Sixty-three years ago this week war became obsolete in man's quest to resolve conflict. On August 6, 1945 and three days later August 9, 1945 the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan were destroyed by the first atomic weapons used in war. The weapons, small and crude weapons by todays standards killed 90,000 and 40,000 people instantly and caused the deaths of 200,000 by the end of 1945 and an additional tens of thousands more over the next years. From that week to the present the fate of life as we know it has been held in the balance. Whether by accident or design, the threat of a nuclear weapon caused disaster with its aftermath remains the greatest threat to our world. Despite reductions in the global stockpiles of these weapons since the cold war, the danger has never been greater. The complete elimination of these weapons remains the only safeguard against that ultimate doomsday scenario.
Far from impossible, there are tremendous efforts taking place to make this vision possible. Beginning with the early work of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (www.ippnw.org) and its American affiliate Physicians for Social Responsibility (www.psr.org) in the early 1960's they confirmed the human health effects of nuclear testing and the non-survivability and futility of medical response to a nuclear attack. To the present day, their efforts both educational, research and legislative have been typified by the medical mantra of "prevent what we can not cure." Their work has provided the impetus for many of the efforts that have followed.
In 1982 at the 2nd UN Special Session on Disarmament held at UN Headquarters in New York, then Mayor Takeshi Araki of Hiroshima proposed a new Program to Promote the Solidarity of Cities toward the Total Abolition of Nuclear Weapons. This proposal offered cities a way to transcend national borders and work together to press for nuclear abolition. Subsequently, the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki called on mayors around the world to support this Mayors for Peace program.
The Mayors for Peace is composed of cities around the world that have formally expressed support for the program Mayor Araki announced in 1982. As of August 1, 2008, membership stood at 2,368 cities in 131 countries and regions. In 2003 the Mayors for Peace set forth a dramatic challenge to the world called 2020 Vision. This campaign calls on the leaders and people of the world to take the necessary steps to eliminate all nuclear weapons by 2020, the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts. Santa Paula city council member, and then Mayor, Gabino Aguirre was the only U.S. mayor to attend the initial planning talks at the U.N. in 2003. Today, 72 U.S. mayors and 603 international cities are signatories to the campaign. Ventura County in California-- with the cities of Ventura, Santa Paula, Oxnard and Ojai--as signatories has more cities represented than any other U.S. County.
In January 2007, a courageous bipartisan group of military and defense experts joined the effort. That group headed by former Senator Sam Nunn and including George Schultz, Henry Kissinger and William Perry boldly called on the U.S. to take the necessary steps to eliminate nuclear weapons worldwide. Their project called Nuclear Security Project under the auspices of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (www.nti.org) has worked both nationally and internationally ever since to build consensus for their efforts. They have produced a factual docudrama titled "Last Best Chance" to engage, inform and stimulate the global citizenry to support their critical work.
A coalition group called Campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Free World (www.nuclearweaponsfree.org) provides the opportunity for organizations and individuals to sign on to support the hard work and vision of a world without nuclear weapons.
Beyond War (www.beyondwar.org) is a non-partisan grassroots group that articulates the reality that in a world with nuclear stockpiles containing 330,000 times the firepower of the bomb which destroyed Hiroshima, war itself is obsolete, not extinct. Recognizing that conflict is inevitable but combat is optional, mankind itself is threatened with extinction if we think we can continue to wage war and survive. Simply eliminating nuclear weapons will not be enough. Realizing we are one human species on this planet Beyond War works collectively to identify and support the "best practice" models that have been used throughout history to resolve conflict. We must lead by example, or as Beyond War says "the means are the ends in the making." The newly formed Beyond War Nuclear Weapons Abolition Action Team will apply those same principles in their efforts.
"I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it." This quote by President Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1959 speaks truths to this day. People and communities around the world are standing up and making their voices heard.