Speech I made on behalf of the Just Peace Committee on the occasion of a rally to remember the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was held at Seaforth Peace Park in Vancouver on August 6, 2018.
NO MORE HIROSHIMAS!
Welcome. Thank you for taking the time out to mark this important anniversary and help build a united anti-war movement in Vancouver. In BC, this is a holiday weekend full of celebrations, but it is a sad day in Japan, a country still reeling from the shock of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima 73 years ago—a day to mourn and continue to oppose the misuses of nuclear technology and imperialist war.
The Just Peace Committee formed in May this year because the peace movement is too quiet. We need too stimulate anti-war activity and bring people together to oppose militarization and aggression. We understand that the main cause for much of the violence, injustice and pain today is the system of monopoly capitalism. To oppose war, we must also oppose the main motive and modus operandi of military activity which is to defend the exploiting, oppressive and expansionist system of imperialism for the benefit of a few powerful and extremely wealthy few. For that reason, we joined the International League of People’s Struggle, an anti-imperialist alliance of mass struggles on a range of concerns around the world.
We were surprised to discover that no other commemoration of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was being planned in the Lower Mainland. We felt we must organize an event to mark the day and pledge to oppose war and militarization.
Hiroshima was an industrial city of 350,000 people in 1945. There were 20,000 Japanese military personnel, 30,000 Korean forced laborers and other foreigners including US citizens. The US a-bomb hit at 8:15 on the morning of August 6, 1945. Nagasaki was an industrial city where machinery and armaments were being manufactured. Only 150 Japanese military personnel were there when a US a-bomb hit Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. At least 129,000 people in both cities, mostly civilians were murdered en masse within fourdays after the first bomb destroyed Hiroshima; some reports cite over 200,000. At least 210,000, possibly many more, perished by the end of 1945 as a direct result of the nuclear blasts. The impact flattened an area of about one kilometre but fires spread some 3.5 km in Nagasaki and 4.5 km in Hiroshima. There was barely any warning beforehand. Let us have a few moments of silence in memory of the victims.
Why did the US drop the atomic bombs on Japan? There is no good reason. The Japanese military was already greatly weakened. The allied air raids had razed up to 97% of many of Japan’s cities including Tokyo. The people were suffering a food and water shortage, homelessness, injury and sickness.
History tells us that the UK and US had made an agreement to develop nuclear weapons at a meeting of W. Churchill and T. Roosevelt in Quebec City in 1943. The US was experimenting and tested the atomic bomb on July 17, 1945, the famous Manhatten Project. The plans to drop a bomb on Japan were in the works for months, and Hiroshima was finally chosen. A third bomb was scheduled to be dropped on Japan on August 19, 1945, but the Japanese surrendered on August 15.
In short, dropping the bomb on Hiroshima was a test of war technology, not a military tactic deemed necessary. Historians also consider the politics of the US as a rising big power: dropping the bombs was a show of power and superiority over the Japanese military and Japanese imperialist state. The US assumed military control of Japan in 1945 and has never left. It subjugated Japan to its economy and aims.
Let us be clear that Japanese imperialism committed many atrocities and injustices prior to its surrender in 1945. It occupied many nations such as Korea, using torture, prisons and murder to maintain control. It stormed into cities in China, the worst example being Nanking, where it pillaged, ran amok raping and murdering civilians and set fires. These are inexcusable acts that also must be strongly condemned. The memory of these horrendous truths most also be preserved and retold. We oppose Japanese imperialism of yesterday and today.
Imperialism is continuing problem of humankind. Acts of military aggression, occupation and militarism still go on and the people must organize to oppose them and put an end to them. Nuclear weapons still exist and the people must speak out against them. The US has 6,700 nuclear warheads, Russia 7,000, France 300 and the UK 215. Other countries such as India and the DPRK have developed and tested them. Some resurgence of the international, anti-nuclear movement brought about the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which only some smaller member states of the United Nations, some in Latin America, Southeast Asia and elsewhere signed on July 7, 2017. None of the big powers have signed.
Let us not dismiss Canada’s part in nuclear weapons use and imperialist war. Canada has not signed the 2017 Treaty. In the 1960s and 70s, the Canadian state stored some US nuclear warheads. In the 1980s, it transported some for NATO in Europe. All along, it has been supplying uranium to the US Atomic Commission and now it is looking forward to shipping uranium to China. Finally, Canada is a deeply committed party to NATO and partner to the US. Canada’s defense spending continues to rise. Canada’s defense policy is aggressive, pledging and encouraging active military engagement. In fact, the J. Trudeau government is sending Canadian troops to Central and Eastern Europe and to Iraq.
A Hiroshima survivor and now a Canadian citizen, Ms Setsuko Thurlow, has been campaigning for the reduction of nuclear weaponry. She has been asking for a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who declines to meet her. She wants to talk to him about a plan to get NATO to reduce its deployment of nuclear weapons.
I have visited Hiroshima memorial monuments and hall twice, and those at Nagasaki once while living in South Korea. I made a proposal to the Korea and Japan chapters of the Asia-Wide Campaign against Domination and Aggression that an anti-war tour be organized in August of 2014. It was done in the name of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle. I participated for a foreign teachers support network, TEA-KOR, and I invited an anti-nuclear technology activist from the USA. The T-shirt I am wearing for our 2018 memorial today says, “Sam Pyeong Village -Peace.” It is a memento from the peace tour. We stayed overnight at the protest camp in Sam Pyeong Village. Villagers including several grandmothers had been sitting and blockading the construction of power lines from the nuclear power plant on the East coast through the countryside. Two villages, Sam Pyeong and Miryang, were opposing the power lines construction. We camped overnight, then went to the Gori Nuclear Power Plant, which supplies electrical power to two free economic, industrial zones as well as the big port of Busan in southeastern South Korea. From there, we traveled to Hiroshima in time to witness the remembrance ceremony and meet comrades at anti-war actions. We listened to survivors of the Hiroshima bombing and paid tribute at the memorial monuments. They teach harsh lessons that must be remembered and passed on. The tour continued to the US naval base at Iwakuni. It is being expanded with the blessing of Prime Minister Abe and his cabinet, who has approved the construction of new US bases in the Okinawa area, and the building of more nuclear power plants, one on the outskirts of Hiroshima and another on Kyushu Island province. The Japan state has reverted to an aggressive stance, sending its navy abroad to join in the war exercises with the US and the Republic of Korea, among other activities. We spoke to the town’s activists. From there, we went to join in the anti-war march and memorial ceremonies in Nagasaki. After that tour, I wanted to do more work for peace against imperialist aggression and militarization.
My activism began in the early 80s opposing the Cruise Missile tests over Canada, nuclear weaponry and US aggressions in Latin America and elsewhere. The peace movement, dominated by the anti-nuclear weapons message at the time, was very big and influential. There used to be huge, annual peace walks that started from here, at this park and neighboring areas, filed across the Burrard Bridge and through downtown Vancouver. At its peak, 120,000 people gathered and walked. I also partook in the Vancouver Peace Flotilla, a collection of peace activists with boats who sailed in the Burrard Inlet to confront US warships coming to lay anchor in the Port of Vancouver. Through all this work, the City of Vancouver banned nuclear weapons and therefore banned visits by US warships. It also named the Peace Park and supported the installation of the Peace Flame.
Things are different now. The flame is no longer burning and few people are here to remember Hiroshima and oppose war today. Yet the world is in urgent need for a united mass movement to rise up against wars of aggression and militarization. Nowadays we note a return to Cold War attitudes and politics. The world is rife with tensions. The big powers continue to interfere in the domestic disputes and politics of many countries. It is a dangerous situation crying out for an active mass movement against war and imperialism. To sustain such a movement over the long term and do what is necessary to affect a reduction of aggression and militarization, we need the anti-imperialist orientation and strong unity around it.
We need to do our part in this region to build a peace movement. We have to propagate and defend the perspective of peace with social justice and understand the violent and unjust context of the global capitalist system, the cause of so much conflict and pain. This is the purpose of the Just Peace Committee.
Slogans and chants on the occasion of the August 6 memorial rally:
NO MORE HIROSHIMAS!
NO MORE NUCLEAR WEAPONS!
NO TO WAR AND PLUNDER!
JUST PEACE NOW!
JUST PEACE IN KOREA!
JUST PEACE IN PALESTINE!
JUST PEACE IN THE PHILIPPINES!
JUST PEACE IN YEMEN!
BAN THE BASES!
SEND THE TROOPS HOME NOW!
CANADA OUT OF NATO!
SIGN THE PEACE TREATY IN KOREA!
WE’RE GONNA STOP THE US WAR MACHINE, FROM PALESTINE TO THE PHILIPPINES!