended previously, but today, for the first time ever, we have with us the U.S. ambassador and officials from the U.K. and France.

Clearly, the urgency of nuclear weapons abolition is permeating our global conscience; the voice of the vast majority is becoming the preeminent force for change in the international community.

To seize this unprecedented opportunity and actually achieve a world without nuclear weapons, we need above all to communicate to every corner of the planet the intense yearning of the hibakusha, thereby narrowing the gap between their passion and the rest of the world. Unfortunately, many are unaware of the urgency; their eyes still closed to the fact that only through luck, not wisdom, have we avoided human extinction.

Now the time is ripe for the Japanese government to take decisive action. It should begin to “take the lead in the pursuit of the elimination of nuclear weapons” by legislating into law the three non-nuclear principles, abandoning the U.S. nuclear umbrella, legally recognizing the expanded “black rain areas”. and implementing compassionate, caring assistance measures for all the ageing “hibakusha” anywhere in the world.

In addition, the Prime Minister’s wholehearted commitment and action to make the dreams of the hibakusha come true would lead us all by 2020 to a new world of “zero nuclear weapons”, an achievement that would rival in human history the “discovery of zero” itself. He could, for example, confront the leaders of the nuclear weapon states with the urgent need for abolition, lead them to the table to sign a nuclear weapons convention, and call on all countries for sharp reductions in nuclear and other military expenditures. His options are infinite.

We citizens and cities will act as well. In accordance with the Hiroshima Appeal adopted during last week’s Hiroshima Conference for the Total Abolition of Nuclear Weapons by 2020, we will work closely with like-minded nations, NGOs and the UN itself to generate an ever-larger tidal wave of demand for a world free of nuclear weapons by 2010.

Finally, on this, the 65th. anniversary of the atomic bombing, as we offer to the souls of the A-bomb victims our heartfelt condolences, we hereby declare that we cannot force the most patiently enduring people in the world, the hibakusha, to be patient any longer. Now is the time to devote ourselves unreservedly to the most crucial duty facing the human family, to give the hibakusha, within their lifetimes, the nuclear-weapon-free world that will make them blissfully exclaim: “I’m so happy I lived to see this day”.

Tadatoshi Akiba
Mayor
The City of Hiroshima

I met Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba in person at a conference in Manchester, England in 2003 . Following this Meeting I initated a four-year campaign to secure Chester City Council’s affiliation to Mayors for Peace and addressed Chester City Councillors.  They voted unanimously to affiliate to ‘Mayors for Peace’ as a result. The campaign was conducted on a tiny fraction of a shoestring with minimal resources and was supported by many citizens of Chester.

Every year in Chester citizens gather at the Groves on the River Dee (this year they meet at 8.p.m) to cast white flowers into the river in remembrance and to pledge and hear readings which strengthen their resolve to work towards a nuclear-free future.  

See also:

Click here to find out more about the exhibition in London, jointly hosted by Quakers and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament: After the Bomb dropped: How Hirohima and Nagasaki suffered:

After the Bomb Dropped: How Hiroshima and Nagasaki Suffered’ is an exhibition that explores the destruction of the two cities by nuclear weapons through photographs and artefacts recovered from the wreckage. Transported from Japan and on display in London for the first time, this represents a unique opportunity to see first hand the destructive capabilities of nuclear weapons. The exhibition programme will include a series of events to explore further the realities of nuclear warfare, including a rare chance to hear from a survivor of the bomb, plus talks, music, and events for children and young people. Timed to coincide with the 65th anniversary of the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ‘After the Bomb Dropped’ promises to be a poignant exploration of the tragic events of August 1945.

Click here to submit an anti-Trident message to the Treasury

History of the August 6th. Flower memorial ceremony in Chester and the campaign for Council affiliation to Mayors for Peace.

Remembering Hiroshima. The Chester Flower Memorial Ceremony.

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Today’s piece in the Guardian: ‘Nation Commander warns of ‘mission failure’ in Afghanistan’.

 The U.K. based Stop the War Coalition are holding a national demonstration on the 24th. October to get the troops out. See this link:

Missile Defense Deployments: The Other Story is a challenging article by Bruce K Gagnon of Space for Peace which I received last week. I have asked Bruce for permission to feature the article here – as I felt the arguments contained in it are an important part of the Missile Defence picture. Once again Bruce, many thanks. Here’s the copy: F.L.

 Missile Defense: The Other Story 

Yesterday we witnessed a flurry of emails and articles proclaiming victory after President Obama’s announcement that he was going to scrap George W. Bush’s plans to deploy missile defense interceptors in Poland and a Star Wars radar in the Czech Republic.  There is no doubt that our peace activist friends in those two countries do indeed have reason to celebrate after their hard and determined work to stop those deployments.  We also need to recognize and thank the many people around the world who acted in solidarity with them during these past couple years of intensive campaigning.

But now that we’ve had a day to rejoice, the time has come for more reflection on what the Obama administration intends to do next.  I’ve quickly learned during these eight months of watching Obama in action that when he gives something with one hand it is wise to watch what his other hand is taking away.

In his September 17 speech Obama stated that his new missile defense architecture for Europe would be more “comprehensive than the previous [Bush] program” and would be “enhanced” by NATO involvement.

Secretary of War Robert Gates was left to explain the details of the new missile defense “architecture” that would replace the now rejected deployment plan for Poland and the Czech Republic.

Gates stated that he was the one who had proposed three years ago to deploy the missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic.  He concluded that the original plan was no longer the best military “architecture” for the current “threat” from Iran.  Thus instead of missile defense interceptors that would target offending missiles in their mid-course of flight, and that had a series of bad test results, the Pentagon now wanted to deploy in northern and southern Europe missile defense systems that had a proven testing record and were more appropriate for the kind of threat now expected from Iran.

The intelligence community now assesses that the threat from Iran’s short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, such as the Shahab-3, is developing more rapidly than previously projected,” Gates said. “This poses an increased and more immediate threat to our forces on the European continent, as well as to our allies.”

Gates continued, “We now have proven capabilities to intercept these [short range] ballistic missiles with land and sea-based interceptors supported by much improved sensors.  This allows us to deploy a distributed sensor network rather than a single-fixed site, like the kind slated for the Czech Republic.”

US Navy Aegis destroyers, outfitted with Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) missile defense interceptors, would “provide flexibility to move interceptors from one region to another,” Gates said.  In years to come the SM-3 will be upgraded and be deployed throughout Europe as land-based systems as well.  Since 2007 the SM-3 has had eight successful tests, including the February of 2008 shoot-down of a falling military satellite with an SM-3 missile from an Aegis ship in what many saw as proof that these systems also had “anti-satellite” weapons capability.

You can watch brief video clips of Gates here and Obama here from yesterday.
 

The Russians first reaction was positive, as would be expected, since they were deeply concerned that the Poland and Czech deployments could be used by the US as the shield in a first-strike attack.  But their concerns have not completely disappeared.

The Washington Post reported today that Maj. Gen. Vladimir Dvorkin, former chief of the Russian military’s main research institute for nuclear strategy, cautioned that the reconfigured U.S. system could still pose a threat to Russia. “Everything depends on the scale of such a system,” he told the Interfax news agency. “If it comprises a multitude of facilities, including a space echelon, it may threaten the Russian potential of nuclear deterrence.”

As described by Gates and his top generals, Obama’s new missile defense plan will unfold in three stages. By 2011, the Pentagon will deploy Navy Aegis ships equipped with SM-3 interceptors in the eastern Mediterranean.

A second phase in about 2015 will field an upgraded, land-based SM-3 in allied countries, and discussions are underway with Poland and the Czech Republic on basing the missiles in their territory, Gates said. In 2018, the third phase will deploy a larger and more capable missile, which will allow the system to protect Europe and the United States against short- and intermediate-range rockets and, eventually, intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Bloomberg News reports that, “This shift clearly benefits Lockheed Martin and Raytheon and is negative” for Boeing.  “The move away from fixed missile-defense sites in Eastern Europe is a continuation of the more flexible, tactical missile-defense shield that Secretary Gates advocated,” said Rob Stallard, an analyst at Macquarie Capital Inc. in New York.

The Pentagon’s 2010 budget seeks 250 Standard Missile-3 interceptors. It also seeks to increase to 27 from 21 the number of warships equipped to
launch the Standard Missile-3s and requests $1.6 billion to develop software and hardware to upgrade ships and to develop a ground-based model.

The Pentagon is also now promising Poland that Patriot missiles will still be deployed in that country as previously planned. 

So in the end I see this as an adjustment in strategy due to technology as much as anything.  The flexible, more mobile, short range missile defense systems are proving ready to go while the former Bush proposal for Poland and Czech Republic included technologies that are not yet proven. 

Obama can appear to be stepping back from an immediate confrontation with Russia but in fact he is following the lead of the Pentagon who for some time has been saying that they must move to expand the more promising Navy Aegis-based missile defense system.  This program has already been dramatically growing in the Asian-Pacific region and will now be slated for expanded European operations.

Bruce K. Gagnon
Coordinator
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
http://www.space4peace.org
http://space4peace.blogspot.com (Blog)

War and peace repeat themselves as themes here. Global nuclear disarmament? What’s the state of play and how are we to understand what is happening right now? In Britain the recession and changing public opinion cast doubt on the future of the Trident submarine system. See this report.

The British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament warmly welcomed the suggestion that: “the Government is to delay the ‘Initial Gate’ decision on replacing the Trident nuclear weapons submarines, pending the outcome of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference in May 2010. Previously, the Government planned to move on to the next stage of the replacement process during the Parliamentary recess in September”.

In the U.S. Barack Obama has pledged to lobby hard to realise the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Do such developments mean the case for global nuclear disarmament is gaining ground? Associated Press reported today on some of the hurdles Obama faces which include securing enough sympathetic votes to sway the Senate. Read the AP report here.

Meanwhile it’s only a few weeks since anti-nuclear activists walked into the military base at Faslane where the Trident submarine is sited. They entered the base unchallenged. What does this say about the so-called safety of nuclear arsenals? See this Trident Ploughshares link for details of the latest citizen action.