Remarks in Seattle on September 24, 2022 at https://abolishnuclearweapons.org
I am so sick and tired of wars. I'm ready for peace. What about you?
I'm glad to hear it. But pretty much everybody is for peace, even the people who think the surest way to peace is through more wars. They have a peace pole in the Pentagon, after all. I'm pretty sure they ignore it more than worship it, although they do make a lot of human sacrifices for the cause.
When I ask a room of people in this country if they think any side of any war could be justified or ever has been justified, 99 times out of 100 I quickly hear shouts of "World War II" or "Hitler" or "Holocaust."
Now I'm going to do something I don't usually do and recommend that you watch a super long Ken Burns movie on PBS, the new one on the U.S. and the Holocaust. I mean unless you're one of those weird dinosaurs like me who read books. Do any of you read books?
OK, the rest of you: watch this film, because it eliminates the number one reason people give for supporting the number one past war they support, which is the number one propaganda foundation for supporting new wars and weapons.
I expect the book readers already know this, but saving people from death camps was not part of WWII. In fact, the need to focus on waging a war was the top public excuse for not rescuing people. The top private excuse was that none of the world's countries wanted the refugees. The film covers the insane debate that went on over whether to bomb the death camps to save them. But it does not tell you that peace activists were lobbying Western governments to negotiate for the freedom of the camps' intended victims. Negotiations were held successfully with Nazi Germany over prisoners of war, just as recently negotiations have been held successfully with Russia over prisoner exchanges and grain exports in Ukraine. The trouble was not that Germany wouldn't free the people " it had been loudly demanding that someone take them for years. The trouble was that the U.S. government did not want to free millions of people it considered a major inconvenience. And the trouble now is that the U.S. government does not want peace in Ukraine.
I do hope the U.S. will admit fleeing Russians and get to know them and like them so that we can work together with them before U.S. gets to the point of instituting a draft.
But while only a vocal minority in the United States wanted to help the victims of Nazism, by some measures we now have in the U.S. a quiet majority wanting to end the slaughter in Ukraine. But we're not all quiet all the time!
A poll by Data for Progress of Washington's Ninth Congressional District at the beginning of August found that 53% of voters said they would support the United States pursuing negotiations to end the war in Ukraine as soon as possible, even if it meant making some compromises with Russia. One of many reasons that I believe that number can go up, if it hasn't already, is that in the very same poll 78% of voters were concerned about the conflict going nuclear. I suspect that the 25% or more who apparently worry about the war going nuclear but believe that's a price worth paying to avoid any negotiating of peace lack a completely comprehensive understanding of what nuclear war is.
I think we have to go on trying every possible means of getting people to become aware of the dozens of near-miss accidents and confrontations, of how extremely unlikely it is that a single nuclear bomb will be launched rather than a great many in two directions, that the sort of bomb that destroyed Nagasaki is now merely the detonator for the sort of vastly larger bomb that nuclear war planners call small and usable, and of how even a limited nuclear war would create a global crop-killing nuclear winter that could leave the living envying the dead.
I understand that some people in and about Richland, Washington, are trying to change some names of things and generally scale back the glorification of having produced the plutonium that massacred the people of Nagasaki. I think we should applaud the effort to undo the celebration of a genocidal action.
The New York Times recently wrote about Richland but mostly avoided the key question. If it were true that bombing Nagasaki actually saved more lives than it cost, then it might still be decent for Richland to show some respect for the lives that were taken, but it would also be important to celebrate such a difficult accomplishment.
But if it is true, as the facts seem to clearly establish, that the nuclear bombs did not save more than 200,000 lives, did not in fact save any lives, then celebrating them is just evil. And, with some experts believing that the risk of nuclear apocalypse has never been greater than it is right now, it does matter that we get this right.
The Nagasaki bombing was actually moved up from August 11th to August 9th 1945 to decrease the likelihood of Japan surrendering before the bomb could be dropped. So, whatever you think of nuking one city (when many of the nuclear scientists wanted a demonstration on an uninhabited area instead), it's hard to concoct a justification for nuking that second city. And in fact there was no justification for destroying the first one.
The United States Strategic Bombing Survey, set up by the U.S. government, concluded that, "certainly prior to 31 December, 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November, 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated."
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