Actually, yes they can. They can at minimum adopt a no-first strike policy. They can also work vigorously to eliminate nuclear weapons from their own and the world's arsenals, instead of quietly reconstituting their nuclear stockpiles while talking "disarmament." They can question why the United States arms itself with a military force whose budget equals almost half of all world military spending. Most important, they can repudiate a foreign policy tradition that takes as a given the American right to send troops and establish military bases anywhere in the world.
In 2008, Obama quickly scratched his electioneering inspired anti-nuclear thought, but kept the one about possibly invading Pakistan in pursuit of Al-Qaeda (and this is key), regardless of whether Pakistan approved. He has also since being elected proved--as he said all along he would--that his opposition to the Iraq war was more tactical than principled. Despite the high hopes of Move-On and other liberal voices that a "peace candidate" would occupy the White House, Obama wanted only to redirect the juggernaut of American military power toward Afghanistan. It's a sad, imperial state of affairs when foreign policy fundamentals change so little from one administration to the next.
Sad, and also dangerous. Because 65 years after the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world remains perilously trapped in conflict. "In the year 2007 the average yield of a nuclear weapon is about 10 times greater than the 15-kton Hiroshima bomb," wrote Raymond G. Wilson, professor emeritus of physics at Illinois Wesleyan University, for the Peace and Conflict Monitor. "Throughout the 50 years following 1945, the average rate of creation of nuclear weapons in world arsenals was the equivalent of about 70 Hiroshima bombs per day, every one of those 18,250 days."
The threat of nuclear annihilation remains real. Yet the irony of our age is that for the first time in human history the science, technology, manufacturing and agriculture exist to eliminate all want. But in the context of a world also driven by the acquisition of corporate profits and entrenched class and nationalist divisions, the world's people instead face an increasingly uncertain and violent future. Or even the possibility of no future.
When the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the famous physicist Albert Einstein publicly protested. The U.S. government responded by adding Einstein's protests to his FBI file. Now U.S. Secretary of State Clinton leads the international campaign for tough U.N. sanctions on Iran for failing to prove it's nuclear program is peaceful. Yet, no such campaign by the western powers has ever targeted Israel, which the Federation of American Scientists reports may possess roughly between 75 and 130 nuclear weapons or more.
No doubt there is plenty of reason to despair. But then there is also the story of young Sadako Sasaki, who did not deserve to die at age 12. Sadako's story is only one among countless millions of tragic accounts of "man's inhumanity to man," of the innocents whose lives over the last century have been cheap fodder for the killing machines of state power, whether of the democratic, fascist, or other variety.
During her months of hospitalization, Sadako undertook a project to fold a thousand paper cranes in the hope that, according to Japanese legend, her prayer for life would be granted. It was perhaps just the wish of a child. But Sadako never gave up and folded the cranes up until the day of her death. In Japan, after her death young people inspired by her story organized to collect money to build a statue of Sadako, which was unveiled in Hiroshima Peace Park in 1958. There is also a statue of Sadako in Seattle's Peace Park.
At the bottom of the statue in Japan of Sadako holding a golden crane is the inscription, "This is our cry, This is our prayer, Peace in the world."
Sixty-five years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed, they remain words to remember and live by in this mad age.
(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).